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Sunday, December 4, 2011

I'm A Celebrity 2011's Lorraine Chase: Child abuse, the lover who shattered her heart and why she can't bear to be parted from her teddy

A little-known fact about I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! is that there is always a psychiatrist lurking in the wings, charged with making sure none of the celebs descends TOO far into madness during the jungle trials.


Some years — like last year, when Gillian McKeith inexplicably declared herself pregnant at the age of 51 — it must be quite a busy job.


Yet actress Lorraine Chase was still a little taken aback when the resident shrink asked to have a quiet word with her during her time in the Australian bush. She must have been the only one who was surprised.

'I lost a stone in the time I was in there, and everyone was getting concerned about it,' said Lorraine Chase of her time in I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!


At times, Lorraine’s behaviour in the jungle seemed — how to put this politely? — a little eccentric. Not least, her habit of carrying a teddy bear with her at all times, and crying at the prospect of being parted from it.


Surprisingly, that’s not what troubled the psychiatrist. What was concerning the programme makers was the fact that former model Lorraine was fading away before their very eyes.


‘I lost a stone in the time I was in there, and everyone was getting concerned about it. And they were worried about me being so deflated. They’d noticed me sleeping more, and not having any energy.


‘The doctor and the psychiatrist summoned me to talk about it, and they basically gave me an ultimatum. I had to eat some high energy bars and energy drinks to get my strength back up, or they would pull me out of there.’


'It was quite a blow for a woman who declares herself ‘one of life’s survivors’.


‘It was shocking, actually. I’d always thought I was a very fit person, but physically everything was very demanding. You’d climb a few steps, and feel like you’d done an hour in the gym.


'And mentally too. There is a psychological battle that goes on in the jungle, with you being pitched against the powers-that-be. I found it very hard — much harder than I anticipated.


‘At first I refused when they asked me to eat the energy bar. I said I wouldn’t eat anything that the others didn’t because it went against the whole ethos of the show. But there was no option, and I had to do it if I wanted to stay in.


‘So I ate it — and cried the whole way through because I thought I was letting everyone down.’

'There is a psychological battle that goes on in the jungle, with you being pitched against the powers-that-be,' said


Most female celebs are thrilled when the scales tell them how much weight they have lost in the jungle. But — as quickly became clear — Lorraine Chase, one-time star of the Campari ‘Luton Airport’ ad, isn’t most female celebs.


For starters, she says, she hasn’t succumbed to the surgeon’s knife in order to keep her career going.


‘I’m a 60-year-old who looks 60, and I’m quite happy with that,’ she says, gleefully.


‘As you can see, I am a small-busted lady. I could have bought myself new boobs — it’s easy these days, isn’t it? — but I haven’t.


‘I don’t worry about those sort of things. In fact, I found it fantastic to not be able to wear make-up in the jungle. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to get up and put my eyebrows on. And not having to stand in front of the wardrobe wondering what to put on was a blessed relief.’


It’s only now she’s out of the jungle, though, that she’s realised the toll the show has taken on her body.


‘My jeans just hang off me now and look terrible. I always had a good derriere before.’


In fact, she has dropped from an already slender 8?st to 7? — the same weight she was when she was modelling in her 20s.


‘I was that weight naturally back then. Mind you that was in the days when people became models because they were naturally skinny. These days it is the opposite way round — girls diet to become models.’

Lorraine has dropped from an already slender 8?st to 7? - the same weight she was when she was modelling in her 20s


It was not her physical frailty but her emotional vulnerability that made her the stand-out star of this year’s Jungle. Viewers were either shocked, touched, or appalled (depending on your viewpoint) by her devotion to her bear, Tedward.


Now that she has been voted out, she is surprised to learn that he caused such a stir.


‘I had no idea it would be such a big thing. To me, he’s just my little bear and I take him everywhere. I sleep with him. I travel with him. If I’m on a flight, he comes in my hand luggage and I take him out when it is time to sleep.’


When fellow contestant Pat Sharpe threatened to kidnap and burn Tedward, to punish Lorraine, it caused deep divisions in camp, with Lorraine — who was looking more and more fragile as the episode unfolded — ending up in tears.


Was she genuinely distraught?


‘I was upset, but to be honest, I didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I only found out when Crissy (her fellow contestant, actress Crissy Rock) told me.


‘She understood what Tedward meant to me because she too had a doll that she kept on a stand and bought clothes for. I think she attached the feelings she had for her doll to Tedward. He touched her life in some way.

When Lorraine started modelling, it was more out of necessity than any great career ambition


'We are kindred souls, me and Crissy. We both had quite difficult starts in life — her more than me — and we recognised that in each other.’


Quite how the resident psychiatrist might unravel all this is anyone’s guess, but it cannot be coincidence that both women shared a common bond in their painful childhoods.


Lorraine’s upbringing sounds particularly grim. Her father was in and out of prison during her formative years, there was very little money around, and Lorraine endured abuse at the hands of an uncle.


When she started modelling, it was more out of necessity than any great career ambition. She recalls cashing her pay cheques at the local sweet shop because she didn’t have a bank account.


The big break — which catapulted her into an acting career — was when she was cast in THAT Campari ad. When asked if she had been ‘wafted in from Paradise’; she famously said in her best Cockney accent ‘nah, Luton airport’ — and her professional future was secure.


Since then there have been acting roles in shows such as Worzel Gummidge and The Other ’Arf and, more recently, she starred in Emmerdale. If her childhood was bleak, then the last few years have not been kind to Lorraine either.


In 1997, her ‘best friend’ and former partner Johnny Knight died after a long battle with cancer, leaving her devastated. Just a few years later, she almost died herself when her car plunged 30ft off a bridge and she had to have part of her ear sewn back on.


So is her attachment to Tedward a way of giving herself a sense of security?


She tells me that he relates to a very difficult, painful period of her life when she was recovering from a doomed, and difficult relationship — one that took her to the edge.


Though she won’t go into detail, she explains that Tedward was bought for her last year, as a replacement for another bear which had been given to her by a man who was her great love.


‘I’d had that first bear for, oh, 20 years or so, and when the relationship ended I knew I had to give it back.


'As long as I had it, I knew I would keep hanging on, thinking I could make the relationship work, and I’d already hung on in that relationship for ten years too long.


‘Clearly the man didn’t have the wherewithal to say “I don’t want to be with you any more”. He just made my life a misery. But I was distraught sending the first bear back. Tedward was sent to me at a time when I was at my real lowest.’

'I'm a 60-year-old who looks 60, and I'm quite happy with that... I found it fantastic to not be able to wear make-up in the jungle,' said Lorraine


Even so, is she bothered that some think it peculiar for a grown woman to have such an attachment to a bear?


‘No, I don’t really care. It’s nothing to do with anyone else anyway. It is my business.


‘I am a funny old fossil, and always have been. What people saw there was just me, really. I am a bit ditzy.


‘I don’t seem to think in the same way as other people. I can’t put a finger on what is different, but my brain just doesn’t work the same way. Often I don’t get a joke. I’m not an air-head, though. I think I’m just wired differently.’


When you look at everything she has had to contend with in life, it’s hardly surprising that Lorraine seems, as she puts it ‘not quite of this world’.


Today, she lives alone in London, in a house filled with memorabilia, and describes herself as a ‘terrible hoarder’. She says she still has unhappy moments, but it is not in her nature to let herself be consumed by them.


‘The reason I’ve got this far in life is that I’ve never allowed myself to be a victim. Once you do that you are lost.


'Yes, I have bad days still. Some days I get up and don’t feel quite able to face the world. I lock the door, watch black and white movies all day, feel sorry for myself. But the next I think, “OK, enough”. I think in life you have to keep looking ahead.’


That’s exactly what she is doing now. As soon as the wrap party is over in Oz, and her filming commitments are done, she is off on holiday to the Great Barrier Reef — ‘for my next adventure’.


Tedward is going too, obviously. But he might be in for a rude awakening. 


‘I think he’s actually getting a bit above himself now, he’s getting so much attention,’ she giggles. ‘He’ll be expecting his own chat show next!’

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