Shower Room Fall Almost Killed Me...
Auf Wiedersehen star Gary Holton has been suffering for the past three months from a brain haemorrhage that nearly killed him.
And only this week have doctors given the actor a clean bill of health. The blood clot in Gary's brain was the result of a freak accident that left him paralysed, blind and unable to speak clearly.
"It happened in Spain last year but has been kept a closely guarded secret until now. But now they say I am clear and I can talk about it," says Gary, who plays blue-haired bird-chasing Wayne in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. "It was horrible. I was taking a shower, all covered in sun tan oil, and I slipped and hit my head on the bidet. I didn't realise that I had hurt myself so badly at first. Everybody thought I was joking or drunk. I couldn't stand up straight and my speech was slurred."
"What was happening was very frightening. My mouth wouldn't work, my eyes went completely blurred and I couldn't move my left side. My skull was fractured and my inner ear had filled up with blood so I couldn't stand up straight. I lay in bed for a week without knowing if they were going to operate or if they were able to disperse the blood."
In the end, the doctors were able to treat him without surgery, but Gary kept the details secret rather than risk his role in a West End musical. Gary says "I was due on stage in Pump Boys and Dinettes right away. I told them I had been in hospital for a week but I didn't tell them the gory details."
It's not the first time Gary's life has been in danger.
When he was only 26 he "died" for two minutes in a German hotel. "That was my body telling me that it had been put through enough," he says. "Me and my group, Heavy Metal Kids, had been on the road every day for years. When we got back to the hotel room somebody told me I looked pretty funny. He offered me some vitamin tonic - and that was the last I remembered. I came to in a hospital bed. Apparantly my heart actually stopped for more than two minutes. I don't exactly know how they started it again, but my chest was covered in bruises, so I suppose they pounded me back to life."
The incident made Gary take a long, hard look at his life."It made me clean up my act," he says. "Ever since I was a teenager I was doing everything to excess - birds, booze, drugs and working every night. I never stopped drinking. Sometimes it would be a bottle of brandy a day. You never actually decide to go on hard drugs, they're just there. You get tired and somebody gives you something to wake you up, then they do it again the next day. So you come back from a six-week tour feeling a bit ill and you wonder why. It's temptation all the time, and I was using whatever was there."
The decision to pull himself together came just as he met beautiful ex-model Susan Harrison. Susan is still married to singer Lulu's brother, Billy Lawrie, who is a close friend of Gary. The two men fell out when Gary and Susan fell in love, but are now pals again.
"I'm even getting on better with my wife Donna now, funnily enough. We're still married, though she lives with somebody else. She recently had a little baby girl Polly, who is so sweet."
Holton lives in a rambling flat in London's Maida Vale with Susan, her son Max and their own baby, two year old Red. Despite the fact that he values his family life, Gary likes to get away on location with the rest of the Auf Wiedersehen team.Filming starts on the next series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet this April. This time, the band of brickies starts its adventures in England and move off to Spain later.
*Special thanks to Ernie Holton*