Date: 27 February 1982
Originally published in: Woman's Own (UK)
Written by: Mandy Bruce
Last spring Marty Wilde, once heart-throb rock ‘n’ roller of the Fifties and now proud dad, was eulogising to the world’s Press about his daughter Kim. “She is going to make me look like nothing at all. When she first started I was cautiously optimistic and now I’m absolutely stunned.”
After just three months in the rough-and-tumble world of rock, Kim had two Top 10 hits to her credit and was being hailed as The Discovery Of The Eighties… A Star! Delighted, and maybe just a little amazed, Marty prophesied: “Kim is going to eclipse my success forty, fifty times over.”
Several months and a few more hits later the stunner herself is curled up in a deep leather sofa at the London offices of her record company, munching plums out of a paper bag. She doesn’t really look like the star they’ve all been talking about as she sits there in tight green and white striped trousers, black lace-up schoolgirl plimsolls and black leather jacket. Her shoulder-length hair is blonde at the ends and mouse at the roots and it’s scraped casually back in a pony-tail. Then there’s That Face which has earned her the title of the Brigitte Bardot of Pop – pretty and pouting, well-scrubbed and with just a hint of make-up.
Her slate-blue eyes fix me with a challenging stare. “I don’t want to be known just as Marty Wilde’s daughter”, she says sternly. “Like everyone else, I want to be known as myself, in my own right. Some people have started to say: ‘Look, there’s Marty Wilde – you know, Kim Wilde’s dad.’ I think that’s funny – and about bloody time, too!”
It hasn’t been easy, she says, following in father’s footsteps. “It’s not so bad now but when I started and had my first record out it was pretty awful. I was treated by the Press like an ornament on a Christmas cake – very sweet to look at but not as if I had any talent. And all they wanted to know about was my dad. In fact, I’ve never objected to talking about Dad because he is part of the band. He writes my songs with my brother, Ricky. But they weren’t interested in that. They wanted to know irrelevant father and daughter things. You know the kind of sensationalist stuff: ‘Kim Wilde remembers her rock ‘n’ roll dad coming home in his drapes, getting down on his knees beside her, picking up his guitar and singing Teenager In Love.’
“I mean, honestly! It’s ridiculous! How the hell am I supposed to remember Dad as a rock star in 1957 when I wasn’t born until 1960?” Yet for all this indignation Kim won’t deny that Marty and the rest of the family are still a big influence in her life.
The Wildes are a close family. There’s Marty, 42, and mum Joyce, 40, who used to be one of the Vernons Girls singers in the Fifties; Kim, who celebrated her 21st birthday in November, is the eldest; brother Ricky is a year younger; then there’s Roxanne, who’s two, and baby brother Marty Wilde Junior aged six months. They all live in a big, long, low house just outside St. Albans in Hertfordshire.
The Wildes work together, too. Ricky writes the music for Kim’s songs, and Marty the lyrics. Together, father and son produce the singles and albums. And Kim’s success couldn’t have come at a better time for them all. The fortunes of the Wilde family had reached a very low ebb before KIm’s unexpected arrival on the pop scene.
Quietly, Kim explains: “Dad has always warned Ricky and me about drugs and booze. He’s always said what a bloody waste of time they were, and how destructive. But last year he had a bit of a booze problem himself. When he started drinking in the evenings he didn’t know when to stop, and it all got a bit out hand. He had a pretty bad time. He was doing cabaret work as he had been doing for a long time, and perhaps he just wondered what was going to happen. There were a lot of clubs closing down and the recession was hitting the record business, too. Maybe he realised he wasn’t getting any younger. I suppose he wondered how he was ever going to maintain his standard of living and keep the house he loves so much. I suppose these thoughts were crowding his mind and I think that anyone under that kind of pressure would have to be a very strong person if he didn’t lapse in one direction or another. But he sorted himself out. His drinking got to a crisis point and he just said: ‘Right, stop.’ Mum was worried about him. But she’s very strong and they have a very good marriage. They support each other. I was worried about him, too. It wasn’t a very obvious thing. I mean, I knew he was depressed; I knew he was unhappy and worried. But, being basically an optimistic sort of person, I just thought he was overdoing it. I simply couldn’t imagine what it was like being in his position, having to pay for a house and all that.”
But “all that” changed when Kim was signed on by Rak records and her first single, Kids in America, written by Marty and Ricky, reached number two in the charts.
“I think my success – which is Dad’s success because they’re his songs – helped him. It was what he needed most. It’s given him faith and enthusiasm. He’s feeling creative and optimistic. So, really, my success came just at the right time for everybody. It’s helped the whole family. It makes me feel marvellous having a success shared by so many people. And we don’t take it for granted. It’s incredible the success we’ve had in so short a time.”
Most young rock singers struggling for recognition would probably call that the understatement of the year. Twelve months ago Kim was just Marty Wilde’s daughter. Behind, lay years at a St. Albans girls’ school where, she admits, she didn’t do very well. She had told the careers’ mistress that she wanted to be a professional singer and – Kim grins at the memory now – the careers’ mistress wasn’t very impressed.
Then she spent a year at art school, which she enjoyed but which didn’t seem to be taking her anywhere. And sometime between the two she had two jobs – one as a salesgirl in Harrods, the other as a hospital cleaner. So, while deciding what to do next, she was giving Mum a hand looking after baby Roxanne and helping brother Ricky with backing vocals on a record he was trying to put together for famous rock impresario Mickie Most.
When Mickie heard Kim’s voice he decided instantly that she should sing the song. The result was Kids in America. Britain’s record-buying public went mad about the young sexy blonde. The records Chequered Love and Water on Glass, an album called Kim Wilde, and most recently the single, Cambodia, followed. And the public kept on buying. But, says Kim, her life hasn’t changed that much.
“I don’t feel I’m really famous”, she says, and giggles. “I’m semi-famous. I’ll only feel I’m really famous when Eamonn Andrews says ‘This is your life’. I’ve been on Top Of The Pops three times and the other people on the show always seem more like pop stars than I do. I don’t go to all those pop star parties, either. Actually, I’m never invited! But I wouldn’t know anyone if I went to them.”
Kim’s holiday this year was a few days camping with friends on Norfolk beaches. “I know that sounds dull but, in fact, it was the most amazing holiday. Maybe it will surprise the people who buy my records to hear the kind of life I lead. They won’t think it’s very glamorous. But I think as a pop star you can make as much glamour as you want. If you want to make a life full of glamour and sex and drugs – well, bloody good luck to you, nad I wish I could be like that. But it’s just not me. In fact, I think it’s glamorous just coming in here to my record company. I work very hard and I don’t have much time to go out. If I have a day off I do mundane things like getting the car fixed or going to a jumble sale. In the evning I might go out with friends. There’s a whole crowd of us and I’ve known them all for years.”
Despite the fact that boys – and men – all over the country have been drooling over her for the past year, Kim insists she doesn’t have a regular boyfriend. Pressed on the point she blushes and giggles, then says airily: “I really don’t have time for men. They’re too much trouble.” Then, under her breath: “I always seem to get landed with the wrong ones anyway.”
She crosses her arms primly. “I have a lot of male acquaintances and that’ll have to do for the time being. I’ve had lots of boyfriends and I don’t see it as any problem not having one now. I’m only 21. But I’m not all consumed by my career to the extent that I think it’s the most important thing in the world. My friends aare just as important. I don’t know if my fame puts men off. I think if any guy is chauvinistic enough to be put off by the fact that I’m slightly famous, then he can stuff it. There are plenty of men who aren’t put off. If the others feel that their masculinity is threatened by a woman who’s successful, then it’s their hang-up. Quite honestly, I can’t see myself falling for anyone so narrow-minded.”
One man who doesn’t seem at all put off is Steve Strange, the leader of pop group Visage, who has been seen around town with Kim a lot lately. But she insists, not very originally: “We’re just good friends.”
Kim’s beauty and fashion routine would give the experts the shudders. She doesn’t make a fuss about either. Many of her clothes are jumble-sale finds. Today, she’s thrilled to have got her first cheque card in the post, and is planning to have a celebratory spend at a London boutique. She does her hair herself.
“I went blonde two years ago”, she says. “I went to the hairdressers the first time because I wanted it done properly. It cost fifteen quid and I thought: ‘Bloody hell, I’m not going to carry on being blonde at fifteen quid a shot’, so I decided to do it myself. I use Clairol hair lightener. The hairdresser said I shouldn’t use hair lightener on bleached hair but I thought: ‘Yeah, you just want fifteen quid every time’, so I carried on regardless. For two quid a box it’s not much to do it yourself every three months. As for my make-up, I’ve got a real motley collection. I don’t like to look too made up. I prefer natural colours. My make-up is really tacky. My eye-liner is an old black cake Dad used to use in pantomime years ago. I ust spit on it. And as for my blusher – it’s falling out all over the show!”
And what of the future?
“I’d like to leave home and have my own flat”, says Kim. “But it’s difficult for me. You see, I’ve had a very secure and stable upbringing and now I probably need that more than ever. I’d like to have more time for myself to develop my own ideas, particularly in song-writing. But it is lovely at home with the family. We were blessed when Mum had Roxanne and Marty. It’s interesting for me to see how Mum and Dad are bringing them up. They’re marvellous parents. They were a bit strict with Ricky and me when we were growing up. Dad played a game of conscience with us and, because he was old and wise, he was usually right. He’d says things like: ‘Okay, if you want to do that – stay out late or whatever – you do it. You know I don’t want you to do it. But if you want to, go ahead.’ And we’d sit there and think: ‘Oh God, that’s really ruined it!’
“Most parents think that by laying down the law, they’ve won. But they’ve lost, because you’ve got something to rebel against.”
The plums are finished and it’s time to leave. Kim grins. “Now, you won’t make me out to be all sweet and nice and home-loving? I’m really not like that.”
Sorry, Kim, I’m not convinced.