2002 - 2003
TOYAH: WHY I DETEST
CORRIE AND MY NAME
Eighties punk star gave The Street permission to call one of the Battersby's after her - but every time she hears it on TV she wishes she hadn't
Actress and singer Toyah Willcox admits she hates her Coronation Street namesake Toyah Battersby - and wishes she'd never given the soap permission to use it.
Weatherfield's Toyah, played by Georgia Taylor, arrived on the street in 1997 as part of the family-from-hell Battersby clan. Since the character was born in 1982, when Toyah Willcox's pop career was at its height, producers asked the singer if they could name the young girl after her.
At first she was honoured - the unusual name comes from a Red-Indian named town in Texas.
Now the 43 year old ex-punk admits: "I hate it. I'll be reading a book by myself with the telly on and I'll suddenly hear someone yell: 'Toyah' and I'll jump out of my seat.
"They asked my permission, but I'm not sure I should have let it happen.
"My name is my luckiest token and I've sort of given it away - now anyone watching Corrie could call their children it and I prefer its uniqueness."
Her mother, Barbara, found the name in the late fifties when Toyah was born.
Toyah admits: "The strangest thing is after she told me that, I looked the town up in a map - and right next to it is the Willcox Mountains. She never knew.
"That's why I know my name is special and helped me get where I am today."
Toyah is about to return to her musical roots as part of the Eighties nostalgia tour Here And Now, which comes to Glasgow in April with Adam Ant, some of Spandau Ballet, Belinda Carlisle, ABC, Howard Jones and China Crisis.
While the rest have had little fame in the last 20 years, Toyah has touched all our lives with her various projects in a multi-faceted and very successful career.
She starred in films such as Quadrophenia and has acted with Sir Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn.
She's voiced the Teletubbies, been a children's television star in BBC Scotland's Barmy Aunt Boomerang and presented TV shows such as This Morning and Songs Of Praise - and The Good Sex Guide Late.
For many people it will be hits such as 'It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free which make her a fond memory.
Since the Here And Now tour was announced, much of the publicity has revolved around Adam Ant's mental breakdown.
The 47 year old singer -real name Stuart Goddard - has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and is in the Alice Ward of the Royal Free Hospital, North London.
He allegedly waved a fake gun at customers during an incident at the members-only Prince Of Wales bar in Kentish Town.
Toyah claims the wayward star is better and is gearing himself up for the tour and she admits it was Adam who gave her the big break into music.
She said: "He's not speaking to anyone at the moment, but he's absolutely fine, looking forward to the tour and in good shape.
"When we go on tour we'll just make sure he knows how supportive of him we are - he's top of the bill and important to us all. What's happened is a blip. He's a creative genius and this is the price you sometimes pay. It's what makes him special.
"It's not about him having a breakdown because he's not famous anymore - he's got a wild streak and he's creative and that sometimes can be very bad for the brain."
Birmingham born Toyah was a pink haired young 19-year-old drama student when she was picked to play the character Mad in Derek Jarman's punk film classic Jubilee.
The 1977 film brought her into contact with Adam, who was also in the film.
She said: "I told him I wanted to be in a band. We were in this club and I gave him some lyrics scribbled on a serviette and the next day he'd made a song from them and put a band together for me with his wife, Eve.
"He was a phenomenal force. He knew what he wanted to do.We were supposed to do an album, but I'd got my own solo deal by then and it never quite worked out."
Toyah, the youngest of three children, left Edgbaston C of E College with just one 0-Level, saying her own education suffered because of her dyslexia, which was dignosed at six.
Her father Beric, a joinery manufacturer with his own business, was able to give her the top education in the area - but she became a teenage rebel, dyeing her hair pink and hanging out with Hell's Angels.
Teased at school because of her lisp she admitted she once broke a chair over a girl's head, but admits now: "It's not something I'm proud of."
At school she dreamed of becoming an actress and started at Birmingham Old Rep Drama School at 14. By 17 was there full time.
She moved to London to join the National Theatre Company and her work on Jubilee pushed her into musicals, although she acted alongside Katharine Hepburn in The Corn Is Green and as Monkey in Quadrophenia.
She became the first punk pop star with her colourful hair and clothes.
Toyah said: "I had a good serious career as a pop star and had good commercial success with it.
"But I diluted five years of touring up and down universities as a punk when I hit the charts.
"Some people said I'd sold out, but I don't care about other people's opinions.
"What I was sad about is that, after I'd had a few hits, it was more about the name and product than the music.
"I couldn't turn that around so I don't miss that."
In 1982 she won Best Female Singer in what was then the Rock & Pop Awards, now The Brits.
Toyah admits she's looking forward to recreating the early Eighties once again.
But she dismisses claims it's just about money. She said: "None of us on the bill needs the cash.
"I think we've all worked constantly. Personally I like working and don't enjoy having time to myself.
"I was asked to do this and, since I'd seen the last one with Paul Young and Kim Wilde and enjoyed it immensely, I thought it would be a brilliant idea."
But Toyah says given her age she won't be wearing some of her more outrageous costumes.
She admitted: "I think that would look stupid. I'm getting costumes tailor-made, which look modern. I'm keeping my blonde hair as it is."
Toyah married guitarist Robert Fripp when she was 27.The pair live in Wiltshire, but have never had children.
She admitted: "Seeing scores of teenage girls pushing prams around Birmingham on a Saturday morning affected me.
"I'd rather have died than gone through that, so I became phobic about getting pregnant and developed a terrible distrust of men as a result of that. So, no children for me."
Instead, Toyah has stayed somewhat of a child herself. She said: "I like playing. I'll be sitting with my husband in a bar and will try out new characters to see if they make him laugh."
Characters are something she knows a lot about. Some 10 years ago she voiced all the characters in children's favourite Brum. It was created by Anne Wood - the woman behind the Teletubbies.
Toyah said: "Anne called me up and told me she was doing a pilot of Teletubbies in the afternoon and asked if I'd do the voiceover.
"It's just a line at the end and at the beginning, but it's amazing how many people recognise me for it.
"We've now got two major projects in the pipeline."
However, the seemingly cosy Toyah still hasn't lost her ability to shock and admits she wants to be fed to the pigeons when she dies.
She wants her body to be cut up, mixed with corn and then fed to the birds on the Malvern Hills in a Tibetan-style ceremony. She said: "I would like a sky burial. In Tibet, the village elders dismember the body.
"But it is regarded as the most sacred burial you can have.
"I want mine held in the Malvern Hills, where I grew up. I want my father and husband to perform the ceremony and I want to be fed to the pigeons or some kind of specially imported vulture."
Despite looking back to the Eighties, Toyah is still working for her future.
There is a book set in a concentration camp which she admits: "I've not gone near since September 11. It's a horror book and I just can't face it."
Ther's also an album. She said: "I don't want to confuse people by putting out an album of new material. It's not a retro album, so I'll put it out in August.
"I'm slowly getting myself to be more creative - with more writing, songwriting and painting."
FROM QUEEN OF PUNK TO
She's tamed her wild Eighties hair and make-up, but her current role touring in a stage production as Calamity Jane still uses up plenty of energy. Toyah Willcox reveals her favourite way to relax
"When I'm out there tending my garden I feel utterly wrapped up in it - I think gardening can be quite obsessional. I may not know all the Latin names and I don't find designing easy, but none of that matters. As long as you get on and have a go, you soon learn through your mistakes - that's the fun of it.
I always tackle a problem straight on, and if I really don't know how to do something, I look it up in a book. I'm very practical and I've developed a strong idea of what I like and don't like, which is the most important place to start. I'm a great one for tying in and cutting back. I don't know whether it's because I'm small (I'm 5ft) but I never want to feel overwhelmed by plants, especially the common garden shrubs. I like to see everything in its place, so I make sure the plants know who's in control!
The garden at our house on the River Avon in Worcestershire is blissful. It was landscaped and planted before we bought the house, so it's well established and I hardly want to change a thing. I first spotted the For Sale sign last year when I was out boating with my dad. I phoned my husband (guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson) in great excitement and told him we had to go and have a look. When we walked in, I burst into tears and Robert went really quiet because we both knew it was perfect.
The garden has five 'rooms' and the first is just behind the house - a stone terrace enclosed by yew hedging. Living alfresco is important to me and this is the perfect place to do it. We have a big table where we lunch with friends or sit around reading the papers. We both travel a lot and work hard - Robert's been working on a new album in America and I'm either presenting, singing, writing, or acting. I've been touring in Calamity Jane this year, so we both value the time we have together to relax and reflect, or to paint or read.
Next comes a circular pool garden bordered by roses and tulips (luckily mostly yellow, my favourite flower colour) and edged by curved box hedging. On a summer's day, this part of the garden is os hot and voluptuous it feels like a Sicilian courtyard. There are one or two stone benches, so it's a good place to sit quietly when you have niggles or worries. It's important to get outside and see how nature deals with things. It helps to put everything into context.
This and all the neighbouring gardens were originally orchards that ran down to the River Avon and we still have a small section of orchard with two rows of cherry trees. They're so perfectly spaced I find it quite surreal. Here, as elsewhere in the garden, we've put in sculptures by Althea Wynne, who's become a friend. I'm very good at finding artists and I love the idea of commissioning someone to make a piece for a specific space.
Beyond the orchard are two large lawned areas, bordered with shrubs and perennials and divided by a classical ironwork pergola. Our gardener John comes twice a week and keeps everything immaculate, which makes a big difference to me as I'm in London a lot when I'm working so wouldn't have the time to look after this garden on my own - but in my tiny London garden I do everything myself.
I can see us living here for years, having summer parties where friends can lose themselves in the garden, play boules or croquet or take a boat trip down the river. Each part of the garden has its own mood and sounds - it's wonderful to escape into.
For me, a garden is spiritual: there's nothing more moving than seeing a favourite plant flowering - it's like a new beginning. Consciously tending a plant and wanting its life cycle to be as healthy as possible is a very respectful thing to do. A garden can be a huge emotional and spiritual investment but if you get it right it gives you a lifelong return.
Toyah's Favourite Plants:
• Forget -me-nots
Toyah's Mantras For The Garden:
• Visit as many gardens as possible to glean ideas you can adapt for your own garden. Use the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book (£5) to see what's open in your area.
• Keep a sense of scale and don't allow large plants to take over and swamp the space.
• Make sure the edges of your lawn are well kept. They'll make everything else look neat even if it isn't.
• Introduce some moving water with a fountain - the sound is very relaxing.
• Design your garden according to the amount of time you want to spend tending it. That way it will always be a joy and never a chore.
AT HOME: TOYAH'S
Fresh from her 80s revival tour, Toyah Willcox takes Steven Smith around her London home
You bought the house in West London eight years ago for £117,000. What was it like when you moved in?
An empty shell and a garden that had seen better days. I couldn't wait to get started on the place. I'm a DIY queen and don't like builders and decorators getting their hands on my property. I painted the walls in a warm yellow and bought the floors from the old Sadlers Wells Theatre, which means stars of the Royal Ballet have actually danced on my living room floor! The whole place is now worth between £500,000 and £600,000, but I have no plans to sell it.
Why did you choose Chiswick?
Fate! It used to be a record company office. The owner ran into financial difficulties and needed cash quickly. I had the `readies' at the time so, as luck would have it, here I am.
You have other homes, too, but where?
I have a home in San Francisco which I share with my husband, Robert Fripp, who's a rock musician. We're a very close couple but we live apart and can go months without seeing each other. It works so well because we give each other our own space. I have another couple of homes in Worcester. I call one the office, the other my country retreat. I also plan to buy a property in Corfu because I love it there, it's so beautiful. It'll be nice for my parents to use it during their retirement.
We hear you had the place Feng Shui'd?
Yes, I did. Feng Shui is a Chinese art. The basis is living in harmony with our surroundings. The first thing I had to do was remove any cacti from the house as they give off bad energy. They're great outside as they protect the home. I also had to re-paint the black spiral staircase blue as black can cause chaos in the home. Any furniture with sharp edges had to go, too.
How do you relax at home?
I have a beautiful little garden filled with Buddhas and plants. I love to spend time gardening and relaxing. Indoors, I like to read, particularly biographies. I also love to do my aerobics at home - it's more private than going to the gym and I can choose my own music. I work out to Madonna,
the Chemical Brothers and Fat Boy Slim. I watch TV, especially fly-on- the-wall documentaries. Louis Theroux is great, he came on tour with us. He wanted us to be a whole pile of washed out 80s icons, suffering from depression and alcoholism. When he found that most of us were successful business people he left after three days, never to return.
Where do your knick-knacks come from?
I did BBC's Holiday Programme for a year and collected bits in the Far East. The Buddhas come from Thailand, Malaysia, all over. I'm a Buddhist myself, more of a lapsed one, although I am very spiritual.
At 44, how do you manage to keep in such great shape?
I've never gone down the pop star drink and drugs route - in fact I gave up drinking altogether four years ago as it made me irrational and emotional. I've also given up dairy products and cut my calories down to 1,500 a day. We don't need to eat as much as we get older and excess turns into fat. I can't tell you how good I feel.
You're touring in Calamity Jane. What made you do it?
The theatre is my first love. I was an actress at the National Theatre when I was 18 and I've been waiting to play Calamity all my life. I've learnt to use a whip, a lassoo, even a gun. The cast is full of great youngsters who treat me like a dame of the theatre, which makes me laugh because I still feel 18. I even have Gwyneth Paltrow's bodyguard looking after me. There's talk of taking the show to Broadway, which I would love.
Toyah Willcox's favourite things -
This is the focal point in my garden. I saw it in a garden centre and the owners told me that, if I could lift it, I could have it. I was back an hour later with three guys.
GLITTER ROLLER SKATES
I wore these when I played Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park Theatre. Puck is meant to fly, but in this modern version I had roller skates and a skateboard.
This is great - a fan sent it to me and I love it as it reminds me of all the wacky hairdos I had back in the 80s. It could take days of preparation, with all the hair pieces.
It was 1981, and I was on my way to record Top Of The Pops as It's A Mystery was a hit. On the way through Harrow, I saw this statue of Pan, the god of music, in a shop window and I made them stop the car. I bought it for £20 and took it to Top Of The Pops with me.
CALAMITY JANE PICTURE
I look so much like my good mate Julie Peasgood in this picture and I just love the fact I'm doing the show.
TIME & PLACE: MY STAGING POST
WITH THE RENEGADE ROCKERS
Toyah Willcox spent 1978 in a warehouse where David Bowie and Boy George were among the many visitors, she tells Louise Johncox
n 1978, I lived in a huge British Rail warehouse in Battersea, in south London, with an arts community. It was a hotbed for bright young writers and a rehearsal room for Iggy Pop, David Bowie and John Cale.
Back then it was called Mayhem, and it’s bang opposite Queenstown Road railway station. Steve Strange and Boy George had weekend parties there because it held anything up to 500 people. The parties were so chaotic that I’d let them in on a Friday night and come back on Monday morning, and they never knew I’d left.
I shared with Adam Ant’s wife, Eve (they had broken up), an actor called Keith Hodges, the guitarist from Adam Ant’s band, Kevin Mooney, and a writer (I’ve forgotten his name). It cost £60 a week for five of us and I lived there for two years.
It was on the first floor above a repainting garage, which was phenomenally fumey and dirty. When we first got it, all that was in there were huge acid tanks with armour-plated glass — I have no idea why.
We took them apart and used the glass, which was almost an inch-and-a-half thick, as flooring. We put our bedrooms in on stilts. I split my bedroom into two floors because I’m very short, just under 5ft. My rooms were full of books and painting materials. It was very eclectic because I had lots of possessions. I was into anything to do with art, anything visual. It was where I was forming all my ideas.
Eve was a designer, so her bedroom was white, like a cube, and spacious. I think she had a workshop that she went to in the daytime. Some of the boys had an unpainted space of chipboard. We had no money, so everything was just thrown together, but it didn’t matter because it was full of expression. Opposite us was a place where they built coffins and at night we’d go over the wall and take the wood that they stored outside; virtually everything in our place was made from this wood.
We had one toilet and no bathroom. The caretaker, who lived across the way, let us use his bath every other day or we’d go down the road to the public baths. We didn’t have a kitchen but I think we had a toaster and a camping grill in the communal space.
We never cooked — we’d make toast or go out and get fish and chips or a kebab. We painted the inside black and kept the main part as a stage and rehearsal room. Iggy Pop was the main one. There was one window that we boarded up because we had to do something about the noise, as Iggy Pop’s band was just so big — you could hear it through a nuclear bomb shelter, it was that loud.
My band also rehearsed there. We were having success on the London circuit, pulling 2,000 people a night, playing venues like the Lyceum. It was wonderful. I would have been about 19.
We didn’t have a television, but we had a record player in the communal area, which was just a boxed-in lounge. Back then, we listened to the Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. At that time, Bowie was producing Iggy Pop so he would have come over to check the band.
On the whole it was quiet during the daytime and lively in the evening. We all worked in our separate spaces, or I was out making movies or touring.
It was a very busy time for me. In those two years, I made seven feature films and two albums. I started to make films like Quadrophenia and The Corn is Green. I was amassing tens of thousands of pounds so I ended up paying for everything. Increasingly, I was there less often because I started touring with the band. It got to the point where I became the money bag and it was like, well, why should I be paying? I needed to get out because I was starting to get well-known and I needed privacy. My life was so hectic and so full of turmoil that I wanted a base that was a little more welcoming. Actually, I think I was on the road for five or six years.
Even to this day, more than 20 years on, people occasionally come up to me and say: “I met you at the warehouse.”
RETURN OF THE 80'S
Once they were rich, famous and idolised by millions. And now - oh, no! - they're going back on the road
Toyah Willcox, 43, began her career 25 years ago and had one of her biggest hits with It's A Mystery.
What have you been doing?
A bit of everything. I've always been painfully insecure. Fear of poverty has driven me to work hard for financial success.
Highs and lows?
The level of success I enjoyed in the Eighties was staggering for me. One minute, people laughing at my pink hair, the next, they were all copying me. Fame has been a blessing.
What's not so good is popping out to the shop while suffering from PMT and looking like shit - people still recognise you.
Your most memorable fame moment?
Playing in front of 10,000 people in Belfast in 1981, at the height of the troubles. the crowd went mental. They pulled the heels off my boots, ripped off my clothes and pulled out my hair. I got back on stage in only my tights and bra and had to be saved. by the tour bus backing through the crowd up to the stage.
Most embarrassing moment?
Ra-ra skirts, legwarmers and boob tubes. I felt a prat in them the first time around, and there's no way I'd ever wear them again.
What about your love life?
I've been with my husband, rock guitarist Robert Fripp, since 1986. Meeting him was a godsend. People think we're an odd couple, but we get on so well because we're as weird as each other. We don't have kids - I forgot.
Have you made your fortune?
Certainly not from music, but I've made plenty from investments. People are always surprised that our properties (in London, the Midlands and the U.S.) are relatively inexpensive and I drive around in a normal little car.
But then, we own everything outright. I hate being in debt.
Would you make a comeback?
Well, I'm not yearning to be on Top Of The Pops again.
What do you think of today's stars?
Nowadays, the music industry is more about marketing than talent. But I love Bjork, PJ Harvey and Tori Amos. And, although I 'd hate to be her, Madonna rocks.
Fame brought isolation. I had very few mates and never met any of these wonderful women back then. We were too busy competing against each other. If I could go back, I'd change that.
What about the future?
I'm on the Eighties Here & Now tour and I've got a new EP coming out. I'm also working on an album, touring with Calamity Jane later this year and taking life-drawing classes. I love being in my forties. I think I'm happier than I've ever been.
FROM PUNK ROCKER TO
Alice Thomson asks Toyah Willcox how she became the unlikely head of a campaign to block the building of an asylum centre in a leafy English village.
Toyah leading the campaign against an asylum centre in the rolling hills of Worcestershire? Impossible. The first concert I ever went to was Toyah's. Back then, I saw her as the high priestess of punk, in her orange make-up and crown of blue hair.
She spat, swore and lisped her way around the stage, singing It's a Mystery. We knew she'd always been a rebel: using a coffin as her bed and drinking heavily from the age of nine. In the film Jubilee, she throttled a man while having sex with him. Sir John Gielgud nicknamed her The Animal.
These days, she does voice-overs for the Tellytubbies, as well as making albums and touring the country. As the only woman to have got away with presenting both The Good Sex Guide and Songs of Praise, she frustrates attempts to pin her down.
Even so, it came as a shock to hear that Toyah Willcox had joined the ladies in headscarves and wellies to protest against an asylum centre being built among the cowslips in Throckmorton. Why would she get involved in such a middle-class, provincial issue?
She laughs. "I'm not some terrible racist Nimby," she says. "And nor is anyone else in Throckmorton. This is about protecting our environment. I've known the area all my life, my parents live there, my house is five miles away."
But what drove her and her husband, the American rock musician Robert Fripp, to stand near a banner saying: "Our backyard is already full"?
"Because it's true. Throckmorton was chosen as the burial site for 130,000 dead cows after foot and mouth. For months, 24 hours a day, we'd hear the lorries trundling past. We could smell the smoke from the incineration plant and feel it in our hair - and I'm a vegetarian. We didn't think it could get any worse."
Then, they heard they'd been chosen as the hosts for 750 asylum seekers. "They'll almost be on top of the cows. I wrote to Number 10 to say it was a bad idea.
"All I received was a standard reply, saying that it would be a wonderful opportunity for the area, bringing in 200 new jobs."
Toyah's first worry is for the refugees: they shouldn't be stuck so close to the burial site, she feels. "What about any seepage? Throckmorton is a tiny rural community: the residents are not anti-asylum seekers - they just believe the Government has chosen the wrong place. It's utterly irresponsible to plonk a new town down in the heart of the English countryside, on top of a graveyard."
We are sitting in her small suburban flat in Chiswick, eating chocolate-chip cookies and drinking tea to the accompaniment of wind chimes.
Her hair is now a sleek platinum blonde that matches the platinum discs on her walls. There are Buddhas and crosses scattered around the room, her bed is a futon and she keeps a a glittery skateboard in the kitchen. This seems more like the real Toyah.
"Oh, no! I grew up on the River Avon, near Throckmorton, before I rebelled. We used to go at weekends from Birmingham, on my parents' boat. It's beautiful, with apple orchards and high hedges. At 10, I was helping the farmers pick fruit.
"There's a real mix of people - that's why I came back. They're not all toffee-nosed. People have just enough money on a Saturday night to get tipsy. Everyone knows their neighbours and shops for them if they're ill. I've got prescriptions for the elderly in town.
"In the summer, when the pickers from Birmingham arrive, it becomes multi-cultural. You hear so many languages floating across the fields."
Surely, the asylum seekers have to go somewhere - so why not here? "Of course, we could house some, but not 750: they'd overwhelm us. We only have a bus two times a day, the nearest shop is two miles away - the Evesham to Worcester road has enough fatalities already. No one here speaks any of the necessary languages to help make people who may have been tortured or persecuted feel at home."
She wrote to the Home Office, pointing out her concerns. "They tried to convince me that the asylum seekers would be so busy filling in forms that they wouldn't have time to leave the base. But the asylum seekers will have nothing to do. I can hardly see them pulling on their wellies to stride across the fields.
"The nearest cinema is Worcester. The nearest school is tiny."
So, like the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, she's worried that the local community might be "swamped". "I don't think children of asylum seekers should be educated separately. After September 11, we need to break down prejudices, but they can't just take over the local school."
The steady stream of stories about young men from Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey terrorising the locals of Sangatte and shooting each other on the streets hasn't helped. "We aren't hearing about women and children needing sanctuary - it's all about young men, and that terrifies the older residents. They're having nightmares about being knocked down in the street or burgled."
What would she do if she were Tony Blair? "I love coming back from London to the sun on the fields; in a perfect world, we'd be left untouched. But Britain can't just shut out would-be immigrants. We must show camaraderie and help them; in return, they must show camaraderie in adapting to our lives.
"A few asylum seekers wouldn't threaten the village. But they won't want to settle and make friends here. I can't see them ploughing the land - they want to get to the cities."
The proposed asylum centres could be smaller, she suggests. "A manageable unit would be 100, based near airports, trains, shops and hospitals. But that's far more expensive for the Government, and they don't want to anger the cities."
Toyah voted Labour at the last election. "I feel like an idiot now - it's all illusions and gimmicks," she says. "They haven't even been to the sites. They talk about asylum seekers as rubbish to be ditched, rather than seeing immigration as a potential way to enrich this country. They're not proud to be British any more.
"We can't celebrate anything about this country without being called racist. We can't honour our culture and say that the English language is great and that it would give these immigrants a flying start if they learnt it first.
"We're an old island, with an old empire - culturally, we have an island mentality. It's awful to be made to feel guilty. The French don't."
Toyah bought her parents their retirement cottage on the River Avon because she was worried about them living in the city. "I wanted them out of Birmingham. Some white kids stole a car and rammed it into their door; it was the last straw. My parents couldn't leave the house after 6pm."
The wild child is now protective of her parents. "I have no children - they're my family. My father put me through private school, even when he lost his money. I was born with a twisted spine and hip defect - my mother helped me through that. For 30 years, it was all about me. Now, I'm nagging them to eat better. I ring them every day."
Would she ever consider selling up? "Nothing would make me leave," she retorts, "even if they turn the place into a prison once the asylum seekers have gone."
It worries her that the Government has plans to build asylum centres in other rural areas. "This is only the first of 15. The sheer scale is mind-boggling. This is a small country - it's all happening illegally.
"The Government can't even deal with its own homeless, with desperate single mothers and poor children. In London today, I saw a man begging and people were shouting at him to get a job. Their sympathy has worn thin. People aren't as kind. It terrifies me that if our Government and Europe don't take a grip, more people will swing to the far-Right."
In September she begins her next tour, so she doesn't have much time to save Throckmorton. "If the Government forces this through, I won't go to the camp as a do-gooder with a basket of provisions - but I won't ignore them on the street. And I'll keep pestering the Government.
"It's difficult, because I'm an actor and a performer. I have no instinct for politics. But I'll fit this in. I don't do drugs, drink, smoke or even take coffee, so I've got loads of energy."
Twenty-five years ago, during the Queen's Silver Jubilee, Toyah was starring in Derek Jarman's film, Jubilee. "Now, I'm a woman in her forties who enjoys her career," she says. "I think my generation have become mentally and physically much healthier and happier. I never thought I'd live past 30."
However, she remains proud of the punk generation. "We broke down so many attitudes and made life easier for gays, women, all classes. Some of us will never stop fighting."
TOYAH, TOYAH, TOYAH ...
No, it's not a Japanese battlecry - it's simply the enthusiastic chant any group of Ms. Willcox's fans would be familiar with. Toyah is a multi-faceted gem, who shines brighter than most, and for many reasons. Take her career, for instance, outside the role of colourful, energetic hit-maker. Film actor, stage, TV, equally loved by the male population and a beacon of inspiration for the girls.
From what was described as an 'unproductive school life' her course soon became clear when, at the age of 19, after attending the Old Rep Drama School in Birmingham, she landed a part in the acclaimed director Derek Jarman's film, a milestone in punk history, Jubilee. That was in 1977, and before the year was out, with punk exploding throughout the flaccid music industry, she had put together her own Toyah band. Even as the band developed during 1978, she still landed choice parts on screen, starring alongside the legendary Katherine Hepburn in the movie The Corn Is Green, with another role in the BBC production of Quatermass with John Mills, and then as the memorable character, Monkey, in the mod classic, Quadrophenia. With her 1979 single, Victims Of The Riddle, Toyah and her band were now making significant inroads into the independent charts - and you can't get more significant than the number one slot. The album Sheep Farming In Barnet, plus a six-track EP added fans by the thousand. But the thespian in Toyah was still in demand, as Mr. Jarman booked her again, this time for Shakespeare, no less, and the film version of The Tempest. For her role as Miranda, the Evening Standard nominated Toyah as best newcomer. She appeared at the ICA in Stephen Poliakoff's American Days and starred with David Hemmings in the BBC's Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
And all the while her recording career developed with equal success. Bird In Flight and Ieya brought her towards a more mainstream audience and by the end of 1980 her album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! proved once and for all to music fans that here was a new force to be reckoned with. She soon became a household image and a top five entry with 1981's It's A Mystery. I Want To Be Free also went top five, and her album, Anthem, made number 2 in the charts. 1981 was a glittering year, topped off with Toyah's New Year's Eve concert being screened live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. 1982 gave us more great albums, such as Brave New World (sic) and The Changeling, plus a double live collection entitled Warrior Rock. This was also the year that the Rock & Pop Awards (now The Brits) voted Toyah their Top Female Artist.
Her dramatic work on stage and screen has continued apace in tandem with her ever-busy recording schedule. In 1987 she starred alongside Wayne Sleep in Cabaret, worked in radio drama for the BBC and even trod the hallowed boards of the National Theatre. Her quest for musical innovation was amply rewarded with critical acclaim for her album Prostitute, and with her husband, the legendary guitarist Robert Fripp, she toured Europe as the 90's dawned with a new band. More movies, more stage works - always of discerning quality - Emile Zola's Therese, for instance, continued to remind Britain what a talented treasure Toyah really is.
Tonight, as you will experience, this stunning woman's energy remains at it's peak. Take some great stagecraft, superb music, and stir in some genuine drama - and Toyah's the name!
Here And Now Tour Program
HERE TO HAVE FUN
Back in the mid-1990s I interviewed Toyah as she changed in her trailer after a gig in Gateshead. It was surreal; a face-to-face with a former pop icon who is semi-naked as you try to ask serious questions.
Toyah does not remember the interview - it's ingrained on my memory - but she does remember the concert, and is looking forward to her return trip to Tyneside tonight.
She forms part of the Here and Now tour at Newcastle's Telewest Arena, alongside the likes of Belinda Carlisle, Howard Jones, ABC, Go West and three of the lads from Spandau Ballet.
"I don't think there's anything sad about it," says a fully-clothed Toyah. "It's a hits tour; each of us is only on stage for a certain amount of time, so we all do the songs we're best known for.
"It's a celebration of that period of time. So I'll be doing It's a Mystery, Thunder in the Mountains, things like that."
But will she be dressed like the wild woman of pop she once was?
"I'm going to go for it, but it's 2002 and fashions have moved on," she says. "I'm working with Tim Tolkien and he's designed some great armour pieces for me to wear. But it's very subtle. I'm not coming on stage dressed as a warrior princess or anything like that."
"I think it's going to be great. We've all grown older together and everyone who's there on the night, be it on stage or in the audience, will be there to enjoy themselves. It'll be a great feeling."
Toyah is as well known these days for her acting and presenting work as for her singing.
"I never really made plans," she says. "You never know what's in front of you. You have a path and you follow it.
"I never really looked beyond the age of 30. So things came with a bit of a jolt, the acting, the TV presenting. But it made it all the more exciting in retrospect.
"I like challenges and diversity. I really do enjoy diversity in my life. I've never had to do anything I find mundane or boring. I only ever pick things I really want to do."
So what next for the singing star? "Right after the tour I'll be working on the musical Calamity Jane, which will also be going on tour.
"It's an absolutely massive musical and I'm busy studying the music. It's going to be terrific. We open in September and it goes right through to April, so no doubt we'll be coming to Newcastle and then into the West End.
"The scary thing for me is that 90 per cent of the show is me."
That is something of a commitment, but while Toyah is happy to tour with a musical, she is not so keen to rekindle her pop career to any great extent beyond Here and Now.
"I'm too old to be spending 12 hours a day travelling and then four hours in the dressing room just to be on stage for an hour. I've outgrown that," she declares.
"But my voice has never been better. I'm not giving up the wonderful life I have now to sit in a dressing room for four hours at a time. I'm in control of my life. I don't want anyone else to be."
Newcastly Evening Chronicle
WARDROBE OF THE WEEK
The singer joins Howard Jones, Belinda Carlisle and other '80s pop stalwarts for this year's Here And Now concert at the SECC on 28 April
Where do you keep your clothes?
Mainly in a suitcase in the back of the car. I have a flat in London but I'm always on the move. Sometimes I'm in three different cities in a day, so I need to carry enough clothes to see me through.
Do you shop alone?
Always. I can't bear shopping with other people. You can make terrible decisions based on someone else's advice.
Where do you buy your underwear?
Victoria's Secrets in the US. I love it and the selection is enormous. I know it's pricey but because it's a specialist shop the cut's better. The thongs, for one, fit better. Being American too, the sizes aren't too small - I really hate tight knickers.
Your most extravagant purchase?
For this tour I'm getting armour made by J.R.R. Tolkien's great-nephew. the little breastplate is costing £1,000. I want to look like a futuristic Boadicea.
You've borrowed a black dress or suit - how do you make it look yours?
I never borrow anyone else's' clothes.
What wouldn't you be seen dead in?
I'd never wear clothes by Chanel. They're made to make women look fat.
Whose style inspires you?
Anna Wintour's. She's the editor of American Vogue and I think she's astonishing - her look, her outlook, her philosophy. And Madonna's.
You never wear it, but you could never throw it out?
That covers just about everything I own. I'm terribly lazy - I've been wearing the same trousers for the last three years.
What are you going to buy this season and what's got to go?
Black, black and even more black. I do wear very bright shirts but black is always on somewhere. I probably won't throw anything out.
Five minutes, five hours - how long does it take you to get ready?
One hour. It's psychological - I don't like to hurry. As you get older you don't need an hour, but it's hard to break the habit of a lifetime.
How would you describe your own style?
A hitchhiker who's just won the pools: very, very tatty - but happily tatty.
High heels or flats?
I always wear Nike trainers. I buy boy's ones - they're half price. I'm so small I can get away with wearing kid's clothes.
Dress for the occasion, conformist or anarchist?
Anarchist. I don't like girly clothes. I feel terribly uncomfortable and vulnerable when I'm looking very girly.
IF MONEY'S NO OBJECT
Crimson coat by Helen David of English Eccentrics, 3700.
NEVER GET TIRED OF
Gloves, £40, Georgina Von Epstof.
FAVOURITE HIGH STREET SHOP
Karen Millen. Gold sparkly top, £10 in the sale.
Helen David of English Eccentrics. Handbag, £200.
The Scotsman Magazine
I LOVE MY ...
...wicked queen statuette
Toyah Willcox, 43, singer and punk icon, may have started her showbiz life as an angry teen but playing a pantomime baddie was the catalyst for her current happiness. She says 'It's behind you!' to the insecurities of youth.
'I was playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White And The Seven Dwarves in Stevenage and walked through the foyer of the theatre and just saw this statue of me. It was made by one of the ushers - he'd done one of each of us in the panto. It was so thrilling to see someone's interpretation of me that I immediately asked if I could have it. I think he's really captured me, and I'm so flattered because it's such a slim figure. I also love it because it's so feminine and I don't see myself as a feminine person. I loathe dresses, high heels, handbags and all that stuff. I'm still a tomboy at heart but, bizarrely, this role really suited me because I had to wear glamorous dresses and look like a million dollars and I'd rather act it than be it. I don't spend much on clothes and I argue with myself that I must be more feminine, but it's a losing battle.
'I don't know where to keep it as my home is not about ornaments, it's more a monument to Tuscany - bright yellow and full of artefacts from my travels. I have very little memorabilia from my work but I think this is a particularly nice piece. This statue brings back very happy memories. I did Snow White a year ago and it was a turning point in my life. I've never been happier since - work has got better, personal life has got better, everything. The whole show for me was a complete upturn and everyone I worked with has remained a really good friend. She's also holding the apple of desire, which symbolises a new beginning.
'There's a lot of irony about this ornament too as the Wicked Queen is an ageing woman, envious of Snow White's beauty and youth. Well for me, I've never been more confident about how I look and how I am in myself. I feel, if anything, my future will be about proving how wonderful every journey of life can be.'
TOURING TOYAH'S A
Toyah Willcox is to be the focus of a new Louis Theroux documentary about the Here And Now national tour which Adam Ant is headlining.
It also features stars like the lovely Belinda Carlisle, Howard Jones, ABC, Bananarama, Heaven 17 and heaps more great 80's acts.
When I spoke to fabulous Toyah the other day she exclusively told me she has taken the lead role in Calamity Jane (originally played by Doris Day) for a West End run and a nationwide tour.
She is also fronting a BBC documentary about life-drawing (that's when you draw people who are in the buff). The former raunchy punkette pop star draws naked blokes and girlies, and she says she particularly enjoys drawing the boy's wobbly bits.
She told me that at her age she hates being photographed at media events because the snappers only want young babes.
My God Toyah, you are only 43. Anyone would think you were 73 the way you're talking.
She was very funny when I told her I had seen her mum and dad on the Esther show spilling all the beans about her love of Alice Cooper and all the posters of him she used to have on her bedroom wall.
She said they rang her after the show had been recorded, saying: "Guess where we've been?"
She was mortified when she saw it on air - and she revealed: "I own mum and dad's house, so I've told them next time they embarrass me on national TV, they are out on the street."
Toyah is great fun and I can't wait to see her as part of the Here And Now tour and on stage in Calamity Jane around September.
You know what, Toyah? Even though they got rid of you, me and the multi talented kate Thornton from VH1 (on Sky and cable), I bet they regret it now - well, maybe in Toyah's case they do.
BACK ON THE ROAD
Toyah Willcox is back on the road and singing old songs but that doesn't make her a has-been.
The pop singer and TV star moved on from her punk days years ago but that won't stop her taking a trip down memory lane
When Toyah Willcox steps on stage she trembles with fear. "I suffer from terrible nerves," says the 43 year old who's been singing, acting and TV presenting for more than two decades but still can't shake the shakes.. "I've learned to accept it. I can't eat, I can't speak. That's the way it's been for the past 20 years and it's much worse when I'm singing."
This prompts the question: "So why do it?" Her answer is equally obvious: "Because I love it and once I'm onstage I'm OK. The nerves turn into some kind of hyper energy."
Toyah will have to control her inner demons when she goes on the road in the spring for the Here And Now Tour 2002, which will see her on the same bill as volatile Eighties pop idol Adam Ant. She wasn't overly worried when he was recently sectioned under the Mental Health Act after being accused of allegedly pulling a gun on pub staff. In fact, she thinks he may have been larking about for the sake of publicity.
"Of course I'm concerned about him," she says with a sly smile, "but Adam is very clever and part of me feels that he's making the most of the exposure he's going to get this year. He's gonna go on that tour as a hero."
Toyah probably knows what she's talking about. She doesn't class Adam Ant as a friend but they've been on first name terms since they appeared together in Derek Jarman's 1978 punk fantasy film Jubilee and, throughout the eighties, their paths frequently crossed at the Top Of The Pops studios. Between them they notched up some of that decade's biggest hits and, providing Ant gets his act together, they'll be revisiting those hits on the eight date tour.
Toyah is surprisingly tiny, at just under 5ft, and remarkably slim but she fills the room with passion about her work, conviction in her opinions and a roof quaking laugh. She's also refreshingly honest. When I ask her if she's appearing on the tour - also with Belinda Carlisle, China Crisis, Howard Jones, ABC and three members of Spandau Ballet - for the money, she rolls her eyes: "I just think it's a fantastic opportunity for me to play arenas," she explains. "Every artist wants to play those kind of venues and I don't think I'll ever get the chance again."
Toyah will sing four or five songs including It's A Mystery and Thunder In The Mountains, drawn from her back catalogue.
It must be frustrating not being able to promote the new material but she is realistic about the nostalgia. "When you sign on for a tour like this you know what's expected, so there's no point being frustrated with it. I still perform new songs in other places. I spent the whole of last year touring."
Some of the acts on the bill will be making a comeback from the obscurity into which they rapidly vanished. When did you last hear of Howard Jones or China Crisis? Toyah's last. albeit minor, rock success was in 1987, when Echo Beach reached No 54 in the charts, but she's never been out of the public eye - acting in everything from panto to Shakespeare, presenting everything from holiday slots to Songs Of Praise, even voicing the intro to Teletubbies. Suggest that her career might have seen better days and she's liable to hit the roof.
"I may be singing old sings but I'm no has-been," she says indignantly. "I'm on telly nearly every day for God's sake. The tour's not about being has-beens. It's about the good humour of what that music means to people. There'll be no one strutting their stuff on that stage believing they're about anything except nostalgia."
Does she expect the show to be taken seriously? "Do you really think we're going along thinking this is some massive relaunch of our careers?" she asks, annoyed.
In any case, she is very happy with where her career is going. "My success now is much more rewarding," she says, "I enjoy it more, I'm more in control and I'm wealthier. The manic fame thing happened to me at the right age and I loved it, but it's not what I want now. You can't live like that for ever and remain sane."
Toyah says she's been incredibly busy. She has more television projects on the boil, is putting the finishing touches to her new album and, after Here And Now, will embark on a seven month tour in a major musical that she is not yet allowed to name. She is even working on a novel about the aftermath of war.
Her defiant self-confidence, coupled with genuine talent, has clearly played a part in her survival. Born in Birmingham in 1958, her childhood dream was always to sing. She learned opera at school from 13 to 17 but always had her eye on the pop charts. "I liked that teenage thing of being a rock star," she recalls. "My idols at the time were David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Roxy Music."
A happy child, rebellion began at the age of nine when she took to stealing gin and getting drunk. She also got into a lot of fights and played truant. Later she was sent to an all girls school and hated it. Conformity was a concept she just couldn't stomach.
"I was being weaned to either go to university or marry a rich man and I just hated that idea," she says. "The idea of travelling or being an artist or sculpting was dismissed and we were made to see ourselves as being mad for not having any desire to lead a conservative life."
Salvation came in the form of the Sex Pistols and punk rock.
"When punk came along I felt as if I'd found my place in the world. Until then I'd felt like a complete alien. I went to see the Sex Pistols in, I think, 1975, by which time I had bright pink hair and was used to people laughing at me in the street. I went along and there were 300 people looking exactly the same. I thought, 'My God, I'm not alone'. It was such a wonderful feeling."
She had her first hit when she was 22 but never embraced the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll side of the business. "Drink and drugs not only affect you creatively, they can cause huge mental problems and I just didn't want to go there. I wasn't prepared to be a victim for the sake of a voyeuristic audience. I was a woman, remember, and you had to have these attitudes otherwise you were just seen as a tart. I wanted a career, not a reputation for being a sleep-around."
So how did she resist temptation? "There was no temptation for me because the blokes were so ugly," she laughs. "This was a time when men wore medallions and all they had on their minds was a one night stand. They were revolting."
Having a stable marriage since the age of 28 has helped. Her husband is guitarist Robert Fripp, of rock band King Crimson, with whom she often works but doesn't share a full-time home.
"He's a remarkable man," she says. "He's kind and non-aggressive, gentle and rather feminine and I like that. Because of our careers we're both financially strong and independent, which means a lot. I could never live out of anyone's pocket. I enjoy my time with him as much as I enjoy our time apart." That's just as well. She has five homes in Britain but he lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and she's been terrified to fly since September 11. They didn't see each other for three months after that, until a gap in his schedule allowed him to fly over.
She talks about being in love but regrets not having played the field when she was younger. "Because I married having very little sexual history it made me very insecure. I married a man with a very famous sexual history and I think that, if I'd had more experience, I wouldn't have been threatened by that. It took me about five years to get over it."
She has no regrets though, about her decision to be sterilised in the mid nineties. "Absolutely no regrets. I've never had any maternal instincts. Just because I'm a woman, why should I want children?"
She gave up drinking two years ago because, despite her tiny frame, she felt she looked too fat on camera. "Working in telly you can't afford not to take care of yourself. There's always someone else who can do your job and, as you get older, the industry is less interested in you because it's so youth-oriented. I don't drink, I don't smoke. I don't even drink tea or coffee and I do an hour's aerobics every day. If you don't look good you're not going to get work."
That's why she's planning to have plastic surgery this year. She points at areas of her face and neck that she wants nipping and tucking.
"It's got to be done because I want to work. I've heard that if you start when you're 43 it lasts longer, so I'm looking into it. You have to look at how your parents have aged and my dad is as lined as anything, so I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go that way. I'd better do something about it soon."
It's not really necessary - Toyah Willcox has survived the decade of excess remarkably unscathed.
I'M VERY AWARE OF
WHAT MY BODY NEEDS
From Princess of Punk to a 21st century Calamity Jane, Toyah Willcox has enjoyed continued success as both an actress and singer, but it has not been without a real understanding of her own physical abilities ...
For Disability View readers of a certain age, she will be forever remembered as the brightly coloured punk figure on Top of the Pops who claimed “It’s a Mystery”. However, in a career that now stretches back over 25 years, Toyah Willcox has amassed a formidable body of work in theatre, film and television; she’s worked with directors including Derek Jarman and Stephen Poliakoff and actors of the stature of Lawrence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn - while still continuing to write, release and perform new music. For the last year, Toyah has starred in a new, large-scale production of Calamity Jane, successfully touring 18 cities around the UK before settling in London’s West End.
Her early life, however, gave no immediate indication of such a career choice. “I was born with a twisted spine and I have pelvic dyslepsia, which means my sockets haven’t developed. When I go on stage, I strap my knees; no one touches or rotates any part of my legs, I am in complete control of all rotation of my limbs, and I wear special shoes that take a lot of the shock away.”
Did she therefore learn to deal with her condition from an early age? “Because my muscles support the joints, my physio was developed around this. I had physio for the first twelve years of my life - every day - and the idea was that I learnt to straighten my own back and support my own joints. As a result, I’m very muscular.”
Because only her feet were “quite unusual”, Toyah never felt different when she was young, and would not consider that her condition affected her day-to-day life. “When you’re born with a disability, you’re whole life is adjusted to it. I wouldn’t run a marathon and I wouldn’t carry heavy weights; that doesn’t affect my day-to-day living as I’ve never done anything like that.” In retrospect, though, she admits her medical treatment was by no means ideal. “I was told very little when I was young; in fact, the information I was given was quite sensationalist. They just said that when I was older they could take my foot off, remove my toes, or shorten my right leg so that it was the same length as my left. Everything I was told I think was quite medieval and barbaric. If anything, it just made me feel incredibly unfeminine.
”When I hit puberty, I remember saying to my mum that I didn’t want to go to hospital any more. I found it demoralising - I didn’t know why at the time, I just knew that every time I went there I felt wretched.”
This was by no means an easy decision for someone from “the kind of background where the doctor’s word was paramount”, but basically from the age of twelve or thirteen, Toyah admits she simply ignored the condition; indeed, when she started out on her music and acting careers she felt her condition: ”made no difference at all. In my twenties, I was quite robust.”
A number of websites listing “Famous Disabled People” have suggested Toyah has arthritis, but she denies this: “I thought, in my twenties, that I was developing arthritis, but I managed to knock it out through diet. I could never understand why on certain days I was finding it hard to move - it turned out it was because my greengrocer got mangos in on a Tuesday, and I was eating mangos. You can eat certain things that form crystals in the joints, so I just don’t eat any of that now. I have a very specialised diet; there’s no wheat, no dairy, very little starch, and I stick to that religiously. I’ve actually taught myself through diet and specific exercise to keep myself incredibly fit. I’m very aware of what my body needs.”
She was 29 when growing pains made her take her health even more seriously. “I tried to find my original orthopedic surgeon, who operated on my toes when I was eleven, but couldn’t find him. I went to Bart’s (Bartholomew’s in London) where there’s a very good child orthopedic surgeon. He was absolutely gob-smacked that I hadn’t had major surgery; so much so, he called all his students in to look at me. He had me parade up and down in my underwear - not knowing that I was well-known, while the students did - and he just said: ‘Look at this woman, look how her brain has altered her body so she can cope.’ It was very, very funny! At the very end, he asked if I would consider leaving Bart’s my skeleton; it was hysterical, one of the funniest moments in my life!”
Considering that she was recently on stage for about 90% of Calamity Jane, Toyah is pleased that - at the age of 45 - she can still be involved in the kind of fast and physical theatre that she loves. "I went on stage and I completely abandoned my body to the trust I had in the rest of the company. I was jumping off stage-coaches, diving off bars; it was about freedom and freedom of movement. If people came to the show hoping to see an interpretation of a Doris Day musical, I’m sure they would have been a bit shocked. What we were doing was very rowdy, but having said that, it’s a really exciting piece of theatre and I think we brought the play and the perception of the play into the new millennium.
OUT TO LUNCH
Famous for her distinctive 80s hits like It's A Mystery, Toyah is now more likely to be found letting her "whip crack away" on the West End stage.
Toyah, 45, recently appeared in the second series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here. She is also the voice that says "bye-bye" to the Teletubbies. Currently appearing in the West End production of Calamity Jane, she live sin Chiswick and is married to Nashville-based guitarist Robert Fripp.
So - how come you and your husband don't live together?
Ours is not a conventional marriage because he lives in Nashville and I live over here. I would prefer it if we lived in the same country, but neither of us are willing to give up our independent lives - it's a bit of a compromise, but after 16 years I'm not sure I could ever give my freedom up. I do miss him a lot when he's not here though - he has a spirituality that has made our life richer.
Don't you worry that you would be tempted to stray?
We talk intimately on the phone five times a day. I don't fear that Robert is unfaithful, because his preferred world is an isolated one anyway. As for me, I am never propositioned because men tend to see me as a battleaxe. But I do hope we will live together full-time when we are older, because I so love waking up with him.
I hear that you are something of a property investor...
My financial philosophy is to buy property, but not to rent it out. I will never be a landlord. I either let my friends live in my houses or I let a family live in them rent-free. Some of them are used for work but I have no intention of selling any of them. They are really my safety net so that I never, ever have to experience hardship again.
What - have you been really hard up in the past?
Yes. My parents struggled financially and when I was at drama school I was so poor that all I could afford to eat was a Mars bar and a cup of tea. It was the generosity of my friends that kept me fed. People like film-director Derek Jarman would say, "Toyah, come round - we're going to give you a meal," and all I could afford was the 27p bus fare to his home. So I really do know what poverty is like and I think it's the most frightening, powerless position to be in. Anyone that profits from other people's poverty - such as landlords - deserve to rot in hell.
So now that you're doing a lot better for yourself, what is your greatest extravagance?
I really like to commission jewellery and art. I even hired a watercolour artist at Reddich House, which was a home I had for 12 years - he was resident artist there for 12 months to paint the seasons. So I think that's quite extravagant, but it is also an investment.
Who was your first ever boss?
It was Maximillian Schell, the German film actor. I was at stage school in Birmingham, when I was called to London for an audition in the National Theatre where he was casting Tales From The Vienna Woods. He was looking at me for a small, but significant role. But I don't think he was ready for what he saw when I walked in. I was 18 with bright pink hair and when he saw me he was horrified and he turned to Gillian Diamond, the Casting Director, and said, "What have you brought me?" Gillian assured him that I was actually worth seeing and, after I was given a chance to prove it, I was chosen for the role.
What was he like to work with - I'll bet it was an experience?
He was a very old-fashioned gentleman - a really gorgeous, beautiful, charismatic, sexually attractive man. I ended up getting on with him very well. I remember when we opened on the Olivier Stage and there was a bomb scare. I was in the middle of my main scene when a man stood up in the audience and said, "I'm terribly sorry but I have to tell you there's a parcel under my seat." Now, as actors, we're told to keep going, but Max suddenly walked on to the stage, took my hand and said, "I have to stop the performance here, I think it's safer that we all leave the theatre now." While the entire audience ran, I just stood there on the stage, with Max holding my hand.
How do you like to relax?
I spend a lot of my leisure time window-shopping in Chiswick High Street - it's a great way of winding down. My work pattern tends to be daytime at the television studio and nights in the theatre, which means the only real break I get is between midnight and four in the morning. If my husband is with me, we find the early hours are a wonderful time to go for a stroll in the area.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into acting?
In my industry, who you know is very important - you should never, ever undermine friendship and loyalty. Make sure you remember everyone you work with - you never know who you will meet again. I remember working with Danny Boyle - the director of Trainspotting - when he had a walk-on part in a play called American Days, starring myself and Phil Daniels. When I saw his name as the director of Trainspotting I couldn't believe he had come so far...
TOYAH LOVES CHISWICK
No longer turning suburbia upside down former punk rocker now praises W4's community spirit
“I’m not one of these actors who’s very good at waiting for the phone to ring,” Toyah tells me in her dressing room at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where she is having a whip–cracking success as Calamity Jane (see picture right), that legendary, gun-toting, whisky-drinking gal of the wild west. “I love to work, so if there are no good scripts offered to me, I’ll just go off and find something else to do.”
This must explain why she has had such a varied career. In the past twenty five years in the business (and she’s still only forty five!), she has headed a punk rock band, been a TV presenter, done voice-overs for children’s programmes (a whole generation of tots know her voice as that calming goodbye in Teletubbies), done Shakespeare at the National Theatre, starred in movies such as Quadrophenia and Jubilee, flown through the air as Peter Pan – and made guest appearances in TV series such as Kavanagh QC, Maigret, Tales of the Unexpected and Doctors. And that’s not to mention the many live concerts and sell-out albums she has done simply as Toyah, singer. Yes, it’s obvious she doesn’t like to wait by the phone.
“I think of myself as an actor, really,” she says. “I mean, I don’t consider myself a singer. I’ve always thought an actor can tackle anything, so that’s the banner I stand under.”
Does she feel she is following in the footsteps of Doris Day, with the coveted role of Calamity? “No, I don’t. This is a completely separate production. It’s a great movie and Doris Day was marvellous in the role, but we are telling the story of the real Calamity Jane, not the Hollywood version. She was born around 1857 and she was a pioneer and a scout for the army. She was often arrested for being drunk and for prostitution – and she was probably the most unattractive woman you could imagine as a romantic heroine. She and Wild Bill Hickock were in quite a wild bunch – they toured together in the circus. He was married, but rumour has it that Calamity had a baby by him. She died quite soon after him, at about age 37. I mean, she was a legend during her own life and very liberated in many ways, when you consider she was touring in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, when women’s lives were so prim and proper. For me, she is far more interesting in reality than the Calamity in the movie. Of course, what we have inherited from the movie are the fantastic songs, a wonderful storyline, some really funny lines – and a feelgood love story, where love overcomes people’s foibles. We are very grateful for that. But our production is less glitzy than the movie.”
Toyah lives in Chiswick but doesn’t feel her roots are there, or anywhere else for that matter. “I feel I’m a touring actress,” she says with a smile. “I get home once a week. At the moment, I happen to be in the West End, so I go home to Chiswick. But I’m out of the country for the whole of next year – and that’s pretty much been the pattern for the past 25 years. I’m very much a suitcase person, and I don’t carry much with me. The same is true of my homes – here in Chiswick and in Worcestershire – they are very low maintenance. I don’t want to be weighed down by possessions.” So, home is inside her own head? She laughs. “Yes, and in the boot of my car.”
Her marriage to Nashville musician Robert Fripp is equally low maintenance, though very committed and happy. “We both share this work ethic,” Toyah explains. “We work in different fields and we often live in different places. We understand each other’s needs and ambitions and our lifestyles seem to suit the marriage – and I think that’s why we’ve remained married for 17 years.” I point out that the press never seem to write about Toyah, married woman. “Well, we’re both so work-oriented, so we don’t do parties. There isn’t that much gossip about us. I think the columnists are remarkably bored with us. No-one shows any interest in our private life at all, which is rather a blessing.” They don’t have any children, nor a marital home – none of the traditional things that supposedly hold marriages together. “I think we’re together because we really want to be. We are bound by a shared knowledge of what we don’t want!”
Perhaps because of this laid-back, non-materialistic lifestyle, some magazines refer to Toyah as a hippie, which intrigues her. “I don’t know how I’ve managed to be a punk and a hippie,” she laughs. “But there are worse things they could call me. Actually, I do love living in Chiswick, because it is filled with the most wonderful people. The community and the spirit of Chiswick prevent me from moving anywhere else, closer to town or whatever. You can sit in a café on the High Road and just watch people go by – I love it to death. I really think a place is the people in it. My neighbours are so good to me – they come and tell me if any strangers have been hanging around, looking suspicious. If an alarm goes off in the street, people do something about it – they don’t just ignore it. I think that’s pretty rare these days.”
TOYAH TRIES THE THREE
DAY FACELIFT DIET
During the diet, alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine are banned and dieters are encourage to exercise and drink eight to ten glasses of water a day. But this is the easy bit for Toyah, who already follows these rules in her daily regime. At 45, she's a health enthusiast with an image far removed from her days as a rebellious punk singer. 'I'm very diet conscious,' she says. 'I don't drink alcohol, tea or coffee. And I don't eat dairy or wheat.'
Although she says she has to watch her weight, Toyah - at 5ft 1in and weighing 8st 2lb - is tiny but athletic. She keeps in good shape with a daily two-hour aerobic workout.
Her busy schedule tested the diet's promise to boost energy levels. 'Like any woman of my age I will, of course, be delighted if the diet can reduce the effects of ageing on my skin,' she says. 'And I always look forward to having more energy. That's something you can't get enough of. But I worry I'll struggle to stick to the diet, simply because looking at the menu there's so much food! I usually eat smaller meals that consist mainly of fruit and vegetables around five times a day.'
After three days the diet certainly seems to have worked, but Toyah has some reservations. 'The breakfast alone is more than I would eat in a main meal. And some days you just don't fancy eating salmon steak first thing in the morning. This feels to me like overeating and, if the diet lasted longer than three days, I'm sure I'd out on weight.'
And her skin? 'Yes, I can notice a difference. My face does feel smoother. As I've got older I've noticed that my skin's drainage and replenishing systems have become less efficient. All that fish has put the oil back in my skin.
'It's been a good time to follow the three-day plan because my schedule has been so hectic and full-on. It gave me a lot of energy, so that was good.
'My beauty therapist has a lot of celebrity clients and she always says that as we age our faces sag and look thinner,' says Toyah. 'Women in showbiz are always trying to find ways to combat that. My face does feel plumped up. And the fine lines have improved.
Over the three days Toyah spent around £40 on the food she prepared, making it an expensive diet. 'But it does work,' she says. 'It would be brilliant or someone who drinks and smokes. I'm looking forward to going back to my normal eating habits, but after trying this diet I'll definitely eat more salmon - every now and then when I feel I need a quick face fix'.
Singer and actress Toyah Willcox would like to take all her retirement savings and put them into property, writes John Marx
Toyah Willcox is perhaps best known for her chart success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with singles such as It’s a Mystery. More recently, she appeared in the second series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
The youngest of three children, Toyah decided she wanted to act at the age of seven. Her first big film role came in Derek Jarman’s 1977 punk movie, Jubilee. Later that year she put together her own punk band. Her pop career brought her chart success and the accolade of the Best Female Singer at the 1982 British Rock and Pop Awards.
She has worked on a variety of TV programmes such as Holiday, Heaven and Earth and Fasten Your Seatbelts. She has spent much of the past year performing in a touring production of Calamity Jane, which is currently in the West End.
Toyah is 45 and lives mainly in Chiswick. She is married to Robert Fripp, a guitarist who lives in Nashville. The couple chose not to have children, preferring to lead “affectionately independent lives” in order to pursue their separate career interests.
How much money do you have in your purse?
About £300. I always have a lot of cash. I think it’s so that I have enough if the opportunity arises to take people out for a meal or drink. But that doesn’t happen very often so when I draw cash from the bank it tends to sit there forever.
Do you have any credit cards?
I have cards from American Express, Barclaycard and Marks & Spencer. I always pay them off straight away — I don’t borrow money from anyone. I don’t even like having mortgages. I really resent giving banks interest when they are making plenty of money out of my wealth in the first place.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I think I’m a saver, but when I spend I do it big time. But I’m careful about what I spend it on. I don’t own any expensive cars, for example. I don’t buy anything that devalues.
How much did you earn last year?
Oh, I’m not telling you that. But my earnings this year are already three times as much as last year because I’m in a West End musical and because of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
Have you ever been really hard up?
Yes, many times. My parents struggled financially throughout my teens. When I was at drama school I was very poor and it was only the generosity of friends that kept me fed.
Derek Jarman would say: “Toyah, come round, we’re going to give you a meal,” and all I could afford was the 27p bus fare to his home. So I do know what poverty is like and I think it’s the most frightening, powerless position to be in.
What is the most lucrative work you have done? Did you use the fee for something special?
I remember some years ago making a documentary of the Pirelli Calendar shoot. It was five days’ work for a huge sum — tens of thousands of pounds. I was flown first class to Florida where there were people catering for us, getting our clothes, driving us round in limos and generally making sure we were happy.
With the money I bought a property to add to my portfolio of investments.
How many homes do you own?
Several. My main financial philosophy is to buy property. I don’t rent it out because I will never be a landlord — and I feel really strongly about that. I either let friends live in a property, as long as they maintain it and pay the expenses, or I allow a family to stay there rent-free.
I use some of my homes for work. I have a place where I paint, for example. I have also bought my parent’s home and I have looked after them financially for the past 15 years. The properties are all quite unusual and very rare, and I have no intention of selling any of them. They are my safety net so I never have to experience hardship again.
I tend to have mortgages for two years and then I pay them off, which allows me to borrow another sum to buy the next property, and so on. I only have the mortgages for tax purposes; my accountant gets cross with me if I buy for cash all the time.
Do you invest in shares?
Yes, I’ve got a few Isas. I look after them myself because my advisers only give me opinions. I judge their performance based on the paperwork I receive.
Do you have a pension, or other retirement plan?
I have 20 pensions and they have all lost 40%. But I want to keep working so I shouldn’t need to use them at all. I’m hoping that when I pass away I will be able to leave a huge lump sum to some charity. I don’t need to take a pension financially, everything’s ticking over really well with the property portfolio.
Do you believe pensions are a good thing?
I’ve been investing in pensions for 20 years and I am so angry about the way their value has diminished.
My financial advisers say I should keep going because in two years they’ll be back on their feet. But that’s not good enough. I could be investing my annual lump sum in property. We have huge arguments about it.
I think the whole problem with pensions and Isas is that financial advisers do better out of them than we do.
What has been your worst investment?
I bought an extraordinary studio apartment in Chelsea in 1986 for £156,000, which was quite expensive for the time. I needed to sell it in 1990 and it went for £142,000.
That’s the only time that I have ever had negative equity on a property.
And your best?
A penthouse in Wapping, which I bought for £199,000 in 1984 and sold for £300,000 in 1986.
Do you manage your own financial affairs?
It took a long time for me to realise that one of my former accountants was not working in my interests — my money had been pilfered. The accountant went to jail over it; I had lost a total of £100,000.
Now I’m my own financial manager and I have been for the past 10 years. I do absolutely everything — I balance my bank accounts, make all my own decisions and even prepare my own Vat.
I have a wonderful bookkeeper whose quarterly bill is the least out of all my professional advisers, but I trust her implicitly.
What aspect of our taxation system would you change?
I get no tax relief for helping my parents. I bought their home and pay for its upkeep. I also take care of their council tax, water rates and medical costs. The more I help my parents, the more they suffer because their benefits are reduced, even though they have only a very small amount of savings. If I hadn’t kept them over the past 15 years they would have been able to claim more benefits. It makes me livid.
What is your financial priority?
Always to have cash available. Even with people like me, cash availability can be quite scary because most of my money is in fixed assets. I make sure I have a bank account with a large amount in it at all times.
Do you have a money weakness?
I don’t fully understand how pensions work and I get very frustrated by it. I don’t know why my financial adviser says “don’t worry” when my pensions, which are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, have diminished in value.
I want to draw the lot out and buy property, but I can’t win the argument because I don’t fully understand how these people think. That’s my biggest weakness.
What is the most extravagant thing you have ever bought?
I like to commission jewellery and art. I even hired a watercolour artist at Reddich House, a home I had for 12 years. He was a resident artist there for 12 months to paint the seasons. I think that’s extravagant, but it was also an investment.
Do you play the lottery? What if you won?
I only play when my instincts tell me, but I have often thought about what I would do if I won.
Near my home in the Midlands, there are a lot of people on lower incomes. I would go to every landlord in the community and give them money so they could let their tenants have the month of December free of rent.
I’ve heard conversations in shops where people are debating which packet of biscuits to buy to get them through the week. It breaks my heart.
The other thing I would do is invest in a project to improve the recycling facilities in the local community.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt about money?
I treat it as though it’s terminally ill. I just don’t think money is safe unless you realise it is like water.
MY FIRST CRASH
My lawyer sends me a fax every week saying: “Drive slower.” He knows I’ve had quite a few car crashes in my life.
One of the worst ones was bizarre. I was doing a concert in Norwich and I came off stage at 11pm. I had to be in Birmingham for 7 o’clock the next morning so I set off about midnight for a four-hour drive in my VW Golf.
I had just bought Kate Bush’s latest CD, The Red Shoes, and I was listening to a song on it called Moments of Pleasure — a very special song about Kate’s mother who had died before she made the album. It’s the most beautiful song in the world.
Some of the roads I was driving while listening to this album were really bendy, but some of them were quite straight Roman roads. As Moments of Pleasure came on, and I was really howling at this song with the tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought I was on a straight road but suddenly this sharp bend came out of nowhere.
I was doing about 75mph and I missed the bend entirely, shot over a ditch (which slowed me down a bit) and ended up in someone’s front garden.
I must have slammed on the brakes when I realised I was leaving the road, but I pranged a tree or two before coming to a sudden stop. Then I just sat there for a minute listening to the song finish.
The local people got up when they heard a crash and came to see if I was all right. The car didn’t come off too badly considering the speed — there was just a big dent down the passenger’s side and dirty great tyre marks in their front garden. I reversed out of the garden, somewhat embarrassed, and was able to drive it home with my tail between my legs.
Pasha, 1 Gloucester Road SW7, Tel: 020 7589 7969.
Tube: Gloucester Road
My favourite place. I eat there weekly, even if I'm on tour. It's homely and has the best vegetarian menu I know, with roasted pumpkins, figs and really exotic puddings.
The Bollo House, 13 Bollo Lane W4, Tel: 020 8994 6037.
Tube: Chiswick Park
My local: a trendy gastropub. They do things like onion or Stilton soup, venison, fish: and chips like quartered potatoes. But I go for the ambience.
Nan King, 332 King Street W6, Tel: 020 8748 7604.
Tube: Ravenscourt Park
More expensive than most Chinese restaurants as it's very media, but you can still sit in all night and they won't kick you out. They do my favourite Chinese dessert, which is red bean pancakes -
normally you can only find them in Chinatown.
Le Shop, 329 King's Road SW3, Tel: 020 7352 3891.
Tube: Sloane Square
A creperie with a cult following, it's cheap and cheerful. The staff are unemployed actors, always trying to sell you their latest idea. But the food is fantastic and crepes range from tuna and mozzarella, to baked beans and sour cream. My favourite is cream cheese and ginger. Yum.
Jasons Restaurant, Bloomfield Road W9, Tel: 020 7286 3428.
Tube: Warwick Avenue
A lovely fish restaurant by the canal offering anything from plaice and cod to shark. It's a bit showbizzy, but as a singer the punters don't recognise you.
On the day we arrive at her west London maisonette, Toyah Willcox is preparing to fly off to Australia for I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! She is reflecting on having to battle her way through jungle life "with more SAS-style action promised this time round" in the company of Wayne Sleep, Danniella Westbrook and other fellow celebrities. Why do it? "It suits my exhibitionist nature," she states, refreshingly.
The little flat gives further evidence of Toyah's exhibitionist nature. Gold discs, awards, album cover artworks and myriad Toyah! signatures cover the walls, while screenprints of her face rest on surfaces and her autobiography is prominently displayed on a shelf. Elsewhere there are crosses, seashells, and books on her heroine, Dora Maar, the lover and muse of Picasso whose own considerable artistic talent was submerged by the ego of her more famous companion.
Toyah is using her time in the Australian outback to take a break from her lead role in a production of Calamity Jane, which comes to the West End soon after she returns. It was between rehearsals of the production that she made an album, Velvet Lined Shell, which is far heavier than what you might expect from a former presenter of The Heaven and Earth Show.
"We're all into heavy music," says Toyah as she brings us tea and Hobnobs. "I love Nick Cave and PJ Harvey - and if anyone's inspired this album, it's her. We were rehearsing Calamity in Northampton from 10 until 6, and then I drove to Birmingham and worked through the night on the album. I'm spurred on by lack of time and needing to be somewhere else, so we recorded the tracks when we were hungry, tired, and wanted to do them as quickly as possible. It reminded me of my early touring days, when you would forget to eat, forget to sleep, spend all your money on alcohol and then do a gig."
The rock'n'roll life goes hand in hand with hanging around for hours in smoky dressing rooms, but these days Toyah has done away with that, and her rock career must be fitted in around other commitments. One of the songs, all of which were written in the London flat, is Mother, a dark, lush mood piece that makes Toyah sound like a slightly menacing sexual predator. "I said to my musical partner, 'My problem is that I'm 44 and I like 20 year-old blokes.' He told me to write about it. But everyone I've played it to thinks it's about paedophilia. The problem is that people expect controversy with me, and they haven't got it really."
Much of Toyah's musical choices are fashioned around having a suitable soundtrack for her regular aerobics workouts, and she finds that Marilyn Manson fits the bill perfectly. "He's a good one for aerobics, and a good one for kicking arse," she says. "We're big friends with a group called Tool who have the same ethic: breaking all the American taboos in a smart way. I think Marilyn Manson has a better take on America than Michael Moore and I don't think he's appreciated for his intellect. There's no range in his voice so I don't know where he can go, but as a performer he's so sexy."
PJ Harvey's last album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, was the biggest guide for Toyah's own record. "She picks the right keys for her voice; she never goes beyond it into someone else's territory and that's very clever," she says. "I know that I'll try anything and that's my downfall, but she knows her territory and she claims it."
Then there is Roxy Music, whose first three albums had a camp sense of humour that was lost in their later recordings. This may well have had something to do with the departure of Brian Eno, a long-time musical collaborator of Toyah's husband, Robert Fripp, and a good friend.
"He's a really nice, kind gentleman who cycles round Notting Hill and whose main creative endeavours only ever go on inside his head," she says of the man who once combined a peacock feather collar, a bald pate and foot-long side tresses to remarkable visual effect. "My own teenage style was modelled on Barbara Hulanicki's Biba look, which was based around smart 1930s chic. Roxy Music crystallised that look and made it high fashion. You felt that they were living the dream."
Toyah is hardly the first pop star to cite Bowie as an influence, but she is unusual in holding up his last album, Heathen, as his best. "It sounds like the last gasp of a dying man, and I mean that in a romantic way," she says. "Bowie has based his life around being youthful, beautiful and sexually attractive. He has understood the transience of that, for the first time, on this album. It is a moment of spiritual recognition and he has done it beautifully."
Bowie asked Fripp to play on Heathen, having worked with him before on his albums Heroes and Scary Monsters. Four years ago, Fripp was working as musician-in-residence at the World Trade Centre and met Bowie there to discuss plans for his proposed album. To Toyah's great disappointment, he never did. "Bowie went to meet up with Robert a few years ago, and then we didn't hear anything apart from getting an email at Christmas," says Toyah. "But I think you can hear Robert's influence on Heathen. It has an organic feel, like the songs were written 12 hours before they were recorded. He's gone back to doing what he does best, and I have a feeling that he won't manage to do it again."
There's not a wrinkle to be seen anywhere on Toyah Willcox's face, and the singer and actress, 45, has worked hard to keep her complexion youthful
Even the experience of being thrown into the Australian rainforest for ITV1's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! wasn't going to play havoc with the high priestess of punk's strict beauty regime. Before she was helicoptered deep into the jungle for the show, we caught up with Toyah - the celebrity heading Woman's Own's search for the real fce of ReviFace, the UK's leading anti-ageing skin supplement - to discover her top beauty survival tips for looking and feeling good in the world.
FACE FACTS 'At my age foundation just cakes on the skin and makes your wrinkles show up more, so Idon't wear any foundation these days. I use a refelctive moisturiser instead.'
SMOKING 'I'm very anti-smoking, and I don't go anywhere where people are allowed to smoke.'
DRINK UP 'I avoid alcohol at all costs. Alcohol is so calorific, and I gave it up when I began trying to deal with my weight.'
SUPPLEMENT YOUR DIET 'I take cod liver oil, vitamin E and chromium supplements to help me stay physically fit. Calcium also protects me against osteoporosis.'
FOOD FOR THOUGHT 'I get ravenously hungry but I never eat after 7pm, and when I want something sweet I chew on sugar-free gum. I also have no caffeine and virtually no meat in my diet. I'm very diet-concious and love drinking fresh carrot juice.'
UP FOR IT 'I do 200 press-ups a day and 600 sit-ups. I love physicality. It only aids your health but it makes you feel much brighter mentally.'
LOOK TO THE FUTURE 'I take ReviFace skincare supplements. My energy levels are at an all-time high since I started taking them. They also help if you strugle with PMT, as I have done in the past.'
HAIR WE GO 'I cut my hair myself and use hot-oil treatments at least once a week to keep it looking good.'
MAKE TIME FOR YURSELF 'If your life is terribly stressful, it's important to take time to chill out for a little while each day.'
FEEL GOOD 'For women especially, life really begins at 40. By that time, we've got all those years' experience, so we should feel good about ourselves.'
IT'S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
Actress and singer Toyah Willcox can't do without her daily chocolate fix. "Normally I'm a really careful eater, and particularly since I've been performing in Calamity Jane , I've had to watch what I eat. I can't eat right before I go onstage and I try to avoid meat and dairy. I've also discovered mangoes make my joints ache and so do too many lemons. Robert and I [husband, Robert Fripp] eat lots of salads and raw food and I take cod liver oil, vitamin E and a supplement called ReviFace for my skin every day. We grow our own tomatoes at our home in the country and I do a sun-dried version in the Aga.
My food diary here reflects the week I spent almost continually in my car driving to London for meetings about I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here . I ate a lot of chocolate, but I am a chocoholic - two bars a day, preferably Cadbury's milk chocolate. My ambition is to sing the Cadbury's Flake jingle.
I'm was very nervous at the prospect of having to eat grubs on I'm a Celebrity , because I didn't think I could do it without retching, and I hate the idea of killing anything, but I like the rice and beans."
Toyah Willcox's new album, Velvet Lined Shell is out now on Vertical Species VSR001. I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, ITV
Breakfast Weetabix, soya milk.
Lunch In car all day, so cheese and pickle sandwich from garage, lots of different Cadbury's chocolate, Quavers, Diet Coke.
Dinner Avocado and prawns, mushroom soup and bread roll, bread and butter pudding.
Breakfast Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch At home, so a healthier regime. Roast chicken without the skin, apple, water.
Tea Houmus, cheese crackers, Cadbury's creme egg, Diet Coke.
Dinner Roast chicken, houmus, chocolate.
Breakfast Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch In the car again, going to London for meetings, so ate Cadbury's chocolate, a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, Diet Coke.
Dinner Salad with egg, beetroot, chicken and Ryvita. Marshmallows and Liquorice Allsorts.
Breakfast Filming all day so kicked off with a mandarin, decaffeinated green tea, Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch Packet of Mini Cheddars, four Black Magic chocolates, three marshmallow biscuits, Time Out biscuit.
Dinner Grapes, vegetable chilli, Cadbury's Creme Egg.
Breakfast Mandarin, grapes, Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch Custard slice, Cheesy Wotsits, yoghurt.
Dinner Salad Niçoise, baked potato, Cadbury's Creme Egg, Caramel Snack-a- Jacks.
Breakfast Grapes, Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch Salad of olives, my sun-dried tomatoes in the Aga, beetroot, sweetcorn, yoghurt and cottage
Dinner Scampi, peas, Diet Coke, Cadbury's Creme Egg.
Breakfast Decaffeinated green tea, Weetabix and soya milk.
Lunch Roast tofu, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, beetroot, two caramel Snack-a-Jacks.
Dinner Salad of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, beetroot, rocket, lamb's lettuce. Large orange, small apple, ice cream and chocolate.
Actress, singer and TV presenter TOYAH WILLCOX, 44, was recently seen in I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! and is the voice that introduces the Teletubbies. She lives with her husband Robert Fripp in Worcester. She tells Yvonne Swann...
What I wish I'd known at 21
'In my 20s, as soon as a big cheque came in, I'd keep spending until that money was gone. Such behaviour fills me with horror today. Now, 40 per cent of my earnings goes to a tax account, 30 per cent is invested, 20 per cent goes into pensions and I live on 10 per cent. I feel much more secure.
'I wish I'd had more boyfriends when I was younger. I didn't live the rock 'n' roll lifestyle at all. I think relationships help you deal with your negative side - I was always very possessive and jealous. I wish I'd learned earlier that relationships are not a form of entrapment.
'No matter how successful you are, life is not worth living if you don't have great friends. I value the art of conversation now in a way I never used to. When I was in my 20s, I was quite narrow-minded. Now, I can't get enough of other people's opinions.
'I'm not as reactionary as I used to be. When I was 21, I was very defensive, and would take things personally. That was because I lacked confidence. Now, I have the ability to ignore things that would previously have wound me up. I have also learned that criticism can be valuable it it is constructive. It allows you to move on and break away from your old self.
'I am still a very contradictory person. I love having a beautiful home and garden, but I hate being stuck there for long. I've learned that I need to travel and I need to perform constantly, and then I can go home for a short while and enjoy it.
'I live very near my parents, and my husband and I see a lot of them. But it's taken a long time to make them understand that, even though we need complete freedom, we still love them.
'I was a yo-yo dieter for years, but I have found that the simplest way to keep fit is to exercise. I've given up alcohol, tea and coffee, I avoide dairy foods, eat fewer carbohydrates and never eat late at night, but best of all is a fast walk, aerobics, or the kind of wild workout I get on stage.
'As you get older you let go of your biggest dreams. I've let go of an awful lot. I always wanted to be a Hollywood film star and sing in stadiums in America. I've done neither. I've learned to be happy with what I've got and to really honour and respect it. And what I've got is fabulous. I have my parents, a wonderful husband and I work. What could be better?'
BRAVE NUDE WORLD!
... or how we persuaded six celebrities to copy Rachel Hunter's body painting pose
TOYAH WILLCOX, 45, is appearing on stage in London in Calamity Jane and was a contestant on I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! She lives in the Midlands with her husband, Robert Fripp, guitarist with King Crimson. Toyah is 5ft 1in, weighs 8st 3lb and is a size 8 to 10.
Obviously, I had my face painted in the Eighties, but I've never had my whole body painted, and I was rather nervous about the experience.
Although I think I'm in pretty good shape for a 45-year-old, I was a bit worried about how my breasts might look. I haven't had any cosmetic surgery on them, but I would like to have breast reduction because I think as you get older, clothes look better if your breasts aren't too huge.
I'm quite careful about my diet. becuse I'm so small, I never eat more than 1,500 calories a day, and I usually don't eat dairy or wheat products, but I do eat plenty of fruit.
I'm doing eight shows a week of Calamity Jane, so I need to keep my energy levels up. I drink about three litres of water a day, eat plenty of carbohydrates, and, usually, a scone before I go onstage.
I lost weight while I was in the jungle for I'm A Celebrity ... and I'm losing weight doing Calamity Jane because it is an inredibly energetic show - I even have to change my costume halfway through because it's so damp with perspiration.
When I'm not performing, I either walk ten miles a day, or do two hours of aerobics or go to the gym.
I've always loved being fit and healthy. I don't drink and take care of my weight. In fact, I weigh exactly the same as I did in the Eighties.
TRUTH BEHIND MY PAP PIX
'I got high as a kite in the jungle'
• In the late 80s my husband, guitarist Robert Fripp, and I made an album together called Kneeling At The Shrine, and this is us promoting it. Ours is not a conventional marriage because he lives in Nashville and I live over here. I would prefer it if we lived in the same country, but neither of us are willing to give up our careers. It's a compromise we make and it gives me a lot of freedom, plus we don't have children. After 16 years I'm not sure I could ever give that freedom up, but I do miss him a lot. He's my best friend.
• Joe McGann and I appeared together in a play called The Live Bed Show, which was about a couple's relationship over a 20-year period. We did the whole show in our pyjamas, and the opening scene was me having an orgasm. One night our director, Bob Carlton, was in a really bad mood, so at the end of my When Harry Met Sally noises, I shouted, 'Oh, Bob Carlton!' He was in a better mood after that.
• Another of my many stage roles, this time as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream in Regent's Park in 1993. I surfed around the stage on a skateboard and grazed my knuckles quite a lot - one night the skateboard shot from under me and flew into the audience. When I made my name as a singer in the 80s I never guessed I'd end up as a TV presenter, but I started acting with the National Theatre when I was 18 and had made seven films before I had my first hit record, so I always knew I'd end up on stage again.
• Here's me, Mari Wilson and Kim Wilde at a charity event back in the mid-80s. I used to bump into Mari a lot because she was so successful back then, but I think this was the first time I'd met Kim. I met her again recently on the Here And Now Tour and got to know her really well. I asked her if I could cover her song View From A Bridge for my new album, and she was cool about that.
• Being part of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! was remarkable. We had to face so many issues in the jungle. There were times we could have had a big gang fight, but we were determined to stick together. I didn't mind the tasks - the harder the better. the worst thing was the starvation. There must have been four days when we were high as kites - on hunger. But I loved it. I enjoyed not bathing, not cleaning, just getting muddy.
• This was at Top Of The Pops in 1981, when I was promoting my song Good Morning Universe. I look back on those days with pride because there were fewer opportunities for women - it was tough - but I still became successful. My image was a rebellion against the ideals of the time. The hair is all mine. It took bloody hours to get it to look like that and even longer to get it back to normal.
• Back in 1986 I appeared as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. What I remember most about the show is the time the orchestra walked out during a dispute, and we performed without a band. We sang along while people hummed and clicked their fingers. As you can see, the dancing girls on either side of me are about a foot taller. Perhaps I should have done what Kylie and Madonna do and found some shorter dancers.
• This was at a signing for my autobiography, Living Out Loud, a couple of years ago. The publishers originally asked me to write about my spiritual beliefs, but I declined. I'd hoped to follow it with a novel about terrorism, but after September 11th I didn't want to look like I was cashing in.
• MY FAVOURITE PAP PHOTO: I met Diana at the Woman Of The Year Awards in 1987. She sat next to me at lunch and we were talking about her children. It was just before the news started to emerge about trouble in her marriage. In retrospect it was fascinating, because she told me all she cared about in the world was the future of William and Harry and that they'd be happy, so she must have known she'd be in danger of being parted from them. This is my favourite photograph because I am passionate about her. I don't want her to be wiped out of history.
M Celebs magazine
MY LIFE AS A MOVIE
Actress, singer and I'm A Celebrity star Toyah imagines ET battling Ken Livingstone in a fictitious movie about her life.
POSTER TAGLINE: Don't bat an oddball.
GENRE: Film noir.
RATING: X certificate - it is exceptionally violent.
WHAT'S THE STORY? It's about an oddball who never fits in. She goes on a journey to find out why she is never accepted for who she is. It's about hidden prejudices, bullying and why people judge others because they are overweight or have a speech impediment.
HOW TRUE TO LIFE IS IT? I experience it all the time. I'm judged because I have a lisp, because I'm short and now because I'm middle aged.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU? ET, because he never fits in and he is the perfect oddball.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOUR LOVE INTEREST? Keanu Reeves. He would be handcuffed to the telephone in a phone box. ET wants to call the whole time and he meets Keanu there.
WHO PLAYS THE BADDY? Ken Livingstone (left) is the baddy as he has single- handedly stopped tourism into London. I work in the West End and I have never seen it so badly affected by his policies. I think it's shameful.
WHAT'S THE BIG SCENE? All elitist snobs from the worlds of politics and media are put on a bonfire and burned with ET laughing and phoning home with Keanu.
HAS IT GOT A HAPPY ENDING? Yes. Snobbery is dead and ET marries Keanu Reeves and has ton of babies.
Toyah Willcox is currently starring in Calamity Jane at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London.
NOW, I'M A CALAMITY
After her jungle ordeal in the wilds of Australia for I'm A Celebrity, Toyah Willcox brings her touring production of Calamity Jane to the Wild West End. Interview by Nick Curtis.
Nobody could accuse Toyah Willcox of vanity. We last saw the 4ft 11in actress and former punk singer covered in jungle muck on ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! From tonight she'll be dirtying up her face and pulling on cowboy clobber to play the title role in the Wild West musical Calamity Jane at the Shaftesbury Theatre. For the moment, proffering tea and Jaffa Cakes in the living room of her Chiswick pied-a-terre, Willcox has scraped her face clean of make-up, tied her hair in a long blonde plait and looks, well, she looks her age, and all the better for it.
'I'm 45, so if I don't play this part now I'll never play it,' she explains, adding that her portrayal will be nothing like Doris Day's prettified movie version. 'I've always loved that film, but they were constrained by Fifties' attitudes to women. We're looking more closely at the pioneer spirit of the real Calamity Jane, who wore men's clothes and scouted for the army in the Indian wars and probably supported herself through prostitution,' Willcox laughs. 'We won't be referring to that on stage, of course, but I'm slightly embarrassed to be playing her as a virgin at this age.'
She's actually been playing Calamity Jane on tour for the best part of a year ('the equivalent of running a marathon every night'), always hoping to bring the show into the West End. The fact that it's going into the Shaftesbury seems like kismet, since Willcox played there in her punk days 20 years ago. 'The building had been closed for ages,' she smiles. 'The audience were all wearing their coats and you could see their breath steaming in the cold. It was a pretty miserable night.'
Before returning to the Shaftesbury she did have a month off from Calamity Jane to appear in I'm A Celebrity. 'I did that show to up my profile, to prove my mental and physical fitness, and to make money for a small charity I support that was about to fold,' she says bluntly. 'I didn't realise, quite naively, that it was geared towards psychological rather than physical stress. The boredom and hunger were unbelievable and there were times, of course, when people irritated you. But I was determined not to flip or to fight with anyone.' Which is probably why she was voted off. She had no idea how big the show had been over here until she stepped off the plane with John Fashanu at Heathrow and the entire reception hall started applauding.
It may seem weird, after all that jungle humiliation, that Willcox claims that 'dignity is all-important' to her, but she means it. She hasn't dusted off her old punk anthems in front of an audience for 10 years and, even though a minor label expresses interest in signing her on the strength of a recent EP, Velvet Lined Shell, she considers music a part of her youth. 'There's something gross about a middle-aged woman pretending to be what she's not,' she says. 'I very badly wanted to sing when I was younger, but I can do more at this age as an actress and a writer than as a singer.'
The youngest of three children, Willcox decided she wanted to act at the age of seven. It was an odd choice. She was hampered by a childhood bone deficiency, dyslexia and a lisp, and the fact that she looked, in her words, 'unusual' with her diminutive stature and her dyed hair. Her father, the wealthy owner of a Birmingham joinery business and her Spanish mother, a former dancer who picked her daughter's unusual name out of a book, were not keen. This led to legendary adoloscent rows and stories of Willcox running off to hang out with Hells' Angels and study Satanism at the age of 14. Still, she won a place at drama school, and at the age of 18 had a stint at the National Theatre and a role in Derek Jarman's punk film Jubilee under her belt. She's rarely stopped working since.
Despite tales of youthful strops and a Bacardi-and-pills period in her Punk days, Willcox says she's always been rather straight and square. 'I am driven, and work has always been the most important thing to me.' Her press cuttings reveal a long list of things she's given up, from cigarettes to booze (well, almost), to wheat, dairy products and meat (well, almost). When not performing she exercises for two hours a day, and prides herself on still being able to perform aerobics - the legacy of her role as wrestler Trafford Tanzi. What drives her? 'Terror of failure,' she almost shouts. 'I failed at school and I failed at drama school, I didn't have any idea of stage technique until about 10 years ago. It was only my unusualness that got me work.'
Her home life, if not exactly conventional, is settled. Even on tour, she was never promiscuous ('in the Eighties, no one was'), and after a couple of sizeable relationships she married musician Robert Fripp in 1986. They chose not to have children and live affectionately independent lives. 'It's a very romantic existence because we have very little to do with domesticity,' she says. 'We're rarely at home and tend to meet up abroad, so it always feels like a holiday. We see each other out of choice, rather than duty.' Home, when they're there, is on a secluded stretch of land outside Birmingham, which includes a cottage conected to the main house by a river, where her parents now live. 'It's really nice,' she says. 'We're a family again and I love that. When I was in the jungle, my dad would sail up to our house and watch me all day on ITV2.'
London Evening Standard
TOYAH ON HER TRAUMATIC
UNUSUAL LOVE LIFE
I only see my husband a few weeks a year. But bizarrely, my marriage was saved by I'm A Celebrity
Toyah Willcox might not have won the recent series of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! but she gained a far greater prize. She was able to spend a whole week with her husband, Robert Fripp, once she was voted out of the jungle.
That might not sound like anything special but, for a couple who have what can only be described as an unconventional marriage, it was a welcome rarity.
Since Robert (lead guitarist with the rock band King Crimson) and Toyah married nearly 17 years ago, they have led virtually separate lives. He lives and works in America, while she has pursued a career as an actress, singer and TV presenter in England. They snatch odd days together whenever possible, and speak every day on the phone. But on average they spend only 12 weeks of the year with each other. The reason for this strange state of affairs, says Toyah, is that each is a workaholic, fiercely independent and stubborn.
Although their marriage has survived these separations, the cracks occasionally show - such as the time when they didn't see each other for six months because of Robert's work commitments. 'That was the worst period of my life,' says Toyah. 'I was incredibly unhappy. I was angry and I made sure he knew it. I told him that if things didn't change, our marriage would be in trouble.'
So when she announced she was off to a remote part of the Australian outback for I'm A Celebrity, she insisted that he flew over to be there for her when she returned to 'civilisation'. 'I honestly didn't think he would come, but I told him that he had to be there for me - and he was. I might not have won the competition, but it did wonders for my marriage. We had a whole week together, and it was a wonderful time.'
When she initially went on the show, Toyah was a hot favourite to win, along with the ultimate victor, Phil Tufnell. As it turned out, she spent 12 nights in the jungle before becoming the fourth celebrity to be voted out by viewers. 'I was so relieved. I don't think I could have taken another three days in there,' she says. 'I was an emotional wreck because I hadn't been able to communicate with Robert for 12 days. It was horrible.'
Surprisingly, considering how outspoken and vivacious she is in person, Toyah allowed herself to be overshadowed by the other female contestants, TV presenter Linda Barker and model Catalina. 'The fact is that, at 45, I was very much the older woman - so the potential for flirting and being seen as a sexually interesting person wasn't there,' she says. 'I just felt that none of the men were at all interested in me.
'But I'm used to being overlooked. In my 30s, I was two stone overweight and felt totally invisible. It is a fact of life that men do not look at overweight women. So I've learned to cope with unflattering situations, and I think I exercised that to the full when I was in the jungle.'
She originally went on the show in a bid to increase her profile, and to raise funds for the charity Inspire, which helps people with spinal paralysis. She achieved both aims, generating £70,000 for the charity. 'The friendliness and warmth I've experienced since then has been extraordinary,' she says. 'And what it's done for me professionally is that when I open in London's West End in Calamity Jane, every casting director and producer is going to be in to see the show in the first two weeks.'
Toyah began preparations for the lead role in Calamity Jane two years ago, by letting her blonde hair grow down to her waist. As a result of the physical demands of the part, she has also developed a highly muscular body - which she is not entirely comfortable with.
'I'm far too big for my liking,' she says. 'I don't feel very feminine. I'm top-heavy and my legs are disgusting. With my blonde hair I think I look like La Cicciolina - that Italian porn star who became an MP.'
In truth, she looks toned, sculpted and supremely healthy, but she admits she has achieved this with some cosmetic help. 'For the past year I've had Botox injections every three months under my eyes. I've also had the lines around my lips filled in.
'Now I want to have a breast reduction. I'm only 5ft 1ins tall and I don't think I suit having a big chest. As I'm getting older, I would like to be flatter and more petite. It's pure vanity.'
Such insecurities about her looks hark back to her childhood. She was born with a twisted spine, clawed feet and no hip sockets, and her mother had to give her physiotherapy twice a day for the first 11 years of her life. 'My main disability is on my right side. I have this strange form of paralysis that means I can't always control my right arm and right leg. By the time I was 11, I had to have an operation to halt the growth of my right foot. It was adult-sized and my toes were like fingers.'
At school she had to wear a raised shoe, and today she still walks with a slight limp. the only time it really bothered her was when she began dating. 'My disability definitely contributed to my shyness. Men can be very hurtful. They would tell me I was too muscular or not graceful enough.
'In my teens, my hormones were raging but I didn't want ot be intimate with a man because I didn't want him to see my feet. I couldn't run around a beach or the house with my bare feet.
'Consequently I was a very late developer, sexually I was a virgin until I was into my 20s. Ironically one of the things that Robert loves most about me is my disability. His father had polio and has a similar gait to mine, which was one of the things that first attracted him to me.'
Growing up with a disability certainly contributed to Toyah's rebellious nature as a teenager. She would hang out with Hell's Angels and study satanism to annoy her parents; eventually she found a natural home in the world of punk. As a singer in the Eighties she had major hits with such songs as It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free, and also starred in Derek Jarman's films Jubilee and The Tempest.
Now, with her punk days well behind her, she concentrates on her career as an actress. After a difficult few years, she says, her 40s have proved to be the best time of her life. 'My 40s have been absolutely brilliant, but my 30s were awful I was in some kind of strange hormonal hell. I think I was going through a period of pre-menopause, and my body shape started changing. I was so much heavier than I am now, and I felt lethargic all the time.
'It was a decade of desire and non-achievement. I knew what I wanted but I couldn't quite obtain it. Then I hit 40, and suddenly I was getting what I wanted. So I created what I call a menopause diet. Now, I eat linseeds and sunflower seeds and lots of organic fruit and vegetables. I don't eat dairy or wheat products, and I've given up alcohol. As a result I've never felt better.'
In fact, she is becoming so self-confident that she recently stripped off for a stunning photo shoot in the Daily Mail, her modesty protected only by a map of the world painted on her body.
She is also due to pose naked for Good Housekeeping magazine, and hopes to become its first nude cover star.
Having sorted herself out physically, Toyah now plans to work on herself emotionally. She is determined to spend more time with her husband, and with that in mind the couple have bought a home near Stratford-Upon-Avon. They are also planning to buy an apartment in New York, as well as a holiday home in southern Spain.
'We are both still as obstinate as each other, but we are thinking of settling down with each other more. The past ten years have been about career-building for me, and now I want it to be about life-building and re-discovering my fun side.
'I have worked every day for the past 25 years, and it's about time I let my hair down and partied a bit more. I've almost forgotten how to do that.'
WHAT DOES LIFE TELL
US ABOUT LOVE?
Singer, actress and TV presenter Toyah Willcox, 45, has been married to King Crimson musician Robert Fripp, 56, since 1986. She lives in London and Worcester, where Robert, who is based in Nashville, joins her as often as he can.
My relationship with my parents before I was ten was idyllic. I would snuggle into bed with them on a Saturday with my Look and Learn magazine. I was a sickly child and would call for my father in the night, as he never panicked. It was a tactile relationship and he gave me great physical security. I was born with a crooked spine and it was my mother who gave me physiotherapy. She was terrified that my life would not be normal. When I was in hospital, I used to wonder why she was frightened. I didn’t fit in with her idea of femininity. I dismembered my dolls and asked for guns and axes.
When I was 12, I didn’t see my mother for two months after she nearly died of a bladder complaint. By the time she returned I was feral, coming and going until the early hours. Life became hellish because my father’s joinery business went under. My older brother and sister had left home and all you could sense was tension. I was aggressive and my father did not want anything to do with me and pulled away.
In my teens I rejected everyone. I feared that if I had a boyfriend, I would never have a career. I was a virgin until my 20th birthday when friends arranged for me to sleep with a man I was in love with. That was a fantastic initiation, but almost immediately I met Jem, a roadie. We lived together for two years and my parents adored him because he had a calming influence. He was my soulmate but I behaved appallingly. I had just become a star and everything revolved around me. If I’d had my head screwed on I would have married him, but he was only my second partner and I became sexually inquisitive.
Tom worked for me as a security man. Where Jem was calm and centred, Tom was young and virile. It was just lust. Our relationship was a huge mistake that lasted for five years because I became famous and needed the protective wall he put around me. The balance of power in the relationship changed. He wanted me to settle down and have a family but I wanted to evolve. I couldn’t just walk out. I bought a penthouse, secretly moved things out, then went abroad as I was frightened of his reaction.
When I met Robert, I thought he was a nice man but he had designs on me. He asked me to work with him and proposed before we had even begun a physical relationship, but I needed to get to know him first. He had 20 girlfriends on the go and I couldn’t understand casual sex. I need to be in love, which is a bit of a disability. I am possessive even in my friendships. He explained that he wasn’t married to them, so there was no need for monogamy. He thinks I am incredibly prudish. Everything I have learnt about sex has been from him. Now we chase each other around the garden naked and the neighbours have built their wall higher.
This love has been a deep journey. He has a spirituality which has made our life richer. Our intimacy has never flagged because we spend so long apart. I have never been to Nashville, as I would feel like a spare part. I have my career, friends and an active social life. I don’t fear that Robert is unfaithful, because his preferred world is an isolated one. I am never propositioned. Men see me as a battleaxe.
Robert and I talk on the phone five times a day, deeply and intimately. I hope we will live together full-time when we are older, as I so love waking up with him even though he follows me round the house like a puppy.
I am the stronger financially, and I depend on him only for his friendship. I was sterilised as we didn’t want children. I am phobic about giving birth. At seven, I was in the car with my mother when she went into labour. Blood seeped over me and she lost the baby, Fleur.
My parents continue to bicker but can’t live without each other. Robert talks to them as often as I do. They have erased the storms and say I was a delightful child.
Relationships are about give and take, living in the moment, listening and adoring each other’s qualities. Robert is going into the next stage of his life. He is getting hairy and grey, and his bones ache, and I love him for it. He might be a bit creaky in the morning but he makes my knees go weak.
Claire Allfree meets 1980s punk star turned star of the West End stage, Toyah Willcox.
Toyah Willcox's West London house is painted bright yellow inside. The walls are littered with the kind of sun-shaped mirrors and moon mobiles you find in Camden market. She apologises for it being a bit of a mess (it is spotless): she's been away on tour for months and only got back two days ago. 'I couldn't rent it out, no,' she says, in response to my query. 'I believe in karma. I couldn't possibly take any money off anybody.'
Willcox has a reputation for being difficult ('Don't mention I'm A Celebrity; start with a question about Derek Jarman,' warns her publicist in advance) but in this instance it's unfounded. Tiny, with long thick blond hair cut in a heavy fringe, she is attentive and slightly anxious, keen to answer the question as correctly as she can. Of which there are many. Not least: what on earth are you doing playing Calamity Jane in the West End? But more of that later.
At 45, Toyah Willcox is showing no signs of slowing down. The former child punk revel with flaming orange hair is arguably the only pop icon of her generation who hasn't stopped working since the age of 17. More than that, her career is a curious patchwork of experimental theatre and film, cult movie Quadrophenia, TV work with Katharine Hepburn, film work with Laurence Olivier, punk rock, panto and presenting lifestyle TV shows.
'When I had my first hit single (the EP Four From Toyah, in 1981), I'd already established a respectable acting career,' she says. 'But the pop thing eclipsed that, and, well, people forget.'
Not Toyah. She had aways wanted to be an actress since watching Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, aged seven. 'It wasn't anything to do with wanting to be a great stage actress; I just loved the idea of being loved and liked,' she says. Yet when she was growing up she went out of her way to be outrageous. 'I was like Marilyn Manson in Hicksville,' she says. 'A naive grotesque.'
It was precisely this paradox that attracted the late Derek Jarman, with whom Willcox made two experimental films, Jubilee and The Tempest at the end of the 1970s.
Back then Willcox had no idea it was Jarman who would end up providing her with the avant-art credentials she now holds so dear. 'I was so arrogant. I was a cult heroine in London. Everyone wanted me,' she says gaily. 'With Jarman I was like, whatever. But I miss him terribly.'
Willcox is, however, better known for the people she has worked with than for the parts she played herself. There doesn't seem to have been any discernible career plan beyond a drive to keep working. 'I have no snobbery,' she says.
'I'll happily do panto - people who work in panto are true artists. I'm desperate to work in a soap opera. I've been pestering Eastenders people for years. I hate elitism.'
Hence, then, I'm A Celebrity. 'I wanted to go on it as soon as I saw the first series,' she says excitedly. 'I love the idea of being physically challenged. But I also wanted to go on it to meet Danniella Westbrook. That woman is an icon.'
It's an odd reason to spend two weeks starvng in the jungle, but then Willcox is full of surprises. She simply loves performing and challenging herself. 'I want to keep achieveing thngs that are unusual for women of my age, and Calamity Jane is unusual,' she says. 'I don't think I will ever stop working.'
WHIP - CRACK - AWAY!
She survived the 'Celebrity' jungle. Now she's braving the (Wild) West End in the musical 'Calamity Jane'. Toyah Willcox talks to Anna Bailey
'Toyah', according to Native Americans, means "water giver of life", a name Ms Willcox certainly lives up to! She's currently celebrating 25 years in a successful showbiz career and enjoying a revival. In the past two months alone there's been ITV's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, a new album and now the musical Calamity Jane, currently previewing at the Shaftesbury Theatre. So what keeps her going?
"Well, I'm always looking for that 'ideal' job and I'm definitely a workaholic. When I was younger I wanted fame at any cost. But now I want to be really good at what I do and for something people will remember."
Since coming out of the jungle, the work offers have been flooding in: quiz shows, rock tours and pop albums. But it's creative freedom that she wants, hence her attraction to acting. "I'm a middle-aged woman. I don't want to pose in limos or wear Gucci. I love being able to walk down the street and to observe real people. And I think acting is the only career that can allow me that lifestyle."
Toyah is no stranger to the theatre. By the time she had shot to punk stardom in the early '80s, she had already worked at the National and had four films to her credit, including Derek Jarman's Jubilee and The Corn Is Green, with the legendary Katharine Hepburn. So did music get in the way of an otherwise healthy acting career? "Yes, completely! I might have been in Hollywood by now. But I have no regrets."
And why should she? She's got the lead role in Calamity, which has just played to sell-out audiences around the UK. Yet her achievement hasn't all been easy. Physically, "it's a real killer," admits the 45-year-old, who's worked with a stunt advisor to the Bond films in order to crack the bullwhip technique and perform all the high-energy acrobatics. "If I was five years older I just wouldn't have been able to do it!"
One challenge Toyah doesn't have to live up to is the 1950's Doris Day original, because this version has been adapted for a modern audience. It's got more action and more punch. And Calamity the cowgirl? "Well, she's a stronger and independent woman," explains Willcox, who has an inclination for playing tough ladies.
She also loves all the famous musical numbers in the show: 'Windy City', 'Black Hills Of Dakota' and 'Secret Love', her personal favourite. However, she doesn't regard heself as a traditonal West End singer. "I'm very much singing like Patsy Cline would, so it's more country and western. There are no bellowing vocal notes because I'm simply not made that way. And at the end of the day, the style of the musical is about bravado and spontaneity - and that's why it suits me."
So has she met Doris Day yet? "No, but I'm working on it." Toyah has just written the sleeve notes on Day's new album, to be re-released for the Hollywood stars 80th birthday, and further, would like to make a documentary on all the actresses who've played Calamity, including Barbara Windsor.
But for now her focus is on the musical and then, hopefully, a regular acting job on a soap like Eastenders. So, can we expect to see her replacing Babs in the Queen Vic? "No, I'd much rather be on the streets playing an evil old prostitute. But every time I beg them to write the role for me they just keep putting the phone down!"
What's On In london
WHY BEING ON BIG BROTHER
WOULD BE A REAL CALAMITY
Toyah Willcox on her reality TV experience, and who her fantasy jungle mates would have been
Toyah Willcox curls up on her sofa, cups a large mug of herbal tea in her hands and for a minute or two looks relaxed. Then the phone rings. A few minutes later it rings again. And again. And again. Lifes been like this for Toyah ever since she appeared in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The instant they landed back on home soil, many of the celebrities were whisked away for five-star treatment after enduring the dirt and deprivation of the jungle. For Toyah, it was business as usual.
She is playing the title role in the musical Calamity Jane, which opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End on 12 June. And she's been so busy with the thigh-slapping, rip-roaring show she hasn't had time to pamper herself. 'But I've been eating like a pig,' she grins. 'I think I've been panic eating because I don't want to feel hungry, but I've lost weight since I got back through being so active on stage.
'The biggest irony is that, while we were rehearsing in the dance studio, I discoverd Wayne Sleep was downstairs choreographing Carousel. I thought to myself, "Bloody hell, can't we get away from each other?"'
As someone who admits to detesting dirt and bathing four times a day, Toyah seemed an unlikely volunteer for the jungle adventure of I'm A Celebrity. But she was determined to do it because she's a huge fan of reality TV. 'I love all that stuff,' she says with wide-eyed enthusiasm. 'They're what cookery shows were in the 1990s - they're the new rock 'n' roll.'
But being a media lab rat proved harder than Toyah ever imagined. 'We were very disorientated, very hungry and had very low energy. I didn't like being filmed in that state. 'It was weird to be so closely observed, and it felt as if we were under a bell jar. The crew listened to every word we said, yet we had no idea what they were showing and what kind of programme they were making. I desperately wanted to keep my dignity, but they even filmed us going to the loo.'
Toyah, 45, has watched only brief snippets of her time in the jungle, and didn't like what she saw. 'It shocked me how wretched I looked,' she says. 'I felt I'd aged through the experience, so as soon as I got back I took loads of vitamins. But I've no regrets. If it had been warmer in the jungle, I'd have done the streak, which I'd promised the producers. That would have been hysterical,' she grins.
Toyah has always been different. She was born with curvature of the spine and an incomplete hip socket, so one leg is two inches shorter than the other, and she's a petite 5ft 1in. She studied drama at the Old Rep Drama School in her native Birmingham and won critical acclaim as an actress in the cult hit Quadrophenia, and in The Corn Is Green, alongside Tinseltown legend Katharine Hepburn. Her biggest fame, though, came as a singer in the 1980s, when ahe was as well known for her shocking rainbow-coloured hairstyles as she was for her hit singles. But the former punk princess has also provided the soothing voice-over on Teletubbies and presented Songs Of Praise. Even her West London home is unusual, with its feng shui layout, Buddhas, gold discs and album covers hanging on the warm yellow walls.
The best word to describe Toyah is unconventional. Take her 17-year marriage to musician Robert Fripp, 58, for instance. He spends most of his time in America, while she lives in the UK. They have seperate bank accounts and, even when they're both in Britain, they live in seperate houses. 'We didn't plan it this way,' explains Toyah, blushing and giggling at the mere mention of her husband. 'He's quite nomadic and is always on the move. And I want my career - and my career is here. It suits me now, but it didn't in the beginning because I missed him a lot. When you marry someone, you want to be with them. But now my work is very focused and I can fit a lot of things in during the day because I don't have to get home to my husband. I can go anywhere, any time without having to check with someone that it's OK. And I'm not coming home and cooking - I don't enjoy that kind of environment.
'Instead, we have this romantic lifestyle where we meet in lovely places like Australia, Paris or America. We don't deal with any of the drudgery like builders or bills. And that makes our time together really rewarding. But I'd like to live together eventually.'
Toyah's attitude towards having children might raise a few eyebrows, too. After suffering two miscarriages in her twenties, Toyah was so certain she didn't want children she opted for sterilisation at the age of 27. 'It was definitely the right decision,' she insists. 'Very, very rarely I've wondered whether I could adopt, but I'm just so ill-prepared to share my life with anyone. I think that, unless you've got a real, screaming maternal instinct, you shouldn't have children.'
So, with the nation gripped by the child-like antics of that other hugely popular reality TVshow, Big Brother, Toyah will watch with insider knowledge. 'I've always thought Big Brother was difficult,' she says. 'I don't think I'd like being confined for so long with so many people. But I do have more respect and empathy for the contestants now.'
Toyah's fantasy bush mates
Forget Phil and Fash - given the choice, these are the celebrities Toyah would choose to rumble in the jungle with...
David Bowie - 'I wouldn't mind being stuck in the jungle if he was there. I'm very passionate about art, and he's big on it, too.'
Brad Pitt - 'Ahhh, now he'd be there purely for sex. I'm sure he'd be very good at chopping down trees and making fires, but that's not his real appeal.'
Ewan McGregor - 'Because of the accent, because he can sing and because he could save me in times of trouble. And he looks as if he'd be good at removing spiders.'
Esther Rantzen - 'She wouldn't compete with me for the attention of David, Brad and Ewan, and I'm sure she could keep them all in check.'
Dame Edna Everage - 'She could keep us laughing in times of low morale, and wash my underwear.'
Liam and Noel Gallagher - 'They'd fight all the time, and that keeps the adrenalin up.'
The Beverley Sisters - 'They'd upset Dame Edna. They sing all the time, so they could entertain us.'
Singer Patti Smith - 'She's off the wall and speaks her mind, so she'd be sure to wind everyone up.'
Dame Judi Dench - 'I'm a huge fan, and I would hope some of her talent would rub off on me. I'd enjoy grovelling around her.'
TOYAH TALKS ABOUT SURVIVING
'I'M A CELEBRITY' ...
AND HER UNCONVENTIONAL
Toyah's kitchen is a hive of activity as she buzzes around like a small whirlwind. She makes tea, chats with her father who has popped in for a visit, and tries to round up her husband Robert Fripp, who keeps disappearing into the depths of their large Georgian house. On the sideboard are several notes with "to do" lists written in her neat hand.
It is a pace at which the 45-year-old actress, TV presenter and singer seems to thrive. having only just recovered from her stint in the Australian jungle with I'm A Celebrity ... Get me Out Of Here!, she is about to take the show in which she is currently starring, Calamity Jane, to the West End. She has also just released a new album, Velvet Lined Shell, and is still settling into the home - suitcases remain unpacked upstairs - to which they moved a year ago.
At the same time, she is enjoying some quality time with Robert, the 57-year-old guitarist and co-founder of the seminal rock band King Crimson.
Theirs is a strange love story, and one of the most enduring and unconventional relationships in showbusiness. Robert proposed to Toyah a week after they met at the height of her pop-star success in 1985, and they married a year later.
"We didn't know each other terribly well - we used to joke it was an arranged marriage but we'd arranged it ourselves," he says. But they have spent most of the past 17 years apart. Robert is based in Nashville with his band, where he also runs a guitar school, and Toyah has stayed in England. She claims the most they've ever spent together in a year is 12 weeks, while he observes wryly: "It depends on the year you're looking at."
Both are driven by their careers and appear to cope with their separation. "While the work is there we have to take the opportunity," she says. This year, they'll probably only spend eight weeks together.
"There is an ongoing sense of grief to which there is no answer," explains Robert, while Toyah insists that "It's taken a long time, but I think I've made it work for me."
Despite the distance, they are comfortably affectionate with each other. She calls him "pud", he calls her "little luvvie". And although they may be opposites - he is quiet and reserved, she is bright and jovial - it's a contrast that works.
One sacrifice Robert has been prepared to make was to move from Dorset, where they have been based in the past, to Worcestershire, near where Toyah grew up. Set on the high street of a small town on the River Avon, which runs at the bottom of their manicured garden, the six-bedroom, 18th-century house has an individual style defined by the eclectic art they have collected over the years. It's a house where Toyah says she finally feels at home.
"As soon as I saw it I burst into tears as I'd never before walked into a house and realised I just had to live there," she says. Her parents live nearby - her father often pops by on his boat - and it's within easy commuting distance of London, where she will be spending most of her time over the next few months.
Taking a break from the photo shoot, we talk in the garden as two ducks take a dip in the fountain nearby.
Toyah, what made you decide to take part in I'm A Celebrity ...?
"I loved the first series - I thought it was the best telly I'd ever seen - and I wanted the physical challenges. What I didn't know was that they were going to make it psychologically harder, which caught me by surprise. We weren't allowed to do anything - we couldn't go for walks, explore or forage - so the boredom was extraordinary. But I've got absolutely no regrets - I feel very positive about the experience."
There were a lot of strong personalities in the jungle. Were you able to be yourself?
"I compromised a hell of a lot. But I didn't go there to fight with people as I didn't want to live with headlines for the next ten years such as 'Toyah breaks so-and-so's nose'. I wanted to be a good team member, not controversial.
"The only thing I was prepared to do - but didn't because it was far too cold - was strip off and streak as many times as possible. And knowing how much Fash (John Fashanu) didn't want me to do it made me more determined.
"I did look a mess though. I looked 50 years older, my hair was a matted mop - no wonder people didn't want me to streak! But I was the only one who didn't sneak make-up in. I looked at Linda (Barker) one day and said: 'You've got eyeliner on, you sneaky devil!' I wasn't tempted to borrow make-up - I might be naive here but I'm proud of my age and wanted to fly the banner for my generation."
Robert, how much did you miss Toyah?
"The most difficult thing was to watch my wife on television for 20 hours a day and not be able to speak to her. It was an irrational response, but I found myself being wound up. I was deeply upset and there was nothing I could do except send her good wishes from the distance.
"But as soon as I closed my suitcase to go to Australia, my grief lifted."
Toyah, did you learn anything from the experience?
"It taught me a lot about myself. I loved going to sleep with nine people around me. I'm alone a lot of the time and I felt safe and secure - I slept the best I have in 20 years. I learnt that I adore city life, I adore stress but I don't make enough room for friends in my life because I'm constantly on the move.
"And I learnt that my husband is 90 per cent of who I am - and I felt that so intensely I was almost ready to walk off the show. Because he's always on the phone and I can always make contact with him, I suppose I've taken his presence for granted. But to be in almost imprisonment made me think, 'My God, this man is my life. He is someone I can't live without.' I didn't appreciate that before."
Did it make you think about changing your relationship?
"I'd love to change it but he'll never change. He'll always be off. I'm not saying he does it deliberately but he's nomadic, it's in his make-up and I can't enforce him to stay."
If it's only work that keeps you apart, why can't one of you make a sacrifice?
"No way. he can't make a sacrifice because he's got a great brain and he's got a lot to do yet. I love acting too much to ever give it up and I don't feel as if I've achieved my ambitions yet. If I got signed to Warner Brothers for five years, then I'd probably feel more relaxed. But I don't feel secure in my career and would be too nervous to take six months off."
What binds you together?
T: "I genuinely think we're soul mates. We're incredibly comfortable together, and as I get older I find him more attractive. I think he has a lovely, distinguished quality about him."
R: "We have a committed marriage. On our wedding day I made that commitment and I never doubted it."
How do you manage to maintain a level of intimacy?
T: "I do miss the everyday stuff. We love walking around cities hand in hand, having lunch somewhere or snuggling up at four in the afternoon and having a snooze. I do miss all of that but it's never a problem getting back to it when he's home. Time hasn't damaged or jaded anything - the intense emotions are still the same. We never feel like strangers. Seventeen years ago it might have been a bit, 'Hello, who are you?' but not now."
R: "I appreciate that on the outside our marriage may look strange. I think the way we make it work is that when we're together, we're intensively together, and when we're apart we're intensively professional. The qualitative aspect over-rides the quantitative aspect."
What's been the toughest time in your relationship?
"About three years ago he was based in Seattle, developing an internet company. He'd be on the plane home and would get a call and he'd have to go back straight away. I was going for months without seeing him and that was very difficult. We always have this thing that when we say, 'Come home', we mean it. I was quite down about it - I felt numb, nothing meant anything to me - food didn't, my work didn't. I thought, 'This is not living - come home for goodness' sake, I'm not a nun.' He was around for three months and we really explored the problem of those moments and learned through it. I felt life was not meant to be spent just missing someone."
What about jealousy - do you trust each other?
"I think at our age we've got over it! I trust him implicitly. When we were first together it was awful because he worked with all his exes so they were permanently there. But I've chased them all off now!"
Why haven't you ever been to Nashville? Aren't you curious to know where he lives?
"No, because Nashville's somewhere I've never wanted to go. I'd go bonkers because I know it's a quiet environment - I like buzz and lots of activity. I know all his friends very well and the doors are open - they'd love me there. But when he's there he's in the studio all the time and I'd have a lot of time to kill - I've got better things to do.
"There are other places of work where I wouldn't go, as I know the type of people he's working with. There's one place in particular where there are ex-girlfriends and I won't go there because, even after 17 years, I know I'd be aggressive with them.
"But I meet him in New York, about two or three times a year and I'm looking for a house there, so I think I'll be spending more time in the States in the future."
Do you feel you've missed out by not having children?
"In periods of war, I've often thought: 'Should I adopt children?' Especially when you see these tiny things suffering so much. But then, I've got to think about the reality of the person I am when I'm not working and I'm not happy. I've never wanted a child in a house where they can sense someone is unhappy or feeling trapped. So I've explored it. But genetically I never wanted to give birth - I know that."
Why are you so work-driven?
"I think I'm looking for a level of achievement I haven't reached yet - especially as an actress. I'd love to feel that I could just amble around at home and wait for the right script to come, but I don't trust that process. I find you have to drive things along and be dedicated - at least I do."
How are you enjoying starring in Calamity Jane?
"It's brilliant, excellent - a really happy show. It's taught me so much about stage singing, comedy and general fitness and gives me a chance to show off as a character rather than as me, which is the way I like it."
Are you happier as you get older?
"My 40s have been more comfortable than any other time. I think you reach an age of no return and if you're financially independent that gives you a great sense of power.
"Also, as I get older I don't care about others' opinions - I care more about my own. I think there's an awful lot of hindsight when you get older and you realise you are your own best guide."
TOYAH'S READY TO
RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
She was no Johnny Rotten but, to many, Toyah Willcox remains an icon of punk. With her shocking rainbow-coloured hair she spent the first half of the 80s flying high in the charts with post-punk anthems such as It's A Mystery.
But it looks like we'll be seeing a very different side to the singer/actress over the next couple of weeks - in more ways than one.
In the second series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! - set to dominate our TV screens for a fortnight from Monday - she's planning to throw off the shackles of civilisation and go back to nature big style - with a little help from her celeb pal and fellow contestant Wayne Sleep.
"I do have this fantasy that Wayne and I will run naked through the jungle," she says mischievously with her trademark lisp. "My biggest fantasy is being naked in a rainforest."
The fact that she'll be sharing the screen with glamour girl Catalina doesn't bother her in the slightest.
"There's no way they'll get me into a bikini in the jungle standing next to Catalina - but I would go naked against her," she says. "Bikinis only accentuate all the bad bits.
"When I had the meeting for the show, they couldn't believe my muscles. They were expecting a middle-age spread," says Birmingham-born Toyah, 44, in her final interview before leaving her Australian hotel for the jungle.
"It's only in the last year that, for the first time, I enjoy being in my body. Doing the stage show Calamity Jane has kept me fit as I'm doing lots stage fighting, stunt work and acrobatics.
"My legs and arms are solid muscle and I do about 200 press-ups a day followed by 50 sit-ups. I have to be iron hard.
"I always had to be sexy and worry about my weight as a singer and it made me shy - now I don't give a damn."
This devil-may-care attitude could take Toyah to the final stages of the competition.
And thanks to her rather bizarre marital arrangements, she has another big advantage over her fellow castaways.
While Danniella Westbrook, Sian Lloyd, Antony Worrall Thompson and the rest of the intrepid jungle adventurers will be pining for their loved ones, Toyah will actually be a lot closer to her 56-year-old husband, former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, than she normally is.
"I don't see enough of Robert anyway, so being apart won't be a huge wrench for me," she says. "I'll miss talking to him on the phone but he'll be flying out to Australia.
"He's normally based in Nashville. It's has been a tough year because I've been away on tour most of the time. It means that so far this year I've seen him for only three weeks, but I'm used to it because it's been like that for 17 years.
"At the beginning I was always heartbroken and pining for him, but I recreated my life to be busy and not to think about it too much.
"It is an usual situation but we like our own company. Last year he was actually home for three months but we ended up living in different houses.
"But I love his company and I love looking at him. I like him more since he's got older because he looks grey and distinguished now."
It was during one of their many long trans-atlantic telephone calls that Robert encouraged his wife to give the jungle challenge a go.
And when he flies out to Australia he'll give TV audiences a personal insight into how he believes Toyah is coping Down Under.
My husband's over the moon and thinks this is a reward for a year of extremely hard work," says Toyah.
"When he gets to Australia he'll spend the whole time crying because he's so soft.
"If he sees me doing anything dangerous he'll just burst into tears. He's a very private person but he's happy I'm doing this and he'll do anything to support me."
After suffering miscarriages in her twenties, Toyah was so certain that she didn't want children that she had herself sterilised at the age of 27.
She believes that this has allowed their unconventional relationship to flourish.
"I think not having children helps us," she says. "It's not that I don't like children, but we're free - I mean, we don't even share a bank account.
"This kind of marriage may not work for anyone else, but I don't think we'd change our way together.
"I thought we'd live together when we married and of course you want that at the beginning but because of our careers, we never fixed it like that.
"I guess I'm married to my work now and need the phone to ring and love meeting deadlines."
So while her rivals pine for their loved ones and fret about giving up their sex lives, Toyah's terrors are far more immediate.
"I'm terrified of every insect except for butterflies," she says. "Snakes don't bother me unless they're hissing and are bright yellow. But there have been times when I've woken up with a spider on me and I've burst into tears. I'm hoping to escape that one.
"I'm also worried about not being able to eat when I want to, and the lack of chocolate. I get huge sugar cravings.
"And I'm phobic about going to the loo if people can hear. I'll have to get Wayne to sing when I'm in the loo to cover up the sound.
"I'll find it hard because I like my own space so I hope I get time to think. If I need to, I'll walk away and be quiet, on my own.
"And I don't take any nonsense from people. I learned that from my school days. I limped because one of my legs was longer than the other and I was badly bullied from the age of four until I was 11 in ways I can't even talk about.
"They used to strangle me with their shoelaces until I passed out. It took a year for me to realise it wasn't normal.
"I finally dealt with it by knocking the biggest bully flat out. I picked up a chair and smashed it over her head. If I hadn't fought back I would have been trampled on. Now I don't take any rubbish from people.
"If people are negative or moan, then I won't like it, but I'm always the devil's advocate when arguments happen which might infuriate people.
"I'm also a bit of a mickey taker so I think I'll be the joker of the pack. I can see me hiding Antony's underpants or setting his clothes on fire."
Unless Toyah's tantrums see her kicked out early, there'll be no time for recuperation after her jungle ordeal.
A few days after she returns to the UK she's due back on stage in Calamity Jane in Sheffield. The show then moves to the West End on June 12.
She's also somehow finding the time to release a new album called Velvet Lined Shell.
"I love diversity and gear my life around it. If I feel trapped, I move on," she says
Despite the convenient timing of her album, Toyah insists her participation in the show is nothing to do with self-promotion.
"I'm not doing this as a publicity stunt, it will be a huge personal learning curve," she says.
"When there's no food and comfort or family around me, the true me will come out and I want to see who that person is.
"To the public, I lisp and I'm quirky - that's who I am. But there are more levels to me and I want people to see the real Toyah.
"And, like I said, I can't wait to experience being naked in a rainforest."
By Nick Webster And Emma Bussey
Toyah Willcox is now at that time of life when the signs of ageing should be well and truly kicking in - but there isn't a wrinkle, grey hair, crow's feet or saggy buttock in sight. For while the former high priestess of punk -who won Best Female Singer in the 1981 British Rock & Pop Awards, and has 13 top 40 singles and 15 albums to her name - has been happy to mature, she's worked hard to push back the years with all her might.
With a few subtle changes to her hair and make-up routine, and a reassessment of her diet and fitness regime, Toyah has managed to turn back the clock.
'When you reach 40, the kind of criticisms you receive are cliched,' explains this veritable female Peter Pan. 'You're meant to be overweight and unattractive, and look a mess. But I say, "Up yours!" For women especially, life begins in your forties. You should feel comfortable and good about yourself because you've got 40 years of experience behind you. And, so far, it's been the best period of my life.'
Maintaining her looks has become more important to Toyah as she's got older. 'I'm very anti-smoking,' she says. 'I don't go anywhere where people are allowed to smoke. It's so damaging. I smoked as a teenager, but only one or two a day. Actually a lot of places nowadays don't cater for smokers. In fact, the only place I have to avoid is the pub - and I haven't had a drink in four years, anyway.
'I only used to have one or two drinks a day, but alcohol is so calorific that I gave up when I began trying to deal with my weight. Drinking can be great fun, but it just wasn't for me.'
ReviFace, on the other hand, is the anti-ageing supplement that, Toyah says, has contributed to the fact that she has the face of someone a decade younger.
'The results were almost immediate, and since I've started taking them, my energy levels are at an all-time high,' she says. 'It also helped my PMT, something I've struggled with in the past. But I've always been open to taking supplements. I have cod liver oil, vitamin E and chromium to help keep me physically fit, and calcium to protect against osteoporosis. my diet is geared to dealing with the effects of growing older.'
You can't help but marvel at how well Toyah looks. And since a recent photo session with former Brookside star Claire Sweeney, in which she was photographed naked, she seems happy to play up to her sexy image.
'I had to oil my bust for those pictures!' Toyah says. 'Goodness knows what the young assistant arranging things behind me could see - but I loved it. My mother hit the roof, and my husband, Robert, was furious when I told him afterwards that I'd just spent the day completely naked with a young photographer!'
It isn't only Toyah's diet and self belief that have evolved over the years. Her hair has got longer, too.
'I do my hair myself,' she admits. 'I haven't had it cut in two years. I just trim the fringe and colour it at home with Shwarzkopf colourants, and I use a hot oil treatment at least once a week.'
Her make-up has become more subtle too. 'I don't really wear any foundation these days, because of my age. At 20, your skin is primed for foundation, but at my age it just cakes on the skin, and I think it makes your wrinkles show up more. I wear a light-reflective moisturiser instead.'
Toyah's face is not her only priority. She has also given her body an overhaul. Currently playing the title role in a touring production of Calamity Jane, she radiates youth and vitality as she reels off her dos and don'ts of dieting.
'When you want something sweet, chew on gum - and don't eat after 7pm. Never have a full fridge, or have food around that you know you can't resist. If it's there, you're just going to be up at 4am eating it. I know - I've ended up doing it loads of times.'
At a time when weight could be creeping on, Toyah is proof that healthy living can keep you looking young - but dieting doesn't always come easily to her.
'My ideal evening would be with a box of chocolates and a bottle of whisky,' she admits. 'I miss the whisky and I do get ravenously hungry, but I worry about things like weight. I'm very diet-concious and, because of my career, I have to be a little bit fanatical about my diet.
'But for the whole of my thirties, I was two stone heavier than I am now. When I hit 40, I thought, "if I don't do something about this now, it's never going to happen." I made a huge effort to get myself back into shape.'
Now fitness plays a huge part in Toyah's life. 'At the moment, I weigh 7st 7lb, and I like it - but I'm only this fit because my role in Calamity Jane is really physical. It's toned me up a lot. The last time I was this toned was in 1983.
'Doing the show is like running a marathon twice a day - plus I do 200 press-ups and 600 sit-ups daily. It's ludicrous! But I just love physicality. It not only makes you feel good, it makes you feel much brighter mentally.'
Although she could sit back on her laurels and let the youngsters fill her shoes in the entertainment industry, Toyah wants to continue performing. She has a single, Little Tears Of Love, coming out this year, and should Calamity Jane make it to London's West End, the 5ft 1in star will happily go with the show.
'I've been on the road for five months and I've got another six to go. But I love doing Calamity Jane. It's my part. I know it was written for Doris Day, but I've reclaimed it.'
Toyah's long-distance marriage to guitarist Robert Fripp, who spends most of his time in America, has helped - not hindered - her career, she maintains. 'We still meet in hotels, and it's nice because we don't have the domestic pressures,' she says. 'It's like being on holiday.
'I didn't get married because I wanted a man to oversee everything I did. When you're in a new relationship, you want to be with that person all the time. And when things in your life aren't going well you need a shoulder to cry on. But I'm grateful that Robert hasn't been around all the time because it has made me more focused.'
Toyah has worked hard to keep herself looking as young and vibrant as possible. From her appearance, obviously it's been worth the effort.
Woman's Own Magazine
FREE SPIRITS -
What happens when rebels grow up?
Wanting to stand out from the crowd with unconventional clothes, hair and make-up is all part of adolescence, but some people take it further than others. M met four women who are proud of their 'wild child' pasts and got them to tell us if they've changed over the years
Toyah Willcox, 44, a singer in the early '80s, brought punk into mainstream pop. Today she's touring Britain in a production of the Wild West musical Calamity Jane.
'I knew from the age of five that I didn't like people telling me how to think. I really loathed being brought up to be feminine in someone else's image of what femininity was. I was from a very middle-class background and I had to wear what my mother told me to wear -dresses. And because I wasn't academic, I was being educated to find a rich husband, which I found insulting.
'I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone with an accent. The snobbery and resulting isolation infuriated me.
'When I hit puberty, I used to physically fight with my mother - actually hit her -thinking if I fought she'd keep away. It made for hellish teenage years. I also stood my ground with teachers at school and became quite foul-mouthed.
'I first dyed my hair at 15. My hairdresser shaved my hair to about half an inch and dyed it blue, leaving a long, black, pointy fringe down to the tip of my nose. I thought it was beautiful but I knew Mum would hate it, so I went home wearing a headscarf. When my mother pulled it off, she burst into tears.
'In the early '70s, my hair together with my make-up - painted black eye sockets - made quite an impression. But it was all very negative. I wasn't allowed on buses, people wouldn't let me in shops, taxis wouldn't pick me up, people would laugh in my face. It upset me being prejudged on my looks. That was rife back then. If you dared to look different, people reacted quite badly, particularly men, who were threatened by it.
'Things changed when I got my band together and we appeared on Top Of The Pops with hits like It's A Mystery. There were posters of me in every shop on every high street. It was as if for the first time people were celebrating my unconventional behaviour.
'As I grew older, the band split, my acting career took off and my look gradually changed. As an actress, it's better not to have a strong image. Also, I didn't want to hit 40 and have pink hair or be accused of being stuck in the '80s.
'I don't think I've changed as a person though - I'm still an outsider. I don't live a normal life. I don't have children and, although I'm married, my husband Robert Fripp, who's a musician, doesn't live with me - I'm constantly on theatre tours while he lives in the States. So I don't feel I've conformed in any way. In fact, I'm a bit like Calamity Jane, the role I'm playing at the moment. In 1850, she was the original rebel going round dressed as a man, challenging the female place in society.
'But I have come full circle in other respects. Originally, I rebelled to get out of Birmingham and away from my family, but I now look after my mum and dad. I bought their house and I make sure they're OK. It's fine as long as they don't tell me how to live my life - they learnt that lesson a long time ago!'
THRIVING ON CALAMITY
Toyah Willcox loves pushing at the frontiers of acting, which is why she so relishes the role of Calamity Jane. Lorraine Mawhinney sets the scene for the musical's arrival in Edinburgh.
Toyah Willcox is everything you expect her to be, but still manages to confound all expectations. In her Basingstoke dressing room, costumes for her role as Aladdin await the next of that week's 12 performances; but hanging at the mirror is the mystical Egyptian ankh and other accessories more telling of her rebellious roots.
When she arrives, thrusting a mug of tea forward, "I wasn't sure if you take milk", her tiny frame seems to fill the entire doorway and the room springs to life.
This is the person to have round for those "can't be bothered" moments.
This panto run of two shows a day, six days a week for four weeks she calls a "holiday" from the touring production of Calamity Jane.
"We were touring Calamity for three months doing eight shows a week. I had a week off and into this. Then I have another week off and it's back into Calamity Jane." There's a look of sheer delight when she talks about this workload, particularly the prospect of getting back into buckskins.
"I love Calamity Jane. I love it to death. When I was approached to play it last year I had to say yes, but with the rider that I couldn't go down the same road as Doris Day. I mean, come on . . .
"But this production has a beautiful, no-nonsense approach. There's no glitter, no camp dance steps, and it's back to the nitty gritty. It's intended to be a little more historically accurate. We've forgotten about technology and gone back to how humans would have behaved being stuck in this desert town."
Certainly, they would have behaved pretty badly. Willcox becomes even more animated when talking about the real Calamity.
"Did you know she was a real person? A really dubious background, too. She was an occasional prostitute, but then again, I think most people were then.
She was an Indian scout for the army, though." Fans of the Doris Day/Howard Keel love match may wish to look away now.
"She never got together romantically with Bill - there were questions about her sexuality - but it seems that she may have had a child by him.
"She did join his wild west show, though, and it seems she died of alcoholism after touring Europe." Audiences in 1953 would have choked on their popcorn if Doris had chosen to go down this route, but for Willcox her Calamity has to be slightly more spit and sawdust.
One thing it does have in common is the physicality. Doris Day was injured on the set while being thrown around the saloon by Howard Keel. After watching rehearsals, Toyah's lawyers insisted she made a will.
"I get caught, I get thrown. Things get really rough. Then I get hoisted up on to rafters." The fact that all this is said with an ear-to-ear grin leads you to suspect that this is what attracts her to the role.
"Well, I presume that my Calamity is chaste, so all that pent-up energy goes into aggression and physicality." Physicality is a word that comes up with alarming regularity.
"I love throwing myself into things. I'm a huge fan of Theatre de Complicite. They haven't asked me to join, although I've done the workshops.
"I'm well aware that I'm not a typical female heroine. I can't just stand there and open my mouth, my voice isn't velvety enough for that, so I've always over-compensated.
"I'm more confident when I'm being physical. I'm short, very muscly, and I have no pretensions to be feminine." This does seem strange as Toyah is more conventionally pretty than at any other time in her career.
"Well, I haven't cut my hair for two years. I didn't want to wear a wig and we had to think of a way that Wild Bill could see Calamity as a real woman for the first time. When I tear the ballgown off, I stand there semi-nude.
My hair has fallen down and tumbled down over my shoulders. I think long hair tumbling down like that will always be a turn-on." Her single-minded approach to work seems to be an antidote to depression which is alluded to.
"Work keeps me physically and mentally fit. I think most artists have a tendency to depression and extreme physicality is how I deal with it. Even when I'm working I end every day with an hour of aerobics.
"I'm 44 now and loving my forties. My thirties were a different matter - the most miserable time of my life. I was going through changes, I got very overweight and I didn't have any kind of spiritual base. I really felt I was never going to fight back."
The importance of conventional beauty in showbusiness is something that Willcox returns to and names actors such as Billie Whitelaw and Judi Dench as inspiration. "When I was a pop star I didn't think beyond 30. In the area I was working in, it seems that you're written off after about 25. I also know that at my age, I'm seen as difficult to cast."
But one way or another Toyah Willcox has survived and thrived, probably in areas that hardened fans of her early albums are appalled by, but still, she's working while contemporaries are nothing more than TOTP2 fodder.
Many of her contemporaries, however, are still working and still relevant. Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry were all women who inspired a generation of teenage girls with more than platform soles, branded lollipops, and girl-power soundbites.
"I think at the time people like us were still struggling in a real male area. I think we had work to do: the women of the 1960s, I feel, were exploited by the sexual revolution.
"I do think that people who liked me really suffered for it. Everything I did came from inside my head in a darkened room, so I probably attracted like-minded folk, whereas someone like Kate (who is Toyah's best friend) was very good at researching her music and lyrics." Apart from theatre, there has been TV acting and presenting.
"I think I'm still working because of my personal approach. I'm pretty fascistic in my work and I think that reputation spreads.
"I like to be off script at first day of rehearsal, I love the tradition of theatre and like to be silent on the wings. I do sell my soul while I'm working.
"TV is fine. It gets you into living rooms and it reminds people you're still there, but theatre is by far the most satisfying. It's the only job where I can go home at night and feel truly satisfied. Nothing else does that for me."
Not even live music. Despite an enjoyable Here and Now eighties tour, live music performance is nerve-racking.
"With live music you have to be yourself, and I don't like that. I've always been very nervous with that and I always will. I reason I love doing something like Calamity is I know that everything I'm good at, I can put into the character.
"Music is forced torture for me. Oh my god, I shouldn't say that, I can see the headline now 'Torture that cuts both ways'."
The demands of an extensive theatre tour (and the possibility of a west end run) mean that there's little time to return home to Worcester and husband Robert Fripp.
While any marriage between Toyah and the King Crimson guitar guru would hardly be conventional, she admits that their nomadic lifestyles mean they rarely see one another.
"I don't get home much, but I don't want to. We are both very much travellers. He was here last week and I'll see him again soon, but we're happy that way.
"He has a new King Crimson album out in March and he'll be away promoting that. Actually, there's a great buzz about it. They're saying it's the best in 20 years. Even I like it."
There are more conventional aspects to the relationship, however. When they're invited to parties, there's always a note at the bottom saying "bring your guitar" and Fripp spends time with the in-laws when Toyah is away.
"Where we live in Worcester, we're right on the Avon so my parents can reach us quickly by boat. We see as much of them as possible. Robert lost his parents about 10 years ago, so mine have really taken him under their wing.
"If I phone and I can't get hold of Robert I phone my dad's mobile and find out that they're off to a museum or the cinema or something." One thing the parents can forget about is any Willcox/Fripp collaborations.
"I've never wanted children, but what I'm realising now is there's something in the genetic structure that I nickname the death gene. I think I have inherited a gene somewhere that tells me that this is where this line ends.
My sister's the same. She's 54 and has no interest in children.
"Robert's take on it is that by stopping the family line, you free yourself from the earthly plain. Your spirit has evolved enough and you can go straight to Nirvana. But that's the Buddhist take on it. I just have no maternal instincts."
There's a pattern of contradictions with Toyah. Contradictions or keeping her options open. Whichever, it seems to be the smart move.
No maternal instincts, but great success voicing the Teletubbies and playing a ghost in the children's show Barmy Aunt Boomerang for BBC Scotland.
Despite management pressure, she's also fighting to keep panto as part of her schedule, too.
She sees organised religion as highly political but has fronted Songs of Praise and the Heaven and Earth Show.
She's also launching herself back into torture again with new music. The Little Tears of Love EP will be released around May, or when she has time to promote it.
"2003 is actually my 25th year in the business, so there will be one big concert and a mini-tour. But it all depends what happens with Calamity Jane.
"I think I spent far too much time wanting to be famous. Now that I can enjoy the work. I feel real joy again."
Calamity Jane is at the King's in Glasgow from January 21 for a week and the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh for a week from January 28.
WAS A REAL GENT
Former punk icon has always dared to be different - The honest truth
Toyah Willcox arrives in Scotland next week to star in Calamity Jane, the role made famous by Doris Day half a century ago.
Toyah, an '80s wild child, the pint-sized queen of punk with flame red hair and a lisp, had hits with It’s A Mystery and I Wanna Be Free.
Now the 44-year-old singer has re-invented herself as an actress, TV presenter and writer. She lives with husband of 17 years, former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, in Worcestershire.
Toyah has acted with Katherine Hepburn, presented Songs Of Praise, narrated Teletubbies and her current ambition is to take Calamity Jane to the West End later this year. She has a new single out in May, is working on an album and in her "spare time" she’s writing a book.
Margaret Clayton caught up with Toyah between rehearsals when she told us The Honest Truth about the life and times of a punk turned musical comedy star.
What's the difference between your Calamity Jane and Doris Day’s?
Fifty years. Her show was for an audience who’d just survived World War 2. Women who’d worked in munitions factories were being shoved back into the home - disgraceful. So Doris played her in a conventional, feminine way.
It’s a true story. Jane was a cattle herder and a scout for the US Army. She came from a violent background, became a prostitute and an alcoholic. My interpretation is very different from Doris’s. I see Jane as gutsy, an inspiration to modern women. It’s also an incredible love story.
This is your 25th year in showbiz - how has life changed?
I’m still working really hard but my life is more satisfying than in my 20s. I was pushed and pulled all over the place in my days as a pop star - dragged to boring photo shoots, which I loathed. I don’t pine to be a pop star. Now I have more time to write songs. I value freedom above all things and I’ve found that life gets 100 per cent more satisfying in your 40s, because people give you space to be yourself.
What was good about being a punk?
I’m glad I was in that scene. It was about empowerment. Punk gave everyone a voice - no matter who you were. Punk said, "Dare to be different, your ideas are of value no matter who you are."
I worked with Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and he was an utterly lovely human being. A very gentle person. A man who held doors open for you, yet the media demonised him. Thanks to the Sex Pistols, we had an identity. Dressed as a punk I could walk down the Kings Road behaving madly and it was great fun.
What was your childhood like?
I had a happy childhood in Birmingham. But I was sent to an all-girls' school and loathed every minute of it. Schools don’t cater for individualists. Most of all I hated the gender issue. I’m a person - not a 'girly' girl. I’m not remotely interested in handbags, babies or shopping. My school life was dull and constricting. It made me a rebel.
How would you describe your marriage?
Romantic. We spend months apart, working. But Robert makes long complicated journeys just to spend a weekend with me and it’s wonderfully exciting. He left this week for LA to start a world tour. We won’t see each other for three months, but I love having my own life. I don’t have to go home at night to cook. We meet up because we want to be together - not because it’s a routine. Neither of us can be bothered with domestic issues. My home is whatever hotel room I’m staying in and that suits me very well. My car is my travelling office.
As a couple, you decided not to have children. Ever regret that?
Not for a minute. I’m not remotely maternal. Anyway, I never waste time on regrets, looking back or thinking about the past. I live fully in the present and look forward to the future.
How do you keep fit and healthy?
By working hard. Calamity Jane is a very physical show - a nightly performance and three matinees a week gives me all the exercise I need.
Apart from myself and one other cast member, everyone’s under 24, full of energy, very talented and focused on the production - not into sex or drugs at all. I enjoy their company, it keeps me mentally and physically strong.
Is it true you’re a Buddhist?
My father was a Buddhist, so it’s been with me for 44 years. Buddhism is a very private but important part of my life.
What are you proudest of?
Acting is more important to me than singing now, but I don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring offering me jobs. I get on with writing. But I’m always proudest of what I’m working on at the present. The adrenaline is still high when I come off stage after Calamity Jane, so I go back to my hotel bedroom and enjoy being peaceful.
Who's the most extraordinary person you’ve met?
Albert Finney. We were at the National Theatre together and he was the wildest guy I’ve ever met. He was at the peak of his acting career and was just so exuberant. You couldn’t harness his energy. We stayed up all night drinking and talking. We were wild and noisy and made each other laugh a lot.
What do you think of today’s music?
I think there’s a lot of very exciting talent around. I love live bands - U2 are my favourite. My favourite singer is Bjork - I play her CDs all the time.
Your greatest pleasure?
Working and eating chocolate. I am totally committed to work. I enjoy it more than anything and never bother with holidays. I also crave chocolate and am capable of eating a box a day.
Your best and worst memories of Scotland?
I appeared in a play in Glasgow a few years ago and remember just walking the streets looking at the architecture in amazement. I’d stroll along Byres Road in the West End just fascinated by all the little shops with their unusual names. It’s a city with a rebellious streak - I love it. I’ve never managed to see the Scottish countryside, but that’s probably because the country bores me - I’m a city person.
The Sunday Post
Through the 1980's TOYAH WILLCOX reigned supreme as the high priestess of punk. But then a trusted business partner conned her out of her fortune - prompting a long battle to regain her millions.
For her appearances in her recent 1980s revival tour, Toyah Willcox threw on a little number that consisted of a copper breast-plate, the tiniest of skirts and suede boots, which reached to the top of her legs. The finishing touch was a thong as: 'my bottom is my best feature'. From one whose hair once offered more colour options than a paint chart, and whose appeal was 'probably because I was thought of as a dominatrix', this might have seemed to be her last-ditch attempt to shock. Toyah, though, insists that her intent was satirical. 'I wanted to be a parody of myself. I went on stage and told the audience, "Tomorrow you can tell everyone that you looked up the skirt of a 43-year-old Toyah." I was known to everyone on the tour as Granny Kylie.'
Toyah is now starring in a major new production of Calamity Jane which tours the country until April and may then transfer to the West End. Despite her lisp and her dyslexia, Toyah, now 44, is also a TV presenter and a veteran of voice-overs. Recently, clambering out of her fetishistic stage gear for a sleeky-groomed style, Toyah appeared on the daytime property game show, Under Offer, in which she demonstrated remarkable acuity in guessing the value of houses shown, sometimes down to the last pound.
The skills she showed in Under Offer were honed through property investment, which she once said would make her so rich that she would be able to slow down by 2003. Yet she seems to be accelerating her work rate, and is in no mood to give up either the day or night job - 'I can make between two and 20 TV shows a week,' she boasts.
Hers is the voice at the beginning of the Teletubbies that announces: 'Over the hills and far away. Teletubbies come out to play.' She will be doing the voice-over for the next project by the show's creator, Anne Wood. For now, she is slotting in other work around Calamity Jane. This work ethic springs mainly from two financial crises that have afflicted her life. The first happened when she was a child. Her father, Beric, used to have a thriving joinery business. The family - Toyah is the youngest of three children - lived in Birmingham and once ran to a silver Rolls Royce, a yacht and private education. Then, suddenly, the business collapsed.
'I was in my teens and I saw my parents struggle. They gave up everything to keep me in school. I remember food being more plentiful at the beginning of the week than at the end.' Nevertheless, there was no local authority subsidy for Toyah when, at 18, she began training as an actress in Birmingham. 'I was the only one on my course without a grant and now I am the only one still in the business.'
By the time she was 26, she was an actress, having already appeared in the cult film Quadrophenia and opposite Sir Laurence Olivier on television, and a singer, happy to live up to her reputation as the high priestess of punk. She had also banked her first million. So when, in the early 1990s, Toyah discovered that she had been swindled out of almost every penny she had, it hit her hard.
A business associate had conned her out of a fortune, including the revenue from eight top 450 singles, 14 albums and leading roles in dozens of plays, films and TV dramas. 'I was wiped out. All I had left was my car and the money to pay my VAT bill. I could have fought it, but the person who took my money went bankrupt so I decided to start again.
'The swindle was done with so much ease and my name was discredited in the process. I was not a spendthrift. I drove a little Peugeot and ate homemade sandwiches. I kept saying, "I'm not squandering my money. Where's the Ferrari?" The person who was conning me told me I was mad. At least, in the end, I was able to warn my husband so the same thing did not happen to him.'
Since 1986, Toyah has been married to Robert Fripp, the innovative musician and founder of King Crimson, but she didn't ask him to help her out. The pair have always kept their finances seperate. 'To avoid being made bankrupt I sold the only property I then owned to pay off my creditors,' Toyah says.
Not wanting to move to the U.S., where Robert was based, Toyah was forced to move in with friends in London. DJ Tommy Vance and his wife took her in. 'I'll be forever grateful for their generosity. They never made me feel bad about it. I was a very good house guest, though. I just went there to sleep and worked 20-hour days. Within a year, I was back on my feet.
'I didn't tell my parents what had happened because they were, by then, elderly and struggling. The only relative I confided in was my sister, Nicola - she knew how desperate I was.'
The experience taught her a hard lesson. 'No one has access to my money now, and I put away 70 percent of everything I earn. I don't want ot have another financial crises, ever,'
Her manager persuaded Toyah to take up television presenting and she has carved out a niche as an authority on subjects ranging from feminist philosophy, art, health and nutrition to Britain's network of canals. To further her career, Toyah is even planning to have a facelift this year. She expects to spend about £10,000 on the operation. 'I want to continue to work in TV,' she explains. 'I spoke to a casting director who said everyone's having it done.'
She has already discovered the joys of Botox. She had her first injection of the muscle-freezing toxin last April. 'I had it on my cheekbones and I also had treatment to regenerate the collagen under my eyes. None of my girlfriends were ageing and wouldn't explain why not. When I told them I'd had Botox, they confessed that they'd had it done. I said, "You cows! You could have told me that years ago!" Robert says he can't see any change. I suppose it shows that he accepts me for what I am.'
As her fight back to solvency demonstrates, Toyah is still the gritty, feisty character who survived numerous operations on the crooked spine and short left leg with which she was born and then broke into the male-dominated world of punk music. Her mother, Barbara, fought in vain to bring out her daughter's soft side. 'She was determined that I would be ladylike, go to ballet classes and live up to the feminine ideals of the day. But I didn't want to go to tea parties and I used to dismember my dolls.'
Once a consumer of junk food, who began drinking alcohol at nine, she is now teetotal and a vegetarian whose diet is geared towards preparing herself for the menopause. 'Everyone in my school (an independent Church of England school in Edgbaston) was drinking and sniffing glue by the age of nine,' she claims.
In 1983, while Toyah was filming an adaptation of John Fowles' Ebony Tower for television, the writer John Mortimer interviewed her in the Chelsea boardroom of her record company. He asked how she put up with the aggression of her world. Toyah politely replied that it was all play acting and that once she wore a loo chain around her neck, but it didn't mean she was a toilet.
The same determined and well-mannered Toyah is on display today. She answers questions patiently with only a trace of her lisp. In many ways, though, she has recreated herself. Her interests include gardening and visiting buildings of architectural merit with Robert, but alongside these sedate pleasures she is revelling in a new-found femininity and sexuality.
'I'm good friends with Penny Smith (the GMTV presenter)- she is my role model. I've never walked into a room feeling sexy or confident. But Penny is dead sexy so I watch what she does. Now I've learned to talk to a man as if I'm going for his crotch, not his jugular.
'My husband makes me feel sexually attractive but when he goes away, the shutters come down and I go into work mode.'
The couple have settled into a comfortable routine in which during the week, Toyah lives alone in a flat in Chiswick, west London, with a 'magical' garden where she grows figs, grapes and apricots. Robert visits rarely. At weekends, she retires to her house in Worcestershire where Robert joins her, if he is in the country. The home, just downstream of a house she bought for her parents (her father pilots a river cruiser along the Avon between the two properties) opens onto their high street. 'I was horrified when my neighbours said they were thinking of putting a hairdressing salon next door because the customers would have been able to look out and see us romping in the nude in our garden. We're so old and unfit that I wouldn't wish anyone to see us.
'I was sexually naive when I married Robert (now 56) and he was very experienced. I was the first person with whom he'd had an exclusive relationship and I had pretty high expectations. You're never more vulnerable than when you're committed to someone totally. People used to remind me of his past and I had no past to throw back at him. I didn't lose my virginity until I was 20, and that had to be arranged by my girlfriends.
'At first it was hard to be apart from Robert and the trust between us was paper thin. But we went on a journey of discovery and tolerance, settled down and the bond between us has grown.
'It's not a typical relationship,' she says with some understatement. 'We're still courting each other really, and when he is back I follow him around the house talking and talking so we can catch up.
'I've never worried about taking my clothes off in front of him. I have one leg shorter than the other, and wear lifts in my shoes, but Robert loves my wonky leg, because it reminds him of his father who had polio. I love the fact that he's older than me because I can be immature. I steal all the stamps from his desk, which really irritates him. We wrestle, too, though he's learned to fight dirty. If I bite, he'll bite back. It's childish, with fingers digging in armpits.'
They met in 1985 at a charity function. Two years later, Robert asked Toyah to work on an album with him. 'Before we'd even begun work, he'd told people he would marry me.' At the time, Toyah was grieving over the break up of a five year relationship and felt she was in danger of 'becoming a rock 'n' roll recluse'. Robert arranged for her to work with him at his music school in Washington and they became close. 'I was heading for a nervous breakdown,' Toyah admits. 'Robert unravelled the knot in my brain without making me feel dependant on him.'
Robert insisted that their wedding be kept a secret. 'I wore a disgusting pink Little Bo-Peep ballgown because it was the only thing I could buy that didn't look like a wedding dress. Unfortunately, a journalist spotted police guards outside the church. When we came out, the photographers were waiting for us. Robert ran away and left me standing there alone. I posed for photographs happily. I understood that it was all part of the fame package.'
Neither of them wanted to have children and Toyah made the decision some years ago to be sterlised, which she has never regretted. Despite having been married for 17 years, the couple still don't know the details of each other's wealth or properties. 'We both made wills recently so that our families would know what we had. When we go out to dinner, we slip two credit cards across the table. I don't like showing off my wealth.'
Toyah dismisses the storm that surrounded her appearance at last year's demonstration at Throckmorton, a village near her country home, to protest against plans to build an asylum-seeker's centre there. 'My arguments were ecological. There are not enough facilities to cater for large numbers of people. We must create spaces where we can survive independent of food imports.'
This serious-sounding Toyah seems light years away from the Toyah of the 1980s who, when appearing in Tales From The Vienna Woods at the National Theatre, was reprimanded over her behaviour by Sir John Gielgud. 'I was like an appalling, hyperactive child. I raced trolleys through the corridors. Sir John referred to me as an animal. "We're not in a zoo, Miss Willcox," he said.'
Unsurprisingly, there is not much of Doris Day in Toyah's rendition of Calamity Jane. 'I walk on, not like a famous person, but like the urban legend that Jane was,' she says. Toyah and Jane may have more in common than a facility with a gun and a whip, which the former practised for months. ('That will increase my repertoire of attacks on Robert,' she says with a sinister chuckle). The ballroom scene, for which Jane sheds her masculine clothes and reveals herself as a beautifully-dressed woman, shadows, to some extent, Toyah's new-found femininity.
'I didn't have time for girlfriends when I was younger but now I've discovered the joys of girl power. I didn't ever imagine,' she says with a smile, 'that I'd actually enjoy talking about pedicures.'
Daily Mail 'Weekend' Magazine