Flexipop July 1981

To Phil Oakey, singer with the Human League and noted weirdo it was another day, another interview. But to journalist Anne Wichart it was more than that – much more than just another workday chore. No, for Annie it was a…

Labour of love

ANNE WICHART licked the tip of her pencil thoughtfully. Her larger than life eyes flashed under the shade of her long lashes. Her mind was racing and there was a faint flush in her English rose cheeks.

One word kept recurring in her mind. Nipples.
It seemed only a few minutes ago that the editor had been on the phone. His words still rang in her head.
“Interview Phil Oakey” he said. “Today.”
His voice had shaken slightly as he sputtered out the next sentence.
“He has… pierced nipples.” And hung up.
Now Anne was facing the flamboyant lead singer with the Human league. Her pulse sped as she thought of his poor mutilated chest. She resolved not to broach the subject.

He seemed nice. Normal, almost. Apart from the make-up. And the nip… no. Mustn’t mention them.
Phil’s first remark caught her slightly off balance. He peered seductively through his magnificent fringe and spoke clearly. A strong voice, but tender.

“I’m not a girl chaser” he said, brushing back his glossy mane.
Anne just smiled non-commitally. But inside she felt something stir.
Probably something she ate, she pondered.
“I suppose I’m a bit old fashioned” continued Phil, arching a finely plucked eyebrow. “I don’t like socialising or going out on the pull. I like being romantic with just one girl.”

Anne felt a lump in her throat. She struggled for breath. Couldn’t frame the next question.
With a last effort she managed to swallow the mint imperial and speak.
“Are you… I hope I’m not being forward with you but… are you… married?
She found herself holding her breath. Hoping.
“I got married to a girl I had been going out with for five years when I was 21. I’m 25 now, and I’m not married any more – at least I don’t think I am.

“I have to keep phoning her to check if the divorce has come through. Funnily enough we get on much better now than when we were together.”


A wave of sympathy came over her. A man needed a woman. But with a broken marriage behind him… could he ever feel the same way for… someone else.

“My home is a rubbish dump, and I have the only cooker I’ve ever seen which has green mould and mushrooms. It’s only six quid a week, which is all I can afford at the moment.”

His dark eyes clouded for a moment, then cleared.
“But my financial situation should be looking up shortly. In October we release a new single and start a British tour. I see fame and fortune in terms of… sex.”

“money is like food, just necessary to the function of living but what wealth and fame does is enhance your erotic appeal. If you are rich and famous you are more likely to get the… girl of your dreams.”

Anne blushed violently and burbled out the next question. Before she knew what she was saying it came out. She could have kicked herself.

“But why did you have your nipples pierced?”
Phil looked at her darkly.
“Everyone else was having their ears pierced at the time – I guess that’s why I did it”, he said abruptly. “It didn’t hurt that much. I sometimes wear a bean baby through one – a doll make of black beans with a brass body.”

Once again, Anne found herself hurriedly changing the subject. She sought refuge in his past. The plastic surgery. Yes, I used to work in a plastic surgery. I had to wheel the bodies in and hold them down ‘cos they sometimes jumped about a bit.”

“As soon as I get some money, I’m going to have plastic surgery myself. It can buy you sex appeal. I’m afraid I just can’t… tell you which bit I want to have changed”.

Suddenly Anne understood. The make-up, the effeminate haircut, the jewellery. Tears welling up in her eyes she rushed out the door and slammed it behind her. She knew it was all over between them. Before it even began.