HE'S the straight-talking and feared headmaster of BBC's Fame Academy, but Langtoun lad Richard Park really has quite a soft centre as one man who knew him before he was famous tells the Press.

Born in Kirkcaldy on March 10, 1948, Richard lived with his parents, who owned the town's Harbour Bar for many years, and was often seen pulling pints.

The young Richard attended Kirkcaldy High School where he made a name for himself as a clever and articulate pupil.

On leaving school he began his career as a journalist, working on the Press' sister paper the Fife News in Cupar, before taking a job as a presenter with the Radio Scotland 242 pirate station which broadcast from off the May Isle in the Forth.

When the pirate radio ships were closed down in August 1967, Richard studied a course at the BBC in Glasgow in radio production and did an occasional slot for the Radio One Club when it started.

During this time he also wrote an entertainment column called ''Park's Patch'' for the for the Fife Free Press, reviewing the latest record releases and the best places to party in the town.

In 1969, while attempting to start up a local hospital radio station, Kirkcaldy man Colin Johnston was put in touch with Richard through Edinburgh hospital radio.

The two formed a formidable partnership which resulted in the formation of Victoria Radio Network in February 1971.

Colin, who is still a presenter and technician with VRN remembers Richard being a very amiable and kind-hearted man who always had time for others.

'' If he could use his contacts and expertise to help other people he would, and he did a lot of fundraising work for VRN when we were just in the process of starting out,'' he explained

''You could tell he was very ambitious and was not going to let anything stand in his way, and I am very glad to see how successful he has been as I followed his career over the years.''

Just a few years after VRN went on air Colin received a phone call from a colleague at Radio Paisley asking how they could get in touch with Richard and a short time later Richard became one of the original presenters with the newly formed Radio Clyde which started up on January 1, 1974.

Nicknamed Dr Dick, Richard broadcast a lunchtime show and a Golden Oldies evening show.

He stayed almost 14 years at Clyde, working his way up to become head of music before moving to London's Capitol Radio in 1987, also as head of music.

He rapildly rose through the ranks to become programme controller then group programme director in charge of overseeing all of the stations owned by the company.

He also did some television work, and in March 2001 gave up his radio position to work as a media consultant.

Richard became involved with Fame Academy from its early stages, and has since become a household name throughout Britain as the new Mr Nasty to rival the opposition's Simon Cowell.

''I went through once to Anderston Quay to see Richard when he was with Radio Clyde, but I never saw him again after that, although I still keep up with his career through television and the internet,'' said Colin.

''We worked very closely for around four years, and he was brilliant at getting VRN up and running with his negotiating skills.

''He always knew he wanted to go far in broadcasting and it's great to see him doing so well.

''He is well suited to being headmaster of Fame Academy because he is very experienced in the music industry. He knows what he wants and won't stop until he gets it, although he is fair about it.''

On hearing that he was to be featured in the Press, Richard Park said he was delighted.

''Kirkcaldy is still my home town. My mother still lives there and I visit her regularly.

''I keep in touch with my childhood friends and, being a real football fan, I never fail to keep up to date with what Rangers are up to,'' he said.''