Like real siblings, Keith Lemon and his “TV sister” Holly Willoughby spent days on end together teasing and making up unflattering nicknames. But this week Holly, who Keith calls “Willough-booby” on their hit ITV panel show Celebrity Juice, announced she was quitting after 12 years.
Now Keith, 47, real name Leigh Francis, has revealed he considered leaving the show too after Holly broke the news.
He said: “I was really sad and realized I was going to miss her.
“She rang me up. She never usually rings me so I thought she is going to tell me she’s pregnant.
“She said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you. This is like breaking up with a boyfriend’.
“I said, ‘You’re going to tell me you’re leaving, aren’t you?’ and she said, ‘Yes, it’s been 12 great years but I want to spend time with the family’.”
On his close relationship with Holly, Keith adds: “I’m gutted, she was like my TV sister. She’s welcome back at any time. I’ll properly miss her.
“It’s weird not being able to say goodbye to her in person at the moment. A virtual hug isn’t the same as a real one. I’ll miss Holly’s hugs.”
Mum-of-three Holly, 39, who joined host Keith’s Celebrity Juice as a team captain alongside Fearne Cotton in 2008, said: “Keith Lemon, where to begin? I remember starting this journey with you and saying, ‘I think this might work’. My goodness me, it did.
“Three friends you, me, and Fearne Cotton. I love the bones of you, Lemon. Thank you for making me laugh for 12 years.”
Holly’s last episode of Celebrity Juice was filmed during the lockdown and aired on Thursday.
Keith said: “We didn’t say goodbye on the show, I didn’t want to bring the mood down and tell everyone she was leaving. So next Thursday is a compilation show looking back and saying goodbye to Holly.”
Fearne quit the show in 2018 after ten years so Keith is the last of the trio on the panel show.
“But we are all adults. I’ve been better. It’s a shame Holly’s last show wasn’t in the studio but lockdown ruined the world.”
Keith is now on the hunt for a replacement for Holly, who also fronts This Morning alongside Phillip Schofield, 58, and he has hinted that Michelle Keegan, 32, could be in the frame.
Earlier in the week he said: “We need to find someone with the right chemistry.
“A lot of names have been mentioned. Michelle is one, she’s a lovely lady, but nobody has been chosen yet.”
And today, in an interview with The Sun on Sunday, Keith has told how he has been keeping himself sane during lockdown by sewing and making face masks.
He says: “Everyone is concerned about whether you should wear a face mask or shouldn’t wear one. Who cares if you should or shouldn’t?
“It is better to be safe than sorry so just wear them, so I decided to make some fun masks.
Keith is also doing what everyone else in Britain has suddenly taken up — walking, and video calls on Zoom.
He says: “Before lockdown I never used to go for a walk for an hour. But now I go every day for an hour.
“And my Leeds mates always text me to see if I want to do a Zoom and we are there till 2am.
“Everyone is waiting for someone to go because they’ve had enough but you can’t be the first one to go.
“I say, ‘Oh my battery is running out on my iPad, I’ve got to go’.”
Keith, instantly recognizable with his mustache and wild hair, says one plus side of lockdown is not having fans coming up to him in the street and grabbing him.
Jokingly, he adds: “I project this sexual beast on Celebrity Juice and they think they are allowed to come up to you when you are having your dinner and touch you where they shouldn’t.
"People say naughty and inappropriate things to me all the time.
“When I am with friends they are surprised and go, ‘How dare they come up to you and say that’.
“If I was a lady, there would have been a lot of people in trouble because of people manhandling you.
“I went to see a Matt Goss gig recently and there were a lot of ladies with hands on me. I guess it is part and parcel of what I do. People say very sexual things to me about my penis and stuff. It’s weird.
“I’m not good at being famous. I do spend time with people and do pictures. I just don’t like it when they try to touch my bum.
"I suppose it’s my fault because of Celebrity Juice but I am playing that with friends and I know how far I can go.”
Keith is now hosting new series The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft which begins tomorrow night on Channel 4 alongside Anna Richardson.
The show sees four crafters go head to head making various creations.
It is ideal for Keith, who loves making things, with mixed results.
He said: “Often if I haven’t managed to get someone a present I would do a little portrait of them and I do them quite small.
“A friend asked me to do one for her 50th birthday. She is a collector of art so I did it quite big.
“She wasn’t happy with it. She said, ‘I don’t want a big picture of myself on my wall’.
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