MY WEEKLY, 1 July 1989
Wendy Richard, the stalwart Pauline Fowler in EastEnders, grew up with one of the biggest gardens possible as her playground -- London's Hyde Park.
"That was because my parents ran a pub close to it," she explained. "I had a lovely nanny who used to look after me while my parents were working and she used to take me to the park for games and to have a good run around. In the summer it was beautiful."
Living in a pub was a bit awkward at times for her. "I wasn't obviously allowed down in the bar," she says. "So I had to stay upstairs and play, watch television, or do my homework. But I was used to it, because my parents had run a number of pubs around the country.
"I know that some girls can't tolerate their nannies because they're so strict, but mine was really marvellous. And moving around the country as a child I got to make lots of different groups of friends.
"But it was when I went to boarding school that I really made friends with girls who stayed close for years. I didn't mind boarding school at all, though they placed some tough restrictions on us. Even so, I was always pleased to come home. I can remember sitting upstairs in the pub listening to all of this activity going on downstairs and thinking that really exciting things were going on. Even now I like going to a pub occasionally for a drink, because it's a bit nostalgic, just like home used to be," she says with a laugh.
Wendy says that her entry into EastEnders was more like becoming a member of the CIA or British Secret Service. "After I'd done the audition for the part of Pauline, I was told that I couldn't tell anyone anything about the series or the character I would be playing. So I was provided with a kind of key letter, as were the rest of the cast. All quite mysterious. My friends were begging me to tell them and all I could say was this letter and number."
But once she became Pauline in the hit series, her fan mail piled in. Before that, viewers had known her as the sexy Miss Brahms in the long-running comedy series Are You Being Served? so it was quite a dramatic change for her.
On the fashion side, she might not be anything like Dynasty's Alexis, with all her designer wear, but Wendy wouldn't want to change a thing. "Pauline is so unlike myself that I find it a real treat to dress up once I'm away from the set," she says.
In reality, Wendy is pure cover girl material and says, "I don't think I could exist like Pauline for one minute. Even if I was completely broke I don't like to think that I'd go physically to pieces. I've always liked looking good," she says. "Even as a kid I loved putting on really beautiful dresses or else messing around with cosmetics."
But Wendy's social life now has to take second place to the hard rehearsing and filming schedules and all the other personal appearances she has to do.
"I think that working on something like EastEnders does make you appreciate how hard actors and actresses work. I have to be up early in the morning to get to the studios to be made-up for the day's filming. And we're often there for anything up to twelve or more hours, every day, for five days. Coming home and climbing into a hot bath is a real treat. But when you work on a series like this you realise what a marvellous bunch of people you're with and you get time to chat in the breaks between filming."
When she does get some time to herself and isn't reading through the next day's script, Wendy says she likes to go out to the threatre, or for a meal in a restaurant. "I'm also a fan of all those old Hollywood musicals, like Calamity Jane. I think I'd love to have done something like that."
In fact, Wendy did train as a dancer when she was young and started her show-business career in the chorus line. Later she did some dancing in a special show with Sammy Davis Junior when he came over.
And don't be surprised if at some time in the future Wendy doesn't do more comedy. "I love a good laugh," she says, "and I hate to miss any of those films that the Marx Brothers did . . . or the wonderful stuff people like Mel Brooks do now."
Wendy has also brought a few laughs into her own life by starting some years ago what has now become an established collection of frogs. "It all started when John Inman told me a joke about one and from then on I sort of became attracted to the ornaments. I've got them in all shapes and sizes in different materials. It's a lot of fun really."
She and her fiancÚ, Paul Glorney, have spent a while now doing up their home. "I don't go much for modern furniture," she says, "because I prefer something that lasts and is nice and solid. So I bought some good Victorian and Edwardian pieces. And I like art deco, too. The home is important to me because I spend so many of my evenings there. I'm not a party creature who wants to be nightclubbing all the time. I'd much rather be able to have a small group of friends for dinner and have a really good chat."
She says that she met Paul by accident. "I was just having a drink with a male friend of mine when his brother turned up and introduced me to him. We got talking and after bumping into each other a couple of times things just started from there."
What is a great tribute to her talent is that Tyne Tees Television recently voted her Northern Personality of the Year. It's a nice touch, because Wendy was born in Newcastle . . . a long, long way from London's East End!