U.K. 'RADIO TIMES' MAGAZINE FEATURE - NOVEMBER 6 2000

"If my only motivation was money I'd have given up after the first million"

Andrew Duncan meets Sheena Easton. The once hard up 9 To 5 pop star finds making millions easy but marriage difficult. For your eyes only, here are her views on fame, faith, family and the "addiction" of singing.

Exquisitely kitch, with matronly embonpoint and sturdy thighs, she and he co-star David Cassidy, a seventies heart-throb, entrance the presumably semi-comatose Las Vegas audience - no one with an active mind could enjoy this sophomoric hoofing and singing - as they have for almost a year. Now she'll be convinced I'm following a parade of sour British journalists who have mocked the council-house girl from Bellshill, near Glasgow, since she found her fame on BBC's Big Time in 1980 and went on to amass a fortune estimated at 40 million from shrewd property investments by the end of the decade. But truly, as she might say, this isn't the case. The show is not to my liking but she is, despite initial mutual suspicion. We meet in her dressing room after the night's heroic performance, and there's guarded prickliness beneath the polite formalities. Twenty years of living in California and three marriages - all brief - are bound to instil wariness.
The walls are decorated with family photographs and paintings by her adopted son and daughter - Jake, six, and Skylar, five - whom she discusses with affection and pride. "They're the one thing in my life I do well, the place I'm most blessed, my soul mates, my true loves, my peace. People talk about butterflies in their stomach during the enduring passion of a romance. I've been a mom for six years and my heart still beats when I meet my son from school. That never happened after six years with a guy. Being a single mother is the one relationship I didn't rush into. I thought hard for a couple of years, went into special therapy, read every book, to make sure my motives were right and it wasn't a whim or a toy to satisfy some bored part of me."
They, with her dogs and housekeeper, are with her in Las Vegas. "This is the first time I've setted here for a long run. I've really enjoyed it but I'm looking forward to moving on. If I was here for five years I'd lose some of the toys in my attic. It's a user-friendly show with cartoon characters and no claims to high drama. You don't have to pay close attention to the plot." She disarms criticism, as she probably will when she guests on this week's So Graham Norton, by being as tough on herself as anyone. "If it's fluff, I'll say so. I've never been hip or trendy, or in favour with critics, but I've been successful - and there's a difference. I put on a show that usually pleases my audience but most of the time I got rotten reviews, maybe because I've never known my place so I attempt something new whenever I want to. I'd hate to settle into a rut.
She is ironic, too about her "fortune". "Forty million? Bull. We all know it's 60 million - dollars or pounds it doesn't matter. At one time I was up to 83 [million], but when you're a fabulously successful entrepreneur like me, who's counting? I give it away." Serious, for a moment, she adds, "Let's be upfront and reasonable: if my only motivation was money I'd have given up after the first million. I have a desire to create - which curses and blesses your life. I was more of a people-pleaser when I started, but at least now I'm tougher and say no. I never thought about making lots of money.
"I came from a very poor background and was a student working with bands at night when I got my first recording contract. My decisions then were whether to catch the bus home or walk and buy beans with my chips. Simple as that. A hundred bucks a week would have been a lot to me. As it turns out I've made incredible amounts but I'm also in a profession where many friends more talented than me haven't earned much. I've had a fabulous time but it's once in a blue moon. People sweat blood, and talent doesn't guarantee any security - either emotional or financial. I pray this is the last business my children will want to go into - no, sorry, I'd rather they were chorus-line dancers than tabloid journalists. What a horrible way to make a living."
That remark makes me fear this is too early in our conversation to dwell on personal details but, what the heck, we're in Las Vegas, capital of tat, so I ask why she appears to have had such trouble with men. I anticipate a justifiably surly response, but she's frank as she sighs, "I've fallen in love many times. God knows why. When it comes to choosing men I pick Derby winners better. I'm stopping at three - that's three marriages, nothing else, so don't get the wrong idea - but I could end up married next week to a man I meet tonight. I'm crazy when it comes to that stuff., I'm mostly not in relationships. I can make myself incredibly miserable or happy whether I'm in one or not, so I don't believe all that 'You complete me' stuff. Complete yourself, dammit. I don't expect anything out of relationships. It's a lucky bag, taking a person and trying to get to know them. I'm in one now." With an actor? She gives a withering look. " Bite your tongue. I don't usually get involved with entertainers. Most of us are totally dysfunctional. Therapists were made for us. Honey, I've been in therapy for years. You 'bust' yourself, simple as that, a non-judgemental place where you tell the truth and examine emotions. If I have a philosophy in life it's: 'own your own bullshit'. If you're in a sucky job or relationship, move the hell on and stop whining. You have to take personal responsibility for your success and failure, so any bad marriages I've had, I'm 50 per cent responsible."
Her first husband, a musician, Sandy Easton, whose decomposing body was found in his run-down home in Stenhousemuir, claimed that her success caused their problems. "God, no it didn't. I was married and divorced to him when I was in college. We were together for eight whole months. I was only 18, so go figure. I suck at relationships. I have shoes older than my marriages. If you want, I'll put up my hands and say, 'Mea Culpa'." She had an affair with Andre Agassi before marrying her agent Rob Light in 1984 [it lasted 18 months], and then TV producer Tim Delarm in 1997 [divorced after 11 months]. She denies an affair with Don Johnson, whose wife she played in Miami Vice. "He's a buddy, a great screen kisser, and we did a lot of that. But if you work with someone - it's like David [Cassidy] - you can't think of him in a sexual light."
It's the same with the artist formerly known as Prince, who in 1985 wrote her a song, Sugar Walls, given enormous publicity by presidential candidate's wife Tipper Gore, who denounced it as "pornographic". No hard feelings. She's a staunch Democrat and wil vote for Al Gore. "Apparently, I got mad at Prince and we broke up telepathically. There's such a lot of garbage churned out, although I agree living with a performer has to be difficult. 'Artistic temperament' is a cliche because it's true. Mostly we're attention junkies who go on stage escape something in ourselves. I'm escaping..," she pauses for a long time, "...a lot of things."
A former bodyguard, Danny Francis, gave an intriguing explanation for her lack of emotional staying power. He claimed that she was too demanding in bed. True? She laughs. "Oh, wow! Am I? That's every guy's dream so I can't see the problem. I'd love to be stuck with a guy who's too demanding - it sounds like a great weekend. Under the right circumstances, if you locked me in an elevator with Brad Pitt I'd give him a run for his money. But how would a bodyguard know?"
The youngest of six children, she was brought up by her mother after her father died when she was ten. "I don't remember a time when I didn't sing. It's a disease, an addiction." When she talks of her childhood her accent reverts from bastardised Scottish American to pure Glaswegian. "It's nomadic. If I'm around friends from the South I sound Texan." She went to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama before The Big Time and success with Modern Girl, followed by 9 To 5 and the James Bond theme For Your Eyes Only. "The programme was a great vehicle. Any new artist needs something to separate herself from the field but afterwards you must have talent. It's like being given a boost on to a horse. You need to know how to ride to stay on. I was incredibly ambitious. It's partly to do with boredom, which scares me more than anything."
She began to mellow at 30, she says. "I wanted to 'retire', do something alien and remove myself from the cycle of making an album and touring. I'd have gone crazy chanting on top of a mountain so I left LA to spend a year on Broadway and went into theatre where there was a new discipline and challenge." Her performance in Man Of La Mancha in 1992 was greeted with derision - "pouty Valley girl with little acting ability". She was devastated at the time but admits now: "The critics killed me and I deserved it when I started. I felt like a deer in the headlights, wooden and intimidated, too busy remembering my lines to do the role properly.
"I judge myself by my own standards so I ignore reviews - truly, good or bad. But with La Mancha 'friends' were consoling me and I looked like an idiot because I didn't know why, or how tragic my life was. So I sat in my car one Sunday afternoon reading the reviews, thinking, 'That poor girl is being ripped to shreds' before realising it was me. I felt so humiliated. But I'd been gone after the wolves before and survived. Another thing - I realised it was so upsetting because it underscored all the places I felt weak. I could only get better. I have a thick skin. I wasn't going to let bad reviews knock me on my ass. We need courage, as well as detachment in our business."
And ego? "The opposite. It sounds highfalutin but to step on stage and be anyone but yourself every night regardless of whether you have a headache, a fight with your boyfriend, or terrible news, you have to detach and leave that everyday part of your ego at home. At 41 - I've always been truthful about my age, I hate ageism as much as sexism - I can answer that question differently than I would have done at 21 because then I thought people on stage were surrounded by admirers throwing glory and flowers. It's really not that way. You come off stage to no comment. Most audiences are forgiving and applaud whether you suck on stage or are great, so that doesn't mean anything. If you have a modicum of talent you can get through any bad night."
She knows. She survived a 1990 homecoming concert in Glasgow when she was pelted with bouquets of bottles. "It was nice when we arrived. I showed off the city to my American band, the fish and chip shop we used to live above. But as the evening went on the audience became rowdier. I was embarrassed for my own people in that audience who were drunk and throwing things." She has never been as popular in Britain as abroad. "There could be a million reasons - musical taste, my style growing." She thinks some critics would like to see her hung drawn and quartered, but seeks small mercies. "I'm thrilled nothing awful will jump out of my closet".
Religion helps her equilibrium. "I've been a closet Catholic for years and was baptised quite recently. Catholicism is no longer about punishment, or going to hell after sex in the back of a Pinto. Damnation no longer exists. I still have wacky ideas and don't agree with the church rule book, but I'll be driving my car and go, 'Hey God, how are you doing?' He's not a guy with a white beard on a big throne. He's part of our energy.
"I love being in my forties. It's my prize for surviving my thirties, which were tough. I must have had my midlife crisis then because I did all the examining of who I am, deep soul searching, even a guru for a while. That's why I like good old-fashioned Catholicism. You say your prayers, cross yourself and come out focused. My advice is: 'Don't take yourself so bloody seriously or overanalyse. Enjoy.' I guess I'm from the old superwoman school where it's like, you can have it all. Just go do it." But she hasn't had it all. "Not all the time." She adds she's relaxed and hasn't laughed so much for a long time, but the wariness returns. "Make sure what you write is accurate. I don't mind if I seem a fool in print so long as it's what I really said. I can make myself look a huge idiot. I don't need anyone else to help me."
 

Sheena Easton's Island/Universal CD 'Fabulous' is released on 13 November.

A youngster propelled to chart success and fame by The Big Time in 1980...

...and later with its host Esther Rantzen

Playing the wife of Don Johnson in the hit series Miami Vice in 1987. "He's a buddy, a great screen-kisser, and we did a lot of that".

With her second husband Rob Light, a talent agent, at a 1986 film premiere.

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