November 26, 2020

Gary Rhodes’ defiant motive for spiky hair amid BBC’s battle to give it the chop

Gary Rhodes and his wife Jennie had just finished a laid-back dinner together at their home in Dubai when the TV chef died suddenly a year ago today.

Aged just 59, Gary was in a ‘happy mood’ after a day shooting a new show for ITV, his family said in a statement, revealing that he and Jennie had been in the process of enjoying a ‘peaceful evening’.

“After dinner, Gary unfortunately collapsed in their residence and was rushed to hospital,” the statement continued, confirming the star had died from a subdural haematoma – or a bleed on the brain.

As well as being remembered for his outstanding skills, with his peppy personality and trademark spiky hair, Gary paved the way for the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson by carving out an instantly recognisable image for himself.

Gary Rhodes made his spiky hair part of his TV identity

But it turns out his iconic hair happened by accident in his early 20s when he let a friend loose on his barnet.

He told the Evening Standard: “I had the same spiky haircut for a long time.

“Back in the 80s, a friend said, ‘I know, I’ll spike it up a bit for you.’ So he did and I loved it straight away.”

It took some serious investment to maintain, taking up to an hour to style each morning.

And while he often said he’d get a more sensible ‘do when he reached 40, at 43 he was still rocking it insisting if it was good enough for Rod Stewart then it was good enough for him.

Gary eventually did away with the spikes, but he took a lot of convincing
Gary eventually did away with the spikes, but he took a lot of convincing

He rebelled against those who found his image annoying, arguing: “Why should a haircut irritate anyone? What does it matter? I don’t think people should be judged on face value.”

However, the end came all of a sudden in 2001 when Rhodes got the call up from the BBC to take over from Loyd Grossman on MasterChef.

Grossman had quit in protest over a planned revamp and a move from Sundays on BBC1 to weeknights on BBC2.

And while producer Melanie Jappy was keen to hire Rhodes and his cooking skills, his hair wasn’t part of the deal.

TV chef Gary with beloved wife Jennie and their sons Samuel and George
TV chef Gary with beloved wife Jennie and their sons Samuel and George

She told the Guardian how she delicately tried to raise the topic with his agent, “but not with him. It was too sensitive. I think it was his security blanket.”

Her request was met with silence, but she was determined to get him to change his gel “at the very least”.

“I didn’t think he was doing himself justice. People say he’s the one with the hair, not he’s the brilliantly talented chef,” she explained.

“I think he’s been battling between ‘should I be the populist Gary or should I be the great chef?’ for a while.”

A defiant Rhodes arrived for rehearsals with his spikes firmly in place, but surprised everyone by turning up for filming with a brand new ‘do.

Explaining why he finally gave in, he said: “I’ve had enough of this – I’m much happier – instead of taking 20 minutes to spray it, now I’m under the shower and it’s done.”

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