Interview: So what's it all about, Adam?: Now 53, a philosophical Adam Faith has come out as an Artist. He looks back at the life he left behind as a Sixties pop star and City wheeler-dealer before returning to the stage in 'Alfie'

Hunter Davies
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:11

Adam Faith is at home in here, a monarch in his kingdom, first-naming managers, joking with waiters, purring when recognised. I suggest moving to a corner, out of sight, for our chat, but no, this suits him fine, he wants to stay front of stage, bang in the middle of the lounge, able to see and be seen, one eye over my shoulder for the next arrival.

This is the Adam Faith we have heard about these past 25 years, the one who moved on from being a Sixties pop star and turned himself into a property millionaire, a manager, a business consultant to sports stars, a financial adviser, a City journalist with his own column.

We are in the Savoy Hotel, London. Where better to make contacts? He was a director of this hotel for three years, so naturally he knows his way around. He clearly loves being here, meeting people, swapping stories, making appointments. Just as one might imagine a financial dealer.

'What are you talking about?' he says. 'I've given all that up. I've decided at last on the person I am. It's taken me 25 years to find out. I've been denying myself for too long. It's like coming out as a gay. I now know what I am. I am an Artist.'

I didn't snigger. When not glad- handing, he is sitting quietly, being very sincere, even melancholic, fiddling with his Diet Coke. I used to think he looked a bit misshapen as a pop singer, his head too big for his body. Now, at 53, he has come into his looks. In fact he has been called stunning, in an Essex sort of way.

'I do love Love Hurts,' said an elderly lady, approaching our table. 'What happens in the end?' This is the successful TV series, in which he plays opposite Zoe Wanamaker. 'The baby dies,' says Adam. 'Oh no,' says the woman, shocked. 'Just kidding,' says Adam. 'Take care.'

'Yes, that's all over, the financial life,' he resumes. Anyway, it was always exaggerated. It all started with his love for houses, buying them, doing them up, selling at a profit, moving on. His best deal was Sir John Davis's Kent mansion in the Seventies, which he bought for pounds 230,000 and sold two years later for pounds 700,000. Nice one, Tel. In several ways. Davis had been boss of Rank - the company where Adam, then called Terry Nelhams, started work as a messenger, aged 15.

His dad was a coach driver, his mum an office cleaner, but she was socially mobile herself: 'She rose to be manager of a cleaning firm, though we still lived in a council flat. It was through her contacts I got the start at Rank. She was doing some cleaning for their Mayfair office and said, 'Any jobs for my boy?' She was a great woman.

'I remember when I was 19, and had a record at No 1, 'Poor Me', I think, or it could have been 'What Do You Want If You Don't Want Money', and she called me and my brothers and sister into the living room and said 'I've something to tell you. Me and your dad got married this morning.' 'What are you talking about?' I said. I couldn't believe they'd never been married. This was the Fifties. She said that now I was in show business, it might come out about them not being married, so she and my dad had taken the morning off and done it.'

Adam had never thought of being a pop star. James Dean, yes, that had been his fantasy, but never a pop singer. 'It was the other messenger boys at work. They started a skiffle group and said, 'You'll be the singer'. I don't know why they picked on me.' The rest is pop history, playing at the 2 I's in Soho, a string of Top Ten hits.

Then in 1966, aged 26, he gave it up and went into acting instead, Shakespeare, don't you know, and also into money. From property he moved into finance, advising people, becoming a name at Lloyd's. He made some good deals, but along the way a lot of things went wrong. He was associated with various people who went bust, lost a lot of money himself, gave advice that didn't work out. 'Faith is to finance,' so Michael Winner has said, 'as Frank Bruno is to English literature.'

His financial column in the Mail on Sunday ran for three years. His best- known scheme was how to invest pounds 6,000 and make a million in 10 years. 'It was a good concept. Not a come-on or a joke. It was just that too many people wanted to join. I expected 1,000 readers at most, but on the first day there were 28,000 calls. The figures rose to about 100,000, but the City stopped it. They thought it could be dangerous. That wasn't the reason I left the paper. It was having too many other commitments. I loved doing it. If they'd asked me to write a gardening or fishing column, I'd have said yes. I love newspapers. I even love the way newsprint makes your hands dirty.'

He won't say how much he's worth now, but says he has to work to have a decent living. His present home is leased, not owned. He left Lloyd's two years ago, but he may still have to pay more money because of troubled insurance syndicates that have not yet been able to close their accounts. 'I'm not complaining. No one forces you to go into Lloyd's' Was it greed then? 'What is greed? You define it. One person's greed is one person's need. I don't know what drove me these past 20 years. Fear of poverty? A belief that money means freedom? You tell me.

'Listen, you don't go through life without picking up scars, unless you live inside a purified vacuum glass. I don't regret it. I have more regrets about my pop star years. I didn't know what was happening. I didn't appreciate it. I thought it was just a trick, a piece of wonderment, nothing to do with me. I never thought I could sing, or was any good at it. It just seemed to happen. It's only in the past couple of years I've tried to question my motivation in life; what's it all about?'

If you'd ended up mega-rich, do you think you'd be quite so convinced that deep down you are an Artist?

'It would have been disastrous, because it wouldn't have brought happiness. I've seen a lot of the major players in business. They are not motivated purely by money. It's their form of expression, the only one they have. They get a creative thrill from the deals. But it's nothing like the thrill of writing a symphony. I now know I can be creative, as myself. I want to find myself, taste my own potential.

'Perhaps I should have gone off to India like John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney), seen the Maharishi, found God, communed with the spirits or taken loads of mind-bending drugs. That was the natural progression, when I was a pop star. I missed that stage by throwing myself into other work. It's only now, at 53, I'm questioning what it's all about. No, I'm not going religious. Religion is a crutch, not a truth. I'd rather climb my mountain on my own, without any oxygen. . . .'

He pauses, stands up. I think it is time for lunch, but he is still examining his own metaphor. 'Going on my own without oxygen might of course mean that I end up dying alone, on the side of the mountain.' He already has a lunch guest, a young actress, but he insists I join them. As long as I don't reveal any of their private talk. Trust me. Er, something romantic? No, business. Thought you'd given that up? 'This is show business. I have my own little company. Every management is after her, so I'd like to do something with her.'

There is quite a bit of luvvie talk over lunch. Adam is full-time on the boards again, the star of his own production of Alfie, now touring the provinces. He first played the part back in the Sixties.

'On Saturday evening at Wolverhampton, we had to stop the show for 10 minutes. A man was having a heart attack.'

'How awful,' says the actress.

'It happens all the time. We've had a couple of deaths on the tour, always at the same spot. People forget it's an upsetting play. The Michael Caine film version missed out the tough stuff. You get laughs for an hour and a half, then I describe this woman having an abortion in my room. That's what gets them. I can't bear it myself. In the Sixties it was women who collapsed. Now it's men. Guilt, I should think. People think it's a sexist play, but it's not. It's how men shouldn't treat women. There's no redemption for Alfie.'

Adam has been married for 28 years, to Jackie, once a dancer. The actress was surprised. 'Yeah, people think I'm not married, because I never talk about my wife. I don't know the secret of a long marriage. Talking about it certainly isn't one of the things. So I never do. Actually, I don't know a thing about marriage. I just take one day at a time.'

But he has strong views on feminism. 'If I was leading their movement, I wouldn't attack men. It's women you have to change. You must get at young girls before they become mothers. Afterwards, it's too late. Men are made by their mums. They have them in total captivity. Their son is their truest love and they set out determined to make him love them more than any other woman. It might be unconscious, but they turn their son against other women. That's why men behave so badly to women, except their mother. My own attitude to women has changed over the years - mainly because I have a daughter. I want to see her getting a proper deal.

'I would have liked more daughters. I have a friend with six daughters, and I think that's brilliant. We did hope for more, but my wife had several miscarriages and a couple of still-borns.'

His daughter is called Katya, named by his wife, who was reading Anna Karenina at the time.

'I haven't read the Russians. My novel- reading stopped with The Catcher in the Rye.' Katya went to Croydon High School, took her A-levels - Adam can't remember the grades - then woke up one day and said she wasn't going to a British university. 'She fancied an Ivy League college, so she went to Penn. She's now at Harvard, reading visual and environmental studies. She graduates in May and we're going to see her. She wants to be a theatre director and is already directing a play at Harvard. I hope to take Alfie to the USA after the British tour, and she'll help me with it.'

Didn't you miss her, your only daughter, so far away? 'Of course, but you try not to influence their life. When we left her for the first time, I cried for eight hours in the plane home.'

He is currently looking for a new play to appear in after Alfie. The third series of Love Hurts was meant to be the last, but now there are discussions about another. Eventually, he'd like to do more directing, but is taking it slowly.

'For 20 years, I was trying to land on top of a mountain by helicopter. Now I want to do it step by step. What I have learnt in the past 20 years is how little I know. I've also learnt how little I thought. I just did it. No reflection at all. Making money is pretty pointless and it needs constant attention.

'Great sportsmen, at the height of winning, don't think about the money they'll make, not at that moment, nor does an actor on stage, when the audience is applauding. You are one with the audience, and that's all that matters.'

Adam's advice to the young actress, to me, to anyone really, is simple. 'Realise and relish the taste of good food. In other words,' he says, looking round the Savoy dining room, 'eat your chips slowly.'

(Photograph omitted)

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