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The Real Real Me: I could kill a man with my thighs that James Bond woman; Claire King reveals all to NINA MYSKOW.

LITHE, blonde and luscious, soap star Claire King looks a natural vamp. She left Emmerdale last year but is probably still best known as superbitch Kim Tate, the part she played for nine years.

So you would think that starring in her current series, Bad Girls - screened on ITV on Tuesdays at 9pm - would be a natural progression. However, her new screen character is not another bitch, but wing governor Karen Betts.

Claire is married to Emmerdale star Peter Amory, who plays wheelchair-bound Christopher Tate. They live in Yorkshire, where they indulge their passion for horses and racing. We met at the historic Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. Sexy, sophisticated, earthy and direct, her down-to-earth determination can't quite hide a hint of wicked fun.

I'VE never really had a weight problem. But I always think when I walk into a room: "Am I the fattest person in the room?" I do that. I do. I always think that.

Because so many people on television are of a certain look. And you know when you see them on TV, and you think: "God, they've got a good figure." You know they're damned well going to be even thinner in real life. You think, "God!" And you know you're not.

I do look a lot bigger on TV. Sort of "Hmmhuh!" Sort of bulldog-ish at times. I think it's because I'm always in suits, and it's that hard sort of hammering-home thing I've got to do.

I've got to buy certain clothes to fit my figure. They've got to be structured, almost Fifties-style, because of the boobs. I've got more of the hourglass, you see. I've got broad shoulders, and the bosomy bit means I can look a bit Dolly Parton top-heavy. I'm a 12 on top, 10 on the bottom. A 36 - 26 - 36 shape.

Some women just don't look good thinner. They suit being bigger. Pete, my husband, always says, "I prefer, you know, a curvy woman. As opposed to all these stick insects that look like boys. I like to see a real woman."

I've been permanently saying, "I could do with losing a stone". Oh yes. And the older you get, the easier it is to put it on, and not lose it. I'm 37. But it's like there's no point in dieting. If you go on a diet, automatically your brain's going, "I'm hungry!" Which is why diets don't work.

When I did a film a couple of years ago, just after I'd left Emmerdale, the day after, I was in the Isle of Man, and I was playing Rosanna Arquette's sister. And I know how skinny and small she is. And so petite. I thought, "Right, that's it!"

So I cut out all carbohydrates, and in about a week, I lost 10lbs. But I didn't feel very good on it. And you put it back on, you see. Those sort of diets just don't work. I could lose half a stone by next weekend. No problem. But it wouldn't stay off.

I am happy with the way I am. Except for the usual places. Arms. Tops of arms, bum, stomach. You know, the usual bits. But I still ride horses, and that's quite good for the thighs. Not the bum apparently. Everyone I know who rides has quite a big bum.

But the thighs. Obviously I've been riding for most of my life, and I like to think they're quite good. Like that James Bond woman. I could kill a man with my thighs, yes! Still, now the cellulite's starting to creep in. But it happens to everyone, so you can't really complain.

I suppose I'm not that much different than when I was at school. I played a lot of sport. Most of it was muscle. It's fat now. But at least I'm more or less the same weight. I'm not telling you what, but I'm over 9 stone. I know that's not bad. Those charts say I'm supposed to be 10 to 10 1/2, but that would be horrendous as far as I'm concerned. I'm 5ft 8ins.

I grew up out in the country near Harrogate. Sheep, cows, chickens, horses. When I was 16, I got into punk, so I was always different. I was into the full black make-up, hair all spikes, joonked up and stuck with two cans of very firm hold hairspray, a bit of soap. KY Jelly was quite good as well. Tricks of the trade!

I wore outrageous clothes. Safety pins, zips, bin liners. I did all that. And a kettle for a handbag. Oh yeah. I think it was my grandmother's, one of those stainless steel ones you put on the hob. It was partly the music, and partly just rebellion. I went to public school here, a boarder.

My parents said, "Oh, it's a phase she's going through. She'll be all right." Lasted about ten years, that phase! My mum thought it was quite amusing. She'd say, "Oh, what colour are we having our hair this week, then?" It used to change from orange to blue, to pink, to green. Great, but you couldn't go out in the rain. It ran!

I just wanted to be in a band and to be a famous rock star. Everybody was in bands. We were called To Be Continued, and there were six of us, I was the only girl. We toured Holland. A few days after my 17th birthday, my driving test was the most important thing. In a pounds 150 Mini, "Brrrm! Let's go to London!"

I left home. Some of the things I used to do, I think, "I must have been mad". I was young, just having a good time. But my father always clued me up on business, taught me to look after money and invest. I bought my first flat when I was 19.

In London I was just bumming around, when a friend suggested stunt work on films - I could ride and swim and do judo - and I did a bit. Then I started going out with Geoff Cobalt Stargazer from Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction, that very well-known band!

ADE Edmondson was directing the video for their first single, his first time directing. I was in it, just "The Bird".

He said, "I'm doing a video for Elvis Costello, and I need a female who can ride a motorcycle. And come and do some Comic Strip stuff."

And so the acting just started from there. I did a year at the Actor's Institute, I couldn't hack another two. Did my head in. It was like, "Next time they tell me to pretend to be a chocolate, that's it! I'm out".

At 26, I got Emmerdale. That was my big break. Playing Kim Tate. The bitch from hell, really. It was brilliant fun. I was in for nine years, I had no intention of staying that long. Neither Pete nor I did, although he's still in it. He joined a month before I did.

We were both going out with other people, but I split up with my boyfriend, he split up with his girlfriend, and we found we got on, and we both like racing. So we started going to the races. It was purely platonic, and it became a habit. I don't really remember the ins and outs of it, but it just sort of happened eventually.

We'll have been married six years this July. I'd never thought of marrying in my punk days, but Pete had been a punk as well. When we ended up living together, I opened his record collection, his cassettes. And 80 per cent were the same as mine. It was just the icing on the cake.

He's strong-willed, tall, dark and handsome. People don't think of him as being tall, because he's sat down, of course. He doesn't suffer fools gladly, and he's not afraid to speak his mind. Good sense of humour, kind, loving and generous. Very generous. Oh, he's lovely.

And he doesn't even look at other women. Which I find a bit spooky, really. He goes, "Ooh, no. Ooh, no." And I go, "But she's gorgeous." "Ooh, no." He's just totally in love with me, and I'm totally in love with him. It's great. But we don't do all the OK!s and Hello!s because we don't need to. I mean, look at Beckham and Posh. Bloody hell! Or Vanessa Feltz, for God's sake.

We've always been involved with horses. Up here we're surrounded by racing. I had my jockey's licence and rode out in a few races, but I thought, "I don't want to break my neck at my age". So I hung my boots up and started up a syndicate to own racehorses instead. We've got three - Boom Shadow, Pentagon Lad and Pentagon Lady.

I just love the thrill of it. It's not just the winning, although that's wonderful. Pentagon Lad won last week. He had four wins last year. And I'm a betting person, not a gambler. I never bet more than I can afford to lose. But I have won a lot. Two, three, four, five grand on a pounds 100 stake.

The horses give me great satisfaction, but you've got to do the work to pay for that. I've got it perfect at the moment. Six months work, and then six months off.

One pays for the other, and when you're doing one, you look forward to the other. I enjoy my work. I'm hoping there will be another series of Bad Girls, I love it. And Yorkshire still owes me two projects.

There'll always be a bit of the frustrated musician inside me, part of my make-up. Always be a bit of that rebellious, wild side. It's tamed, but it's not gone. Pete knows that, but I'm not saying why!

I enjoy my life. Our life. My husband makes me happy, the racing makes me happy, work makes me happy. It's the whole combination of everything. I don't want children. I only do four legs! I haven't had that maternal craving, although I'm very good with children. Pete's got a son, he's 10 now, and he comes and stays with us. He's great.

I'd love a Derby winner - which will never happen - and another job. But really just what I'm getting now. Peace of mind. Health and happiness for my family. It all sounds a bit oooghy, but it's the simple things in life that please me.

I don't want millions, I don't want a villa somewhere, a Rolls- Royce. I want a simple life, but a quality life. And I have that. So long may it continue.

That's why I say a job. It pays for it!A raw of approvalMy biggest downfall

RED meat, as rare as you like. I'm a fairly big carnivore. When Pete cooks a steak for me, he plonks it in the pan, turns it over, and then straight onto my plate. Blood dripping, oh yeah. I love it! It just tastes so much better.

I have eaten steak tartare, but I much prefer the texture of a steak. It's just like eating mince out of the packet really. Health scares have never worried me. There are nutrients you can't get anywhere else.

My biggest vice

I SMOKE 15 or 20 cigarettes a day. It worries me because I know it should worry me. And I know I should give up. I kind of do want to, but the force isn't there to make me say, "I'm going to give up".

I only smoke in a sit-down situation, but I've been smoking since I was 17. Oh God! And I've been on the Pill all that time too. So it's not good. Even Pete's saying we should give up, and he's a heavier smoker than me.

My favourite drink

CHAMPAGNE. You just can't beat a nice chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Very winner's enclosure. And red wine, and Pimm's in summer. I used to drink a lot of vodka, and Jack Daniels, but I don't touch the stuff any more. JD and Coke, very rock 'n' roll! I used to drink it with Lemmy from Motorhead. He was a naughty boy, but he always looked after me. I've never had a problem. I could drink and drink and drink!

My face facts

My skin's always been bad. I'm prone to zits, and you think, "Oh God! I'm in my late 30s now, this is ridiculous". And age is a horrible thing, but it's inevitable. I'd never have plastic surgery, too many things to go wrong. And however good, you can always tell, can't you? I think lines are character. Look at Honor Blackman - stunning!

My exercise regime

I'M fairly fit, but I have been fitter. I was very sporty at school, I played a lot of lacrosse, I was in the swimming, I was out riding all the time. In my stunt girl days I did judo, learned to scuba dive. Recently I started going to a gym, but I just got so bored, I came out in a rash and a sweat. And I

realised I was allergic to it! I just thought, "I can't deal with this". So I swim, which I like. And I ride, which I adore.

My top hats

I LIKE to wear a different hat every day when we go racing, so I have a fair collection. We're not talking Imelda Marcos shoe territory, it's about 20. They're all big, classic and won't be dated. Favourite is a big Stetson, natural straw, and the most I've ever spent is pounds 150. I've got over 100 baseball caps, a mate sends them from the States. So I've got lots of racing ones, including a Kentucky Derby cap. Brilliant!
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Myskow, Nina
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2000
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