Gloria Hunniford OBE celebrates her 70th year in showbiz with a look back at her life in the limelightÉ
Gloria Hunniford is talking about her childhood when she breaks into song. ‘Oh! The Deadwood Stage is a-heading on over the hills…’ she warbles in fine voice. And you can just imagine her as a teenager in Portadown channelling idol Doris Day as she sings her favourite numbers from Calamity Jane.
Even as a five-year-old, Gloria sang into the Bakelite radio in her kitchen. If she heard people through the speaker, she figured the BBC could hear her back and fame would beckon. Eventually, it did… but it came through work; singing – from the age of eight – in variety shows, cabaret and dance bands.
A radio interview about her first record release led to Gloria being offered a job presenting… and the rest is history. The 77-year-old was, however, always destined for showbiz. ‘From birth,’ she laughs. ‘I’d been called after Gloria Swanson.’ The Sunset Boulevard star being a favourite of her father’s.
Gloria was the first woman to land a nightly show on Ulster TV and the first woman to have a daytime show on Radio 2. She’s interviewed everyone who was anyone: Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Sammy Davis Jr and David Bowie to name but a few.
‘This sounds silly,’ she confesses. ‘But I’d watch all those movies with Doris Day in her wonderful clothes. I’d see those fabulous frilly curtains on the windows, big American fridges and luxurious bathrooms when we didn’t even have a bathroom. And I’d think, “One day, I’m going to have that as well…”’
There’s a life outside Portadown? ‘Yes. That’s what’s driven me a lot over the years. I get a thing in my head and I’m determined to do it, but it’s mostly been right place, right time. A great big dollop of luck. But you’ve got to make your luck work for you… and I do.’
Warm, witty and incredibly open as we chat over tea, the trailblazing mother-of-three and granny-of-10 is extremely modest about her accomplishments. But as she celebrates her
70th year in showbiz with the publication of her memoirs, My Life, we discuss some of her most memorable meetings.
‘You’ve got to make your luck work for you... and I do’