|The Big Interview
The days of
the accepted rebel punk may be well behind her
but Toyah Willcox can still be a bit naughty when
she wants to.
Married to rock guitarist
Robert Fripp, the founder member of the '70s
dinosaur rock band King Crimson, who is 12 years
her senior, Toyah is often desperate to spend a
little time with her lover and husband of 14
years as busy work schedules keep them apart. So,
instead of moaning about it, the pair sneak off
to obscure destinations for a little
"tete-a-tete'' to keep their marriage on
"Over the next two
months, we have one week together in Santa
Barbara,'' she announces.
"We do meet in the
most obscure places - two months ago we met in a
motel in Southampton. "It's a very flexible
relationship, which is lovely. Originally we had
a rule that we would see each other every three
weeks, but that hasn't stayed. It's fine and we
are both very forgiving if we can't make a
"I think the worst
thing is when you are not seeing somebody and you
end up getting lonely. I'm always surrounded by
camera teams or script writers and I have to work
hard to find an evening alone," she laughs.
Now a recognised TV
presenter, Toyah Willcox has survived the
treadmill of fame and is enjoying her fame more
now than ever. But what has happened in her life
and career should come as no surprise to her as
she was given a trip to a fortune teller for her
21st birthday and, according to Toyah, he was
"You know the scary
thing" says the 41-year-old actress and
former pop star. "He got everything
It seems that not only did
the mystic foretell how many hit singles she
would have, but he also predicted some troubled
times ahead with her manager. And he also saw a
change of career on the horizon.
"He said: 'You're
going to spend your time from your mid-30s to
your 50s travelling - you'll be in a different
place every week', and it came true.
"He made a tape
recording of the predictions. I play the tape
every year and it's still right after 20
As the acceptable face of
punk at the turn of the '70s and early '80s,
Willcox had eight Top 40 singles. Most people of
a certain age will recall her lisping her way
through radio-friendly chants like It's A Mystery
and Thunder In The Mountains, looking for all the
world like an explosion in a paint factory.
But these days she is much
more conventional, with her hair neatly clipped
up away from her elfin-like face and dressed in
grey trousers, sensible pullover and gilet.
She now presents BBC1's
religious slot, The Heaven and Earth Show, on
Sundays, and appears in children's BBC drama
Barmy Aunt Boomerang - when she isn't jetting off
around the world for the Holiday show.
She is brisk, efficient
and businesslike - anything but a former rebel
with a cause.
"My life is now much
more rewarding,'' she reveals. "The rock
world can be very insulated. It's a bubble of
drugs, alcohol and hotel rooms, which has its
limits. I was very disciplined, though. I
couldn't go on stage for two hours then party all
night. Most singers don't talk in the daytime to
help their voice, but it's as dull as dishwater -
the only exciting thing was being on stage. The
rest got really tedious."
These days, Willcox is a
strict vegetarian, only eats organic food and
doesn't touch caffeine. "Cutting out
caffeine took about 20 years off my face to start
with," she says adamantly.
"Part of the problem
of being dyslexic, which I am, is that your brain
works very badly if it gets dehydrated. Water
encourages the electrons in the brain to be more
efficient and my short and long term memory have
"My sleep pattern has
improved dramatically and my energy levels also
ended up rising."
Born in Birmingham,
Willcox is the third child of a joiner. She was
born with a crooked spine, one leg longer than
the other, a clawed foot and stomach trouble. At
the age of nine she drank so much sangria at a
barbecue that she collapsed with alcohol
"My brother and
sister kept feeding me sangria and telling me it
was Ribena," she recalls. "I ended up
drinking three bottles of the stuff."
Rather than putting her
off drink, the experience saw her developing a
taste for alcohol. She would sneak booze into her
school, Edgbaston Church of England Girls'
School, and by the time she reached 14 she had
turned into every parent's worst nightmare. She
could easily knock back a bottle of spirits a
day, she was a heavy smoker, dyed her hair bright
pink and started hanging around with bikers.
"I don't regret any
of the rebellious teenage years, because it gives
you a bit of contrast," she says. "I
loathe people who purport to be saints - I don't
think they exist. I think we all have good and
bad within us and I think it's that battle which
makes us interesting."
Currently completing her
autobiography, Living Out Loud, she describes the
book as revealing more "minx-like
behaviour" than "sex and scandal".
"Writing about my
childhood was very therapeutic," she smiles.
"Even though I'm dyslexic, all my memories
are clear. I've tried to write things which have
never been heard before, even by my husband. When
people read the book it will just confirm all
those stories about my wild teenage years,'' she
adds, as if trying to prove she really was a
rebel after all.
This is Hampshire
30th October 1999