There’s no doubting Big Brother hunk Benedict Garrett is a dreamboy. No, really, he IS actually a Dreamboy, with a capital D, although stripping and contorting for a group of drunken hens is only one of his many jobs, most of which involve sex in one way or another.
He’s a porn star, an escort, a dancer, a TV rent-a-gob, an actor, a one-time Guardian columnist, an actor, and a sexual activist. A sexual activist? What’s that when it’s at home? Well, more of that later…
When he walks into the large Islington pub we’ve arranged to meet in, no one bats an eye despite his high-profile Big Brother appearance last year, but that may be because we’re right next to Arsenal footie ground and it’s full of Germans here for a match. And despite having his finger in many an entertainment pie, I don’t think Benedict is internationally famous just yet. Give him time, though. The guy’s definitely got the drive and ambition.
We’re here to talk about Benedict’s upcoming project that’s heading to the Marlborough Theatre next month. Up4aMeet?, billed as ‘the naked gay comedy,’ stars Benedict as well as fellow Big Bro housemate Nikki Grahame (‘Who IS she?’ – that one) and X-Factor welsh hottie Lloyd Daniels.
Written by Jeff Moody and Simon Peek, Up4aMeet? is about the trials and joys of internet dating. It had a successful short run in London last year and is now going on tour around the country, stopping off at Brighton on the way.
Two men with very different outlooks on dating and the London gay scene, try to find love and/or a good shag through an app called The Cock Shop. They’re joined by their older gay next-door-neighbour who thinks he’s too past it to find the love he’s looking for, and their fag-hag friend who lives upstairs. Soon, everyone is messaging everyone else under pseudonyms, and confusion and hilarity ensue.
“There’s an awful lot of nudity in it,” says Benedict, cheerfully. “I’m actually naked in every scene but one. My character Costas loves to walk around the house naked. He’s very open about sex, like me.” Which is where the self-styled ‘sexual activist’ title comes in. So what’s that all about, Benedict?
“When I went into Big Brother it was for two reasons. Firstly, and selfishly, I wanted to raise my own profile, and secondly I wanted to raise important issues,” he tells me. “I really feel we should be more frank and open about sex in this country. I used to be a teacher and feel we need to talk about sex a lot more to our young people.” Tonight, after doing a stripagram and a Dreamboys gig, busy Ben is off up to Manchester for tomorrow’s BBC show The Big Question where he’ll be advocating that a discussion on porn should be a formal part of the school curriculum. He’s nothing if not passionate about his chosen cause.
But back to Up4aMeet. Benedict was the only one of the three celebs staring in the tour to have been in the original London run. I ask if he’s met the other two. “No, but I’ve had some interesting chats on Twitter with Nikki. And Lloyd’s that cute X-Factor guy isn’t he? He didn’t win it though?” No, I say, he came 5th in what I fondly call ‘The Jedward Year’.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting Lloyd. Is he gay or straight?” he asks Assistant Producer Luke who’s sitting next to him on the sofa. Luke, throughout the interview, has been a model of diplomacy. “He doesn’t like to say,” he mutters, although I point out he does play G.A.Y. an awful lot. “And he does a lot of naked shoots for gay mags,” mumbles Luke. We all get the picture, all fall silent.
Benedict is, of course, not quite so coy. “I’m predominantly straight, but I’ve tried other things,” he says. “I’ve only done straight porn but that’s only because I feel more comfortable with it. The things I’ve tried with men, well, I wouldn’t feel confident doing it in front of a camera and asking people to pay for it.” A ‘not very confident’ Benedict doesn’t fit in with what I’ve seen of him so far.
“I like to cuddle and kiss a man but to actually get sexual, I’m not that comfy, so to portray that on film, well, I wouldn’t feel comfortable because I don’t want to offer a shoddy service.” This is the odd thing about Benedict and where, I think, his ‘sexual activism’ comes in. Yes, he may be a stripper, yes, he may be a porn star, but he takes sex in all it’s manifestations very seriously. He’s got scruples, morals, standards, call it what you will, but he’s not blindly working his way through a career in sex. He is the very definition of the Thinking Man’s/Woman’s Crumpet if the thinking involves the philosophy of sex itself.
Has he spent any quality time in Brighton, I ask him. “Only days working,” he says. “I like Brighton. Who doesn’t? If I could pick a place to live in the UK it’d be Brighton. It’s the most liberal and open-minded place in the country, although most of my memories of the place are of a race to find parking before a Dreamboys show while being chased by screaming fans. And of the parking being ridiculously, horrendously expensive.”
So is he now settled down with someone? It says on his website that he’s a single dad, but is there a someone special in his life? “Only myself,” he laughs. “Nah, actually I’m quite content. I’ve got my nineteen year old foster son still living with me, and my two dogs. I’ve got my little family.”
Finally, we return to Big Brother and the hot topic of wanking. I didn’t watch Benedict’s turn on last year’s show, but he assures me that he got into some very hot water because of the subject. “When I went in, the producers said ‘would you have sex in the house?’ and I said, ‘for god’s sake, I’ve done porn before, what do you think!?’ I told then that if I felt like it of course I was going to have a wank. We were in there a bloody long time! But I assured them that I wouldn’t do it, as it were, in anyone’s face, but I might do it in places that I thought were appropriate and then I’d clean up after myself.”
His mistake, however, was not just having a Sherman, but talking openly about it to his other housemates. “There was an uptight girl, boarding school and all, who was appalled. Not that I’ve got anything against boarding school girls,” he quickly adds, and this, I think, sums him up. He’s a lovely boy really. One that you could easily take home to your mother. He’s polite, he’s considerate, he’s thoughtful. But the stuff he’s polite, considerate and thoughtful about is sex – and we’re British. I don’t envy this ‘sexual activist’ his fight one bit….
Where: Marlborough Theatre, 4 Princes Street, Brighton BN2 1RD
When: July 16 – 20
Times: 8pm Tues-Thurs, 7pm & 9pm Fri & Sat
Tickets: £16 from www.brownpapertickets.com/event/381144