What is an Eighties ex-pop star to do? It is a question that must have perplexed the former Dollar star David Van Day as he flipped burgers and looked back on his now distant career from the roadside van he ran in Brighton. But, like many ex-celebrities before him, he discovered the answer to reigniting his fame lay in a curious quarter: getting people to dislike him.
Following in the footsteps of other fame-chasers, Van Day has been able to relaunch his career after being voted out of the humid Australian jungle of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. He seems to have done everything possible to turn the public against him: playing up a "bad boy" image and even having himself labelled a "sex pest" by a fellow contestant. But what looked like career suicide was actually a canny move.
Despite what seemed to be an inauspicious television appearance, Van Day's agent has been inundated with calls since the show aired. Apparently, obnoxious appearances on television are the best medicine for those suffering from ailing celebrity status. "We're getting a lot of interest at the moment," said his agent, Susan Shaper. "We've got all the usual follow-up stuff – TV and radio – but we also have a couple of musicals we're hoping he's going to do."
Thus Van Day joins the phalanx of TV pantomime villains who go on to prosper after their stints on TV have finished, often more so than the eventual winner. Katie Hopkins, a contestant in The Apprentice in 2007, who became a hate figure in the tabloid press, went on to make huge amounts of money from interviews, columns and slots on other reality TV shows.
Lord Brocket, who came fourth in I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! in 2004, ranted and swore at his rivals; he groped female contestants and repeatedly undid Kerry Katona's bra. He went on to receive almost £1m in TV offers, and his autobiography became a bestseller.
Jodie Marsh used her 11th place on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 to further her TV career, which had been launched on ITV's Essex Wives in 2003. Repeated clashes with her housemates led to her being voted out with the highest margin ever.
"Those who behave nastily are rewarded because it's more entertaining," said Channel 4's commissioning editor and former reality TV producer David Glover. "Some who's desperate may be willing to go to more extremes to get noticed."
The psychologist Oliver James believes that villainous people are more likely to succeed in life. "Successful people tend to be screwed up. It's a scientifically proven fact that successful people are more likely to be selfish and Machiavellian."