Ken Barlow has long been thought by Coronation Street viewers to be a bit of a moralising dullard, but he's never been short of girlfriends. Over the show's 52 years, he has found 28 women prepared to overlook his interest in local history and go to bed with him. His womanising, however, is as nothing compared to the exploits of his real-life alter ego, Bill Roache. According to reports, he's revealed that he's slept with "up to 1,000 women".
He didn't actually mention this figure. It was suggested to him by Piers Morgan who, as Nick Clegg will confirm, is a bit of a weasel about getting chaps to "confess" their sexual histories. In an interview with Morgan, to be broadcast next month, Roache said he'd slept with "more than 100 women". Morgan joshingly suggested the real figure was "nearer a thousand," to which Roache, 79, replied " I'm not denying it". He also admitted his nickname among the Street cast was "Cock Roache".
Roache is the most recent in a line of high-profile men who have revealed their popularity as swordsmen of the boudoir. Often they offer reasons for their sexual incontinence. After divorcing his first wife Anna, Roache said: "There were plenty of girls. I shouldn't have done it. I didn't have any control over my own sex drive."
Mick Hucknall, the Simply Red crooner, estimated he'd slept with 3,000 women in three years; in a classic piece of humblebragging, he apologised to them all in the Guardian. "Between 1985 and 1987, I would sleep with three women a day, every day," he said. "I never said no. This was what I wanted from being a pop star." But there was more to it than satyriasis. "I wanted love from every woman because I didn't have my mother's love." (His mother had abandoned him at three.)
Earlier this year, the art critic Brian Sewell revealed that he "metamorphosed from celibate to whore" in 1959. He counted "a thousand fucks a year and easily a thousand sexual partners in a quinquennium" (ie, five years). The reason, he thought, was: "I was making up for the golden years that had passed me by, for the opportunities lost in the arid years of denial."
Other famous shaggers make no apology. Julio Iglesias bragged of the 3,000 women who fell for his Latin charms. Gene Simmons from Kiss was asked if it was true he'd slept with 4,600 women. "No it isn't," he snapped. "The figure is 4,800." Footballers seem much less likely to brag about the notches on their bedposts than basketball players – such as Magic Johnson, who claimed to have slept with 1,000 women before contracting Aids, and Wilt Chamberlain who claimed he'd had sex with 20,000. "At my age that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was 15 years old," he wrote, later explaining: "I don't see all this lovemaking as any kind of conquest; all I'm saying is that I like women, and to most people the number of women who have come and gone through my bedrooms would boggle the mind."
Writers, being a sedentary and solitary breed, seldom figure in lists of studs. By a mile the most conspicuous was Georges Simenon, the Belgian creator of Inspector Maigret. He told the world that he'd made love to 10,000 women in 64 years. Even that wasn't enough. "I literally suffered," he said, "from knowing there were millions of women in the world that I would never know." Poor guy. Fighting off accusations that he treated women like snacks, he revealed that many of his lovers had been prostitutes, but that "a call girl is as worthy of respect as a princess. I certainly think of myself as a feminist". He also revealed that the figure wasn't his computation. "A journalist came up with that figure by multiplication, figuring on the basis of two or three women a week, and I suppose it's about right. I am insatiable for contact with women."
Real gentlemen, of course, are not so ungallant as to reveal their tally of partners – though figures such as Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty seem happy to have hacks and biographers speculate on their behalf. But the last word should perhaps be that of David Bailey, the legendary Sixties snapper and giggling lothario (he always claimed he "laughed his girlfriends into bed").
Shortly after Nick Clegg's ill-advised encounter with Piers Morgan, a newspaper asked Bailey what he thought of the Clegg revelations. "Telling everyone how many women he's been with, what's that all about?" asked Bailey. "I mean, do I really want to know what an under-achiever he is?"
Bedtime boasters: Other braggers
Georges Simenon: The Belgian author and creator of Inspector Maigret reckoned his 10,000 conquests weren't enough. Bed-notch rating: 5/5
Mick Hucknall: Apologised in the national press to the 3,000 women he'd slept with in a three-year spree.Bed-notch rating: 4/5
Gene Simmons: Corrected a journalist who suggested he'd slept with 4,600 women. The number was actually 4,800. Bed-notch rating: 4/5
Nick Clegg: Told GQ he'd slept with "less than 30" women. Regretted it as soon as the sobriquet "Cleggover" was born. Bed-notch rating: 1/5