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‘Swim naked!’: John Barrowman on strippers, pleasure aids and the secrets to lasting love

‘Swim naked!’: John Barrowman on strippers, pleasure aids and the secrets to lasting love

John Barrowman | Photos: Eric Schwabel

His role as the bisexual Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood and Doctor Who made John Barrowman a queer icon – not to mention an international star.

So I’m not surprised to learn the Glasgow-born star’s got homes around the world: namely in Palm Springs, London and three in Wales, homeland of his architect husband Scott Gill.

But where would John rather be today: blustery Britain or the sunny Springs?

‘With the sunshine, my husband and the dogs, yes, Palm Springs…’ he says from London, where he’s promoting his upcoming tour FABULOUS.

I first visited the Springs last year, I say; soon, we’re rating its many gay bars. John’s favorites? ‘Hunters or Toucans [Tiki Lounge]: they’re gay, but they’re friendly for everybody. It’s great to go on a Saturday night because they have podium strippers!

‘When I take friends from out of town, gay or straight, they’re like “Do you have any dollars?” I’m like ‘”dollars”?! You don’t give “dollars”! You’ve gotta give fives, tens or twentys!’

‘Can you imagine slipping pound coins?!’ he adds. ‘It’d be like a slot machine! You’d have to put it up his bum!’

And so begins a riotously cheeky interview with one of the nicest celebrities I’ve chatted to, covering everything from bedroom role-play to Torchwood-themed sex toys….

I’m from near Wales – you have a home there, right?

Actually, we have three! One in Sullly [a village in the Vale of Glamorgan], right by the beach, a flat I bought in Cardiff when I started Doctor Who – because I invest my money when I start a new job. Then we have a property in Penarth. They’re all rented as we’re based in the states at the moment. But we love Wales.

What songs will you be performing in your show?

I’m working on that. We’re a couple months away. One that might pop up… I love the Shania Twain song From This Moment On. What I do guarantee is a fabulous night of entertainment. You’ll laugh, cry, think it’s outrageous and get someone who can actually sing!

Will you be taking questions from the audience?

I’ve thought about that. I find it interesting, it brings a different element to the show. Jamie, I’m going to notate that. I might just do that because of you. Thank you for the suggestion!

John Barrowman as Captain Jack | Photo: BBC
John Barrowman as Captain Jack | Photo: BBC

If I was in the audience, my question would be: ‘What’s the secret to a long-term relationship for a gay man?’

For a gay man – but also this would bleed into anybody else – is don’t try to change the person. Let them be themselves. You be yourself. Then you learn how to be with each other.

Now Jamie, I’m telling you the truth. You’ll know this if you’ve been in relationships yourself. It’s not easy sometimes. You have to work at it. As I’ve always said, if there are bumps in the road along the way, you have to look at it and think ‘Do I want to ruin what I have with this individual because of a little flirtation incident?’ Or you might have been drunk at a party and had a snog with someone. Is it really worth getting rid of that love relationship because of one silly incident? I always try to get people to be realistic about it.

Also the fact is, I’m 51, Scott’s 55. We’re honest with each other. That’s it. We’ve learned that over the years. We don’t expect the world from each other. I expect the moon and back, but not the world!

And I’m sure a secret to keeping your husband looking good in a kilt.

Yes. And not wearing underpants. Also, if you’re fortunate enough to have a Jacuzzi or swimming pool at your house, swim naked.

I did that in Palm Springs!

I bet you did a lot more than that.

Speaking of clothes, do you keep any mementos from your famous characters?

I have Captain Jack’s coat. I have one of the Doctor’s coats. Scott and I sometimes put them on… ahem! Every show I’ve ever done I’ve tried to keep something. I’ve got my costumes from La Cage aux Folles. I have the leather pants Captain Jack wore, because they were mine! It was so rushed to film, we didn’t know what Jack would wear, so I said ‘let’s put him in leather!’ And all I’ll say is a healthy gay relationship and straight relationship, you should have role play and do fun things!

Do you get hits on more by male fans or female fans?

Pretty much both. The female fans are more blunt. The boys come up and ask for a photo and when they have their arm around me say ‘I’m such a huge fan…’

Would you ever consider a return to Torchwood or Doctor Who?

If I was asked, I’d do it at the drop of a hat. I’d love to interact with the new Doctor. Captain Jack changed my life. I know what an iconic figure he is.

What’s the best thing about your 50s?

I let things go. I’ve always lived every day in the moment. I don’t get upset by a lot of things anymore. I’m like ‘Yeah, whatever.’

You recently said a fan gave you a sex toy. Did you keep it?

No. I’ll tell you this because you’re one of the boys. It was a dildo shaped like a rocket bomb that I sat on. Like the bomb Captain Jack sits on in that photograph. It went right in the bin. That’s not to say we don’t have our own toys!

Where did he get that?!

I have no idea where he got it!

Maybe he made it…

He probably did!

For more information about John’s tour, visit

See also:

John Barrowman celebrates 4th of July in red heels and sparkly dresses

John Barrowman claims he was sacked from this US show for being gay