Why Toyah Is Still Unconventional
Her Hair and make-up are more conservative but she doesn't see her husband for months on end... 

In the 1980s, Toyah Willcox was a phenomenon - a punk princess with 13 top 40 singles and 15 solo albums to her name. Today, at the age of 42, the once flame-coloured hair has mellowed to a cool blonde and she's dressed in conservative black t-shirt, trousers and trainers. 

She's currently starring in the hit children's comedy My Barmy Aunt Boomerang on BBC 1 and also makes regular appearances on Holiday, The Heaven And Earth Show and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Yet in many ways she's still a misfit. "I'm a free spirit," she says, "When I have to talk about what it was like being a pop star, I just think - I can't stay here anymore." 

For the record, though, she thinks her chart-topping years are 'insignificant'. "I can't say it was a happy time. That's  the one period I don't really think back to. It put me where I am today, so I'm grateful, otherwise it's history. If people ask me do I still sing, I verbally cut their throats." 

When we meet she had just returned from Glasgow, filming more episodes as Aunt Boomerang, the Aussie soap star who's really a ghost. 

"This is where I kind of live," she explains as she waves her arm around the living room of her London flat, its walls decorated by masks she has collected from Mexico, an ancient tapestry, pieces of amethyst, and with a pale green wrought iron staircase. 

She's friendly and bouncy but you suspect that as soon as she got bored, she'd be out the door like a shot. Over the past year she's zapped around from one place to the next, either filming or travelling. As well as the London flat, she and her husband Robert Fripp, 53, who's in the band King Crimson, own a 15-bedroom Manor House in Dorset. 

Yet Toyah says she'd be happy never to go home again. "If I was wealthy enough I wouldn't have a home. I'd just go from hotel to hotel. I'd just hop from city to city." 

Her 14 year marriage has been conducted mainly through long distance phone calls as her husband is away either on tour or in Seattle where he has a business. "I've only seen Robert for a week this year. So he's in big trouble and he knows he is." The next day, he's going with her to Manchester, where she's filming a sketch with ex-Slade singer Noddy Holder for a TV show starring Steps. "But I've given him an ultimatum; he's home for two months after that or he won't see me again." 

She's angry in one breath, yet enthusing about her unusual union in the next. Robert proposed after they met at a charity lunch. "Most of our marriage has been a honeymoon because we see so little of each other. We're still learning so much about each other which I find very exciting. As I get older, I'm not so sexually jealous of him. It's not an open marriage - I trust him now. I didn't in the beginning but now his energy has changed. I just don't think he would want the complications of being promiscuous. In the earlier days I was more jealous. 

"As he's got older there are fewer groupies, basically. He's a very low-key person. He doesn't have the drive that needs to conquer women and that makes me trust him. 

"It's not an easy marriage, I don't think either of us finds it easy but we didn't go into marriage thinking it would be. I don't think there's such a thing as a fairytale ending, and we're 
both incredibly patient and honest with each other."

Despite the generation gap between them and the absences, when they're together it sounds magical. 

"We have such good times. We explore like permanent travellers. We go to every museum, every restaurant we can find, every show and it's a permanent holiday. We don't have a sit-at-home- and-watch-TV type of relationship, he loathes the telly." 

The downside is that Toyah admits she can get lonely without him. "I'd never go home if he wasn't there - that would be inviting suicide. Companionship is incredibly important and so is work. If I haven't got either of those, the loneliness can be intolerable. Another downside is the stigma that although I'm a married woman, I'm on my own. Socially that means that noone will approach you, a guy won't ask you to dance. If Robert decides to come home for good that would be great, I'd be doing what I normally do which is travelling the world but he could come with me." 

With her friends an ideal night out is a meal followed by a tacky nightclub. But when they're together? 

"It's a phenomenal relationship - we don't fight, we don't argue, we don't play games. Everything is based on truth and truth can be hurtful but it can also be very rewarding. We've agreed that neither of us share a bank account or anything financial. We do share the home in Dorset but we've not yet been there together. 

Toyah admits they're drawing in the reins a bit and making plans for the future. Robert, who also runs an Internet TV business funded by US computer king Bill Gates, is based much of the time in Seattle. 

"When I spoke to him yesterday I said, I do have a problem - I need to see more of you than this. So we're talking about moving the company to Britain." 

The latest plans are for the couple to have their main base in London, a home in San Francisco and their country home in Dorset. So, what has her husband got to do to make up his prolonged absence to her while he has been on tour? 

"Just be with me, for at least a month. He won't make it through two months, he's too much of a traveller." 

Daughter of a successful Carpentry factory owner, Toyah was brought up in a middle-class existence in Birmingham. She was educated at private school, where she never fitted in. But although she gets on with her dad, mention the word family and Toyah almost shudders. Adamant she didn't want children, and following health problems, she was sterilised at the age of 27. 

She has just written her autobiography, "I'm hoping it will close the chapter completely, to be honest. I just wish people would let me live in the present day. This is the best time in my life because I have such independence and I don't have to answer to anyone. And at a certain level I don't actually care what I look like. It should be about how I feel, and I feel fine."

By Pam Francis

Woman, 2000