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TOYAH: WHY I DETEST COTTIE AND MY NAME; Eighties punk star gave The Street permission to call one of the Battersbys after her - but every time she hears it on TV she wishes she hadn't.

Byline: RICK FULTON EXCLUSIVE

ACTRESS and singer Toyah Willcox admits she hates her Coronation Street namesake Toyah Battersby - and wishes she'd never given the soap permission to use it.

Weatherfield's Toyah, played by Georgia Taylor, arrived on the Street in 1997 as part of the family-from-hell Battersby clan. Since the character was born in 1982, when Toyah Willcox's pop career was at its height, producers asked the singer if they could name the young girl after her.

At first she was honoured - the unusual name comes from a Red Indian-named town in Texas.

Now the 43-year-old ex-punk admits: "I hate it. I'll be reading a book by myself with the telly on and I'll suddenly hear someone yell: 'Toyah' and I'll jump out of my seat.

"They asked my permission, but I'm not sure I should have let it happen.

"My name is my luckiest token and I've sort of given it away - now anyone watching Corrie could call their children it and I prefer it's uniqueness."

Her mother, Barbara, found the name in a book in the late Fifties when Toyah was born.

Toyah admits: "The strangest thing is after she told me that, I looked the town up in a map - and right next to it is the Willcox Mountains. She never knew.

"That's why I know my name is special and helped me get where I am today."

Toyah is about to return to her musical roots as part of the Eighties nostalgia tour Here And Now, which comes to Glasgow in April with Adam Ant, some of Spandau Ballet, Belinda Carlisle, ABC, Howard Jones and China Crisis.

While the rest have had little fame in the last 20 years, Toyah has touched all our lives with her various projects in a multi-faceted and very successful career.

She starred in films such as Quadrophenia and has acted with Sir Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn.

She's voiced the Teletubbies, been a children's television star in BBC Scotland's Barmy Aunt Boomerang and presented TV shows such as This Morning and Songs Of Praise - and The Good Sex Guide Late.

For many people it will be hits such as It's A Mystery, Thunder In The Mountains and I Want To Be Free which make her a fond memory.

SINCE the Here And Now tour was announced, much of the publicity has revolved around Adam Ant's mental breakdown.

The 47-year-old singer - real name Stuart Goddard - has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and is in the Alice Ward of the Royal Free Hospital, North London.

He allegedly waved a fake gun at customers during an incident at the members-only Prince of Wales bar in Kentish Town.

Toyah claims the wayward star is better and is gearing himself up for the tour and she admits it was Adam who gave her the big break into music.

She said: "He's not speaking to anyone at the moment, but he's absolutely fine, looking forward to the tour and in good shape.

"When we go on tour we'll just make sure he knows how supportive of him we are - he's top of the bill and important to us all. What's happened is a blip. He's a creative genius and this is the price you sometimes pay. It's what makes him special.

"It's not about him having a breakdown because he's not famous any more - he's got a wild streak and he's creative and that sometimes can be very bad for the brain."

Birmingham-born Toyah was a pink haired young 19-year-old drama student when she was picked to play the character Mad in Derek Jarman's punk film classic Jubilee.

The 1977 film brought her into contact with Adam, who was also in the film.

She said: "I told him I wanted to be in a band. We were in this club and I gave him some lyrics scribbled on a serviette and the next day he'd made a song from them and put a band together for me with his wife, Eve.

"He was a phenomenal force. He knew what he wanted to do. We were supposed to do an album, but I'd got my own solo deal by then and it never quite worked out."

Toyah, the youngest of three children, left Edgbaston C of E College with just one O-level, saying her own education suffered because of her dyslexia, which was diagnosed at six.

Her father Beric, a joinery manufacturer with his own business, was able to give her the top education in the area - but she became a teenage rebel, dyeing her hair pink and hanging out with Hell's Angels.

Teased at school because of her lisp she admitted she once broke a chair over a girl's head, but admits now: "It's not something I'm proud of."

At school she dreamed of becoming an actress and started at Birmingham's Old Rep Drama School at 14. By 17 was there full time.

She moved to London to join the National Theatre Company and her work on Jubilee pushed her into musicals, although she acted alongside Katharine Hepburn in The Corn Is Green and as Monkey in Quadrophenia.

She became the first punk pop star with her colourful hair and clothes.

TOYAH said: "I had a good serious career as a pop star and had good commercial success with it.

"But I diluted five years of touring up and down universities as a punk when I hit the charts.

"Some people said I'd sold out, but I don't care about other people's opinions.

"What I was sad about is that, after I'd had a few hits, it was more about the name and product than the music.

"I couldn't turn that around so I don't miss that."

In 1982 she won Best Female Singer in what was then the Rock & Pop Awards, now The Brits.

Toyah admits she's looking forward to recreating the early Eighties once again.

But she dismisses claims it's just about money. She said: "None of us on the bill needs the cash.

"I think we've all worked constantly. Personally, I like working and don't enjoy having time to myself.

"I was asked to do this and, since I'd seen the last one with Paul Young and Kym Wilde and enjoyed it immensely, I thought it would be a brilliant idea."

But Toyah says given her age she won't be wearing some of her more outrageous costumes.

She admitted: "I think that would look stupid. I'm getting costumes tailor-made, which look modern. I'm keeping my blonde hair as it is."

Toyah married guitarist Robert Fripp when she was 27. The pair live in Wiltshire, but have never had children.

She admitted: " Seeing scores of teenage girls pushing prams around Birmingham on a Saturday morning affected me.

" I'd rather have died than gone through that, so I became phobic about getting pregnant and developed a terrible distrust of men as a result of that. So, no children for me."

Instead, Toyah has stayed somewhat of a child herself. She said: "I like playing. I'll be sitting with my husband in a bar and will try out new characters to see if they make him laugh."

Characters are something she knows a lot about. Some 10 years ago she voiced all the characters in children's favourite Brumm. It was created by Anne Wood - the woman behind the Teletubbies.

Toyah said: "Anne called me up and told me she was doing a pilot of Teletubbies in the afternoon and asked if I 'd do the voice-over.

"It's just a line at the end and at the beginning, but it's amazing how many people recognise me for it.

"We've now got two major projects in the pipeline."

However, the seemingly-cosy Toyah still hasn't lost her ability to shock and admits she wants to be fed to the pigeons when she dies.

She wants her body to be cut up, mixed with corn and then fed to the birds on the Malvern Hills in a Tibetan-style ceremony. She said: "I would like a sky burial. In Tibet, the village elders dismember the body.

"But it is regarded as the most sacred burial you can have.

"I want mine held in the Malvern Hills, where I grew up. I want my father and husband to perform the ceremony and I want to be fed to the pigeons or some kind of specially-imported vulture."

Despite looking back to the Eighties, Toyah is still working for her future.

There is a book set in a concentration camp which she admits: "I've not gone near since September 11. It's a horror book and I just can't face it."

There's also an album. She said: "I don't want to confuse people by putting out an album of new material. It's not a retro album , so I'll put it out in August.

"I'm slowly getting myself to be more creative - with more writing, songwriting and painting."

Here And Now Tour, April 28, Glasgow SECC. Box Office tel: 0870 0404000 groups 0141 204 0200. All tickets pounds 28.50 except London pounds 31.50.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Words:1511
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