Liza Goddard was born in 1950 in the West Midlands. She moved to live in Australia with her family when she was a teenager. She became popular with the children’s TV series “Skippy”. In her early twenties she was back in the UK and starred in many television series such as Take Three Girls” in 1969, “Yes, Honestly”, “The Brothers” and “Bergerac”. She has had a busy career also on the stage. Films include “I Want What I Want” in 1972.
By MOIRA PETTY
She was the Middle England pin-up, exuding an aroma of horses, hockey sticks and sexy wholesomeness, who refused to be parted with her clothes. But now, at 61, Liza Goddard preaches the gospel of ‘flaunt it while you’ve got it’.
‘Directors would ask me to strip off and I’d refuse. I wish I had flashed it around, as I had a lovely body, but I was prim and lacked confidence. Now I tell all the lovely young girls I work with, “You’re gorgeous. Show it off.”’
Her only other regret? Marrying three times, first to a future Doctor Who,Colin Baker, followed by glam rock’s Alvin Stardust, before finally finding happiness with her husband of 16 years, former TV director David Cobham.
Wisdom: At 61, Liza Goddard preaches the gospel of ‘flaunt it while you’ve got it’
‘If I could change things, I probably wouldn’t have leapt in and had relationships so readily. Or maybe I should just have lived with them, then at least you don’t have to get divorced.’ She admits it was babies she wanted, not husbands. ‘It’s my hormones that have let me down.’
Liza was a teen star who became famous around the world playing the blonde pig-tailed Clancy in Australian TV’s Skippy The Bush Kangaroo. Then she became an emblem of Swinging London at 19 as the cello-playing Victoria in the female flat-sharing drama, Take Three Girls, before appearing in TV series like The Brothers, Bergerac and Doctor Who, and theatre and game shows.
She has just written her autobiography and when asked why now, she replies, ‘Having had breast cancer, I thought maybe I should do it, because otherwise you keep putting it off.’ If this sounds like someone sorting out their affairs, far from it. The cancer returned in 1997, three years after the original diagnosis, necessitating a masectomy – which led to an infection that nearly killed her – but since then she’s hardly had a cold.
Liza’s feeling very perky and she sounds it too; the familiar cut-glass accent rippling with laughter, quite often directed against herself. I haven’t seen her for years and at first I wonder if the blonde sizzling in sunglasses, a shocking pink top and jeans showcasing slender legs can be her. She is one of the least vain women, let alone actresses, I have encountered, although she acknowledges, ‘When I look in the mirror, I see a 61-year-old woman. But acting keeps you young.’
She always uses her senior rail card ‘and they never say, “You can’t be old enough”,’ she guffaws. What she reveals in her book, Working With Children And Animals, is a new version of her childhood, previously told as a rural commuter belt idyll, with geese, ducks and chickens flapping around the rose-framed door, out of which wafted the inviting smell of home baking. Now she says that her mother, Clare, was emotionally and physically abusive.
‘She spent her whole time screaming at us.’ Liza felt nothing she did was ever good enough for her mother, to whom the concept of praising children was alien. Pictures of the teenage Liza and her sister Maria, two years younger, show a pair of blonde stunners, but both lacked confidence in their looks. Maria became anorexic, while Liza ‘hated the way I looked when I was young’. She hasn’t talked about this before ‘to spare my mother’s feelings’ but now, at almost 86, Clare has dementia.
‘She had this horrid, evil side. She herself said she had vitriol in her veins rather than blood. She used to whack me with anything that came to hand. She was a full-time mother and I don’t think she enjoyed it.’ Then, one day, a girl several years older than Liza arrived at their home. ‘My mother said, “This is your half-sister Gail.” I was astounded. She had tracked us down and was welcomed with open arms.’ Gail, the product of Clare’s first marriage, had been abandoned by her at the age of three and was brought up by her father.
‘I never felt I could ask my mother why she had left her child. Recently, Gail and I went to see Mum and she said, “Gail, I’m so terribly sorry”, and we all burst into tears. It was very healing for Gail. So now, with her dementia, we’ve got this sweet old woman for a mother, the mother I’ve always wanted.’ Then there was another shock for the teenager. ‘Mother began dropping hints that my father was not really my father, although earlier she had said I was premature.’
She has, of late, tried to tap her mother for information. ‘All I get from her is nonsense.’ Her parents finally divorced and Liza admits she felt bereft. She believes this led to a relationship with a man who was violent towards her. ‘It was nothing that showed, no broken bones, but it was abusive and I think it came down to my low selfesteem.’ She became pregnant, felt suicidal and had an abortion, although this incident is omitted from the book.
‘I think I just forgot it,’ she says curiously. But she does relate how she became pregnant again by the same man, left him and gave birth to her son Thom in 1976. She now says she was desperate for a baby, even with the wrong man. While pregnant, she joined the hit TV show The Brothers, and fell in love with one of its stars, Colin Baker. They married within months and somehow the story got out that he was Thom’s father.
‘It was easy for Colin to go along with the pretence. I think I was desperate for a father for Thom and Colin fitted the bill, but I think my mind was unbalanced, having just given birth. We were great friends but should never have married. We moved to the country and I wore tweeds, but it was just a role I was playing. I leapt into the marriage and then I leapt out.’
After a few years of single motherhood, she was chatted up by Alvin Stardust at a showbusiness event. ‘I wasn’t especially a fan of his music but I was bowled over by his charm and within a few weeks he moved in. At home he didn’t wear the quiff, he brushed his hair normally: he was going through a mellow phase. I think what I really wanted was a baby. I wanted my girl.’ She gave birth to their daughter, Sophie, in 1981 and soon afterwards she and Alvin married, only to divorce eight years later.
‘I thought, “Another one down the drain.” That was a long marriage by my standards.’ Liza had been working harder and felt Alvin wasn’t pulling his weight domestically. The last straw was his famous conversion to Christianity on a 40-minute train journey. ‘He was converted by a group of people in his carriage. At Waterloo, the cleaner found them on their knees praying. Alvin came home and said “I’ve found God”.’
She then married David, and has forgotten her differences with Alvin. They are friends again, and she admires him, she says, ‘because at 68, Alvin is still touring in his wig and platform boots’. In the last few years, she has even been able to empathise with his feelings about faith. ‘Our daughter Sophie introduced me to Shamanism. I’m learning to harness the body’s power to heal itself – I treated someone with an eye infection recently and it cleared up in 24 hours.
‘David was a bit alarmed at first. His father was a vicar. He thoughtSophie was trying to get me into a cult. But at last I understand how marvellous it was for Alvin to find his spirituality, now that I’ve found mine.’
Working With Children And Animals by Liza Goddard is published by Apex, £15.99. © 2011 Liza Goddard. To order a copy for £13.99 (incl p&p
The above “MailOnline” article can also be accessed online here.