Yes, I gave Marah that drink, says Gareth Cliff

27 November 2016 - 02:00 By GABI MBELE

Gareth Cliff gave fellow Idols SA judge Marah Louw the spiked drink that led to her notorious slurring and swearing on live TV.

In his new tell-all book, due to be released on Thursday following his final appearance on Idols SA tonight, Cliff admits he passed the vodka drink to Louw in 2010. Her contract was not renewed following the incident.

Louw wrote in her autobiography, due to be released early next year, that the spiking of her drink shortly before the live show "tarnished my reputation".

And in an interview with the Sunday Times last month, she said: "That was a terrible time for me. I later learnt from one of the contestants and a production member that the drink I was given by one of my colleagues was laced with vodka.


"You'll be shocked at what lengths people will go to get you fired in this industry when they want to put in their friends."

Although she did not say who was responsible, Cliff confirmed this week that he was the culprit.

"The vodka incident was one of the more memorable Marah moments," he writes in his book Cliffhanger.

"It's not common practice to have a drink on set, but that evening one of the crew brought a bottle of vodka for a pre-show celebratory drink. I passed Marah her drink and all was well until halfway through the show when she became a touch emotional, or maybe delirious. Needless to say, the press had a field day and I was the one Marah threw under the bus during a radio interview the next day."

Cliff told Sunday Times this week he had no "beef" with Louw.

"I don't hate Marah. That night I drove her home, made sure she got into her house safely and then went back to collect my car and drove home. Nobody tells that story. I loved her, she was like our mama on the show and she'd tell the most hysterical stories and she was great and then she spun out that one night and now it's everybody else's fault. I had no beef with her up to the very end, I was one of the people who still called her after the show ended."

He was leaving Idols SA - where he has been a judge for 13 years - because "unlike Shaun Abrahams, I know when to step down", he said.

"I am not scared to be without Idols. The problem in South Africa is that too many people stick around when they are not wanted anymore."


Cliff first joined the reality singing competition in its second season in 2003 when he had "crooked teeth, a thin lanky body, droopy eyes".

He started his radio career at university, where he worked at TuksFM before joining 702 and then 5FM. For 10 years he maintained a higher listenership than any other morning radio show.

In the 215-page book, Cliff refers to his TV life as a "side chick", sharing stories about his journey with Idols SA and his own online show The Gareth Cliff Show.

He said his favourite time on Idols "is the auditions because they are always so funny and I prefer funny to serious".

Two months ago Cliff joined forces with former MetroFM presenter Thabo "Tbo Touch" Molefe in starting up Touch Central, a spin-off of the online station CliffCentral, which has been operational since May 2014.

He has also launched a new investment product, called #Invest, which he said would "uberise" the stock market and allow anyone to invest in JSE-listed companies from as little as R100.

"It will be managed by Anthea Gardner, of Cartesian Capital, and will allow our audience and community to have some skin in the game when it comes to the markets, the economy and the formerly elite share portfolio," he said.

He said people would still be hearing from him, on radio and other avenues.

"We've all laughed a lot off air and on air. The talent we found, the amazing songs that have been sung, it's a part of South Africa and part of the tapestry of this country for the last 15 years. Who wouldn't be proud of that."



sub_head_start Cliff on his fellow 'Idols SA' judges sub_head_end

To which judge would you lend R100,000?

Definitely not Somizi. I would lend it to Unathi - I know she would pay me back and I know Randall would turn it into R200,000 but definitely not pay me a cent more than what I lent him.

Who would you ask to house-sit your home?

Somizi would redecorate it, so again not him. Randall or Unathi - they would chill.


Who would you go on a holiday with?

Technically we are on holiday with each other every year during theatre week in Sun City or on the Wild Coast. Somizi would be most fun, he's just wild. He's older but has more fun than we do. He has amazing energy and I love that about him.

Who would you call if you were arrested?

None of them - I don't think they'd show up. I'd call the presenter, Proverb, he's way more dependable and solid.

Who would you confide in if you had a problem?

Not Randall, he doesn't care about anybody else's problems. It would be Unathi.


Editor's Note: The headline has been amended. In a previous version of this article we also incorrectly stated that Cliff admitted pouring Louw a drink spiked with vodka. We retract those comments and apologise to Cliff.