herald

Wednesday 20 August 2014

I'm not motivated by money ... but I am very well paid

Ray D'Arcy has been a household name for 20 years but would rather poke himself in the eye than be regarded as a "celebrity".

"I really don't believe Ireland has any celebrities. There's Bono, Gay Byrne, Colin Farrell. But after that? I don't know. There's a whole industry built around other people who aspire to be celebrities but they're not really celebrities," the Today FM star says.

With that out of the way, the Kildare man's off and running, jumping passionately from one topic to the other. You'd know he made his living from talking.

The broadcaster can wax lyrical about our economic woes (he advocates debt forgiveness) - as easily as he can on the issue of, er, self pleasuring.

The presenter we've all grown up with puts it down to his early days on shows like the Den, which he fronted until 1999, before graduating to prime time radio.

"For me to go from talking to Dustin in the afternoon to talking to someone like (therapist) Mary O'Connor about masturbation, 12 years on, that's some stretch.

"I suppose I've grown up. Someone said to me recently, maybe working on Children's TV stunted my growth.

"Back then, I didn't really have to have opinions on anybody. My job was to get on and laugh every day and I was happy to do that. But when you come into radio, you grow up a bit," he explained.

The dad-of-one is obviously making up for lost time.

But he doesn't pontificate to appearclever, he just calls it as he sees it.

Whatever alchemy has to prevail for a radio show to work, he has hit on the magic formula.

Listeners are gobbling it up in their droves.

The latest JNLR figures put him at 3,000 listeners more than RTE, a first for a Today FM show.

Yet again, he's eager to play down his achievements, saying it was all a "non-story".

"I should put the record straight on that and I'm surprised that RTE didn't.

"It wasn't really fair on Ryan Tubridy because he does two hours, whereas Gerry Ryan did three hours so you're comparing apples with oranges. We still do three hours. We have 3,000 more listeners but we're on for an hour longer. My boss will probably give out to me for saying that!

"It's not my job to defend Ryan Tubridy but it's still early days and he had big, massive shoes to fill."

D'Arcy is also careful not to offend any sensibilities when it comes to admitting that he was approached by RTE to take on a slot after Gerry Ryan's death -- but they didn't specify which one.

Hindsight was a wonderful thing when it came to eventually turning down the offer, a move he didn't make lightly.

"I had the advantage of working before in RTE for 13 years, I have an idea of how the organisation used to work.

"It was a huge decision because by going back to RTE there is probably more longevity.

"I thought about it long and hard but there were a lot more pros to staying than there were cons."

So did he demand a big pay rise in return for his loyalty? "I'll answer that by saying, I'm not motivated by money, I never have been. I would always hope that I would be treated fairly but it wouldn't be my main reason for getting up in the morning," he added.

He rarely gives interviews and when we first meet in Marconi House, he keeps slipping into 'interviewer' mode by trying to ask me the questions.

He's refreshingly open about his views on a myriad of topics -- but there's instant signs when we come to a touchy subject. His arms fold across his chest and he fixes me with those piercing blue eyes before he laughs in his disarming manner and says: "Next question!"

He's also determined to stay grounded despite his high profile and points out that some people "have never even listened to Today FM".

When probed about the key to his show's success, he puts it all down to being genuine. He also makes sure to pay tribute to his team, namely his partner Jenny Kelly, with whom he has a daughter Kate (4) as well as Mairead Farrell and Will Hanafin.

From its weekly Fix It Friday slot to its daily Odd One Out quiz, he has tapped into the nation's insatiable appetite for light entertainment at one of the toughest times in our history.



EYE-BOGGLING

"It's more difficult to be somebody you're not because if you're on live radio, 10 to 15 hours a week, eventually the mask will slip off.

"I don't contrive to be a certain person, that's who I am. If you contrive to be somebody and you put on a mask, then people will see through that," he explains.

He also waves away suggestions that not having the eye-boggling wage packet of some of his counterparts helps keep him grounded and therefore, more relatable for his audience. Living the champagne lifestyle was never something the Trinity psychology graduate was "comfortable" with.

"I'm very well paid. I wouldn't tell you how much but I really don't think that's about how much you get paid, it's about a frame of mind," he continues. "They (his team) give out to me about holding on to my working class roots. But you don't forget. I'm from a family of nine, with one earner, he was a non-commissioned officer.

"My mum had to budget down to the last penny every Friday when she went shopping and there was no excess fat at all.

"Every last penny she got from my da, she looked after. That's something you don't forget. It's in your genes, it's in your bones for life.

"There's times with Kate where, even though she's only four, there is a conflict there because I want her to understand the value of things.

"And I get annoyed with myself for getting annoyed with her because me working from the age of nine is like something from a Monty Python sketch.



punctuation

"Joe Duffy gets paid an awful lot of money but he seems to be in touch with his audience so I don't think that's the issue, I think it's about your frame of mind and how you see yourself."

This outlook also extends to his programme supporting various causes, including road safety awareness (which earned the show an award), to most recently reprising the Shave or Dye campaign which aims to raise €1m for the Irish Cancer Society.

The show made the Guinness Book of Records with the most heads shaved in an hour by a team of 10 barbers, with a grand tally of 315.

Raising cancer awareness is something close to his heart.

He recently broke down on air while reading an email from Nuala Doyle, whose son Carl died at the age of 16 from luekaemia.

"That was the third time I read it. Jenny printed it off at home and said 'you must read that' and I actually cried eating my porridge.

"Nuala said it took her two weeks to write it and she wrote it very much in a stream of consciousness with no punctuation.

"Then when I read it on air, it was very touching. She was saying she's not a good writer, but she brought us to one place and then brought us back.

"The fact that somebody would bring you into their confidence to write an email like that, that's why radio is really special. You don't get something like that on telly.

"It was one of those emails that stopped you in your tracks. It was so heartfelt and when you saw the picture of Carl as well, this big burly 16-year-old but who looked 19 and had represented his county in hurling. It was just very sad."

The Ray D'Arcy Show runs from 9am-12pm every weekday

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