Amanda Holden always knew her destiny was to become a star. At the age of three she was singing, acting, and directing plays for family and friends. From a bit-part in Eastenders she went on to star in TV series and took the lead role in West End musical Thoroughly Modern Millie before Simon Cowell made her a judge on Britain's Got Talent. In this first ever biography of the star, Jim Maloney charts the highs and lows of Amanda Holden's remarkable life—from the heartbreak of having her father walk out on her when she was four, to marrying Les Dennis, and her very public affair with Neil Morrissey. She eventually settled down and had her first child with record producer Chris Hughes. This book reveals how Simon Cowell always fancied her and what she really thinks of him, and well as just what her fight with rival Martine McCutcheon was really all about. Candid and outspoken Amanda Holden admits that her comments and behavior often get her into trouble but she's proved she is a survivor who can cope with everything life throws at her.
|Publisher:||John Blake Publishing, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Jim Maloney's previous books include David and Victoria: An Invitation to a Wedding and JLS Unauthorised.
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By Jim Maloney
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2011 Jim Maloney
All rights reserved.
STARS IN HER EYES
'She's going to be a star, that girl.' Angie Blackstock on Amanda Holden
As a young girl Amanda Holden dreamed of fame and bright lights, and was determined to make it as an actress. But such a life was a world away from where she grew up – in the quaint and picturesque country town of Bishop's Waltham. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Meon Valley in Hampshire and situated between Winchester and Portsmouth, the historic town is a mix of ancient buildings, thriving shops and businesses, and a handful of fine inns.
Steeped in history, Waltham is believed to date back to ad 500, when Saxons settled there. It gained its prefix when Bishop Henri de Blois, brother of King Stephen, founded Waltham Palace and St Stephen's church in 1136.
Today, the peal of eight bells from the beautiful St Stephen's Church still rings out every Sunday, deafening the nearby Georgian houses and echoing beyond, as if boldly to remind everyone that this ancient place of worship is still very much a part of the community.
'I adored growing up in Bishop's Waltham and have fond memories of being taken as a small child to feed the ducks on the pond at Bishop's Waltham Palace, and of picnics in the grounds with my grandmother, parents and little sister,' Amanda was later to recall.
But her early childhood was marked by a traumatic event that would shape her future life and help form her into the strong, affectionate, fun-loving personality we all recognise today.
Amanda's parents split when she was just four years old. Frank and Judith had met on a blind date in Gloucester and married on 6 June 1970. They bought a house together in Bishop's Waltham. But their relationship sailed on stormy waters almost from the beginning.
Frank's job as a petty officer in the Merchant Navy had taken him from his native Liverpool all around the world and his lengthy time at sea was hard for Judith – particularly after the arrival of their first child, Amanda, on 16 February 1971. A year later, their second child, Debbie, was born and Frank's long absences from home now meant double the trouble as far as Judith was concerned. Bringing up two young children on her own, with little money, was difficult. She took on an assortment of part-time jobs to help make ends meet, working as a secretary, barmaid and fruit picker.
Amanda's earliest memory is helping her mum wash Debbie in a yellow plastic bowl. 'She was newborn and crying her head off. I was only sixteen months old. I was probably trying to drown her but Mum thought I was being helpful – the dutiful older sister!'
'Our marriage became increasingly fraught,' Frank recalled years later. He would come back with exotic tales from the Far East while she had been alone with the two small children. Yet Frank insisted he cherished the moments when he was there with his family. 'Amanda was a very good baby, very quiet, sitting in her pram, observing the world. I was very happy. I was married, with our own house and two cute little children I adored.'
Frank says he played a game they called 'horsey-horsey', allowing them to ride on his back. He bought them an upright piano, which he painted white and gold. He also recalls taking them for walks in their double buggy. 'There are no words to describe the feeling of hearing your little girl say, "Daddy."'
But the marriage was fast steering towards the rocks and was about to capsize. 'I was based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hants, when Judith asked me to leave the home because she was fed up of the absences.' Amanda was four and Debbie two. Frank returned briefly a few months later as they tried to mend their marriage but it proved to be irreparable and he departed for good. Shortly after the split he was drafted to Plymouth. 'I had two hours' access a week on a Sunday, no transport and very little money, so I reluctantly made the decision not to visit but to keep in touch at Christmas and birthdays,' he later said in interview. 'I thought turning up for just a few hours a week would disrupt their lives – not mine – so I made what I thought was the best decision. With hindsight, it was the worst decision of my life and I bitterly regret it.'
Frank sent Christmas and birthday cards, and presents, but it would be many years before Amanda saw him again. 'I just feel very sorry for my real dad because he lost out on two fantastic children,' she recalled.
Frank's own childhood had been a traumatic one in which he suffered from a broken family. His mother died aged 38 from a blood clot when he was just 18 months old. His father, a well-known Liverpool banjo player, also called Frank, was unable to care for his six children alone, so Frank junior and his twin sister were sent to an orphanage and later brought up by guardians. Frank senior, who became a psychiatric nurse, killed himself in 1983.
'Like me, Amanda grew up not knowing her father. It's very sad the way that part of our history has repeated itself.'
But by the age of five Amanda was already calling another man 'Daddy'. Judith had struck up a relationship with a local man, Les Collister, who became the girls' much-loved stepfather. Les was a popular figure who played for the local football team and worked for a garage owner, refurbishing old cars. The two girls took a great shine to him and were delighted when he married their mother when Amanda was 12.
'Mum remarried a wonderful person who has been the man I think of as "Dad" since I was five,' she said.
Life at home with Judith and Les gave the girls the love and stability that they needed. And Amanda would later talk about the many fond memories of her childhood. 'Dad was the greatest in the world. He's done all the things dads do and brought us up as his own. My parents worked full-time, so I suppose we were latchkey kids. During the week we'd get home from school, and me and my sister would watch Grange Hill, always making sure the telly was off and the table was laid by the time my mum got back.'
Amanda remembers that, if ever she was ill, she would sit with the quilt and watch children's TV shows such as Bod – 'which I loved' – or Jamie and the Magic Torch, and her mother would make her egg sandwiches.
'We never had pudding. My mum always said, "If you're still hungry, have some bread and jam."'
The girls had a very close relationship with their mother but, by all accounts, Judith didn't make the mistake of spoiling them and Amanda later related how she got a short sharp shock when, at the age of five, she let her yearning for a sweet get the better of her.
'I stole a fruit salad, one of those chewy little sweets, from a shop. I was incredibly pleased with myself and thought Mum would be too. So I showed her the sweet and, to my surprise, she went mad. She dragged me back to the shop by my ears and I had to hand it over. I got a real telling off and Mum said I was never to steal anything else again. And I haven't!'
Amanda eagerly looked forward to the annual Bishop's Waltham carnival, which still takes place each June today. The main road is closed to traffic as children and adults, dressed in colourful outfits befitting that year's theme, take part in the parade. Amanda loved dressing up and, as she walked along the road, lined either side with spectators, she already felt like a star.
A favourite family holiday was to go camping in Cornwall.
'We used to camp around Polperro. I loved it. Even now, if I hear a zip being done up, it reminds me of my mum tucking me into my sleeping bag at night. I have memories of buckets and spades, and eating sand sandwiches and cockles in polystyrene cups on the beach.'
While Debbie was the pretty, girly one, Amanda was the extrovert who liked to show off and was forever putting on shows for her family – whether they liked it or not!
'I was singing from the age of three. I'd make up dance routines and perform Annie and Grease in the back garden. I'd get the kids in the street to take part. And we'd charge people five pence each to watch.'
And the drive and ambition that were to serve her so well later in life were evident even then. She gave up ballet lessons because, as she explained to her parents, she had her own shows to direct! She would often 'treat' her family to shows she wrote and performed, often wearing a pink blanket emblazoned with the words 'Dancing Queen'.
'I used to rush down on a Sunday, turn the telly off – even if they were watching it – and make up song-and-dance routines,' she said.
But, if Mum and Dad sometimes felt a little jaded, besotted Granddad Jimmy was often there to proudly tape Amanda and Debbie's performances.
Amanda has always been one to push herself though and already she had her eyes on TV. She wrote to Jim'll Fix It, the popular BBC TV show in which DJ Jimmy Savile helped make kids' dreams come true. Amanda asked him if he could 'fix it' for her to dance with Legs & Co., the dancers on Top of the Pops.
'When I didn't hear a thing back, I was gutted.'
Amanda started going to church-hall dances when she was six. Her dance partner was a local boy named Clifford Culver and they began 'dating' when she was ten.
'Clifford was my first boyfriend. He used to come round for tea, although I've no recollection of kissing him. We went ice skating and he'd pick me up when I fell over. Mum and Dad used to tease me about him. He and I wore braces on our teeth at the same time. It was all very innocent. He was a sweet boy.'
A proud moment for Amanda was when she won a local dance competition. Her prize was the 12-inch version of 'Young Guns' by Wham! 'It was thrilling because I'd beaten all the other kids in the village.'
Mum and Dad had to endure watching a variety of dance routines from their precocious child after they bought Amanda her first record for her eighth birthday – 'I'm in the Mood for Dancing' by the Nolans.
Although she was a keen gymnast for a while and trained several nights a week, she soon set her mind on becoming an actress. Never one to set her sights low, at the age of nine she practised her Oscar acceptance speech in front of an amused Judith and Les!
'I thought it was quite moving. I'd thank everyone involved in the film, my parents and then my husband, without whose love and support I could never have done the job. But, if I ever get up there, I expect I'll fall apart and only thank my mum.'
Ever starstruck, Amanda also rehearsed for when she would be interviewed as a famous actress. Her favourite magazine, Look-In, had a regular back-page interview with a celebrity, and Amanda would read it and then give her own answers to the questions. Yet she insists that her quest for fame was perfectly natural. 'I've always wanted to be a famous actress. Anyone who says they want to be respected for the profession they're in and they don't want to be famous is lying.'
But Amanda wasn't the only performer in the family. Bishop's Waltham had a thriving local drama group, the Little Theatre, and Les, Judith, Amanda and Debbie all enjoyed going there.
'They called us the Von Trapp family!' Amanda recalled. But, while for her family it was a fun and sociable activity, Amanda was far more serious. It was here that she learned the rudiments of what was to become her profession and, even at a young age, she stood out.
The Little Theatre was run by a woman named Angie Blackstock, who remembers the moment when she knew that Amanda had the star quality and drive to succeed.
'We were putting on Babes in the Wood and Amanda didn't like the part she was given but, when she heard the applause, her eyes glittered. I said, "She's going to be a star, that girl." Amanda found out everything about the theatre and worked at it like you would not believe.'
It's not difficult to see where the extrovert and fun-loving side of Amanda's character comes from. 'Mum loved anything theatrical. She once arranged a trip to see a stage production of 'Allo 'Allo in London. She thought it would be really funny if everyone went in fancy dress. She is somewhat flat chested and so decided to wear Kenny Everett-style fake breasts. My dad just went with onions around his neck. They looked totally ridiculous and I said I didn't want to be seen dead with them!'
On another occasion she dressed up as Cher to re-enact her favourite singer Meat Loaf's video of 'Dead Ringer for Love' in the family living room. But exhibitionist Amanda hated her mum having her turn 'centre stage'.
'She wore this purple catsuit with poppers, which she then unpopped to reveal a black bra. She couldn't dance for toffee. I was like a typical Harry Enfield teenager. I remember saying, "What the hell are you doing? It's not funny."'
Amanda was also down in the mouth when she had to go into hospital to have her tonsils removed when she was nine. It was supposed to be a three-day stay but, when two of the children there contracted foot-and-mouth disease, the ward was sectioned off and she had to remain there for ten days until they were given a clean bill of health. All visitors had to be sterilised and wear a mask, and Amanda couldn't stop crying. The experience may not seem that harrowing to an observer but even today Amanda describes it as one of the worst moments of her life.
'I cried every day for the ten days I was in there. At nine I understood what depression was.'
At 12, she moved to Swanmore Secondary School (now renamed Swanmore College of Technology), a mixed comprehensive in the neighbouring village. Her music teacher, Rosemary Cross, would later say how she noticed her dedication. 'We used to have a music competition in which we encouraged everyone who felt brave enough to offer something,' she recalls. 'When she was about fourteen, Amanda and two friends wrote a pop song and performed it. It really was quite stunning. She was superb. She sang and danced with great skill and confidence. You get a lot of good kids but she had something extra. She gave everything.'
Apparently, Amanda had even invented a stage name for herself – the not entirely glamorous 'Beverley Saunders'. And she persuaded friends to call her by it.
Amanda's exuberance and natural talent led to her becoming a leading light in local pantomimes and musicals.
'Amanda was our gang leader,' says a friend of the time. 'There were about ten of us and she always had us doing exactly what she wanted. She was good fun and never got into any serious trouble. She was one of the goody-goodies.'
One former school pupil recalls, 'She was so confident in the way she did things. Always the centre of attention.'
But such was her willpower and influence that, when there was a teachers' strike – a time when it might be supposed that most children would delight in having a day off – Amanda organised an advance 250-strong pupils' counter-demonstration.
Amanda had been made a prefect despite her extravagantly coloured clothing and eyeliner but she was heartbroken when she was stripped of her prefect's badge in the fifth year after she ate whisky-laden cake for her friend Claire's birthday. 'I was reported, and the deputy headmistress took my prefect badge and sent me home.' But, fortunately, she was reinstated after her mother talked to the school.
Despite her outward confidence and natural vivacity, Amanda never considered herself to be pretty. On the contrary, she thought she was something of an ugly duckling.
'I was never one of the pretty girls at school,' she said in interview. 'When I was twelve I had buck teeth, short hair and a brace. It was supposed to be on for two years but I used to bend it myself, just the front bit, so I managed to get straight teeth in just eleven months. But I didn't feel like the ugly girl at the back of the class either because my parents were always very sweet and complimentary about me and my sister when we were growing up. I've always been a gregarious person and I always fitted in, not because of my looks but by using my personality. I was the kind of girl who talked and joked in class, and I was always popular.'
Excerpted from Amanda Holden by Jim Maloney. Copyright © 2011 Jim Maloney. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. Stars in Her Eyes,
2. An Actor's Life,
3. Meeting and Marrying Les,
4. Mr & Mrs,
5. A Public Affair,
6. Back Together,
7. A Show of Commitment.,
8. Ten Days of Hell,
9. The Final Straw,
10. The Single Life,
11. Chris Hughes,
12. Agony and Ecstasy,
13. Mum's the Word,
14. Britain's got Amanda,
15. Riding the Wave,
16. Marriage – and America at Last!,
17. Cancer Scare and Family Matters,
18. New Faces,
19. The Big Secret,
20. In A Flap,