Kim Wilde is back, again. Thirteen years since her first hit, she has resurfaced with a new hit, a new audience but the same magnetic Wildeness.
SYDNEY AIRPORT, DOMESTIC TERMINAL: 12 pm on a Friday. We're here with MCA/Geffen's national record publicist, Nadya, waiting for a delayed flight from Brisbane which has on board Kim Wilde, veteran UK popster of such hits as "Kids In America" (1981), "You Keep Me Hanging On" (1986), "If I Can't Have You" (1994) and then there's the rest. Kim is doing a series of concerts in Australia, hard on the heels of her platinum album The Singles Collection and delayed flights and airport lounges are just part of life on the road. Finally, her flight touches down and she is the first to drift through Gate 3. Wearing a crushed floral earth-toned frock and jacket, her singular concession to hip is black clogs. Her face is chalk-pale, except for two tawny brows scrawled in pencil; the famous blonde tresses are unbrushed and carelessly clipped into a French roll. As she sidles through the terminal with the weight of hand luggage, her cobalt eyes are unfocused and her lips have drooped open with weariness. She barely notices us before she's worrying whether she should wash her hair for the shoot or not.
As we climb into the car, she Iets loose on the "crazy" Brisbane airport lounge. Her companion and English record publicist, Moira, a compact thirty-something woman with a sensible haircut and shoes to match doesn't fuss. "Oh weIl, it's over now," Kim pets pragmatically and talk turns to an interview that appeared in yesterday's press.
"She painted a rather one-sided picture... She made me sound like I was a real lonely stay-at-home," Kim remarks. She seems genuinely wounded.
It's been an extremely restless night for Kim, she woke up at five in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep - which hasn't helped her today at all. "I hate getting up in the morning. I hate it so-bloo-dy-much. I can't be-gin to tell you how much I hate it. Hate it. Hate it," she bitches, more good-naturedly than not.
"What if you had to work 9 to 5? What if you had to work night shift?" tease the publicists unhelpfully. Kim doesn't respond. Instead she changes tack and her face fills with childlike happiness as she gushes about her important discovery in the airport lounge. "I found some Redskins. Those long pink things," she begins a long and excited banter on lollies. "And Curly Wurlies. Ooooh, I absolutely love Curly Wurlies... or what about lollypops..." She's chattily confessing an addiction to the astrology pages of magazines when she suddenly stops. "Ooooh," she clutches her hand to chest. "I think it's that bloody coffee I had, I'm feeling all jittery," she peddles her fingers. just a little bit wound-up, do you know what I mean?"
As we pull up in the driveway of the Regent hotel, a doorman causes her to effuse gutturally. "Wooo-ahh, cute-as-hell...He was to-tal-ly gorgeous," Kim elaborates for our benefit as we pass through the marbled foyer. "Y ou see, you girls missed it completely. I'm so good at spotting those things, I never miss. Anything for a cheap thrill," she adds wryly. "I mean, any-thing to perk me up. At this point I'm falling apart. I always do that," she says wanting to explain. "It's the Aussie trip, you know, let it all hang out. Descend into debauchery."
Huddled in the lift, her eyes suddenly fill with what look disturbingly like tears. "It's stress," she covers. "I can't do something more dramatic. It's just a little water." At the 32nd floor, the hotel maid chirps, "How's everybody feeling?" The maid answers for her: "You look a little tired."
And after a glance at Sydney Harbour through a telescope, Kim escapes to the seclusion of a shower, where she stays, singing a few notes, for 45 minutes. With her hair freshly washed, she emerges, not exactly a new woman, but at least a little less strung-out. "It's been really heavy lately," she sighs and sett1es on the sofa. "I've been in the studio. And we had to have a photo session and make a video. These were intense experiences, because there was so much pressure on them to be won-der-ful," she stresses. "And then," she continues a little dazed, "I just went full-on into massive promotion in the UK and then it's been full-on all over Europe ever since," she explains, as if taking it in for the first time. "It's a schleppy lifestyle, but one that I've grown accustomed to."
Sensing disbelief she adds, "Ahhh yeah, sometimes I get a bit grumpy. I do watch myself with that because I do think that it is another pop-starry thing that people do. They sort of take out their shit on people. I felt quite bratty at the airport today," she almost apologises.
Kim has been a pop star for 13 of her 33 years, but she has been surrounded by the business since birth. Her father was '50s pop star Marty Wilde; her mother Joyce, a back-up singer. Her first stage appearance, funnily enough, was in Sydney, backing-up dad at age 13. It wasn't until she was 20 that her elder brother Ricki and father holed-up and wrote her a hit, "Kids In America", and she became an infinitely consumerable famous and sexy blonde pop star, pinned upon teenage boys' walls. But she wasn't always blonde and, according to Kim, she wasn't always sexy either. "Actually, like most teenagers I went through a sort of dodgy phase," she smiles musingly. "I was very mousey then and I didn't feel sexy at all. All the guys fancied all the other girls and I think it flattened me at the time." By the time she was at art college, she was so "bored" with herself that she discovered the miracle peroxide and became, as she puts it, "fab". And then, "Shortly after that I became famous and it was like all hell had been let loose."
The tags came: "The Bardot of Rock", "Sex Kitten" and all the other predictables that go with being blonde and pretty in pop. But success was patchy. For every hit, there were too many flops. "I'd shine in the best moments, then I used to freak out in the face of adversity."
And after the high of supporting Michael Jackson on his hugely successful 1988 Bad tour, she hit a major downer. Kim let her hair go mousey again and she put on weight.
"It was all an expression of self-loathing," she says wrapping her hands tightly around her elbows. "1 remember vividly, staring in a mirror and hating myself. So," she snaps, "I thought, get rid of the hair and the pop star and then maybe I'll get some happiness. But I was blaming my career for some other areas of my life."
In the past few years, according to her press release; "She got her life right". This is a process which seems to have consisted mainly of Kim moving back near home to the county of Hertfordshire to live in a renovated barn and be near "real people". "And," she states with paperback psychology; "it's that whole thing of getting older, accepting yourself. Taking control. Stop being scared. What's the point in worrying about the future?" she questions earnestly then adds. "Of course, there's still a little bit of that in me, you can't get rid of it totally, but I've gotten rid of most of it, thank God."
The style however, has remained the same - simple, unadulterated POP. "I'm an unabashed pop junkie," she exclaims. "In England I'm more part of the furniture there," she begins to analyse her market. "But I shall always love the French for making me feel so beautiful. Everywhere else, I feel like an oldboot," she scoffs. "But there's something very levelling about that." She stares evenly at her clasped hands then rocks back, "There are lots of closet pop junkies out there," she asserts. She is indeed back, blonde and talking unabashedly about boobs and her Wonderbra. "Yeah, yeah, it's really girly. It's just like talking to men like girls," she chuckles a little unconvincingly. "You know. Sometimes they might get crossed signals, but..." It's the sort of behaviour that could see her bagged BIMBO.
"But now bimbo has a curious sort of chic about it," she deflects. "It's quite unpretentious. But of course I don't like being called it, that's why I write my own songs." On the Wonderbra? She's wearing one now. "Well boobs definitely have a time and place. I generally don't feel very comfortable about getting them out. But it is quite nice that you can feel them there. And it is fashion now," she states defensively.
Her relationships have been few, but lengthy. "I've never had a kiss that didn't end up somewhere else," she says somewhat ominously. "And dates have always ended up as two-year affairs." She and her current love, a university student nine years her junior, whom she identifies only as "Rupert", met last year at a popular European ski resort and have been together ever since. As we all trundle through the hotel foyer to go to the studio for the shoot, Moira's pointing out a doorman and asking if he's the "Mr Cute-As-Hell".
"No, unfortunately," Kim downslides glumly. "He was kind of hmmmm... It's amazing how a really cute guy can instantly cheer you up. It really worries me how shallow I am," she razzes herself.
When we get to the studio it's pumping with The Young Disciples on the ghetto-blaster. Forgetting pop, Kim's actually grooving. When a ring is handed to her for the first shot, she gasps. "Oh. It's so lovely," she sings rapturously as she slips it onto the wedding ring finger of her left hand. "It's so simple. Classic. Timeless. Chunky and goooold. Actually," she cowers coyly, "I have this old-fashioned notion about the ring I want to wear when I get married. And actually," she gasps, "I'm kind of into this one now. What stone is it?" Zircon, not a diamond, she's told. "Oh well," she sighs disappointedly.
"A while ago I met this psychic woman who told me I was going to end up with some blond guy; whose ex-wife I was going to get on very well with. Can you imagine?" her eyes expand incredulously. "Frightening," she shudders. "I wish I hadn't gone to see her now. I'm constantly looking around for this blond divorcee." Not a sceptic, she is genuinely saddened by this prophecy. "I wish I hadn't gone," she whispers again to the mirror. The blond divorcee may or may not be way off for Kim. But in the immediate future it's off to Tokyo; then back home to shoot the next video and construct a pond in her garden. "I've planted an orchard and lots of wisterias and climbers that will bloom when I'm 80. I love growing things," she beams. "I'm going to be a very happy old lady. At least I know I'll be happy then," she saddens again. Then she catches your eye and herself with, "I mean, I am happy now."