Marriage? It's - Oooooh..!

Some see them as an odd couple, yet Su Pollard and her husband Peter don't find anything odd in their two years of happy marriage...and Su's new pop career isn't doing too badly either! Brickbats in the press and threats in the post have only brought them closer together, they say.

Just the day before, a reporter had knocked on Su Pollard's door and asked her husband Peter Keogh if it was true he was having an affair with another man. Not long before that, says Peter, the same thing happened to Su herself.

Two years married this month, to all intents and purposes happily, yet sometimes it must seem to them that they are the only ones in the world who believe it!

"We just say: 'Here we go again, doll'" says Su in her throaty voice, while Peter is philosophical.

"Well, what can you do? I guess they're doing their job. I just say it's not true as reasonably as possible. But it's always happening." It's not the sort of problem that confronts most marriages, but Su and her husband are hardly your average couple.

For one thing, Su is famous and likely to become more so. She is so well known for her portrayal of the tragic chalet maid Peggy that passers by chorus 'Hi-De-Hi!' while Su, always the trouper, gamely responds 'Ho-De-Ho!'. A starring role in the West End musical Me And My Girl and a hit single Starting Together has broadened her audience. Add to that the LP due out this Summer and an Australian cabaret tour at the end of this year and you have someone who is rapidly making the jump from personality to celebrity. She is quite open about her ambition to become Britain's singing, dancing, joking answer to Shirley Maclaine.

Peter, a teacher, is famous not just because he married Su but because of a court case, hard on the heels of their honeymoon, in which he was cleared of theft charges but which revealed that he had in the past had boyfriends.

It's the sort of equation that would divide less devoted or determined couples apart within months. And yet Mr and Mrs Keogh, jammed up tight together on the sofa in their North London home, insist that it's brought them closer.

"It's marvellous to see things getting better and better every day," says Su in a voice which for anyone else would be a small shout.

She's quietly dressed (for her) in matching sweatshirt and pedal-pushers, rainbow spectacle frames and diamante earrings. A nice pink ribbon keeps dropping off her head and being shoved back. "In fact, it's scary, we're almost psychic."

Peter chips in: "So often I'm just about to talk and she says the exact same word!" He's a big Australian with male model good looks and longish high lightened hair. He's nearly as talkative as Su, though his voice is quieter and slightly stuttery, so that it's a bit like being fired at by two machine guns, one booming and Nottingham and the other soft and Sydney.

Su's conversation is peppered with small detonations. "Oooooooh! Bless him!

"Knowwarramean? - and a few unmentionables. She addresses her husband as "doll" but his nickname is Janice Jackboots because, apparently, he's so bossy. They're great mates, giggling and nudging as if in some private game, and as the glare of the spotlight intensifies they may need all the matiness they can get. It's not just the newspapers, and Peter not wanting to be Mr Su Pollard ("I've got my own career which I'll always keep," he says resolutely). There are also the loonies and death threats.

"Well, there was that person on the phone who said he was going to slash my face, " Su reminds her husband.

She continues, eyes blinking behind the rainbow frames, "Someone wrote to us suggesting I chose a gun and used it. Perhaps I attract weirdos and mental cases because of the sort of character I play in Hi-De-Hi!..." she muses.

Most of her fan mail is, of course, adoring - and none more so than the letters from Su's huge gay following.

"Only last week this bloke came up and said, 'Oooh, Miss Pollard' - they're ever so polite and discerning you know - 'I just want to say thanks ever so much for all the pleasure you've brought me and my boyfriend.' And then he gave me this chocolate egg. Ooooh, bless him! I put it in my pocket and it bloody melted," and she and her husband dissolve into laughter.

The camp, showbizzy and over the top has been Su Pollard's element.

"When I was 19 I used to accompany my friend John who did a drag act. I did hid hair and corsets," she confides.

"If I was given a choice of a transvestite club or the local palais, " Su goes on, as her husband holds out his palm to be tickled, a personal treat, "I'd go for the transvestites. I don't fit in with sitting round a dancefloor, clutching my handbag."

She certainly doesn't. Su Pollards idea of a fun time has so far included screaming "knickers!" in the Ritz, mooning on the motorway, and wrapping her legs round a clearly distressed Michael Aspel's neck on his chat show.

A less sympathetic observer might call it plain attention-grabbing, but Su's having none of this.

"I like to see other people enjoying it," she says, madly tickling Peter's hand while Peter tickles their kitten, Dulcie Gray, named after the actress. "Sometimes I go berserk on purpose because people can be so boring, so staid. But there's no high like making people laugh, doll."

And Peggy, whom she may or may not continue to play after the Autumn series, is as yet the perfect comic vehicle. At 36, she's paid her theatrical dues, from amateur dramatics back home in Nottinghamshire to provincial touring in The Desert Song.

She was already in her thirties when fame really struck - and acting is still the centre of her life. Her one personal fear - just as 42 year old Peter's is of death - is of losing her career: "If for any reason my career was taken away from me, that would wouldn't be the end, but I think really I'd be a bit destroyed.

"Yes, I do want to be successful. But I never want to forget that I'm a person as well."

"At first it was hard for me, Su being famous," says Peter. "But not now."

It seems that each has taken a small stake in the other's life. Peter acts as Su's business manager ("a supportive role," he says). She, on the other hand, offers full decibel advice on his teaching job. Over two years, and perhaps against the odds, they say they've grown together.

"She's made me much more confident," says Peter.

"Peter is more private then me," adds Su. "He susses people out first. I mean, I would tell them how many times I'd been to the toilet. He's made me much more confident," she continues surprisingly. "I'm calmer inside now. I mean, I just love the idea that someone loves me enough to marry me. It's - Ooooooh! If you haven't got one person to trust then you haven't got anything, doll, have you?"

"I've got lots of friends," says her husband. "But they all combine in Su."

Their household seems complete without the patter of tiny feet in day-glo bootees and rhinestone rompers. "Well, I don't really want one," Su says flatly.

"We're not desperate," agrees her husband loyally. Then they both change their minds.

But they're far more enthusiastic about their second anniversary celebrations in Paris (this month): "I'm dead excited," says Su, sounding rather like Peggy as she snuggles up to her husband. But this is a side of Paris that Peggy Ollerenshaw would die before visiting: "I want him to take me to all the really seedy places. I want to see the transvestites. I love all that, doll."

By Alison Macdonald

Star Interview 1986