By George Matlock
Sir Elton pulled out of May 25, 2001, screening of Have I Got News For You at the last minute – and was replaced by lookalike: Ray Johnson.
In the latest show the team did not tell viewers that the Elton impersonator had replaced him.
Instead they made veiled references to the star’s absence with a series of captions and cracked jokes about well-known mimics such as Rory Bremner.
After round one of the quiz two captions flashed up on the screen saying, “It’s Not Really Elton John” and “Elton John was booked yesterday but he pulled out – bastard”.
Later on in the show, another caption said: “This is Ray. Ray is a lookalike and a cabbie. You can book Ray on… (it gave a phone number) Ray is reliable unlike Elton – bastard”.
Elton was to have teamed up with regular panellist Paul Merton against Ian Hislop and journalist Janet Street Porter.
But viewers saw instead Ray wearing his trademark toupee, sunglasses, striped shirt and loud suit.
Ray was introduced as the famous singer by host Angus Deayton but he barely spoke during the show and just laughed at the other panellists.
A Have I Got News For You spokeswoman said: “It was just a bit of fun.”
According to newspaper The Sun, Elton pulled out of the show at the last minute because of exhaustion.
No other celebrity could be found to replace Elton and filming had to go ahead with Janet Street Porter as the only guest.
Elton has been busy touring in America and recording his new album.
His spokesman said: “Elton’s been on the road constantly this year and has also been spending time in the studio. He gets tired just like everyone else.”
The programme was repeated on BBC 2 TV on May 27, 2001.