Date: 18 February 2000
Originally published in: OK! (UK)
At the age of 20, Eighties’ pop star Kim Wilde was living the life that most girls her age would have given their ra-ra skirts for. Her first single Kids in America was a number two smash hit. She was a regular on Top of the pops, and she travelled the world supporting Michael Jackson on tour.
Never short of admirers, she dated the ex-Johnny hates Jazz star Calvin Hayes, son of Mickey Most, and Virgin radio boss Chris Evans. Her surname made for predictable wordplay in the tabloids – ‘Wilde Child’, ‘Wilde Life’ and ‘Wilde Thing’ were just a few of the favourites that headlined stories about the sex symbol. But these days Kim would rather tend to her herbaceous perennials than back-comb her hair.
That’s because three years after the high life came to an end, Kim is a changed woman. Now a garden designer on ITV’s Better gardens with Carol Vorderman, the 39-year-old is a mother to two-year-old Harry Tristan and one-month-old Rose Elizabeth. She is also the wife of actor Hal Fowler, whom she met on the set of Tommy, the West End musical in which she was lead. Even though the couple have been married for almost four years, their flirtatious behaviour is like that of a couple who’ve only just met.
When OK! popped round to visit Kim, and the family she clearly adores at their Hertfordshire home, including the tiny newborn Rose, it didn’t take Carol Vorderman’s intellect to work out why Kim has never been happier.
How has Harry taken to his new little sister?
Kim: He loves her. He has just got on with it really.
Hal: When Kim had Rose, Harry and I stayed in London because it was easier for visiting them. Only a couple of hours after she was born we explained that Rose was his sister and gave him a present from her – a little Buzz Lightyear. We involved him so he wouldn’t have a problem with her. I think it would have probably been quite a shock for him if he had stayed here in Hertfordshire and we suddenly came back with another baby.
Kim: We talked a lot about it before. Lots of pointing at my tummy and saying, ‘The baby’s in here’, and me saying, ‘No the baby’s in mummy’s tummy!’ There was a lot of pointing at babies in books. Mind you little children are infinitely adaptable to just about anything. We travelled around Europe when he was just five months old. We slept in different countries, in different environments, in a different bed every night – and he was fine.
Was it easier giving birth for the second time?
It was just as fantastic but it wasn’t as dramatic. I had more idea of what was going on. I found both times great because I had Hal with me throughout. I didn’t let him go further than about a foot away from my head throughout the whole thing.
Hal, are you quite domesticated?
Oh yeah, I do all the cooking in the house. We both work and our routines change frequently. I’m in a fairly stable show at the moment so it’s fairly regular, but other times it’s more variable. We have to play the week.
Kim: We just role-shift all the time. It’s not like one of us definitely does one thing all the time. We both do the washing, we both clean the kids and both put them to bed. Hal’s a bit better at disciplining Harry than I am. I’m quite firm but Hal’s much better than I am. I don’t know how he’ll be with Rose though…
Hal: She’s going to be a nun! I shall bellow at the fellas she brings back!
Did you choose to settle in Hertfordshire to escape the bustle of London?
Kim: No, I’ve lived here most of my life. I grew up round here from when I was eight and I still have a lot of connections here. Hal’s family live in Oxford which isn’t too far to travel – only about an hour away. I actually moved to this house on my 30th birthday. I started gradually doing the place up but it wasn’t until Hal moved in that it began to take on a new lease of life. We designed the garden together – slowly we created our home.
How did you two meet?
Hal: We met when we were both starring in Tommy at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Obviously it was a departure for Kim but I already knew quite a few people in the cast as that’s the kind of work I normally do. So Kim walked in wearing a big kind of pop starry coat and glasses, and went [affects ‘luvvie’ voice] ‘Oh I’m not late am I?’ And there was just this small group of us and I said, ‘Yes you are. Half-an-hour late actually.’ I’m not exactly sure why I said that but she had all this attention from lots of people and I have to say I wasn’t instantly attracted to her. Well, when I say that I mean in the way that I wasn’t necessarily going to try to make a play for her. I just left well alone and got on working. We had very little to do with each other in the show except for one moment when Kim’s character gets cross with me and she has to stare at me.
Kim: This stare should have lasted a moment but it lasted three minutes! In the end the director had to point it out to us.
Hal: I ended up asking her out for dinner on stage during a rehearsal while there were other people around who could hear me. So I booked a table at The Ivy and I had to get my agent to give me a big wad of cash because I was absolutely petrified that Kim was going to order a £400 bottle of Dom Perignon! We had this beautiful dinner and we talked about very simple things and found that we had a lot in common.
Kim: We knew very quickly that we were right for each other.
When did you realise that you would spend the rest of your lives together?
Hal: It was pretty instant. After a short period of time we knew that it was all or nothing. We didn’t discuss it though.
Kim: It just happened really quickly. My brother, Rick, is a bit of a barometer for me and when he and Hal got on so well, I knew Hal was the one.
Isn’t there a funny story about how Hal and Rick first got to know each other?
Kim: I was doing a feature with a magazine and I was seeing Hal but didn’t want to tell them about him.
Hal: I had to leave because she didn’t want me to be seen so I went up to the pub with Rick. I kept ringing to see if she’d finished but it kept going on. Six pints later, Rick and I were slaughtered so I said, ‘Come on, we’re going in there’. And not only that, I said, ‘Let’s take all our clothes off!’ So me and Rick walked stark naked from the drive all the way to the front door at which point Kim’s mum chased us out of view!
Hal: We were in Calais, we had been for dinner and we were walking up this street and I just asked Kim if she’d marry me.
Kim: Actually, he said, ‘Shall we get engaged?’ He never actually asked me to marry him, but I thought, ‘Wow! That’s a great idea.’ So I was running down the street in and out of every jewellery shop in Calais looking at these sapphire and ruby and old fashioned diamond rings, all of which were not particularly great. Then we came across these silver band that were about £20 each…
Hal: Actually, they were about £3,50 each. I just told you they cost £20!
Kim: So they were cola can rings! I had wanted a ring that sparkled but then I felt like that wasn’t really my scene. So we bought these really simple rings and proposed to each other formally.
How did your parents react?
Hal: We rang our families from Calais. When I returned I heavily apologised to Kim’s dad for not having asked him beforehand.
Kim: My mum and dad could see how happy I was. They were delighted as were all our family. Everything happened so quickly but I realised how happy I was.
You’ve said before that your love life was disastrous. Did you find your life suddenly changed overnight?
Kim: It was a gradual change on my part from trying to find happiness through other people to being happy with myself and what was going on in my life. I’d gone for this audition at Tommy and I got it and I thought perhaps there were things I could be other than a pop star. I suppose I felt less needy. In fact the last thing on my mind was to find someone, least of all someone else in the cast, because if it all goes pear-shaped you’re in trouble. I was annoyed with myself when I found myself falling for Hal.
What attracted you to each other?
Kim: Hal is such a happy person and I really wanted to be around someone like that.
Hal: Kim’s lightness and brightness. We enjoy the moment and rarely spend any time arguing.
What do you think of pop music now?
Kim: I still watch Top of the pops, I really enjoy it. I’m a real pop fan.
Hal: She’s heavily into Steps!
Kim: Oh no, Scooch darling! Natalie, who is one of Scooch, was an understudy for Tommy. I watched her on Top of the pops and got very excited for her. My sister Roxanne is in a band and that kicks off this year. But I like classical music as well as pop and Hal’s introduced me to a lot of theatre music.
Do you think you’ll ever return to pop?
I’ll never say never, I’ll just see what happens.
Does it seem like another world to you?
Yes of course. Being a single girl and running around the world and being a pop star to being married and having children is a world apart. I know which world I prefer – I’m in the world I prefer. But you know, the other world was a very good close second. It was very challenging.
As a bit of a tomboy whose life was quite well documented in the press at that time, do you think you could have been a pioneer of the term ‘ladette’?
No definitely not! Yeah, I certainly lived life in a large way and I have held court, but a ladette? I worked with my brother a lot and he’s a real ‘lad’, so maybe it rubbed off.
You’re now a garden designer on ITV’s Better Gardens. When did you discover that you loved gardening?
In the last six years or so I have really got in to it. When I was pregnant with Harry I went back to college and did some courses, after which I was obsessed. I would be driving along and trying to name trees and almost going into the backs of cars. I never thought anything other than music would have that effect.
Better Gardens came about because they were researching at my college and discovered that I was there. I was really surprised because I was a bit of a closet gardener. But I really enjoy it – not having to worry about my hair or make-up. It’s very hard work but I love it.
You were pregnant when you were filming Better Gardens. Wasn’t that difficult?
I actually felt quite energised. I obviously needed help sometimes, lifting stuff. It was frustrating feeling a bit useless, but there were enough people on hand to help.
If Rose or Harry go into the entertainment business, will it be easier or harder for them, coming from a showbusiness family?
Hal: They’ll do whatever they want to – after they have had a jolly good state education like the rest of us.
Kim: I’d rather Harry be a tree surgeon. But if they want to go into the industry, I’m sure we can make it easier for them just by telling them what it’s like.
Hal: To know it is to have done it yourself.