16 September, 2006

TOYAH ON
BBC TV LONDON

WITH TAYFUN 
KADIOGLU
22.4.2003




TAYFUN KADIOGLU:
Hello and welcome, I’m Tayfun and this is BBC London. Joining me now is a woman
who’s had a highly successful, prolific and incredibly diverse career. With hit records and many prestigious screen and stage roles to her credit she’s become one of Britains biggest household names.
 

But my personal favourite was when she presented “The Good Sex Guide Late “ when I was at university, seriously (Toyah laughs) I found it educational and enlightening and it helped to mould me to be the man I am today.

She will be bringing ”Calamity Jane” to the West End in June, releasing a mini album in May and before that we’ll be watching her in ”I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” which is probably what you’re thinking right now! My pleasure to welcome the one and only Toyah Willcox.


TOYAH: Oh, I’m glad I helped form your future life, it’s really nice!

TAYFUN: Oh, it was one of the best shows to have in the evening, to come back and sit down. Half of it was the shock value: Toyah Willcox is talking about some very intimate and personal things ...

TOYAH: It was fabulous. People still talk about it all the time. I met some interesting people on that program. I never knew about pony people, people who like to dress as ponies and pull people in carts and I would’ve never thought of that as some kind of gratifying thing to do but there you go: the world is diverse.

TAYFUN: You know when you present or when producers take on presenters for shows they either like someone who has a lot of experience or a lot of time for a subject or they’re very passionate about it. How did it come about for you?


 

TOYAH:
I have to admit it was really nice, Prospect phoned me up and they said “Look we have this job it starts next week and no one will do it, would you do it?” and just said “Yeah, I’d love to”. The only worry I had was coz I’m quite physically shy and I didn’t want people thinking I was suddenly going into the porn industry, I was really worried about that.

But it had completely the opposite affect: everyone I met were the most normal, grounded sane people and everyone I met publicly while the show was going out, like you, really nice warm people who appreciated a program that talked quite graphically about sex and it took me completely by surprise how warm and friendly everyone came towards me.

TAYFUN: It wasn’t gratuitous, it was just really talking about a normal subject-

TOYAH: Well, it is normal subject and it should be a normal subject but, like you, I didn’t expect it to be. It’s something that I used to do sniggering around the table with my girlfriends and the idea of doing a two hour show were we kept a straight face and talked about sex, which we didn’t, we always ended up laughing, especially when we talked about peoples dilemmas so it was a really really nice job. I loved every minute of it.

TAYFUN: How do you reconcile that with doing something like the "Heaven And Earth" show?

TOYAH:
I’m pretty proud of my CV because in one year I went from “The Good Sex Guide Late” to “Heaven and Earth” to “Songs Of Praise”. Not many people can that one! I have quite a controversial view on religion that the bible and many stories about prophets are the best stories ever written and I don’t mean “stories” in a derogatory term, y’know they are true events, proven historical events but when you look at the history of Christianity it’s a violent history and it’s a high action history so I think if you can approach history about it’s extraordinary past it’s as colourful as anything I have ever presented and I’m interested in it on that level.

One of my passions is feminist theology and women have been hard done by in many religions but there are some incredible women in our past that don’t get the kind of limelight they deserve because a lot of religions are male dominated. So I feel quite political when I get into the religious presenter field. The only thing that disturbs me is ... funny enough a lot of people think I’m some kind re-born Christian, I’m not, I’m almost devoutly Buddhist.

TAYFUN: Really, I thought you were like a born again type of Christian?



 

TOYAH:
I love Christianity and I think Buddhism and Christianity should marry, I really think that.

TAYFUN: That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that.

TOYAH:
I think the moral future for me is based on those two cultures. I’m not dissing any other religion because culturally I was brought up a Christian therefore culturally I feel I belong there but I just feel -

TAYFUN: What’s the connection there, what’s the -
 

TOYAH: A lot of religions were formed to create a law, to create rules by which we morally exist with other mankind. They’re way of controlling, a way of policing society. What I love about Buddhism it has mystical side.

Now Christianity and Catholicism used to have a mystical side and that’s almost elitist and we’re coming to an age where we need to bring the mysticism back into our lifes because we’re increasingly living in a secular world where brand names, youth oriented things, sexual oriented things are kind of seen as marketable.

I think if we could bring mysticism back into the religion and talk about it more openly, people would then discover what the soul is about, the eternity of the soul and Buddhism is very very good about that.

TAYFUN: How long have you been interested in Buddhism, when did that start?


TOYAH:
I’ve been interested in religion since … I went to a very religious school, I went to a public school where religious education was the main part of the day as was ballet and music, so I’ve always been interested in it. I’m quite passionate about it and I actually think that life it not for throwing away.

Life is part of a coil, part of a loop and we must always remain attached to why were are here and a lot of the time we are not. So I’ve always been fascinated by it. But I am NOT a person who quotes the bible or kind of cuts my hand a and plays the tambourine on a Sunday morning. I am not like that, I’m far more different but I do think that religions are an incredible important part of our society.

TAYFUN: So you don’t view religion as being one of the major conflicts between - looking at the Middle East and Western World, religion -

TOYAH:
Religion has been a theme and recently a conflict for thousands and thousands of years but it’s also been … as much as it been a part of educating man kind it has actually suppressed man kind and I think we need to come clean. We are a phenomenal miracle as human beings.

If we cannot see the miracle we are we will never understand why we need religion and the one thing we have as human beings is the power to believe and belief - take away all religions and look at what belief is. It’s a remarkably powerful thing. We must respect it and use it respectfully.
 

TAYFUN: So can I ask then as a person who’s pursued a career since the late 70’s in the entertainment industry which isn’t exactly the purest place to work, there’s a lot of temptation out –

TOYAH:
OK you’re going down the happy clappy field of
what is pure …

TAYFUN: I just mean there’s a lot of temptation out there to stray from what maybe people regard as moral behaviour -

TOYAH:
Yeah.

TAYFUN: - and with drugs, sex , alcohol. How have you managed to find the balance? Have you been tempted or have just been -

TOYAH:
Luckily I’m a very shy person but again where sex and religion really really do link up, our puritanical view to sex only really came through during the Victorian era where Queen Victoria said that y’know furniture legs had to be covered up.

The irony there was she was quite highly sexed, incredibly highly sexed so she was covering up her own moral quilt as it were. Sex is an extraordinary thing and I truly believe that when Jesus Christ was alive on this earth, it’s reported or believed that there was 500 sex cults in Israel alone. They were sex cults rather than religions.




TAYFUN:
Wow!


TOYAH:
So sex has always been an incredibly -

TAYFUN: A fundamental part of human society -

TOYAH:
But also a way of loving and sharing and giving. Obviously there’s good sex and bad sex and there’s (?) sex but it’s always been there and it’s always been a part of every culture. So, have I been tempted? Yes!

TAYFUN: But have you acted on that? Or have you been disciplined and said no?

TOYAH:
I’m very very shy which has always helped me in the long term. I’ve been married 17 years, (laughs) so it’s kind of no … I mean I drank a lot when I was younger. I used to like to drink and that was my kind of big thing I suppose …

TAYFUN: But not any longer?

TOYAH:
No, I don’t drink at all now.

TAYFUN: You don’t drink at all?

TOYAH:
I’m incredibly boring. I don’t drink tea or coffee or alcohol.

TAYFUN:
Is this purely on health bases, looking after your body?


TOYAH:
Yeah, I’m a a middle aged woman and I want to look after my body, it’s about vanity.

TAYFUN: Vanity?

TOYAH:
Yeah.

TAYFUN: Well that’s a good a reason as any. Now then, looking at your relationship and your marriage over 17 years, that it itself is an incredible achievement to last when you’ve got a career in the entertainment industry … 17 years. What has been the key? The success of that relationship?

TOYAH:
We’re not in the same country very often.

TAYFUN: Aha! (both laugh)

TOYAH:
My husband’s (Robert Fripp, below with Toyah) based in Nashville and I’m based in England. He’s career is American and career is very UK so when we see each other we’re still absolutely over the moon. It’s like really nice, we meet up in hotels and it’s very tactile and we’re great great friends and he’s still the only person I phone when I have a problem. He can sort things out for me, he’s lovely.

TAYFUN: So would you say the the key is having that space rather than taking each other for granted … makes you appreciate the good things about each other?

TOYAH:
Yeah I think it’s all of that but also I really like my independence and I like my choice. For instance I’m about to do “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” I’m flying to Brisbane while is arriving in England, he’s in Singapore at the moment and I can phone him up and say “Sweetheart, I’m not around for three weeks” and it’s cool.

And that means more to me than anything. I feel like a free spirit and I feel like I can make choices, I don’t feel like I’m part of a couple so the things I do as a couple is because I want to not because I have to.





TAYFUN:
Yeah. What about family, children and that?


TOYAH:
No, don’t have any of that.

TAYFUN: Isn’t that something you wanted?

TOYAH:
Never wanted. I actually had nightmares as a child about having a family. I actually used to cry through the night, I was so scared of having to have children.

TAYFUN: Was that the process of birth or -

TOYAH:
(both talk at the same time) It was the process of birth, being in a family unit, it’s never suited me.

TAYFUN: You really have very much a free spirit?

TOYAH:
Yeah, I think if I wasn’t in the entertainment world I’d be a travel writer so I’d just be on my own travelling. My husband is quite similar, he’s quite a lone figure as well.

TAYFUN: How did you actually meet?

TOYAH:
We met … Princess Michael Of Kent introduced us at a charity lunch and she wanted her photo taken with me and at the time she was talking to Robert Fripp, my husband. She just grabbed us and pulled us together and introduced us and we had the photo done and that was it. And then a year later I met him at the same charity event and he said would I do a charity album with him so I went over to Washington and made the album with him.

TAYFUN: In between that year you hadn’t been in touch?

TOYAH:
No.

TAYFUN: So that was the first time you met and then a year later…

TOYAH:
Yeah. And I had the picture that was taken of me, him and Princess Margaret, er, Princess Michael, in my kitchen for that year and I still didn’t know who this man was. It was like “Who is that man?”

TAYFUN: Did you feel some kind of -

TOYAH:
No.

TAYFUN: So it was just -

TOYAH:
Yet weirdly the following year when he asked me to do the charity album he actually said to all of his friends who were living in New York he said “Oh, I’m taking three weeks off, I’m going back to England to get my wife” and they sort of (leans back on her seat and looks surprised) … committed bachelor ... and they said ”What do you mean?” and he said “I’m suppose to get married now” and he came over to England, we made the album and within a week he proposed to me!

TAYFUN: So he knew that you were the one?

TOYAH:
Yeah!

TAYFUN: And that was it?

TOYAH:
But he’s always been like that: “Oh I’m going to take a week off, I’m going to meet so and so and work with them” and I say “Do they know about this?!”

TAYFUN: When he approached you did it feel ... like completely out of the blue?

TOYAH:
Yeah. Totally.

TAYFUN: And did you accept immediately?

TOYAH:
I said "Could I get to know you first?!" (bursts into laughter)

TAYFUN: Well that’s quite understandable!

TOYAH:
“Isn’t it a good idea y’know kind of know each other?” But it was very very nice.

TAYFUN: How long was it before eventually you got married?

TOYAH:
Nine months. He actually wanted a three year engagement but I found being with him so difficult because he is a major star in America and over here he is an academic star, he’s known as a brain and I was known as kind of flimsy pop star. I found it very difficult being with him because people were just treating me like dirt because they thought I was thick and y’know the bimbo in the relationship.





TAYFUN:
That was just in the UK?

TOYAH:
That was just in the UK, the Americans are much more embracing of people so we got married coz I think I would have done a runner because the external forces were so aggressive.

TAYFUN: Was it you that made it - did he realise "Forget the three years"?

TOYAH:
Yeah, I think he realised yeah.

TAYFUN: You also mentioned “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” (below)

TOYAH:
Yeah!

TAYFUN: How did that start? How come you’re involved in that now?

TOYAH:
I love the program. I loved the first one, I thought it was the best thing on telly that year and I had a meeting with the producers and I said “I really really love that program. Congratulations, it’s brilliant, count me in for the next one” so they got in touch and said could I do it.

I was in the middle of “Calamity Jane” the musical and I said "This is going to be difficult coz I’ve got commitments" and when I told the producers of “Calamity Jane” they said “Don’t worry, go and do it” so I got a month off to go and do that, then I’m going come back and go into the West End to do “Calamity Jane”.

TAYFUN:
Good grief!


TOYAH:
It will be strenuous, I will be exhausted but I’m used … my fame is very comfortable fame, people know who I am but they don’t dislike me for who I am. I was asked by the Celebrity people am I going to be able to handle people knowing everything about me? So it’s an interesting kind of shift in fame.

TAYFUN: What do you think is our worst personality trait that’s going to have to be kept in check?


TOYAH:
I’m very stubborn.

TAYFUN: Stubborn? And especially if you like being on your own a lot? Having your own space?

TOYAH:
Yeah, but I do like people and enjoy people -

TAYFUN: 24 hours a day non-stop?

TOYAH:
That’s a difficult one coz we’re never allowed to be alone, we always have to be escorted by someone everywhere where we go so that will be difficult. For me what interests me I don’t really know who I am.

I have been Toyah Willcox for so long and I have been in front of the cameras so for long I don’t really know what’s me anymore. I think in this environment you find out really quickly who you are. I know I’m stubborn, I know I’m very argumentative with men -





TAYFUN: Oh boy!

TOYAH:
Especially if the pecking order is male dominated so it will be very interesting.

TAYFUN: In other people - do you have like any pet hates?

TOYAH:
Well I don’t like smoking and they’re allowed to smoke.

TAYFUN: But presumably it’s going to be in the open, so?

TOYAH:
It’s treated as an addiction so they’re allowed to take cigarettes in.

TAYFUN: What if they have a drug addiction?

TOYAH:
Well that would be confidential, I wouldn’t know.

TAYFUN: They’ll be like yeah sure ... bring them (both laugh)

TOYAH:
I don’t know about that but yeah … I really don’t know until get there, so that's terrifying.

TAYFUN: And there’s nothing…if one has particularly bad habits apart from smoking ... ?

TOYAH:
Oh bad habits? I think if someone’s got a big ego.

TAYFUN: I think it’s probably going to be a case of finding someone who -

TOYAH & TAYFUN: Doesn’t!


TOYAH: I don’t think I’ve got a big ego. I enjoy listening to people and I enjoy people but I’m not ego driven, at least I don’t think I am.

TAYFUN: Isn’t it hard to be in the celebrity world and not have some sort of ego, because that’s how you put pride in your work, you’re watching yourself , you’re aware of how you come across-

TOYAH:
Yeah, I suppose so.

TAYFUN: Maybe that’s a relative thing compared to -

TOYAH:
Yeah I think if someone moans a lot it would get on my nerves I think coz I’m positive, I always see the good side of things. If I’m with a negative person I’d probably … (pretends to slap someone round the face a few times)

TAYFUN: I don’t mean to be a sexist but is it more female to moan more?


TOYAH:
Rubbish! Please! No, in this environment I bet it’s the men that moan the most, c’mon! Because we’re all going to smell bad, we’re going to be quite grubby and dirty and sweaty. How can a man strut his stuff when he’s demoralised like that? I think it’s going to be the men.

TAYFUN: But even if they want to moan, it doesn’t come across as being manly … women don’t have to hide anything like that.

TOYAH:
Oh rubbish! I think women are tougher. I think we are naturally tougher, we endure pain.

TAYFUN: We have to get you back AFTER …

TOYAH:
Hahah, to see if I’ve got any limbs missing?

TAYFUN: - how you’ve managed (Toyah laughs) ...
Now with your career: you’ve acted, you’ve presented and you’ve sung. If you were forced : "Only choose one?" which would be? Your career from now on?

TOYAH:
Well where I am now as a 44 year old woman it would be acting coz I like hiding behind characters. I’m fed up of being Toyah Willcox. I like to have a character to hide behind.

TAYFUN: Acting - is that because it’s also your passion as well as having -

TOYAH:
I think I’m used to playing different people, I function by having a script and being someone different. It feels so natural for me to do that whereas if I have to ME I just think “Oh God, do I have to be funny, do I have to be pretty or do I have to intelligent?” It scares me whereas acting is a shield and I like that.
TAYFUN: In fact in your acting career you’ve performed along with some great artists, you’ve had Laurence Olivier, Greta Sacchi (below with Toyah in the "Ebony Tower") and Katherine Hepburn ?





TOYAH:
Yeah, my first movie was with Katherine Hepburn.

TAYFUN: What a start!

TOYAH:
And she chose me for it and she was just fantastic and I had no idea who and what she was. It was directed by George Cukor who directed James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and I was just with two very parental people who saw me as a major talent and did have an ego back then, I was obnoxious.

But what I love about Katherine … I would pass her in the car on the way to work, I’d be in a taxi and she’d be cycling in and it was mental independence and it was just magnificent. She was a true feminist and I love that.

TAYFUN: What did you learn from this experience, working with these people? Did they shape you as an actress?

TOYAH:
No, I don’t think another actor can teach you anything by example other than when in the work mode. No, I learned more by going to the movies and watching telly than I would by working with another actor in the flesh.

TAYFUN: You’re focused on yourself?

TOYAH:
You’re focused entirely. With “Calamity Jane” I’ve learned the timing from the audiences rather than other actors because the audience dictates what it needs. It’s difficult to say how you learn from another actor other than admiration, you look at someone y’know on the screen in the finished product and think "God, it’s just brilliant."

TAYFUN: And in terms of background to becoming an actress is it important that you have serious training or is it just from experience?

TOYAH:
Nooo, for me I learn through experience and kind of being thrown into the fire. I think you can be thought so much technique and then you’ve got to get out there and do it. It’s a very organic thing. You need an audience, you need to be under pressure to see what you’ve become and who you’ve become and then have the technique.

TAYFUN: Looking now at the acting world, who are the people that you most admire and really get the most out of, watching their performances?

TOYAH:
I love American movies so I tend to watch a lot of American stars even though I go to theatre here as much as possible. I get so much joy out of Brad Pitt and … they’re not necessarily fantastic actors but ... (laughs) I like my directors, I like Peter Kosminsky who is British director and has done a lot of work for the BBC, I just love his work but I also like my "Spielbergs".

TAYFUN: OK. Now your husbands been living in the States all this time, have you ever tried to base yourself there and -

TOYAH:
Yeah, I’ve been out to LA, I’ve had meetings in LA and unless I was prepared to live there it’s not going happen. I have two elderly parents in England and while they’re alive I’m going to be based here.

TAYFUN: Why?

TOYAH:
I just couldn’t be able to forgive myself for not being there for them, they’re kind of in very late years so the time will come I think when I will spend some time in America but not while I’m responsible for them.

TAYFUN: Maybe say 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago were you not tempted then?

TOYAH:
No, I’ve always felt exclusively British and I’m very very passionate about Britain. I’ve never felt the same about Europe, I’ve never felt the same about the Middle East, y’know Japan where you can have a big musical career. I’ve always felt exclusively British. But now I would work anywhere.

TAYFUN: NOW anywhere?
 

TOYAH: Yeah.

TAYFUN: I also want to talk about - you’re releasing a mini album – I’ve never heard of it before?

TOYAH:
Well in my day it was called an EP, it’s got 6 tracks on it. I had to finish it off while rehearsing “Calamity Jane”, which limited it to a mini album coz “Calamity Jane” just went through the roof.





TAYFUN: Was it because you had too much going on?

TOYAH:
I had too much going on. I’d been writing and working on it for well over a year with a wonderful team of musicians and we got to the stage where I was finishing the mixing WHILE rehearsing for “Calamity Jane” so we got six tracks that we were passionate about and it’s coming out on May the 6th.

TAYFUN: “Velvet Lined Shell” ?


TOYAH
: “
Velvet Lined Shell.”

TAYFUN: Why now have you decided to release this?

TOYAH:
I was intending to bring out a full album and tour but then I got pulled in different directors and I’ve always diversified, I’ve never seen myself exclusively as a singer so I just kind of went with everything and …

TAYFUN: So you’re a workaholic?

TOYAH:
I’m a total workaholic.

TAYFUN: I don’t know how you’re going to manage the TV reality show, an album, a musical and then you’ll perform gigs?

TOYAH:
I know -

TAYFUN: Do you give yourself holidays?

TOYAH:
No.

TAYFUN: You don’t?!

TOYAH:
No. I just think its time for them … something always comes up! I’d like a holiday but I think time is so short, make the most of it. The mini album is … this is 25th year in the business so I was making it for the fan base.

I know the fan base are going to find it and love it, we’re rescheduling concerts that I would’ve been doing while I’m in Australia, we’re rescheduling all of that for late September so I think “Celebrity” in an ironic way is going to bring more people in to see what I do obviously and I’m not going to deny that so …

TAYFUN: You’re putting yourself out the, experiencing yourself, at least there should be an upside to the experience?

TOYAH:
I think so.

TAYFUN: And you have so much energy and drive. Is this something you’ve always had, as a child?

TOYAH:
Yeah.

TAYFUN: What were you like as kid? (Toyah with her dad Beric, below)

TOYAH:
Very repressed, I went to an all - girl school, it was a very religious school. I had to wear even regulation underwear as well as uniform. So I think mentally a lot was going on in there (puts hands on her head) that I had to kind of keep it to myself coz I never felt like I fitted, I always felt quite strange and quirky but I had to act normal. I think coz of that I’m comfortable when I’m acting rather than being me. So as a kid I was wild but it was privately wild.

TAYFUN: Privately wild?


TOYAH:
Yeah.





TAYFUN: So did that inspire you to go into a sort of career you would be comfy in?

TOYAH:
I knew from day one that I had to sing AND act.

TAYFUN: You just said you’ve been in the entertainment industry for 25 years. Is it attractive and could you ever walk away from the limelight?

TOYAH:
Ooh, that’s a good question! I have days when I think I just want to move Thailand and never be seen again but I think I’d end up writing. I think I’d always have a connection. I think technology would always allow me a connection. I love writing horror, really hugely into horror.

TAYFUN: Religion, horror, all there?

TOYAH:
They’re all so linked, they’re all so related. I’m a huge Clive Parker fan. He links sex and horror. I‘d like, as I get older, to write more.

TAYFUN: Writing is going to be the next thing?

TOYAH:
Yeah.
 

TAYFUN: I must ask you a few questions about the internet.
Do you actually use it?

TOYAH:
Very rarely. I use it but I can never find what I’m looking for. I just can’t get my head around how to find something.

TAYFUN: So you don’t have any particular favourite websites that you do know exist that you’ll check out?

TOYAH:
I try, I REALLY try. The other day I was trying to find an actor so I tried to find the Spotlight directory that gives you all the actors … I just could not get in, I am so BAD with computers.

TAYFUN: Do you look up your own work much?

TOYAH:
No, never. I don’t have anything to do with me whatsoever.

TAYFUN: But you have a really good website.
 

TOYAH: I know! I get involved in it as much as I can, I kind of send letters in but I never look. I’m not entertained by myself, I want to get away from myself.

TAYFUN: I just want to let people know that if you want to find out more about Toyah Willcox, you can go to her website toyahwillcox.com which is one word.

TOYAH:
Two L’s in Willcox.

TAYFUN: Yeah. Now, you’re very confident, you’re very strong -

TOYAH:
I’m strong, I’m not confident.

TAYFUN: Not confident? I was going ask you what is your biggest insecurity? That you still have, that you’ve not been able to shake off?

TOYAH:
That I haven’t achieved anything yet! (laughs) I feel I haven’t achieved anything yet.

TAYFUN:
You’ve done so much, you’ve managed to cram this career into the time that you have -


TOYAH:
I think the day when I’ve got scripts lining up, I’ve got TV lining up, film lining up is the day I’ll feel happy. I envy actors like Alan Bates who just go from film to film to film. I’m desperately trying to find out where I belong and I don’t think I’ve found it yet.

TAYFUN: Toyah, this is my favourite question I have to ask of all the quests that we have: we live on this beautiful planet which one day we all say farewell to. What would you like the past to say at the very end of it?

TOYAH:
Well I always say “I came, I lisped, I went” but I think there’s much funnier epitaphs like “No-one gets out of here alive” and or “Let me out” (both laugh)

TAYFUN: I’m a celebrity get me out of here!

TOYAH:
Now that’s the one!

TAYFUN: Unfortunately that is all we have time for. Toyah thank you very much.

TOYAH:
Thank you! Byyee!

(Off camera)

TAYFUN: Thank you very much for joining us.

TOYAH:
Thank you, that was good.

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