‘I had a panic attack’: Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson on struggle returning to limelight

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Ian 'Dicko' Dickson has recently returned to the limelight. Source: Getty.

He was once one of Australia’s most famous talent show judges thanks to his harsh comments and winning one-liners, with stints on Australian Idol and Australia’s Got Talent.

But having left his TV career as well as his stellar time as a record company executive behind him, Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson, 56, has been enjoying some time out of the limelight in recent years at home on the Sunshine Coast with his wife Melanie.

Now though, he is returning to the spotlight to launch a brand new live music event, ‘(Almost) The Greatest Gig On Earth’, set to take place on August 10 on the Gold Coast and bringing top tribute bands together to recreate some of the 1980s most memorable hits.

However, he’s not found the transition easy, and speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, the TV star admitted he’s found his return to TV screens and the media particularly confronting.

“It’s a bit of a challenge. I did my first run of publicity on daytime TV shows and I suddenly realised I’m not match fit anymore for being in the public eye,” he admitted. “It really confronted me if I’m really honest with you.

“I woke up this morning and had a bit of a panic attack about whether I should be stepping back into that world really. It’s not something I crave anymore. I used to be quite hungry for it, but today it’s a necessity, there’s a reason for it for this show which I really believe in, but I’m not craving it. Quite the opposite.”

Asked what it is that’s panicking him, he said he’s left the glitz and glamour behind for a much quieter life in a country town, and he’s no longer used to the changes in modern media and the internet.

Dicko has previously admitted he felt addicted to fame in the early days and he explained: “I’m from Birmingham. People like me didn’t go on TV, we didn’t go into the record industry. People like me got apprenticeships in car factories and drunk themselves to death by 70, and so I’ve been ridiculously fortunate in this amazing, topsy-turvy life I’ve led.

“It was very addictive, but after 15 years, it gets a bit old I must admit. I’ve never wanted to be that guy that just clings on.”

While many stars admit that a speedy rise to fame can have a negative impact on their life, whether it’s with anxiety or addiction, Dicko said he too was surprised by how hard it was to handle at the time.

“I went through a real learning curve when I started,” he added. “I thought I could handle it, because I’d worked with a lot of famous people, I was an executive working in music, but I was very wrong. It made me feel ashamed at how ill equipped I was to deal with it.”

The star explained: “When you’re famous you’re in control of a brand, so to speak, and you have to try and craft that brand. It’s exhausting, it really is. Now that I’ve become un-famous again, I don’t have to worry about that brand, I can let it exist in the past. It’s a relief! I feel like I’ve let him go now.

“When that brand earns you money and you need it to stay afloat, you end up just having to care about everything you say and do and how you look, and it’s just bloody exhausting.”

He admitted there were days he “didn’t handle it at all”, but was lucky to have a strong team and management around him to support him throughout.

However, there was one crutch he did turn to at the time – alcohol.

Asked how he coped with the pressure of fame previously, he said: “I used to get pissed all the time, basically. But then I discovered sobriety and that was great too.

“I did a fair bit of movement and work on myself in terms of trying to ground myself while I was sober for three years. I just decided I was going to stop drinking and really enjoyed it.

“I’m on and off all the time now, I had a few months off this year and really enjoyed it but then went to someone’s birthday party and decided I fancied a drink, before taking another two months off.”

Dicko has worked with huge stars throughout his career, from Celine Dion and Ozzy Osbourne during his record days, right through to a long-running friendship with music mogul Simon Cowell.

But while he’s enjoying a slower schedule now, he said he has no plans to retire and added: “Quite the opposite, I’ve got my ambition back now. Now I’m back in music and working, I’m really loving it and working super, super hard.”

His next big venture will be the live music event later this year and, explaining how he came up with the idea, he recalled: “The inspiration was a group of mates, a few bottles of wine and Spotify. We decided one night to have a crack at a playlist on Spotify, and tempers were running really hot – we were arguing, and we eventually narrowed it down to one decade, the ‘80s, it took all night.

“It was such a fantastic evening playing all these great songs. A couple of days later I thought, ‘Actually, we could do this! The tribute phenomenon is massive’.”

‘(Almost) The Greatest Gig On Earth’ kicks off on August 10 at Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast. For tickets, visit the website here.

Are you a fan of Dicko? Will you be going to the show?

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