Brian Beacom

GARY Lamont has been abused, battered, fallen for bad boys, good boys, he’s been faithful, unfaithful and fickle.

He’s been a parent, a singleton, a drinker, a druggie and an arsonist supporter.

“And now the end is here,” sings the actor, and occasional star of musical theatre.

And he’s right. After eight years his River City hairdresser character Robbie Fraser has frosted his very last Glasgwegian tips.

After a series of mishaps and melodramas, Robbie has had enough of grinding life in the west of Scotland and will leave Shieldinch to go off to dress hair in America.

He’s set to tour with a pop band a release his inner Kylie.

“I’ve said goodbye to the security man down at Dumbarton and it’s done,” says the actor, smiling and clapping his hands.

“And this chat is the end of my River City commitment.”

The rational part of Gary Lamont is happy to be walking away. He’s all set to take on the challenges of becoming a jobbing actor again.

“I know I will be replaced in River City by a 19 year-old in skinny jeans, which are not slimfit like mine,” he says, grinning.

“The punters will probably hate him in the beginning but they’ll come to love him in time.

“But that’s the way of things. And it’s my time to go.”

Gary is sad, but not playing the drama queen at all. And the actor from Castlemilk knows there was an inevitability perhaps about his exit; it seemed there was little more that could happen to Robbie.

“He’s been battrered every which way. And in my personal life that had a bit of an effect.

“I was a wee bit tired and done by it all. But in terms of storylines I accepted there was nothing that was really working anymore.

“From Day One, the character worked. And the writing was great. But then it began to be a bit clunky.”

Soap television demands movement. Relationships don’t last. Failed affairs and disaster arrive more often than the gas bill.

“No one in soap is allowed to be happy,” says Gary, grinning.

No, but the challenge is to retain a believability. To keel viewers thinking it all could be real.

“There are few who can manage that in soap,” says Gary.

“The character has to be able to change gradually with all that happens to them. That’s why the likes of Stephen Purdon can last.

“He goes with it all and and he appreciates all that he has.”

Gary adds; “My only regret in leaving is that Juliet Cadzow (who plays his mother in the series) came in too late. She’s been fantastic for my character.

“I’ve never had so much fun in all the years on the show than I’ve had with Juliette in the past few months. She has a wicked sense of humour.”

“But I had already handed in my notice the week before she started.”

Ms Cadzow apart, there’s a real sense Gary is glad to released from the responsibility of recurring television drama.

“I felt I had become institutionalised by the show,” he admits. “I only realised this when I walked away.

“Now, I could go and live in a hut in a desert island if I chose. I’m now in charge of my life for the first time in years.

“I would get a schedule on a Friday and my week ahead was all mapped out. But I wanted to go.

“And I wanted to be the one who decided I should go. I wasn’t pushed at all.”

Some days however Gary admits he forgets he’s no longer part of the River City set up.

“I think I’m on summer break. Then I take a sharp breath and realise it’s over. And I have to work out my new norm.”

There is also the financial loss to contend with.

“I’ve had the best life. I haven’t had to worry about money at all for the past eight years.

“And I’m a total spendthrift. Normally, I’m one to go out for lunch, dinner, take holidays, go to Wimbledon, whatever.

“But there are times now when I think I don’t need to go into a café and have a coffee. Maybe I should just go home and have one.

“Yet, at the same time I’m blessed I’ve got some savings and I’m able to cover myself for a few months.”

Gary adds; “This change will make me hustle. And my life needs a shake-up.”

The challenge is to take on London and he’s already auditioning.

Would he be happy to appear as a gay character?

“I wouldn’t be sniffy about it,” he says. “I know I can do it well. And soaps have more gay characters these days.”

He pauses for a moment; “I think River City in fact could do with more. It’s been just me and whichever lover I’ve had.”

Gary loves the idea of being unknown in London.

“If I need to make a bit of extra cash I can work as a waiter. There is just no way I’d be able to do that in Scotland.”

He adds; laughing; “I’d get sacked. Customers would be so taken aback at seeing me they’d be yelling ‘Whit’s he daein’ here?’”

It’s unlikely Gary Lamont will have to wait on too many tables.

He’s already revealed he can carry off a one-man show. He’s an established panto star and his vocal talent saw him shine at the King’s this year when he appeared in Grease as the Earth Angel.

He’s also set to star at the Edinburgh Festival with his own show Dropping The Soap, a mix of cabaret and variety.

“These are skills I don’t often get the chance to use,” he says.

He takes a moment and reflects.

“I’ll get by,” he says, smiling. “I’ve left River City on good terms and I’m ready to take on life.”

Gary’s theme song is certainly I Will Survive.

“I will,” he says, smiling. “You just watch.2

• River City, BBC1 Scotland, Tuesday at 8pm.