Matt Butler: Want to know the secrets of the stars? Just ask their children

View From The Sofa: Big Star’s Little Star ITV

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The Independent Online

In this age of social media and all-you-can-eat news sources, secrets never stay secret for long. Most of us knew a full five days before the plane towing the anti-David Moyes banner sputtered over Old Trafford on Saturday that there was a group of Manchester United fans determined to show they have a surplus of money and a skewed idea of the important things in life.

But every now and then, you pick up something new from that antiquated medium known as terrestrial television. Like the fact that a World Cup-winning rugby player has a habit of driving to the cinema just to buy popcorn.

The player in question was Ben Cohen (“I like cinema popcorn,” he protested) and the admittance was on Big Star’s Little Star – a new series of which started last week.

On the face of it, the programme, hosted by Stephen Mulhern, is a fluffy game show in the “kids say the darnedest things” vein, where celebrities guess which answers their offspring have given to potentially embarrassing questions.

Neil Ruddock, the former Liverpool, England and, er, Swindon player, was given the question of what he could never live without: bed and telly, beer and football or chicken and chips. The rotund former defender was genuinely flummoxed.

But beneath the chuckle-inducing revelations, such as Cohen’s affinity for wigs or Ruddock’s liking for Neil Diamond, the show is a mine of intel for muckrakers. Now that phone hacking is a no-no, all scurrilous reporters need to do to unearth celebrities’ darkest secrets is to watch a couple of episodes of Big Star’s Little Star.

Denise Lewis, the former heptathlete, hit the nail on the head halfway through the show – just after her son Ryan had revealed that mum “doesn’t really like Dad” – when she exclaimed: “This is an exposé – anything you didn’t want to come out...”

If only she had listened to herself, because immediately afterwards she admitted – on national TV – she regularly sneaks off to the toilet to play Candy Crush on her iPad. We’ll never look at those Sydney 2000 highlights in the same way.

Possibly the most shocking revelation came from Ruddock, the eventual winner of the £15,000 charity prize, which he gave to Pilgrims Hospice in Kent.

He was introduced with his six-year-old daughter... whose name is Pebbles. “So, Razor,” Mulhern ventured gingerly, “how did the name come about?” We inwardly hoped the Millwall-loving reality TV veteran had a cherished relative with the odd moniker, or that he would tell a heart-warming story about how the moment he found he was to be blessed with a child was while sitting on a South Coast beach watching the sun set. But, in truth, we feared the worst.

“I love The Flintstones,” Ruddock said, disturbingly proudly. Amid the raucous laughter from the studio audience, many would have felt for the child – and society in general. And a desperate hack would have been rubbing his hands with glee.