Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why Gillian isn't the only one faking it in the jungle!

By Alison Boshoff And Sara Nathan

HIgh drama: Gillian McKeith is scooped up by I'm a Celebrity medic Bob McCarron in one of her now famous fainting fits

Just how dangerous IS life in the celebrity jungle? It’s a question many will be asking after Lembit Opik and Shaun Ryder were bitten by a ‘deadly’ python - and needed nothing more than a dab of antiseptic. And that’s before we address the suspicious frequency of Gillian McKeith’s fainting fits.

Yesterday, first evictee Sheryl Gascoigne told the Mail: ‘I thought Gillian was also struggling, but now I’m not so sure. I want to find out what was real and what wasn’t.’ To help her out, Alison Boshoff and Sara Nathan separate jungle fact from fiction.


It's decked out to look like a jungle but, to be more accurate, it’s a hightech £7 million set. ITV built it back in 2002 on a disused banana plantation in the small Australian farming community of Dungay, New South Wales - about 90 minutes, by road, from Brisbane. A quick search on Google Earth reveals the sprawling ‘jungle’ world they created. The place even has its own postal address: 362 Dungay Creek Road.

So much for celebrities toughing it out in the middle of the rainforest. During the first series, it was revealed that some of the flowers were plastic - something which caused ITV so much embarrassment that they haven’t used them again. But they haven’t been put off from employing a retractable rain canopy, to keep off the worst of the seasonal downpours.SHARK--INFESTED? JAWS, IT AIN’T!

Last year, chef Gino D’Acampo and actress Sam Fox were told that they had to swim through ‘shark-infested waters’ to get to a desert island.

What we didn’t know at the time is that there was sonar equipment on the boat to detect whether there were any sharks in the area, before the celebs were plopped into the water for the (very short) swim. There were also shark nets in place - not that any of this was made clear to the celebrities beforehand, so at least their fear was genuine on this occasion.

Unimpressed: Gillian was annoyed when she returned from Kangaroo Court


The sharks weren’t an isolated incident. Katie Price (who appeared on the show in 2004 and 2009) and model Catalina Guirado (in 2003) have both endured the seemingly life-threatening trial of swimming with crocodiles.

But in both cases the baby crocs had their jaws tied shut to prevent any nipping. And in the case of Guirado, two ‘giant crocodiles’ lazing on the riverbank were latex models. Ant and Dec were in on the deception, announcing that a marksman with a tranquilliser gun was ready to shoot if either croc attacked.

The late Malcolm McLaren, who pulled out of appearing at the last minute, claimed the show’s medic Dr Bob McCarron told him: ‘Things are so safe, I would send my own kids in.’ McLaren added: ‘There is nothing bad in there. They’re hood­winking the public.’

Fear not: Crocodiles used in the seemingly life-threatening trial faced by Katie Price and Catalina Guirado had their jaws tied shut


Come on, there must be something a bit dangerous about the jungle. What about all those spiders and snakes- which are ­routinely described as venomous?

Sorry to disappoint. The show uses diamond and carpet pythons, which are both native to Australia. Although they may look scary, they are renowned for being gentle, nocturnal animals. Oh, and their bite is non-poisonous - as was proved when Ryder and Opik were bitten this week.

The spiders, meanwhile, might look like the stuff of nightmares - but deadly tarantulas they are not. The show generally uses giant huntsman spiders, considered low-risk to humans.

Their bite is not toxic, but can be painful and cause localised swelling for a day or so. Similarly, the water spiders, Australian scorpions and rhino beetles used in trials can’t bite or sting. In fact, the nastiest bites you’re likely to get are from the ants that infest the set.


Despite the show’s producers using non-deadly creatures, there are ­genuinely dangerous snakes and ­spiders to be found in the area. But fear not, the camp is swept ­thoroughly before any celebrities arrive, and then a team of jungle rangers combs it every few hours. And, should the worst happen, there is a medical team armed with anti-venom on site

This year, Linford Christie found a venomous small-eyed snake, which was taken away by a jungle ranger. It could cause muscle paralysis if it were to bite. ‘I panicked a bit,’ admitted Christie. And in one ‘bumper year’ 30 snakes were taken out of the celebrity camp, including a 16ft boa constrictor.

The common brown snake is a particular worry - it is very common and venomous. The rangers also look out for funnel web spiders, which have a venomous bite. Other creepy crawlies, such as bull ants, centipedes and millipedes, do no worse than give a ‘nasty’ nip.


Celebrities are required by contract to visit the Bush Telegraph hut - where they can moan to camera about their fellow jungle-dwellers. But, alas, there is little spontaneous about their reflections. A producer is present in the hut to listen and encourage the celebrity to expand on their homesickness (Kerry Katona in 2004) or struggles with the trials (Jan Leeming in 2006). Leeming admitted after filming that she was persuaded to carry on talking by a member of the ITV team, who was with her in the hut.


Ever worried about how lonely and isolated those poor celebs must feel? Well, don’t. A ­staggering 450 people live and work on the jungle set and the whole ­operation costs an eye-watering £12 million per three-week series.

The producers have created a minor cottage industry. They have commandeered a farm, cleaned out grocers and hardware stores, and booked up hotels for miles around. There are drivers, catering, guards, and camera crews up from Brisbane and Sydney.

The set, which is sited about 200ft below Ant and Dec’s treetop hangout, is half-a-mile long and the celebrity camp is only a tiny portion of this.

There are 19 edit suites and three shifts of camera crews work through the night to make sure they capture everything (who’d want to miss ­seeing Carol Thatcher taking a sneaky wee in the bushes?). At any given time, celebrities will be aware of the large production team shadowing them just a few yards away, and the crew have to be careful to keep voices and music down during filming.


Just metres from the camp - where the celebrities are hard at work ‘getting back to nature’ - ­hundreds of catering staff are busy working 24-hour shifts. There are fast-food vans, serving burgers and chips, and each morning the friends and families of the contestants gather in a large white marquee, to find out who is to be evicted. They are served a full English breakfast on silver salvers.

Don't judge a book... The water spiders, Australian scorpions and rhino beetles used in trials can¿t bite or sting


It seems the celebrities aren’t entirely without luxuries. This year, for the first time, a smoker has been permitted to bring cigarettes into the jungle: ITV were keen to get Shaun Ryder on the show and he wouldn’t sign up without being allowed to bring them in. In previous years, smokers have just had to do without.

Stacey Solomon has her own embroidered blanket to snuggle up to. You would probably get more uncomfortable moments if the ­programme was relocated to a wet and windy campsite in Wales.

ITV do check the celebs’ rucksacks as they enter the jungle - there is no food allowed. But that didn’t stop Gillian McKeith from bringing in half the contents of her larder, sewn (shudder) into her ­capacious ‘special knickers’.

Chef Gino D’Acampo said that he also breached rules in 2009, by ­taking in Memory Foam pillows which he loaded up with sachets of coffee, sugar, salt, pepper and sweetener.


This year, the female contestants seem to have access to supplies of blusher and lip balm. Model Kayla Collins looks positively slippery on camera, as does Britt Ekland.

ITV say that contestants are allowed to take in toiletries and luxury items - but they provide some basic items such as soap and shampoo. Myleene Klass complained that the ITV issue shampoo made her hair dull and lifeless. Such hardship!


As ever on reality TV, celebrities have grumbled that they are victims of unfair editing. Actress Sarah Matravers complained that the heavy-handed editing of the jungle flirtation between her boyfriend Marc Bannerman and singer Cerys Matthews in 2007 led to the end of their romance (although Bannerman and Matthews did go on to have a short-lived relationship after the show).

Sex Pistol John Lydon complained that the programme was edited to make it look as if he had walked out because he was afraid of spiders.

Instead, he claimed to have been worried about whether his wife Nora had arrived safely by plane from America. In 1988 the two of them had been booked on the Pan

Am flight which blew up over Lockerbie but missed the flight, leaving him with a serious anxiety over flying.

‘I was frantic. I’m scared every time Nora flies. And the cruel b******s wouldn’t tell me if she was safe. So I just thought “F*** you” and left. That’s what really happened.’


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