Before this week it was difficult to know how exactly to categorise Craig Charles. Poet? Presenter? Comedian? DJ? Musician? Actor? Sexpest? Now, thanks to Tuesday's spectacular stitch-up in the Mirror, it's down to just a choice of two: crackhead or whoresman. As scandals go, this is a veritable red giant. Indeed, it's difficult to see Charles surviving this as he has other lesser scandals. But with Craig Charles, you never know. For such a profoundly charmless and distinctly mediocre individual, he does seem to possess an almost mystical ability to bounce back.
In 1994 Charles was accused by his ex-girlfriend of gang rape and indecent assault. He spent three months in custody where he was attacked by a fellow inmate with a knife. Finally, in February 1995 he was fully acquitted. Taking advantage of his moment in the media spotlight, Charles decided to come clean about his drug habits. He confessed that after his mum died of cancer and his marriage to Cathy Tyson broke up in the late eighties, he had become enthralled by cocaine. 'At first it was fun,' he said, 'but gradually cocaine eats away your self-respect....' He also claimed at this stage to have beaten drugs. Three years later he was arrested for dealing coke and ecstasy. All that however, is child's play, a measly K-9 to the great fire-breathing, rocket-launching megatank of his latest shocker.
At first, as we read of Charles' 'Naughty Fridays', his 60 hits of crack, his insistence on English language fist-lit and his endearing bouts of extreme paranoia, we have to confess, having never been what you might call *enamoured* of his skills as an entertainer, we rather rejoiced in his pitiful sacrifice at the altar of News. Then, as the horrors snowballed, our humanity gradually juddered to life and we suffered a surge of compassion for this tragic loner, this man who struggles so valiantly, so vainly with an out of control life. This man of whom one 'Coronation Street' insider said: 'He hasn't made many friends here... He is regularly spotted drinking alone in a pub near the studios.' Christ.
If your heart isn't bleeding for Craig Charles now, then there's probably something amiss in your pericardium. May God take pity on him, this wretched soul who, even when he was in prison, was attacked like a common nonce. And now to be exposed so brutally: shot after shot of his crack-ransacked face and snippet after sordid snippet of his cockroach-in-a-porn-bubble existence. Cracked apart and splashed in the tabs like yesterday's smeg. Surely the only silver lining, if indeed it is silver, and if it's a lining, is that having 'done a Whitney' so spectacularly, Charles is a lot closer to getting the help he so desperately needs.
It wasn't until we read, 'He can barely stand upright as he stands by the car attempting to stuff the porn magazines and crack cans into a plastic bag', that we had an epiphany. For unrepentant Charles haters, we imagined, those without our humanity and empathy skills, this whole thing would be too good to be true. And then it hit us. Of course. It's a hoax.
Anyone who caught 'Celebrities Disfigured' will know what Craig Charles is capable of when he has an issue he wants to raise. In the Channel 4 show, Charles teamed up with face of Coke with a capital 'C' Caprice and together, with the help of disfiguring make-up, they discovered what it was like to be 'pitied, ignored and avoided' without actually opening their mouths.
Charles even went to a Red Dwarf convention in his freak disguise. The other actors from the popular comedy tumour were on stage and there was a Q&A session with the assembled nerds in the audience. Charles kept putting his hand up. After a short while, his fellow actors ignored him. And no, not because they knew who he was - to them he was just another disfigured nerd with stalker potential. Chris Barrie was visibly angered, tense and muttering, his fists coiled. He probably calmed down later however, and congratulated Charles on doing an excellent job of raising awareness for the disfigureds - who are sadly much too gruesome to raise awareness for themselves - by humiliating him, Chris Barrie, and making him look like a fascist.
So, this crack scandal? It's just cheeky chappy Charles up to his old tricks, playing out an elaborate hoax with a complicit media. A clever stunt highlighting important issues about drugs, prostitution and pornographic magazines. Craig, we salute you, and we wouldn't trade places with you for all the crack in Cymru.
It's a ghetto drug.