My dream jungle rumble — momma vs beck

Why the presence of two prominent Jews in the jungle has me hooked.


Have you heard the one about the two Jews struggling for survival in the jungle? No? Well, they are called Esther Rantzen and Dani Behr, and they are going head to head in the ITV1's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

The first is an archetypal Jewish mother figure who has been gracing our screens with her sympathetic ear and no-nonsense advice since wide ties and perms were in fashion. The second is the original TV beck, the girl who convinced thousands of her North London sisters that flicky hair and slightly large noses were cool.

Gratifyingly, Rantzen and Behr are both doing rather well in the jungle. They do seem much more likeable - and consequently popular with viewers - than rivals such as Robert Kilroy-Silk and the pneumatically boobed model, Nicola MacLean. Which is a relief since both are playing out their roles as dreaded Jewish stereotypes. But can either of them go all the way? And, if so, will it be a cause for embarrassment or pride?

Behr, 37, has mastered the dark, Jewish-Princess art of ensconcing herself with the other pretty females. And her forming a clique with Carly Zucker and Nicola M has brought back bad memories for thousands of unpopular Jewish kids on such camps as Star, Habonim or RSY. But much as the geeks pretend to dislike the becks, they secretly want to be in their gang. And, though Dani has teamed up with Nicola and Carly, she has refrained (unlike Nicola) from being too bitchy --- the perfect example of the lovable beck.

Meanwhile Rantzen, 68, in true Jewish-mother style, has proved not only that she is the shoulder to cry on but is also the self-sacrificing martyr. "If it's easier to leave me out, leave me out," she insisted when the scant meals were allocated. She volunteered to sleep in the cave and was one of only two celebrities who offered to give up her luxury item (fake tan) in order to save the two newcomer celebs - David Van Day and Timmy Mallet - from a night in a jungle cage.

She is good at diffusing tension by pulling people like the irritating Van Day out of arguments and calming them down in that familiar, endearing but firm manner.

On the other hand, she should be wary of overdoing it. When Blue's Simon Webbe had an accident during a "Bush Battle", Rantzen just could not stop herself piling on the TLC. She even referred to herself as the "interfering Jewish mother".

I am not sure that Esther Rantzen's ability to act the coy but willing object of flirtation fits the Jewish momma stereotype. Cheeky cockney EastEnders Joe Swash has taken a shine to her (she certainly looks pretty damn good without a hint of makeup or hair styling) and is not afraid to embarrass her with suggestive comments and eyebrow-raising gestures such as the odd massage. But Rantzen is lapping it up, responding with soft-centre admonitions. Very Jewish mother, that.

Meanwhile, Behr has to be on guard against a tendency to whine when things aren't going her way (very beck that, alas). She lost respect from most of the group after throwing a tantrum for having to surrender her role as camp cook (after showing herself to be adaptable enough to prepare the treifest of concoctions in wild boar and stir-fried octopus).

She needs to show her energetic, positive side, continuously to reign as queen bee in the sun, even when, inside, she is feeling more miserable drone and yearning for home comforts.

So, both the momma and the beck have much to contribute to communal living in extreme circumstances. One takes the nurturing, caring and considerate role, while the other is the alpha female type; popular, pretty and fun.

I would love Dani and Esther to be the last two left in the jungle, perhaps with Esther pipping Dani to top shvitzing celebrity crown. Though, mischievously, I'd prefer to see Rantzen and Swash end the show stranded together by the campfire .

    Last updated: 11:25am, November 27 2008