Jerry Hall on Richmond Hill, family and Calendar Girls
18:58 09 November 2010
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2009
She may come from Texas, but after 20 years of living in Surrey, Jerry Hall is firmly attached to her adopted home county and plans to spend Christmas snuggled up in her fabulous home on Richmond Hill, surrounded by her children.
"I adore Christmas and love spending it at home," she says dreamily. "It’s particularly lovely in winter when the trees are bare and you can see right across Richmond Park. The steam rises off the Thames when it's icy and the views are just stunning when there's snow on the hills.
"I’ll be having a traditional family Christmas. I’ll cook a big turkey and we’ll open our presents round the tree. This year, I’m buying everyone a Sony Reader, which holds around 300 books.”
Comforts of home
After a hectic life in the spotlight and a tumultuous decade, which has witnessed her very public divorce from Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, you sense that Jerry, 53, is keenly embracing the comforts of hearth and home.
She acknowledges the public has many misconceptions about her. “I’ve been associated with so many glamorous brands and the rock-star lifestyle that I don’t think people realise I’m just a ‘down-home’ girl,” she laughs earthily.
“I grew up on a farm, so I love being outdoors. I like cooking and gardening, I keep chickens and grow my own organic veg. I’ve had a successful runner bean crop this year and grown lots of potatoes, tomatoes and salads. It’s hugely satisfying when you pull up your scrawny little veg and know that you grew them! And anything we don’t use, bunny eats. We’ve christened her Cicciolina [after artist Jeff Koons’ porn star ex-wife La Cicciolina]. It’s a family joke!”
That’s the other thing about Jerry – her wry sense of humour. It often surprises interviewers. Tall, Texan and Mick’s ex – these things we know. But her quick brain and determination to be known as a good mother often get overlooked.
Her languorous Texan twang may not suggest Mensa league, but she has an IQ of 146. At school, she graduated a year ahead of her class and after her divorce completed an Open University degree in Humanities.
Joining Calendar Girls
And then there’s the acting. First there were films, appearing, notably, as a gangster’s moll opposite Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman. Then, in 2000, she launched herself as a stage actress – playing Mrs Robinson in The Graduate in London’s West End. Last month, she completed a successful run in Calendar Girls, alongside June Brown, Jill Halfpenny, Sara Crowe and Anita Dobson.
Jerry played the glamorous Celia (Miss September), one of the ladies of a certain age who cause a stir in rural Yorkshire by baring all for a Women’s Institute calendar. Her big moment was recreating the infamous scene played out by Celia Imrie in the hit 2003 film, in which she drops her dressing gown to reveal, well, two strategically-placed iced buns topped with cherries.
The prospect of parading bare flesh provoked a rash of salads and yoga classes, but she carried it off with aplomb. The play was great fun to do, she says, and they received huge support from the WI, who skipped meetings to see the show. She’s also become good friends with actress June Brown (aka Dot Cotton in EastEnders), and they were often seen taking furtive fag breaks together at the back of the Noel Coward Theatre.
“Performing eight shows a week was really tiring, but when I saw June, who’s 82, I realised I couldn’t complain,” says Jerry. “She was an inspiration and gave me great tips on playing comedy. When you’re in a long run, it can feel like doing time, but comedy cranks up your enthusiasm. And in theatre you can have these magical moments that you can’t achieve in any other medium.”
A love affair in Kingston
It was this passion that prompted Sir Peter Hall to ask her to become friends patron of the Rose Theatre in Kingston. The Rose, in the heart of the town’s riverside district, is poised to celebrate its second birthday and, with Sir Peter, the director emeritus, and artistic director Stephen Unwin at the helm, punches well above its weight. In addition to hosting the best in touring productions, it produces critically acclaimed home-grown work, which attracts some of our finest actors. This February will even see Dame Judi Dench playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Jerry says the Rose has something for everyone. “The productions are really fantastic and Kingston really needed a theatre, not least because there wasn’t enough in the town for young people. It offers theatre workshops, as well as concessions for school parties and full-time students, and the theatre’s Culture Café plays host to free music and drama events.”
The Rose relies heavily on its friends to keep the coffers flowing and Jerry has hosted several fundraising events, including an auction in which Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend donated guitars, and Ronnie Wood threw in one of his own paintings. It raised a cool £50,000. It just goes to show that Jerry still has the Midas touch, a trait she neatly demonstrated when, in 1971, she headed to Paris and within months became one of Europe’s highest paid models.
Staying in shape
All these years later, she’s bearing up well. “If you sleep well, drink plenty of water and get fresh air and exercise, you’re gonna look good – or as good as you can look. I’ve never liked going to the gym, but I do keep active. And I don’t drink much. That’s the big thing. Alcohol really messes up your life.”
She highlights her own hair and buys beauty products from health food shops. “I use Simple make-up remover and skin cream made from fish collagen. I’ll never have Botox or plastic surgery. It’s disgusting and grotesque. Everybody hates getting old, but we’re all going to die some day. As for fashion, it’s not cool to look too fashionable. I always stick to the same classic look – elegant and fitted lines that are kinda sexy.”
She laughs off the tabloids’ fixation with her cellulite. Remember those unflattering swimsuit shots from 2001? This summer, she made it back into the red tops, but without a dimple in sight. “If it cheers women up, then it’s a good thing,” she laughs. “Every woman has cellulite, but mine’s not as bad as they made it out to be!”
Her children help her keep a sense of perspective. Elizabeth, 25, is enjoying a high-profile modelling career; James, 24, is an actor and plays guitar in a band; Georgia, 17, is mixing A-levels with part-time modelling; and Gabriel, 11, would like to be a history teacher “like Mick’s father”.
All, bar James, live at home, which she dubs ‘the hang-out house’ because it’s packed with their friends at weekends. It’s the children, of course, that still bind Jerry and Mick together.
Marriage to Mick
The bitter-sweet Jagger years are behind her (all 23 of them), but there are no regrets. “Great guy, lousy husband” is how she’s put it in the past. Today, she’s feeling magnanimous.
“We’re very friendly and I’ve completely moved on. We’ve always got on well – he’s very funny, interesting and intelligent. We talk on the phone every week and he tries very hard to keep up with the children. I’m also very friendly with his family. His brother was over yesterday for breakfast.
“I’m just really happy that Mick hasn’t disappeared. The thing is that we don’t hate each other. Love does sometimes turn to hate, and it’s something you really have to work at – especially if you have children.”
Her autobiography, which was expected to lift the lid on their marriage, is on hold for the time being. Will it ever see the light of day? She pauses: “Maybe.”
She is also currently single. “I wish I had a boyfriend. It would be a lot of fun, but I don’t, so... pretty boring! Like most people, I hope to stay healthy, I hope the kids are okay and anything else is a bonus.”
Then she lets me into a secret. “The thing about doing all these interviews is that you have to sound optimistic and give good advice. And, you know, basically, I’m just like everyone else. Some days, I just think, life’s really difficult and dull,” she laughs: “But I try not to spread the gloom!”
My Surrey Weekend
Restaurants: I love Matsuba on Red Lion Street in Richmond, which offers a mix of Japanese and Korean cuisine, and Frere Jacques, a wonderful French brasserie on the river in Kingston where we celebrated the Rose Theatre’s first birthday. I mostly cook at home. Steak and chips and spaghetti bolognese are the kids’ favourites.
Places to shop: I like Matches, Joseph and Space NK for clothes and Dickens & Jones for make-up. I do my food shopping at M&S and Waitrose, and receive a weekly organic vegetable delivery from Riverford Organics.
View: Richmond Hill down to the river. The Prince’s Trust dug up broken paths and reseeded indigenous grasses and wild flowers, and I cut the opening ribbon with Sir David Attenborough, who lives around the corner.
Place to chill: Richmond Park again. We used to keep horses there, but mine developed arthritis so we keep him out in the country. Now, we’ve got old-fashioned Pashley bicycles with baskets instead.
Places to visit: The Rose Theatre in Kingston is always top of my list. I also love Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, which serves a delicious seasonal menu at its cafe and teahouse. Ham House and garden in Ham, with its sumptuous 17th century interiors and restored formal gardens, is also a must.