WHY I DETEST CORRIE AND MY NAME
Eighties punk star gave The Street permission
to call one of the Battersby's after her - but every time she hears it
on TV she wishes she hadn't
Actress and singer Toyah Willcox admits she
hates her Coronation Street namesake Toyah Battersby - and wishes she'd
never given the soap permission to use it.
Weatherfield's Toyah, played by Georgia Taylor,
arrived on the street in 1997 as part of the family-from-hell Battersby
clan. Since the character was born in 1982, when Toyah Willcox's pop career
was at its height, producers asked the singer if they could name the young
girl after her.
At first she was honoured - the unusual name comes
from a Red-Indian named town in Texas.
Now the 43 year old ex-punk admits: "I hate it.
I'll be reading a book by myself with the telly on and I'll suddenly hear
someone yell: 'Toyah' and I'll jump out of my seat.
"They asked my permission, but I'm not sure I
should have let it happen.
"My name is my luckiest token and I've sort of
given it away - now anyone watching Corrie could call their children it
and I prefer its uniqueness."
Her mother, Barbara, found the name in the late
fifties when Toyah was born.
Toyah admits: "The strangest thing is after she
told me that, I looked the town up in a map - and right next to it is the
Willcox Mountains. She never knew.
"That's why I know my name is special and helped
me get where I am today."
Toyah is about to return to her musical roots
as part of the Eighties nostalgia tour Here And Now, which comes to Glasgow
in April with Adam Ant, some of Spandau Ballet, Belinda Carlisle, ABC,
Howard Jones and China Crisis.
While the rest have had little fame in the last
20 years, Toyah has touched all our lives with her various projects in
a multi-faceted and very successful career.
She starred in films such as Quadrophenia and
has acted with Sir Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn.
She's voiced the Teletubbies, been a children's
television star in BBC Scotland's Barmy Aunt Boomerang and presented TV
shows such as This Morning and Songs Of Praise - and The Good Sex Guide
For many people it will be hits such as 'It's
A Mystery and I Want To Be Free which make her a fond memory.
Since the Here And Now tour was announced, much
of the publicity has revolved around Adam Ant's mental breakdown.
The 47 year old singer -real name Stuart Goddard
- has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and is in the Alice Ward
of the Royal Free Hospital, North London.
He allegedly waved a fake gun at customers during
an incident at the members-only Prince Of Wales bar in Kentish Town.
Toyah claims the wayward star is better and is
gearing himself up for the tour and she admits it was Adam who gave her
the big break into music.
She said: "He's not speaking to anyone at the
moment, but he's absolutely fine, looking forward to the tour and in good
"When we go on tour we'll just make sure he knows
how supportive of him we are - he's top of the bill and important to us
all. What's happened is a blip. He's a creative genius and this is the
price you sometimes pay. It's what makes him special.
"It's not about him having a breakdown because
he's not famous anymore - he's got a wild streak and he's creative and
that sometimes can be very bad for the brain."
Birmingham born Toyah was a pink haired
young 19-year-old drama student when she was picked to play the character
Mad in Derek Jarman's punk film classic Jubilee.
The 1977 film brought her into contact with Adam,
who was also in the film.
She said: "I told him I wanted to be in a band.
We were in this club and I gave him some lyrics scribbled on a serviette
and the next day he'd made a song from them and put a band together for
me with his wife, Eve.
"He was a phenomenal force. He knew what he wanted
to do.We were supposed to do an album, but I'd got my own solo deal by
then and it never quite worked out."
Toyah, the youngest of three children, left Edgbaston
C of E College with just one 0-Level, saying her own education suffered
because of her dyslexia, which was dignosed at six.
Her father Beric, a joinery manufacturer with
his own business, was able to give her the top education in the area -
but she became a teenage rebel, dyeing her hair pink and hanging out with
Teased at school because of her lisp she admitted
she once broke a chair over a girl's head, but admits now: "It's not something
I'm proud of."
At school she dreamed of becoming an actress and
started at Birmingham Old Rep Drama School at 14. By 17 was there full
She moved to London to join the National Theatre
Company and her work on Jubilee pushed her into musicals, although she
acted alongside Katharine Hepburn in The Corn Is Green and as Monkey in
She became the first punk pop star with her colourful
hair and clothes.
Toyah said: "I had a good serious career as a
pop star and had good commercial success with it.
"But I diluted five years of touring up and down
universities as a punk when I hit the charts.
"Some people said I'd sold out, but I don't care
about other people's opinions.
"What I was sad about is that, after I'd had a
few hits, it was more about the name and product than the music.
"I couldn't turn that around so I don't miss that."
In 1982 she won Best Female Singer in what was
then the Rock & Pop Awards, now The Brits.
Toyah admits she's looking forward to recreating
the early Eighties once again.
But she dismisses claims it's just about money.
She said: "None of us on the bill needs the cash.
"I think we've all worked constantly. Personally
I like working and don't enjoy having time to myself.
"I was asked to do this and, since I'd seen the
last one with Paul Young and Kim Wilde and enjoyed it immensely, I thought
it would be a brilliant idea."
But Toyah says given her age she won't be wearing
some of her more outrageous costumes.
She admitted: "I think that would look stupid.
I'm getting costumes tailor-made, which look modern. I'm keeping my blonde
hair as it is."
Toyah married guitarist Robert Fripp when she
was 27.The pair live in Wiltshire, but have never had children.
She admitted: "Seeing scores of teenage girls
pushing prams around Birmingham on a Saturday morning affected me.
"I'd rather have died than gone through that,
so I became phobic about getting pregnant and developed a terrible distrust
of men as a result of that. So, no children for me."
Instead, Toyah has stayed somewhat of a child
herself. She said: "I like playing. I'll be sitting with my husband in
a bar and will try out new characters to see if they make him laugh."
Characters are something she knows a lot about.
Some 10 years ago she voiced all the characters in children's favourite
Brum. It was created by Anne Wood - the woman behind the Teletubbies.
Toyah said: "Anne called me up and told me she
was doing a pilot of Teletubbies in the afternoon and asked if I'd do the
"It's just a line at the end and at the beginning,
but it's amazing how many people recognise me for it.
"We've now got two major projects in the pipeline."
However, the seemingly cosy Toyah still hasn't
lost her ability to shock and admits she wants to be fed to the pigeons
when she dies.
She wants her body to be cut up, mixed with corn
and then fed to the birds on the Malvern Hills in a Tibetan-style ceremony.
She said: "I would like a sky burial. In Tibet, the village elders dismember
"But it is regarded as the most sacred burial
you can have.
"I want mine held in the Malvern Hills, where
I grew up. I want my father and husband to perform the ceremony and I want
to be fed to the pigeons or some kind of specially imported vulture."
Despite looking back to the Eighties, Toyah is
still working for her future.
There is a book set in a concentration camp which
she admits: "I've not gone near since September 11. It's a horror book
and I just can't face it."
Ther's also an album. She said: "I don't want
to confuse people by putting out an album of new material. It's not a retro
album, so I'll put it out in August.
"I'm slowly getting myself to be more creative
- with more writing, songwriting and painting."
1st February 2002
Thanks to Alec Kelly