Dave Lanning meets Kathy Kirby in 1967
THERE’S a black Russian broadtail, a Persian lamb, a chinchilla, a leopard and a red fox strewn on the bed.
Miss Kathy Kirby, in diamonds and a breath-taking black cocktail dress, sits, rather like the Snow Maiden, in the middle of them all. And I am thinking this is a luxuriously off-beat way to spend a wet winter afternoon.
You start out talking about Here Comes Kathy (Tuesday) and end up in this all-white, lacy boudoir, viewing one of the most exclusive, impressive fur collections in show business. And talking about… well, marriage.
Now with most big-time girl stars it is advisable to treat such subjects with delicacy. But with Kathy you ask the question you want: she’ll give you a straight answer.
So why hasn’t she married? No hesitation with the reply: “Haven’t found the right man. It’s as simple as that. And I’ll never rush into marriage. I’ve got to feel sure. You see. I’m a Roman Catholic: my marriage is for keeps.”
She talks clearly, deliberately, with authority. Obviously given the matter much thought.
“The man I’ll marry? He’ll A have to dominate me. I need domination. Golly, I’ll enjoy it. He’ll be the driving, Mike Todd type. And almost certainly older than me: between six and 10 years older. Oh, I’ll meet him one day. It’ll happen. I’m certainly not going to wander around starry-eyed looking.”
You could say she doesn’t need to. Kathy, at 26, dripping with furs, diamonds and glamour, is a star in the old-time image.
Earns something like £1,000 a week. Has just bought and furnished (period style) a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Mayfair and is moving in any time now. Eats in the best restaurants. And you only have to mention her wardrobe and here we are, with the prize pieces spread around us.
“Don’t think I’m over extravagant, though, Dave,” she says, as we stroll back along her thermostatically-heated hall to the lounge, furnished with quiet taste.
“I live within my means; I’d be frightened out of my wits to spend more than I earned or get anything on credit. I’m just lucky to be able to afford the sort of things that most young women can never afford.
“I invest in diamonds — they never devalue, do they? I’ve a couple of walls crammed with clothes. But there are still times when I ‘haven’t a thing to wear’. Then a week later I’ll find the very dress I was looking for, squashed up at the end of the hangers.”
And she grins. With the sheer, unabated delight of a girl who can’t keep track of all her clothes. It’s not a smile… there’s nothing mysterious about it. It’s a grin. School-girlish. And it repeatedly punctuates her conversation.
When it comes to talking, Kathy is no shrinking violet. She says what she thinks with disarming candour.
About her age, for example. “No point in lying. I’m 26. And I’m glad I’m getting older. Feel more mature. Enjoy life much more than when I was 18. Come to think of it, I must have been impossible when I was 18. Besides, a woman can never hide lines on her face. So why try?” Well, Kathy can afford to be nonchalant about complexion, because from this angle I can honestly report there isn’t one wrinkle on her face. And I say so. With Kathy, such subjects aren’t touchy.
“Then I jolly well ought to have some,” she says. “Because I worry and fret myself silly every time I do a show and will again on Tuesday.” She insists on learning all her lines. No cue-boards or prompters for her.
Kathy freely admits she’s hard to get along with on show days. After any performance, she’s still functioning at full throttle. “My mind is going boinng, boinng, boinng for hours afterwards,” she says.
She goes to a restaurant. Sits talking until early light.
She doesn’t smoke; isn’t at all partial to smoky atmospheres, either. She drinks a little wine. “Two gins and my eyes go all bloodshot,” she says gloomily. “But don’t let that stop you having one” — and she pours a gin and tonic of proportions that would stagger a sea captain.
She reads all the papers. Right through. Every morning. No dumb blonde, this. Has a comprehensive working knowledge of the international scene. And here’s a surprise — she’s a soccer and boxing fan!
The afternoon sort of dissolves. Almost time for Kathy to go. On a dinner date. She disappears to make-up, leaving me wrestling with this gargantuan gin.
She doesn’t take long. “I know what people say, but I don’t like a lot of make-up,” she says, pouting slightly. “Don’t wear much, either. Look, you can see my freckles!”
Kathy has many freckles but, typically, doesn’t try to hide them. She simply wishes, rather impatiently, that they would all get together. “Then perhaps I’d have a nice tan,” she says, with that grin again. “All I do normally is burn up.”
Kathy has that famous hair done twice a week and describes it simply as blonde. “Honestly, Dave,” she whispers. “You’ll roll about laughing if I tell you the technical shade — it’s a mixture of ‘Baby Blush’ and ‘Precious Platinum!’ Doesn’t it sound dreadful? Just say blonde!”
Well, it’s been an interesting afternoon and now Kathy gives me the pleasure of selecting her “fur for the night.” In this job you do get some unexpected requests. Ahem yes, that chinchilla looks pretty cool. Or is it the red fox. And anyway, what is a Russian broadtail?
“A lamb,” says Kathy, deeply, as I escort her into the taxi, feeling that I really ought to be in evening dress.
Well, you live and learn. Now I know the difference between Russian lamb and Persian lamb.
It’s all in the tail.