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A BIG TURN-OFF; Anna Nolan's view of the house that made her a star.

Byline: FRANCES TRAYNOR EXCLUSIVE

SHE was the guitar-playing, Irish lesbian ex-nun who helped make the first series of Big Brother a massive hit.

But Anna Nolan has joined the chorus of disapproval surrounding the latest version, claiming she'd have joined Sandy in going over the wall if she was still in the house.

And while Anna thinks Big Brother is boring TV, she's about to do her bit to liven up our viewing habits - by moving into a commune with a group who call themselves sexual vampires.

Her long-awaited first series, Anna In Wonderland, begins on BBC next Friday.

In the first programme, she goes to France to spend time with Rock Bitches, a heavy metal group who have sex with each other on stage and at home, too.

Anna, 31, says: "I have been watching Big Brother and it is boring. But three series down the line, it's a difficult show to keep people interested in.

"I can understand why Sandy and Sunita quit, because I got really fed up and wanted to walk as well, but the other people in the house talked me out of it."

Anna is convinced the current batch of housemates haven't helped themselves by continually whining about how bored they are.

But she has some sympathy, saying: "I can't believe the tasks they're being given.

"We were given a task on a Saturday, then had four days to practise it. Those tasks were usually quite challenging, but the current tasks are terrible - I'm stunned by how poor they are.

"The divided house is irritating, too. It throws up interesting ideas about how people relate to each other, but it's not nice to watch the group divide itself and factions form because of the bars.

"I don't think it's good viewing. It's like Survivor in there - and that was boring."

When Anna left the Big Brother house in September 2000, after finishing second to pounds 70,000 winner Craig Phillips, the offers to front her own TV show came flooding in.

But Anna took time out to be with her girlfriend Tania Paice and family and friends before taking up the BBC's offer to make what became Anna In Wonderland.

She says: "I had a few offers come in, but I chose this one because it appealed to me."

In it, she travels in Europe, Australia and America to meet some weird and wonderful people, from furries - people who feel an affinity with furry animals - to psychics and male prostitutes.

For the first show, she stays in Europe to travel with Rock Bitches.

The eight-piece band live in a commune with two men. They have sex with each other during their stage shows and in the commune.

THEIR act is given an added twist - if it actually needs one - when they produce the "golden condom" at the end of the gig.

The condom is thrown into the audience and whoever catches it, male or female, can go on stage and have sex with everyone in the band.

Anna says: "They call themselves sexual vampires. Four of the women are lesbians, four are bisexual and the two men are straight. So I guess the guys have got the best of all worlds.

"I was safe enough with them, but I did feel a little scared hanging out in the commune.

"They are all lovely girls and were quite different off stage. Hopefully the show will open viewers' minds to stuff they never knew existed."

Anna agrees that the format is similar in style to Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, but she is aiming to bring her own distinctive style to interviewing.

She laughs: "I guess it's similar only because this time it's me meeting up with oddballs."

Oddballs they certainly are. In America, she meets the furries, who feel an affinity with cuddly animals. They dressed her up as a raccoon.

Anna even underwent an exorcism in America to "cure" her of her homo- sexua ity. She says: "There were lots of different gay conversion centres, who assured me they could save me. It's big business in the States for people who desperately don't want to be gay. It's sad in a way that these people can't be happy with who they are.

"I went through an exorcism. These people prayed with me first, then gave me lots of homework where I had to write down all my sins, then they put their hands on my head and talked at me, non-stop, for hours.

"They believed I had a demon in my belly and they could talk it out. It didn't work."

It's clear Anna is both excited and nervous about fronting a show by herself for the first time, though she took part in Davina's Closure with Big Brother's big mutha Davina McCall.

But she says: "I don't want to think too hard about being the reason for people tuning into the show. That's too much pressure."

Despite being in front of the cameras 24/7 for Big Brother, Anna took a while to get used to working with a camera crew.

She explains: "I had to spend time with the subjects, hanging out with them, not directly interviewing them.

"A lot of people presumed that, after Big Brother, I'd be used to the cameras, but it was quite difficult. Time will well if I mastered it." Anna and Tania now live in a flat they've bought in north London, thanks to her new career in television, but she laughs at the idea she's coining in the cash.

She says: "I went on Big Brother in the hope of winning the cash so we could have a deposit for our own place. Now we've got it, but my bank account isn't exactly overflowing - yet."

ANNA is also a big name in her native Ireland. She's done a pilot for a show called Help, for TV channel RTE, in which she gets to play a sort of Jim'll Fix It for adults.

But she has no desire to move back to Ireland permanently.

She says: "All my family are still in Dublin, but it's close enough to visit when I like. I get pangs when I do, but it wears off when I get back to London."

One place Anna does have a hankerfor is Edinburgh, where she lived for a couple of years in the early Nineties.

She sought refuge in the city when she quit the convent, realising that the religious life was not for her. It was at this point she also realised she was gay.

Anna says: "Edinburgh was fantastic, such an easy city to live in. I worked for the TSB for a year, then in the Blue Moon Cafe for over a year and that was a mad time. It was a brilliant place to work, but the only problem was that it was too easy.

"I could either spend the next 10 years working in the cafe, or I could go and get myself an education, and that's why I moved to London.

"But I love Edinburgh and I haven't been in a while, so I should make an effort to get up there."

When Anna came out as a lesbian to her housemates, she didn't reveal she had a girlfriend. She admits she was risking her relationship with Tania by going on national television.

At the time, fashion executive Tania's family didn't know she was gay and she'd asked Anna not to mention her on TV.

But by the time the show reached its gripping finale, Tania decided to come out to her family so she could greet her girlfriend as she left the house.

Anna says: "It was a brave thing for her to do and for me, very flattering. It was lovely that she was there.

"Tania found it very difficult when I was on Big Brother. She told me she'd be sitting on the Tube and overhear people talking about me, in a good or bad way and there was nothing she could say. At that point, I hadn't mentioned her. It drove her mad.

"One day, unknown to me, she hired one of those electronic loudspeakers and tried to break into the Big Brother compound with a friend to scream out my name, but I never heard her.

"They were chased off by the Big Brother security guards, but that was very sweet. It was nice to know she was missing me."

Anna In Wonderland begins on BBC Choice next Friday.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 28, 2002
Words:1417
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