I’m not usually attracted to any sort of celebrity biography usually. I have to admit that the price of the Kindle version at the time of buying did get me to look a little closer, however I’m such a tight-wad that I wouldn’t even spend £1.09 unless there was something that intrigued me about a book like this. I admit to being a big Eggheads fan but that alone is not enough to pay for and more importantly spend my valuable time reading it. However I did a quick scan of the publishers blurb and the information about his early life shocked me. I did a Wikipedia search and discovered he was born in Barnsley and spend most of his life in the Rotherham area, which finally sold it to me.
I’ve very glad I invested to paltry sum on this book and with hind-sight would have paid the full price for the book. I read it in just over a day, which says everything for how fascinating I found the book. As he says near the end of the book that his publisher “had very little interest in a book by another mediocre celebrity”. I can confirm that this is no normal book by a mediocre celebrity. I despise celebrity and prefer to respect people who actually do, say or act in a way that appeals to the intelligence. CJ really does tick all these boxes and to me ranks as one of those people I’d love to invite to a dinner party. I doubt he’d come because, like me he has an aversion to chit chat and small talk and I get the impression that, like me, is uncomfortable with ‘new people’. But what a fascinating guest he would be and what an amazing man to get to know for those lucky few he has let into his close circle.
Of course most of you reading this won’t believe all this because all you will know of CJ is probably his role on Eggheads where he comes across as the villain of the Eggheads in the rather loud shirts and who can always be counted on for a caustic soundbite. You may even be like a friend of mine on Facebook who, after I’d posted about my reading his book, said that they’d seen him in the West End (and he was brilliant). You need to read this book to understand what a special man this is.
I’m not going to go into depth with the books (and CJ’s life) contents, but sufficed to say…
- CJ isn’t his birth name
- He was viciously abused both physically and verbally by and in the presence of the people he should have been able to trust the most – his parents and his teachers
- He ran away from home as a teenager
- He spend years living rough on the streets of London, Amsterdam, Cologne
- He had to resort to prostitution to survive
- He has never resorted to alcohol or drugs
- Through the kindness of others and a lucky break he eventually got himself off the streets and became a successful model
All of this is covered in the first half of the book which for me was the most interesting part. Not interesting from a voyeuristic point of view but more from a point of view of how stunned I was that one person should have to go through all this and still turn out a decent human being with good morals. The second half of the book covers his growing presence on TV quiz shows and his eventual big break on Eggheads as well as his developing acting career which is really where his heart is and his competitiveness as a long distance runner.
I get the impression that CJ is a difficult person to get to know and a complex person to live with and he certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly and doesn’t trust easily – considering his life I totally get that. The one thing that runs through this book is his total and utter humanity. I’ve taken many things from this wonderful book and will try and follow some of his advice, but I think this passage says much about him and the message the book offers…
“…if you’re ever inclined to talk to any rough sleepers – and I beg you to do so – please ask for their names. It’s a simple humanising question that lets them know someone cares enough to see them as people, not inanimate piles of clothes or anonymous statisics”.
I despise mediocre celebrities, as I’ve said, and their vainglorious attempts to swell their bank balances and party invitations with mediocre autobiographies that are full of vapid tales. This book is as far as possible from that and CJ is far from a mediocre celebrity in my eyes. In my eyes, after reading this book, CJ is a complex, interesting and decent human being who wants to do something with his life that develops him and other people and provokes the intelligence. He’s definitely now firmly on my fantasy dinner party guest list, for which, from my perspective, there is no higher praise!
I really do recommend you buy and read his book. You can from this link. If you buy from this link I get a small amount of commission. I promise to give any commission I get from this link to Roundabout, a charity that works with vulnerable and homeless young people in Sheffield.
Let me know what you think of the book if you read it or already have.