Wilde things

Fifties rocker Marty Wilde taught his girl Kim all he knew about the fickle world of show business… now she can return the favour

Noel Coward’s famous party-pooping advice was “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington”. Presumably, the Mrs Worthington in question hadn’t put herself on the stage, or she would have already known the sheer bladdy torture of what might lie in store for her off-spring. Of course, there’s also the sheer bladdy magic.
One man who knows a thing or two about the ups and downs of showbiz, and who still allowed his daughter on the stage, is crepesoled, spangly-jacketed rock ‘n’ roll veteran, Marty Wilde, who hits the Palace tonight along with old pal Joe Brown. Wilde had a pretty spectacular string of hits in the fifties which included Endless Sleep, Teenager in Love and Donna.
“By the time I was born”, Kim recalls, “his fame had waned. The Beatles had replaced rock ‘n’ roll, and as I grew up he was doing a lot of cabaret and developing his own songwriting”- something Kim was to help out with in later years.
Perhaps because Kim’s birth coincided with a more modest phase of her dad’s celebrity (“She’s Marty’s Latest Hit!”, ran a headline), her upbringing was suprisingly as she puts is, “all very basic and beans-on-toast stuff. We had a very normal life, very unpretentious. The most showbiz thing that happened was when Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues came round a few times and Lulu phoned up once.”
The Wilde pop dynasty is a relatively recent phenomenon: “My dad was an army sergeant, and I think he considered the army might have been a good thing for me. But I’d started playing the ukelele when I was about 11, and I think from that moment on I realised deep down that I wanted to be involved in music. My parents didn’t stand in my way at all. Anything I needed as far as showbiz was concerned, they provided, evn though they were very poor. My dad went on to be a tram driver and later a bus driver, and he was on strike and really struggling when they bought me the ukelele from a pawn shop.”
Marty and wife Joyce Baker, of the Vernon Girls (the pair met on TV’s Oh Boy!), were just as accommodating towards their own offsprings’ musical ambitions. Son Ricky was encouraged to follow a songwriting and producing career, largely for his sister, who had been encouraged to sing backing vocals with various groups until, come the recording session for Kids In America, somebody pointed out she was actually better than the proposed lead singer.
The rest is history. Trouble is, not long after, it seemed, so was Kim. Marty’s transition from glittering fame to a back-breaking slog against obscurity was later curiously reflected by his daughter. Various attempts to revive her career failed miserably and she wound up with a crisis of confidence and in therapy. At one point, she seriously considered packing it all in and becoming a landscape gardener instead. Having driven himself to a nervous breakdown during the sixties, her dad was in a position to offer the wisdom of experience.
“I always advised her to make sure she has a good solid base of people around her. Always have your finances in order if you don’t want to be having to keep working the rest of your life. I think the best advice I was able to give her was that the press are one of your most important allies, they don’t have to be the enemy.”
Given Kim’s honesty with the press about her private life – and the subsequent press sniping – this last bit must have seemed at times like the dodgiest advice. A string of heavy-publicised and failed affairs, including one with Calvin Hayes (son of sniffy New Faces inquisitor, Micky Most) and a brief fling with Chris Evans, resulted in the press either crowing amusedly at her romantic and career flounderings, or casting her as a pathetic personification of Tragedy.
Recently, however, both Kim’s career and romantic life were boosted in one fell swoop with the revival of the rock musical Tommy. She landed the role of Tommy’s mother and acted alongside Hal Fowler (who went on to star in the musical Martin Guerre). Last year she married him and their first baby is due this Christmas.
Her father is obviously well chuffed with these developments, just as he was when she picked up a Brit award for Best Female Vocalist in the mid-eighties.
“Oh yes, I’m as proud of her achievements as I am of my own – more so in some ways. It’s natural that any parent gets excited about their child’s success. All that pride gets passed on to you. Trouble is, so does a lot of the pain as well.”