Singer and composer Barb Jungr, 42, grew up in Rochdale. With Michael Parker, she formed the cabaret duo Jungr & Parker. They also performed with Julian Clary. Next month she is appearing in Songs from the Heart at the Jermyn Street Theatre. She lives in London
JULIAN CLARY: We met in 1985 in Shepherd's Bush. I remember turning up when Barb and Michael Parker were doing their soundcheck and being riveted by her voice, and almost straight away having a vision of a show that we could do together. I was just doing stand-up on the circuit and I knew I wanted to expand and put in some music for comedy purposes. We chatted in the dressing room and a few weeks later I rang Barb and Michael up, and we wrote some comedy songs together.
I was very drawn to Barb in an almost psychic kind of way, like I am with very few people. I just felt, "This is someone I want to know." She's very stimulating to be around. She's got lots of energy, she's got a dozen things going on at once. At the moment, she's teaching at about four different schools, writing a musical and doing the music for a film. I don't know when she finds time to eat and things. She'll get up at six in the morning, teach, drive to Basildon to do a workshop, rehearse for a gig in the afternoon, come back and visit her sister for a few hours. Barb spends as much time as she can with her sister, who is very ill. Barb is also now doing a PhD in Ethnomusicology. She's academically brilliant, I don't understand half of what she talks about.
I did a number of tours with Barb and Michael. They would sing properly, then I'd come out and they'd do the music for my sillly songs. Barb's got the kind of mouth that suits lipstick. I wanted her to wear lipstick on stage, and she wouldn't, because she did a lot of mouth organ stuff. It took me years to get her to wear lipstick. It took me years to stop her bringing her handbag on stage, as well. She was obsessed with the idea that dressing rooms aren't safe. And it wasn't some neat little clutch bag, it was a great big sack of a thing, and she would always put it down by the speaker. She's got a great capacity for glamour and I am constantly working at her. I do what I can with her wardrobe, and she's getting there with my careful tuition - although she can make some terrible mistakes.
Barb and I help each other all the time, it's a very supportive relationship. We use each other to off-load quite a lot - we do therapy for each other. I go abroad a lot and it's difficult for us to survive that time without the routine of ringing every night, which is more or less what we do at the moment. She's very open to things and she's got a policy of always saying yes. That's quite eccentric, I think.
Barb and I have the same network of friends - we've known each other for a long time and we look out for each other. If someone's having some kind of emotionally turbulent period, then the rest of us will keep watch on them. We're nearly all single, this group of friends, and that's part of it as well. Barb doesn't have a man in her life. There are often candidates floating about, but she gets more picky as she gets older - I get less picky.
I love Barb and her writing, and some of her performances are so moving. I'm a fan, so I listen to her singing a lot. She wrote a song about a friend of mine who died, which is beautiful. I play that when I'm thinking of Christopher.
The walls of Barb's flat are covered in paintings and African masks and there are academic books, CDs and tapes on every inch of floor space. When I was homeless and staying in her flat, I had to reorganise. I wanted things out of the way so I could Hoover. She had this horrible lumpy old duvet, so I bought a new duvet. If I'd stayed there another few weeks, I'd have done the entire flat!
Barb and I have this fantasy of retiring to a great big house by the sea; "Showbusiness Lodge", we are going to call it, or "Sea View". We'll be together but we'll have our own space - and there'll be animals. Barb wants Alsatians and I don't; I want Pekinese and pugs - camp dogs. I will not have an Alsatian in the house - they smell. There'll be a battle of wills about that. We have this fantasy of "Sea-View", but I can't ever see Barb calming down enough to be there more than five minutes in any one day.
BARB JUNGR: We met in 1985, at the Bush Cabaret in the back of a pub. Julian was on the circuit as The Joan Collins Fan Club. He had a long black plastic mac and long hair, and Fanny the Wonderdog with him. We didn't get a chance to speak before the gig started, and he was on stage before me. I was sitting in the audience wearing a headband, a rolled- up turbanesque-type thing. Halfway through his act he walked round the audience and started haranguing people. He came up to me and said, "Is your head hurting?" I was shocked. It was hideous being singled out, but I realised that he didn't know that I was a performer. Later on, Michael Parker - with whom I was working at the time - and I did our act, and afterwards Julian said, "Oh I'm really sorry, I didn't realise you were a performer." I said, "No, no, it's fine." I am a very gut person and I like people or I don't, and I liked him from the minute we met. Then he said, "I've got a vision of a show with music. Will you come for tea?"
So Michael and I went to Julian's flat and we had tea. It was terribly formal but really nice, and Julian enlarged upon this idea of a show with music. He was very successful at the Edinburgh Festival at this time - the year before, he'd sold out. So we planned to go to Edinburgh together - it would be the Joan Collins Fan Club Show and we'd be in it. And it was wonderful, it was sold out every night. We had a fantastic festival; we swanned round in a big group and always seemed to be in exactly the right place at the right time - if there was some fabby party, we were there. We were Julian's gang and we had a great time.
Subsequently, we did a lot of gigs together. With Sticky Moments, we did a glorious national tour. When we were performing in Preston, we decided that we wanted to go out dancing. One of the staff in the hall was obviously gay and Julian said, "He'll know if there's a good club". He said, "Oh, I am sorry you can only go dancing tonight in Blackpool - and Blackpool's 40 miles away." In the interval Julian said, "We could hire a taxi." I said, "You can't hire a taxi to go 40 miles!" Julian said, "Can," and he did. When we got to Blackpool, Julian said to the driver, "Drive around for a bit and come back for us in a couple of hours." We had a marvellous night and we went on to the beach and praised the full moon. Then we got back in the taxi and got back at four in the morning. It was fabulous.
Julian stayed in my flat when he was in the process of buying a flat, and I was away on a British Council thing in Africa. When I came back, my flat had never been so clean - it was absolutely sparkling. He'd also replaced quite a lot of my furniture, and he'd got me a new duvet and pillow - "I'm sorry, they were horrible," he said.
The thing that characterises Julian for me is a quality of loyalty and friendship. He's an extremely kind person and an extremely nice person. I was moved by the care and kindness and joy that he took in looking after his partner, Christopher, when he was ill. Julian was the kind of partner you wish you would have if something happened to you. My sister has multiple sclerosis, she's very ill; and in many ways her husband and Julian remind me of each other.
Christopher was a lovely man, not in showbusiness. He toured with us. It's sometimes difficult to have people's partners on tour, but he was great fun and lovely to be around. I separated from my husband two weeks after Christopher died. The day my husband had gone, Julian phoned up and said, "Come on, you've got to go out." It was so thoughtful of him, and incredible considering he'd just lost Christopher. I don't have to be on my best behaviour with Julian. I felt I could turn up and burst into tears, and we could just sit and watch television. With performing, your friends tend to be like an extended family, because the life can be so hard. You tend to feel close and protective; I'm aware that I'm protective of Julian and I think he is protective of me. !
Barb's strengths are her openness and determination. She's very single minded, very powerful, very confident. She has an ability to make things happen. She's so tenacious, from having the idea through to bringing it together, right through to the performance. She's very urban, she copes with London and drives hundreds of miles every week to do these different activites. At the same time she's very aware of unseen forces. She's tuned into the moon and stars and pagan goings-on. The other day I said, I've been irritable with everyone all day," and she said, "Ah, it's the wind." It was that day when it was very windy and I thought, "Yes it probably is."
There have been three things in my career that were absolutely wonderful, two of them with Julian, and this was one.
likes to go out and he's a good theatre companion. He likes crime books, really awful ones. Every so often, he'll say, "So many were killed in Russia by this mad psychopath - and it's bed-time reading! He
I don't do half of that; I don't get up till lunchtime and then I can just about manage to read the paper and have my breakfast.
she got a distinction in her MA last year.
Finally, I got rid of the handbag and I got lipstick on her.
Barb tries to be as rational as possible, but really she's quite ravingly eccentric.
We stayed in a funny flat near the graveyard and there were lovely walks for Fanny.
Julian brought Michael and me in to work on a Christmas show at the Hackney Empire. Then we worked with him on
- and they are both Geminis
: he put up lovely wrought iron shelves in the bathroom
and because life is hard
- which I did with remarkable frequency during that period -Reuse content