Where Are They Now

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Where Are They Now

GJB
From Q Magazine March 1993

 Where Are They Now? Pan's People
 

BEFORE POP video, before the miscegenetic raunch of Hot Gossip, before we knew better, there was Pan's People. They were Top Of The Pops' resident dancers between 1968 and 1976, but were stars in their own right as cabaret artistes and boutique-openers. "We gigged like a band too," Cherry Gillespie recalls, "which was the most hilarious part of the whole thing. At every university we played, the females held demonstrations, and we got mobbed everywhere... marvellous."

But when Louise Clarke departed in 1974, followed by Babs Lord, Pan's People decided to hang up their dancing shoes forever. However, having exerted such a powerful influence over a nation's pubescents, it was never likely that they would simply be forgotten. In the wake of the '70s revival, there's even a Pan's People video planned for spring release. But where have they been all these years? wonder P.K. Bullen of Lincoln and Rupert Smith of Elephant & Castle.

 

Dee Dee Wilde: "She was the bubbly one," recalls Louise. Formed the New Pan's People for TV and cabaret work (members included Sarah Brightman), "but I didn't really want to do it. I gave it up because the girls were such a pain in the arse." Put on two West End productions, The Mad Show ("a salute to the Great British Eccentric, and a big flop") and Le Cirque Imaginaire ("a great success") before she and ex-army husband Andrew opened The Dance Attic. The business now occupies 20,000 square feet in South London and the gym is run by Richard and Fred Fairbrass of Right Said Fred — "they still come in every day" — with facilities for fitness and dance and theatre/rehearsal space for hire. She freelances too, and recently choreographed Britt Ekland's new fitness video.

Flick Colby: "I was the American, but they were very nice to me," Colby says. She was the choreographer too: "We were terribly democratic, with each girl in charge of something. We didn't want a choreographer picking girls — we were trying something else, to be the dancing equivalent to The Beatles. But I stopped dancing early on. I'm really not a performer." Formed the Ruby Flipper agency, supervising the dance troupes who took over on TOTP — Ruby Flipper, Legs & Co and Zoo. The former broke ground by adding male dancers, "but the BBC told me that the British public wasn't ready to see black men dancing with white girls. I was horrified at the time. I've left the business now, so it's safe, but I've been dying to say that for years." Lost interest in the agency and took up TV directing, from motor-racing films to pop video — "but I didn't want to talk about the meaning of life with Duran Duran till two in the morning, which is what video directing was about" — then moved back to America, buying a farm and working in a gift shop (which she now owns) in Clinton, New Jersey, called Paddywacks. Does she miss dancing? "I always say, if I missed anything, I'd still be doing it. Life is as much fun now, I love retail — it's just like performing. I just put on a show. It's all about communication."

Louise Dobson, nee Clarke: "I'd say I was the sultry, quiet brunette." Left "because I fell in love. You can't hold down a job like that, that you have to donate 100 per cent of your time and energy to, and maintain a relationship." Has remained a housewife, with a 15-year-old son and three stepsons. Is finalising plans to open a health and beauty club in Central London, to be called Pan's Place, in partnership with Ruth Pearson. Having been on TV again, admits "to never realising how famous we were", which includes being featured on BBC2's TV Hell extravaganza last year. "They showed our In Concert special, when we danced to classical and jazz numbers." On a recent appearance on This Morning, the girls chose The Supremes' 1964 classic 'Baby Love' — "It was a song we could relate to. Don't forget, we are in our forties."

Ruth Pearson: Partnered Colby in the Ruby Flipper agency, but admits she got fed up: "I wanted to lead a normal life." Thought of going into catering, so worked as a cook in a fish restaurant for six months, "but it was such hard work and paid so bad; I wanted an easier life." Taught Trimtone (mixing aerobics and yoga) at The Dance Attic for two years, "but it was hard to earn a living." Took a typing/word processing course and currently works as a temp with Office Angels, but plans to partner Louise in the projected Pan's Place. "I'll be running it rather than teaching, I think!" she says, adding somewhat saucily: "The joints have stiffened up a bit, but I can still get my leg up — but only in private."

Babs Powell: "I was known as Big Babs, the big blonde." Left to marry actor Robert Powell: "I wanted a family, and didn't feel I could run a career too, which in Pan's People was all-consuming." Admits to "a kind of withdrawal" when she stopped — "I missed the adrenaline surge of performance" — but "children need an anchor in their life, and because Robert tends to be away a lot, I'm needed." Plans involvement in Pan's Place, on a PR basis, "but just using my contacts. I don't intend going into publicity." Admits to watching Top Of The Pops from time to time, "just to see what's happening, so when your kids ask, you don't feel like an old fogey. My daughter's horrified when I put on my multicoloured leggings to go out. It's my middle-aged revolution." Her recent appearance on Noel Edmonds' House Party "was the first time I'd been away from the family since I'd been married. It was a strange feeling. But I don't miss the life, because the life I moved on into was so much bigger. The best thing that has come through the group has been the friendship. We're in touch all the time, and as the years go by, we get closer."

Cherry Gillespie: Replaced original member Andrea, who never returned after taking maternity leave. "I was the baby of the group. They absolutely protected me, which was probably a very good thing, as I was 17 and had just come out of a girls' boarding school." The split "was great timing for me. In the nicest possible way, Pan's People wasn't what I wanted to do, as I'd gone to a performing arts school, where I trained to act and sing too." Most notably, was in the West End version of A Chorus Line, appeared in a rep production of Pride & Prejudice and played Octopussy's colonel in the James Bond film. Graduated to TV, with recent parts in Bergerac, Casualty and Minder, but the recession had bitten deep, so she's turned to voiceovers for commercials — "they aren't good for one's soul, but it pays the rent."
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Re: Where Are They Now

Dancer
What a lovely article.  Thanks for posting that.  If only they had sent Ruth to us when we had temps from Office Angels at Westminster.  Cooking Fish too!   She was very brave.  She chose the right career.  
Everywhere, wherever you look, manipulation rearing it's head.