Kathy Kirby: Champagne Star


A 1966 profile of pop phenomenon Kathy Kirby

She has a dynamic personality and a voice that has taken her to the top. Her gay, bubbling champagne quality has made her a star. Her success story is the kind every girl dreams of. It began when she was only ten years old. It was then that she started to train to become an opera singer. She never reached opera, but she certainly has no regrets about this. As a singer of pop songs and evergreen ballads, she has become one of our foremost feminine entertainers.

Kathy Kirby, a girl with champagne quality

Her own series on BBC TV proves her versatility. The series has a vast following.

From Television Stars 1966, published by Purnell

Even though she has carved her niche in popular music, Kathy is still a devout opera fan and enjoys hearing her two favourite operas, “Carmen” and “La Boheme”, whenever she has the opportunity.

Getting to the top of any profession is no easy task. There was no exception in Kathy’s case. Before her first big disc hits, “Dance On” and “Secret Love,” she can remember the tough, sometimes heartbreaking days, when success seemed a million years away — endless one-night stands and club engagements. For all her charm, however, Kathy is made of stern stuff. “I always wanted to be a star,” she declared, “and I was willing to make the kind of sacrifices one has to make in order to attain stardom.”

She was sweet sixteen when she started on her road to fame. It was then that she was signed by Bert Ambrose to sing with his band. Bert had tremendous faith and confidence in her. He groomed her, taught her, guided her into becoming the name she is today. Never for one minute did Bert or Kathy think in terms of failure.

In her few spare moments Kathy Kirby enjoys reading

When she finally hit the jackpot there were other problems to cope with. Success can be worrying, even sometimes upsetting. She found herself working harder than ever. She once confessed, “Success is terribly, terribly strange. At first I didn’t feel anything. People would say, ‘You’ve sold so many thousand records this week and earned such and such’ — but it wasn’t until I walked along the street and people recognised me that I realised what fame meant. It’s amazing. I came from oblivion all of a sudden.”

Some artistes on finally getting to the top forget their early struggles and hardships. Not so, Kathy. “In this business you’ve got to keep your sense of values. I find that looking back acts as a tremendous stabiliser. It makes you realise how much you owe to other people who’ve helped you. All the time you’re thinking of them and not wanting to let them down.”

The glamorous image Kathy has projected on our screens is all part of the magic this dynamic girl possesses. “I would love to be in films,” she says, “but not as a sex symbol. You know, I’ve never tried to be a sex symbol. Early on in my career many people compared me with Marilyn Monroe. I admit the comparison was extremely flattering. I loved seeing her films. She was a fantastic woman. I was a great fan of hers.”

Millicent Martin takes tea with Kathy

No star likes to be compared with another, and Kathy has proved to her public that she has a style and personality of her own — a warm, friendly one to match her talent.

She admits that the late Mario Lanza had more influence on her career than anyone else. “When I was taking opera lessons I used to love seeing all his films. I thought he was the greatest thing that ever lived. In fact, he used to make me cry. That’s the effect his voice had on me.”

Kathy is also a great Doris Day fan.

Now that she has the world at her feet what does Kathy strive for?

“Oh, to be better than I was before. I’m a perfectionist. I like to improve all the time. Who doesn’t? What do I strive for? Well, contentment as a human being — personal happiness. Not that I’m unhappy,” she laughed, “but everybody thinks they could be happier.”

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