You ask the questions

Such as: so, Anne Robinson, if someone was as rude to you as you are to your contestants, would you throw a hissy fit?
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The Independent Online

Anne Robinson was born in 1944 in Blundell Sands, just outside Liverpool. At an early age she was sent to Farnborough Hill Convent, a boarding school in Hampshire, where she remained until her teens, before moving to Paris for a year to attend finishing school. Robinson's first job was with the TV company Rediffusion, where she worked as a secretary and did some presenting for a children's show. Soon afterward, she got a job at the North London News Agency, before moving on to the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and then the Daily Mirror, where she worked as assistant editor from 1980-93, as well as writing regular columns in other papers. Robinson's national TV debut was in 1987, with Points of View. In 1993 she moved on to the consumer-affairs programme Watchdog, with Alice Beer. Robinson was recently voted the rudest woman on TV, and her new programme, The Weakest Link has become the BBC's most successful quiz show in a decade, creating a new national catchphrase:

Anne Robinson was born in 1944 in Blundell Sands, just outside Liverpool. At an early age she was sent to Farnborough Hill Convent, a boarding school in Hampshire, where she remained until her teens, before moving to Paris for a year to attend finishing school. Robinson's first job was with the TV company Rediffusion, where she worked as a secretary and did some presenting for a children's show. Soon afterward, she got a job at the North London News Agency, before moving on to the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and then the Daily Mirror, where she worked as assistant editor from 1980-93, as well as writing regular columns in other papers. Robinson's national TV debut was in 1987, with Points of View. In 1993 she moved on to the consumer-affairs programme Watchdog, with Alice Beer. Robinson was recently voted the rudest woman on TV, and her new programme, The Weakest Link has become the BBC's most successful quiz show in a decade, creating a new national catchphrase: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye."

Robinson lives in Kensington and Gloucestershire with her husband. She has one daughter, Emma, 30, who lives in New York and works as a TV presenter and director.

You recorded celebrity Weakest Link recently. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the contestants? P Jarvis, Brighton Les Dennis was the cleverest, and Michael Winner the smartest. The Weakest Link separates clever people from the smart, which is nice for those of us who are smart, as smart people live longer and get richer. Loyd Grossman and Bob Geldof did nothing to distinguish themselves.

Is Hillary Clinton someone you relate to? Would you like to see her back in the White House one day? Trish Bunton, London No. First of all, she's a huge disappointment because she's highly intelligent and talented and yet she's achieved much of her fame on the coat-tails of her husband, which makes no sense to someone like me. Also, there's absolutely no evidence she has a sense of humour. I haven't spent nearly as much time dreaming about her being back in the White House as I have dreaming about me being a size eight.

Were you genuinely sad when Robert Maxwell died? Has your opinion of him changed since? K Silverwood, Coventry Yes. I felt a great loss on the day he died. In the newspaper he owned, I described him as part monster, part magic. The problem wasn't that he was a crook; it was that people had suspended their critical judgement of him and wouldn't accept that he was a crook. As far as I was concerned, I was consistent, and so was he. He also came along at a time in my life when I was feeling very low and unconfident, and he was terribly admiring of my talent as a writer. I challenge anyone to feel too harshly about somebody who boosts their confidence.

Michael Winner recently described The Weakest Link thus: "Contestants willingly go forth to be humiliated by this strange Dracula-like figure in black: a sarcastic headmistress dealing with idiot children. This is male subservience gone mad." Is that how you see it? Claire Daly, Walsall Yes. The only thing I'd question is the headmistress comparison. How many headmistresses do you know that can afford to wear Armani or Issey Miyake? Or, indeed, even know what it is?

What happened to your accent? Have you ever had elocution lessons? And where did you learn to wink like that? Caroline Mackie, Exeter I'm not aware that I ever had an accent. I had elocution lessons from the age of eight. It's a generational thing - drama classes were called elocution lessons then. I did the wink spontaneously the first time I stood in for Barry Took on Points of View. The boring producer told me not to, so I thought it was important to carry on doing it. I wasn't aware winking was something you had to learn. Which reminds me of Vanessa Feltz telling Alice [Beer] recently that she didn't know until recently that not everyone ate in the bath.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women? Who are/were your role models? K Crossing, by e-mail I hope I'm useful to other women who perhaps have had a dodgy time in their life. Most of us have a dip at some point, and it's handy to know you can come up for air again after it. My mother was my role model: she was very special in the sense that she had no truck with convention, never seemed to be afraid of anybody and she taught me to believe men were a joke. My husband has been quite a good role model, too. I don't know how much has rubbed off on me, but he's full of natural charm and he's taught me there is a nice way of doing things.

How do you pick your contestants for The Weakest Link? I heard that you go for people of below-average intelligence so the BBC doesn't have to pay out £20,000. P Well, by e-mail That proves how false rumours are. I don't pick the contestants, but I do urge the BBC to sign up as many good-looking young men as they can. There are over a million letters from applicants waiting to get on. I'm trying to persuade the BBC to add a couple of noughts to the £20,000 - with overseas sales topping £50m, I can't see licence-payers being sniffy.

Do ever wish that you were as pretty as Alice Beer? K Starling, Croydon Often. And I wish I was as funny as her. She used to usurp me every week on Watchdog. I just think she's wonderful; she's also never been spoilt by TV.

Have you stopped nagging your daughter about grandchildren? Sheila Crichton, by e-mail Of course I haven't. Every time there's a new bloke, I say, "Can I buy a hat?" She usually pre-empts me by saying, "He's not a hat job." I want a grandchild because, like most women of my generation, I didn't spend enough time at home enjoying my baby.

I saw you on Celebrity Ready Steady Cook the other day and thought you were flirting like a 16-year-old. Did you fancy the chef? J Hartnell, London If you cook as well as I do, you've got plenty of time to flirt on Ready Steady Cook. Also, he was utterly charming. I thought he'd be quite nice for Emma, actually, so I was doing some surrogate fancying. I love men, I really do, but I often wish they were a bit brighter.

If someone was as rude to you as you are to the contestants on The Weakest Link, would you throw a hissy fit? Stella Dumay, Cardiff I've earned my living being rude, or direct, as I like to call it, for the last 30 years. If someone is as direct to me as I am to them on The Weakest Link, I admire them for it; I certainly wouldn't throw a fit, not if their response made good TV.

Has having red hair affected your personality and nature? Sean Cromwell, Stafford Yes. One of the girls at my boarding school was called Gloria Berni. From an early age we'd get up in the morning together, look in the mirror and see two totally different people. It was bound to shape our personalities. She was very dark, beautiful, mysterious and gentle, and I was impatient and wild.

How do you feel about the way you are portrayed as a hard-nosed, career-minded dragon? Charlotte Brookes, Cambridge I think it's entirely fair.

Weak people don't deserve to live. Discuss. Tobias Peverly, by e-mail There are no victims; there are only volunteers.

What makes you feel most vulnerable? When did you last cry? Stuart Atkinson, by e-mail I think crying is a highly suspect activity. Nothing is more tiresome than somebody you are dressing down suddenly having great floods of water in their eyes. It's very manipulative and doesn't wash with me.

I hate to admit this, but there is an episode of The Weakest Link coming up next week, and one of the contestants was a man called Terry who was 80 years old and one of the most gracious people I have ever met. He didn't win, but I was just very moved by his performance. He was a former RAF fighter pilot and he was spectacular; his dignity was immense. I certainly had a lump in my throat.

My family also makes me feel vulnerable, and any suggestion that my health is on the blink, or that Emma is unhappy, because like all mothers I think it's my fault - or at least I should be able to fix it.

If you were to take part in The Weakest Link, would you win? Katarina Hamilton, by e-mail No, because I don't know the dialling code for Telford.

Your style as host is the exact opposite of the cuddly chumminess of Chris Tarrant. How do you think your show will fare against Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Petra Moss, Hastings I think Chris is terrific, and his chumminess is entirely genuine because he does actually spend a lot of time with contestants beforehand, and it shows. They'll always have the money over us, but once people start watching The Weakest Link, they find it irresistible.

If you could interview one person, dead or alive, who would it be? Taylor Weir, Manchester I would need three. Rebecca West, who was the first single mother of note and a superb essaysist at a very early age. Stanley Spencer because he never washed, yet women adored him, and Simon Hopkinson because he's wonderfully unreasonable and once he's told you not to do something in cookery, you can't.

Were you pleased to be voted rudest woman on TV? And is it hard to maintain this persona? Kyle Rees, London Thrilled. I felt my talent was being finally recognised. I'm just being me, and I'm just going to go on being me.

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