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Holly-er than thou

When Holly Johnson sang ‘The Power Of Love one Yuletide, a chorus of angels came down from on high. With his new single ‘Heavens Here, Holly has made a return visit. “Hollys here!” shouts Johnny ‘Angel Dee

The venue for the Holly Johnson interview experience is the restaurant of the Hyde Park Hotel, which is just down from Harrods, overlooking the park itself Its a terribly posh place, waiters fuss around continually, chandeliers hang from the high ceiling and when your meal is served a silver dome is lifted from your plate to reveal dainty, minimalist nouvelle cuisine. In these upper-crust surroundings, the humble rm reporter is somewhat embarrassed to plonk a clumsy tape recorder on the table. Surely, it wouldnt be ‘proper. Holly Johnson has no such reservations.

“Whip it out dear, whip it out!” he cajoles, nibbling on a cheesy snip.

The BBC really should scrap ‘Wogan and start a new show hosted by Holly. “And of course it would have to be called ‘Nothing Special,” he giggles, amused by the idea.

Hes a great gabber, sharp witted and devilishly ‘bitchy, when talking about people hes not too fond of. His voice—Frankie Howerd with a Liverpudlian accent—makes things soundfunny even when theyre not meant to be. Above all, hes one of the most charming, frank and friendly pop stars you could ever hope to bump into.

After disbanding one of the most successful and controversial groups of the Eighties, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and the two year legal wrangle that followed, Holly Johnson released his first solo single earlier this year. ‘Love Train was the perfect commercial pop song that didnt belong anywhere but the top 10. The hits ‘Americanos and ‘Atomic City followed with their daft, colourful videos and now theres the sweet, sparkling pop fizz of ‘Heavens Here.

HOLLY GOES TO HEAVEN

Whats your vision of heaven?

“I definitely believe that you sprout wings. Mine are going to be absolutely fab-u-lous,” he laughs. “Ive got an image of a great big celestial disco going on in heaven—Divine dancing with Cleopatra, Tennesse Williams dancing with Richard Burton.”

Who will you be dancing with?

“Oh, now that would be telling. I think Id just fly above everyones heads, hovering magnificently and occasionally land if someone was appealing to me.”

So who or what is God?

“To me God is a power which represents light, endeavour and good. Its like to me, laziness is evil and work is good.”

What does hell look like?

“The House Of Commons. Cant you just see Maggie with horns and a tail!”

Hollys musical career began in a church, he sang in the choir. “I was in love with wearing a starched ruff and those big white frocks every Saturday,” he recalls, a starry look in his eyes. “And the beautiful cobalt blue of the stained glass windows.”

HOLLY AND HIS PAINTBRUSH

“I was saved from art school by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I was all ready to go when I decided to sign with ZTT instead. Great moments in pop part 18.”

Holly Johnson isnt one of these pop stars who takes up art as some kind of pretentious hobby. “Nick Rhodes? His stuff was laughable, to be honest. Mines quite good”. Talking to him it becomes obvious that its a major part of his life. “Ive just done a series of religious paintings actually. I painted myself a guardian angel to put above my bed and Ive painted Marilyn Monroe as Mary Magdalene. Im very mean with my paintings, Ive only given two away—one to my sister and one to charity. I like my own work, I definitely paint for me, although I do paint with communication in mind—I will show it to the world one day.”

HOLLY GOES SHOPPING

“Its definitely my favourite past-time, although I dont do it as much as I used to. Shopping is a bit of a crime really. When you first start earning money you do it a lot and then you do it so much that you cant really afford to do it anymore. I still cant go to the Kings Road on a Saturday without buying something special.”

Are you good at making decisions or are you an um and ahrer?

“Im a terrihle um and ahrer. Ive missed fabulous things through indecision. I was at an art exhibition once and I was offered a great deal on these two paintings. So, I thought ‘if theyre so cheap maybe they not very good. So I went away to think about it for five minutes and didnt I bump into bloody Bob Geldof who chewed my ear off for half an hour. I went back and theyd gone. Bloody Bob Geldof!”

HOLLY PLAYS POP

“I love pop music because it communicates to the most people. Snobs say its the lowest common denominator dont they? I think those people are missing out. Their lives are enriched by serious music. But, you know, I make serious music, its serious pop. Is there more value in a Kylie number one or a Morrissey B-side? A Kylie number one certainly communicates to more people. But, I know what I prefer. Its quite a dilemma really.”

Pop is…

“An irresistible sound… the latest sound. Pops life magnified. Its Coca-Cola, Pepsi. Its an alternative reality thats much more interesting than the real thing.”

HOLLY WATCHES TELEVISION

“Last night I was crying over an Australian mini-series, it was terribly tragic. In my house the TV goes on at about six and stays on for the rest of the night whether you watch it or not. I dont watch Saturday night TV ‘cause Im not really a fan of game shows. I watch them in America because theyre so over the top and sicko. Here, the prizes are so insulting. You become the laughing stock of your neighbourhood if you win. A week in Yugoslavia for two—is it worth it?”

Is it worth kissing Leslie Crowther for?

“Nothings worth kissing Leslie Crowther for.”

Who is your favourite ‘Brookside character?

“Rod and Tracys gran—Julia Brogan. Shes such an un-holy cow. She makes me sick. Id like to stab her 62 times with a carving knife, I really would. Gladys Ambrose who plays her did a great advert for ‘Blast on the radio.”

(cont.)
Holly does an impression—his own voice, only louder.“‘Dont let your kids near ‘im—that ‘Olly Johnson, the way he bumps and grinds. She sent me an autographed photo and I was really pleased, only the dog chewed her name off, I was upset for days.”

HOLLY TAKES HIS DOG FOR A WALK

Whats your dog called?

“Funky. Hes a really nice dog. He doesnt care whether Im hip this week or not. Hes a poodle. I didnt know he was a poodle ‘till bought him. He doesnt look like a poodle ‘cause we dont clip him with that ridiculous haircut poodles have. Poodles are the most intelligent dogs, and they dont moult, which is handy.”

HOLLY BECOMES A SUPERSTAR

“I dont really think of myself as a famous person. Sometimes I play the role, but its not like ‘clear the room, Im entering. I think I was very famous during the court case. That was a terrible glare. Its been like two years of profuse ulceration. The News Of The World camping on the doorstep isnt very pleasant. But I wont really get that again now, unless Im involved in some sort of sex scandal- which is highly unlikely at my time of life!”

Do you feel as if youre being watched all the time?

“Sometimes I feel self-conscious, but only on the days where youd feel self-concious anyway. The last time I was mobbed was by this posse of German tourists while I was looking at second hand jeans. I fled Im afraid, smiled politely and fled.

“People always seem incredibly surprised when they see me. They seem quite shocked that I should be walking along the street with a Tesco carrier bag,” he pauses for thought. “Well… a Plaza Foods bag.”