How We Met: Paula Yates and Jools Holland
Sunday 06 March 1994
Jools Holland, 36, learnt to play boogie-woogie piano at the age of eight. At 15 he helped to form the rock band Squeeze, with whom he still tours; more recently he has worked extensively for Channel 4. He lives with his wife, Christabel, and their three children in South-East London.
PAULA YATES: The first time I saw him was on Top of The Pops in 1978. I was in the audience with Bob, Jools was playing with Squeeze and he had a keyboard painted on his face. I thought he looked sort of sweet. He had a big cigar in his mouth and kept giving me lots of lascivious looks. I remember him playing the piano with his foot, which I was very impressed by until someone told me later that the whole thing was taped.
I met him properly some months later, after he agreed to feature in my book, Rockstars In Their Underpants. I got a taxi to his mother's home in Greenwich. The problem is that I'm terminally car-sick, so when I got there I lurched out of the cab and lay in his garden vomiting everywhere.
His mother came out and gave me a Penguin biscuit. After I recovered, Jools posed for me in his maroon, Paisley underpants. He had inherited them in his grandfather's will, unwashed, and only wears them for special interviews.
From that day onwards we were very good friends, and completely at one in each other's company. We've got this incredibly similar sense of humour which has put us in good stead for television work. Whereas other programmes relied on scripting and a false chemistry, our relationship was always very spontaneous. The Tube was all filmed live, and I don't remember ever knowing what was going on. It was always a bit of a worry.
We auditioned for The Tube together in 1982. Both of us were cliquey - a bit like the gang in school that won't let other people join in. There were endless private jokes between us. I find him so funny, perhaps because he is so unlike me; he's a night person and I'm in bed by 8pm; he loves to go out drinking and I've never had a drink in my life. I like the fact that I can live vicariously through someone who stays up late. He always has good stories to tell the next day.
Jools did try to take me drinking once but he soon told me I was totally useless in a pub situation, and to go home and look at posters of pop stars. He would mock me furiously. He was always desperately sarcastic about my permanent crushes on various pop stars and never felt the same way about female stars. I think he had a crush on Ray Charles and that was about it.
When we were working on The Tube we would get the train from King's Cross to Newcastle once a week. I always associate those journeys with bizarre rituals. Our first argument would be whether or not to travel first class, the only class Jools will travel in. Once on the train he would go to the loo and read Razzle magazine, then emerge after about an hour and read Exchange & Mart. Every time we reached Peterborough he would say, 'Let's get off the train and run away together.'
We were never flirtatious though. When he dropped me off at home he always used to shout, 'Thanks for the fuck, then', but I wouldn't really call that the pinnacle of wooing.
Even now there are the same old rituals. Jools still offers me a fiver to stand under a lamp post so he can curb crawl me. But he is more settled these days, partly because he's in love and very family oriented. I always used to admire the fact that he was so close to his parents. I've never been like that. I was an only child and so I used to find his close-knit relationships very charming. He is also very brotherly and protective towards me. I think he always felt I would get into trouble.
There is absolutely nothing I can't talk to him about. I'm always honest with him, which I rarely am with other people because I'm usually so secretive. Although I wouldn't say he's in tune with his feminine side I find I can confide in him as if he was a girl. I can also gossip with him which is something I would never normally do. Now we chat a lot more about our children; it was very reassuring to find out from each other that all 10-year-olds can be so horrible to their parents. We've never disagreed about anything and I've never had to nag him - I'm very easygoing although he'd say I'm not. Jools has this idea that I'm constantly operatic and prone to throwing temper tantrums - I never do.
It's a relationship where time makes no difference. Even if I see him after three months, it's as if we only met yesterday. The last time we had lunch together he took me to a transport cafe in Greenwich. We had a delicious meal: chicken, gravy and lots of mashed potato.
JOOLS HOLLAND: When I first saw Paula she was watching me play with Squeeze on Top Of The Pops. I thought then that she was very much Bob's girl.
She phoned me up soon afterwards to ask if I'd pose for her book. When she came to see me I remember my mother gave her a biscuit and there was a lot of vomiting involved. I can't remember if I took my clothes off and then she threw up, which I can imagine, or whether she vomited with the excitement of knowing she was about to photograph me.
Anyway, I posed for her and she took three Polaroids. It was a nice way to meet her. I felt that we'd become very intimate without ever actually doing anything.
I don't think I ever had a friend who was a girl before I met Paula. Through my teenage years, my best friends were boys. I like the fact that she can talk to me about anything. I also find her very sharp and funny. I have always enjoyed sending her up - and I still do. She's only interested in dishy pop stars, which is a constant source of amusement. As she says, her preference is young, white males and mine is elderly, black ones. It's the music for me and the glamour for her: she's always been quite clear about that.
After the vomiting and underpants debacle I didn't hook up with her until we both auditioned for The Tube. I was probably expecting her to be sick again at the very sight of me.
But we got on very naturally, which came across to the producers. We both had a similar view of the programme - it was all rather silly and not to be taken too seriously. She would get soppy about the latest glossy heart-throb and then start yawning when I fawned over a singer or guitarist.
Every week we were surrounded by teenagers who we thought were complete idiots. By and large they probably were, judging by the sort of people who queue to get on those shows. They would take part in all these serious discussions about 'young people's music'.
Paula and I would always tell them they knew nothing about it, to shut up and mind their own business. Then some of the props people threatened to go on strike because of Paula's swearing. It was that shared attitude which really helped and it also became the key to our friendship.
I was always trying to get her to the pub but I never managed because she went to bed so early. I took her out once in Newcastle, with Rik Mayall. As the evening wore on, I thought it would be a good idea to have lots of tequila slammers. I think she became confused and couldn't understand why people began dribbling and laughing inanely.
I see her less these days, but it never affects our friendship. We're still exactly the same. Even now, Paula has this great ability to be completely charming one minute and then quite awful the next.
She'll flirt with someone, but if that doesn't work out she'll punch them so hard they'll fall over. She hit me once and I hit her back, and that was the end of that.
I am protective towards her. If someone was giving her a hard time, I'd jump in verbally to take her side. If anybody got pushy with me she'd probably just punch them.
Paula can sometimes give the appearance of throwing tantrums, which I like. If things are going slowly and she wants people to hurry up then they'll know about it. Her strength is, as with most successful people, in being so decisive. I tend to be less definite about things but she is completely clear about what she wants to do and what her views are.
What's put us in good stead over the years is being able to laugh at each other's imperfections. I don't seriously think she's got any, though - there's no room for improvement. Except I would love to get her drunk - just once.-
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