Tough Guy Toyah

The rebel rocker who would have been equal to James Cagney. 

If you should see, late at night, a small girl all alone and with very strong legs passing slowly and dreamily by the Serpentine, staring soulfully at the black swans, ten to one it will be the ex-Queen of Punk, Toyah Willcox. 

And if you see a girl with snapping green eyes and a tarzan mane of flame hair bundling out of her flat window instead of using the front door, that will also be our Toyah. 

She communes with the black swans as a way of relaxing and she leaves by the window because she says she's a wayward girl anyway and just plain doesn't like using doors. 

These revelations by the midget giant of pop were made to me backstage at the Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand where Toyah is appearing in the comedy play Three Men On A Horse. 


She was clad in a simple, long black dress, pixie boots and with green heavy stone earrings bobbing and clanking among the famous clumps of orange-gold hair. 

Friend of the Royals, darling of the all-powerful Punk Generation, Toyah has one graceful foot planted firmly in the street and the other nestling coyly among the tiaras and pearls. 

Some trick

During the rehearsal Toyah stripped off to her undies and displayed her excellent, sturdy weight-lifter's body and pit-pony legs - very sexy. 

"I do a lot of weight-lifting and I walk in a very masculine way, so for this part I had to learn how to walk differently." 

She brandished a diary the size of a large brick and says she puts down in there every little thing that happens in her life. 

"One day I hope to write a book to tell women who come into the music business how to survive. No, it won't be shock, scandal, horror, and more shock." 

You'd think Toyah came up ready-made, hewn out of rebellion 
and want, but no: she's a public schoolgirl from Birmingham. 

"When I was a kid they used to say I'd never be anybody because I was too individual. 


"That irritated the shit outta me, so when the Punk movement 
came along I merged with it. Handy." 

 About her friendship with Di and Prince Edward she says: "I support the Royals. They do good work and I do whatever they ask me. 

"But," she adds, flicking the mane, "I am NOT a royal groupie."

She denies she's ever had a booze problem but she likes a gin and tonic now and then. 

"I like drinking. Some people play golf, some people play cricket, I like to go home, put the stereo on loud and have a drink. 

"I walk home all alone at night, look at the black swans on the Serpentine, then lie awake all night till dawn. 

"Then I go to the gym and pump iron." 

She's 29 and her rock musician husband is 40, a kind of reversal of the current vogue for toy-boys. She once said she would choose younger men for their bodies and older men for their minds. 

"I don't think age has anything to do with it. I think men, young and old are fabulous." 

She's passionately concerned about getting a new deal for the unemployed youth of Britain and helps at a centre where the kids are allowed to let their creativity take over. 


If she'd been a man she'd have been a James Cagney, this Toyah - cocky, vulnerable, tough, sensitive. 

"I don't want children in my life. 

"I don't know who or what I am yet, so I don't think I should have children if I feel like that." 

In the dim light of the star dressing room, those hot green eyes are partly hidden by the hair, but even so the passion and quick feelings snap and pop, the eyes of a woman who knows exactly who and what she is despite what she says. 


"I just have this strong feeling that I'm on the run all the time, as though I'm lost and don't belong anywhere. After doing a show at night, I've still got all this energy left, as though I haven't done enough." 

She stands up to shake my hand and say goodbye and you expect a much bigger woman, but she's not - she's minute and  urgent and vital. That's Toyah.

Daily Mail, 1987