James Whale (radio presenter)
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Michael James Whale
13 May 1951
Michael James Whale (born 13 May 1951), known professionally as James Whale, is an English radio personality, television presenter, podcast host and author. He gained initial prominence in the 1980s as the host of The James Whale Radio Show on Radio Aire in Leeds, which was simulcast on national television. From 1995 to 2008, Whale hosted a night time radio show on talkSPORT, followed by stints on LBC 97.3 and various BBC radio stations.
Whale is the current host of his podcast The James Whale Show and a night time radio show on talkRADIO.
Michael James Whale was born on 13 May 1951 in Ewell, Surrey into "an ordinary middle class family". His English father David worked in the family business S&R Whale, which made dresses, aprons and overalls in a factory in Brixton, London. His Welsh mother Anne (née Price) was a professional ballet dancer. His parents later owned The Famous Green Man pub in Ewell. Whale has a younger brother, Keith. Whale did not enjoy his school life. After failing his eleven-plus exam, he attended Linton's Lane Secondary Modern School and Longmead County Secondary Boys School, both in Epsom.
From fourteen to sixteen, Whale took up archery and became a Surrey junior champion. He relocated to the King's Cross area of London where his parents ran a pub. He wanted to become an actor, but his mother advised him to "get a proper job". Among Whale's first jobs was as a trainee buyer for Harrods. In this job he came into contact with a DJ which influenced him to become one soon after, citing Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker and Kid Jensen as among his favourites. After learning that Watneys was to open a chain of discos, Whale took their DJ training course and landed his first gig at The Bird's Nest in Muswell Hill, north London. He found the experience "dull", but realised he had an ability to introduce records and worked at a Watney's venue in Sweden for several months. Upon returning home Whale resumed DJ work, took acting lessons and worked as a rep, but earned little money.
1970–1995: Early career and ITV television show
Whale began his broadcasting career in 1970 following a visit to a Topshop store on Regent Street, London. He spoke to manager Ralph Halpern who initially declined to hire a DJ for the store, after which he worked as an assistant stage manager at a theatre in Oxford. Whale was soon invited back to Topshop and accepted work as one of the launch DJs of Radio Topshop, the in-house radio station. In 1974, he became the host of an evening talk radio show at Metro Radio, serving northeast England from studios in Newcastle. He was the first presenter of the Nightowls program. During this time, Whale took up additional work as a voice over artist and acting roles in Doctor Who and Z-Cars. In 1980, he moved to Radio Derby to host a morning phone-in, working with Terry Christian who later became a colleague at talkSPORT.
In 1982, Whale joined Radio Aire in Leeds to host the night talk show; by 1987 he moved to the morning slot before returning to evenings. In 1987, he released two singles: "The Whaley Rap"/"I Hear James (On the Radio)" and "Wrap it Up for Xmas". By late 1987, the radio show was simulcast on Red Rose Radio from Preston. In 1989, Whale's third single, "Bimbo", entered the UK top 100 singles chart. An edited version of the B-side, "A Big Big Egg", was the closing theme for his TV show.
In the late 1980s, Whale became influenced by American radio hosts, including "shock jock" Howard Stern, and changed his style, having become tired of the "lovely phone-ins" that he had been accustomed to. Commencing on the night of Friday 18 November 1988, Whale's radio show at Radio Aire was simulcast with Yorkshire Television and was titled The James Whale Radio Show, featuring live studio guests, music and listener phone calls. The show became a ratings success, and after several months it started to air nationally on ITV. Conservative MP Jerry Hayes had a regular slot on the show and Steve Coogan would also make a regular appearance. By September 1989, the show attracted over one million viewers. It cost the television station £15,000 to run each hour.
1995–2008: Talk Radio/talkSPORT
From 1995 to 2008, Whale hosted a talk show on weekday nights on talkSPORT from 10pm to 1am. The James Whale Show featured as guests celebrities such as Jodie Marsh, David Icke, Nick Pope, Alex Jones, David Shayler, Lembit Öpik, Myleene Klass, Peter Stringfellow and Alistair McGowan. Another regular guest was the psychic Uri Geller. Whale's friend Bernard Manning would often telephone on his way from gigs. On two occasions, Whale and American talk host Tom Leykis co-hosted shows that ran simultaneously as episodes of both their programmes.
Whale participated in a live Newsnight programme on 26 April 2007 on BBC Two, broadcast simultaneously on talkSPORT, in which he referred to two-week refuse pickup throughout the UK and the 'scandal' of global warming. Whale should have had a live link to the Newsnight studio, but due to a technical failure this was not possible. Whale announced he believed global warming was solely a natural phenomenon. He described recycling as a 'joke' and believed prisoners should sort rubbish and recyclable waste.
In May 2008, Whale was sacked because he twice called on listeners to vote for Boris Johnson before the London mayoral election in 2008. Ofcom fined Talksport £20,000, saying he had "seriously breached the due impartiality rules at the time of an election".
On 7 May 2008 Whale said he would join Bid TV. He continued to broadcast on JamesWhaleRadio.co.uk. On 20 May 2008, Whale began a four-hour weekly evening phone-in on Internet radio station Play Radio UK, however, on 2 September 2008 he said on air he was leaving Play Radio for book promotion and TV work. He said he would continue his blog.
After standing in for Clive Bull on LBC 97.3 for six days in August 2008, Whale covered for Nick Abbot for two weeks from 29 September 2008 on LBC. In November the same year, he began presenting the drivetime show on LBC between 4 pm and 7 pm every weekday. In March 2013, it was announced that existing presenter Iain Dale would replace him in this time slot as Whale's contract was not renewed.
2013–2016: Various projects
In September 2013, Whale launched his weekly podcast, The James Whale Radio Show, which was produced by Rob Oldfield. The podcast has since run for over 240 original episodes. He also hosted the first season of the show The Book Show, along with producer and co-host Paul Andrews, which was broadcast on the Sky satellite channel Information.TV from 2013 to 2014.
On 13 December 2013, Whale announced that he would be the new permanent presenter of the BBC Essex breakfast programme. He presented his last show on the station on 23 September 2016. He also hosted "Something for the Weekend" on BBC Radio Kent Saturday mornings from 10 am until 2 pm.
Whale began covering shows on talkRADIO in October 2016 and he started presenting the Monday to Thursday evening show between 7 pm and 10 pm from 7 November 2016. This show reunited Whale with former producer Ash.
In August 2018, Whale was suspended by talkRADIO, pending a full investigation, after an interview with author and journalist Nichi Hodgson who had been sexually assaulted. talkRADIO subsequently described the interview as having been "conducted in a manner that did not reflect the values of the station and completely lacked sensitivity". In a video clip from the interview, Whale was seen laughing when the interviewee described what had happened to her. Whale returned to the air on 13 August.
In 1970, Whale married Melinda Maxted. They have two sons, James and Peter. In February 2018, Whale announced that Maxted had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. She died on 12 May 2018.
In February 2000, Whale was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He had not experienced any symptoms until he noticed blood in his urine, caused by a large tumour on his left kidney. He underwent an operation from which he had a 50% chance of survival, and chose not to have chemotherapy afterward. In 2006, he launched the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer to fund research and raise awareness of the disease. The fund became Kidney Cancer UK in 2016.
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- "Bio at the James Whale Fund site". Archived from the original on 26 November 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
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- Whale, James (2007). Almost a Celebrity: A Lifetime of Night-Time [2011 Print]. Michael O'Mara Books. ISBN 978-1-843-17663-3.
- "Conversations. Episode 38: James Whale". RadioMoments. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2018.