2008 - 2009
IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON QUEEN:
CD OF THE YEAR BY JIMI LALUMIA
I must devote some space to what is, for me, the event of the year, a new CD, "In The Court Of The Crimson Queen" by UK pop/rock icon Toyah. She's been married to King Crimson founder/guitarist Robert Fripp since 1985, and the CD title is a play on Crimson's 'Court Of the Crimson King", a late 60s timepiece. Let's take a look, track by track:
SENSATIONAL: This is a thumping, rousing call to arms which showcases all aspects of Toyah's vocal stylings and range. Presenting a positive message, the tune is couched in updated 70s glam riffs, calling to mind T.Rex and Ziggy-era Bowie.
LATEX MESSIAH: This is the first track that appeared in the spring of 08, on You Tube, My Space and elsewhere, to let the worldwide faithful know that Toyah was back, full of sound and fury. This enjoyed a great deal of attention as her first digital only release ever, charting on the itunes rock countdown several months ago, it's another radio ready rocker.
HEAL OURSELVES: This is the tender side of Mrs.Fripp, this sort of material will be more apparent when her side project, The Humans (with R.E.M.'s current drummer) appears in 2009, hopefully. Toyah involves herself in numerous positive projects, so this sounds like a natural outgrowth.
LESSER GOD: This is a forceful vocal and vibrant track, she is currently performing it onstage in the UK as the Vampire Queen in "Vampires Rock", a stage show in which she is prominently featured. (The show is comprised of rock anthems of the 70s and 80s, and is going down a storm everywhere it plays. "Vampires" will hit Vegas in 09, it has been whispered...)
ANGEL IN YOU: So many bite size rockers on this CD, riffs galore while Toyah soars. This type of material is begging for a proper Toyah tour, perhaps after she's done with "Vampires" (Since her strings of success in the early 80s, Toyah has never done a U.S. gig, amazingly. Her UK label never managed to get her stuff released here, which is a sad loss for American rock fans.)
LOVE CRAZY: The particulars of Toyah's unique 'love it or hate it'' vocals are on display in this tune, and it is remindful of her 1982 classic album "The Changeling", which was produced by Steve Lillywhite, of U2 fame. This sounds like it would be another live stage favorite.
BAD MAN: This is a slower 70s sounding sizzler, again highlighting Toyah's dramatic turn on vocals (which come through strongly, thanks to her career in films and theatre over the decades), she has been cited by Evenesence's Amy as one of her influences, and you can really hear that on this track.
HYPERVENTILATE: Acoustic guitar chords ring out, another inspirational life lesson from this divine diva; she'd be well received by hippies based on the harmonic meanderings on this particular tune.
COME: And here's the stadium rocker, the one that would bring the crowd to their feet at the Warped Tour; this would sound right at home as one of the token rockers for current Top 40 radio.
LEGACY: An aptly titled conclusive track, thoughtful and insightful, and a fitting finish to the CD of the year. Now go find your copy on itunes, and enjoy.
Good Times Magazine
FEELING FAB AT 50
Former punk Toyah Willcox puts her new zest for life down to country living, healthy eating and a wise and loving partner...
Despite turning 50, actress, singer and writer Toyah Willcox has more energy than ever and attributes her enthusiasm and zest for life to her healthy lifestyle and happy marriage.
Her career isn’t doing badly either. After 30 years in showbusiness, she is strutting her stuff on tour in the hit rock’n’roll show Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock.
She has just released a CD of original songs – In The Court Of The Crimson Queen – and plays Billy Piper’s mother in ITV2’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.
The woman who first hit the charts in 1981 with It’s A Mystery says: “Vampires Rock is an incredibly energetic show. I’m loving every minute and, as usual, I’m being strict with my health regime.
“I have to watch what I eat. At barely 5ft 1in, every extra pound shows. In the past, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else of yo-yo dieting. I dieted constantly from the ages of 12 to 30. Then I realised I didn’t want to do it any more and I simply stopped.
“I realised self-discipline and moderation were the key. I firmly believe that if you have a healthy diet and get enough sleep and exercise you can ward off most petty illnesses and look good at any age.
“I think it’s very important to tell young women to invest in their future and that means keeping fit and staying a sensible weight all their lives. The problem with getting into your fifties is that your hormones change, which naturally makes you put on weight.”
Toyah, who lives in Worcestershire with her husband, King Crimson guitarist and music producer Robert Fripp, 62, certainly looks fantastic.
Although she is happy to admit to the odd nip and tuck, it’s her inner health and vitality that make her glow. With her diary booked up for 2009, she says her passion for life is all about feeling well.
“Living in the country makes me happy. I love my home and looking after my parents who live nearby. I find nature very soothing. I need silence – just being alone is incredibly important to me. I feel quite mad if I can’t be on my own at some point in the day.”
Toyah’s lasting marriage is the most significant relationship in her life. It may seem unconventional as their careers force Toyah and Robert apart for many months. For instance, right now Robert is working in Seattle.
They met in 1985 at a charity event. Princess Alexandra introduced them when she asked the pair to pose together for a photograph. They married a year later.
Toyah says: “What I like about Robert is that he is an old-fashioned gentleman. He is gentle and very cerebral and I love that.
“He is very much a soulmate and my best friend. We talk endlessly. There’s no one in the world I’d rather talk to and we still hold hands whenever we are out together.
"We can’t work out why people laugh at us but they seem to find it hysterical to see middle-aged people holding hands. I wish we Brits could be more like the French.
"What I love about French men is that they see the beauty in every woman, regardless of age,” says Toyah, who has a holiday home on the French Riviera.
Over the years she has discovered the things that make her feel good.
“When I was young, I used to feel mentally stodgy and realised I was drinking too much alcohol and eating too many processed foods and too much red meat. I only smoked for six weeks, when I was 14. I have completely cut out alcohol, coffee and tea. As for processed food, don’t even mention it.
“I eat organic food and very little wheat. The only dairy I eat is pro-biotic yogurt. Everything else is mainly soya-based and I eat a lot of pulses with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
"I take hemp seed oil, cod liver oil and vitamin E and I always try to include in my meals something like sweet potatoes as I have a sweet tooth.
"I also love lots of herbs and spices. Food must be tasty. I drink lots of water because women often mistake thirst for hunger.”
Although she was a vegetarian for about 25 years, Toyah eats chicken and fish if she feels she needs it. She also boosts her immune system with bran flakes and green tea.
“I eat my evening meal at six and try to walk at least three miles a day. If I’m on the road and near a gym I’ll go along and use the walking machine. I do some weightlifting and that’s about it. I try to keep everything very low impact because, as you get older, you need to protect your joints. I don’t do any high-impact aerobics at all now.
I also avoid wearing high heels anywhere other than on stage as that’s asking for trouble.
“For me, life just keeps getting better and I’m determined to work until I drop as I think retirement is madness.
"Everyone I know who has made the decision to retire has regretted it as we all need to feel needed. I also believe it’s important to stay positive.
"The most important thing is being happy with what you have. We do tend to envy other people, which is sad. Make the most of what you have and rejoice in it.”
DISCOVER JERSEY: A LITTLE BIG
ISLAND BY TOYAH WILLCOX
Toyah Willcox and husband Robert Fripp take a winter break in Jersey. It’s the first time she’s been back since a childhood visit. The island seems to have grown up with her.
I was seven years old when I took my very first plane on my very first trip abroad – to Jersey. Okay, I know that Jersey is perceived as being a part of Britain. But where in the Albion isles do you find turquoise seas and the French hopping just 14 miles across the water on day trips?
Forty-three years later and one hour and 10 minutes from Birmingham Airport and I am back in Jersey, a lot older and wiser. It’s all so easy – with no passport or baggage queues you simply walk off the plane, catch a bus or taxi or, like me, hire a car and drive a maximum of nine or 10 miles to find your port of call. Any further and you’d be in the sea.
We are staying at The Royal Yacht Hotel and Spa, overlooking the waterfront at St Helier… exactly where I stayed 43 years ago! But how things have changed. What I remember as a quaint quayside has grown into a big, busy state-of-the-art harbour, complete with multi-purpose leisure complex, that almost reaches out to the tiny island of Elizabeth Castle about half-a-mile offshore (you can walk out to it at low tide – a wonderful adventure).
I'm here towards the end of winter and the sun is out but the wind is bracing. The Royal Yacht – like its harbour location – has been restored and expanded. The effect is stunning. We are in a swish room with balcony overlooking gardens and the old harbour. Our entrance is by swipe card, and the room has a TV in the bedroom and bathroom, a DVD player, fridge and not a Corby trouser press in sight.
Instead there’s mood lighting, soft colours and designer furnishings. The room is instantly relaxing, comforting and cosy. It doesn’t matter how cold it might be outside. And anyway, in the basement is Spa Sirène, a top-end spa offering an exotic cocktail of treatments from seaweed wraps to all-over body masks, after which you can take a dip in the swimming pool.
We’re on a three-day break and I’m slightly concerned how we are going to fit everything in. There’s so much to do. I’m a keen walker and I soon discover that the island is bigger than it seems. Jersey measures around nine miles by five, but it expands every day by a huge amount thanks to one of the largest tidal reach in Europe. So at low tide you can end up walking a mile or so across the sands to find the sea.
Icho and Seymour Towers, for example, were put up 200 years ago to defend Jersey and are cut off daily by the sea. When the tide is out you can take a 2½-hour walk to them, but always with a guide, for you wouldn’t want to get caught amongst the reefs and rocks when the Atlantic rushes back in. The experience is almost unearthly. In all my life I have never seen anything quite like the eerie landscape of spiky rocks and pools that unfolds with the retreating tide.
If all this sounds too strenuous then take the easier option of a walk around the harbour, guessing how much the boats must be worth. Then beat a retreat to Jersey’s cosmopolitan café, bar and restaurant culture.
We amble back to our hotel for a light lunch – and end up having one of the best meals we’ve ever had. Jersey does ‘food’ really well. In The Royal Yacht’s Café Zephyr I had what I love to eat any time, anywhere – miso soup and sushi. I would never have associated it with Jersey, but it was wonderful. Hubby had a Mediterranean salad so tasty I ate half of that too.
Come pm it was time to explore the town. We set off in search of St Helier’s traditional market and found a lot more. But first came the Victorian Central Market with stalls selling everything from fresh veg to jewellery, and a fabulous centrepiece – an intricate fountain of painted maidens gushing water with fish swimming among coins thrown by visitors.
St Helier’s streets aren’t quite paved with gold, but the jewellery shops just kept coming – it’s a big theme on this island, as are pearls. Virtually every other shop sells the stuff. There are the usual chain stores too, and lots of smaller independent shops you don’t see on many High Street nowadays.
I return to the hotel laden with clothes, DVDs and dance wear (yes, I even found a dance shop called Centre Stage where I got my touring supply of dance tights!). And then it was spa time.
We’d booked a ‘Husband and Wife’ massage, with two tables in the same peaceful room and two masseurs who gave us stunning all-over deep massages lasting over an hour. They were the best we have ever had, and we returned to our room on cloud nine.
You’re never short of places to eat in Jersey. That evening we catch a taxi to The Salty Dog Bar and Bistro in St Aubin, the pretty harbour across the bay from St Helier. Rumour has it this is the locals’ favourite restaurant and you know what they say: ‘Eat where the locals eat.’ The setting was modest, especially after the hotel’s ultra-modern sharpness. But it was warm and friendly with a menu based on New World fusion and a large variety of fish dishes.
My grilled scallops and Robert’s sea bream were served with bright, fresh vegetables and another yummy salad. Then I made the fatal mistake of telling Robert I didn’t want a dessert but would have a spoonful of his. He chose three home-made ice-creams with a caramel sauce also made on the premises. I ate most of it before he could say Salty Dog!
We start our next day with a wake-up walk along the beach then head back to the Jersey Museum and Maritime Museum, both on the waterfront and full of surprises. During World War Two, for example, the Germans occupied the island and ended up almost starving themselves and the inhabitants to death. In an earlier era the celebrated French author Victor Hugo was exiled here and later wrote Les Misérables in neighbouring Guernsey. I even learned a few rollicking sea shanties.
Later, we head across the island to Victoria village, home of the Eric Young Orchid Foundation where a purpose-built nursery displays a wonderful array of jewel-like orchids. This horticulturist’s dream was a calm antidote to my shopping frenzy of the day before. It’s close to an island icon, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Dubbed the ‘zoo that is not a zoo’, its main purpose is the breeding and survival of endangered species worldwide. In addition to its global work, here in Jersey it makes great efforts to recreate habitats for a wide range of animals including gorillas, orang-utans, bears… and even the South American golden poison-dart frog.
Durrell is famous, but Jersey has lots of hidden gems too. Back in St Aubin we come across the delightful Harbour Gallery, an art and textile workshop run by two artists with a passion for all things visual – just like me. The creativity, ideas and standard of work are inspirational. Pat Robson, a co-founder, tells me that Jersey has a large population of artists who all contribute to the space. I was drawn in particular to the intricate beadwork of some of the neck collars on display. There were ideas here of the kind I have only seen in the V&A in London – quite simply, it’s a ‘must visit’ if you enjoy art and fabrics.
Our last evening sees us back at The Royal Yacht dining at the sophisticated Restaurant Sirocco. Even though we only order three courses we get five. Each ‘main’ course is punctuated by small, zesty appetizers like foie gras mousse and berry sorbet. The mains, thankfully, are not huge, but are beautifully presented and served with panache.
My advice in Jersey is always to go for the fish. With 45 miles of coast, clear waters and a thriving local industry, you’re guaranteed great seafood – which is exactly what we had with our red mullet and sea bass.
If you’re a couple who love good food, great views, comfort and surprises, you’ll like Jersey. It has changed a lot since I was last here. And I’m going to have to come back. Even though we had a busy time we only scratched the surface of this little, big island – and that was in winter.
After eight Top 40 singles, 20 albums, ten feature films, hundreds of television shows and countless stage roles, Toyah Willcox is joining the British tour of Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock in the special guest role of the Devil Queen.
On Thursday, she returns to York, where previously she played Kate in Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew at the Theatre Royal in August 1990, Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House in February 1994 (a year when she also performed at Fibbers), and the title role in Calamity Jane in October 2002, again at the Grand Opera House.
She has been a punk, she has played Puck, she has presented Songs Of Praise and written a book about having a facelift. Now, at 50, she is starring in a musical spoof cum fantasy concert set in the year 2030 in a New York City where the undead are among us and livelier than ever, especially Steve Steinman’s evil, club-owning, 2,000-year-old Baron Von Rockula. Cue music from Meat Loaf, Queen, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses, and Toyah in hot red.
Charles Hutchinson meets the new devil woman ahead of next week’s show.
Toyah, what possessed you to turn evil for a 44-date tour of Vampires Rock?
“Steve’s been trying to get me into the show for a couple of years, but I just felt I couldn’t give the time to it at the time.
“But Steve works like no one else and the important thing about him is that’s he’s a successful independent producer, and he kept asking, and eventually I said I could do 20 dates – and he came back with a list of 44! I said, ‘Okay, okay, I’ll do 44’, and I’m glad I did because, excuse the pun, it’s an absolute scream.
“My husband [Robert Fripp] saw the show and said this band could blow him off stage, and he’s one of the top ten guitarists in the world.”
Why has Vampires Rock become such a hit?
“It seems a ridiculously slight show but it works because it is so clever in that it’s a basic story that we all know so well, as Baron Von Rockula wants to get rid of his 2,000-year-old wife for a younger model.
“There’s this incredible warmth from the audience because there’s this fine balance between parody and reverence, and that’s where it’s like The Rocky Horror Show: they came long and they’re half the show.”
Describe your character, the Devil Queen.
“She’s vile! She’s just pure evil. She’s very glamorous and, for me, she’s the true vampire in the show because she never eases up, whereas Steve is very funny in how he works his character. Mine is just death, death, death, and she’s horrible to everyone.”
How does this show compare with others you have appeared in?
“This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done. I hadn’t seen the show before I agreed to do it, but I did know it had a cult status and it has far more credibility than any other show like this.
“I think what Steve has now done is create a star product where a star name can come in, like with The Rocky Horror Show. This show is the future of rock’n’roll, creating conceptual shows such as Mamma Mia!. It keeps rock’n’roll going in a new way.”
Did you choose your red-hot latex costumes for the show?
“In the past 12 months, in the lead-up to my new album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen and the single Latex Messiah, I’ve been creating Toyah TV on MySpace – which has already had 35,000 hits – and Steve [Steinman] saw all the costumes I’d created for Toyah TV and said, ‘Could we lift them into Vampires Rock’?. So we have.”
What songs do you sing in Vampires Rock? Do any of your old hits sneak in?
“I open with a song off my new album, Lesser God, then I go into Twisted Sister’s Burn In Hell…School’s Out, Rebel Yell, Kiss’s God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You, Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me, the Osbournes’ Changes, and Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child O’Mine. Fantastic!”
What happens next for you and Vampires Rock?
“We go into the West End for a week from February 28, in the Shaw Theatre, and that’s already been a success because we have backers coming that week with a view to taking the show to Las Vegas.
“Then we come back to Retford [where the show’s rehearsals are held] next September to start another 44 shows, and we have TV companies lining up to do a documentary if the show goes to Vegas.”
The York Press
ROCK WITH BITE
Well known for being a poster girl for punk in her heyday, it seems fitting that Toyah Willcox was chosen to be the leading lady in Steve Steinman's smash hit stage show, Vampires Rock.
Dubbed the new Rocky Horror Show, Vampires Rock is set in the year 2030, when Baron Von Rockula (Steve Steinman) is on the hunt for a new bride.
When Pandora Honey Roseybox arrives to audition for the resident vocalist position at the Live and Let Die Club, little does she know the only job up for grabs is to become the Baron's eternal bride.
At the heart of the show is the evil Baron's attempt to convince Pandora to lose her soul to rock and roll.
Cue songs from the likes of Meat Loaf, Queen, Suzi Quatro, AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses, Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper.
And with a combination of music, humour and the dark side, it's little wonder the show, which premiered in 2004, quickly secured itself a cult following.
Now Toyah Willcox is joining the cast and the man behind the show, Steve Steinman, on stage, propelling it into new heights of fame.
"I was attracted to this show from the start on many levels," Toyah said. "I knew it was successful and knew it had a cult following.
"Steve Steinman is a complete success story and that was one of the reasons I wanted to get involved.
"He's an amazing talented man, and to have put this show together, as well as star in it, is a real achievement.
"The other reason was the fact that this is a rock show.
"I grew up in Birmingham when rock theatre was first created by Alice Cooper and David Bowie and I loved it. This is really a continuation of that."
Another element that has amazed Toyah is the number of people who come to the event dressed in gothic gear or as vampires, ghosts and ghouls.
"I think that's amazing and proves its success," she said.
"It's like when people go to see The Rocky Horror show they get all dressed up and I think that's what Vampires Rock is becoming.
"More and more people are talking about it and people will come back and see it again and bring their friends, so it's really exciting to be involved."
Steve Steinman added: "The first five or six rows of people will come to the show dressed in full gear, and that seems to be growing as we take the shows out.
"It makes it more fun, not just for us on stage, but also for the audience. It makes for a great vibe."
As well as touring the UK, Vampires Rock is heading to Las Vegas next year and Steve is already in talks with TV bosses who want to do a reality TV show on it going Stateside.
Toyah said: "That would be unbelievable if that happened, and would really help to spread the word even faster."
Steve added: "This is an absolutely amazing show and with the current credit crunch under way is an absolute bargain.
"You get top music with all of the hits everyone knows the words to, a great storyline and some fabulous costumes."
Steve Steinman's, Vampires Rock returns to Blackpool Opera House tonight – this time with special guest, former chart star and television personality Toyah Willcox.
It's a return visit to the resort for the actress and rock star who was here for Gay pride last year.
"I was on North Pier and it seemed very shaky," she said. "I thought 'this is moving' so I did my show and ran."
In a career spanning over 30 years, Toyah has notched up 13 top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums, written two books, appeared in over 40 stage plays, made 10 feature films and presented hundreds of TV programmes from The Good Sex Guide Late to Songs of Praise.
"I've always been careful to try and maintain a healthy career balance," she says. "I've been lucky with good management.
"Most of the time I create documentaries – I'm lucky in that people phone me about work – not the other way round."
Her acting career began at the Old Rep Drama School in her home town of Birmingham and her breakthrough was playing Mad in Derek Jarman's 1977 epic punk film Jubilee.
It was later that year she put her first band together and within two years she was juggling hit records with roles such as Miranda in The Tempest and Monkey in the film Quadrophenia.
"It was a case of my chart success interrupting a healthy acting career," says Toyah.
That's part of the reason she had no qualms about joining up with Steve Steinman in Vampires Rock.
"It's one or those shows that is growing and growing," she says. "I was asked if I could go into it and I thought 'why not?' It's one of the largest touring one night shows in the country with a full band and a full show – and it's a rock show rather than a concert."
Set in New York in 2030, the undead are among us and livelier than ever, none more so than in club Live and Let Die, where aspiring singer Pandora (Emily Clarke) arrives to audition to be resident vocalist.
Little does she know that the only job on offer is to be the eternal bride of evil Baron Von Rockula (Steve Steinman) alongside current spouse the Devil Queen (Toyah).
It's been one of her busiest years – a best selling Best Of album, a record audience for her documentary on insomnia ("l am an insomniac - so I've got a lot of time on my hands"), a free festival in King's Lynn performing to 15,000 people and playing Billie Piper's mum in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
She has also embraced new ways of marketing her past and future recording product.
"I-Tunes and YouTube are phenomenal vehicles - I've taught myself all about them because I saw them as the way ahead."
Hence the Official Toyah MySpace site which previews her new material and the Toyah YouTube channel with her videos.
TOYAH'S BRINGING HER
WICKED SIDE TO
The original red-haired rebel is coming to town as the evil Devil Queen in a vampire spectacular. But she has many other irons in the fire, as Pauline Hawkins finds out
Rockers, like vampires, never die... they simply stake a claim to your heart by belting out timeless tunes that live on forever in the memory.
Red-haired rebel Toyah Willcox is currently spending her evenings with the undead as a cadaverous cast and mystical musicians blast their way through some of the greatest rock anthems ever written and performed.
Tracks from Meat Loaf, Rainbow, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Queen, Whitesnake, Bonnie Tyler and Cher are given fresh life as Vampires Rock prepares to bring pulsating sounds and pyrotechnics to the Victoria Theatre, Halifax.
Toyah, who turned 50 this year, shows no sign of ageing – thanks in part to a facelift five years ago – as she dons a figure-hugging red outfit and headgear shaped like ram's horns to star in Vampires Rock as the Devil Queen, wife of the supremely evil Baron Von Rockula.
The role is light years from some of her previous incarnations in the 1990s as the narrator of the BBC children's show Teletubbies and a presenter of Songs of Praise series.
But, as she points out, these appearances were more than 10 years ago. And she currently has a workload that would terrify most actresses half her age.
The Vampires Rock tour began in Retford, Nottinghamshire, in mid-September and finishes in London next February. But there will be time for her to enjoy Christmas and set about other projects, including the third series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper, which is due to be filmed in the spring.
The musical comedy Vampires Rock is set in the future in New York, when the undead are livelier than ever and the charismatic and supremely evil Baron Von Rockula, owner of the Live and Let Die Club, is seeking a woman to agree to eternal immortality, be his queen and live forever.
The baron is played by Steve Steinman, who made his name as a Meat Loaf tribute act. The evil baron is looking to "trade in" Toyah's Devil Queen for another model.
"What I like about this show is that it is not every night, the dates are in batches," she says. "I am doing a lot of TV at the moment and I have an album in the iTunes chart and I'm preparing that for commercial release next Easter.
"I'm filming Supersize Me and Ready, Steady Cook at the moment, so it's quite mad.
"Originally I told Steve that I could fit in 20 dates and he said 44 theatres wanted the show. So I'm with film crews in the morning and as long as I'm at the theatre by 4pm, that's all that bothers him.
"I think Steve started the show in smaller venues but it has become so successful that he is booking larger and larger venues. We are going back to some places – Hull sold out immedaiately so we're going back for a second date.
"I open with one of my new songs, Lesser God, and the show is really about establishing the story through the lyrics of major rock anthems. The story is very light, but it's very loud rock and amazing pyrotechnics.
"People who have not seen the show before and don't know what it is are stunned. It's a very accomplished rock show. The band are phenomenal.
"It lacks the pomp of West End shows and is very inclusive of the audience. It's very lively, high-energy music and I get to play the baddie, which is a lot of fun. It is beautifully visual. I think people have been blown away by it."
INTERVIEW: TOYAH IN
She was a poster girl for punk, then went on to dip her toe into projects as diverse as presenting Songs of Praise and the Good Sex Guide in a career spanning 30 years. Now actress and singer Toyah Willcox is vamping it up for a new role in hit musical Vampires Rock.
Toyah Willcox is having the time of her life performing in rock 'n' roll musical extravaganza Vampires Rock.
"Steve Steinman (the man behind the hugely successful show) had been asking me to do it for a couple of years but my filming schedule was always too tight," she said.
"This year I said: 'OK, I'll give you 20 dates' and Steve being the absolutely brilliant businessman he is, came back with 44 dates!
"But I'm having the time of my life. I'm loving every moment of it. There's such a buzz around the show, it's fantastic."
Vampires Rock premiered in 2004. Rave reviews and standing ovations across Britain soon followed.
The show, which features music from Meat Loaf, Queen, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper and Guns 'n' Roses, combines a twist of rock, vampires and comedy.
The latest version of the show is set in 2030 New York city. Baron Von Rockula (Steinman), owner of the Live and Let Die Club, is searching for a new bride, someone he can persuade to sell her soul to rock 'n' roll.
The reason the show is such a success, according to Toyah, is because of its unique mix of tongue-in-cheek comedy and skilled musicians.
"The band are fantastic," she said.
"I'm married to one of the top 10 guitarists in the world (Robert Fripp) and he says these guys can outplay him, that's how good they are.
"The show is very clever in that it is an arena show set in a theatre. It's mind-blowing. There are pyrotechnics and it's very loud, like a rock concert. From the stage you often see the audience's jaws drop open. It's spectacular.
"It's funny too, for the fact it's quite ridiculous at times. It's sometimes almost a parody of the songs but done in a very clever way. It doesn't try to be Les Mis. It's a powerful show for people who love rock 'n' roll. There certainly isn't a flat moment in the show."
Steinman, who made his name as a Meatloaf tribute artist, agreed that there's no other show like it.
"We know how to work the crowd and they keep coming back, which is the sign of success," he said.
"The same people will come back night after night five or six times and you think 'You must be off your head' but they're enjoying it."
And he shared the secret of his success.
"I've stuck with the northern crowd," he said.
"I'm from Oldham, our singer is from Blackburn and all the crew are northern. There's lots of talent in the north and, as well as producing a 100 per cent professional show, we've got a good sense of humour, which the crowd loves."
VAMPIRES COME ALIVE
FOR THE ROCK QUEEN
Vampires Rock is a show like no other, with a twist of rock, a splash of musical theatre, and a generous helping of fun. But be warned, audiences attending the tongue-in-cheek show may find it hard to sit still, especially when Toyah Willcox is on stage, writes Susan Welsh
Slipping into a saucy skin-tight red leather costume and killer heels is one thing. Wearing the body-hugging costume while giving your all in a high-energy musical that requires you to sing and dance on stage is quite another, especially when, whisper it, the wearer turned 50 earlier this year.
At an age when some gals have quietly begun eyeing up outfits to disguise middle-age spread, singer and actress Toyah Willcox is getting ready to don an outfit that skims her body like a second skin.
Luckily, she’s in extremely good shape, as those with tickets for Vampires Rock, a lively rollercoaster of a horror musical which visits Inverness and Aberdeen this month, will soon see for themselves.
Vampires Rock, a tongue-in-cheek comedy created by Steve Steinman, is set in New York in the year 2030, when the rather lively undead are living among us. Steve Steinman, with his typical sense of cheeky humour, plays the charismatic and supremely evil Baron Von Rockula, owner of the Live and Let Die Club.
In search of a bride, the Baron must convince his chosen one to agree to eternal immortality, to be his queen and live forever.
Enter the equally watchable and talented Ms Willcox.
“I play the devil Queen who is married to Baron Von Rockula, a part which men and women in the audience can relate to as it is about the biggest cliche in history – man wants to trade in current wife for a younger version.
“In this case, the baron wants to trade in his 2,000-year-old wife, that’s me, for a newer model, ” said Toyah.
“The audience love the story and go bonkers, but there’s a twist in the tale which allows my character to develop throughout the show and fight to get him back.
“We use classic rock songs and anthems to carry the story right the way through the show with numbers by Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, White Snake, Cher, Rolling Stones, Billy Idol – the list goes on and on.
“One of the reasons people love the show, especially those who are into rock music, is because there’s a full band on stage – there are no corners cut on this production.
“It’s full of pyrotechnics, has a great stage set and fabulous costumes.
“It’s quite glam rock, too, and harks back to the 1970s when you had the likes of Roxy Music, David Bowie, T Rex and Alice Cooper all donning eye liner and wearing high heels.
“My costume is very much part of that era and it slots in beautifully,”
Which brings us rather neatly to that showstopping costume. How does she manage to stay slim enough to fit into it?
“I’m on stage with four of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever worked with and they’re all well under 25.
“That makes you work hard but, to be honest, I can’t eat very much while I’m rehearsing and have to do about 200 sit-ups a day, which at times is miserable,” said the star, who has an impressive 32 years under her showbiz belt.
Despite constant demands on her time – she has a new album out and tours regularly with her band, she’s a TV favourite guesting on everything from Tonight with Trevor Macdonald to I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! – Toyah was keen to get back to live theatre.
“Vampires Rock has been around for about five years and in all that time I’ve never heard anything but good of it,” she said.
“Where it is exceptional, purely on a business level, is that it sells out almost everywhere, yet it is a relatively brand-new, untold story.
“Steve Steinman, who created it, has been asking me for two years to come on board. This is the year I said yes, and already it seems that the show and me are made for each other.”
While Toyah always goes down a storm when she plays live, it’s in front of the camera that she feels right at home.
“I have tackled music, film, television, theatre, plays, reality shows, but I think now is a very interesting time in terms of media, because no one knows where anything is going, but the one constant is that people want live shows and, luckily for me, that’s what I do.”
Recently, Toyah played Billie Piper’s mother in the TV show Diary of a Call Girl, and next year she’s set to film a British movie called The Power of Three.
One movie she will always be linked to is the cult 1979 movie Quadrophenia, which tells the story of two rival gangs of 1960s mods and rockers and set to the music of The Who.
“I’m really glad I took part in the film, not just because I got to work with Sting and Phil Daniels, but because it was quite an experience just filming it.
“We could never have guessed at the longevity the film would enjoy, and it’s great to see generation after generation discovering the film and identifying with it.”
Aberdeen Press & Journal
It's been a busy year for Toyah Willcox - a new album, television work and now she's on tour with Vampires Rock. As the show prepares to sell out Ipswich's Regent Theatre she chats to James Marston.
Toyah takes the call in her dressing room at Manchester's Palace Theatre.
She's cheerful and excited and getting ready for a photo shoot when I ask her about the Vampires Rock tour.
She said: "It's a fabulous show. It's a bit like Rocky Horror Show, it has a following all of its own. Audiences have come along dressed as Dracula, vampires, ghosts and ghouls. We're a good ten days into the tour now and we've been selling out the venues which is great.
"I play the part of the devil queen. I'm 200 years old and the queen to Baron Von Rockula played by Steve Steinman. The story is he wants a younger wife. It's a story that goes down well with the audience. It is basically a heavy rock concert with a storyline."
When Vampires Rock premiered in 2004, it was immediately popular. Now the hit show, that according to the marketing blurb "combines a unique twist of rock, vampires, and comedy", is back for a new 44-date UK tour.
Toyah said: "I think I get about four or five songs on my own and I'm involved in some of the big group songs. It has been fantastic so far and I'm having lots of fun."
With a career that has spanned more than 30 years, Toyah is no stranger to the stage. Over the year's she's notched up an impressive 13 top 40 singles, 20 albums, made ten feature films and presented hundreds of TV shows.
And this year she has brought out a new album - In the Court of the Crimson Queen. She said: "It's coming out commercially next Easter and it's been doing well on the iTunes charts."
More recently she's appeared in the hit TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl for ITV2, alongside Billie Piper.
During Vampires Rock she sings not only her own songs from her new album but also numbers by Twisted Sisters, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Guns and Roses and the Osbournes.
Toyah said: "It's a very loud show. The costumes are fantastic. What I love about Vampires Rock is that it doesn't cut any corners. There are pyrotechnics and excellent lighting. It is a visual experience."
The year is 2030 and Baron Von Rockula (Steinman) is searching for a new bride. When Pandora Honey Roseybox arrives to audition for the resident vocalist position at the Live and Let Die club, little does she know, the only job on offer is to be the Baron's eternal bride.
The night of classic rock is played out by the Baron's hand-picked band, The Lost Boys, and more than a hint of comedy thanks to his sidekick Stringfellow.
At the heart of the show is the evil baron's attempt to convince Pandora to lose her soul to rock and roll.
Toyah, 50, said: "It reminds me of the visual rock I grew up with in Birmingham."
From her home in Worcestershire, Toyah is used to spending time on the road.
She said: "I've been touring for 30 years so I'm used to it. I'm an on-the-road person."
Ipswich Evening Star
TOYAH IS ONE VAMPY LADY
Punk singer Toyah Willcox loves playing the Devil Queen in stage show Vampires Rock, which is about to tour Scotland.
Dressing up in outrageous costumes to belt out classic rock tunes every night is a dream come true for the 50-year-old singer.
She said: "It is a lovely show to do and really good fun. The audience just love it, too. They all come dressed up as their favourite vampire or really gothic, they participate in everything and they love the music.
"Each song is a fantastic rock track and the audience know every word. It's great and it is the one show I've done that goes in a blink of an eye."
Show creator Steve Steinman reckons that Toyah is the perfect choice to play the Devil Queen in the unique production.
He said: "I really wouldn't call Vampires Rock a musical, it is a concert with a little bit more.
"It is very visual and Toyah just fits in so well. She is a legend and she has absolutely done the business and looks like she is really enjoying it."
Toyah is so involved in the show that she even designs the costumes.
She said: "I have created these looks over the last year as part of Toyah TV that I started on My Space.
"I have a team that creates my looks for me and I do have a lot of say in how I want them to be. It is something that I have done for many years."
Toyah has her fingers in many pies. As well as Vampires Rock, she has recently released two albums, In The Court Of The Crimson Queen and Good Morning Universe - The Very Best of Toyah. She has also been performing solo gigs in front of as many as 30,000 people. She said: "I've had a very busy year, but that's the way I like it. I love my work because it is great fun and it is so varied.
"No day is the same as the last and I don't look forward to booking a holiday the way other people do because it just doesn't fit into my life. But that's probably because my life feels rewarding and I don't feel any need to escape from that.
"I am very choosy about the work that I do and I would never pick jobs which would make me feel like that.
"I look for things that have originality, which push boundaries. I'm not interested in what I'd call safe, I like things that are quite unusual and new in their approach.
"Like with Vampire Rocks, there is something very clever about it. It is an incredibly simple idea, but the audience just get it. There is very little script, Steve just lets the songs carry the story. You just have to see how the audiences react to see how it simply works."
Toyah, who is originally from Birmingham, has been in show business for more than 30 years, first coming to the public's attention when she appeared in Derek Jarman's 1977 film Jubilee and Quadrophenia.
Her singing career then blossomed in the early 1980s with hits It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free and in 1982 she was named Best Female Singer at the British Rock and Pop Awards, now the Brits.
Over the years, she has also appeared in a huge range of TV programmes ranging from Songs Of Praise to the The Good Sex Guide. More recently, she has been in Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, the third series of which she is booked to appear in next year.
She said: "I am fully booked for all of next year.
"I am doing more Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, Vampires Rock again, I am starring in a film called Power Of Three and I am playing Paul McGann's sister in a new series called Mason And Son.
"So I am pretty busy and that's just the way I like it."
I felt as if I was in that classic Hollywood horror The Haunting Of Hill House. Six of my closest friends and I arrived at a haunted castle for an evening investigating the paranormal. This was a serious event for Haunting Breaks, which is passionate about trying to ensure clients have a paranormal experience - that's why it chooses venues where unsuspecting members of the public have already been rudely awoken by spooks.
We were staying at Bolebroke Castle, Henry VIII's hunting lodge, where he courted Anne Boleyn and where she now supposedly walks the corridors without her head.
On arrival, we giggled like school children and teased each other about being spooked, all of us slightly sceptical but rather excited at the same time. Only 12 hours later I insisted two friends slept in the same room as me because I was too frightened to be alone.
Bolebroke Castle, near Hartfield in Sussex, has a long history of 'sightings'. Guests have happened across a woman in grey, a running boy and other nightly apparitions.
This might put some people off ever visiting but thanks to the growing popularity of TV programmes such as Most Haunted and Living With The Dead there are many willing victims desperate to find life after death or just wanting the thrill of bumping into ghosties in the night. I am one of them.
The paranormal team, Peter Turner and Carol Bowen and guest psychic Ruth Brunt-Jones, are serious about the subject but welcoming and keen to be questioned. We sat outside in the sunshine diving into a cream tea and talking about the events to come later that evening.
Group bookings work particularly well with this event. First, there's safety in numbers if one person gets scared witless; and second, the laughter tends to flow more easily and long into the night, making me think that this is an ideal hen-night escapade.
Then, after tea, we tried on our Elizabethan costumes. I was a bit dubious about dressing up at first but it bonded the whole team and, according to 'medium' Carol Bowen, this encouraged activity. She also commented that spirits like laughter. Well, they were getting plenty of that from us, we were in hysterics at how we all looked.
The bedrooms at Bolebroke are large and most are en suite. Mine was the King's Room, which made me nervous as I really wouldn't have liked a visit from Henry VIII. He was too much of a bully for my liking.
Just before supper at 8pm, we had drinks and an excellent presentation from Peter and Carol who showed us pictorial evidence of spirit activity from other events and titillated us with what we could expect to see. And we were asked to pick a crystal to be kept on our person at all times for our own protection - the crystal having been blessed by a psychic.
After supper we would be attempting to contact the dead, or at least finding evidence of ghosts with dowsing, the art of using a pendulum or a pair of dowsing rods to locate an energy field.
Table-tipping was another, very antiquated, technique. This is a simple experiment where people seated around the table ask the spirits to 'tip the table'. I think I saw Margaret Rutherford do this in an old black and white movie when I was 12. Glass divination is equally 'schooldays'. I think everyone has tried this in the school common room at some point in their teenage years. Finally, there was the 1am seance. The idea of this slightly spooked me, as I was not sure I want to talk to the dead. I only wanted to see them.
After a wonderful three-course supper in the spooky medieval banqueting hall, our activities started with pendulums and dowsing rods. I have dowsed before, for water and for ley lines (invisible power lines said to crisscross the world), and I take pride that I am a natural dowser.
And my skills did not let me down. I made contact with a spirit immediately and had the attention of the whole room, especially when one of my friends photographed me and the camera wouldn't focus, instead capturing a purple 'aura' behind me.
Peter guided me on how to have a dialogue with the other side by using the rods. I had to ask questions that could be answered with only 'yes' or 'no'. A 'yes' was when the rods crossed and a 'no' was when they moved apart. I could definitely feel a power moving through my hands and into the rods, moving them erratically.
This was very exciting and not at all scary and encouraged the other guests to join in but they didn't all have the luck I had.
Our hosts said they were highly qualified in contacting the other side but qualifications didn't guarantee who and what you contacted.
I seemed to have 'spirited up' a maid who worked at the castle between the wars and she gave the name Joy. This took a long time to find out. I had to ask the question 'Does your name start with an A? Does your name start with a B?'... until I received a 'yes' for J. Then I could start guessing every name that started with that letter.
Our next quest took us back into Bolebroke's eerie and oppressive dining hall, to try our hand with an upturned glass.
With the team's fingers resting lightly on the glass, we took it in turns to ask if there was a spirit who wanted to make contact.
Unbeknown to the Haunting Breaks team, I had chosen friends to accompany me who had all lost loved ones in the past 12 months and this was when the evening became very powerful. They all made contact with who they wanted to. It is easy to say that anyone can pretend to be a ghost and push the glass but each member of my team asked questions that only the deceased person could answer and only one of those questions received a wrong reply from about 30 asked. This success left all the guests stunned and elated.
Next, we were taken to a bedroom on the first floor where past guests had reported being woken by their bedding being forcibly pulled off.
Contact was again a glass and a table, with all of us placing a finger on the glass. We immediately had a very energetic and angry response, with the glass almost shooting off the table. This is where the evening became really spooky. Realising the glass was possessed by a male spirit, I started to ask questions.
'Are you a huntsman?'
'Yes,' said the glass.
'Do you have many mistresses?'
The glass violently shot to the 'yes' position on the table.
'Were you killed hunting?'
The glass slowly moved to 'no'.
'Were you murdered by a mistress's husband?'
Don't ask me why I asked these questions. Possibly because I had entered into the 'spirit' of the evening by dressing up, possibly because I embraced the history of the castle, but the glass shot violently across the table to say 'yes'.
By now, I was very scared and very tired. When we headed for bed I asked two of my friends to move into my room for the night and we settled down for a surprisingly restful sleep.
TOYAH ROCKS WITH A
Toyah Willcox tells Emma Pinch about the feminist message in her new show and album
It was inevitable that one day – or, rather, one sunset – pop star Toyah Willcox would morph into a vampire.
This is the woman, after all, who doesn’t sleep, is on nodding terms with the undead, and, judging from the evidence, likes to bite life firmly in the throat.
This year Toyah, 50, has her first studio album in 14 years, has created Toyah TV, has walked the Gobi Desert and the Great Wall of China with Olivia Newton John and Danni Minogue, and is on an arena tour as a hard-rocking vampiress.
Vampires Rock, by Steve Steinman, is set in a New York club called Live and Let Die. It’s the year 2030 and the undead are among us.
Toyah’s character is a femme fatale devil in high-heeled boots belting out classic rock anthems. The former high priestess of punk is, in her own words, “a bit of an attention seeker”, so it’s a plum role.
She describes it as a sort of Rocky Horror Show, songs from the likes of Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, AC/DC, Led Zep and Twisted Sister, providing a narrative, with plenty of pyrotechnics and costume changes.
“Vampire Rock is about a 2,000-year-old Baron Von Rockula and he wants to trade my character, The Devil Queen, in for a younger model,” enthuses Toyah. “It’s the same old story that women have to live with right through their lives. But it goes down so well,” she confesses, with her infectious lisp.
“Baron Von Rockula has found this new young protegé and it’s about the battle between the three of them. It’s very tongue-in-cheek.
“My character is very manipulative, always threatening to kick her husband out and beat up Pandora. She’s pretty vile but audiences just love it. I get such huge cheers.
“It’s full in your face. There’s so much Nosferatu in it.”
Being thrown over at a certain age, with no intention of going quietly, describes Toyah’s own battle.
Lesser God, which opens the show, was a song she wrote in protest at women getting a raw deal. “Women are treated like second-class citizens, never more so than in religion,” she says. “The title speaks for itself. Because I’m a woman, am I made by a second-hand God? If women ruled the world, I think it would be a very different world.”
Though she says she entered it with her eyes open, there are few industries more sexist and ageist than showbiz.
She felt compelled to get a facelift after Jonathan Ross criticised her sagging looks on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. But, in typical Toyah style, she followed it up with the gruesomely honest Diary of a Facelift. The public reaction touched her profoundly.
“Funnily enough, it’s one of the strongest things I’ve done in being accepted as a human being. I just get people coming up to me daily, thanking me for that book. Women of my age say ‘Thank you for being honest’.
“When I had my facelift, in the next room to me in Paris was a very famous supermodel having her skin lasered and resurfaced for this L’Oreal shoot for skin cream. It’s this whole thing that women, within the cosmetic industry, are constantly lied to to spend their money, and it just makes me so angry the industry does that. I actually think the book set a trend for being more open and honest about things.“
A childhood spent with severe illness – she had a twisted spine and club feet – left her extremely health conscious. She shuns alcohol and smoking, and gives talks about how to maintain health to enjoy an active middle age.
Her achievements this year were “very consciously” to send a message to women her age that they could do it, too.
“I’m really so dead against smoking and drinking, I don’t socialise in the company of people who do those either. I’m really very strong about it; it’s cost me a lot of friendships.
“If you plan and you work hard and you keep your health, there’s no reason you can’t have a fantastic life. I see people destroy themselves by 30. Really you should hit 50 and have a fantastic time.”
Her new album, In The Court of the Crimson Queen, pushes further the defiant message.
“There’s one song called Angel in You which is about bagging the boy you never slept with in your 20s. And it’s about I’ve been meaning to do this for years and I’m leading you up the stairs to wonderland. The only theme is I never denied my age and never calmed down either. I wanted to write sexy rock songs for my age group.”
She’s so emphatic and vivac- ious, it’s impossible to see how she does it all without sleep.
Yet she’s been a chronic insomniac since 14, and says her body has just adjusted to it.
“It doesn’t mean I’m up partying all the time,” she says. “The thing with insomnia is once you lose daylight your brain is as hopeless as someone who sleeps. You’re literally in suspended animation. In the summer it’s fantastic because you only get about three hours of darkness. Once you’re in the winter months, it’s about wading through mud.
“About once every two weeks I manage to sleep and it’s really good solid sleep. I’m OK if I sleep between 8am and 10am, I can survive the day and that’s the only time I survive the day properly.”
Toyah shares the wee hours with ghosts that haunt her home, which lies in the shadow of Pershore Abbey, in Worcestershire. It’s a situation she’s airily matter-of-fact about.
“I live in a very old house in a town renowned for hauntings. You see them in the road. It’s where I live, there’s a lot of history.”
The internet has been a blessing: “I get up and go to my office and pester people with email. People are very imp- ressed when they get an email from me at two in the morning. Until they realise I just don’t get any sleep, they seem to think there’s something superhuman about it.”
You can hardly blame them.
Liverpool Daily Post
BORN TO BE A VAMPIRE
Toyah Willcox talks to Viv Hardwick about her Vampire Rocks role and why she doesn’t believe a word she reads about herself in newspapers.
If you were going to select anyone to be a Vampire Queen then Toyah Willcox was always likely to be top of the list. “I was born to play this role,” she laughs and says that the impression of her isn’t a worry. “I really like the idea that eventually I get to play a devil queen. It’s the baddie role, the roles where you can really go out there and not be logical with your behaviour and I really like what we’ve done with this particular character. She’s completely off her rocker and has to become quite human and feminine to win her husband back.
So it’s quite hysterical,” she says.
The 50-year-old has agreed to take on the role in the show, Vampires Rock, for 44 dates, which includes York next month and Sunderland in October, 2009.
“It’s interesting the majority of the dates are nice intimate theatres, but at Christmas we’re doing Liverpool Arena and then Belfast, so it’s a lovely mix of venues. It’s actually a big show with a lot of us on stage and there’s a full rock band who are on the stage all night, plus dancers, actors, a full lighting rig and pyrotechnics. It must be the biggest touring one-night show in the country.
It’s massive,” Toyah adds.
Vampires Rock has been building a cult following for the past five years and shamelessly appeals to the fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“People go along because they feel part of the show. When Steve Steinman, the creator, contacted me I was both intrigued and very interested,” says the singer/actor who came to the showman’s attention after spending the last 12 months creating Toyah TV on MySpace.
“There’s been lots of bizarre videos, and energies and brand new music. He said ‘we can actually take that and slot it into the show’. My new album came out and it charted at No 11 in the itunes rock chart. So this is one of the first symbiotic relationships to happen between new music and a show which puts rock classics on a pedestal,” she explains. Her opening number is her creation, Lesser God, but she also gets to perform Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, as the songs provide a background to the script.
“There a lot of people out there who love their rock and roll but they want to see something that is a little more than a band and singers. So this is Spinal Tap with teeth,” she explains, adding that you can argue that the script shouldn’t get in the way of the music.
Here, the ultra-thin plot is Baron Von Rockular wanting to trade in his 2,000- year-old wife for a younger model. “It’s a fast-moving show with a lot of comedy, so it’s not a musical in the sense of a disgruntled teenager looking for fame,” Toyah adds.
Her route to Vampires Rock has been a year on the road touring with the Here And Now arena shows, which has proved a huge hit with fans, plus festivals.
Seeing her workload, which included filming a new series of BBC’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl with Billie Piper, she says: “I actually don’t enjoy sleeping. It’s something I have to make myself do.
I’m economical with my time. For example, two hours before curtain up I shut the dressing room door and don’t speak and that’s phenomenonly restful. I don’t party and I don’t like drinking and you’d have to pay me a million pounds to go into a nightclub. I just don’t live like that.” She does admit that she was more of a party animal in her younger days but dismisses a lot of the media reporting on ‘drug-addicted’ young pop stars as “to be taken with a pinch of salt”.
“Every day I read weird things about myself and it’s just staggering. There was a headline on the Daily Telegraph on-line recently: ‘Toyah says Madonna’s ashamed of doing old songs’. I don’t know Madonna and haven’t seen her in concert for three years, but when you saw the article you believed I was there on her opening night. There was another headline ‘Toyah Wants Her Breasts Removed’ which makes me think people sit around a table thinking up the oddest things to say about the oddest people.
That’s why I don’t believe what I read about anyone else,” she says.
Toyah has tried to put the record straight with her autobiography, Living Out Loud in 2000, and done her own piece of journalistic research with a book on plastic surgery from the inside – Diary Of A Facelift in 2005.
“Everyone does it, absolutely everyone and denies it and I have a problem with that. I think it’s wrong to have surgery and then go and tell people that you’ve lost weight because you’re dieting or you look 20 years younger because you’ve got good genes. It doesn’t help people get on with their lives that kind of dishonesty.
So that’s why I wrote about it,” says Toyah, who found that many of the people having the surgery were men. “There are just as many men who have the good old botox as women,” says the performer who claims she has no complaints about the results on herself.
“I do what I do for me. In the end everything is down to personal choice,” she adds. Interestingly, when I ask if her intention was to look younger to further her own career, Toyah asks if the interview can move in another direction.
With a new album, Latex Messiah, and a Greatest Hits compilation on sale, Toyah says of her music career: “I surprised myself because I had retired as a recording artist. I never expected to do it again. I started 12 months ago writing for other artists and then people said ‘your voice is sounding great, you should do an album’ and that’s why I started releasing a new video to a song every few months on Toyah TV. So when the album came out on itunes it charted immediately. Radiohead have proved that sometimes itunes sell more than mail order and CD sales,” she adds.
When I mention that fans downloading her tracks straight to their ever-present MP3 players are more likely to listen to her music than CD buyers she acknowledges the point.
“It’s about visibility and I’m lucky that I have a music history and I get to play live, but it does seem that everything is condensing and speeding up.”
TOYAH GETS HER TEETH
INTO A HER NEW ROLE
Toyah Willcox has never been afraid to do and say exactly as she pleases, and, now she’s turned 50, the former high priestess of punk doesn’t show any signs of changing.
“I love wearing the very dramatic, tight, glam rock costumes and devil’s horns. It’s not the easiest thing speaking and singing with vampire teeth, but they are quite sexy.”
No, I’m not interviewing Toyah about her unusual fetishes, but about her role in the cult musical Vampires Rock.
Hailed by rock’s legendary guitarists Brian May (Queen), Paul Crook (Meat Loaf) and Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister), Vampires Rock is a production like no other with a twist of rock, a hint of musical theatre and the greatest rock anthems ever.
The show was written by former Meat Loaf impersonator and star of the show Steve Steinman when he saw a gap in the market to accommodate audiences’ love for classic rock music.
That was in 2004, and since then the show has been so successful that it has toured virtually non- stop and can boast a massive fanbase and ticket sales of more than one million.
“It has a massive cult following, and that following is getting bigger by the day,” explains Toyah.
“People love it because it’s such fun. The dialogue is short and sweet so that the songs tell the story.
“It’s Spinal Tap with teeth,” she laughs.
Toyah stars as the Devil Queen, the long- suffering wife of Baron Von Rockula, played by Steve.
Set in New York in the year 2030, the undead are livelier than ever, especially in club Live And Let Die, where Baron Von Rockula and the Devil Queen reside.
“The baron is trying to update me – his 2,000- year-old wife – for a newer model, but I’m having none of it. I would say ‘over my dead body’, but then I’m already dead, aren’t I?”
The new bride in question is innocent, aspiring singer, Pandora, who stumbles across the club in need of a job.
Cue a host of classic rock, played live by the baron’s hand-picked band, the Lost Boys, and a hint of comedy, as the baron and his sidekick, Stringfellow, attempt to convince Pandora to lose her soul to rock’n’roll.
Along with Steve and Toyah, a cast of superb singers, sexy dancers and a formidable band blast their way through some of the greatest ever rock anthems, including We Will Rock You, Bat Out Of Hell, Since You’ve Been Gone, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Sweet Child Of Mine and many more.
Add to this an amazing set and breathtaking pyrotechnics, and Vampires Rock is set to thrill audiences during its run in Bristol.
While many shows trim down to go on tour, Toyah assures me that the Bristol Hippodrome will host the entire production, with full cast and set, so that audiences will have the complete Vampires Rock experience.
“It’s one of the largest – if not the largest – touring one-night shows. There are two artic lorries involved because they are touring full lighting, full PA, stage sets, all the pyrotechnics... it’s massive.
“Then, of course, there’s a full rock band on stage as well as many dancers and actors.
“What I like about it is that it doesn’t cut any corners. It’s a massive show, full of fire and explosions, and it’s always performed at full throttle wherever we go.”
Like Vampires Rock, Toyah herself has always liked to go full throttle. She is, by her own admission, “a bit of an attention-seeker” and a workaholic.
During her 20s, Toyah was the most outrageous and most successful punk rocker of her age, with her shock of bright pink hair and trademark lisp.
She first became well- known through her appearancesin Derek Jarman’s 1977 film Jubilee and 1979’s Who-inspired Quadrophenia, launching her as a provocative anti- establishment figure.
Fronting a band known as Toyah, her singing career took off in 1981 when she scored hits with It’s A Mystery and I Want To Be Free.
She continued to knock out the hits before becoming a well-known face on stage and television, performing Shakespeare and presenting such diverse TV shows as Songs Of Praise and Good Sex Guide Late.
In 2003, she took time out to survive 12 long days and nights in the Australian Jungle for the ITV reality series I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! After the show, Jonathan Ross commented that she looked so awful she shouldn’t be allowed to appear on television.
Instead of being angry, she agreed and booked herself in for a facelift.
“In this business, I accept that 95 per cent of it is about how you look,” she says. “That’s just the way it is.”
Whether it’s down to a nip and tuck or not, Toyah certainly seems to be in more demand than ever at the moment. As well as the countrywide tour of Vampires Rock, she has also just released her latest album, In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, is writing material for other artists and recently appeared in the second series of TV’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl alongside Billie Piper.
“Variety is the spice of life!” she exclaims. “I’ve always fought shy of ending up in just one thing because your feet get stuck in the mud and you get boxed in.
“Vampires Rock is something completely new to me and I’m having a ball,” she adds. “In these times of hardship and recession, I just think that this show is a real cube of sugar. It lightens people’s lives, and that is something we all need.”
Toyah Willcox has been gracing our screens and airwaves ever since she appeared in Derek Jarman's 1977 film Jubilee and 1979's Who album-inspired Quadrophenia.
But now, after achieving numerous chart-topping hits and an appearance on I'm A Celebrity, Toyah is back treading the boards in the musical Vampires Rock.
Here she plays the Devil Queen, the 2,000-year-old long suffering wife of Baron Von Rockula (played by Steve Steinman).
"He wants to get rid of me so the evening is spent trying to get rid of me and persuading a young, much more beautiful woman [to marry him]," said Toyah.
The new bride in question is an innocent, aspiring singer, Pandora (Emily Clark). Cue a host of classic rock, played live by the Baron’s hand picked band, The Lost Boys, and a hint of comedy, as the Baron and his sidekick, Stringfellow (Mike Taylor) attempt to convince Pandora to lose her soul to rock and roll.
The musical features many classic rock songs, some of which appear on Toyah's new album.
"The whole of Vampires Rock is about classic rock anthems. It’s hit after hit after hit and we let the anthems tell the story," said Toyah.
"It is dramatic, but it is also spinal tap with teeth and it is very, very funny. The audience are in for a good laugh and I think the reason why it is so funny is because we’re all relatively good at what we do and Steve’s a comedian at heart. It is dramatic and it is visually inspiring. There’s no corners cut whatsoever, you’ve got your pyrotechnics and stage set, fabulous costumes... so it’s quite an eye-opener."
It was written by Steve, who is well known for his abilities to rock-out as he appeared on Stars In Their Eyes as Meatloaf and he is working on a stage show based on his idol.
So as he stepped through the famous smoke-filled entrance, did he think, in years to come, that Meatloaf would still play a big part of his life?
"Did I ‘eck. When I did that I was actually running a hotel and restaurant, that was my business, I think I must have been 20, 21. And I did it, and I was a proper contestant and I had a business and three or four years later I started singing professionally," he said.
November 6th won't be the first time the pair have been to Weston. Steve used to ride motorbikes along the beach when he was younger while for Toyah, it could be said that without Weston, she would not exist.
"My mother was a dancer on the pier at Weston and my father saw her on stage there and pursued her around the country so my life, you could say, started in Weston and they visit Weston-super-Mare every month to have fish and chips."
So what do they think of the now fire-ravaged pier?
"It's awful isn't it. It's just the history in these piers. I was watching a programme about how many piers have burnt down across the country and really they need to be brought back," said Toyah.
"They’ve got to come back because culturally Britain does piers beautifully and they’re Edwardian / Victorian structures and I think it would be sad if all of them became ultra modern. I think there is something quintessentially family about the sea and seeing the pier."
FORMER PUNK QUEEN TOYAH WILLCOX LOVES HAVING
HER SHOWBIZ PALS ROUND – THE ONLY PROBLEM IS
NEGOTIATING HER SPIRAL STAIRCASE
When Toyah Willcox bought her tiny flat in the leafy suburb of Chiswick, west London, she found it was the perfect place for entertaining famous friends.
Toyah counts David Bowie, Marilyn Manson and Adam Ant among her mates. She says casually: "The drummer from REM stays here when he's in town.
"It's a tiny flat," she adds. "We usually have drinks here, then eat out. Chiswick is perfect for that as there are so many great restaurants just a short walk away."
The only problem is negotiating the perils of that striking spiral staircase after a drink or two.
"It can be tricky after a night out. I've tumbled down a few times!" admits the singer and presenter.
Still, it's a small price to pay for having such a great crash pad in the capital.
Over the past 15 years, she's transformed the one-bed bolthole into her city sanctuary, although her main home is in Worcestershire, and she has a house in the south of France too.
Despite the fact that the properties are owned by her and her husband, musician Robert Fripp, Toyah, 50, is the one who spends most time at the flat.
The couple have an unconventional relationship and rarely spend more than 12 weeks a year living together. But the arrangement works for Toyah, who loves her own space.
She's given the flat a lick of paint and picked up unique accessories on her travels to make the place her own. She also plans to create her own music studio, as she loves impromptu jamming sessions with her rocker friends.
And the area is a celeb haven, with numerous famous faces living nearby. "It's a great community," Toyah says. "Phill Jupitus and Mark Lamarr live nearby, so I love coming home here."
Now all she has to worry about is that pesky staircase!
Toyah is currently touring the UK in the musical Vampires Rock. For more info, go to Vampiresrock.debzwebz.biz.
1. SOFA “This is from Habitat, circa 1983 – it’s been in many different homes over the years, but is still in perfect nick.”
2. CHAIRS “These Indian chairs were gathering dust in an antiques shop in Worcester. I like the mother-of-pearl inlay – the craftsmanship is beautiful.”
3. MIRROR “I got this ornate mirror from a florist’s shop in Stoke-on-Trent. It was a bit of a bargain.”
4. CUSHIONS “I enjoy injecting colour into a room. These vivid cushions are from TKMaxx.”
TOYAH'S STYLE TIPS
• Live with things you enjoy looking at and using, not what you think you should have.
• Don’t let the existing layout limit you – think about building up, out or down. Staying put and renovating is easier than getting a new place, especially during a credit crunch.
• Bring back objects, accessories, even furniture from your travels abroad – you’ll build up a unique style of your own.
Fabulous Magazine/News Of The World
MADONNA'S ASHAMED TO SING 80'S
HITS CLAIMS TOYAH WILLCOX
Former punk rocker Toyah Willcox has accused Madonna of being "ashamed" of singing her classic Eighties tracks.
Willcox said she could "hear the audience groan" when she went to see the London-based American star play at Wembley.
Speaking as she prepared to return to the stage for a live show singing rock classics, she said of live artists: "People want to hear their hits and not their arty songs."
She added: "When I went to see Madonna at Wembley she did an hour of B sides and you could hear the audience groan."
She concluded: "I just don't think people should be ashamed of the hits that mean so much to so many people."
The Queen of Pop does appear to have taken some of Willcox's advice already, singing Like A Virgin to an audience in Rome. Madonna, 50, controversially dedicated the performance to Pope Benedict XVI.
But Willcox, also 50, said she did not think Madonna and other live performing artists knew what their fans really wanted - which she maintained was to hear the anthems of the past.
While Madonna has embarked on her latest worldwide tour, Willcox is playing a devil queen in a sing-along extravaganza called Vampires Rock, in which members of the audience are invited to dress up in costume. A national 44-date tour begins on Friday at the 650-capacity Majestic Theatre in Retford, Notts.
The live show, a cross between the Rocky Horror Picture Show and We Will Rock You, is a vehicle for a string of hits belted out by her and the show's founder Steve Steinman, such as Alice Cooper's School's Out For Summer and Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses.
Willcox enthused: "People are coming to hear the music. When they come along they are baying for blood. People want the hits."
She said the appetite for nostalgic music had never been stronger. "I'm making more money out of music now that I was in 1981."
Steinman, who plays Baron von Rockula in the "fang-tastic rock musical", said Britons were becoming more and more willing to shed their inhibitions for a night of outright fun.
But he added Southerners still needed some convincing to get into the spirit of things. "Those in the north tend to dress up more," he said.
Toyah Willcox: pop singer, serious actress, successful author… and now property magnate. This diverse performer once famed for her punk haircut is now persuing a fourth career as a property investor overseas and has bought two apartments on the French Riviera.
Closest to her heart is an apartment in the seaside town of Menton, which she completed on last June and cost £271,800. She spent five months improving the property, which she says she fell in love with instantly.
“I’ve always dreamt of owning a property with French windows that open out onto a sea view and when I walked into this apartment, I felt instantly attached to it,” she says.
Wisely, Toyah rents her two-bedroom property out when she’s not there, using a local agent, Tracy Egan at A-Plus Properties for between 600 and 950 Euro a week. “She finds the sort of people I’d want to rent it out to – people who love gardens and the outdoors, and who will respect it,” she says.
The property is typical of bohemian Menton, with its sun bleached shutters and antique appearance.
“The French don’t go for properties like this, they don’t like anything old or decrepit,” Toyah says, which is more in line with her second property, an ultra-modern steel and glass one-bedroom apartment in nearby Eze, which she bought off-plan.
The apartment appeals to the local French rental market, which generally prefers more modern buildings. It was the £720-a-month that this investment earned that allowed Toyah to buy her Menton apartment.
Toyah is an astute business woman, with a property portfolio of three houses in the UK as well as her apartments on the French Riviera. She is mortgage free in the UK and spots the potential for investment in Menton, saying: “My apartment in Menton is a place of peace for me – but it’s also a very exciting business venture. I’m always looking at what else I might want to buy here.”
A Place In The Sun
Since the age of seven, when I saw the Sound of Music about six times in a row, I just knew show business was the job for me. Even now I still have a rebellious streak, I don’t feel like I’m a conformist at all. I think I’ve always bucked the trend. I was one of the first people to be singing and acting and have two completely separate careers. Now that’s bog standard. When I started thirty years ago celebrity didn’t exist the way it does now, today it’s big business. I’m not scared of celebrity but I never expected it to become a worldwide industry.
I like new challenges, if something is difficult I really like it. It means your breaking your own habits. There are times when thing are difficult. The hardest thing I have ever done is having to film on a busy street like Oxford Street in London. People always want to know what you’re doing and you can’t be left alone to get on with it. Every job has its own difficulties but I enjoy that. I’m still striving to achieve, for me once something is done its gone and forgotten. It’s history. In many ways I’m still trying to achieve the impossible dream.
I didn’t enjoy I’m a celebrity get me out of here, it was actually incredibly hard. They starve you, they play psychological games with you and no-one ever mentions that its freezing cold. You go out and think you are going to have a lovely time in the sunshine and the reality is horrible. Leeches are prolific in the jungle and they are attracted to body heat. When we were talking a clump of leaves would move towards us and it would be leeches. Really spooky. But despite being smelly and dirty I realised this is the nature of the beast and celebrity telly is part of what I do.
I believe firmly that everybody has a right to work, regardless of age. I came into the business never expecting to retire and I still feel the same way. Pure pigheadedness keeps me going, I think I’m going to fight ageism all the way. I have worked with brilliant people in their late seventies like Catherine Hepburn, the legendary Hollywood actress. It’s people like her that inspire me to keep going. I’m still enjoying myself and I feel I have a right to keep working until that changes.
The most successful things are the simplest things. If you told me last year I would be doing a 44 date tour wearing big teeth I would have gone mad! ‘Vampire’s Rock’ has been around for a couple of years and it’s building a huge following. The audience come along wanting to be part of the show, and it doesn’t disappoint. It has more pyrotechnics than the Olympic games! Its got humour, it’s fun and it has really great music. I initially said yes because I wanted to enjoy myself, but since then it’s taken on a life of its own and I really respect the fact it’s a high quality show. This is what theatre does, it’s about enjoyment, and this is no exception.
There is a lot of people out there who really romanticise about being vampires, and that’s what this is about. The audience can expect a rocky horror-esque atmosphere, and lots of comedy. The story is slightly sexist but it’s all tongue in cheek – or tooth in cheek! I think the audience needs to come along and enjoy the fetishism of being a vampire. I play the Devil Queen and will I be using a lot of my potential for wifely tantrums and seduction. I have definitely been typecast for the role and I’m not afraid to say it.
LOUD AND PROUD!
As a young teenager I prided myself on being a bit of a Toyah Willcox fan.
While her first commercial success, the It’s A Mystery EP, was climbing up the charts, I was hunting out early records like Danced, Ieya and The Blue Meaning. I listened to them endlessly. The Toyah! live album got me through exam revision. My fan worship was short-lived, but I’ve still got my Toyah records – they’re part of my youth, and those early songs remain somewhere in my subconscious.
So when I recently came to interview Toyah, I had mixed feelings; when someone has had an impact on your formative years, maybe it’s best not to break the spell by talking to them.
As it turned out, Toyah was a pleasure to talk to; friendly, open and thoughtful. This month she has two album releases, and from September she stars in a tour of gothic rock musical Vampire Rocks. Next week she’s headlining the last-night celebrations at Grassington Festival, and this summer she joins other Eighties artists on the Here And Now tour.
“I have respect for nostalgia,” says Toyah. “There’s a great atmosphere at these shows. People enjoy going back to a pivotal time in their lives – in the case of my records they remember getting expelled to them! “I like the idea of bands devoting a concert to a particular album – I’d love to see Lou Reed do Transformer – but there’s also a lot to be said for artists celebrating songs that played a big part in people’s lives.
My show is a career retrospective, covering the hits and rock covers by acts like Blue Oyster Cult and Guns N' Roses.
This month sees the release of Good Morning Universe, a compilation album spanning 1979 to 2003, including singles, key album tracks, live favourites, rare B-sides, collaborations and previously unreleased material.
Toyah is also releasing an album called In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, a reference to her husband, legendary guitarist Robert Fripp's iconic album with his band King Crimson, In The Court Of The Crimson King.
We decided not to re-create the cover, that may have been going too far. We?ve gone for an image of me dressed as the Devil. It?s suitably tongue-in-cheek,? smiles Toyah.
Is album artwork lost on the download generation? Gone are the days when kids like me saved up for albums and treated them like treasured possessions. In the iPod age, music is as disposable as it is accessible.
The download generation has been great for me because I?ve now created a global network,? says Toyah. ?Thanks to MySpace I?ve reached people I'd never normally have reached; it would've taken years of touring to build up that kind of fanbase. Last year my single Latex Messiah reached No 6 in the iTunes rock charts.
But I know what you mean about the love of albums, that lost vinyl age. The writer Michel Faber works with his favourite album covers arranged all over the room. I like that.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Toyah has had 13 hit singles, 20 albums, written two books, and presented countless TV programmes, from The Good Sex Guide to Songs Of Praise. Her acting career spans TV, theatre and film. More recently she starred in children's TV series Barmy Aunt Boomerang and ITV's Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.
Her first notable film roles were in Derek Jarman's 1977 punk epic Jubilee, then Quadrophenia. She and her band had been recording for several years before her music career took off in 1981 with It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free.
With her orange crimped hair and striking stage outfits, Toyah wasn't embraced by punks, nor was she toe-the-line mainstream, and she says it was a struggle to retain her individuality. Artists are always pigeon-holed, and when I started out that was incredibly frustrating, she says. I had tons of energy and thought the world was mine, I didn?t want to be told what to do.
The internet gives today's new artists more freedom from corporate record companies. And I get excited by major artists like Coldplay and Radiohead breaking away to deliver their music on the internet. Every generation brings its own revolution.
Last month Toyah turned 50 and is embracing the future with the boundless energy of the girl bursting on to Top Of The Pops 25 years ago.
Tomorrow, I'm going for a role in a film called The Power Of Three. All three lead roles are for women my age, she says. The demographic is changing; the women with real power and money are aged 50 upwards. They call the shots and that reflects the kind of roles out there for older women.
Life doesn't turn off at a certain age. But the changes haven't happened overnight, it's taken people like me who have been very vocal about it to help break down stereotypes.
Twenty-five years ago she sang: Be proud, be loud, be heard. As she enters the next phase of her life, that mantra has lost none of its meaning.
Bradford Telegraph & Argus
TOYAH: I'VE HAD A FACELIFT -
NOW I WANT A TUMMY TUCK
Toyah Willcox has never been afraid to speak her mind, and, now she's turned 50, the former high priestess of punk doesn't show any signs of changing.
Married, but without children, Toyah makes a declaration that would horrify some women.
'I've had a face-lift, I've had a hormone implant and now I want a hysterectomy,' she says. 'My husband doesn't want me to, but I might just have one and not tell him.'
She also admits she'd like a tummy tuck and, in a shocking revelation, wants her boobs completely removed because she can't bear them.
Toyah likes to shock. She is, by her own admission, 'a bit of an attention-seeker'. During her 20s, she was the most outrageous and most successful punk rocker of her age, with her shock of bright pink hair and trademark lisp.
But she had a horrific childhood blighted by illness. Born with a twisted spine, clawed feet, a clubbed right foot, one leg two inches shorter than the other and no hip sockets, she endured years of painful operations and physiotherapy.
Five years ago, she regaled the public with a gruesome account of the cosmetic surgery she'd had done in her book, Diary Of A Facelift.
And now she is determined to prove that life begins at 50, which is partly why she wants a hysterectomy, to rid herself finally of the debilitating battle she has had to control hormonal imbalances in her body.
'My 30s were a nightmare because I was so uncomfortable. If I could have unzipped myself and stepped out of my body, I would have done. It is only recently I discovered I had too much oestrogen in my body, which meant I was permanently in physical discomfort.
'So, last year, I had a progesterone implant surgically inserted and it has revolutionised my life. It has made me a happy human being again.
'That's why I'm begging my husband to let me have a hysterectomy because it would completely get rid of all the bad memories I have of my problems with my hormones.
But he won't let me. I'd also like a tummy tuck and, if it was up to me, I would have my boobs completely removed because I can't bear them. But, again, he says "No".
That's why, if he goes away on a long tour (her husband is Robert Fripp - guitarist with the band King Crimson and an entrepreneur), I might just have it done anyway and not tell him.'
The absence of children in her marriage doesn't seem to bother her. Just months after she married, she underwent a sterilisation op because she is medically incapable of carrying a child full-term due to her childhood illnesses.
'Neither Robert nor I pine for the company of a child. I don't have any contact with children. I have one nephew who I probably see about once every five years.'
Then she instantly contradicts herself by saying: 'If something happened to Robert then I might well adopt. Robert doesn't want children, but if he died I would feel some kind of social responsibility to have a child.
'I am very wealthy and I could nurture a child very well.'
Indeed, the couple have arranged their will so as to leave their entire fortune to the establishment of a musical educational trust for children.
As a child herself, Toyah says, she and her older sister Nicola were 'actively discouraged' from having children by their mother, Barbara, who clearly resented having to give up her career as a dancer when she became pregnant at 19 with Nicola and then Toyah's brother, Kim.
Her complicated relationship with her mother may have influenced her decision not to become a mother herself. She hasn't hugged her mother since she was 12 and can't see it ever happening.
'My mother is not a naturally happy person and is very complex. She won't allow any of us to touch her. Not even my father hugs her,' says Toyah. 'And, as a family, we never kiss each other. Yet we do have a close relationship.
'Until I was seven, I was very close to my mother because I was so ill and she had to teach me how to walk and talk. But then she had another child, a little girl called Fleur, who died.
'When she came home from hospital there was a bit of a distance between us. It was never talked about again.
'My parents come from that generation where you just didn't talk about things like that. I think Mum's parents were hit by a car and killed when she was 17 - but she has never talked about it. My father doesn't even know anything about her childhood.'
Such a repressive environment may explain why Toyah herself is such an open book and so incredibly driven.
Financially, she is wealthy thanks to a series of canny investments in stocks and shares and properties in Britain, America and France.
And she is determined to get her own way - as can be seen in her decision to have a face-lift. Her husband didn't have any say in the matter.
Toyah didn't tell him she was having the operation in Paris until she had already paid for it. Then she asked him to fly from America, where he spends most of the year, to be with her when she came round from surgery.
'When the bandages came off, rather than pass out, he was there having a good look. We spent a week together in a hotel room in Paris and, to be honest, it was like the honeymoon we had never had.'
And so ended a phase in what is probably one of the most bizarre, yet enduring, marriages in showbusiness. Just seven days after they married in 1986, Robert returned to America to work and the couple have lived separate lives on either side of the Atlantic ever since.
They rarely see each other for more than 12 weeks a year.
'Ours is not a conventional marriage. The longest I went without seeing him for was for 11 months in 2000. I did tell him then it had to stop or our marriage wouldn't work and now we do see more of each other than we did.
'Neither of us worry about the other being unfaithful. When I met him, he had a reputation for being a womaniser, but that's a 30-year-old reputation, so it's not something I worry about now. As for me, men are terrified of me.
'I am the most pig stubborn, independent power player you could meet, so I just won't play any of their games.
'To be honest, all my male friends are gay. I am the ultimate fag hag!'
When Toyah had her face-lift, there were suggestions that she did it to stop Robert from straying. She dismisses the idea. 'Cosmetic surgery is not going to stop a wanderer wandering,' she says, contemptuously.
In fact, she is open about her reasons for having a face-lift. After she appeared on ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Jonathan Ross commented that she looked so awful she shouldn't be allowed to appear on television. Instead of being angry, she looked at footage of herself and agreed.
'It was a wake-up call. In this business, I accept that 95 per cent of it is about how you look, which is why I had a face-lift.'
Whether it is down to the facelift, Toyah certainly seems to be in demand. She has just finished recording an album of new music and has 20 dates left of a countrywide tour.
She is also writing for other singers and will be seen again as the mother of the prostitute played by Billie Piper in the second series of TV's Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.
Whatever issues she may have had with her parents are firmly in the past. They now live in a cottage bought by Toyah about half a mile away from her house. Her 88-year-old father, Beric, often boats down the river to see his daughter.
It is an idyllic picture - a lifetime away from her punk past and somewhere she can contemplate her next age-defying piece of surgery.
LIVING WITH THE DEAD
After starting out as an '80s punk rocker, Toyah Willcox has gone on to establish herself as well-known face on TV. With a new album in the works and a reprisal of her role as Billie Piper's mum in ITV2's Secret Diary of a Call Girl forthcoming, Toyah is busier than ever. She'll next be seen on Living's paranormal show Living with the Dead, when three mediums come to investigate hauntings in her Wiltshire home. We gave Toyah a call to find out about her spooky house guests.
Were the spirits making life difficult for you?
"It wasn't making things difficult. In fact, before the team came in I said 'I like my house as it is'. I live in an incredibly old house - the oldest part of it is [from] 1510 - and there's a lot of activity in it, but none of it scares me. I said, 'Please don’t get rid of any of the spirits here, I've got very used to them and don't have a problem with them.' That said, when Ian Lawman (medium) came in, some pretty amazing things happened. Two of the skeptics got possessed and we had to do an exorcism. After that I said to Ian, 'Look, you’re going to leave me alone in this house, you can bloody well clear it of anything that's going to make my life hell!'"
Have you always believed in the paranormal?
"I believe in the paranormal and I accept it but I don't change my life around it. I'm not an avid follower, as it were. I am open-minded."
Ian claims to have spoken to the Kray Twins. Did he bring up any unsavoury characters this time?
"He brought up a suicide, which was very, very sad. I said during the filming that I didn't want it to continue and [asked for] the person to be moved on. Ian was really good about it. It was so ridiculously sad, everyone was in tears and it was almost against human rights to have carried on at that point. It was very sensitively dealt with."
These programmes have become more and more popular in recent years. Why do you think that is?
"I think people need reassurance that there is an afterlife. That's perfectly understandable. Also, the reason that this particular series exists is that there are more and more haunted properties. Even though I was happy to live with my ghosts, I know that they've gone on to film other people who just can't live in their houses because it's so bad. I think that's partly why it's popular, people are increasingly open-minded and are realising that they are living in quite disturbed houses."
You did I'm A Celebrity... a few years ago. Looking back, how do you view that experience?
"I wouldn't have changed it for the world. I work in television and my aim is to be seen. The one thing about that particular [year] is it has the highest viewing figures. We had 17 million. Now it's considered good if you get 2 million, so I've got no regrets at all about that. It certainly hasn't done me any harm."
WAS THE 80'S REALLY
"I may be in the minority, but I certainly don’t cringe with embarrassment when I look back at the 1980s.
And I feel no shame about my fashion sense.
I certainly didn’t fit into the blueprint of the Farrah Fawcett lookalike that was so popular in the 1970s. Back then, women who weren’t over 5ft 2in didn’t have a chance of getting noticed because Farrah’s long-limbed, wavy-haired look was so popular.
Then the 1980s came along and freed me. The decade was all about individuality and singers like myself, Kim Wilde, Carol Decker and Siouxsie Sioux really pushed the boundaries of music and fashion.
In the 1980s women didn’t have to fit into some perfect mould of what men found attractive. You could create your own look.
And it certainly wasn’t like nowadays, when everyone wears the same fashions from Primark or Topshop. We took immense pride in making our hairstyles and make-up different from everyone else’s.
During the decade I shared a dressmaker with Bananarama who made me some very strange, geometric clothing.
I also loved the high-waisted trousers of the Eighties, which were cut off at the calf. I loved the way they drew attention to the bottom, which seemed very risque and sexy back then.
In the 1980s the only place where breasts were celebrated was on The Sun’s Page 3. People didn’t really show cleavage, they covered up more. Jordan would have seemed like a porn star back then.
Power dressing was also a brilliant trend to come out of the Eighties. I thought Joan Collins looked extraordinary, and apparently shoulder pads are making a comeback.
It is easy to laugh, but if you had a small waist and narrow hips, they gave a terrific silhouette.
The Eighties was a time of self-promotion, which is now seen as slightly ugly, but it certainly didn’t do women any harm. Some very successful businesswomen came out of the power-dressing decade, such as Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers.
And it was the decade in which women took over the music industry too.
In the 1970s I would say the music business was made up of 70 per cent men. By 1982 it was 80 per cent women — it started with artists and spread to the boardroom.
The Eighties also saw the birth of the pop video, which revolutionised the industry. You couldn’t release a song unless it had the video — people wanted to see their pop idols.
It made us all competitive, we all had to outdo our own image and were under pressure to be more and more outlandish with our fashions.
I remember I used to create a new look at least every three months.
I went through a number of phases, from a David Bowie-ish look in the early Eighties, to New Romantic styles, right through to wearing high-street ra-ra skirts.
It was fabulous that fashions changed all the time. Madonna was obviously the queen of reinvention. In the early Eighties she brought in a very New York look, lacy tights and lots of layers on top of each other.
But by the end of the decade she had not only reinvented her look but also her body shape, showcasing her sculpted, chiselled look in the video for Vogue.
The most memorable outfit I wore during the 1980s was a black rubber dress for the video of Don’t Fall In Love, in 1985. I have never felt so sexy in anything since. It came with a price though, as it made me sweat profusely.
As for men’s fashions, I don’t believe there has ever been a decade quite like it. Men were peacocks who preened themselves in public.
While women slipped into men’s chairs in the boardroom, men were slipping into women’s seats in front of the dressing table mirror.
But the Eighties were owned by Duran Duran. They were great, boys in make-up with coiffured hair. And they have survived too — they are the 1980s version of Take That.
It is easy for people in the Noughties to look back and mock the Eighties. But what really defines the 1990s or the Noughties? No obvious looks or images spring to mind. I would like to see people nowadays take a leaf out of our book and take more risks with the way they dress.
The hoodie has become a kind of uniform for teenagers today, but that style is all about anonymity and blending in.In the 1980s everyone wanted to stand out — and they weren’t afraid to use neon colours to do so.
There is nothing from my Eighties wardrobe I would want to wear now and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to put on a shoulder pad.
But that doesn’t mean I look back and cringe — in fact, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I think it is brilliant that you can watch old episodes of Dynasty or Dallas and have a good laugh. To people watching today, the fashions and styles seem so alien that you might as well be watching something from the Dickensian era.
Yes, you can accuse the Eighties of being bold, bright and even ridiculous . . . but you certainly can’t call them boring."
WHY TOYAH WON'T TAKE SLEEPING
PILLS DESPITE SUFFERING FROM
INSOMNIA FOR 36 YEARS
From the age of 14, Toyah Willcox has suffered from chronic insomnia.
Most nights she has just four hours' sleep, much of it broken, and she has become used to starting her day at 4am, having given up on sleep in despair.
Over the years she's resorted to a whole range of remedies, and at one stage became addicted to sleeping pills.
"Exhaustion, stress and being unable to fall asleep became a part of who I am," she says, 'but it was like having a secret life, one that the people around me would not understand. It can make you feel very lonely."
Toyah is speaking for the first time about her battle with insomnia as part of a special edition of ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald. The programme investigates the growing number of people seeking help for sleep problems and uncovers an unregulated internet trade in sleeping tablets and sedatives. Drugs, including the sedative temazepam (linked to the death of actor Heath Ledger), can be easily purchased - many are highly addictive, as Toyah discovered through bitter experience.
Her battle with insomnia started when she was growing up in Birmingham.
"I was in the middle of my O-levels and finding it very stressful, not least because I am dyslexic.
"Permanent anxiety about achieving good results kept me awake, so I downed flu remedies to try to go to sleep.
"My mum and sister also struggle to sleep so there could be a genetic link.
"I reached the point of sleeping only a couple of hours at night, then feeling exhausted and stressed during the day."
She left school at 17, working in theatre and playing live gigs.
"I built a lifestyle around the fact that I was awake at night," she says.
"Going on stage could be at any time, from 7.30pm to 2am. There wasn't time to sleep.
"I have a lot of natural energy that kept me going, even when the insomnia left me physically shattered."
Toyah adds: "In those days, doctors had no qualms about handing out pills, especially the private doctors I saw.
"When I was 25 I was prescribed temazepam to help me sleep. It worked immediately.
"For the first time in years, I was sleeping a full eight hours.
"Unfortunately I became dependent and over time the pills were less effective.
"After two years I decided I didn't want to be controlled by the pills.
"I was performing my songs on Top Of The Pops, my acting career was incredibly successful and I wanted to continue taking control of my life.
"This included giving up alcohol and switching to a vegetarian diet.
"I didn't want to do anything to compromise my immune system or alter my mood in any way, whether with food, drink or medication."
She decided to stop taking the sleeping pills literally overnight.
"I had no idea how hard it would be. The worst aspect was the boredom, with your body heavy with fatigue but your mind still buzzing away.
"You are not really awake enough to concentrate on reading, and in the early hours, particularly then before the advent of the internet and a more widespread 24-hour culture, there was so little to do.
"I gritted my teeth, got on with my job and was incredibly relieved when I found myself able to shut my eyes and sleep, if only for a few hours, 14 days after I took my last sleeping pill.
After that, never again." After her alarming experience with sleeping pills, Toyah was shocked to see how easy it was to buy such drugs on the internet.
For Toyah, the problems did not end with giving up the sleeping pills because the insomnia remained.
"I hadn't known what a decent night's sleep felt like since I was 14."
Marriage in 1986 to guitarist Robert Fripp, now 61, brought a new set of sleep issues.
"My insomnia meant I was pacing the house, with him trying to persuade me to go to bed at a reasonable time.
"But when I did go to bed there was Robert's terrible snoring.
"Bless him, he's tried everything, including an operation on his nose, but he still snores like an earthquake and wakes both of us up."
Over the past 36 years, Toyah has tried many ways to induce sleep, including lavender oil massages and listening to "wave" sounds.
"Nothing has made any difference," she admits.
"I count four hours as a good night's sleep.
"I rarely go to sleep before 1am, and I'm often awake again by 4am.
"The best quality sleep I have is between 8am and 10am, and if I have that I usually feel refreshed," she adds. To see if there was another solution, Toyah, who is 50 this year, investigated a range of sleep remedies for the Tonight programme.
These included sleep pods being trialled at a Manchester call centre.
The pods, which look like a cross between an egg-shaped chair and a day bed, enclose the sleeper and block out light and sound.
She tried one and found it did induce a 20-minute power nap.
"I was incredibly sceptical but it worked."
But she is resigned to the fact she is "programmed" not to sleep.
Dr John Shneerson, director of the Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, says those with long-term sleep problems can find their insomnia is intractable.
"The longer a person has been living with sleep deprivation, the longer it will take to find ways to treat it," he says.
"It was Robert who recognised that I have a phobia about going to sleep," says Toyah.
"I fight the signs of sleep by avoiding going to bed.
"It's true, I see sleep a waste of time. I rarely want to go to bed because I find it boring.
"I am naturally up and busy and that's how I am happiest.
But the problem with insomnia is that too many of your waking hours are spent feeling as if you have jet lag."
Unlike many insomniacs, her health doesn't appear to have been affected.
Intriguingly, for Toyah, through the TV programme she discovered a trial drug designed to keep people awake indefinitely, apparently without side-effects.
"If such a pill was ever available, I'd take it like a shot."
Meanwhile she is keen to concentrate on the positive side of spending so much time awake.
"I have at least four more hours every day in which to achieve my aims. The internet has been a godsend.
"I've built up a multi-million pound property empire overseas, traded stocks and shares and built up my financial knowledge because I'm awake in the small hours.
"No-one would want to have their mind busy at 4am and their body exhausted, but I think there's a case for making the best of it."
IT'S A MYSTERY WHY
TOYAH'S NOT IN 'WHO'
Actress and singer Toyah Willcox admits she's a sci-fi addict with a soft spot for a certain Timelord.
Would she like to appear in the new series of Doctor Who?
"Oh God yeah, but I don't think it's going to happen," she sighs. "I think the queue is as long as the world is wide. I've had meetings and everything, it's just never happened."
Guesting in Doctor Who may be a long cherished dream, but one thing that is going to happen is her involvement with The Great Walk to Beijing.
Toyah jumped at the chance of taking part in the charity walk which begins on April 7: "The email came into my agent and I thought: 'Wow. If I ever go to Beijing, I'd like it to be for that reason'.
"I think it's a fabulous concept, and it's quite mega because you've got Australia, America and England entering people."
The fundraising adventure, in aid of Olivia Newton-John's Wellness Centre - the primary site for clinical cancer trials worldwide - can be seen in an upcoming documentary for BBC Worldwide, and coverage will also be featured on GMTV.
Toyah Story: The Next Chapter
Although Toyah Willcox turns 50 in May, the actress and singer seems to have as much energy as when she burst into the public eye in the 1980s.
Aside from jetting around the world taking care of her assorted properties, she's been busy working on a new album with her band the Humans, and preparing for upcoming charity event The Great Walk to Beijing with Olivia Newton-John.
"For me it's about looking at cancer in a positive way, and I think what Olivia Newton-John is doing is taking terror away and putting a quality of life back and this is supporting that," she explains.
However, Toyah is keen to point out the charity walk isn't a race.
"I'm not going out there to be competitive with other people. We're all there to raise money and raise awareness that this is about palliative care and quality of life and to see cancer as something that you can live with as well as fight against."
So, what training has she been doing?
"Just living," she laughs. "I do concerts all the time, so I'm very active. I had to estimate my health for the officials and I said: 'Well actually, I do walk about eight to 14 miles a day anyway'. I don't like being in the car or catching trains, so if I can walk, that's what I do."
The fund-raising adventure, in aid of Newton-John's Wellness Centre, can be seen in an upcoming documentary for BBC Worldwide, and coverage will also be featured on GMTV.
FAME AND FORTUNE
Toyah Willcox, 49, shot to fame as a punk rock singer in the 1980s and went on to establish a TV and theatre career. She lives in Worcester with her husband, rock guitarist Robert Fripp, 61, and spoke to Mark Anstead
How do you think your childhood experience influenced your attitude to money?
Initially my childhood was very affluent. My father inherited three very successful joinery factories and although our five-bedroom house was in an ordinary road in Birmingham, it was the biggest house in the street. We used to drive a new Rolls Royce every year.
When I was seven years old my father was hit badly by a slump in the stock market and he lost everything. Our standard of living dropped dramatically, but he managed to keep the house and keep me in a private school, which was a big achievement.
How did that affect you?
It partly contributed to my strong drive to be financially secure and independent. That and people telling me I would never achieve my dreams.
I am dyslexic and they all laughed when I said I was going to act and sing and get out of Birmingham.
To this day I find if people doubt me it is incredibly motivating.
Are you cautious with money or liberal with it?
I'm incredibly cautious because I've seen how easily you can lose it. I don't know who gave my father his advice, but they should be shot.
Back then stocks and shares were phenomenally successful, but he didn't spread his investments. I have learned from that.
I always travel "cattle class" because I don't see the point of spending thousands of pounds just to sit in a chair. I don't see holidaymakers on those flights, I see business people saving money like me.
Have you been in debt?
Yes, many times. When I was at drama school, it was a constant struggle to meet my rent payments and I was so poor at times all I could afford was a Mars bar. Friends kept me going - people like film director Derek Jarman would say, "Toyah, come round for a meal".
Poverty is frightening and anyone who profits from other people's hardship, like landlords, deserves to rot in hell as far as I am concerned.
Has being better off made you happier?
I think I'm only happy when I'm under a certain amount of stress and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I really enjoy the pressure.
How do you separate responsibility for finance with Robert?
Everything is separate. We have a complicated way of working out who pays what.
What's your best buy?
An apartment I bought in the south of France last year overlooking the harbour in a very old town. There are 67 steps up to it and I love it to death. In France, property prices are still rising and attractive properties like mine are hard to get.
The French always want new-build, so it's really just the Swiss, Dutch, British and Germans who go for character homes.
I think its value has doubled already, but that's partly because the euro is so strong.
I bought another property in France four years ago for £200,000 and that has also doubled in value. I let it to a company executive and I will let this new one when I've finished renovating it.
But you said you would never be a landlord?
Yes. I've changed my mind, but only because I went to the richest area of Europe and let to people who work in information technology companies who I know can afford it. That gives me no moral qualms, but I still have problems with the idea of letting in England.
I find it easier to be a businesswoman in France where I am not known. I'm about to buy another property out there and my investments will form a small specialised business.
How many properties do you own?
I have two riverfront properties in the Midlands, which I bought in 1999 and 2000 for £147,000 and £170,000. My parents live in one and the family uses the other for holidays.
I also have a one-bedroom house in Chiswick I bought in 1994, which I will never get rid of because I can't envisage buying into London again. In England I am mortgage free so there are no worries about making them pay.
What's your worst buy?
In 1985 I bought a studio flat in Chelsea for £159,000. Then, during the really bad property slump of 1990, it fell into negative equity and I had to sell for £142,000.
My mortgage had shot up to £17,000 a year because of interest rate rises and I was panicked by my advisers into selling it. I wish I had hung on for another year - it is now worth £2.5m. All I needed was 12 months to get control of my finances and I could have ridden out the storm.
In what other ways do you invest?
I put about four hours a day into managing my property portfolio and share portfolio. Investments can be fluid and I want to know what's happening all the time.
Do you invest in individual savings accounts (Isas)?
Yes, I have four and I always put my annual maximum amount in. I look upon them as my hidden pot.
Do you use high interest savings accounts?
Yes, but I bank with Lloyds TSB and they've been very good to me so I just use whatever savings rate they have.
They realise I need a relationship with my bank where I can phone and get through immediately if I suspect fraud.
Do you bank online?
I prefer to go in and see what's happening, but it's getting to the point where it is going to be too expensive banking the old way.
Do you have many credit cards?
An American Express, a Barclaycard and a Marks & Spencer MasterCard. A credit card is more convenient than carrying cash.
How do you tip?
My husband says my purse screams whenever I open it. I think I'm a fair tipper, but not if someone has been a s**t.
Do you get involved in finding the best mortgage deals?
I've had more sexism dealing with banks in this country than anywhere else. When the Bank of Scotland started up in the 1980s I went to see the manager, but he wouldn't talk to me - he wanted to see my husband. They burned their bridges with me.
Are pensions a good idea?
Yes, I used to have 20, but I amalgamated them recently and put most of them into a SIPP. I was hoping I would be able to invest the whole lot in residential property, but I can still do commercial property.
I still have three other pensions - the Legal & General one has done particularly well - but the rest is in the SIPP, which I manage.
Toyah will be releasing her new album, In the Court of the Crimson Queen, later this year.
TOYAH GOES LIVE
WITH THE UNDEAD
Queen of punk Toyah Wilcox has become queen of the vampires for her latest musical venture. But although the show is all about the undead, Toyah, who has been in the limelight for three decades, said: "I love life – it's very eclectic but always seems to fall into place."
An accomplished singer, actress, writer and presenter, Toyah's career has been successful and diverse.
In fact, some may say it's been more colourful than punk hair...
Next month, she's starring in Vampires Rock at Buxton Opera House. In the fang-tastic musical set in New York in 2030, Toyah plays the Devil Queen who's married to the charismatic yet demonic Baron Von Rockula.
She'd better watch out though – because he's on the lookout for new blood.
Throughout the highly entertaining and tongue-in-cheek show, there's notable rock anthems by legends including AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Guns 'n' Roses, Meat Loaf and Queen.
Toyah says: "If you like classic rock, you'll love the show.
"There's a stunning band and beautiful dancers – and the stage looks great."
She adds: "I love the audience interaction too. During the tour, it's been fantastic seeing people singing and exchanging banter with us. It's really, really good fun."
Away from Vampires Rock, Toyah's band, The Humans, has released debut album We Are The Humans.
The band, which includes Chris Wong and Bill Rieflin of REM, was formed in 2007 and had considerable success in Estonia.
Now, they're preparing to tour the United Kingdom in 2010.
Of course, 51-year-old Toyah, who was born in Birmingham, first became well-known during the punk era.
In 1981, she had hits with It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. A year later, she was voted Best Female Singer at the British Rock and Pop Awards, now the BRITs.
Looking back at the punk era, Toyah has fond memories.
She recalls: "For the first time, I saw the human race embrace everyone
and everything. All was equal. It was remarkable."
In total, Toyah's recorded 20 albums and had 13 top 40 singles.
If that wasn't enough, she's made ten feature films, written two books and presented television programmes ranging from Songs of Praise to the Good Sex Guide Late.
She says: "As long as I'm working, I'm happy."
She must be happy all the time then!
So while growing up, did she envisage rocking on the stage?
The answer is out of this world...
"When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut," she says. "Even now, I'd love to fly to the Moon and I'd love to be on the first spaceship to go to Mars. But until then, I'm very happy acting and singing."
Toyah Willcox can easily be said to have lived her life – from her early training as an actor, through the anti-establishment image she had as a punk rocker (an image from which she has now stepped away) to TV presenting, writing, an appearance on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and a slot as a guest panelist on Loose Women. Toyah is currently back on stage and touring a production of the musical Vampires Rock.
In between appearances on stage, I managed to catch up with Toyah to have a quick chat about her overseas property ventures.
What is clear is that Toyah hasn’t gone into any of the property investments she has made in the UK or overseas with her eyes closed. What comes across is a sense of purpose in all of the properties she has bought – there appears to be a clear plan of what the property is there for, and why it has been added to her portfolio. This is an approach which allows her to become attached to the properties bought for herself, and not to the investment properties.
For example, Toyah currently owns two properties in the south-east of France – one as an investment intended for long-term lets, the other purely for herself in the town of Menton. “The apartment in Eze was bought off-plan as an investment, and is in a modern block of five apartments. Until recently it had been rented out by a local IT worker for a long period, and provided a regular rental income” she said. The recent recession has resulted in many people working in France’s IT and technology sector, based in the technology park of Sophia Antipolis, northwest of Antibes, being made redundant, which has meant Toyah’s long-term tenant has had to move out.
The second French property Toyah owns is a much more personal choice, and is located in the Cote d’Azur town of Menton. Known as being the warmest town in the whole of France, Menton has its own microclimate to keep temperatures up, but also is private enough to allow Toyah the escape she needs. “I was looking for somewhere a little warmer to buy a property, and my percussionist in the band mentioned Menton. As soon as I went out there, I felt I had found a town of like-minded people. The lifestyle is superb, and much more culturally-rich than people expect. I’m teetotal but can happily sit in a restaurant on my own for the evening without any problems and the town isn’t a tourist destination for most people so it doesn’t get too full up even in the summer. It is my escape, and I go out there to write around four times a year – in fact I’ve written a book and two albums on the balcony of my apartment in Menton.”
However, despite the enjoyment she has had from owning her apartment in Menton, Toyah is considering selling both of her properties on the Cote d’Azur: “I’m thinking about selling both properties, and then buying one, bigger property overseas” she says, but won’t be drawn on where that new property might be. In any case, it appears that both properties have performed well as investments. On top of the rental income received for the apartment in Eze, Toyah says that both properties have increased ‘significantly’ in value since she bought them.
I’m interested to find out how Toyah found the infamous French bureaucracy during the process of buying not one, but two properties. “I remember that it was an incredibly slow process, and there was an awful lot of red tape to sort out, but I was slightly removed from it all. Luckily, I have a friend who is an estate agent in the area, so I was able to pass much of it off to a professional who could look after things for me. I would say that it is important to make sure you have someone you can trust who is familiar with the local market and knows how to get things done in that part of the world. Also, I found it incredibly useful to make sure my money was transferred using a specialist currency exchange company – I saved a significant amount of cash through a great exchange rate.”
With that kind of sound advice, it’s little wonder that Toyah will be able to reap the benefits of her sound investments.
VAMPIRES ROCK AT
Toyah Willcox is one of those celebrities that are hard to categorise.
Is she a singer? An actress? A presenter?
She’s certainly done it all and done so much that even she can’t pinpoint where it all began.
“I think I started in acting but I honestly can’t remember,” she says.
“I left school and just went straight into performing, it was something I always wanted to do. I would say I’m an actress and singer but I’ve really always combined the two.
“I view myself as a creative person, I write music and I’m generally very busy. I’d say I’m definitely a workaholic, I’m not interested in anything else.”
Toyah’s career spans over 30 years, but the 51-year-old shows no sign of slowing down. She is currently on tour in Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock, which comes to the Southport Theatre at the end of the month, and continues to perform with her band The Humans, as well as record her own material.
She says: “I find what I do a pure joy and don’t feel like it’s work. I’m always in a different town or country and it’s never a problem for me. I feel very lucky that I get paid to do what I do.
“I often think it would be nice to be in a soap so that I could know what I’m going to be doing every day, because the only thing that winds me up is being told last minute that I have to be somewhere else in the world the next day.”
Toyah arguably rode to notoriety as a pop singer on the back of the punk revolution. But with many of that generation settling down into middle age cosiness, has she retained any of the anti-establishment values her career was forged upon?
“A big part of that generation was the fact that we didn’t compromise, so in that sense I still have that today,” she says.
“I’m very much my own person and I have zero tolerance for people that don’t pull their own weight and that’s a punk thing. It wasn’t about slackers. I think I’m still that same person but just 30 years on. Every generation brings something new.”
A combination of drawing inspiration from her contemporaries and refusing to rest on her own laurels seems to have been the driving force behind Toyah’s success.
She adds: “I’m very interested in other people and I don’t think I could do what I do if I wasn’t fascinated by others.
“I’ve always enjoyed other people’s success and found it really inspiring. Someone like Madonna is really inspirational because she’s not predictable.
“I’ve had a lot of career highlights but I’m enjoying this year immensely and focussing on the here and now.
“I love my life and love the fact that every day brings a new part of you into the world.”
WICKED ! BOO! HISS!
TOYAH'S IN TOWN!
Get ready to boo and hiss - Toyah Willcox is coming to Sheffield to play panto's evil queen. It's going to be .... wicked!
Rock star, style icon, actress and vocal talent – Toyah Willcox has demonstrated her versatility to great effect over the past few years. And in her latest role, as the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, the former chart-topper is in her element.
Toyah is now a panto veteran, having been performing in them for 17 years – her first was Peter Pan. As an accomplished actress with film, stage and television credits behind her, Toyah loves the fact that panto gives her a chance to reach out to a new audience and help them to discover the joy of live performance.
She said: “Panto is wonderful and very British. I love the genre because there is so much history and culture around it.
“For many children it is the first time they have been exposed to live theatre, and we can transport them away to another place for a few hours and hopefully encourage them to want to see more.
“I love the audience participation part of the show, especially as I’m playing the wicked witch. All the booing and hissing is terrific fun.”
Playing the character seven days a week with two shows on some days is demanding, but Toyah is one busy lady. She has also found the time to release a new Humans album and fit in some TV work abroad.
Toyah said: “I like to keep busy. The panto is very demanding and doing the shows keeps you fit. I have to protect my voice, though, and I try to avoid talking too much between shows!
“I still love performing live and it’s great that the audience is still there. The Rewind Festival is great fun as I’m getting a chance to meet all the other stars who had hits in the 80s – we were all so busy in those days I never got to meet any of them!"
Toyah said: “Everyone who I’ve worked with over the years in panto always gives a 100 per cent – you can’t give it any less.”
I HAVE ENJOYED NOT BEING
BOUND TO ONE MEDIUM
Her career spans thirty years of music, theatre, film and TV and she shows no sign of slowing down. The irrepressible Toyah Willcox comes to Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre in November as the Devil Queen in the hit show, Vampires Rock
As an Eighties icon, she was up there with the best of them. She blasted onto the pop scene in a blaze of neon hair, outrageous fashion and powerhouse energy. The punk princess from Birmingham, who came in with a bang and made you sit up and listen with hits like It’s a Mystery, sung with her trademark lisp.
And, while Madonna may hold the reputation for being the mistress of reinvention, Toyah Willcox must surely rank as one of the most successful multi-media artists.
A glance back over her 31 years in the business shows just how effectively the recording star, who enjoyed superstar success on the pop scene as a song writer and performer, simultaneously managed to carve out highly successful and prolific theatre, film and TV careers with a longevity that is extraordinary.
Her range has been epic, seamlessly moving from rock and pop albums to films such as the groundbreaking Quadrophenia and theatre work including the Taming of the Shrew, Emile Zola’s Therese Racquin, the award-winning comedy Three Men and a Horse, and the lead role in the major national touring production of Calamity Jane, which was nominated for an Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.
As she explains, having parallel careers has been her aim from the very start.
“I always wanted to sing and act, but I never wanted to combine the two at the same time. That was quite unusual a few years ago, as people had to focus on one thing. As I grew older, the bindings loosened, the Svengalis and managers let go, and I found that incredibly liberating. I have enjoyed life ever since, not being bound and gagged to one medium.
“Thirty years ago there was a snobbery that kept people away from doing that. Now major A-listers are doing TV series and soaps - perceptions are changing.”
Toyah has continued to push the envelope artistically ever since. This autumn, she is playing to full houses with a UK tour of the hit theatre production Vampires Rock, which has been compared to The Rocky Horror Show of the Eighties. Set in the future, it’s a rock-comedy bloodfest of vampires, fantastic sets, costumes, dance and pyrotechnics, set to a sound track that includes some of the most iconic rock hits from the likes of Meatloaf, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones and Queen. Toyah stars, opposite Steve Steinman, as the Devil Queen and spends a good deal of the show wearing skin-tight rubber costumes, thigh-high boots and skyscraper heels. The production comes to the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham on November 6.
“It is wonderful. A great fun show which has a massive cult following,” says Toyah. "I did it last year and it has been upgraded and changed a bit since then. It’s just perfect for this time of year when the nights are drawing in.”
As well as Vampires, with her trademark unstinting energy she is also juggling a stream of other projects. Her group, The Humans, has just released a digital single, a remake of These Boots are made for Walkin, and an album, We are The Humans, and then there is her film, Three to Tango, which has recently been having its press showings. She describes it as being very much aimed at a Sex and The City market, and low budget British but with a big budget feel. “It’s about three women who are celebrating their fiftieth birthdays. They meet up and decide to help each other make their dreams come true to become successful career women. It is very motivational about single women in their fifties,” she explains. Toyah plays one of the three leads, along with leading female actresses from Canada and South Africa. Christmas will see her in panto in Sheffield, and then in February she starts a UK tour before heading off to America to record a second album.
Originally from Birmingham, and now living in Worcester, Toyah says she has a special affinity to the second city. “I feel very connected to Birmingham. My dad passed away recently. He did a lot of the joinery work in the arts centre of Cannon Hill Park and also many major buildings in the city and those memories mean more to me than ever before. I love Birmingham.”
Her acting career started in Birmingham, when she attended the Old Rep drama school in the 1970s; it’s a place she remembers fondly. “It is a magnificent theatre with so much atmosphere. I loved being there. For a long time I had a fantasy of buying it and turning it into a commercial theatre, but it was not financially possible,” she says.
Her acting career has since included diverse roles ranging from appearing alongside greats such as Katharine Hepburn in the film The Corn is Green, and Sir Lawrence Olivier and Great Saachi in Granada TV’s film version of The Ebony Tower to appearing in the seminal punk film Quadrophenia.
Her pop career was at its zenith in the Eighties, with highlights of the decade including a platinum album, Anthem, and chart successes It’s A Mystery and I want to be Free. Christmas 1981 culminated in a Christmas Eve concert from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, screened live as The Old Grey Whistle Test Christmas Special, and in 1982 she won Best Female Singer in the (then) Rock and Pop Awards (now The Brits). Over the next two decades, she continued to record, release albums and tour the world, while keeping up a phenomenal schedule of TV and theatre work.
Her theatre work has included leading roles such as Miranda in Derek Jarman’s version of The Tempest, which won her a nomination as Best Newcomer at the Evening Standard Awards, and on TV she has done everything from The Good Sex Guide Late to Songs of Praise, dramas, documentaries, and even voicing the intro to Teletubbies.
In all, she has had 13 top forty singles, has recorded twenty albums, appeared in over forty stage plays, written two books, made ten feature films and presented hundreds of television programmes. She was the subject of a This is Your Life programme with Michael Aspel in 1996 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Central England in recognition of her distinguished achievements in performing arts, media and broadcasting in 2001.
“I am grateful for the Eighties,” she says. “I believe in living in the present and building the future, but I totally realize the Eighties have made my life possible. And the decade has a new respect now. All we musicians played to huge audiences then, and we still get huge audiences now. I am very grateful for that.
“I opened the Rewind Festival – a celebration of Eighties’ music – in August to thirty thousand people. To set that in context, when Oasis broke up, they played to thirty thousand.”
In the past she has displayed an openness about herself that many women would consider brave; sharing details of her body and health, including writing about her facelift and even diarising her pioneering ‘bum lift’ in the media. Avant garde, from the very start of her career, Toyah has never balked at standing out from the crowd or from being experimental in her work. One of her early singles, Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard reflects that attitude.
“I have always fought to make myself heard,” she says. “But Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard was not only about me and the fact that I had a voice; it was embraced by the gay community. I believe punk helped make gay culture accepted as it is today. And now I say it because I believe everyone should have a voice."
Despite her heavy work schedule, Toyah does manage to get a little time to herself occasionally, and it’s invariably spent on the computer: “Every spare minute I am surfing the Net. I do a lot of research, for example medical development on arthritis and osteoporosis because of my age. I am the archetypal silver surfer!"
Keeping fit and healthy is also important to her, she says. “You invest in your future by eating well when you are young, and I have always invested in my health through good diet. For energy, the worst thing you can do is overeat, so I always keep my calories about the same. I do not drink or smoke, I do not do any weight-bearing exercise, being over fifty, but I do do Pilates.”
Boundless energy notwithstanding, she does foresee a time when she will have to pull on the reins. But she has a back-up plan. “I will have to slow down eventually – my voice will not be good. But I think I will still be writing – I write all the while – horror is my favourite.”
TEA WITH TOYAH
We met up with Toyah Willcox (pictured centre)for a virtual Cuppa while she was rehearsing in Estonia. She is a one woman dynamo best known for her outlandish hair and makeup along with her 80's rock hits. She sings, writes, dances and is now enjoying more acting roles including a lead in a new feature film due out this October- Three to Tango.
What is the most unique thing about you?
I believe that we're all unique, yet utterly the same. My uniquest bit is probably my ability to pre-emp a question accurately and infuriatingly before the questioner has finished asking it.
What makes you dance?
I'm a rock singer as well as an actress, so my job keeps me dancing. But virtually anything positive encourages me to dance, it's cheaper than going to the gym and twice as much fun. Dancing cures all ills, frustration, anger, lethargy, writers block and weight gain!
Who do you believe in?
I believe in most things and in most people because I believe that part of the priveledge of being a human being is out ability to believe.
I also believe in my writing partner Bill Rieflin. I believe in my husband Robert Fripp because he is my greatest sounding board whether I choose to belive his answers or not.
Whilst filming Three to Tango I believed my fellow actress's. Our continual feed back was the essence of our group identity, very important and trusting.
What's one small thing we could do to make the world a better place?
Don't tolerate people being negative. Positivity even in the face of adversity helps make the world a better place.
Also one kind act a day from everyone on the planet would radically change our communities.
Kindness is the most gracious act on the planet, especially towards your enemies!
What keeps you awake at night, and what puts you to sleep?
I'm 51, time is running out, Life is now too short to sleep.
I have loathed sleeping all my life, it's a complete waste of my time, but a doctor would probably disagree.
And how I would like to say I have a young lover, one who keeps me awake at night, but that's not my style. Good ideas keep me awake, (and Hubby's snoring) I often get up to write ideas down.
And as for worry and anxiety, well they are sown to my side and come awake around midnight.
What's the riskiest thing you've ever done?
Apart from avoiding sleep, I once did a base jump off a mountain in France from 3000 feet. Very probably the most stupid thing I have ever done in my life.
It was 7am, and no one was around. On the first attempt my parachute folded and I had to gather it up and run towards the edge again. I was with a trainer I had only just me and we fell to earth like a sycamore seed. NEVER AGAIN!
Who do you love?
I love my husband Robert Fripp conditionally, because I am committed to him for life (and that's a vulnerable thing to do). Bill Rieflin I love unconditionally because he lives 6000 miles away in Seattle and I have to keep the bond alive (he's my co-writer) and I love them both to the point of laying down my life for them.
Chris Wong (my fellow band members from VAMPIRES ROCK, a touring show that I do,(but Nikki Millar the Drummer is more lust) and on a more general note I love peoples' talent.
Who do you share your ideas and dreams with?
Robert Fripp, Bill Rieflin and Chris Wong because they never question them, only try and make them tangible and possible.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What are you going to do today, to make it fun?
I'm in Estonia making an improvised rock album with some of Estonia's renowned musicians. Music, being creative is the most fun I could have. The only think that compares is acting in films. Making Three to Tango breathed life into my soul.
Tea & Ten
Toyah first said she could do only 20 shows, vamping it up as the Devil Queen in a special guest star role in Steve Steinman’s touring musical Vampires Rock.
Steve, however, talked her into playing 44 performances last year and the Eighties’ pop star, film and stage actress, television presenter and author has agreed to return to the rock musical for another run of 55 shows between September and mid-February.
Why? “I’m enjoying doing other people’s songs because your memories are very different. They tend to be much more romantic than when you’re writing your own material to deadlines,” says Toyah, who returns to the Grand Opera House, York, on Thursday night.
“The songs we sing are great and mean something to everyone; the band is really phenomenal, the girls are phenomenal and it’s just a great show. “It’s fun, and it’s a tough environment at the moment, people are struggling, and so this show is a real tonic for the audience and performers alike.”
Vampires Rock is a musical spoof cum fantasy concert set in the year 2030 in a New York City where the undead are livelier than ever, especially Steve Steinman’s evil, club-owning, 2,000-year-old Baron Von Rockula.
Cue covers of Meat Loaf, Queen, AC/DC and some new additions for Toyah: “Live And Let Die… that’s going to be quite a challenge, that one; Shot Through The Heart; Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. That’s part of the show’s humour. Obviously, with Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, there’s just such an irony to singing that,” she says.
The 51-year-old Toyah “loves the dressing up” for playing the Devil Queen, a woman as red hot in her wardrobe as her name would suggest.
“There are new costumes for this tour, but I want them to be a surprise. One is red; there are two sets of armour, eight costume changes and three pairs of shoes over ten inches high; three sets of thigh-high boots; a silver thong and a gold thong. There’s great fun in planning them as you never know when you’ll find.”
You can see an example of Toyah’s costume designs in the video for her new single, a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, recorded with her new group The Humans.
“I have a place in Seattle now with my husband Robert Fripp and I’m going out to America regularly, playing in the band I have there with REM drummer Bill Rieflin and Chris Wong,” she says. “We now have an American manager and we’ll touring next year in the spring.”
First vampires, now Humans, whatever next awaits Toyah?
VAMPIRE ROCK QUEEN
Toyah gets her teeth into a new band
IEYA! The vampires are swarming, rocking their way towards Edinburgh and The Humans are hot on their heels.
Which can mean just one thing, Toyah Willcox is heading to town with a show to star in and an album to launch.
The latter sees the diminutive star - just 4ft 10ins in her stockinged feet - teamed up with REM's Bill Rieflin and guitarist Chris Wong, deconstructing pop as The Humans, while the former brings her to the Playhouse on Monday, to rock out as the Vampire Queen in Steve Steinman's Vampire's Rock.
"Steve had been asking me to do Vampire's Rock for a couple of years," says Willcox, who makes a number of special guest appearances on each tour.
"Eventually I decided to give it a try because I like the music and I must admit, I have a lot of fun doing it."
Featuring rock anthems from the likes of AC/DC, Guns 'N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Joan Jett and Queen, Vampires Rock is a musical comedy. Set in New York in 2030, Steinman is the charismatic but evil Baron Von Rockula, owner of the Live and Let Die Club.
A vampire in search of a new bride, the Baron must convince his chosen one to agree to eternal life as his new queen. Willcox is his less than happy current queen.
"Everyone on the stage has an amazing voice and the band is just staggering," adds the actress, singer, TV presenter and author, who has become a regular visitor to the Capital.
She first toured here in 1979 as a flame-haired punk rock star, appearing with her eponymous band at the legendary Tiffany's. As her star continued to rise she graduated to the larger Odeon in 1981, before selling-out the 3000-seat Playhouse less than 12 months later.
More than a decade on she returned, this time to wow audiences at the Festival Theatre in the 1993 national tour of Peter Pan. Another seven years passed before she was back again, this time to star in Picasso's Women on the 2000 Fringe. A tour of Calamity Jane in the noughties as well as a Best Of The 80's gig five years ago, followed.
And talking of concerts, Willcox's latest venture in the world of music is one that she says has been "brewing for a while".
The Humans were formed in 2007 after Willcox's husband, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, declined an invitation to play for the President of Estonia.
"When my husband said no I phoned the Embassy and said, 'I'll do it. I'll put a threepiece band together, you'll be able to get us out there for tuppence, and we'll do the show and write it specially for the President'," she reveals, adding, "We did, and it just took off."
Three sold-out concerts across Estonia later, The Humans regrouped on Rieflin's home turf, Seattle, where the single, These Boots Are Made For Walkin', and the album, We Are The Humans, began to take shape.
"When I formed the band I wanted to deconstruct the pop song. I'd always heard the people who master albums complain that radio and ipods can never recreate the quality of the master.
"I realised that the main reason for this was the drums, so, basically, we are a band without a drummer. Considering that we are using REM's drummer, Bill, that was a huge risk," she laughs.
"Bill however, is a multiinstrumentalist and also plays the bass. I love the bass because of the spectrum it gives my voice.
"About ten years ago I did an acoustic tour and everyone said, 'We didn't realise your voice was that rich'. Having the acoustic band meant I wasn't being blasted by masses of volume and battling with the same frequencies as the keyboard.
"I had a conversation with Bill about this and said, 'If I were to put the perfect band together it would only have a bass in it'.
"I asked, 'Do you think we could do this with just two bass players and a voice?'. Bill totally got that the whole point of The Humans was to have the voice out front and then build the foundation underneath the voice."
The concept of deconstructing 'pop' is fully explored on the band's first single, a cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic These Boots Are Made For Walkin', which is now available on digital download. It's a radical departure for Willcox who already has 20 albums and 13 Top 40 singles to her credit.
"I just love the older material. It means a lot to people of my age, however, with The Humans it's intensely personal. These Boots Are Made For Walkin' is one of the darkest pop songs. I mean, it's about a dominatrix.
The lyrics tackle openly unfaithful sexuality and when Nancy Sinatra first sang it, it was incredibly sexual.
"I studied her when we decided we wanted to do this track and all the footage of her is 'kinky boots' footage.
"In those days that was a totally hidden message which is why I think it's such a brilliant song. All the camerawork focuses on her feet and is totally fetishistic - we just loved it."
If Willcox loved that track because of its darkness, it was her sense of irony that led her to name her new project The Humans.
"As humans we always put ourselves before everything else - even before 'our God' - when really, we are part of the food chain. We aren't perfect, so for me there is an incredibly irony in using the name The Humans, it is both threatening, humorous and it is romantic. It is a fantastic word."
A word that has a lot in common with another, Vampires, which can are also be threatening, romantic and, in the context of Vampires Rock, more than a bit humorous too, as you'll discover at the Playhouse on Monday.
Vampires Rock, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Monday, 7.30pm, GBP 22, 0844-847 1661
These Boots Are Made For Walkin' is available for download from major digital music sites, as is We Are The Humans, which is also available on CD at www.remembertheeighties.com
TOYAH STORY ARRIVAL: Toyah was born Toyah Ann Willcox on 18 May 1958 in Kings Heath, Birmingham.
No1: Toyah first hit the pop charts in 1981 with the anthemic It's a Mystery and a year later was voted Best Female Singer at the British Rock and Pop Awards.
SILVER SCREEN: Toyah's film credits include Miranda in Derek Jarman's The Tempest, Monkey in Quadrophenia and George Cukor's The Corn is Green with Katharine Hepburn.
TV: Most recently seen as Billie Piper's mother in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Toyah's other TV credits include Barmy Aunt Boomerang, Shoestring, Teletubbies, Minder, Tales of the Unexpected and The Ebony Tower with Sir Laurence Olivier.
LOVE: In 1986 Toyah married Robert Fripp, of prog rockers King Crimson.
I'M ONLY HUMAN: Toyah Willcox and her latest band The Humans.
Edinburgh Evening News
TOYAH GETS TEETH
INTO VAMPIRE TALE
Taking to the stage in the guise of "The Queen of Hell" is hardly the expected behaviour of a former "Songs of Praise" presenter — surely Dame Thora Hird would never have done anything like this?
Yet Toyah Willcox, who returns to Eden Court as the infernal monarch next Thursday in the horror-musical "Vampires Rock", has always prided herself on the diversity of her career which has taken her from early starring roles with independent film-maker Derek Jarman, to mainstream pop success as a solo performer in the late 1970s and '80s, to becoming a regular face on our television screens as both actress and presenter, ranging from "The Teletubbies" to "The Good Sex Guide" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl".
She has also lodged herself in the bestseller charts with her autobiography "Living Out Loud" and a book about her experiences of cosmetic surgery, "Diary Of A Facelift".
If pressed to define herself, Willcox opts for seeing herself as a singer and writer and an actress.
"That's a very wide umbrella and I don't narrow it down to any one thing and I never have done," she said.
"I've always been interested in diversity and I also like to shock in my choices, so I'm not snobby in what I do."
As if to emphasise her varied career, the "Vampires Rock" tour, on which she is "just an employee", coincides with the release of the new album by her latest band The Humans, while in a couple of weeks time she will also be seen on screen in BBC 1's "Casualty".
"The whole point of calling the band The Humans, is that humans are contrary and that sums up my work ethic as well," Willcox explained.
"I really love having variety and 'Vampires' is a lot of fun. I think where it works is that everyone in it is very good at what they do — great singers, great dancers and absolutely stunning musicians — which means we can have a lot of fun with it. One of the reasons it works so well is that we do deliver great music and there's a lot of fun in between."
"Vampires Rock" is the creation of Steve Steinman, who has been a professional musician since appearing as "Meat Loaf" on ITV's "Stars in Their Eyes", and combines classic rock tracks from the likes of Queen, AC/DC, Meat Loaf and Guns 'n' Roses with a story about vampires in near future New York.
The show came to Inverness last year and proved so successful it is now making a return visit.
"I remember the venue is perfect for the show because people are nicely spread out in a fan in front of you. It went down very well," Willcox recalled.
"It's taken anthemic songs that rock lovers just want to hear and very loosely uses the lyrics of them to tell the story. I really enjoy every song that I get to sing. They're all really great belters! And I enjoy that the audience enjoy it too. Especially in part two it turns into a bit of a concert, when the audience gets lubricated and well up for joining in."
Willcox's musical career has seen her progress from new-wave punk through more mainstream pop to more experimental music, sometimes written in collaboration with her husband, former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, but she adds that she has always had a foot in the rock camp. She even features covers from the likes of Guns 'n' Roses in her solo shows as well as "Vampires Rock."
The Humans is a rather more personal project and though the first single released by the band is a cover of the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots are Made For Walking", it gives her a chance to express her own talents as a songwriter — and her thoughts on pop music in collaboration with musical partners Chris Wong and Bill Rieflin, now best known as drummer with REM following Bill Berry's decision to retire from the band two years after suffering a brain aneurysm.
"I formed The Humans to deconstruct the pop song having been in the pop industry for 32 years," Willcox explained.
"When I asked Bill to do this project, I said: 'I don't want you to play drums. I want you to play bass. I want two electric basses so there is nothing sonically interfering with the voice.' We gave it a try an we just loved it because we had to strip the music right down and go for what the ear hears first. The reason The Humans works so well is that when you hear a song on the radio, you rarely hear the drums and with an iPod, you really hear the lower end of the mix.
"Twenty years ago, you'd spend £50,000 to mix one song to be played on the radio and half of it can't be heard because you don't have the whole spectrum of sound on the radio. Now kids are listening to iPods and they are downloading things that are nowhere near the quality of what they were on vinyl. So even though on one level The Humans sounds very basic and stripped down, there's an awful lot of thought in there."
The Humans, who actually made their debut in Estonia after an invite from the president and have recorded all the material for the album in Rieflin's hometown of Seattle, will be making their UK tour debut in February next year. But in typical Toyah form, she has also recently completed a low budget British film in which she was the lead and "enjoyed every minute" of film production.
"I love every different thing," Willcox declared.
"It never feels like a job, so I'm very happy bouncing from one thing to another. It is a very diverse career — though I must say the one thing I never expected to get was 'Songs of Praise'!"
Is Toyah Willcox a busy woman? Does Michelle Obama love a cardigan? The pop star/actress/writer/performer never seems to stop.
Twenty albums, 40 singles, movies, musicals, pantomime, Shakespeare, Songs of Praise; just reading about it is enough to make the rest of us feel like idle, useless slugs.
“I’ve been in the business for 32 years so I’ve managed to cram a lot in,” she says, modestly.
And cram it she has. Since her first appearance all those years ago in Jubilee, Derek Jarman’s chronicle of everyday punk folk (via the days of Elizabeth I to London in the 1970s... hmmm...) Toyah has enjoyed a diverse and fast-flowing career, as well as becoming one of those celebrities about whom few have a bad word to say.
“People think they know me which is absolutely fine,” she says. “People are very friendly and I don’t think I’ve ever done anything which is questionable, or wildly offensive. I think people feel familiar with me. It’s very rewarding.”
We are familiar with her appearance on everything from I’m A Celebrity, through to her blockbusting album, Anthem, her appearance in Quadrophenia and her happy marriage to Wimborne boy and King Crimson legend Robert Fripp. If we go along to the Pav-ilion next month we can become familiar with her all over again as the Devil Queen in the rock musical Vampires Rock.
Toyah loves it. The musical has been going for around five years and is already a cult, she explains. This is partly due to its exuberant costumes and staging but also because of the music – banging favourites from the likes of Queen, Meat Loaf, Bon Jovi and Suzi Quattro.
“I love the music, it’s a great show, doesn’t cut any corners, it has wonderful production values and is very visually exciting,” she enthuses. “I took Vampires Rock because it allowed me to slot my imagery into the show. I just brought in all my own costumes; 10 inch shoes, that kind of thing.”
Images of Toyah’s outfits include one of her dressed in spray-on red devil costume for her role as the Devil Queen. “When you make your entrance in that outfit, the audience rise to their feet,” she says.
Toyah’s enthusiasm is infectious and she is a breath of fresh air in this ageist world. “I’ve never made any secret of my age, I’m 51,” she declares. Likewise, she’s never made any secret of the fact that she had a facelift a few years back. “I didn’t want to look tired,” was her explanation.
“I’m one of these people who thinks that every decade adds a new dimension to your career, rather than takes it away, and I think that attitude helps a lot.”
She believes that as they get older, people get richer as characters so: “I always look on it as a door that opens. Because of that I think I’m always good at phoning up people saying why don’t we do this or that, rather than thinking; oh my god, it’s the end of the world, which it isn’t and it never is.”
She believes you have to fight negative attitudes. “You have to look at what you’ve got, not at what you don’t have. There’s an awful lot of people out there in their 50s who want to know that life is still for living and sometimes think it’s people like me who have to kind of say that, or prove it through our work. So I’m quite happy to do that.”
Toyah feels there is plenty for her left to do. “Everything presents a new challenge and new ideas come in because of that.” For instance, she’d love to do more costume drama and you can just picture her in a big BBC adaption of Dickens. But her favourite thing is writing songs.
“I always love the writing process and being in the studio. I love it because it’s really, really private, it’s something you do before it goes to the public.”
The only thing she wouldn’t enjoy, she says, is not being busy. Not much chance of that.
Bournemouth Daily Echo
TOYAH ROCKS AS
Casting directors are often left with a difficult task on their hands.
Take, for example, Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock, a high-octane show featuring blood-sucking creatures, an undead band, jaw droppingly revealing costumes, all set to a soundtrack of classic rock masterpieces.
So who on earth would you cast as the Devil Queen, the wife of the evil Baron Von Rockula?
Well, isn’t it obvious? Toyah Willcox of course.
“It makes sense for me to be a part of this,” says the 51-year-old star.
“It’s a great show, very lively, very loud and it’s rock, so I’m used to the genre. I also have a cult following, much like vampires.”
As Toyah admits, she is probably the ideal candidate for the role.
During her career spanning more than 30 years, the musician has recorded 20 albums and notched up 13 top 40 singles.
Her early acting credits include the 1977 punk epic Jubilee, and the legendary mod film Quadrophenia, two years later.
She has also taken to the stage in countless shows such as Amadeus and Cheap Thrills, and performed on screen, most recently in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Her latest part sees her play a 2,000-year-old devil queen, set in a futuristic New York nightclub, in Vampires Rock, which comes to the Cliffs Pavilion, Station Road, Westcliff, on Friday, September 18.
The part-musical, part-comedy tells the story of the nightclub’s charismatic owner Baron Von Rockula, played by Steve Steinman, who attempts to ditch the queen for the aspiring singer Pandora.
“The Baron wants to trade in his wife for a younger model,” says Toyah.
“The audience love that and they’re not politically correct. But when you look at the lyrics of rock songs they are ageist and sexist.
“Bon Jovi never sings about how much he loves his ageing wife, so the humour is already there.”
Toyah clearly relishes the role which allows her to become a little bit evil for the night. “Sinister roles are much more rewarding and I do enjoy frightening children,” she admits.
As a musician herself, the show’s big hitting tracks are another reason for her involvement.
Rock heavyweights like AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Meat Loaf and Queen lend the music and lyrics, which help the plot to unfurl.
“I love the rock music we do. It’s all classic stuff,” says Toyah, excitedly. “The band are very young and are on stage for three hours without dropping energy, which adds a lively element to the show.”
The show sees Toyah don some flamboyant and figure-hugging outfits, reminiscent of those she wore during her years as a musician.
“I have taken all the costumes from my solo work and put them into Vampires Rock with a few changes,” says Toyah.
“My costumes are revealing and daring. I don’t have a problem with the exhibitionist side of it.
“When I started, women were expected to be feminine and ladylike and it was important for me to be the opposite of that.
“I tried to push the boundaries with what I was wearing. Now women can express themselves through image and it doesn’t have to be blatantly sexual.
“I like to think today, as a 51-year-old, there is still room for living your life and expressing yourself and not hiding away because of your age.”
After her role in the show comes to an end, Toyah intends to get back out there as a musician with her band the Humans, and as a solo artist.
However grand these plans may appear, none may propel her to the surprisingly lofty heights she experienced after lending her voice to Children’s TV show, Teletubbies.
“It’s the only time I have needed security on the streets – I couldn’t go anywhere,” she says. “To even have your name associated with it gave you superstar status!”
IT'S SUCH A DEVIL OF A JOB
SAYS 50 -SOMETHING TOYAH
With a career spanning 30 years, Toyah knows a thing or two about the glamour of showbiz. She talks to Zita Collinson about vamping it up for her latest role – as the Devil Queen.
Toyah Willcox isn't exactly what you might call the shy and retiring type.
Just as well, because for her latest role, as the villainous Devil Queen in Steve Steinman's musical, Vampires Rock, it's PVC all the way.
"I have fabulous costumes," says the 51-year-old. "It allows me to dress totally inappropriately for my age. I've got some really out-there, very revealing designs to wear. My opening number is completely silver and reflective from head to toe.
"It tends to be a lot of PVC, a lot of jewellery and very high heels, but really taking it to the far end of the spectrum."
Toyah's return to the show, a Rocky-Horror-esque homage to the music of AC/DC, Meatloaf and Queen among others, follows the production's sell-out tour of theatres last year.
"The cast all have to wear fangs," she continues. "We've all been to the dentist and we've all been fitted with our vampire teeth. It kind of adds to my lisp.
"We have to sing in them, and eat and drink in them. I tend to forget they're in. I've even driven home with them in and when you go and get petrol you forget. I've walked into petrol stations off the M1 and I've just been stared at.
"I stand in the wings and I watch the whole thing and I enjoy it from beginning to end every night," she confesses.
"It's a good sign. It's got its own originality to it and it's really good fun. There's a lot of comedy in it. Every night is exciting and it's never the same. About 60 per cent of the audience are dressed as vampires or Goths. The whole evening is kind of an event."
With some 55 dates ahead of her, she and her fellow Vampires Rock cast members are faced with a gruelling schedule. Not that Toyah will take it easy during what little downtime she has.
She's off to Sheffield to star in panto over Christmas – while the Vampires Rock tour takes a festive break – and has filmed an episode of Casualty to be screened next month. She is also about to start promoting a new film, Three To Tango, for which she has written the music.
Her career is certainly diverse. The Birmingham-born star came to the public's attention playing Monkey in Quadrophenia in 1979, going on to have chart success with It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free in the early 1980s. Since then she's appeared on numerous TV programmes from Songs Of Praise to the Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. And then of course, as any parent of an under-five knows, there's her voiceover work for Teletubbies and Brum. So what's the secret of her long career?
"There's a lot going on at the moment," she says. "Do it while you can, that's my motto. I'm so grateful for the 1980s revival. Whether I like it or not, I'm really, really grateful for it.
"I don't know why I've had such a long career. It's an interesting one because sometimes you genuinely feel as though you'll never work again.
"I think being glamorous and visual helps, Madonna has proven you can do it through many decades, but some women find that hard. For Madonna that's a 24-hour job. It must be endless. I'm the same age as her and I know the work you have to put in just to keep your weight under control.
"I live in the moment. I don't live in the past. I'm very proud to be starring in Three To Tango at the age of 51, which I think is a statement in itself. It says to other women that life goes on."
WHERE TOYAH LEADS
She is no longer an angry young woman, but at the age of 51 Toyah Willcox can still be riled.
The spark is Nightlife’s innocently-intended query.
Toyah’s last hit single came in 1985, her most recent top 10 album in 1982.
Does she ever feel frustrated that her recent work is less widely known than the music she made in her early 20s?
“That’s not true,” she says, with a touch of frost. “My last album went to number six in the iTunes chart. I’m in a band with the drummer from REM.”
These are valid points. The album was last year’s In The Court Of The Crimson Queen. The band is The Humans, in which Toyah appears with REM’s tour drummer Bill Rieflin.
Whether either of these projects has eclipsed the public’s image of Toyah with spiky red hair and paint-factory explosion make-up is a matter for debate.
What’s certain is that the Cumbrian crowd on Saturday will be expecting to hear Eighties’ anthems like It’s A Mystery and Brave New World.
Toyah trained as an actress and has played many parts in tandem with her pop career. Ask if the angry young woman was really her or just another role and the answer is unequivocal.
“That was me. In those days there was a scarcity of women in the profession. They had to fit a certain mould, a very feminine, sexualised mould.
“We were much more tomboyish. [‘We’ being Toyah and people like Hazel O’Connor and Siouxsie Sioux].
“There was a bit of bravado. We paved the way for women to be musicians, not sex objects. Women could come into music because they had something to say.
“A lot of people didn’t like that. But within the first year virtually everyone of my age was adopting that look and being very rebellious. Which means it wasn’t rebellious any more. That’s what happens. The counter-culture becomes part of the mainstream.
“Things have changed radically. It’s great to see people like PJ Harvey, Lily Allen and Beth Ditto.”
Toyah’s music no longer frightens parents. These days families flock to Here and Now gigs, which Toyah has been playing for 10 years.
“It’s great fun,” she says. “It’s a good festival for performers. They bring their families. It’s mayhem, but it’s fun.
“The music is all about the celebration of the Eighties. So many generations are into that music. The audiences are getting younger. It kind of gives the songs a completely new meaning.
“When we wrote these songs none of us meant to get older and get married. We didn’t change but we mellowed.”
Toyah’s acting roles have reflected this. She burst into view in Derek Jarman’s 1977 film Jubilee and in 1979’s Quadrophenia. Since then she has been strikingly versatile, appearing in Minder and Shakespeare, presenting Good Sex Guide Late and Songs of Praise.
Perhaps her best-known role has been the opening voiceover for Teletubbies. “No one knew how successful that would be,” she says. “How many millions, or billions, of people have heard that? I was only in the studio for about 20 minutes.”
Toyah lives in Worcestershire with her husband Robert Fripp, of King Crimson. She will return to Cumbria in the autumn.
On Friday, October 23 she appears at Carlisle’s Sands Centre alongside Steve Steinman in rock musical Vampires Rock.
“It’s very much like Here and Now, in that it’s a celebration of music that affects people’s lives. It’s all classic rock. The audience love it from the opening song to the end. It’s also very funny. There are singers and dancers and a band. My songs include Live and Let Die and Rebel Yell.”
Vampires Rock is one of Toyah’s many projects. She has just returned from the US where she was writing with The Humans. In October she will appear in Casualty and in a British romcom called Three To Tango.
“I’ve never been busier,” she says. “It’s always hard work. People who are successful are successful because they work hard. Things don’t fall in your lap.”
TOYAH LINED UP
FOR HERE & NOW
Punk icon Toyah was edgy, vibrant and outspoken in the Eighties and, you’ll be pleased to know, she is still as feisty as ever.
The multi-talented singer, actor, television presenter and author, now 51, was a pleasure to talk to and she can’t wait to come up and perform in Whitehaven as part of the star-studded Here and Now concert.
“Whitehaven will be new territory for me, I have performed in Ambleside and Carlisle before,” said Toyah.
“Here and Now is incredibly successful around the world. It is hit after hit of pure nostalgia.
“And the audiences are getting younger and younger because Eighties music is so popular, the audience is always smiling from beginning to end.”
So what makes it appealing to a younger audience? “I think that teenagers have discovered Eighties music for themselves. People have knocked the Eighties and that’s done nothing but make them want to know more about it. It was written for teenagers, by teenagers. It was a decade of image and the songs were very strong, as was the fashion - for men and women.
“I do think that the songs were made for stadiums and because of that the open-air arenas work very well with this music - it’s very anthemic and very personal.”
Toyah’s Eighties career was phenomenally successful, resulting in hit records including It’s A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. In fact, she has had a total of 15 Top 40 singles and four gold and platinum albums.
“It was a fabulous time,” she says. “When you are young and have that kind of fame, it is everything that you want. It is extraordinary because you could not go anywhere without being mobbed. There weren’t many women doing what we did then. We were on a crest of a wave, we were making women strong and opinionated.”
Toyah was brought up in a middle class family and was public school-educated. “I was told to get married and have children and that was the most terrifying message,” she said. “What someone like me did for women was to say go your own route and seek out your ambition.”
Everyone remembers Toyah as the petite powerhouse with a distinctive voice, flame-coloured hair and striking make-up. “For me, a way of being remembered was to have very distinctive hair colour and I used that to effect. I lived it, it was totally me, I did it 24 hours a day, it was a statement of individuality.”
Toyah, who is married to international guitarist Robert Fripp, has always come across as open and honest and she rarely shies away from talking about a subject. I asked Toyah whether her having a facelift was down to the pressure of keeping young in a world of celebrity.
“Pressure is very personal. People constantly tell you that you are the wrong height, you have the wrong hair colour, but I don’t hear it. You do something for yourself, you are the holder of the purse strings. I don’t believe in this outside pressure.
“Everyone I know is so strong-minded that you cannot tell them how to look. Having said that, I think that it is utterly wrong that the fashion industry only uses a certain size of woman.”
Toyah talked openly about plastic surgery in her book Diary of a Facelift. “People are dishonest. People who are astonishingly rich have plastic surgery as a statement, to hold themselves apart from the rest of the world and then refuse to admit that they have had it. “I think that this is stupid because all it allows is bad plastic surgery to be carried out. I thought, well let’s talk about it, I was one of the first people to be honest about it. I do believe in honesty. I do a lot of speeches and I could not stand up there in front of women and lie. Women are lied to so much, they need to know we are equal. “I cannot see people turned into an underdog and I hate people to be undermined - men and women.”
Featuring in cult classic film Quadrophenia, Toyah has been in more than 10 feature films and appeared in more than 30 stage plays. She also stars in ITV drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl, in which she plays Billie Piper’s mother, and she is about to tour this year with hit stage show Vampires Rock. In a nutshell, she has never stopped working and doesn’t intend to. “I like working,” she said. “The bottom line for me is that I have something to do the next day. I cannot bear having nothing to do. If there is not enough acting going on, I make sure I am writing music. “I see myself as a cottage industry, I am an acquired taste which gives me a comfortable kind of fame. I like being creative. In the nineties, I was almost exclusively presenting TV. I’m much happier when I’m writing music, creating something unique. “When I am acting, that is very satisfying. I keep thinking I have to earn a living. I love acting and it suits who I am today.”Toyah’s latest music project is The Humans which she describes as “slightly avant-garde”. “It’s like film noir of music - dark and secretive. It’s a pure spiritual project, it is not a Toyah project.” She has teamed up with Bill Rieflin of REM and they recently played in Estonia at the request of the president and first lady. “Bill and I went out there and wrote on the spot. When we went out we hadn’t sold a ticket, but then within four hours they were all sold.”
Despite everything Toyah has achieved over the years, there is still much more to be done. “I have no intention of retiring, I am in a job where I cannot wait for the next project. I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve. What I achieved for music in the eighties I achieved then. Now, as a woman in her fifties, I see so many doors of opportunity that are not being exploited. I want to act 24/7 around the world, there are countries I want to go and perform in, I am still very driven, I like having new adventures and all my successes have come from having that attitude,” she added.
Toyah’s energy is infectious. She’s still quirky, she is a champion of people and is thoroughly charming. One thing is for certain: we can expect to see plenty more of her.
Toyah Willcox, the once pink-tressed princess of punk, has turned 50.The pin-up anarchist - Helen of Troy meets Vivienne Westward - who sang of mystery and freedom does, indeed, look wonderful... grown up (wild hair-dyes now ditched along with extravagant make-up)... and beautiful - yes; but a beauty neither conventional (nothing is conventional about Toyah) nor vapid. As you might expect from the girl at the forefront of a movement whose safety-pin fashion jabbed at world complacency, even her youthful appearance is a challenge to hypocrisy. Her best-selling Diary Of A Facelift, published three years ago, is an overt Death-to-Wrinkles surgical extravaganza. There's no mystery to her Peter Pan-smooth skin.
"I've been lied to so much; I can't bear lying back," she explains. "Women who look great - slim and young - are forever saying it's all down to good genes. It simply isn't true! You need to tell other women that, if you want to look good at 50, you starve yourself; you live by calorie restriction; you have surgery; you have Botox; you save money for it and don't go on holiday." (Though she does lay out buttery croissants for us in the sunny garden that leads down to the River Avon - and eats one herself.)
"The one problem I have with the acting industry - and that the industry has with me - is they all expect you to have Botox but they expect you to say you don't. And I don't like it."
Forthright; true to herself. She once went to a read-through with George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn with hair dyed so red the American film director invited her to "take her hat off" before they began.
On paper, that forthrightness can be scary. She returns the pre-interview questions I submit with the seemingly-dismissive note, "I'm a bit tired of reading 'freakish' interviews after editors get their hands on them."
But face to face, it's different: not the kind of honesty that pushes you away, but draws you in. You fear you're looking at uncompromising, uncaring truthfulness; and then you discover it's disarming frankness instead.
If you want metaphors, it's the same with her house, for first impressions are misleading here, too. I was half expecting a mansion hidden behind a Berlin Wall of trees, in Greta Garbo countryside, approached by a mile of distancing drive and moated by acres of defensive fields. Well, she has lived in places like that - she and her husband (the rock legend Robert Fripp of King Crimson) once owned Cecil Beaton's old pad, Reddish House in Wiltshire, with nearly six acres of landscape and water garden. But for a couple who've had their fair share of weird stalkers and obsessive compliment-payers - and don't forget that Toyah worked with Jill Dando on the Holiday programme - their current home is startlingly on view. It is Georgian-fronted and grand - but the front door opens straight onto the streets of the market town of Pershore.
"Actually, this is the safest house I've ever lived in," Toyah says. "Yes, we have had a lot of problems, and especially Robert. And I had a very, very bad experience when my work colleague Jill Dando was murdered. I was advised never to go to the same address at the same time for at least three months, and it took a long time to get over that.
"But coming to live bang in the centre of a town has eradicated all our problems because the people who want to make your life hell will only do it when they think they can get you alone.
"Our neighbours are fantastic. Everyone has the time to say, 'Hello; how are you?' About three years ago, we had a very bad storm - a gale - and the elderly who live here were being blown over. And we were all rushing out of shops and hairdressers to pick them up and take them home. That's the kind of community this is - you don't let anyone fall over, metaphorically or physically."
But she and Robert so nearly didn't end up here at all. They'd just bought a new home - Evershot Manor in Dorset - in 2001 when they happened to take a boat trip down the Avon. Spotting the 'For Sale' sign, they looked round "just to be nosy". "After we'd seen it, I burst into tears and said, 'We're not going to talk about this house again'. And for the whole day, we just couldn't speak about it. The situation was a mess: we knew we had to have it, yet we'd just bought Evershot."
When Robert returned to America, where he works, he sorted the problem with consummate simplicity - he bought the house without telling Toyah. "I didn't find out until 9/11. He was in Nashville and I phoned him to tell him the Twin Towers had been destroyed. I said, 'I don't think you're going to get home for a while'. And he said, 'Oh my god; I've just bought that house in Pershore on a 100 percent loan!'
"We didn't sell Evershot for a year, but he loves it here; he says it's the happiest home he's had in his life."
Despite its central position, it's an amazingly peaceful house. No matter how busy the street, once the doors are closed it could be in the most isolated place on earth. The garden is long and narrow-ish, picturesquely curtailed by the banks of the Avon; but its shape has been magicked from awkward to fascinating, masterfully arranged into 'rooms' of individual character and charm - a pond, an arbour, a backdrop for evocative pieces by the sculptor Althea Wynne.
Inside, the house is traditional - beautifully, opulently furnished, saved from any stuffiness by unique touches, such as paintings of King Crimson album covers up the stairs.
Toyah was no stranger to Pershore when they moved in. She grew up in Kings Heath, Birmingham and often sailed down the Avon to this pretty market town.
"In fact, I first came to this very house when I was three, when it was The Willow Tearooms, run by the Squires sisters. I didn't know their names at the time - I only found out because we had a 'haunting' programme here, which discovered them in the house."
"Discovered" them...? So does she believe in ghosts?
"Well, I don't make a career out of it, and this was first time I've ever been open about it - I let a camera crew in for the programme Living with the Dead. The actress Rula Lenska joined in - a complete sceptic - but she got caught up in a vision in the cellar of dying children. That took me by surprise because I'd never sensed that here at all. After we'd finished filming, we found out that, during the plague in this town, they put all the children into the cellars. They thought it would protect them, but some ended up starving to death.
"Rula said the experience changed her life: she could see everything, as if she'd been transported back to that time. When we told her afterwards about the history of the house, she felt a lot better - she said it made her realise she wasn't going mad."
Toyah has always been open to spiritual ideas others might dismiss out of hand. Though you might naturally be more inclined to remember her as the presenter of the Good Sex Guide Late, she's also fronted Songs of Praise. Her autobiography, Living Out Loud, published in 2000, has references to spirit guides as well as psychic phenomena and poltergheists (though it was commissioned by the religious department of Hodder, which, she says, meant including more of these experiences than she might otherwise have done). She describes her faith as pantheistic not traditional: "Belief is good for people but I do think Christianity is metaphorical, and about 12 chapters of the Bible are missing - the mystic chapters."
It could sound kooky, but it doesn't. What makes her particularly fascinating is that she's remarkably well-informed - our chat ranges from the cultural advantages of Christianity, and out-of-body experiences, to Darwinism, whether or not the Turin Shroud was achieved by primitive photography, and the interaction of consciousness with technology.
It's a reminder of several things. Firstly, that this diminutive woman is nobody's fool. Secondly, that the punk movement that brought her so much fame cannot easily be dismissed. Convenient as it might be for critics to file it away as mindless anarchy, there was an intellectual force and idealism in Toyah, and other young proponents, that raised it way above the level of strange fashion fad.
Indeed, Toyah's image was not created by stylists and PR crews. She was punk long before she appeared in films such as Quadrophenia and Jubilee. Uncompromisingly so. She turned up for an office job with Legal & General, hair dyed jet black and blue... She refused to change her hair for her part in Tales from the Vienna Woods at the National, and had to wear a wig during performances. (Although she shot to prominence in the '70s as a punk singer, she is, of course, a highly accomplished stage actress, too.)
"It was like every lost soul found a place in punk," she says, "and I haven't seen anything like that happen since for a young generation. I can remember public school kids pretending to be middle class. Everyone would turn up at Sloane Square tube station and get changed out of their school uniform and become a punk. It was cute in many ways but also I think it was the beginning of some great literature; some great music; great attitude, and it did brilliantly for women and for disabled people.
"We all came from an era of finger-pointing and name-calling in the playground and suddenly all that had no meaning because it was almost a compliment to call someone a name. And we really went through the mangle because society was so against us. You'd walk down the street and people would either cross the road or throw things at you."
Does she think society would be a different place today if punk hadn't happened?
"I think something had to happen, the way the Swinging Sixties happened. It was one of those social osmoses where something clicked; the litmus went up, as it were."
From the outset, her serious acting and her punk performances ran side by side. You'd have thought them incompatible but, amazingly, the 'aristocracy' of the theatre world adored this talented young upstart - particularly Hepburn and Olivier. During Toyah's work with the great thespian on the film The Ebony Tower, she became Olivier's confidante. The relationship was respectful - she always called him 'Sir' - but he nevertheless confided to her intimate details of his life, including his obsessive love/hate relationship with his late wife, the actress Vivien Leigh - Leigh's madness; her ability to act that seemed to arise directly from that insanity; even personal details about her death.
"I think it was because nobody would listen to him - but I could sit and listen for hours," she says. "Olivier was dying when I worked with him, and he had a nurse on set. He trusted me not to tell anyone if he was feeling ill. One of the most scary moments I had was during a rehearsal when he brushed his skin on a screw. He was trying to hide the fact that he was bleeding because he didn't want the nurse to see. In the end, I stopped the shooting and said, 'I'm really sorry, Sir, but we're going to have to deal with this.' He didn't like that."
With anecdotes such as this, it's easy to picture a glamorous life. But reading through her early years, things were far from hedonistic. At one point, when she was working on Quadrophenia by day and, at the same time, doing night shoots with John Mills for Quatermass, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She simply took the antibiotics and didn't let on to anyone.
So why did she survive the madness? Why didn't she crash and burn? She laughs. "Because everyone expected me to, I wouldn't give them the satisfaction."
If her life was mad when she was younger, it's not much more restful now. She plays Billie Piper's mother in the Secret Diary of a Call Girl ("If I ever had a child, I wish it would be Billie because she's just beautiful and gets on with everybody.") She's writing songs to put on her own albums and for other artists, film and television. She creates TV shows, lectures on cruises and writes. She's about to embark on a hectic tour with the cult musical Vampires Rock - "A bit like the new Rocky Horror. It's an evening of the best rock ballads you can think of". She also performs sell-out concerts, including '80s tours, where, to her astonishment, the majority of the audience is under the age of 20.
And this, all from a base in rural Worcestershire. She's well aware that the cute move might be to the States, if she wanted to expand her career even further. But is she interested? Nope. In fact, one of her next moves could well be to invest further in Pershore. She and Robert are mulling over financing a new shop, maybe designer women's wear to begin with, to help boost business in the town.
"I don't want to move to LA; I really don't want to move to New York," she says. "I realise I could possibly have a career there, but I would lose everything of great value here.
"This is just the most perfect place, and Robert and I feel very protective towards it - and to the people as well. It's the sort of place where the young move away and eventually always come back... Which, in a way, is exactly what I've done."
FAB OVER 50:
MY LIFE IN PICS
'I don't lie about how old I am. I think I look good for my age'
The singer and actress on how it was so important for her to have a face lift, never wanting to have kids, and always being a free spirit...
If I was going to be a mum I'd be Billie Piper's. In the last series of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl Billie kept kissing me on top of my head. She is such a giggle and I love her work, she oozes talent. We've both been singers, and that helped me to get into the role of her mother for the series. I play mothers quite well, because I am not conventional. mothers aren't conventional. They have to be able to wear many faces. I'm perfect playing a mother, but I wouldn't be a perfect mother, I'd be awful. I'd be off travelling and the week's food would be in the freezer with a note saying 'Feed yourself' on it. I'm not interested in family life at all. I don't like being told what to do, there's very little compromise with me.
This looks very funny because Princess Diana was very tall and I'm very short. We were both speakers at the Woman Of The Year lunch. Dame Judi Dench was there as well, and Di didn't shy away from pointing out we were both considerably smaller than her. She said to us, "Would you like me to kneel or bend over?" At the lunch, Di told me she wanted her boys to be happy and for them to have a life, choices and freedom of their own. I was devastated when she passed away, but I like talking about her. I'm one of the many who don't want her to be forgotten.
When he came out of the jungle, David Guest called to invite me to a party he was having at Madame Tussauds. I'd never spoken to him before, but he's kind of like that. He made such an effort to get to know lots of British celebrities after I'm A Celebrity... We had supper then went to the bash. After this photo was taken I didn't see him again, he was off with all of his friends. But he was a marvellous host and I laughed my head off chatting to him.
My one regret in life is that I didn't throw whopping great handfuls of this cess pit at Ant and Dec. They were laughing and taking the piss. They'd have deserved it. The pit was full of rat poo, spiders and insects. I smelt awful for five days after. No one would come near me. I ate alone for two days. I lost 10 pounds on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, which I loved, but it didn't last long. Psychologically, being on the show changes you. The whole thing is set up to alter you, so I can understand why people act strangely in there.
I've been very open about having a facelift. It was important for my career to have it done. The cliché for an actress is that you hit 50 and you're only offered the role of a mother, and it's true. I don't lie about my age. I think I look good for 51, but I don't think I look 30. The thing is, virtually everyone else is doing it. I admire women who admit to it, like Sharon Osbourne. The surgery has given me confidence. I feel I've invested in myself, and I see surgery as a form of empowerment. What I've done is a natural thing, a basic procedure, and I hope I look my age. But I think young girls having massive breast implants aren't doing themselves any favours for the future.
This was one of the happiest moments of my life. I'd just won Best Female Singer at the 1982 Rock & Pop Awards and I was on cloud nine. I'm with Kim Wilde and Hazel O'Connor. In the 80s we weren't very friendly, the press used to create a rivalry between me and Kim, but now Hazel is a close friend and I work with Kim all the time. Kim's a mother but Hazel, like me, doesn't have children. Back then I had a hectic lifestyle. I did 14 interviews a day and toured non-stop. I always thought if I played too hard I'd lose everything. I slightly regret that, as I didn't have any down time, I just worked. It isn't all rock 'n roll, groupies and parties. People like us work incredibly hard. Sometimes we could do with being told to have a bit more fun.
At this shoot in 1993, my husband Robert (Fripp) liked the way I looked and he wanted to be involved. I don't dress like that at home. Like me, he's in a band, King Crimson. But we have a very normal, romantic relationship. My persona as a singer is far more out there than it is at home. Robert's not the jealous type, we wouldn't have been together for 23 years if he was. I did a play once where I had to pretend to make love to someone on stage. I could hear him in the audience saying, 'That's my wife. isn't she good?' We both like our freedom and completely trust each other. I couldn't have married a man who wants to be fed by me three times a say. I want to go off and do my own thing.
Me, Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey and Lorraine Chase all go on nights out at a club called Tramp in London. We have girlie dinners and go dancing. me and Cilla always gossip about film stars and footballers, the usual things. When Shirley comes over she holds court, so we usually sit back and listen to her. The guy in the photo is John Wain, he's my good friend and a Toyah impersonator. I love his shows, and sometimes go on stage with him. There's another boy who impersonates me who's 19, he's got brilliant legs.
TOYAH LOVES GETTING
BACK TO HER ROOTS
Since the early 80s, Toyah Willcox has been a name synonymous with something. Whether it be pink hair, alternative remedies, plastic surgery or an iconic children’s TV show. Sam Wonfor talks to her ahead of a return to her (non-hair-related) roots.
Toyah Willcox is one of the first voices I hear upon waking pretty much every morning.
Now I don’t live with the former punk princess ... and, although I am a child of the 80s and delighted to be so, I don’t have It’s A Mystery programmed into my alarm clock.
However, I do immerse myself in the wonderfully colourful world of Teletubbies as the sun rises each day ... and, as anyone who has become a parent in the past 12 years will know, it is Toyah’s distinctive voice which opens and closes proceedings.
As the baby-faced sunshine comes up over the greener than green hills in Teletubbyland – Ms Willcox gets things under way with the immortal words (in the world of children’s TV anyway): “Over the hills and far away, Teletubbies come to play ...”
And then, following whatever antics we’ve enjoyed from those crazy beings who have tellies in their tummies, she brings the curtain, and the sun down, with: “the sun is setting in the sky, Teletubbies say goodbye,” which is particularly impressive when you consider Toyah’s position as one of the world’s most famous lispers.
Thus, I can’t let a chat with the now 50-year-old pass without giving this entry on her ridiculously varied and packed-to-the-rafters CV an early mention.
Turns out, she’s proud as punch about her involvement ... just as she is about the entries which cover her other careers as a singer, prolific and award-winning actress, TV presenter, author, reality television subject and alternative therapy flag waver.
But back to the ’tubbies.
“For me that was a massive blessing,” she says. “I did all the voices for Brum, which was also created by Anne Wood, (who went on to create the Teletubbies).
“Anne asked me to look at the pilot she had made ... I loved it. I said ‘this is the new Magic Roundabout’. I put that tiny voice-over on the beginning and the end ... and ended up having to have security guards,” she laughs before explaining.
“At the time, I was filming BBC Holiday Watchdog, and we literally couldn’t film for kids who were fans of the Teletubbies. We were getting mobbed.”
Now much as I could talk all day about the merits of my toddler’s favourite first-thing-in-the-morning viewing pleasures, the reason for the chat is a lot more exciting – for fans of Toyah anyway ... the aforementioned toddler would doubtless beg to differ.
Toyah is headlining a female-heavy line-up at this weekend’s free South Tyneside Summer Festival concert at Bents Park, South Shields.
She, along with the former T’Pau leading lady Carol Decker and BBC1 talent show Fame Academy runner-up Sinead Quinn, will play on Sunday.
“We are doing an extended set,” she promises.
“So we will be putting some real Toyah fan material from the albums (including a couple of tracks from last year’s solo release In The Court Of The Crimson Queen and Guns ’n’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’mine).
“The thing is, is that the solo stuff is such a different and very young energy. And it’s about nostalgia.
“I really, really love doing the open-air shows. They’re so much about the fun side of what I do.
“I don’t often look back, but I really appreciate what those songs did for me and enjoy performing them ... and we’re always trying to find new ways of making them fresh and exciting.”
Indulging in a slice of nostalgia isn’t anything new for Toyah. Since 2002 she has been a regular on the global Here and Now circuit which sees groups of music stars from yesteryear (and usually the 80s) trotting out their chart-high-risers in quick succession.
“I do them all year round,” she confirms, as well as mentioning the tours she undertakes as the star of musical, Vampires Rock (just 50 dates this year) and those related to her new music project, The Humans which sees her collaborating with REM's Bill Rieflin, Chris Wong and her husband, Robert Fripp.
“The nice thing about being the age I am, is that rather than being pressurised into something which is being mass marketed, I can choose to do something at my own pace because I want to do it. It’s a terrific feeling.”
Apparently the new band “don’t really work in the UK” ... but apparently go down a storm in Estonia and will be having a crack at a second album and some States dates later this year.
So with that digression sorted, let’s return to the 80s-flavoured shows we were talking about.
“I was in Ireland for an Easter (Here and Now) show and will also do some of the English festivals. It’s a worldwide brand now. It’s really nice to get up on stage and do 20 minutes ... and then you’re with your friends,” she adds, speaking of her fellow performers.
“We share the same band. It has this real feeling of being a travelling family. We are all pretty close and have got over being competitive.
“We can all appreciate what these songs have done for us.”
Toyah says that far from being faced with people of her own generation at these regular celebrations of past pop powerhouses, she is increasingly being greeted on stage by relative youngsters.
“I’ve been noticing how different the audiences are. They are getting younger.
“I did a gig in Shrewsbury recently and 80% of the audience were under the age of 30. People are discovering the music and they like it.
“Eighties music is, for the younger generation of today, what 60s music was to me.
Toyah Willcox plays the South Tyneside Summer Festival at Bents Park, South Shields on Sunday.
Also on the bill are former T’Pau frontwoman Carol Decker and 2002 Fame Academy runner-up Sinead Quinn.
The open-air section of the festival’s programme continues on July 19 with a performance from the Soundpower Orchestra, X Factor star Andy Abrahams on July 26 and on August 2, ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again will be strutting their stuff with support from S Club 3 and former 5ive singer Scott Robinson.
ROCK ON TOYAH
It’s difficult to pin down Toyah Willcox – she’s a singer, actress and writer. She tells Steve Pratt variety is the spice of life and why she doesn’t mind replaying her old hits in the North East.
The ever-busy Toyah Willcox will be giving the audience exactly what it wants when she plays an open-air concert in South Shields, during South Tyneside Summer Festival next month.
She doesn’t intend turning her back on the music that made her famous. Witness her touring last year in the Hear And Now shows with other Eighties artists, playing castles, arenas and stately homes.
Her North-East appearance is one of a number of gigs in England over the summer, when she’ll also be travelling to Seattle for recording sessions.
“It’s much more civilised now. You get a dressing room for starters,” she says, of outdoor gigs. “I like doing open-air events. They’re always lovely, there’s a happening factor that goes with the open air.
“This whole thing is about nostalgia. I respect we’re doing songs and music people will know and love. And there’s always a new young audience out there enjoying the whole Eighties scene.
“There’s a lot of energy in the air. We did Ascot to 27,000 people in thunder and rain. I was sliding across the stage. You go on in all weathers. I use a bigger band for the outdoors and always choose music that will get the audience up and dancing.
“The open air shows aren’t really about the artist being indulgent. They’re about the artist sharing their love of music with the audience.
So I’ll be doing all my hits and the songs I love."
It can be difficult to pin down Toyah – one of those people you feel you can refer to by just one name and people will know instantly who you mean – as her career choices have been many and varied. They stretch from her punk beginnings to the present day, when she makes choices ranging from pantomime, to raunchy TV drama Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.
Her diary for 2009 takes in touring dates in theatre show Vampires Rock, a British-funded feature film, an album with her band The Humans, and featuring in a psychic therapy special on the Biography channel.
Those are additions to a list that include 15 top 40 singles, four gold and platinum albums, ten films and more than 30 stage plays. She’s also found time to write two bestsellers – her autobiography, Living Out Loud, and Diary Of A Face Lift, documenting plastic surgery in the world of showbusiness.
She acknowledges this might confuse people.
“The music has been a bit schizophrenic in England. I’m still very much a rock singer related to the Eighties, but I have new projects going on that allow me to be a very different artist,” she says.
“Basically, I’m a rock chick that’s had a lot of good experiences in rock ’n’ roll and I have a big voice.”
Getting older – she’s 51 – doesn’t mean giving up music. She would if her voice wasn’t great, but women’s voices can get better in their 50s, she says. “So, at the moment I’m planning to keep going for the next ten years, but if it ever got to the point where it wasn’t pleasing for the audience...” her voice tails off as if it’s something she can’t contemplate.
“I think everything is fresh because I bounce around from one project to another like a ball.
It’s a very varied life and that keeps me completely enthusiastic. I don’t really have the time to get bored. It’s always been very, very busy.
“In my early career I had the kind of management that said, ‘you can’t do that and you can’t be seen’. Life is about enjoying yourself and having as many experiences as possible.
“I manage myself now, which means I can do anything I want at any time. I don’t surround myself with boundaries.”
Some might find it surprising that she played – with The Humans, her band with Bil Rieflin from REM – at the request of the president of Estonia, in May. That resulted from reading one of her husband’s emails. It’s one way of finding work because, as he’s King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, the correspondence is rewarding. The invitation was to him to go to Estonia, but he wasn’t keen, so Toyah accepted She still loves what she does. “I get a buzz out of having something new to do with my voice because the voice is changing constantly. Because it’s got deeper, it means I can write and explore my register I’ve never written in before.
“In England, that doesn’t have much of a career prospect because people want me to sing like the Toyah they’ve known for 30 years. But in other places I can step away from that.”
EIGHTIES PUNK ICON TOYAH
IS 50 AND FEISTY AS EVER
Punk icon Toyah was edgy, vibrant and outspoken in the eighties and you’ll be pleased to know, she is still as feisty as ever.
The multi-talented singer, actor, television presenter and author, now 51, was a pleasure to talk to.
And she can’t wait to come up and perform in Whitehaven as part of the star-studded Here and Now concert on August 15.
“Whitehaven will be new territory for me, I have performed in Ambleside and Carlisle before,” said Toyah.
“Here and Now is incredibly successful around the world. It is hit after hit of pure nostalgia.
“And the audiences are getting younger and younger because eighties music is so popular, the audience is always smiling from beginning to end.”
So what makes it appealing to a younger audience?
“I think that teenagers have discovered eighties music for themselves. People have knocked the eighties and that’s done nothing but make them want to know more about it. It was written for teenagers, by teenagers.
“It was a decade of image and the songs were very strong, as was the fashion – for men and women.
“I do think that the songs were made for stadiums and because of that the open-air arenas work very well with this music – it’s very anthemic and very personal.”
Toyah’s eighties career was phenomenally successful, resulting in hit records including It’s A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. In fact, she has had a total of 15 Top 40 singles and four gold and platinum albums.
“It was a fabulous time,” she says. “When you are young and have that kind of fame, it is everything that you want. It is extraordinary because you could not go anywhere without being mobbed.
“There weren’t many women doing what we did then. We were on a crest of a wave, we were making women strong and opinionated.”
Toyah was brought up in a middle class family and was public school-educated.
“I was told to get married and have children and that was the most terrifying message,” she said.
“What someone like me did for women was to say go your own route and seek out your ambition.”
Everyone remembers Toyah as the petite powerhouse with a distinctive voice, flame-coloured hair and striking make-up.
“For me, a way of being remembered was to have very distinctive hair colour and I used that to effect. I lived it, it was totally me, I did it 24 hours a day, it was a statement of individuality.”
Toyah, who is married to international guitarist Robert Fripp, has always come across as open and honest and she rarely shies away from talking about a subject.
I asked Toyah whether her having a facelift was down to the pressure of keeping young in a world of celebrity.
“Pressure is very personal. People constantly tell you that you are the wrong height, you have the wrong hair colour, but I don’t hear it.
“You do something for yourself, you are the holder of the purse strings. I don’t believe in this outside pressure.
“Everyone I know is so strong-minded that you cannot tell them how to look.
“Having said that, I think that it is utterly wrong that the fashion industry only uses a certain size of woman.”
Toyah talked openly about plastic surgery in her book Diary of a Facelift.
“People are dishonest. People who are astonishingly rich have plastic surgery as a statement, to hold themselves apart from the rest of the world and then refuse to admit that they have had it.
“I think that this is stupid because all it allows is bad plastic surgery to be carried out.
“I thought, well let’s talk about it, I was one of the first people to be honest about it.
“I do believe in honesty. I do a lot of speeches and I could not stand up there in front of women and lie. Women are lied to so much, they need to know we are equal.
“I cannot see people turned into an underdog and I hate people to be undermined – men and women.”
Featuring in cult classic film Quadrophenia, Toyah has been in more than 10 feature films and appeared in more than 30 stage plays.
She also stars in ITV drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl, in which she plays Billie Piper’s mother, and she is about to tour this year with hit stage show Vampires Rock.
In a nutshell, she has never stopped working and doesn’t intend to.
“I like working,” she said. “The bottom line for me is that I have something to do the next day. I cannot bear having nothing to do. If there is not enough acting going on, I make sure I am writing music.
“I see myself as a cottage industry, I am an acquired taste which gives me a comfortable kind of fame.
“I like being creative. In the nineties, I was almost exclusively presenting TV. I’m much happier when I’m writing music, creating something unique.
“When I am acting, that is very satisfying. I keep thinking I have to earn a living. I love acting and it suits who I am today.”
Toyah’s latest music project is The Humans which she describes as “slightly avant-garde”.
“It’s like film noir of music – dark and secretive. It’s a pure spiritual project, it is not a Toyah project.”
She has teamed up with Bill Rieflin of REM and they recently played in Estonia at the request of the president and first lady.
“Bill and I went out there and wrote on the spot. When we went out we hadn’t sold a ticket, but then within four hours they were all sold.”
Despite everything Toyah has achieved over the years, there is still much more to be done.
“I have no intention of retiring, I am in a job where I cannot wait for the next project. I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve.
“What I achieved for music in the eighties I achieved then. Now, as a woman in her fifties, I see so many doors of opportunity that are not being exploited.
“I want to act 24/7 around the world, there are countries I want to go and perform in, I am still very driven, I like having new adventures and all my successes have come from having that attitude,” she added.
Toyah’s energy is infectious. She’s still quirky, she is a champion of people and is thoroughly charming.
One thing is for certain, we can expect to see plenty more of her and I am sure we won’t be disappointed.
AN RTN INTERVIEW
Toyah Willcox has a highly successful, prolific and incredibly diverse career. Her major hit records and many prestigious stage and screen roles have made her one of Britain's biggest household names.
In a career spanning over 30 years, Toyah has had 13 top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums, written 2 books, appeared in over 40 stage plays, made 10 feature films and presented hundreds of television programmes from The Good Sex Guide Late to Songs Of Praise. Toyah has also appeared in ITV2’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl, as the mother of lead character played by Billie Piper.
Her acting career began at the Old Rep Drama School, in her hometown Birmingham. Her first notable role came in 1977 when film director Derek Jarman offered her the role of Mad in seminal punk epic ‘Jubilee’. Later that year, she put together the first embryonic line up of her own band. Toyah continued to gain ever-strong roles, appearing alongside Katherine Hepburn in the film, The Corn is Green, as well as playing 'Monkey' in the legendary Quadrophenia.
RTN was given an exclusive interview when she appeared in the Sparkles Showbar, Yumbo Centre, Playa del Ingles. A softly spoken and incredibly nice lady, Toyah had this to say to our reporter:
Toyah, have you ever visited Gran Canaria before? And what made you take up the offer?
This is the first time I've been to Gran Canaria, and when Sparkles Showbar asked me to take part in their Gay Pride celebrations I welcomed the opportunity. It was good fun riding on the float this afternoon and seeing my many fans.
Have you managed to see anything of the island whilst here?
No, only the hotel room, as usual!
Where is your next tour and when?
Firstly it's back to the UK, where I have a number of tours organised throughout the country at various festivals and big parks, then I'm off to Seattle to write another album, then on tour again in the US. Autumn will find me back in the UK to start the new Vampires Rock show.
Are there any problems with travelling all the time and being away?
No, not at all. I am very Bohemian and love to travel and I'm grateful that I can.
What do you think about shows like the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent?
They've got it right in the UK. It spreads a bit of happiness into the lives of many, both those taking part and those watching. It's getting increasingly difficult for records companies to find and produce new talent, so these programmes are a good showcase for up and coming future stars.
What about the credit crunch, has it affected you personally?
Yes, the same way as everyone really. The property I own is now worth nearly 20% less than it was. But what goes around comes around and I still have my investment properties in the South of France.
What's your best buy?
An apartment I bought in the south of France overlooking the harbour in a very old town. There are 67 steps up to it and I love it to death.
How do you manage to keep so slim and stay so full of energy?
I never eat processed foods, eat healthily, no alchohol, although sometimes I would love to have the odd drink, I love my circuit gigs, and just generally enjoy what I do.
What advice could you give to new aspiring Vocalists, Groups etc?
Be seen as much as possible. Do the pubs, clubs, street corners. Television is changing, there is now much less advertising, so get yourself a decent website and post video clips on it. Keep your visibility high.
And finally, if you were granted one wish, what would that be?
To know, and be able to choose the work I do, and also to never retire!
Toyah continues to work in all fields of the media and refuses to compromise any aspect of her multi-faceted and varied career.
Round Town News
YOU IN 1982?
We may cringe at our wardrobes from 1982, a year in which lace gloves, legwarmers, and stonewashed denim featured heavily, but Eighties fashion is back in vogue.
With a new series of Ashes To Ashes back on television, we go back to the Eighties to find out who were those heroes of yesteryear and what they remember about those multicoloured days.
Fashion icon of the time was Toyah Willcox, 50, named Best British Singer at the Rock and Pop Awards (now the Brits). She says:
Back In 1982, I was recognised everywhere I went - I had the big, pink hair, and I dressed the part in black PVC boots and little dresses. My nightmare would have been to have been seen without full make-up.
Post-punk was moving into New Wave and New Romanticism, you lived the dream and wore the uniform every day, that was part of the movement. My schedule was exhausting.
When we shot the award-winning Brave New World video, in which I wore black contact lenses (wearing different coloured contact lenses was very 'in' in 1982) I was up at 2am in make-up, then posing on a freezing beach in Hastings at 4am.
I was then driven into London where I was shot riding a horse at Battersea power station until four in the afternoon. Then we filmed through the night at Wandsworth studio - and I had a concert the next day.
For me, 1982 was a year that empowered women. I loved the fashion - at last British women ditched all those boring Laura Ashley prints.
Huge shoulder pads were in, thanks to Joan Collins in Dynasty, and London was the hippest place to be, thanks to designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett.
Perhaps my most spectacular stage outfit was the one I wore to sing Thunder In The Mountains on Top Of The Pops.
I had 2ft-high hair in the shape of a sunflower, thigh-length black PVC boots and a black suede cavewoman dress. For one shoot, when I had almost vertical pink hair, it took me 12 hours to get ready. In that year, you felt you could wear anything, the sky was the limit.
Make-up was also outrageous - I went through a period of wearing cubist designs on my face. Boys and girls dressed alike - men looked like peacocks in their make-up and over-sized shirts.
In terms of politics, Margaret Thatcher typified the 'can-do' role of women, though I didn't agree with her policies. It was an important year for women, as we were starting to be taken seriously in our own right.
SECRET TO HER SUCCESS
Life certainly begins at 50 for former punk princess Toyah Willcox. A bundle of energy, the singer and actress is having the time of her life starring in hit musical Vampires Rock, which comes to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this Friday.
Now a multi-millionaire thanks to shrewd (and safe) property and stock market investments, the Birmingham-born performer who enjoyed 13 Top 40 singles and a No 1 album in her 1980s heyday is actually a Belfast regular.
“I've been to Belfast many, many times,” she reveals. “My first visit was to the King's Hall in 1981 and I've been back often over the years to perform in plays at the Grand Opera House.
“As I was only ever there for short intense bursts of time, I didn't see any of the problems. Most of my day was spent rehearsing or performing so I rarely left the city, but I do remember going to the Bushmills Distillery a few years ago, though I don't drink so I didn't sample the whiskey.”
There's no doubt Toyah looks fantastic for her age and she happily admits to having a little “help” with her appearance. In fact, in 2005, she wrote a book (Diary of a Facelift) about her experience.
However, she denies it was a cruel comment by BBC bad boy Jonathan Ross that sent her scurrying underneath the surgeon's knife.
After her 2003 appearance on ITV's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Ross commented that she looked so awful she shouldn't be allowed to appear on television.
Women everywhere were outraged, but Toyah takes a different attitude.
“What he said wasn't the reason I had my facelift,” she insists. “Surgery goes hand-in-hand with the entertainment industry. Looking good is rightly or wrongly a requirement [for men and women], but I do think people in the public eye should be open about it.
“Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the entertainment business gets something done at some point in their careers. It's just ridiculous when stars deny it and say their youthful appearance is down to good genes.
“Of course, there's a lot you can do to help yourself. I believe in avoiding putting on weight at all costs, especially as you get older. I'm not very tall, so I religiously keep to 1,500 calories every day.”
Does the pressure society puts on women to stay beautiful and never grow old anger her at all?
“No, it's the fact that women put pressure on themselves and each other that angers me,” she replies. “Denying having surgery or anything ‘done' and refusing to reveal your age, creates for others an often unattainable ideal.
“Look perfect at any age if you want to, but don't pretend it's natural.”
Watching her on stage, vamping it up in her role as the Devil Queen, it's hard to believe that as a child Toyah was crippled by horrific physical disabilities.
She was born with a twisted spine, foot problems and no hip sockets and underwent years of surgery and physiotherapy.
She was also dyslexic (virtually unheard of in the Sixties), which by her own admission turned her into an “angry, rebellious” teenager who achieved just one ‘O' Level (music) from posh Edgbaston College.
“No, I didn't have a particularly healthy childhood,” she admits. “It was challenging, but by my teens, physically, I'd pretty much been sorted and I'm 100% fit these days — but I am very careful about posture and weight and the pressure I put on my body.
“It was tough at the time, but I now regard my dyslexia as a gift. Many people who have the condition excel in creative ways because the brain over-compensates in other areas — usually music, art or performing.
“Now that it's becoming more understood, I don't believe it should be seen as a disability.”
Not surprisingly, as a young woman Toyah was attracted to the noisy punk rock scene that developed in the late Seventies and after training as an actress at Birmingham's Old Rep Drama School, she won prominent roles alongside Adam Ant in punk film Jubilee and Phil Daniels in the legendary Quadrophenia.
Around the same time, she formed her own band, Toyah, and chart hits, including It's a Mystery and I Want to Be Free, quickly followed. Her trademark lisp, brightly coloured hair and scary persona secured iconic status and in 1983 she won Best British Female at the British Rock and Pop Awards.
“My generation really needed the punk movement,” she says, looking back. “The 1970s were a very bleak time and this whirlwind of creativity came along and gave everyone an outlet for their frustration.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of the whole scene. I had an incredible time, but I have to admit I'm enjoying this stage of my life much more.”
In 1986, Toyah married King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and the pair's unconventional relationship has raised a few eyebrows over the years.
They appear to live separate lives — him in America and her in Worcestershire — and according to reports rarely see each other for more than 12 weeks every year.
But despite their strange marriage, Toyah clearly adores her 62-year-old husband and perhaps it's this unorthodox marital set-up that has kept the union solid for more than 20 years.
“We have a great relationship and it works because we allow ourselves our independence,” she says. “I can just go off and do whatever I want, wherever I want without telling him and he can do the same.
“I got married because I had found my soul mate, not because I wanted to be married.
“We have a very interesting life and it's very trusting and exciting and for me, that's what's made it work.”
Toyah insists that not having children (she was sterilised shortly after her marriage because her childhood disabilities left her unable to carry a baby full-term) hasn't bothered the pair and they were never tempted to adopt.
“I've never wanted children myself and neither has Robert. I think I was just born that way. I don't have maternal instincts at all,” she adds.
To describe Toyah Willcox as busy is an understatement. Not only is she starring in Vampires Rock, she is also filming four documentaries for ITV and will soon start work on another series of The Secret Diary of a Call Girl. And last autumn, she released her first studio album in five years — In the Court of the Crimson Queen.
She's also constantly in demand as a theatre actress and TV presenter having fronted hundreds of shows including Holiday, The Good Sex Guide Late and, er, Songs of Praise.
Is religion yet another part of her very unconventional life?
“I'd describe myself as spiritual,” she explains. “I believe in the power of prayer and with prayer we can change things. I don't follow a particular religion.”
It's almost as if, like Benjamin Button, Toyah is leading her life backwards — getting stronger as she gets older and making up for the illness she suffered as a child.
“I perform to more people now than I ever did in the Eighties,” she laughs.
“Society has created this myth that as you get older, you should wind down and go away. If you are focused and are in good health, why should you stop?
“Last year, I walked the Gobi Desert for charity — because I still could — and, of course, I will physically slow down at some point (when my joints tell me to), but that doesn't mean I will give up on experiencing life. I'll just do it in other ways.”
HOW I WENT FROM
FLABBY TO FAB
Surely it's every woman's dream - to regain the pert bottom of her youth. That was the goal for pop star Toyah Willcox who, at 50, has become the first person in Britain to have an injectable bottom lift - cosmetic surgery that claims to give definition to the buttocks. Toyah lives with musician husband Robert Fripp, 62. Here, SADIE NICHOLAS asks her if the £6,000 procedure was money well spent - or a bum deal ...
To say that I am pro-cosmetic surgery is perhaps too strong. Yes, I had a facelift five years ago and I've been quite open about my desire to have a tummy tuck - at my age my skin's losing its elasticity, so I believe more nips and tucks are inevitable.
But the reason I have cosmetic surgery is because I love my career. Having work done on your face and body goes hand in hand with showbusiness, because you have to ensure you look good for your age.
I accept that fact and don't resent it, it's just part of the job. In this business, most people have had something done, even though many don't like to admit to it.
Despite being the same weight and size, a ten, that I was in my 20s, my shape's changed as I've reached my 50s.
During the past two years I've noticed that my bottom has begun to sag, developing a telltale crease and losing definition where it meets the tops of my legs.
Of course, it can be disguised with clever support knickers, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm not happy with the shape. I don't go to the gym, but I do lots of hill-walking in the Worcestershire countryside and I'm fit and active.
But, no matter what, time and gravity still have an effect on even the slimmest, fittest of women. So, when I heard a new laser treatment was being launched in the UK, which claims to tighten and tone the skin and is described as the surgical equivalent to doing hours and hours of exercises in the gym, I began researching it on the internet in earnest.
I learned that the procedure called VASER (vibration amplification of sound energy at resonance) Hi Def is suitable for use on the stomach, chest, bottom and upper thighs and, amazingly, takes less than two hours to perform under local anaesthetic and just a few days to recover.
And it's a considerable advance from the more traditional nip-and-tuck treatments for a saggy bottom such as the rather barbaric bottom implants - where silicone pouches rather like those used in boob jobs are inserted into your buttocks - and the old-style liposuction, which involved inserting a long, thick rod into the fatty areas and sucking stuff out with quite considerable force.
On TV I saw women who were black and blue after liposuction and couldn't sit down for weeks. So I was relieved and enthused to read that VASER Hi Def involves inserting a fine ultrasound probe - a titanium rod about two to three millimetres thick - into the fatty areas of the stomach, chest or buttocks under local anaesthetic.
The ultrasound waves emitted from the probe liquefy the fat and an equally tiny suction tube is then inserted and used to suck out as much of the fat as possible. Any liquefied fat that doesn't get sucked out will be excreted with normal bodily waste.
Apparently this process allows a surgeon to sculpt the specially selected areas, almost carving fat away from around the key muscle groups to create a highly defined physical shape.
The tiny probe allows him to be very precise about exactly where he removes the fat from, which is how he can create such definition and why this treatment differs so much from other methods of liposuction.
Of course, if you believe the blurb, it all sounds wonderful, but I know that if you're going to enter into cosmetic surgery then you need to do your homework, researching the treatment and the surgeon until you're absolutely certain of the merits of both.
Hours of internet searching revealed that VASER Hi Def is already a hit in the U.S. and manufacturers and practitioners claim it yields astonishing results. I was convinced enough to arrange a consultation with Dr Mike Comins at The Hans Place Practice in Knightsbridge before Christmas.
He is the only doctor to offer the treatment in the UK, and only the second in Europe. Here's what happened next ...
DECEMBER 18, 2008
I arrive at the Hans Place Practice feeling excited about meeting the man who may be able to reverse the signs of ageing on my bottom.
Dr Comins inspects my derriere and tells me I already have amazing muscular strength for someone who doesn't go to the gym. He also says that I'm the perfect patient for VASER Hi Def treatment.
It should be performed only on those who are fit and healthy but seeking more definition, and not on those looking to it as a quick-fix means of shedding lots of weight or inches, although it is suitable for those with smaller, stubborn areas of fat resistant to weight loss.
Dr Comins explains the procedure exactly as I read about it on the internet - and also says he would recommend injecting a thick synthetic gel filler called Macrolane - a similar version has long been used to fill facial lines - into my upper buttocks, which he would then manipulate with his fingers to restore shape and volume.
I have endless questions for Dr Comins, such as how much the procedure might hurt, what pain relief I'll be given, whether the gel can change shape due to sitting too much (he assures me it won't), and if my bum will end up looking bigger, or just more shapely. It's already big enough.
He gives reassuring answers to all of my questions and tells me the whole operation will take between one and two hours. Although I'll be able to leave the clinic straight away afterwards, he warns that I'll be sore for the first two days.
Pain frightens me, but I remind myself that he's a man and they have a much lower pain threshold than women.
The procedure will cost around £6,000, but it will be a small price to pay to get my old bottom back. I can barely contain my enthusiasm and book to have the procedure done on January 15, also booking four days off work, just in case he's right about the soreness.
JANUARY 14, 2009
With less than 24 hours to go until I return to have my wondrous bottom surgery, the nerves kick in. In fact, I'm more anxious than I was before I had my facelift five years ago.
Why? Well, I've never been in favour of liposuction - which the VASER treatment is - in any form as it always looks so brutal when you see it on TV.
I'm also a little worried about how much pain I might be in afterwards, even though I'm not squeamish. And I'm concerned that in opting for the injections to 'shape' my bottom, it may end up with too much volume and look bigger than when I started. A big bum is not what I'm after.
I have a terrible night's sleep, with fears whirring through my mind. My husband, Robert, isn't overly keen on the idea of cosmetic surgery because he already thinks I look good.
But he knows he won't stop me from having it done, so opts to be fantastically supportive instead.
In a bid to minimise any bruising, I've been using herbal arnica cream on my bottom and taking arnica tablets for the past week, as they are both recommended to reduce bruising.
I did the same before my facelift and had very little bruising compared to most patients.
I've always been known for being outspoken and flamboyant. But I have my vulnerable moments, too, and right now, as Robert and I arrive at the clinic first thing in the morning, that's how I feel.
I don't take surgery lightly. I'm nervous and I need Robert with me. The clinic is white, clean and very unlike a hospital as it's so comfortable and friendly. A
fter signing the pre-operative paperwork, I strip to my underwear and Dr Comins marks the areas of my upper thighs and bottom that he will work on.
He's going to make tiny incisions on my lower buttocks into which the probe will be inserted and from where he can work on melting the fat in my upper thighs and lower bottom.
This will give more definition to the shape by removing fat from around the muscles.
Then he'll finish by injecting the filler into the top of my buttocks to make my bottom more pert.
I'm taken into theatre where my bottom and thighs are sterilised with an iodine solution as I lay face down on the operating table. The anaesthetist gives me a sedative to relax me.
Then Dr Comins injects local anaesthetic into the areas he is going to treat, including a spot in the centre of my lower back, immediately above my buttocks.
He advises that the following day I should expect to see lots of fluid oozing from this entry point as the anaesthetic makes its way out of my body. As the sedative takes effect, I drift off to sleep and the next thing I know it's an hour later and the procedure is complete.
Apparently, I woke up at various points during the operation, but I don't remember any of it.
There are two tiny incisions on each buttock where the VASER wand was inserted. Dr Comins has put dressings on them and a pad over the spot where the anaesthetic was injected to absorb any liquid that seeps out - and lots does for the next 24 hours.
I'm also fitted with a corset which will compress the area and help prevent any little lumps forming as it heals. I have to wear it for two weeks round the clock and for a further two weeks either during the day or at night.
As I have a drink in the recovery room, Dr Comins gives me a five-day course of antibiotics to guard against infection, plus strong painkillers.
Just an hour after the procedure is completed, Robert and I bid farewell to the clinic and head home.
On the basis of this 100-mile, two-and-a-half hour journey, I would advise anyone having this procedure not to spend long in a car immediately afterwards.
I am sitting down, although leaning to one side to rest more on my hip than my bottom cheek and I feel every single bump and dip in the road: it's excruciating.
But as soon as we are back at home, the pain subsides. In bed at night it's impossible to sleep on my back as my bottom feels so sore. So, I adopt the recovery position and refrain from sitting down - perching instead on my knees or leaning on my side - over the next five days.
There's a tiny bit of swelling but nothing too much and I just wear comfortable clothes over the support corset.
I'm astonished to wake up and find I'm hardly sore at all. Neither does my bottom appear swollen. Robert has been astounding throughout and changes the dressing on the anaesthetic entry point on my back, which is wet with leaked liquid.
We both inspect the results of my surgery in the mirror. He says my bottom looks fantastic and wonders whether he should have the same treatment on his stomach.
I tell him he doesn't need to as I really don't think physical appearance has the same importance for men as it does for women.
For women, I believe body shape and sexuality are intrinsic to our power, particularly at work.
Looking at my bottom in the mirror, I'm over the moon. It's like looking at my bum and thighs as they were 30 years ago.
By melting away fat in all the right places at the tops and sides of my thighs, he's cleverly reshaped them so that they run a smooth line to my hips with no lumps or bumps in between, giving the illusion of them being elongated, too.
He's very subtly given my bottom some shape, which has the effect of making it look lifted and more pert without adding to its size. And my hips, which used to sit square to my waist, now look fabulous. I'm thrilled.
Last night I slept on my back for the first time and today I don't feel any soreness. There isn't even any hint of bruising.
A friend emails me to say that she's desperate to book herself in for the same treatment having heard how pleased I am, but that her husband is totally against it.
Men can be very funny about cosmetic surgery.
It's now over two weeks since the surgery and finally I can remove the corset. The little incisions have completely healed and I'm ecstatically happy with my new bottom.
I'm still a size ten, but my bottom looks better both in the buff and under my clothes. It's leaner and more shapely.
Thankfully it doesn't look bigger, as I had feared it might, just altogether more pert, as it was in my youth.
In April, I'll return for a check-up with Dr Comins. He says the results of the surgery should last for three to four years, at which point I'll have a top-up procedure.
I've spoken to him on the phone since my surgery about having a similar treatment on my stomach before I go on tour in September, too.
And, yes, I will consider going under the knife again after that, but for now I'm just happy to have my old bottom back again.