DJ Tiger Tim faces up to the effects of multiple sclerosis
December 20, 2002
Evening Times (Glasgow)
IN 1987, Scotland's top DJ Tim Stevens was devastated after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially fatal disease which attacks the central nervous system.
But the Tiger pushed his problem to one side and continued to live his life the way he always had done with his focus on fun and entertainment.
Now Tim's illness has caught up with him to the extent that he can no longer perform at the nightclub he has worked in for the past 14 years.
Brian Beacom finds out how the Tiger is coping with the end of an era.
TIM STEVENS knew his time as a DJ at Hamilton Palace nightclub had to end some day. It wasn't the indignity of being pushed through the crowd each week in a wheelchair which brought about his decision.
Nor was it the embarrassment of being lifted bodily and pushed up onto the DJ's podium by two club stewards.
The crowd always made up for that - the kisses from the girls and the handshakes from the boys, who acknowledged his talent and tenacity.
Tim's motive for ending his work at the Palace disco was purely practical.
The 51-year-old's legs simply can't hold him up any more.
His movement has become increasingly limited since that fateful day when his leg buckled as he was running along a road in Prestwick.
When specialists diagnosed progressive MS, it came as an incredible shock to those who knew him. After all, he has been Scotland's most manic DJ since the late 60s.
The Tiger started out as an apprentice electrician but packed it in when his mobile DJ business took off.
In 1969, the 17-year-old Tiger turned up in lederhosen at the now defunct nightclub The Electric Gardens, in Sauchiehall Street, hopeful of securing a job as a DJ. He was hired on the spot with three gigs every week for (pounds) 3.
His hyperactive behaviour made him a big name on the club scene and four years later Radio Clyde boss Henry Spurway offered him his big break.
Stardom beckoned and over the next 30 years Tim tried his hand as a pop star and as a showbiz correspondent for Scotland Today.
He mixed with the great and the good of Scottish showbiz.
Tim sang on stage with Marti Pellow, and dated TV presenter Kirsty Young as well as a host of models before settling down and marrying Moira in 1990.
He enjoyed a position as a celebrity DJ with Celtic FC and rubbed shoulders with everyone from Billy Connolly to Elton John.
But now, after 14 years as a Thursday nightclub regular
at the Hamilton Palace, Scotland's best-loved DJ has had to call it a day.
"My body wouldn't allow for it any longer," the Tiger said at his Old Kilpatrick home.
He added: "The people at the club have been great - stewards Roberto and Gerry would collect me from the car park and take me right up to the dance-floor.
"But I couldn't continue to do the gig. I had to stand for over an hour for a show that started at 12.45am.
"I can't shift my weight from one leg to the other. If I did, I would fall over, and I no longer have the strength to stay perfectly still. It was all getting too difficult."
Tiger Tim has always fought hard to play down the physical limitations of the debilitating illness that currently affects 10,000 Scots and for which there is no cure.
When forced to use a walker, Tim had it kitted out with spotlamps and flashy side panels.
But his overwhelming optimism hasn't been powerful enough to deny the inevitable progression of the disease, despite a variety of drugs, herbal treatments and alternative therapies.
Exercise is difficult. Tim enjoys swimming but can't get out of the pool. Attempting to walk alone is very problematic, especially in icy weather.
Tim's wife, Moira, said: "He fell twice in recent months and was hospitalised with a suspected fractured skull.
"That's why he can't do the gig any more - he's too unsteady. I've been telling him for ages not to do it, but he loved it so much."
Greeting the hundreds of fans each week no doubt provided the buoyancy to carry Tim through the week.
"It breaks my heart not to go there any more," he admitted. "They treated me so well.
"I think I could do earlier evening gigs but not ones late at night.
"But if I took an earlier slot at the Palace I would remember the physical things I used to do there - organising the competitions and jumping up and down from the stage."
However, Tim will continue to work as a Radio Clyde DJ. He works hard not to let his illness intrude into the show but the Tiger reveals he's had his scary moments in the studio.
"One night when I was sitting at the mixing desk doing my show, my left leg went into a cramp.
"Somehow I managed to push it out from under the desk, but as I did so my chair, which was on wheels, moved a few feet backwards.
"I suddenly realised I hadn't the strength to move forward and I couldn't make it back to the CD player.
"All this time I could see the CD showing me the seconds left on the song, 20, 19, 18
"It was like a scene from an action movie where the bomb was about to go off - except 'the bomb' would have been dead air.
"I couldn't even shout to the microphone so listeners knew I was there but stranded because the fader on the desk was down."
Luckily Tim's producer walked into the studio with one second to spare and
no-one knew how close Tim came to a radio nightmare.
Radio Clyde staff go to every possible length to help Tim cope with his illness.
Managing director Paul Cooney had a special ramp built at the front of the building and Tim doesn't have to work weekends.
While the Tiger looks forward to another year at Radio Clyde, he laments the loss of his nights at the Palace.
"I always thought I'd never give in to MS, but some things are bigger than you are and you just have to surrender," he said.
''What I really regret is that I never got the chance to say goodbye to the punters, to do one final gig - they were always fantastic."
One night, snooker player John Higgins was at the Palace. Tim caught his eye, called the young star over to the mike and proceeded to introduce 'the World Champion' to the crowd.
But John picked up the microphone, turned round to Tim, and said: "There's only one World Champion here and that's you, Tiger."
Every one of the Palace regulars cheered.
MS - THE FACTS
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