From tea cosies to TV, Jeremy Charles Robert Clarkson (Jezza) was not always the opinionated television personality he is today.
From humble beginnings in Doncaster, United Kingdom (West Riding of Yorkshire) as the son of travelling salesman Edward Grenville Clarkson and teacher Shirley Gabrielle Ward, Clarkson has since taken the world by storm with his public policy challenging writing and his popularity as co-presenter on BBC TV’s, Top Gear. Born on April 11, 1960, his life story truly begins with another person, in fact, Shirley Clarkson, Jeremy “Top Gear” Clarkson’s beloved mother.
Some thirty years ago, in the wake of the 1970s bleak recession, Shirley found herself taking what started out as a simple present to her son, Jeremy, and daughter, Joanna, to new heights. After giving her children hand-made Paddington stuffed bears, she began a business in an empty bedroom in her home. She hired local neighbors to become what she dubbed ‘stuffers’ and ‘plonkers,’ to perform the stuffing and stitching duties required to bring these Paddington Bears to life. Almost overnight, the bear business became an international success. Shirley’s book, Bearly Believable, chronicles the trials and tribulations as well as the soaring success she faced as the creator of Gabrielle Designs. Her famous son even has a quote on the cover reading, ‘A heart-warming, inspirational tale of a woman trying to run a business while having me as a son.’ But while Shirley was enjoying her success in business, trouble erupted on the home front with her mischievous son. Jeremy was expelled from Repton School for “drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance of himself,” leading his mother to acclaim “we had spent a lot of money on his education and we thought: What the hell are we paying for?”
However, his fabulously fruitful career as a car enthusiast and avid journalist proved to Shirley that perhaps her money was well spent. He started out his career, following in his father’s footsteps as a traveling salesman for his mother’s Paddington Bear business. But his career really began taking flight when he studied to be a journalist with the Rotherham Advertiser, and later began writing noteworthy articles for the Rochdale Observer, Wolverhampton Express and Star, Lincolnshire Life and the Associated Kent Newspapers.
After proving himself to be an affluent writer, his big break came in the form of a television spot. From October 27, 1988 to February 3, 2000, he served as a dynamic and often humorous presenter along with co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television program, Top Gear. His appearance during that time, and his appearance with its resurgence on October 20, 2002, was his first key role on television. The show’s re-launch in 2002 stirred up interesting media coverage that drove Clarkson to comment that “The problem is that television executives have got it into their heads that if one presenter on a show is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy, the other must be a either black gay or a lesbian. Chalk and cheese, they reckon, works. But here we have “Top Gear”(2002) setting new records after six years using cheese and cheese. It confuses them.”
His television career did not end with the Top Gear Show. Clarkson is credited with presenting the first series United Kingdom version of Robot Wars. Further, he hosted his own talk show fittingly titled, Clarkson, in which he aired segments of guest interviews with prolific writers, musical artists, and prominent political figures. Interestingly, he went on to present several documentary films that centered around themes like engineering and history; this showcased Clarkson’s expansive knowledgebase outside of his niche in motor journalism. Some of his most notable television specials being Clarkson’s Star Cars (1993), Jeremy Clarkson’s Extreme Machines (1998), Clarkson’s Top 100 Cars (2001), and the comical television series, Jeremy Clarkson Meets the Neighbours. He has also made guest appearances on popular shows such as Have I Got News For You, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Top of the Pops, and Parkinson.
With Shirley Clarkson’s strong views surrounding global warming, politics, and governmental interference, it appears the apple does not fall far from the tree. Never one to keep his opinions to himself, Jeremy Clarkson has endured his fair share of criticism from special interest groups, lobby groups, and other advocacy groups, as well as condemnation from various political parties and media moguls. Taking a note from his politically vocal mum, Clarkson shows no sense of shyness when expressing his witty opinions, and no sense of remorse for the frequently offensive comments he boasts about the green movement. Airing his disdain for groups like Greenpeace, he believes that being friendlier to the environment is something in which the entire planet should silently take part, rather than becoming what he describes as “eco-mentalists.”
His obsession with fast and furious motor vehicles started with the Ladybird Book of Motorcars from 1963. One marquee of his successful career is his formation of a motoring agency, Motoring Press Agency, in 1984 with fellow journalist Jonathan Gill. Clarkson translated his affection for motorcars into an agency dedicated to performing road tests of cars, which later spiraled into him writing excerpts and articles for Performance Car. Further establishing him as an efficacious journalist, he even landed contracting jobs with critically acclaimed newspapers like the Sun and Sunday Times.
Despite his international stardom and journalistic conquests, Clarkson has suffered hardship in his personal life. He married his first wife, Alexandra James, in 1989, but their marriage was short-lived. In September of 2010, Clarkson was awarded a privacy injunction against his first wife to halt her from publishing claims that their romantic relationship continued after their divorce; this became a very public privacy injunction, however, as news and tabloids got wind of it. In May of 1993, he married his manager, Frances Cain, in Fulham. The pair has three children together, Emily, born August 1994; Finlo, born March 1996; and Katya, born November 1998. Francis Cain added a car to Clarkson’s personal list of motor vehicles by gifting him a Mercedes-Benz 600 as a Christmas present in 2007. His abundant collection of cars includes or has included Volvo XC90, Range Rover TDV8 Vogue SE, Lotus Elise 111S, Mercedes CLK63 AMG Black, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, BMW M3 CSL, Honda CR-X, Ferrari F3555, Ford GTs, Aston Martin Virage, Lamborghini Gallardo, Volkswagen Scirroco 1 and 2, and Ford Escort RS Cosworth.
Presently residing in Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds, Jeremy Clarkson has surfaced in British Tabloids like the Sunday Mirror for allegedly “cheating on Frances with Top Gear colleague Phillipa Sage.” Francis and Jeremy Clarkson are still married.
His sometimes-violent temperament has made him a man to be reckoned with. Known for getting aggressive when provoked, Clarkson allegedly poured a glass full of water over former Daily Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, in March of 2004. What’s more, Clarkson is said to have ambushed Morgan with a barrage of fists after Morgan supposedly posted photographs of Clarkson kissing Elaine Bedell, his producer at BBC. On the other hand, he showcased his softer side in 2007, when he was named a patron of Help for Heroes, a charity that works to provide improved facilities and increased aid to servicemen and servicewomen who have been injured since September 11, 2001.
His public notoriety has translated into the fashion world. Clarkson has frequently been criticized for giving denim blue jeans a bad name. Clarkson’s partiality for donning jeans has been said to be a contributing factor in the decline of denim sales, specifically Levi’s, due to the association with middle-aged men like Jeremy Clarkson; often negatively called the ‘Jeremy Clarkson effect’.
The opinioned broadcaster appears to have an adventurous wild side which was showcased in a 2008 episode of Top Gear, in which he suffered very minor injuries to his back, both legs, and his hand while conducting a collision test by driving into a brick wall. Along with co-presenter James May, Clarkson documented their trip to reach the magnetic North Pole that was featured in a Top Gear polar special.
Standing tall at six feet five inches, this motoring enthusiast and English broadcast journalist is a difficult person to miss. Jeremy Clarkson is well known for his poignantly sarcastic quips and boomingly deep voice, but there is more to the English journalist and television presenter than meets the eye.
Whether you love him or hate him for his publicized opinionated viewpoints, he really put everything into perspective while interviewing Alastair Campbell when he said, “I don’t believe what I write, any more than you (Alastair Campbell) believe what you say.”