OUTSIDE EDGE / Owen Slot on the boom behind Basil Brush

IVAN OWEN is a shy 66-year-old who shrinks from the limelight - quite the opposite from his noisy, abrasive alter-ego, Basil Brush. Yet they get on famously. Owen refers to Basil in the third person, he talks very dearly of Basil and he was hugely pleased for Basil when he was recently asked to return to regular television, 12 years after his BBC1 show ended.

The call-up came from the makers of BBC 2's Fantasy Football League, who wanted to recruit Basil as one of their guest celebrity managers, and here Owen showed his affection for the puppet fox. Owen said he would love to do the show, but his football knowledge was thin and so he wouldn't sanction Basil's appearance if he might look foolish. Andy Jacobs, the programme's producer, persuaded Owen that this wasn't likely, but nearly lost Basil again when he said it wouldn't matter if Owen's own face appeared on camera. 'Oh, get Sooty instead,' came Owen's reply.

The lesson was not to underestimate the Brush phenomenon. So when Owen sent Jacobs a plan, with precise measurements, of how the programme should look in order to house Basil and himself (unseen, of course), Jacobs had part of the set rebuilt.

Finally came Basil's first appearance, a marvellous cameo, punctuated with his signature catchphrase 'Boom] Boom]', which went down so well that Jacobs is considering bringing forward Basil's next appearance.

Owen is delighted but bemused. Basil's heyday is so long-gone, he thought the interest had died. Still, it was no problem for him to bring the Brush back to life; Owen and Basil have their similarities (same voice, same laugh) but Owen is toned-down, less frantic. Basil Brush on valium.

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