Corrie and I'm a Celebrity star Simon Gregson has plenty of hidden talents - including poetry, karaoke and even dressing up in drag - his wife Emma has revealed.
The Coronation Street stalwart, who is winning an army of new fans on I'm a Celebrity, is being cheered on by wife Emma and their three sons – Alfie, 14, Henry, 12, and five-year-old Teddy.
And Emma, speaking to the Sunday Mirror, has revealed his secret talent for poetry, and how he loves to let loose at one of Manchester's most iconic bars with a spot of karaoke and drag.
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Former Hollyoaks actress Emma, 38, tied the knot with Simon in 2010.
And she says Simon is so good at poetry, he keeps a notebook at the bottom of the bed so he can jot down rhymes and ideas. And, she says, Simon – Corrie’s Steve McDonald – is pretty good.
Emma, 38, tells the Sunday Mirror: “Nobody knows but Simon is a poet.
“He’s always writing, he keeps books at the end of the bed so when he can’t sleep, he’ll have a dream or he’ll have a thought and will write it down.
“His poetry is brilliant, he’s a really good poet. He’s also writing a children’s book. He started during lockdown and was also doing it while he was isolating before he went on I’m A Celebrity.”
Emma gave a sneak peak of his poem titled New Normal Neighbours – where two men reflect on lockdown.
One says he puts “beer in my coco pops, whiskey in my tea; the way it’s changed our habits truly is a fright; I know, I say. It’s crazy. Come round tomorrow night”.
When not writing, Simon loves a laugh and visiting the New York, New York bar in Manchester’s gay village – where he has been known to dress up in drag.
Emma says: “Our good friend owns it and it’s always been a safe place for Simon to have a few drinks and cause mischief on the stage. He loves a laugh.”
For his 45th birthday he also stripped off and sang with a drag queen.
Emma says: “That night was hilarious, Simon was having the time of his life. He always ends up dancing on the tables and loves stripping off at parties.
“He’s got a thing about being free. If anything silly is going on at the end of the night, he will be involved.”
Life at home in Cheshire involves karaoke nights, kitchen dance-offs and board games.
Emma says: “We like a glass of wine and staying up late playing music and singing. I love cheesy pop music and he’s into Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers and Craig Charles.
"We take it in turns to play what we like. It normally ends with dance-offs in the kitchen, we seem to really go for it. And we play a lot of board games. Simon’s favourite is Monopoly, which goes on for hours.
“Sometimes it turns into arguments to the point where we have to have a timeout. Simon isn’t good at losing, we’re quite competitive as a family.”
Dance-offs are something of a Gregson family tradition. At their wedding, Emma and Simon shunned a traditional first dance for a dance-off to Run DMC.
Emma says: “We had a dance-off between Simon and his best man and me and my bridesmaids.
“Everyone still talks about that wedding, we had a lot of fun.”
Simon joined the celebrities in Gwrych Castle, North Wales, last week at the same time as fellow soap veteran Adam Woodyatt – EastEnders ’ Ian Beale.
Proud Emma shed a tear at seeing her hubby – who has conquered crippling anxiety – appear on screen.
She says: “Ten years ago there would have been absolutely no way he would have done I’m A Celeb.
“So to watch him go in and take on the unknown, which he was really nervous about, to actually embrace it and to look so relaxed while he is doing it, we are dead proud of him.
“I was very emotional watching. When we first got together he couldn’t leave the house or go to restaurants because it was so bad.
“One time we went to stay in our caravan in Anglesey and Simon thought he was having a stroke and dying. His whole face dropped and we had to call an ambulance.
“He got to the hospital and they told him he had a panic attack.
“He has since been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and it has completely changed his life. He was medicated and there was a reason why he felt like he did. That changed everything for him, so he could understand what was wrong. Now he speaks to a lot of people on social media about it and he likes helping people.”
Simon has been on Coronation Street since he was a teen. He has told how fame troubled him and he relied on booze and drugs to ease his woes. And Emma – who met Simon at a singing competition organised by his TV mum Beverley Callard – says being a dad turned his life around.
“When he was 15 he really struggled with fame,” she says.
“He didn’t know how to deal with it.
“When I met him he was drinking heavily and he would have a wild time partying. We did a bit of partying but then I told him I wanted a family.
“Becoming a dad has helped him cope, he cares a little bit less about what people say, and we don’t go out and socialise as much as we used to.”
Simon has been seen in a daft outfit on I’m A Celeb, and fans are looking forward to seeing him “enjoy” some unsavoury meals in a BushTucker Trial. But he has tried frog legs and snails, has a huge appetite and, Emma says, will “eat anything”.
He was caught smuggling Oxo cubes into camp and Emma reckons he might try to cook one of his unappetising stews.
She says: “He loves Oxo and puts cubes in all the stews he makes. But his stews are inedible! They are full of lard and rubbish you can’t eat. He raids the cupboards and shoves all the spices and garlic in without tasting it.”
Simon was also caught sneaking in black pepper and Vaseline.
Hosts Ant and Dec say he will get his comeuppance for bending the rules.
Emma was baffled by the Vaseline – then realised it was to ease chafing.
She says: “He bought undies a size smaller so bugs can’t get in. So I presume that was what the Vaseline was for.”
Emma is a long-time I’m A Celeb fan and encouraged Simon to do the show.
A poster at home even declares: Daddy is our king of the castle.
“He is very witty, one of life’s good guys and I think people will see that,” she says.
When he leaves the show, Simon may also tackle a documentary about his mental health issues.
Emma reveals: “He’d be up for making a documentary. He has lost a few friends to suicide and feels it is something that should be talked about. He wants to get men talking more.
“Over the last five years he’s spoken a lot more about how he is feeling. He has a therapist and he thinks everyone in the world should have a therapist.”
On the home front, the couple have ruled out more children after Emma suffered 12 miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy.
She says: “He’s had the snip. I made him do it in 2018, because we didn’t want any more kids.
“We couldn’t go through it emotionally again. The ectopic pregnancy could have broken us as I was at my lowest and it was hard. But Simon helped us get through it.
"When you are soulmates you push on and get through stuff like that. We will always have each other’s backs.”
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