Memories of the past, ideas for the future

Twenty years giving people the bird

Dustin the Turkey first appeared on ‘The Den’ with Zig ‘n’ Zag in 1990, but remained with the show after their 1994 departure to Channel 4. He also outlasted four co-hosts, all of whom moved to radio. As well as presenting children’s television, he’s “dabbled” in politics and had a chart-topping musical career - releasing six albums and scoring eight number one singles, including tracks with Bob Geldof, Joe Dolan and Ronnie Drew. In 2008, Dustin was selected via a public vote to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest with “Irelande Douze Pointe” but failed to make it out of the semi final. He describes himself, simply, as a builder, singer, politician, megastar, ladies man, supermodel, poet, artist/general genius and UNICEF Ambassador.

TV50: What was your favourite moment on ‘The Den’?

Dustin: So many highlights, couldn’t choose just the one.....there was all the great Christmas specials, all the big stars (and Keith Duffy) popping in, the laughs with the boys and girls watching and all the pictures and stuff they used to send in, and just the general craic we used to have everyday.....I suppose when Mary Robinson called in after she beat me in the Presidential Election was a highlight, it’s funny when I see how close that Dragon’s Den simpleton from Cavan got to getting in I realise how if I ran now I’d be a shoe-in...

T: And your worst?

D: I suppose the day the Zig ‘n’ Zag boys told me they were legging it to England without me to make millions and become major Brit-lickers was a tricky one, but in the end it just cleared the way for me to grow into the megastar I now am without constantly being held back while things were explained to Zig. Ya see Zig isn’t a bad lad, he’s just thick – it’s Zag, the purple one, that I just don’t trust, all nicey nice to your face but the minute ya turn around he’d knife ya in the back for a free Def Leppard CD.....petty little fella.

T: What do you think was the attraction of ‘The Den’ for viewers?

D: Me.

T: Do you miss it?

D: I miss the craic sometimes, but I’m a happy-go-lucky bird so I don’t look back much. They were happy days but I’m focused on the future. I’ve big plans right now that I can’t talk about. Just put it this way, phone hacking mightn’t be nice but it can be a great little earner and when you’ve got my little black book of contacts it’s a bit of a no brainer. Honestly, ya wouldn’t believe the stuff I’ve heard, it’s frightening and I think the public have a right to know.....and I have a right to getting the right price for striking such a blow for the freedom of information.

T: What do you think of children’s television now?

D: There’s nothing sadder than someone wot used to be on kids TV giving out about how it was much better “in their day” so I wouldn’t really like to comment apart from saying that in fairness to the gang in RTÉ Children’s department the stuff they do now is beyond MUCK. Ya see ‘The Den’ was basically put together by a gang of great messers, the types you’d find down the bike sheds in any good school but these days it’s all made by the teachers and run out of the staff room, brutal stuff. Took four or five of us to build ‘The Den’ and about 55 RTÉ managers to knock it down. We fought the law.....

T: Are today’s kids different to those who grew up watching ‘The Den’ in the 90s/00s?

D: Yeah and no. They LOL now, when beforehand they used to just laugh but at the end of the day, at the heel of the hunt, by the time the cows come home it’s all just a bit of a cliché to say ‘kids are kids’, but they are ya know......Same Same But Different as they say on quality bootleg stalls everywhere...

T: You worked with four different hosts on ‘The Den’ (Ian Dempsey, Ray D’Arcy, Damien McCaul and Francis Boylan Jr). Who was your favourite co-presenter?

D: I’ll always remember Eoin Dempsey with great fondness, never hear from him now though, but I wish him and all his money the very best of luck. Damo is still a great pal and the ginger lad from Leitrim does his best to keep in touch but he’s back living in Manorhamilton and as Rural Electrification hasn’t reached there yet it’s tricky for him to call me on the ol’ 088.

I call into the D’Arcy lad now and again on Today FM but to be honest it’s mainly for the fee and because he gives me a go on Mairead Farrell who’s just MAD about me. It’s really just kissing (no tongues) but Ray tells me if I hang in there someday she might tickle me feathers.

D’Arcy isn’t as nasty, mean or arrogant as people think, he’s actually worse. Only the other day I rang him to ask him would he do a charity gig with me and his first question was “how much?”, I told him there was no fee and he hung up. Was awkward telling the charity that he didn’t care about the sick or the poor but they’d dealt with him before and knew the score. Still saddens me though...

T: What TV presenter do you wish had been your co-host?

D: Back when Gay Byrne was alive I always thought he’d have been great on ‘The Den’, but then I realised that he was cheating on his wife, carrying on with some bird called Kathleen Watkins behind Mrs. Byrne’s back. I just knew if that got out the press outcry would be bad for ‘The Den’ so in the end I had to tell him it wasn’t to be.

T: What TV show would you really like to present?

D: The Late Late, more out of civic duty given how Tubridy’s managed to do the impossible and make it worse than it was under The Plank. Mad to think that his tactic of apologising before asking every question hasn’t earned him a place in the viewers’ hearts but there ya go.....what can ya do?

T: What was Ray D’Arcy’s best and worst quality?

D: His best quality is his ability to hide what he’s really like and have people believe he’s a decent, ordinary, humble type of guy, when in fact he’s a mean and obnoxious chancer. As for his worst quality? For me it has to be how he merrily worked his way through the women in RTÉ without a second thought to their feelings. The lad’s a user, plain and simple. Used me to get famous and now he’s using Mairead, Jenny and the rest of the gang on his radio “show” to get rich. Part from that though he’s sound as a pound, wouldn’t hear a word against the little baldy lad.

Feeling nostalgic for Dustin's unique wit? A double DVD boxset of Dustin 20 Years a Pluckin'/ Zig and Zag Best Bits from 'The Den' is on special offer for only €4.99 here