Date: 16 July 1996
Originally published in: Woman's weekly (UK)
Written by: Judith Simons
Her childhood cooking nearly poisoned him – he wouldn’t send her to stage school because Elvis Presley didn’t go to one! Fifties’ idol Marty Wilde and daughter Kim tell us about each other.
Kim on Marty
“When I was little I could never decide whether I loved or hated the fact that my dad was different from my friends’ dads. While their fathers were coming home at six o’clock, my father was just going out to work, or he’d be away on a singing tour.
I was never in any doubt that, despite his absences, Dad did love me and my brother Ricki. He always showed me his emotions, and would sing us a lullaby which he’d written especially for us. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
The focus of our family was music. It was like a religion. Dad was always strumming a guitar and writing songs. When I was old enough Mum took me to his concerts. I loved the ffect he had on the audience. Dad explained that when you’re a singer-composer you must put your heart into everything that you perform. You’ve got to believe in every word you sing, and lay your feelings bare in every line you write.
On the creative side, Dad and I are similar. We’re critical of our own work. In personal stuff, I’m like my mum. She was only 19 when she had me and I feel she and I grew up together. Dad, though, has always been mature beyond his years and very wise, though I admit it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I listened to what he had to say.
Dad met Mum when she was singing with the Vernons Girls and he’d had hits such as ‘Donna’ and ‘Teenager in love’. In those days teenage idols were warned not to marry, in case they lost their fans. But Dad wouldn’t have any of that. He loved Mum and didn’t intend her to be treated as a ‘bit on the side’.
My parents come from down-to-earth working-class families. Both were brought up with solid values. They’ve made all four of us children take pride in ourselves and feel we could achieve anything we want. We’ve all had a good go at doing our own thing.
Ricki and I are into music. Roxanne’s interest is horses and, at 16, she’s a great competitive rider. My brother Marty, at only 14, is already playing golf for the country. Dad’s encouraged him in this sport. It’s always puzzled me that Dad’s golfing comes so high on his priority list.
As a DIY man, Dad doesn’t shine. And he can’t cook either. When I was quite young and Mum was ill, I took over some of the cooking – and nearly poisoned my father! I’d found a chicken in the fridge which was going green and asked a neighbour if I should roast it for Dad’s dinner. The shocked woman told me to throw it away, so I buried the rotting bird in the garden – goodness knows why – and later the dog dug it up.
We children always felt central to what was going on at home. Dad and Mum never tried to get rid of us when they had friends round, and I never felt it necessary to seek privacy when entertaining my pals.
Whenever I’ve introduced Dad to a boyfriend of mine he’s never said much, but I catch the vibes of what he’s thinking. He’s tended to be your classic father, thinking no one is really good enough for his daughter. Dad has always said that when I fall in love I’ll know if he’s right for me whether I’m 26 or 66. My answer is: ‘I hope I don’t have to wait until I’m 86!’
I always wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps professionally. When I was younger I wanted to go to stage school, but Dad said if I had talent I’d succeed with or without stage school. ‘Elvis Presley never had any singing lessons’, he’d remind me. So I trained as an artist – to be a painter or teach. I enjoyed art college – but in the end singing won!
Now I’ve fallen in love with the theatre. It feels natural to be working there. It was Dad who introduced me to ‘Tommy’ years ago. The album was in his record collection. It’s spooky that all these years later I’m in the show myself.
I know that Dad just wants me to be happy whatever I’m doing. I want to impress my parents but I know I don’t have to – whatever path I choose, they’ll always think I’m a star.”
Marty on Kim
“My wife Joyce and I got married on 2nd December 1959, when she was 18 and I was 20. Having decided to start a family right away, we were really excited when, on 18th November the following year, our daughter was born. In those days it was fashionable to name your children after movie stars, so we decided to call her Kim, after Kim Novak.
Kim was nine months old when I took a role in the film ‘The Hellions’, shot in South Africa. I insisted that my wife and baby came, too. But my intention never to be parted from them was impractical because of my constant singing tours, so I didn’t see as much of Kim growing up as I’d have liked.
She only once caused me real anxiety: at the age of five she became very ill with meningitis. Joyce and I were touring and Kim was at home in London, being cared for a by a friend of Joyce’s called Marian, to whom I’ll always be grafeful, because she recognised the symptoms and rushed Kim straight to hospital. After driving through the night from Liverpool to Kim’s bedside, we found she had passed the crisis. She opened her eyes, looked at Joyce, whose stage make-up was smudged with tears and whispered, ‘Mummy, you look beautiful’. Thankfully there were no after-effects.
After this shock Joyce gave up tours and stayed home with our children – though today she has a career as managing director of our business company. We moved to our present village home near Welwyn, Herts, when Kim was nine. She took to country life with enthusiasm, settled in well at school, was captain of the hockey team, and joined the Girl Guides.
I was satisfied she was developing the same good qualities as her mother. She has strong moral values and is a very organised person. Though she and Joyce sometimes clash because they’re strong-willed women, they get on great together. In the emotional sense, they’re inseparable.
In Kim’s early teens, she and Joyce sometimes did backing vocals for me on stage. Still, I made it clear i was not keen for Kim to sing as a career. I did not regard it as a secure living or a good life for a girl.
For a time it seemed she’d heeded my warnings. But in the end, the pull of the music business proved too strong. At 20 she made her first record, ‘Kids in America’ – written by Ricki and myself, and produced by Ricki – and made an emazing début as an instant chart-topping singer.
Kim is a tough girl with a powerful temper. She picks on me if she thinks I’m being bad-mannered, says I waffle on and say silly things. But she’s never thrown outbursts of artistic temperament. In our family, anyone who did that wouldn’t survive. I don’t try to advise her on her career, and concerning her boyfriends and romances, I’ve never said a lot. I’ve felt she has to make her own mistakes, but I’ve always known the man of her final choice would have to be someone of high principles and high morals. When she started dating Hal Fowler, who plays Cousin Kevin in ‘Tommy’ (which is how they met), I soon got the message that he’s a good type of guy with an outlook and interests similar to Kim’s and a temperament which complements hers.
We’ve always impressed on Kim that if you’re getting a good deal in life, have a lucrative career, you must d owhat you can to help others less fortunate… and she does. From the day I first saw Kim, a pretty new-born baby, I was proud of her. I still am.”