How Toyah became Mrs Fripp


Mrs Fripp is exhausted. Dressed in black from head to toe, her pallor is accentuated by the bottle orange of her shaggy hair, the deep pink lips, the dar make-up smudged around her eyes. She pulls her tiny legs up and hugs them to her chest. 'Yes, I'm tired, I'm emotionally very tired. This album has taken me to an extreme. I'm feeling very vulnerable at the moment. I'd rather not talk about it.' Toyah Willcox? Can this really be the same woman: One time Princess of Punk and confident, energetic self-publicist?

Have four years of marriage (to Robert Fripp, guitarist and founder of Seventies group King Crimson) and a nice home in the country taken the fire out of her belly? Is the album she's currently recording, with the working title Ophelia's Shadow, to be a listless liturgy of what it's like to be a hellraiser who decides to settle down?

I ask her. The famous green eyes flash with indignation: 'I haven't calmed down. My life is busier than ever. And to suggest that marriage is a safe option is quite ridiculous.'

But whether she likes it or not, it does appear that Toyah, the non-conformist, has decided to conform. She and her husband now live in stately splendour in the house that was the Queen Anne home of Sir Cecil Beaton.

The girl who joined the Hell's Angels aged 11, reputedly drank a bottle of vodka a day and was chucked out of her fee-paying school, is now engaged in restoring her £500,000 home, and is known by the locals quite simply as 'Mrs Fripp'.

Toyah doesn't like to talk about the house. But it's well-known that she is expecting to spend an estimated £2million restoring it.

Rumours in the area had it that 'nouveau' taste would prevail. But the Fripps have insisted that their aim is to recreate the elegance of the Beaton era - a bizarre backdrop, some might say, for this hyperactive rebel.

It's been an uncomfortable transition for Toyah, the girl who has marketed herself on being an anti-establishment free spirit - and you feel she's still furiously justifying her new status.

'When we first married, I lived totally in his world, and I thought 'I'm losing my identity, and I hate this'. I had two years of absolute hell. I think it's very easy to become absorbed by someone - and if anything, my new album is about becoming absorbed and fighting that.'

She has always fought - from the moment she was born, a sickly baby with a crooked spine and one leg shorter than the other. And it is almost too obvious to state that her low self-image as a teenager (although only 4ft 11ins, she weighed a hefty 11 stone) is an explanation for her obsession with image.

Toyah creates images, lives them and then discards them - not for nothing was The Changeling the title of her fourth album. No longer the pink-haired punkette, she now wants to tell the world that she's a serious actress, a serious singer and songwriter, and, so she clams, an anarchist despite marriage and a mansion.

Carefully she explains her relationship with Fripp: 'I only see my husband for two weeks in any month - so I'm on my own more than I've ever been. I enjoy that solitude, and  I find that's when I get my best work done. When he's home I only see my husband at lunchtime and then in the evening.' (He is always 'my husband', never Robert).

'I will not cook for anyone. I will not feel dependant. Going ot bed and having good sex means more to me than making lunch. In the beginning it was very hard for us, both being people who love our isolation. But now we've learned to be isolated and together at the same time.'

Fripp cannot be an easy man to be married to. Eleven years her senior, he has a reputation for fussy precision and immaculate appearance. His friends hated Toyah on sight, but typically, she held up two fingers to their disapproval, 'His friends always referred to me as naive. They really thought he'd flipped.'

Like all tough people, she claims not to be tough: 'I'm determined, yes - very self-contained. I suppose it would be a lie to say I wasn't selfish. Maybe that's one reason I've never wanted children.

'I was sterlised after an illness two years ago. It was probably the most liberating moment in my life. My work gives me all the creativity I need.'

She's shortly to start rehearsals for a touring production of The Taming Of The Shrew, and is also collaborating with Fripp on a joint album. 'His fans will hate it. They loathe it when he dares bastardise his music - but that's their problem. They ought ot go and have therapy.'

She stands up, smiles and trundles lop-sidedly to the door: 'I'm actually very pleased with who I am. Look at me - I've made it!'

Daily Mail, 1990
Thanks to Michael Cooney