|On The Line - Toyah Willcox
She's come a long way from a rebellious young
Brummie punk to ubiquitous TV presenter. But it's not really a mystery,
as Graeme Virtue discovers
What are you up to these days?
I'm doing a TV show in Scotland called Barmy Aunt
Boomerang which is a 15-part children's comedy drama. I play the ghost
of an Australian soap star that can walk through walls and stuff like that.
It's filmed very much like a soap opera. It's wonderful in that it parodies
a lot of things that you see in soaps. It's very funny and it's incredibly
How did you research the part? Did you watch Neighbours
Well, the thing I found about Neighbours is that
they no longer sound Australian; they almost sound anglophile. When I was
a child, we had Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. And Skippy had (adopts really
deep Australian accent) a really deep Australian accent. I thought, if
I was going to play an Australian soap star with an English accent, the
children weren't going to get the cultural differences. So I based my voice
on what I remember from Skippy. So my accent is slightly coarser than the
ones you get in Neighbours.
Have you managed to hold your accent throughout
I think so. No one's said anything about it. But
I've had so much fun doing it because an Australian speaking alongside
a Glasgwegian accent makes it even funnier; even lines that have no humour
become funny, because of the timing of the words.
Had you acted with so many kids before?
No, that was a brand new challenge and I have
to say I was dreading it and it's been absolutely magnificent. The kids
we've had have been so bright and tough and sassy that I've spent many
a day just sitting listening to them because they're really on the ball
and very, very funny. And just full of a lust for life.
You've done an impressive range of work in the
course of your career: music, films, theatre, TV, panto...
Well, I've been around a long time. But that's
the way I like it; once I've done a job I like to go right across the spectrum
to do the next one.
Like presenting The Good Sex Guide Late one year
and then doing Songs of Praise?
That's one of my proudest achievements. I have
a very forgiving audience. And funnily enough, I had no trouble doing the
Sex Guide at all, but my loyal fans were slightly horrified when I did
Songs of Praise. My take on it is that everyone has the right to tread
a spiritual path, and just because you've presented Songs of Praise doesn't
mean you've suddenly become a happy-clappy or dogmatic religious person.
So how did you handle making the transition from
sex symbol to sex therapist?
I tell you what I was most nervous about with
the Sex Guide: I'm incredibly shy, and I don't like men making passes at
me. It's the one thing I can't handle. And I was really, really worried
that men might think I was readily available and start hitting on me. But
it didn't happen and I was so relieved.
They were probably quite scared of you.
I think I like the fact that men are scared of
me and I want to keep it that way. If anything, I could be walking down
the street and someone would stop me and tell me about their marital problems,
which I found really sweet. There was this wonderful man on the show called
Dr Ian Banks whom I adored, and he got surrounded by a whole gang of rastas
on a tube train. He thought he was going to be mugged, but all they wanted
to know was what to do about impotence!
Maybe they should get them on to Songs of Praise.
I don't think sex and religion work that well
together. People that watch Songs of Praise tend to be over a certain age
and they're not so interested.
You and your husband Robert Fripp are said to
have one of the most stable marriages in showbiz...
That sounds like an ominous curse.
What's the secret?
The secrets are things that people wouldn't be
willing to follow. We don't have children and I think children do change
a marriage. Neither of us wants a family. And I think because our careers
are so separate and our lives are so separate, a lot of our friends say
we're still having an affair, we're still dating. We see relatively little
of each other, so the time we spend with each other is so precious that
we spend a lot of it laughing rather than arguing. The other side of that
coin is that one day we will actually live together, but will we actually
get on? We've never done it.
You'll just have to keep travelling and working
around the world.
Yes, because there's no way I'm washing his socks.
He actually has a lady that does all his washing, but I think life's too
short to spend washing people's underwear.
Finally, how do you feel about the current Eighties
I don't feel a part of it. I've had hundreds of
offers to do concerts, which is great, but I still do quite a lot of live
shows anyway. But I'm not being included on any of the compilations, and
that's partly because the record company which owns my material is reluctant
to re-release it for some reason. It's great to have all these offers,
but I don't quite feel a part of it. I mean, I'm so happy for Culture Club.
I think it's working for them. They're good writers, and I think Duran
Duran have always been good writers. Those two groups in particular, I
think it's lovely to see them around again.
Sunday Herald, 2000