Strictly Come Dancing’s latest signing Reverend Richard Coles has opened up on his drug addiction past and admitted he lied about having HIV to get ‘sympathy’.
The Church of England priest, who shot to fame in 1980s pop duo The Communards, claimed he was HIV positive during a row with his bandmate Jimmy Somerville.
The unassuming Radio 4 presenter, 55, admitted there was a ‘dark glamour’ about the infection that he ‘liked’ – and he kept up the lie for a staggering five years.
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Putting on his dancing shoes: Reverend Richard was announced as the new addition on Friday, as he revealed: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the overweight Vicar with arthritis in his knee!’
Coles, who was the fifth contestant to be announced for Strictly, bared all about his troubled past in two explosive autobiographies.
During a European tour, he fell ill with shingles – common in those with a compromised immune system caused by HIV infection.
He took a blood test and rejoined The Communards – who enjoyed a Number 1 hit in 1986 with Don’t Leave Me This Way – in Switzerland.
Richard said: ‘I limped around the stage and stood half-heartedly at the keyboard. I think my morose mood irritated Jimmy because one night we had an argument.’
Putting on his dancing shoes: Rev Richard Coles has been announced as the fifth contestant on Strictly Come Dancing
But despite not having his blood test results back yet, he shut down the row by blurting out that he was HIV positive.
‘In the thick of it I said, ‘I’m ill, I’ve just discovered I’m HIV positive — get off my back’. Jimmy was taken aback. ‘I’m sorry, doll’, he said,’ Coles recalled.
In fact, the test came back negative. But Coles admits that he had come to enjoy the horrible fiction he had created, confessing: ‘Saying it got me sympathy, which I liked.’
He told one interviewer: ‘The harder part to admit was that there was a dark glamour to being HIV-positive, there was this drama and I was drawn to that.’
The lie continued for an astonishing five years, during which time he says he was ‘too ashamed. I felt like such an idiot’.
.The 55-year-old Church of England priest was formerly in a pop group The Communard’s in the 80’s alongside Jimmy Somerville (pictured)
It was only after he found God in 1990 – after a tentative visit to a ‘Technicolor’ High Anglican church – that he found the courage to admit the truth.
The Reverend has described how his 20s and 30s were a riot of anonymous casual sex, class-A drugs, jealousy and lies.
At the peak of his fame, the bespectacled ‘music geek’ spent a lost year in Ibiza on what he describes as a ‘massive drugs binge’ and enjoyed numerous sexual encounters in a rural lay-by with random male strangers — one of them, at Christmas, with a man completely naked apart from a bow of tinsel around his genitals.
The Reverend once declared that dogging — having sex with strangers in public places — ‘was one of the great liberations of my life’.
In a later interview, he added: ‘I was very much healed by the experience of anonymous sex with strangers in lay-bys. I had a fantastic time.’
Reverend Richard Coles (pictured) has signed up for the 15th series of Strictly Come Dancing
The most candid of these confessions are recalled in Coles’ 2014 autobiography Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went from Pop to Pulpit.
Born in Northampton, Coles was one of three brothers. He realised he was gay at the age of 16 while at a minor boys’ public school.
He repeatedly played his parents Tom Robinson’s track Glad To Be Gay until they guessed, but they were ‘nothing but supportive’, he said.
After a stint at drama school in Stratford-upon-Avon, he fled to London where he bought a saxophone, resolved to become a pop star and met Somerville.
WHO IS REVEREND RICHARD COLES?
Rev Richard, 55, is the only Vicar in Britain to have had a number one hit single – Don’t Leave Me This Way
The Church of England priest partnered Jimmy Somerville in the 1980s band the Communards
He is Vicar of St Mary’s Church in Finedon, Northamptonshire
But the hedonism of that time, against the terrible backdrop of the Aids epidemic which claimed so many of his friends, gave rise to a prolific drugs habit. Coles describes his regular use of cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and cannabis.
‘But what really diverted my attention was ecstacy,’ he writes in Fathomless Riches. ‘It was like an explosion of delight going off in our heads.’
Of one particular clandestine encounter, he explains: ‘Like many gay men after a family Christmas, I decided to seek the comfort of strangers… I pulled into a lay-by, hidden by woodland… a car was parked in the darkness… a figure got out… it was a man, doing a dance, and he was completely naked apart from a bow of tinsel… Merry Christmas, I thought: Happy Feast of the Nativity.’
His confessions have re-emerged as it was announced that he is a new addition to Strictly Come Dancing’s upcoming series.
Revealing the good news, he wrote: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the overweight Vicar with arthritis in his knee!’
‘I am more likely to fit in on a show like Gladiators’: Fitness fanatic, actress and model Gemma Atkinson was the fourth star added to the 2017 Strictly Come Dancing line-up
Reverend Richard is the only Vicar in Britain to have had a number one hit single, Don’t Leave Me This Way.
He was also an inspiration for the main character in the BBC hit comedy Rev and served as consultant to the series, and is Vicar of St Mary’s Church in Finedon, Northamptonshire and Chancellor of the University of Northampton.
Reverend Richard joins the likes of Gemma Atkinson, Ruth Langsford, Davood Ghadami and Mollie King who have also been confirmed for the new series
On Thursday, Gemma was announced and said of her new gig: ‘I am really flattered they have asked me, I never thought the words would be coming out of my mouth. I am more likely to fit in on a show like Gladiators, but that’s why I wanted to do it, it’s a challenge.’
Dream job: Of the signing, she Ruth said – ‘I have dreamt about doing Strictly for so long, I can’t quite believe my dream has come true’
The 15th series of the BAFTA award-winning entertainment show produced by BBC Studios will return in the autumn on BBC One, and has slowly been releasing the line up as the week has gone on, with the latest news revealed on Thursday on BBC Breakfast.
Ruth has made no secret of the fact that she’d love to be on Strictly one day.
‘I’m a massive fan and I’m always very flattered when my name is in the mix,’ she told Express earlier this summer, hinting that she has been asked before. ‘They haven’t confirmed anything yet. If they asked me to do the show I would absolutely love to do it.’
She also said she wouldn’t care which of the pro dancers she’d like to be partnered with. – simply that she is just excited to learn how to dance from a professional.
She also insisted that her husband is in the audience every week.
‘What sort of marriage is this? I thought it was going to be me,’ Eamonn joked after the announcement was made on Wednesday.
Tease: Wednesday’s announcement comes as Eamonn took to Twitter earlier in the day to tease what was set to be revealed
Eamonn also added jokingly: ‘I think Strictly is fine for people who are resting between jobs but she’s flat out, she’s got a lot of work and there’s family responsibilities that’ll be neglected, I’ve got to worry about who or what is going to be around, what’s in the fridge. When’s she gonna get time to train? You’re gonna be grumpy and tired’
‘It’s definitely me. Every Saturday, you have to be there,’ Ruth said. Eamonn quipped back: ‘But what about the football? The start of the football season? I’m very, very pleased for you.’
Ruth went on to say what she’s most nervous about: ‘The reveal show is the first time [she will meet her professional partner], I thought ‘oh come on, I bet they tell you’, but the reveal show is the first time. I do worry about who will have to lift me up. It is hard work, you have to put the work in.’
She added: ‘That’s my worry, remembering [the routines], because some of it is so fast.’
Speaking about the new challenge, 35-year-old actor Davood – who plays Kush Kazemi on the BBC soap EastEnders – revealed: ‘Having the opportunity to take part in this year’s Strictly is such an honour.’
‘It’s going to be exciting, challenging and terrifying all at once and I am so looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to dance. See you under the glitterball!’
Hotties: EastEnders star Davood Ghadami has joined The Saturdays singer Mollie King on the Strictly Come Dancing line-up. The 35-year-old plays Kush Kazemi on the BBC soap
Honoured: Speaking about the new challenge, the actor revealed: ‘Having the opportunity to take part in this year’s Strictly is such an honour’
Quickstepping in their footsteps: Davood will follow in the footsteps of several EastEnders stars who have taken to the Strictly dancefloor in the past
Davood is the second star to sign up to the show, following Mollie, 30, who was the first contestant announced for this year’s installment of Strictly Come Dancing.
Speaking on BBC Radio 1 with Nick Grimshaw, The Saturdays hitmaker admitted she’s ready to get her twinkle toes moving across the ballroom as she vies for the glitterball trophy on the 15th series of the much-love series.
The fashionista divulged on the airwaves on Monday: ‘I’m so excited and so excited I can talk about it. I’ve known for quite a while and I’m so bad a keeping secrets.
Confirmed: Davood is the second star to sign up to the show, following Mollie King, 30, who was the first contestant announced for this year’s installment of Strictly Come Dancing
‘I had only told my mum and dad, you have to tell them. I told my sisters Laura and Ellen and then Frankie (Bridge). She is then only other person I told because she had done Strictly three years ago.’
However, the excitement proved too much for her bandmate as Mollie admitted Frankie – who made it to 2014’s Strictly final with dance partner Kevin Clifton – had to pull over after hearing the news.
She added: ‘She (Frankie) was so excited, she was driving and had to pull over.’
Excitement: However, the excitement proved too much for her bandmate as Mollie admitted Frankie Bridge had to pull over after hearing the news
It will be the first year without head judge Len Goodman, following his retirement last year, as he will be replaced by Latin Ballroom champion Shirley Ballas.
Craig told BANG Showbiz recently: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with our new head judge Shirley Ballas, she’s going to be fantastic, I met up with her, she’s a real laugh, hopefully we’ll get on and it won’t be a frosty relationship that I had with Len Goody, Goody, Goodman.
‘I suspect we’ll clash, she’s a purist just like Len was, she’s from that ballroom and latin world which is very strict, she’s going to be great, she’s feisty and she’ll be funny too. I think she’ll be out there, I think she’ll be hard on people, she knows her stuff.’
Len isn’t the only member of the Strictly family not returning to the current season – which will start in September – as three of the professional dancers Oksana Platero, Natalie Lowe and Joanne Clifton have all also left the show.
Moving on: It will be the first year without head judge Len Goodman, following his retirement last year
Coming back: Despite Len’s departure, Darcey Bussel, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli will be returning with new judge Shirley Ballas