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It's showbuzz: Blast from the past.

HAZEL O'Connor's artistic life was so dramatic it could have been a movie.

In fact it spookily paralleled the themes of the film that shot her to fame - Breaking Glass - the story of a young punk singer who became a star then cracked under the pressure.

Although Coventry-born Hazel did not crack-up, her time at the top proved to be equally fleeting.

Her early life made colourful reading and was the perfect start for the woman dubbed the Priestess of Punk.

She was born in 1956, one of 12 children. Their father was a fisherman from Galway who left when Hazel was five.

She planned to be an artist and went to Leamington Art College. However, she grew disenchanted and ran away to Amsterdam at the age of 16.

She travelled throughout Europe, Morocco and Japan, working in a variety of jobs, including as an au pair, topless waitress and dancer. She had to flee one engagement in Beirut when war broke out.

On her travels she began singing, teaming up with various groups, including a French punk band.

It was while she was performing on stage back in Britain that she was invited to audition for the 1980 film Breaking Glass. She also wrote 13 of the songs for the soundtrack.

The movie and her songs, including Breaking Glass, Eighth Day and the plaintive Will You, were all hits. Hazel and her band Megahype soon found themselves on tour with an up and coming Birmingham band, Duran Duran, playing support.

Her time in the spotlight was brief. By the end of the following year a bad record deal left her heavily in debt despite "not having spent a bean". A court case led to an injunction which stopped her working for two years.

She went to ground for a while before re-emerging to star in the harrowing series Fighting Back, about a young mum whose children are taken into care.

In 1987 she moved to America where she survived by busking on Venice Beach. She wed artist Kurt Bippert, her second husband following a brief marriage at 18 to a Polish cellist.

The couple moved to Ireland but once again happiness proved elusive. Hazel suffered a miscarriage and the strain, combined with a lack of money and her punishing schedule of gigs, caused the relationship to break down.

Having been a vegetarian for several years, Hazel became a keen animal rights activist and in 1995 wrote a protest song against veal calf exports.

Last year she plunged her savings into recording a comeback album 5 in the Morning and she also starred in a play in Hammersmith. She is currently working on a new album and touring extensively in Germany and Holland, where she remains a big draw.

If you have a favourite star you would like us to trace write to: Blast from the Past, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Queensway, Birmingham B4 6AX.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 11, 1999
Words:486
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