Kim Wilde

I was a pop­star, a size 8 with a string of gor­geous boyfriends... So why did I have this gap­ing hole in my soul?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE - Re­becca Hardy

T hank God for those antlers,’ Kim Wilde sighs in a my-life-would-be- in- ru­ins- with­out-them sort of way. She is re­fer­ring to the sparkly com­edy rein­deer antlers hang­ing above the fire­place in her con­verted barn.

Yup, the very same ones a rather mer­ryy Kim, 53, wore when, over­come by thee fes­tive spirit — and one too many ly­chee vodka cock­tails — she ser­e­naded train com­muters with a few of her old hits in a packed car­riage last year, ac­com­pa­nied by her brother, Ricky, on the gui­tar.

The im­promptu per­for­mance of an of­fkey Kids In Amer­ica and Rockin’ Around The Christ­mas Tree was cap­tured on a mo­bile phone and, within hours, went vi­ral. Was she mor­ti­fied? You’d bet­ter be­lieve it. ‘My in­stant re­ac­tion was, “Oh my God, I’m go­ing to look like this sad mid­dle-aged house­wife out on the tiles.” You know, some poor old has-been icon out on the lash drink­ing away her sor­rows, which it wasn’t at all.’

Kim says she was ‘de­mob happy’ and knock­ing back the cock­tails at the Magic FM Christ­mas Party af­ter a par­tic­u­larly busy year of her pop­u­lar ’80s con­certs. ‘We were hav­ing a great old time. The cock­tails didn’t taste that dan­ger­ous un­til I hit the fresh air. It all kicked in the next day. I was suf­fer­ing from deep hang­over anx­i­ety para­noia when my hus­band [ac­tor Hal Fowler] got on the com­puter and started look­ing at all the hits the footage was get­ting. It was go­ing up at a phe­nom­e­nal rate. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

‘With­out the antlers, I’d have looked a tragic case so I was mostly gig­gling to my­self. I was also aware I might have mucked up any chance of be­ing taken se­ri­ously at any level ever again. I thought, “Am I wor­ried about that? Not re­ally.”’ And why should she be? Within weeks, the hi la r ious footage of a tipsy Kim had re­ceived more than two mil­lion hits. Al­most as many as the 2.5 mil­lion that launched Su­san Boyle’s ca­reer. So Kim did what most sud­denly-in-the-spot­light-again pop stars with a tune in their head would do. She sat her­self down and be­gan writ­ing an al­bum. Wilde Win­ter Song­book, Kim’s first Christ­mas al­bum, was re­leased ealier this month, fea­tur­ing duets with Nik Ker­shaw, Rick Astley, her hus­band Hal and her fa­mous rock ’n’ roll dad, Marty Wilde. ‘The pub­lic have been so sweet,’ says Kim. ‘They’ve said, “You know what, Kim? It was lovely to see you let your hair down, have a drink and be so joy­ful at Christ­mas.”

‘I thought, “Bless ev­ery one of you.” It gave me con­fi­dence be­cause peo­ple didn’t judge me and make me feel silly and tragic. In­stead I feel re­ally trea­sured. The pres­sure of be­ing my age and go­ing out singing Kids In Amer­ica can over­whelm me some­times. But this has made me feel, “You know what? The pub­lic are al­low­ing me to be 53.”’

Kim wowed us all in the early ’80s with her de­but hit, Kids In Amer­ica. Blonde, bouncy and size 8, she won a Brit Award for Best Bri­tish Fe­male in 1983, had a No 1 hit in the States with You Keep Me Hangin’ On in 1987, toured with Michael Jack­son a year later and saw her al­bum Close go plat­inum. And then? Well, three more al­bums fol­lowed, but as Kim says, ‘The mu­sic in­dus­try moved on and didn’t want me any more. I re­mem­ber say­ing to a friend, “What does an un­em­ployed pop star do? I can’t even type.”’

So she changed her name to Kim Fowler when she mar­ried Hal in 1996, be­came a mother to Harry, 15, and Rose, 13, and took up gar­den­ing. ‘I loved chang­ing my name,’ she says. ‘ I loved it when I saw it on my pass­port. I loved it when I saw it on my cheque­book. I had a chance to rein­vent my­self. The life I’d had wasn’t ful­fill­ing. I knew I had a chance to find out who else I could be with­out be­ing Kim Wilde.’

To­day Kim’s ‘never been more happy’. To hell with the fact she’s a few dress sizes big­ger. She’s now com­fort­able in a sense of self that only comes with lived-in hips. ‘The prize for me was never a plat­inum record. I wanted a fam­ily,’ she says. ‘When I was on the Michael Jack­son tour, I should have been happy. I had a suc­cess­ful al­bum, ev­ery­one was mak­ing a fuss of me, I was on the big­gest tour in the world, but I couldn’t work out why I wasn’t more ful­filled. I’d had a real close-up view of what it was like to be a megas­tar work­ing with Michael Jack­son and it all seemed a bit sad, re­ally. Things like hir­ing the whole floor of a ho­tel or ex­clu­sive ac­cess to a fun­fair. I thought

it was a very iso­lat­ing place to be. The fun of go­ing to the fair is be­ing with other peo­ple.’

Af­ter the Jack­son tour, she moved from Lon­don to the coun­try in search of some­thing solid, but her anx­i­eties con­tin­ued. Shortly af­ter her 30th birth­day she suf­fered a break­down. This is the first time she’s spo­ken about that dark pe­riod. ‘I’d bought a 16th-cen­tury barn, which I ren­o­vated and moved into on my 30th birth­day,’ she says. ‘I had a great, big party. My dad got up and sang. I got up and sang. We had a great time, then when ev­ery­one left the next day I was all on my own — lit­er­ally. I had a re­ally tough time. I sup­pose I had a bit of a break­down. It was pretty in­tense for me not hav­ing been down that dark tun­nel be­fore. I’d wake up and not be able to see any light at the end of it. I just re­mem­ber be­ing with­out mo­ti­va­tion. I gave my­self a hard time be­cause I had ev­ery­thing I thought I wanted, to make mu­sic, be a pop star, travel the world, but I had this gap­ing hole in my soul. I felt un­grate­ful be­cause I had so much and it wasn’t enough.

‘My dream was to have a fam­ily. It was a bit­ter irony that the girl who was per­ceived to have ev­ery­thing didn’t re­ally have what she wanted in her heart. I had some tasty boyfriends but I was con­cerned I’d never be able to find the right man. I couldn’t com­mit. Then, when I met the right man, it was so easy. It was an ef­fort­less “Of course we’re go­ing to get mar­ried and have kids and stay to­gether for the rest of our lives.”’

Mr Right was Hal who, at 45, is eight years younger than her. They met when Kim starred as Mrs Walker in the West End mu­si­cal Tommy. Hal was ap­pear­ing as her costar, Kevin, and the mo­ment she set eyes on him at re­hearsal she was smit­ten. ‘He was strik­ing: big eyes, high cheek­bones, fop­pish hair, very cool. He had this classy leather satchel. I liked ev­ery­thing about him. We both came from close fam­i­lies, and na­ture and the coun­try­side was a big thing for both of us.’

They were mar­ried within six months. It was, says Kim, ‘one of the hap­pi­est days of my life’ with the vil­lagers who are now part of the fab­ric of their fam­ily life turn­ing out to wave them off. Shortly af­ter the wed­ding, they planted their first tree, a plum tree, on the half-acre of un­used land next to Kim’s barn. Whenn Kim was preg­nant with their son,, Harry, she de­cided to re­turn to ann early pas­sion for gar­den­ing and study hor­ti­cul­ture. To­day there’s a ‘beau­ti­ful wood­land’ where that plum tree stands, and Kim has writ­ten two books about gar­den­ing, ap­peared in the BBC se­ries Gar­den In­vaders and won a Gold award at the pres-pres­ti­gious Chelsea Flower shows for her court­yard gar­den.

‘Mak­ing that tran­si­tion from be­ing a pop star to hav­ing all that time in front of me was re­ally ex­cit­ing but quite scary. Some­times, it got over­whelm­ing hav­ing two lit­tle kids and a new ca­reer in hor­ti­cul­ture. Hal re­ally helped me get through col­lege with my com­puter skills and my home­work. He’s been such an in­spi­ra­tion. At school I was never very smart. I was very much a C stu­dent, but sud­denly at col­lege I was get­ting distinctions and was one of the bright­est peo­ple in the class. It gave me a huge amount of con­fi­dence. It hasn’t all been plain sail­ing. I re­mem­ber cold nights driv­ing round the mo­tor­way ex­hausted and drenched, with mud in my fin­ger­nails from dig­ging bloody holes for the TV se­ries. But I still loved it. I loved that it wasn’t about make-up and glam­our. I love be­ing close to the sea­sons — close to the out­doors.’

She pauses. Smiles. ‘I feel very happy, very loved and very blessed,’ she says. ‘I’ve not had to make the big sac­ri­fices of that megas­tar fame that some peo­ple make. My level of fame has been com­pletely live­able with, which means I can jump on a train to get here.’

Wilde Win­ter Song­book is out now

Kim in her ’80s hey­day

and (far right) on the

train last Christ­mas

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.