I have been asked to do a brief Q and A about singer Tom
Jones, his wife and his new autobiography, Over
the Top and Back. I dated Tom from 1979--1982.
Over the Top and
Back gives an interesting and comprehensive account of that part of Tom's
life which deals with his singing career, parents and wife. There are
delightful stories about his childhood in Wales, interactions with his manager
Gordon Mills, and his love-hate relationship with the BBC show, The Voice. It provides details for those
readers who yearn for names, dates and conversations related to his career.
Some people call
you "Tom's lucky charm." Are you? Or do you think it is a coincidence that
Tom's career began a decline shortly after he broke up with you in 1982?
Did he ever talk
to you about his desire to explore other areas of show business?
How did you feel
when Tom was dropped abruptly from The Voice? And
do you have any insight as to why Tom made so many bizarre comments in the
press just after this? As you may recall, he had choice words for the producers of the show and even Engelbert Humperdinck. He made controversial comments about Jimmy Savile, his wife's appearance and gays.
As for his controversial statements in the press, some of
them were taken out of context. However, I think the others were related to The Voice dustup. Television has always
been the measure of success for Tom. When he was tethered to his family home at
age 12 with tuberculosis, a television was placed in his room. This made him
feel special because sets were rare in those days. Then when he was gaining
traction as a singer, television was the medium which spotlighted his success.
His mother proudly watched him on TV, announcing, "My son the singing star."
Then he got his own ABC show, This is Tom
Jones, which catapulted his career to new heights. Later he appeared on the
sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
And even though it was just one episode, it gave him great traction and
introduced him to a new generation of concert-goers. Tom also believed being a
television personality made him more appealing to women. For example, in his
book, he says, "Never underestimate the extent to which people want to have sex
with people who are on television."
That's an interesting theory. Fame seems to be important to him. Did he ever talk about this?Fame is like cocaine. It gives you a high. And yes, this is true for Tom. He told me that he gets his greatest jolt of adrenaline when he performs before a large crowd and just after he comes offstage. Although he enjoys being in the public eye, he has not become jaded. He's the same person today that he was back in Wales. In his autobiography, he mentions people feeling sorry for him for being unable to go McDonald's without any fuss. But he likes the fuss. In 1979, he and I were in his Atlanta hotel room watching a wildlife program. I asked, "Don't you miss going outside?" He quickly answered, "No." "I guess you don't need to go outside with shows like this," I joked, motioning to a cheetah on TV. He laughed. Going outside represented being ordinary, and he preferred to be extraordinary. Who could blame him for that?
His wife has a prominent role in his book. As an ex-girlfriend, what do you think about this?His autobiography is a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates meant for only one person: his wife, Linda. It is a gift for her, a tribute. It is a sweet gesture. Although Tom and Linda had what I would call an "open marriage"--or more accurately "a don't ask, don't tell" relationship--the book is Tom's way of asking for forgiveness. It is an apology for the years of difficulty and absence. It is also a public confession, confirming that she's always been a bright light in his world. He had to pretend she did not exist when he began his career in the 1960s because management felt that he needed to appear single, so it is all the more appropriate that Tom is publicly honoring her now. At the end of the book, Tom says that Linda is the force that kept him sane. Like his parents, she was an anchor, keeping him grounded, maintaining a tie to his roots, reminding him to always be humble. Although I have never met her, I know she's a very special lady.