Weird? Flash? Sorry to disappoint you, mate...
Gary Holton appears (three days late) sporting a pair of hefty red crepe-soled shoes, skin-tight drainpipe denims, and a suede jacket with fringes.
He is “very sorry, mate”. He had been unavoidably detained in Colchester. Profuse apologies. Bushy eyebrows twitching behind dark glasses.
He empties his pockets on the table: a pack of cigarettes, a box of matches and 53 10-pence pieces. “I had a bit of a disagreement with the bloke that runs the garage, and he gave me all this change.”
Gary couldn’t say for certain, but reckons the “bloke” identified him as Wayne, cockney poseur and rabid womaniser from ITV’s Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. “Wayne’s a bit of a know-all and people expect me to be exactly the same. They expect me to be a weird, or a bit flash. They’re often disappointed.”
If he was ever weird or a bit flash it is behind him now. Gary is 32, with a girlfriend and two children to support. He has his responsibilities. “It’s funny to think that if I don’t get it together then they don’t eat.”
He says it was in his nature to be excessive, but quickly adds that he was never seriously in the drug scene that some people associate with the rock business. “I consider drug usage an illness and I’ve been close enough to it to be sympathetic.”
Acting has taught him the need for a little self-discipline. He has even began to ease himself out of debt. “You can earn a lot of money in this business if you’ve got your head screwed on. And maybe I will, if I can learn to conform a little more. But that’s still a bit of a problem. I’m used to speaking my mind and you can upset people very easily.”
His debts, he says, are just a back-log. It could happen to anyone. On what does he spend his money? Not much. “What do you need? A telly, a video, a couple of pairs of jeans and a nice shirt. I spend most of my money in restaurants. That, and the bookies on a Saturday.”
Mind you, there were times when things were different. At 20, Gary was ‘on the road’ with the Heavy Metal Kids. On stage he wore a jockstrap, gun holsters, leather jacket, cowboy boots “and not much else”. Off stage he was “very energetic; partying and drinking and just overdoing it generally”.
Living the life of a dissolute rock’n’roll hero was fun – “Oh yes, I burnt the candle at both ends” – but by no means healthy. At 26, Gary’s heart murmered it’s disapproval. “It was a warning sign, not a heart attack, as most people say. But I took stock and decided to cool it. I didn’t want to be a rock’n’roll casualty.”
Gary has been with model Susan Harrison for five years. “She’s not the wife, I’ve still got a divorce pending. But it’s all a bit boring, and I’d rather not go into that. I’m trying to separate my lives. Keep one side totally private. Sue and I are trying to work that out. There’s a lot of pressure to live with.”
He is “still learning to be a father.” Gary and Susan have a son, Red, aged two, and Susan has a six-year-old son, Max from her marriage to singer Bill Lawrie, brother of Lulu.
“It’s odd. I thought I’d turn into a strange geezer with a bald head and a pot belly. But in fact, a family makes you a lot younger.”
In April, Gary will leave the cast of the London West End show ‘Pump Boys & Dinettes’ and rejoin his surrogate family, the cast of ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’. A second series is to be made, and Gary is looking forward to it. “I think the secret of success for the series was the casting, getting the mix of characters right. Surprisingly, we all got on very well.”
“We played when we had time to play, but it was very serious and hard work. A killer.”