"I'm Totally Hooked On Success"

On the eve of her first concert tour in two years, the normally punky and perky Toyah is, frankly, scared stiff. But as she explained to Judith Simons, if you crave attention, you have to face the music. 

Toyah Willcox is facing a terrifying ordeal - going back on the road as a singer for the first time in two years. 

"I'm really scared," Toyah confessed. "Until I decided to take a break from my music career and concentrate on acting I did a concert tour every four months. 

"Some people think touring is a holiday," she continued, "but I don't! I never go to parties after a show. I save my energy. I get away from everybody and think about the performance." 

I was talking to Toyah at the offices of her management company in Chelsea. With her bright orange hair swept neatly across her forehead and in plain black trousers and thigh-length floral shirt, the tiny 4 foot 11 inch star looked more like a trendy business executive than a flamboyant pop star. 

But I'd heard all the daunting rumours...that classmates had been terrified of her temper...that she'd spent her teens at loggerheads with her parents...that she'd been overfond of the bottle. So, were they true or headline seeking stunts? 

Toyah chose to dispel the rumour about booze... 

"My drinking was never anything more than a social thing," she said emphatically. 

"At home in Birmingham we had wine with our meals and sometimes I got quite sozzled. And you know what happens when you grow up. You go out to dinner and someone orders a drink, so you have one with them. Then they order wine, so you have a glass of wine too. 

"I never actually enjoyed it though. Drinking made me feel unsafe and insecure. So last year I just stopped. I don't want to reach middle age and regret things I did when I was younger. Now I'm a teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian." She flexed her shoulders, "I've never felt more aware, more alive." 

Toyah, no doubt, will stick to her fitness regime. Her tenacity in doing what is good for her is remarkable - as her career already shows. 

All her record albums have been hits. Her current one, The Minx, is her ninth. Typical of the shock tactics she employs is the single from it, I'll Serve You Well, but the provocative title and theme is just part of her professional persona. 

"The song was inspired by The Story Of 'O'," Toyah gave a sly smile as she referred to the French erotic classic. "It's about a female enjoying the guilt of the man who is dominating her life, a touch of sado-masochism. 

"Of course I have no personal experience whatsoever of this kind of thing," she added quickly. 

"I'm a romantic and have a very healthy relationship with my wonderful chap, Tom Taylor." 

To prove her words, Toyah held out a bejewelled hand. Almost hidden between two large, exotic rings was a plain platinum band. 

"Tom gave me this as an engagement ring," she said. "Typical man's choice. We got engaged four years ago. 

"Tom's a guitarist, a very good one, but when we first met he had taken a job as my bodyguard because he needed the money. From the start we hit it off very well. Now we live together in a place I bought three years ago." 

Toyah in a home setting? Standing in an apron at the cooker? I just couldn't imagine it. 

"Ooh you've got me wrong! I love all that!" she said, quite put out. "I'm a brilliant cook. Love inventing recipes and baking cakes for Tom. 

"We feel we owe it to ourselves to have enough basic skills between us so that we could survive whatever happens. We share the housework and the gardening. Tom repairs our shoes and he's brilliant at carpentry. I bought an old brass bedstead for a tenner and he's made a beautiful garden bench. 

"While he's at his joinery, I do upholstery. And I love making my own clothes. 

"See the scars?" she continued, holding out her hands again. "They're domestic war wounds. This little one is where I stuck the needle in my finger when I was sewing on buttons. And this" - she showed me a livid streak across her thumb - "was where I cut myself when I was opening a tin of corned beef - the only meat I eat. It was very late at night, I was tired and I didn't take care when I opened the tin. I woke up Tom and he took me to hospital."

When I asked if she and Tom took an interest in each other's music, the softness immediately left Toyah's voice. 

"Concerning work, we're two seperate individuals," she well nigh snapped. 

"I don't want him running my career and I don't want to run his. He has a band he plays with, but I have nothing to do with it whatsoever. I just let him get on with it. 

"I have a room at the top of the house where I write songs and he has a music room on the middle floor. We never ask each other's opinions of our compositions. This is how our relationship will survive. 

"We did have teething troubles when we were young, especially as my work took me away a lot," she went on, "but by now we know how we feel about each other, and we trust each other and that gives us strength when we're apart." 

I asked Toyah when she and Tom planned to marry. 

"When we're ready to have a child," she said. And, dismissing rumours she was pregnant, "At present I don't want children at all. I have no maternal instinct, so why have a child and let it suffer! Maybe when I'm about 40 I'll think differently about it, but just at present I want to concentrate on my career." 

"My career" has dominated Toyah since she was old enough to know what it meant. 

"I was born independent and a bit of a loner," she said, "and I wanted the attention a performer gets. I wanted to express myself. Watching films and television, I wanted to be part of it. 

"At 15 I dyed my hair a lovely dark blue. I thought somehow it would draw attention to me and help me get into show business. 

"And though my mother didn't like it and my teachers at public and drama school objected, I still wouldn't conform. 

"When people laughed at me I told them to mind their own business. And I was right! 

"I got work quicker than any of the other students," Toyah recalled triumphantly. "At 18 I was on the stage of the National Theatre - the greatest theatre in the world." she smiled. "I made the most of it. I was a terrible show-off." 

Toyah's 18 year old Punk Rebel image also proved an asset when she started her own band. But the outrageous make-up and wild hair did not mean her mind was undisciplined too! 

"I had to prove to experienced musicians that I was dedicated," she said. "I had to act like a stable human being. As a female you must be specially careful not to make mistakes, because the men won't let you forget them." 

Within three years Toyah was in the charts, and an established actress, with credits including The Corn Is Green with Katherine Hepburn and the role of Miranda in The Tempest

Her two careers ran comfortably parallel until 1983, when she decided to push for screen and stage parts. She played the lead in the stage play Trafford Tanzi and last year starred with Laurence Olivier in the television film The Ebony Tower

Currently she is in the video Murder: The Ultimate Grounds For Divorce, a suspense thriller in which she plays Roger Daltrey's wife. And in the TV film Movie Queen she teamed up with Annie Ross. 

"It was a tongue-in-cheek very black comedy," Toyah said. "I played a ruthless drama student in conflict with a legendary star. 

"All the time, in my work, I keep moving on," she continued. "The same goes for my private life. I have a lot of energy and I can't just sit back. Being so ambitious is a real pain. I can never relax - I'm totally hooked on success. Sometimes I wish I could change but the truth is I love my work. I work hard, and I save my money because I'm always aware my career could be very short-lived." 

I asked her if she had some hidden weakness...some flaw which could have thwarted her ambitions. She has after all been frank to the Press about her lack of height and "lousy little legs". 

She paused for a few seconds, then, "I used to be fat," she confessed suddenly. "At the age of 20 I weighed ten and a half stone. I didn't care about good food. 

"I still crave chocolate. But now, when I get the urge I take a spoonful of honey or a handful of dates instead. And occasionally - this is my big treat - I'll eat a slice of bread." 

For Toyah, evidently, craving success is the only urge she can't control.

Woman Magazine, 1985