Telly legend Anneka Rice has confessed that her agent of 10 years, Clementine Hart, is a fictional creation devised by Rice herself.
Rice, who is still best known for fronting the BBC reality series Challenge Anneka from 1989 until 1995, has revealed the deceit ahead of a radio series telling the story, entitled The Clemmie Hart Years.
The presenter was sacked by her agent in 2004 after she declined to appear on a cookery show with former Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry, given the groan-worthy pun title Rice and Curry.
Rice, now aged 60, had young children at the time and was looking to take a step back from the limelight, but she needed someone to field requests on her behalf from shows including I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.
“It was a two-edged sword, because part of me did want to hang out in a safari lodge with Christopher Biggins, learning to track lions," she told Radio Times.
“It kind of killed me to say no, but I had small children. Sending emails from Clemmie made me feel part of it still.”
Rice went to extreme lengths to keep the charade going, even bringing along a friend to play the part of Clemmie when she did take up an opportunity to appear on celebrity hypnosis show Have I Been Here Before?, fronted by Phillip Schofield.
She said: "We didn’t dare catch each other’s eye because we’d have lost it."
The presenter, who returned to front two new Challenge Anneka episodes in 2006 and 2007, said she enjoyed the way people used to interact with her in her Clemmie persona.
Rice said: “What’s interesting is that at the start things were more formal. You’d get an email that would say, ‘Dear Clementine…’, by the end it had become: ‘Hey, Clem, would you like to join our netball team?’”
The facade came to an end when Rice sent a final email from Clemmie, pretending she had fallen pregnant and was giving up her job.
Rice has now said farewell to Clemmie for good and signed with a genuine agent.
The Clemmie Hart Years will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 12 June.