Two failed marriages. A lost baby. And a son she fears she put second to her career. In a painfully honest interview, Lulu admits: 'I wish I'd been a better mother'
23:12 GMT, 5 July 2012
There’s been something of a subtle but significant change in Lulu in recent years. She says so herself. Once, she was the embodiment of a shiny, happy person. Nothing ever went wrong for the Pocket Rocket, as she was nicknamed — or so she’d have you believe.
But into every life a little rain must fall and Lulu, who had her first hit, Shout! at 15, was no exception. It’s just that she wouldn’t acknowledge it.
Not any more, though. Now, at 63, she’s at last prepared to let down her guard a little and talk about it.
‘I’ve always tended to put my career first,’ she admits. ‘It’s been who I am for almost 50 years — I can’t imagine life without it. I became a performer, even when I wasn’t on stage. The light on the TV camera went on and, instantly, I became this creature called Lulu.
Happily solo: Lulu, now in her sixties, has finally come to terms with the past
‘I now realise there were times when I could have eased my foot off the pedal. When I first had Jordan [her only child from her second marriage, to celebrity hairdresser John Frieda] I should have dipped out for a year.
‘But I thought you had to keep going, and that’s a real regret. I should have been confident and relaxed enough to enjoy the first year of my baby’s life. But I was frightened I wouldn’t be able to get on the treadmill again.’
She has previously said she regretted being a working mother. When Jordan was 14, the marriage foundered. After much soul-searching, she and John agreed that it would be better if their son went to live with his father who was now permanently based in America, while Lulu pursued her career in the UK.
Family time: Lulu with her second husband, celebrity hairdresser John Frieda, and their son Jordan in 1977
Jordan was duly sent to boarding school in the States but it ended unhappily, and he subsequently, and no less unhappily, became a boarder at Eton before winning a place at Cambridge.
‘I’ve asked myself many times since,’ says Lulu, ‘whether, if I could turn back the clock, I’d have let Jordan go to America to live with John. And the truth is that I still don’t know the answer.’
She has also analysed why her marriage to John ultimately failed. She suffered a miscarriage at the end of the Eighties — Jordan was only 11 at the time — and she thinks now that it signalled the beginning of the unravelling of the marriage.
‘But I was in denial at the time,’ she says. ‘The trouble with me is that I’m a bit of a soldier. The war’s over. I pick myself up and off I go again. Now, I give myself permission to examine my emotions before moving on.
‘It’s part of the necessary healing process. Suppressing something is never going to work because those feelings will inevitably surface in other ways at other times.’
The younger Lulu lacked this self-awareness, though. ‘So, in the end, I lost a baby, a husband and my only child. It was incredibly painful. I always used to say I didn’t regret only having one child. But it wasn’t true. I’d have loved another baby. But now I feel able to say that I’ve reached an acceptance of what happened.’
Registering emotion seems to be the new order of the day. ‘I consider myself one of the lucky people, but of course it hasn’t always been plain sailing,’ says Lulu. ‘There have been dark chapters, painful experiences.
‘I’m ready to acknowledge now that the break-up with John was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I was so unhappy, I thought I’d die.’
The failure of her first marriage, to Bee Gee Maurice Gibb, though sad, had been an altogether less traumatic affair — but still left its legacy of sadness.
They’d married in 1969, when Lulu was 20, Maurice 19. ‘Far too young,’ she says now, ‘but we both had big careers. We thought we could do what we wanted. My dream had been to work in a hairdressing salon and then to sing in ballrooms at night. But then I had this unexpected success and life was never the same again.’
‘I should have listened to Maurice’s elder brother, Barry. He said we didn’t yet know our minds, that we should live together first. But we wouldn’t listen. When you’re young, you know you’re right.
‘I was annoyed with Barry for interfering. Having said that, though, he and his wife Linda came on honeymoon with us to Acapulco.’
Young love: Lulu with with her first husband Bee Gee Maurice Gibb
Maurice began drinking heavily and the marriage imploded after just over four years. He died, at 53, in January 2003. Seven weeks ago, Maurice’s twin, Robin, finally succumbed to the cancer he’d battled for so long. ‘What can you say’ asks Lulu. She shakes her head sadly.
She adds: ‘I never stop being grateful for what I’ve had, what I’ve got. But that doesn’t mean to say I don’t sometimes go to a dark place if I’ve been tired and then I wake up in the middle of the night.
‘So many people I knew and loved have been taken from us in the past few months: Whitney Houston and Davy Jones and Donna Summer and now Robin.
‘It concentrates your mind. But rather than being brought down, it makes you count your blessings. So I think of all the good things about my life.’
She and Davy Jones, the British-born star of The Monkees, enjoyed a chaste romance before she got together with Maurice. ‘It was intense, short-lived,’ she says now, ‘but it never reached a physical stage other than a lot of good necking. His girlfriend got pregnant, so he did the right thing by her and they got married.
‘I was shattered. I was only 17 or 18 at the time. I’d allowed my thoughts to run away with me. “Ooh, I think I’m in love. Ooh, we could get married and have lots of babies.” It was all fantasy. I’ve often thought since, and much as I was convinced of my love for him at the time, that I married Maurice on the rebound.’
Heyday: Lulu performing on stage at the beginning of her career in the sixties
And then there was her even more unlikely dalliance with David Bowie. ‘I was flattered by his attention. I’d split with Maurice and I hadn’t yet got together with John. I thought he was the coolest, most talented man on the planet. I couldn’t believe he’d bothered to notice me. I was giddy with it all.
‘We had a hit with The Man Who Sold The World, and I was going to record a few more tracks with him, but he got into a wrangle over who owned some material. I didn’t want any part of all of that so I let the situation slide.
‘That may have been the right decision personally but, from a business point of view, it wasn’t smart. Bowie was also going through a lot of experimentation at the time which, let’s just say, was out of my league. There’s no contact at all between us now and nor do I expect there to be.’
After the break-up with John Frieda, there was Scottish actor Angus MacFadyen, now 48 and a former fianc of Catherine Zeta-Jones. There were later rumours of a romance with Hollyoaks actor Stuart Manning, 33, but Lulu says it was a friendship.
She also denies stories that Jason Orange re-lit her fire when she teamed up with Take That in 1993.
And now ‘I see different people, but there’s no one significant in my life at the moment. A pause. ‘I’m on my own, although I’m the opposite of lonely,’ she adds, cheerfully.
We are meeting in a smart London hotel and she looks terrific with her well-cut and expertly coloured hair and her clever wardrobe.
‘I think I can get away with wearing clothes that perhaps most women of my age wouldn’t consider,’ she tells me. ‘And I’m very short — just five foot one — but fortunate enough to be in proportion so that perhaps explains why I can wear something a bit younger sometimes.
‘Of course, there are things about myself I’d change if I could. I’d like longer legs and a smaller bust. But I’m not complaining. The whole package is pretty good.
‘I just wish I’d known that as a teenager. I might have been spotty. I might have had a little protruding belly. But like all young people, I had that youthful glow.
‘I wasn’t tall and slim like the models who went out with the rock stars. So what I had the bloom of youth; it’s just that I didn’t recognise it. And now I look at Brigitte Bardot and I realise great natural beauty in the young can only head in one direction. And that’s downhill. It’s very hard for a beautiful woman to grow old.’
Woman of the year: Lulu with her Lifetime Achievement award at the Women of the Year awards in 2011
There has been much speculation about what Lulu has had done in her clearly successful attempts to halt the march of time. Anne Robinson recently accused her — publicly — of going under the knife, but she denies it.
‘All I’ve ever had are Botox injections and fillers in my face,’ she says.
Strictly Come Dancing: Lulu dancing the Cha Cha Cha with Brendan on the hit BBC show
‘I haven’t had any procedures, though, for some time. Because I sing, and sometimes act, I’m conscious of not taking things too far. I’m a performer. I want to be able to register emotion on my face.’
Her relationship with son Jordan survived the early separation, and has blossomed. ‘We’ve healed and we’re incredibly close. He flirted with acting but now owns a successful restaurant in North London.
He’s happily married to Alanna, who I regard as the daughter I never had, and has given me Bella, the most beautiful granddaughter in the world.’
In August, Jordan and Alanna are expecting a second child, a boy. ‘I can’t wait!’ says Lulu.
Would she describe herself as a diva ‘If by wanting things done a certain way so that I get what I’m trying to achieve, then yes, but I wouldn’t regard that as being difficult. I’m determined, I’m driven but I’m no diva. I can be feisty, although not as much as I used to be.’
She adds: ‘Am I bossy In a way, yes. I sometimes think I have too much energy. I have all these ideas. I’m firing on all cylinders and I want results. I’m clear and decisive and I have a lust for life. But, if you didn’t know me, you might read that as bossiness.’
For the past five years she has been promoting an anti-ageing skincare range, Time Bomb, but she’s not just its pretty face. ‘I look at the figures daily. I’m forever part of the process developing new lines,’ she says.
‘Who says things can’t happen once you reach 50 I was 58 when I started with them.'
Tomorrow she headlines a concert at Henley with boyband Blue. ‘I keep busy and I make lists in my mind and promise myself I’m going to work through them and do the things I’ve been putting off. For instance, I’m determined to start Zumba dance classes.’
Her sunniest smile. ‘I look forward,’ says the Pocket Rocket, ‘with hope.’
Lulu will appear on QVC throughout next Thursday.