by Alan Jackson

Given that reputation, it shouldn't be an easy task, giving Sheena Easton an unsparing account of Anne Diamond's impersonation of her on TTV's Celebrity Stars In their Eyes. But once I have explained who Diamond actually is, "Way to go, girl!" is the reaction of the woman who first recorded For Your Eyes Only. "Presumably, she did me in my Bond costume - that oh-so-tasteful, early 1980s robot look? [In fact, what was originally a shiny black cat-suit had been transformed by some sensitive soul in wardrobe into a rather funeral but hip-sparing meringues.] Never mind what she looked like though. Kudos to her for choosing to sing that song. It's a tough one to do. Good for her. I wish I'd seen it. O' you think someone could get me a tape?"

This is not what you would expect if all you knew of Easton is what has accumulated in the cutting files of the Scottish tabloids these past two decades. At the very least, you would be looking for a stony expression and a sulk. With luck, your account of a one-time breakfast television presenter acting the singer's 25-year-old-self, and managing to look at least 52 (that all-too-accurate replication of past efforts in the backcombing and blowdrying department), might trigger a full-on strop, a storming-out. Afraid not. But then, in the 15 years that I have known her, Easton has never shown the least resemblance to the hard-faced tabloid lore. Sure of her own mind and keen to be in control? Certainly. Humourless, hot-headed and with a self-induced amnesia about her homeland? Never, no.

"I moved house recently and, while sorting through things, came across this huge file of my old publicity pics," she says. "It had me asking by myself. I was like, 'God, was that really me?' I looked really ugly in some of them, I can tell you. If Anne Diamond got the hair right, she was as brave as I was misguided. I mean, I had my mother's hair when I first came to the States. What I was I thinking of? And as for the clothes! But then that's how it is with me. I go at everything full-tilt. It's not always good, it's not always tasteful, but it's committed! It's what Chris Neil (producer of her earliest hits, For Your Eyes Only included) used to call my 'loud, confident and wrong mode."

We have met, post-showtime, in the restaurant of the Rio Hotel, Las Vegas. Some of our fellow diners were in the audience when, earlier, Easton performed alongside David Cassidy in his self-written, self-produced musical revue, At The Copa. None recognize its female lead now, though, the greasepaint and wig dispensed with, the glamorous gowns of her stage character Ruby Bombay replaced by jeans and T-shirt. She has, she says, enjoyed the near-year she has spent contracted to the production, and has been well rewarded for it. "It's no secret that Vegas can mean silly money, and this has certainly been that. Also, although the Strip would give you no such clue, I've actually found the city itself to be very conducive to a settled domestic life. That said, when I finish here in January, I'll be glad to get home to LA."

She won't be there for long, if Universal Records have their way. Coming at us shortly, and at a thunderous, curodisco pace, is Fabulous, a knowingly camp collection of mainly cover versions - Don't Leave Me This Way and Never Can Say Goodbye typical among them. Easton's first worldwide release for six years, it is being launched here with something of a Sheenathon - during a whistletop visit next month, she will encounter media facers ranging from Kirsty Wark to Graham Norton, and appear on a raft of TV shows including The National Lottery and Children In Need. Soon after, (in the first or second week of December), will be a BBC documentary, a follow-up to 1980's The Big Time, the programme which first introduced the Belshill-born music and drama graduate and aspirant recording artist to the British public. Universal is bullish about the prospects for Fabulous and will introduce it to all other global territories on 4 rolling schedules that goes well into 2001.

Seemingly, the only person sounding a note of caution is the artist herself. "I hope it does well, chiefly for Tony Swain, whose concept it was and who persuaded me against all my protests to get involved, and for Ian Masterson and Terry Ronald, its producers. If it dies a horrible death, it will be terribly sad for them and for a lot of other people who've put much , much more into it than I have done. Because, for once in my working life, I stopped being a control freak and just turned up at the studio and sang. But they don't know me well enough it they think that, hugely successful or otherwise, this record is going to turn my life upside-down. That could only happen if I allowed it go and I won."

The reason why not is simple. These days, Easton's adopted son, Jake, aged six, and daughter, Skylar, five, are her first priority. "Of course, I worry about the lack of a consistent male role model in their lives," she says of the decision to bring up as a single parent. "And, of course, I think it's better for children - any children - to have two parents who are in a committed, loving relationship. My kids have a lot of other things, but they don't have that right now. When we're having our little heart-to-hearts, we talk about it. I'll go, 'Maybe some day you'll have a daddy, but maybe you won't. For now, though, is it OK just to have a mommy who loves you?' And then Jake will start nudging Skylar as if to say, 'Uh-oh, she's getting that misty-eyed look again. Next thing you know, she'll have us holding hands and singing Kumbaya.' So I get, 'Yeah, that's OK, mom. Now, please can we watch Cartoon Network?'"

Easton says that, already and consistently, she is giving her children age-appropriate information about their respective antecedents. She will encourage them, when they reach adulthood, to seek meetings-and, if possible, build relationships with their birth mothers. She has another concern, as well. "I feel it's very important they know that the lack of a father-figure in their lives is circumstantial, and doesn't stem from me thinking men are somehow unworthy. I very consciously tell Jake that he's going to grow up to be a good man and, I hope, a good parent. He's so curious about all the big stuff right now --- life, death, why most other kids have a father around and he doesn't. And I know he wants one. He talks about it a lot. He'd have me marry you if he could see us sitting here now. He'd like there to be some Instant Dad mix - just add water." But then you could say that Easton tried a similar recipe herself.

Three years ago, she met and within weeks, married her third husband, Tim Delarm, a director of nature films. The union fell apart messily (In the months preceding their divorce, she felt compelled to take out a restraining order preventing him approaching her or the children) with similar alacrity. "Any sensible being would take time to get to know the other person properly. Even then, wouldn't see why they had to marry them. Not me. I make instant decisions: 'OK, you're in' or 'No way! You're out!' Plus, I have to be honest about my motivation when it came to my most recent disastrous marital choice. I got married to provide a father for my kids. It was stupid, and very wrong. If I was hell-bent on ruining things for myself, I think heroin would have been the better option. Certainly, rehab would have been less expensive then paying alimony - again. And I would have been thought of as chic and trendy and would have lost weight in the bargain."

Behind that characteristically dark humour (one of her most enduringly Scottish traits, she feels) is a genuine awareness that she has been almost willfully bad when it comes to romantic relationships and must improve, for her own and for her children's sakes. As you would expect of anyone who has lived in California for almost half her life, she is veteran of therapy, and redoubled her commitment to it after Divorce Number Three. What has always impressed me about Easton, though, is her ability to bounce back, to survive. "That's because I've learned to take personal responsibility for all of my choices in life, love, whatever. You cannot paint yourself as a victim. Just cannot. When I start doing that, I know that it's time to renew my prescription for Prozac. It means my batteries are running low. It absolutely isn't me."

I ask how she felt on learning, two years ago, of the death at 48 of Sandi Easton, whom she had met, married and was in the process of separating from even before The Big Time turned her into a household name (Husband Number Two was Rob Light, a music industry booking agent, whom she wed shortly after moving to the US in 1981). "I felt sadness. Sadness and surprise, because he was a relatively young man and your hope for anyone would be that they shouldn't pass away while in their prime. But I would be a hypocrite if I were say that I choked up. It may sound callous, but the fact is that we were together for just eight months when I was 19. I don't even know if I would have been able to pick him out within a room full of 50 people. I have very few real memories of that time. If he were alive today and we met on the street, it would be a five-minute conversation: 'How're you doing? Are your parents still alive? Has life been good to you ? Take care of yourself, won't you.' So, sadness at hearing of his loss, but beyond that…"

If her children are the main cause of what I can vouch safe is a new contentment and sense of purpose within Easton, it is underpinned by an active faith. Although brought up a Protestant by her mother Nan (the youngest of six children, her father died when she herself was just ten), she converted to Catholicism six years ago. "I've been in the closest as a left-footer for most of my adult life," she says. "On Sundays, when I was out on the road, I'd look for a service to go to, and found it to be what I could most comfortably relate to. Here in the States, a lot of religion is just too wacky for my vanilla tastes - you can go into what purports to be a Christian church and come across snake-handling and who know what. Catholic churches seemed tame and normal to me. So I took classes every Tuesday night and then, Bam! Bam! Bam ! I was baptized, made my first communion and got confirmed, all on the same day."

Telling her mother was the hardest part. "Finally, I plucked up the courage, and called her with the news, 'Mum, I'm becoming a Fenlan, A Celtic supporter. Are you all right with that?' And she was like, 'Oh, Jesus Christ! Didn't I know Mary Lindsay would get her horns into one of yous, one of these days?'" Mary Lindsay was Nan Orr's Catholic best friend and lived four doors down back in Belshill in Glasgow. Often, she would feed the young Sheena and her older brothers and sisters while their mother was out at work. Yet, while not demonstrating the same anti-Rome bigotry as many of her peers, there was still the real possibility that she would have felt hurt. "But no. She said to me, 'Good for you, hen, if it makes you happy. I know you like going to your church." As Easton herself is now discovering, a mother's love is unconditional.