Toyah still wants to be free

In the fickle world of showbusiness, Toyah Willcox is a long-running success story. She's grown from a punk princess, via TV drama to acclaimed Shakespearean. But it's a success she will never share with a family, writes Suzanne Locke.

Bluntly, she says she never wanted children, and so she was sterilised at the age of 27. 

Transatlantic marriage

Now 43, she says she has no regrets."In the beginning it felt very weird. No matter how you feel about having a family it's a pretty major decision to make. Now I've got no problems with it at all. 

"I never wanted them. I have no instinct for them - it's never been in me," she insists. "It could be genetic - my father's four sisters never had children and my sister, who's eight years older than me, never had children." 

For Toyah it's easier to maintain a long-distance marriage without children in the equation. King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, her husband of 15 years, lives in the States and is currently on tour in Nashville. They see each other on average just once every couple of months. 

Close to home

"We're not tied down by any family or any children, so there's a lot of freedom. I think we accepted pretty early on that he wasn't going to be around and I wasn't going to give my career up in England. There's no way I could be a rock 'n' roll wife and I'm so English I don't think I could move abroad." 

But Toyah's close relationship with her parents makes up for the long periods on her own. She has even bought the house next door to them, near Stratford. "My dad's the most fantastic person I've ever known - my No.1 hero," she says.

Toyah has dabbled in everything from Shakespeare to religion, kids' TV and sex. Her father is a Buddhist and was "more embarrassed about me doing Songs of Praise than a live sex show, The Good Sex Guide. He worried that I'd gone soft." 

Disabled

Few could accuse her of that. For Toyah was born with a club foot, a bowed spine, dislocated hip and a lisp and is technically disabled. She's had to battle society's prejudice while forging her career, which kicked off with pop hits like It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. She is also dyslexic and, considered "dumb" at school, left with just one O-level, in music. "I regret I didn't see education as an investment in myself. I treasure learning now." 

Currently she's appearing in a regional tour of The Shagaround, an expletive-filled, raunchy tale of girl power set in the toilets of a nightclub, which moves to the West End in July. She will then be playing Titania in an open-air production of Midsummer Night's Dream at Stafford Castle. "I'd like to work forever, I don't want to retire," she says. 

Toyah's enjoying herself now more than ever before. "I think hitting 40 was great - you're emotionally independent, you're financially independent, and you don't give a damn what people think of you any more." You wonder whether the woman who dyed her hair crimson and claims to have no taboos ever really did. 

Unknown origin
24th May 2001