My father-in-law Engelbert Humperdinck and his amazing healing hands: Our Eurovision hopeful's miraculous power to cure his fans' illnesses
22:31 GMT, 24 May 2012
Engelbert Humperdinck outside his home in Leicestershire as he sets off to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan
When the BBC decided to pull out all the stops in the hope of winning this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, they took the unusual step of asking an established global star to represent the UK.
They called my husband, Scott Dorsey, and asked him if his father — Engelbert Humperdinck — would be prepared to do it. Scott, who manages my father-in-law’s career, said he’d put the proposition to his dad when the time was right.
For a few weeks, it was the best-kept secret in our family. The BBC had impressed on Scott the need for discretion; Scott was excited, and confided in me, but he made me all but sign the Official Secrets Act. The only person who didn’t know the exciting news was EH himself!
Scott needed to iron out all the business details first — whether his father would be available was just one problem to be sorted. It’s not just one night — in Baku, Azerbaijan, tomorrow — or just a few days’ rehearsal.
EH, who mainly lives in a beautiful memento-crammed house in California, would be promoting the chosen entry for weeks beforehand, and that would mean him being based at his home in Leicestershire and performing all over Europe.
Fortunately, although he hasn’t had a UK hit since 1972, he’s been a big star for more than 40 years — and he’s especially popular in Germany.
There is another consideration, too. Any artist taking part in Eurovision knows there is a real risk of being left with nul points at the end because of the inter-Europe politics, with blocs of countries tactically voting for each other.
Boy bands, rappers and a former The X Factor finalist have all competed for the UK, only to end up with the ignominy of being beaten by an Israeli transsexual or a Finnish heavy metal act.
Scott knew that his father wouldn’t worry so much about that — he loves a challenge. But as a perfectionist, he would need to be assured that everything was in place to give him as good a chance as possible of doing well. So the undercover negotiations dragged on for weeks.
It was in the Presidential suite of the Shangri-La Hotel in the Philippines’ capital city, Manila, that Scott finally popped the question. That was mid-February, and EH had just finished a sell-out concert there.
He, his wife Patricia — my mother-in-law — Scott and I were relaxing by watching a Robin Hood film on the vast plasma TV screen.
Family portrait: Engelbert with his wife Patricia, son Scott, daughter-in-law Jo, grandchildren, from left, Kiki, Henrietta and Manon, and in the singer's arms is baby George
Excited: Engelbert Humperdinck was delighted when the BBC asked if he represent the UK
‘How about having a crack at Eurovision on behalf of the old country, Dad’ asked Scott. Perhaps he had his fingers crossed behind his back for luck. I was certainly holding my breath. Inside, we were both silently screaming: ‘Oh please, please do it.’
Engelbert’s reaction was almost immediate. ‘I’m up for that!’, he replied, his face alight with excitement and enthusiasm.
There was a collective sigh of relief from son and daughter-in-law, a shriek of delight from Patricia, and Scott rushed off to call the BBC and tell them they’d got their man. The rest of us calmed our nerves by watching the end of Robin Hood.
EH has thrown himself whole- heartedly into the battle since the BBC made the official announcement on March 1. He’s been singing the song, Love Will Set You Free, wherever there’s a switched-on microphone, and showing no sign of flagging, in spite of hitting his 76th birthday this month.
I can tell you that having EH as a father-in-law ensures there is never a dull moment. I remember when Scott — then my boyfriend of just a few weeks — took me to meet his parents for the first time.
EH: Engelbert Humperdinck and his Rolls Royce with personalized number plates
Engelbert was on tour and Scott had suggested I came long and we all met up. I was really nervous, pressing the bell on the door of his Hong Kong hotel suite, but as it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
The door was flung open and I was greeted with a huge hug from Scott’s mother. Over in the corner, the hairdryer whirred as Scott’s dad sat in his robe having his hair done in readiness for a day of interviews, a rehearsal and a major show.
He stood up (all 6ft something of him), took my hand and said: ‘Hi, I’m Engelbert. It’s so wonderful to meet you.’ There was a warmth and I felt instantly part of the gang, the inner circle.
Two years later I became part of the family myself, as Mrs Jo Dorsey. (Engelbert’s real name is Arnold Dorsey, so I was amused when my best friend listed me in her phone book as Jo Humperdinck!)
I’d met Scott in a piano bar in Sydney. It’s my home town and Scott had been based there for a few years. We got chatting, clicked and started dating.
He had told me he was a concert promoter, but not who his father was. Until one day we were in the car driving to meet my parents for the first time, when he started playing a CD, saying: ‘As I’m about to meet yours, it’s time for you to meet mine.’
He had made a compilation CD of tracks sung by his father. The first one I heard, The Last Of The Romantics, is still my favourite song of his.
But back then I knew little about Engelbert — though I’d lived in England for several years in the Nineties — except an image in my mind of a tanned man in a white suit. I knew, though, that he had a huge following in Australia.
Scott and I married in the middle of the Queensland rainforest with an Aboriginal elder playing his didgeridoo, a huge marquee lit with 120 candelabra and Engelbert getting to his feet to sing Love Is A Many Splendored Thing and After The Lovin’ for us.
Engelbert is an extremely spiritual man. Catholic by religion and an avid believer, he tries to visit a cathedral in every town or city he tours globally. Not many know he is also a powerful and gifted healer.
Once when he and Scott were on tour in Germany Engelbert came down with a virus. He was constantly complaining of being cold, even in warm environments. He went through a series of blood tests and took doses of antibiotics — but nothing could shake it off. Someone recommended he went to see a spiritual healer in a village 100 miles outside Hamburg in the middle of nowhere.
Flying the flag for Britain: Engelbert Humperdinck will perform in the Eurovision song contest on Saturday
Winning performance: Engelbert Humperdinck rehearsing for the Eurovision Song contest 2012
The appointment was made for Arnold Dorsey, and there was no way this healer would have known who he was. Within seconds of meeting EH, the doctor told him he was a powerful healer, and suggested he actively tried to help people.
‘God is the medicine and healers are simply hypodermic needles,’ Engelbert later said. He immediately used his new-found powers on a member of the band who was suffering severe migraines, which miraculously cleared up.
Since then doctors have been surprised and confused to see some of the results EH has had on a wide range of patients, including those with cancer and Aids. For those ‘in the know’, EH always silently dedicates and tries to heal all those who are sick during the third song of every one of his concerts.
I had my own experience of this — about six years ago EH was on tour in Sydney, where Scott and I live, and it coincided with me having a medical condition that wouldn’t rectify itself.
The day before I was due to go into hospital for an operation, Scott’s dad commanded me to sit in a chair up in their suite. He guaranteed that he would fix the problem — he really did not want me to have to go into hospital. I shut my eyes tightly, not really knowing what to expect.
Star hope: Engelbert Humperdinck, pictured in the 1960s, is known the world over
Apparently, he just held his hands above my head for 20 minutes. I must say it was the strangest sensation. I felt so light-headed and unbelievably relaxed. The next day doctors were astounded and couldn’t see how it had happened, but the problem had worked itself out.
I think it’s this level of compassion and need to make people happy that translates into his music. He gives everything every time he performs. Sometimes in the dressing room after the show he is spent, all his energy has gone into making the crowds out there smile.
Family to Engelbert is everything. He and Patricia have been married for 48 years and also have a daughter Louise and two other sons, Jason and Bradley, and eight grandchildren.
EH grew up in India as his father was in the British Army, stationed in Madras, and led a vastly privileged upbringing with a huge house teeming with staff, exotic food, great parties, music, beautiful colours and smells that he is always telling us about to the delight of his grandchildren.
After India was granted independence, when he was about 11, the family moved back to Leicester — quite a shock to the system. He and his seven sisters, Olga, Bubbles, Tilly, Peggy, Celine, Dolly and Pat, and two brothers, Irwin and Arthur, are so close he speaks to at least one sibling every day, wherever he is.
Scott and I have four children: Henrietta, 13, Manon, 12, Kiki, two, and one-year-old George (EH’s middle name). They join the tours whenever they can. Their grandfather dotes on them as he does all his grandchildren. Olivia, Louise’s four-year-old daughter, has been ‘on the road’ pretty much since she was a few months old.
Henrietta and Manon spend hours backstage playing cards with their grandfather. I have a sneaking suspicion EH may throw a few games to let the children win, though he promises he doesn’t.
My older girls have learned to deal with the fans accosting them in foyers of the shows and loos in the venues.
Once at a theatre in Sydney, one fan refused to let them out of the cubicle until they committed to getting her a meet and greet! It’s been a life of backstage passes, all-area access and the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people — our daughters have met so many stars, including Rod Stewart and Katherine Jenkins.
They know all the words to The Last Waltz and have Quando, Quando, Quando — one of his old hits from 1968 — on their iPods. Fans send gifts for all their birthdays; one in particular from Cuba sent Kiki the most adorable bracelet, which she wears every day.
The children love visiting the house in Bel Air, Los Angeles, which is filled with memorabilia. It has a private cinema with a huge bowl which is kept filled with sweets.
Icon: Indian-born British singer Engelbert Humperdinck on a yacht in 1970
They also particularly love going to EH’s home in England, Great Glen in Leicestershire, a wondrous, rambling place with so much to explore.
The children have a special place where they all keep their wellies. Every Christmas, EH oversees the decorations and the lighting, with people coming from miles around to see it. Once, he covered the entire property in tiny blue lights.
We love the fact the house has its own pub, The Red Fox, in the grounds. Engelbert would rather be relaxing at home with his family than be at any Hollywood A-list party.
Great Glen is also adorned with amazing mementoes — one I love particularly is a cheque from Cat Stevens to EH pinned to the wall near the dartboard.
Apparently, when Engelbert was on tour with Cat, Jimi Hendrix and The Walker Brothers in 1967, Cat had no cash to buy food, so EH lent him 5. In return Cat gave him a cheque. Engelbert has never cashed it.
When I can, I go on tour, too. I have been to more than 40 of his concerts on five continents and it is so special having that time with my husband’s parents.
I am particularly close to Scott’s mum, Patricia, who is very wise, and calls a spade a spade. She delights the children and me with stories of how they met at a dance hall in Leicester. When Enge — as she calls him — started in show business, they lived in a tiny flat above a furniture store in Hammersmith, West London.
When Release Me became a huge smash hit in 1967, and he found himself a star overnight, lots of magazines wanted to come and photograph him and Patricia at home.
The only problem was the royalty cheque hadn’t arrived yet and the flat had little to no furniture.
Harry Morrel, who owned the store below the flat, let them borrow the furniture to meet the press — but told them they must return everything later that night.
Harry became a lifelong friend. Years later when he and EH were dining on Engelbert’s favourite curry, he burnt his lips severely— and from then on became known as Harry Hot Lips.
Travelling with EH on tour, we go to some astonishing places and meet amazing people. In the Philippines, I had my picture taken with the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos, when she marched into the dressing room after the show and demanded to shake EH’s hand.
I couldn’t stop looking at her shoes — very strange silver flip-flops. She carried a matching silver handbag and wore a fire engine red dress with a jewelled brooch.
Being the daughter-in-law of Engelbert Humperdinck is an honour. I respect him for his drive, kindness, wit and intellect (he has a British news-paper’s crossword faxed to him every day wherever he is in the world) and, of course, one of the most magnificent voices the world has heard.
When people find out I am his daughter-in-law, there are certain things they always say. First, they always ask if that is his real name. Then they say how amazing he looks for his age, and they always finish with: ‘Oh my God, my mother is in love with him.’
We hope that tomorrow 125 million Eurovision viewers will be, too.
Eurovision is on BBC1 tomorrow at 8pm.