REALITY TV fans; it’s time to forget TOWIE because The Only Way Is — actually — East Lancashire for nightclub boss Mick Norcross.
Mick is best known as one of the stars of ITV2 hit The Only Way Is Essex, which takes a fly-on-the-wall look at the lives of the glamorous county’s permatanned girls and flashy boys.
The show’s 20-something cast became instant media stars and tabloid fodder when it launched just over two years ago.
But in the real world — away from the trials and tribulations of rocky romances and hair extensions — 48-year-old Mick is actually a Lancashire lad, born in a Haslingden sweet shop in 1964 and raised until the age of four in Blackburn.
His mum and dad, Margaret and Bernard Norcross, both came from local families, his maternal grandmother living at the house in Audley Range where iconic walking writer Alfred Wainwright grew up, and his paternal grandmother a few doors away.
The family moved south to Essex in 1968 when Mick’s dad secured a job at the docks there, although his extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins still live in the town.
“I was back a few weeks ago, for a funeral sadly, but I had a look round, went to the market,” he said.
“It’s a changing place from when I last visited a few years ago. But I do still love the green grass of home and I mean that — away from the stone houses, Lancashire is very green.
“The sweet shop was up for sale when I visited, but it’s still a shop.
“I used to come up regularly, but not so much during the past eight or nine years, although I do intend to introduce my children to my roots, and my grandchildren — hopefully in the next few months.”
Addresses in Blackburn for Mick and his four siblings included Morbury Avenue, Holly Street and Cleveleys Road, as well as the Audley Range house, and he came back regularly to spend summer holidays as a teenager working for his uncle John Jackson’s firm Pennine Fire And Safety Ltd “When dad first got the job he used to commute from Essex every weekend in his Mini Traveller,” said self-made millionaire Mick.
“I have very fond memories of those summers, the whole lifestyle and the pub lifestyle which I can see is dying now. There was a really social family life. I remember visiting with all the doors open along the streets.”
“Dad set us up to work. We inherited a small amount between the five of us, with which I bought my first property.”
Property investments led on to buying the Brentwood nightclub Sugar Hut, eventually taking control of the group in 2008. When TOWIE launched, producers took an interest in the venue and Mick’s second son Kirk, who was initially portrayed as its owner, with Mick joining the cast in the second series.
Since then, he’s been a minor but regular feature on the show as party scenes were filmed at the Sugar Hut and he doled out advice to the lads. But in the seventh series, which ended on Wednesday, Mick became a more prominent character.
Kirk made his return to the show as the pair rebuilt their relationship and Mick’s youngest children Mason and Holly, 11 and five, have made their debuts.
“There’s been a return to the fact it is a ‘reality’ show this series,” he said. “People are aware I have children other than Kirk (eldest son Daniel manages the club) so if the show doesn’ t portray that then it isn’t real life.
“You have to be careful with children on TV, but they are enjoying it — Holly’s always rewinding their scenes.”
The Sugar Hut Honeys — a group of skimpily-dressed beauties employed by the club — were also introduced, prompting televised feuds over engaged hearthrob Mario Falcone’s naughty text messages and Gemma Collins likening Mick to Hugh Hefner. That row culminated on Wednesday with Mick striking her name from the club’s Hallowe’en party guest list, without her knowledge.
Interviewed before the party, Mick said: “The producers are trying to draw me into some rubbish, but I’m wiser than to get involved.
“Some of the cast have become jealous that the Honeys are on TV. Truth be known, things have changed and these people don’t come to the club anymore — only really for filming — as they get paid to go other venues and I’m not paying them.”
Mick admits his customers-turned-cast members’ change in attitude is ‘hurtful’, and is quick to stress that the club is his main interest.
“On TOWIE, I’m just trying to be me, and if me being me makes good TV then that’s the purpose of my involvement — showing what I do and how I do it for people who aspire to be successful.
“Even the girls who are seen running shops on the show have their parents and relatives doing it. They and others have given up work for the show.
“My main income is the business, not TV.”