Four letter word

First a British pop icon, then a gardening woman. Kim Wilde doesn’t know how to stop and returns to the spotlights, having gained wisdom. “I finally embraced my inner rockbitch”.

My iPod abruptly ends ‘Never say never’, the comeback album from Kim Wilde, who does her audiences on the fourth floor of The Grand. I know her from the days of the Rubik’s cube, when she adorned the walls of the rooms of my schoolfriends, and girls bleached their hairs just as blonde. Fragments of faultless popsongs shoot through my head, sung seemingly effortless. In those days Kim Wilde was an icon, a tempting siren in tight, bleached jeans, a British Lorelei who made men go wild. Nothing points to having lost anything of her singing powers twenty years on: on the bike I try to guess which songs on ‘Never say never’ are new and which were old, but I can’t make the difference. On an iPod everything sounds contemporary.
Hasty, because I am too late, I march to reception, where the personnel ignores me with studied nonchalance. I get my mobile to suggest urgency, but then Danielle, the girl from the record company, comes towards me. “Kim is slightly late and wants to freshen up, but you get your turn within 15 minutes. Exciting isn’t it?”
“Exciting isn’t it?” Danielle repeats her mantra as if she wants to convince me of something. And it certainly is exciting, because I come here with a hidden agenda. In The Grand works the most beautiful boy I know as a chamber maid. He’s the true reason for my coming here. I go looking for him when I go towards the toilets. Maybe he’s here in one of the rooms, dressed in a hotel uniform jus ttoo tight to show the best spots… Not the platinum blonde megastar, but his dark exterior makes me sweat like a pig. I understand which ‘Four letter word’ Kim meant: not ‘love’, ‘hate’ and not even ‘f*ck’ but ‘Jeff’ is the combination of letters that gets the juice out of my body. (For reasons of privacy I have given him a different name, but his true name is just as short and sweet). Jeff has the keys to all the rooms, even Kim’s. But more importantly: he knows which rooms are free… Finally, it’s my turn.
Danielle will be “back in twenty minutes” and locks the door behind her, because celebrities need to be behind closed doors. The smell of flowers fills the ice cold airconditioned suite and makes me realise what ‘freshen up’ means. In a slow falling dustcloud of rouge and foundation sits what the pressrelease describes as ‘The most successful female British pop star ever’ before me in a black men’s suit. Under the layer of make-up there are the contours of the singer, but she could have been Belinda Carlisle or the middle one from Bananarama. Her age is impossible to guess. I haven’t asked a question yet, but she’s already telling me: “I have a very difficult relationship with ‘Kids in America’. For this album my old hits were re-recorded and together with Charlotte Hatherley I did that song again. It’s great to carry the burden of that big song together.”
I hoped to steer clear from these cliches by not starting with the beginning, but somewhere in the middle, past the love/hate-relationship with the big breakthrough. I believe the big career. My plan is to skip the fourteen number one hits, the ten million albums sold, the Michael Jackson tour and go to her big fall in the nineties. “I was in the theatre in Tommy, fell in love, got pregnant and quit the music industry”. Her eyes reveal a far away past, but the layer on her face doesn’t move an inch. “I guess you could say in hindsight that I had a burnout. I was unsatisfied, didn’t enjoy anything anymore and felt guilty because of that. It may be a strange analogy, but it was áfter September 11 that I started to see light at the end of the tunnel again.” We agree that it’s a strange analogy to use two planes crashing into the WTC for a very common women’s problem. I am not here to moan about the eternal dilemma between having children and a career, am I?
It seems a great chance to call Jeff upstairs for some highly needed room service and some water for Kim. Suddenly – as if my prayers are answered – the door opens. I can hardly control my excitement and look behind me, but instead of Jeff the face of Danielle appears to give me a ten minute warning. Ten minutes!
“In that difficult period my garden has supported me a lot”, says Kim, referring to her successful career as a landscape gardener. Her book ‘Gardening with Children’ as a bestseller for British housewifes. I try to picture the woman before me with her hair tied up in a knot, reading glasses, gardening gloves and hedge clippers. “In that world passionate idiots are working as well, just like in the music business. While working in nature and with children I started to regain my lust for making music.” She starts to say the things that are written in the press release without hesitation. “‘Forgive me’ is about us spoiling the environment. I am glad to read a broad audience with it, because I feel like an activist. I have planted more than a thousand trees. We can save the environment.”
I lose all my confidence. I can’t compete with such professionalism. Such safe answers. “Maybe we can”, I object, “but your audience is smaller than it used to be. The age of being a superstar is long gone, isn’t that a pity for the message you are conveying?”
“Everything has its cycle”, she says. You have to be very old to know that. “The super stars will be back. I am ready for it! I used to be a pop babe, but now I have become a little rougher. I finally embraced my inner rock chick! I think I will enjoy it more than 25 years ago.”
The door opens again. “Five minutes. Do you want to finish up?”, Danielle asks. I look at my notes. A rock chick with a fold in her pants…
“A new release is always coupled with a scandal”, I propose hopefully. A rehab clinic run, a fall from a palm tree, a new – much too young – lover… Maybe I can help her with destroying this hotel room? Kim Wilde knows no scandals. ” I guess I’m just not that kind of person”. No superstar and no rock chick. We are all just people, I think as I give her a hand. In the corridors I wander around, looking for my four letter word, but destined for the exit. Moving past rooms that remain closed for me.