How We Met: Jamie Theakston & Jonathan Yeo - Profiles - People - The Independent

How We Met: Jamie Theakston & Jonathan Yeo

'He was there when I met my wife; he had to look after Madonna while I chatted up Sophie'

Jonathan Yeo, 40, is a British artist best known for his portraits of the rich and famous, from Tony Blair to Dennis Hopper. More recently, he branched out into collages, generating headlines in 2008 with his depiction of George Bush, fashioned from pornographic magazine cuttings. He lives in west London with his wife and two children.

I remember meeting Jamie at the wedding of a friend of ours, [the author] Imogen Edwards-Jones, in around 1998 or 1999. Imogen invited everyone to Italy for a long weekend, and it was a nice excuse for a four-day booze up. Jamie and I met on the first day and were inseparable. Coming from the art world, I had a view that people in TV were prima donnas – and while he can be a bit of a prima donna, he also struck me as very normal and really quite funny too.

After that, we'd meet a lot in Soho. I had a studio there above a Marco Pierre White restaurant, where Marco would allow me to eat for free. Jamie was often in the area working, so he and one or two others would regularly visit and we'd go for lunches that would run into dinner.

Then, for our 30th birthdays, we had a joint party. It was a bit of a riot: Jamie had some brilliant party-organiser friends who managed to get sponsorship for it, so we didn't have to pay for however many hundreds bottles of vodka we got through – just the damage to the restaurant!

We've been through so much together – I was with him when he met his wife, and we were each other's best man. He was brilliant at mine, and did a perfect Wogan-esque speech which made everyone laugh.

We used to see each other once a week, but it's a bit less than that now: Jamie's children are very young, and he's also constrained by his job hours. But we still find excuses to go skiing or wine-tasting.

Jamie has a fantastically dry sense of humour. I try not to listen to him on the radio: he sounds so professional and oddly restrained, and it's strange hearing him being polite and not telling filthy jokes.

He is also much more creative than people might expect, and has a real eye for interior design. He spends far too many hours searching eBay for obscure Danish furniture from the 1960s. I don't think he'll go so far as to become an interior designer, but he certainly dresses like one.

I admire the fact that Jamie's always worn his [fame] lightly; I've dealt with a lot of people who have a public profile, and you'd be surprised how many feel the need to remind themselves and everyone else how interesting or celebrated their job is, but there's no ego with Jamie. He's just completely comfortable in his own skin.

Jamie Theakston, 40, is a TV and radio presenter. For the past six years, he has co-presented the breakfast show on London's Heart FM. He lives in west London with his wife and two children.

Jonny and I met when our mutual friends got married, in Tuscany, about 12 years ago. I got there the evening before, and it wasn't long before we discovered a shared passion for ropey old bars and it was in one called Route 66 in Cortona [in Arezzo, Italy] that our friendship was forged. We had the same sense of humour and became close very quickly.

Jonny and I are pretty similar, though he's a bit more vain than me – far more, in fact. We see each other every fortnight and we're men of simple pleasures – we go out to eat and drink and we also go away skiing a lot. He's an elegant and fearless skier and has the same approach to it which he did when he was 16, which is to try to look stylish for all the girls, whereas I'm far more terrified and my arms and legs fly all over the place.

Holidays aside, our paths often meet abroad: for several years we spent Oscars week in LA together, because I used to go and present the live coverage for TV, and Jonny would be there painting actors and other LA people. He was out there with me on the first night I met Sophie, my wife: it was at a party, and it was me, her, Jonny and Madonna around the dinner table. He had to look after Madonna while I spent the evening chatting up Sophie.

I'm in awe of him as an artist. I paint like an eight-year-old, so I find it fascinating to visit his studio; what he does is like alchemy. I own quite a few of his pictures and he also painted me a while back – I think I probably encouraged him to do it, because he's essentially quite lazy, so the idea of him doing any more work than he needs to fills him with absolute terror.

Considering he paints world leaders and royalty, it was a real honour, though I'm still not sure where to hang it – there's something a bit embarrassing and egocentric about having a picture of yourself on public display in your house.

Between the ages of 25 and 40 is when most of your important life experiences happen, and I've shared most of them with Jonny – marriages, births and what have you. But he hasn't changed at all: he hasn't aged physically – he will always look about 14 – and he hasn't really matured mentally or emotionally either. I think he's in some sort of arrested development, which is good, as he's the same person I became friends with: brilliant fun and one of those people I've never had a bad time with.

Jonathan Yeo will showing at London's Lazarides Gallery (lazinc.com) and National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk) this spring. For more: jonathanyeo.com

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