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WEEKEND, 16 July 1988

Here's To You, My Love

Life hasn't always been a true romance for Wendy Richard -- but marriage to Paul can make her forget the bad times

Thousands of fans will be keeping their fingers crossed for top soap star Wendy Richard now that she has marriage on her mind again.

They will be hoping that it be third time lucky this month for the blonde actress, whose life and love have been traumatic enough to rival the story lines of EastEnders itself.

Wendy, 42 [sic] this week, has always been unlucky in love.  Even before she signed the register the first time, there were two broken engagements behind her -- one to a fashion expert, another to an actor.  And men remained at the root of her problems as she progressed from being a drama student to one of Britain's best loved television stars.

Marriage No. 1 was in 1972 when Wendy wed Len Black, a former music publisher.  Any hopes of wedded bliss ended when they parted just five months later.

Wendy said later that she felt she was in a pit of despair and tried to commit suicide.  "My mother, whom I adored, had died a few months earlier," she explains.  "Everything seemed to catch up with me.

"I used to stay in bed all day and I didn't eat.  I was wasting away.  In the end I took an overdose of sleeping pills.  But luckily the doctor had given me a type that wasn't lethal."

Marriage No. 2 took place in 1980 when Wendy became the wife of her live-in lover of six years, advertising executive Will Thorpe.  This time the relationship lasted for another 18 months before they separated.  Divorce followed in 1984.

And, when her second husband publicly painted Wendy as a wicked stepmother to his two children, she revealed the secret nightmare she had suffered as a battered wife.

She says:  "I can't remember how many times he hit me.  It used to go on all the time.  The next morning he'd say he was sorry.  And I wanted to believe him, so I did believe him.  Looking back, I must have been crazy."

It was during this time that Wendy was starring as sexy shop assistant Miss Brahms in the hit series, Are You Being Served?  Viewers never realized that, under the stage make-up, Wendy was sometimes concealing a black eye.

Wendy has known a lot of heartache since the days when she first hit the headlines in the Swinging Sixties.  She was the 18-year-old girl who was asked to sing on Mike Sarne's record Come Outside.

The disc was an instant hit, selling more than half a million copies, and going straight to No. 1 in the British charts.

Wendy got just 15 for her efforts -- but, now she's one of the highest-paid members of the EastEnders cast in her role as frumpy wife Pauline Fowler, she can laugh about it.

But, though her career has been an undoubted success, there has been little to laugh about in her private life.  She thought about suicide again after the failure of her second marriage -- but decided it wouldn't be fair on the person who might find her body.  She knows how distressing a suicide can be for others.  She was just 11 when she found her adored father dead on the sitting room floor in front of the gas fire.

And, ironically, it was success that played a part in the break-up of the following relationship.  Wendy's next love was salesman John Holmes.  They lived together for four years, bought a flat and she even talked about her hopes of having a baby.

Then the pressure of working on the country's top soap began to push them apart -- and, once again, a man she had loved dished the dirt on her in public.

Now Wendy hopes she has found true love. The man she hopes to make husband No. 3 is tall, handsome Irishman Paul Glorney, 37.  She met Paul, a carpet fitter, when she popped into her West London local for a drink and, she says, it was love at first sight.

At first, Paul played the part of the perfect gent, walking her home and leaving her at the door.  But the romance blossomed and Wendy was soon admitting:  "We work 60 hours a week on EastEnders and I had begun to dread going home.  Now I can't wait."

She says:  "Paul doesn't have to tell me he loves me -- I just know.  And I've never had that feeling, that reassurance with a man."

So perhaps, this time, the storyline will have a happy ending for Wendy.  Certainly all her fans would dearly love to see one. 


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