Paul Nicholas on visiting Argentina for the latest The Real Marigold on Tour adventure...
Paul Nicholas rose to fame as a pop singer in the 70s, starred in musical productions Jesus Chris Superstar and Cats and became a household name in the 80s playing Vince in BBC sitcom Just Good Friends.
Since then he’s become a regular in the Marigold series which sees senior-citizen celebs explore foreign cultures and road-test retirement in far-flung destinations.
Here in an exclusive interview with TV Times, Paul, 74, who more recently starred in EastEnders as Kathy Beale’s evil husband Gavin, tells us about his travels to Argentina with singer Sheila Ferguson, dancer Wayne Sleep and former BBC newsreader Jan Leeming….
TV Times : What were your impressions of Argentina?
Paul Nicholas: "It was the first time I’ve ever been and I was struck by how fashionable Buenos Aires is. It felt very European, like a cross between Paris and London, it’s got big tree-lined boulevards and all the recognisable brands and shops but the people are completely different, so warm and expressive and of course dance is such a big part of their culture."
TVT: You had a go at tango didn’t you?
PN: "Yes, we went to a special event in a club where I danced with Wayne. The tango was originally a dance for two men and while we were there I got asked to dance by a couple of men and I didn’t like to refuse! I wasn’t quite sure who was supposed to lead, them or me, but they seemed to know where they were going."
TVT: How did you get on with your fellow Marigolders?
PN: "I knew Sheila and Wayne beforehand but I’d never met Jan. She was very nice, a very attractive woman, poised and very together and she has a very youthful quality about her. She went on a date with an Argentinian man while we were there and it was lovely to see someone in their late 70s enjoy getting dressed up and be flirtatious."
TVT: Do you still enjoy flirting? Wayne says that when the two of you worked together in the 80s you were always very flirtatious!
PN: "Well yes, but the thing about becoming an older man is you do become a bit invisible. I’ve reached a point now where I wouldn’t dare, it might be perceived as me being a dirty old man! Also you’ve got to be careful these days as things can be misconstrued, which is a shame but at the same time, good because women have had to put with a lot from men over the years."
TVT: What were your other Argentinian highlights?
PN: "I loved going to Casa Rosada where Eva Peron made her famous speech from the balcony. I once produced the musical Evita so to be stood there, with the song Don’t Cry For Me Argentina running through my head and see where it all happened was wonderful."
TVT: From all your Marigold trips who do you get on best with?
PN: "I think Dennis Taylor because I like snooker, he’s a lovely, very straightforward kind of person but really you connect with everyone because you’re all going through a shared experience. The great thing about Marigold is you can’t get voted off so people aren’t trying to be popular or do things for the cameras, everyone is relaxed and just being themselves."
TVT: What are your must-have travel items?
PN: "I always take my own pillow because I like sleeping almost flat to the bed and earplugs are essential because we often stay in pretty noisy places!"
TVT: You’ve been to India, Thailand and Iceland with the Marigolders. Which other destinations would you like to explore?
PN: "My grandfather is from Belgium so it would be interesting to go and have a look at some of the heritage there, it’s also very close and easy to get to which is handy."
TVT: What’s the best thing about getting older and what keeps you feeling youthful?
PN: "I’m lucky because I like to work and I’m still doing that but at the same time the every day rat-race is behind you which means you have a more relaxed existence and more time to do other things. There’s a certain release of pressure because you’ve been there, done that and know what to not bother with. For me, it’s important to be able to have a laugh and not take things too seriously, there is humour in everything and if you can find the funny side of things, that helps too."
TVT: You’ve lots of grandchildren, they must keep you young!
PN: "Yes, I’ve got 13 grand-children and a couple of great-grandchildren coming although I have to confess I’m more the, Give them a pat on the head, ‘Lovely to see you’, then quietly disappear type of grand-parent!"
TVT: Why do you think the Marigold series are so popular?
PN: "I think they make people realise they can get out there and enjoy life. When I was 20 I considered people 40 over the hill. Seeing oldies like us go off to places and try new things encourages people to think, ‘Well, why not?’ Life really can begin at 70!"
TVT: One of this year's tours also takes you to Mexico with Rosemary Shrager and Ian and Jeanette Tough, aka The Krankies. How was that?
PN: "We had such a great time. We went kayaking on Lake Chapala outside Ajijic and Rosemary and I also went to a wrestling match. I’ve never been to anything like that before, it seemed very hard-core with guys flying through the air and shooting out of the ring. It was also great to be reunited with Ian and Janette. We did panto together many years ago and always used to have tea together and chat during the interval. In Mexico Ian and I performed a little comedy show together."
TVT: What do most people when you’re out and about want to talk to you about. Marigold, EastEnders, older shows?
PN: "I wouldn’t say I go out on the street and get mobbed by people who recognise me but I do occasionally get people coming up. I had a man come up to me the other day and say, ‘Saw you in the Marigold, very funny, very funny, really enjoyed the India trip’ and it’s really nice to hear that. People tend to want to talk about the thing you’ve most recently been seen on and so that would be the Marigold. Occasionally I get people saying, ‘Ooh, you were so nasty in EastEnders, you were horrible!’ When I was on TV quite a lot in the 80s I was actually very shy about people approaching me. People are usually nice, no one comes up and says, ‘You were crap!’ but there’s still time!"
TVT: What else have you got coming up?
PN: "I’ve just done Guys and Dolls at The Royal Albert Hall. When my agent phoned me up and said they want you for Guys and Dolls I said, ‘Oh the Marlon Brando part, Sky?’ He said, ‘No’. Then I said, ‘The Frank Sinatra role, Nathan?’, he replied ‘No’, I said ‘Well what is it then?’ he said, ‘The grandfather.’ I was like, ‘The GRAND-FATHER? What does the grand-father do?’ I’m at that stage of life now but actually it was a wonderful experience."
TVT: Do you still enjoy singing?
PN: "Well I'm putting together an album. Because of my music career in the 70s I’ve got lots of recordings from the musicals I did like Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats, I also did a romantic album called Just Good Friends when the TV series was on. Someone’s just asked me to an album so I’m currently collating all the original songs I’ve done over the years to put onto one disc. Not bad getting record deal at 74 is it!"
The Real Marigold On Tour begins on Wednesday 13 Feb, BBC1 9pm. Paul's Argentinian episode is on Wednesday Feb 20th.
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