David Parkin celebrates Tom Jones, adds a bit of polish and hears showbiz stories


HAPPY Birthday Sir Tom Jones.

The oldest swinger in town turned 80 last weekend.

They used to use that term to describe an older man attempting to impress younger women by strutting his stuff on the dance floor of a disco.

That certainly doesn’t apply to The Voice from the Valleys.

Even at 80, after a near 60-year career in showbiz, his voice is still strong, he looks fantastic, features on primetime TV shows and can attract a huge audience of all ages wherever he performs across the world.

What’s his secret?

Probably the fact that he has constantly reinvented himself.

From belting out those early hits like It’s Not Unusual to crooning Green Green Grass of Home, singing the title songs of films like What’s New Pussycat and James Bond blockbuster Thunderball, to tackling genres such as country and gospel and working with rap artists and big bands.

We all have our favourite Tom Jones hits and while his early hits are great (although Delilah has been slightly tarnished ever since it was adopted by Stoke City fans) the more modern stuff has attracted a huge audience, such as duets with Robbie Williams and Cerys Matthews and his version of Prince’s Kiss.

If his collaboration with Mousse T, Sex Bomb, is ever played at a party I’m at, you are very likely to see me do my “oldest swinger in town” routine.

I used to spice it up with a slut drop and leaping scissor kick.

But that was before my legs went.

You just can’t get the trusses these days.

It is difficult to think of a performing artist that has such a long and varied career and appealed to such a wide audience.

That’s Sir Tom, not me.

I interviewed him once.

It was back in 1999 before Wales were due to play England at Wembley in the final fixture of what was then known as the Five Nations rugby union championship – it became the Six Nations when Italy joined in 2000.

Wales had had to play their ‘home’ games at Wembley while the Millennium Stadium was being built in Cardiff and this was the last one before they moved back to play in the Principality.

And it was a big one.

Not because they could win the Grand Slam or even the Triple Crown.

They could deny England the Grand Slam and hand victory to Scotland if they claimed an unlikely victory at the old Wembley Stadium.

The Welsh team and the Welsh public didn’t need any more motivation.

But just in case they did, the Welsh Rugby Union lined up Max Boyce and Tom Jones to stir up the crowd with ‘Hymns and Arias’ and ‘Delilah’ before the kick off.


Parky’s video clip of the week


And that was where I came in.

Tom Jones was accompanied by the London Welsh Male Voice Choir.

Prior to the match he met the choir to rehearse at their base at the London Welsh Centre in Grays’ Inn Road in London.

As the London Editor of the Western Mail, the Welsh national newspaper, I had built a good relationship with the choir, travelling with them to watch them perform in their scarlet jackets in the stunning grounds of the Cliveden hotel which proudly stands on the border of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The most memorable experience was attending the Festival of Massed Male Voice Choirs – known as the ‘night of 1,000 voices’ at the Royal Albert Hall, in which they took part.

Hearing nearly 1,000 choristers singing ‘My Way’ sent shivers down your spine and tears to your eyes.

Anyway, back to the London Welsh Centre, that little piece of the Principality in a stone building near ITN’s headquarters.

I arrived at the centre and was shown into the main hall where the choir were gathered swapping tales of the ‘old country’ with Tom Jones.

I watched them run through a couple of numbers, make a few tweaks and then, just before Tom headed towards a waiting limousine, I got the chance to speak to him about his thoughts on the upcoming match, what it would be like to perform in front of such a huge, passionate crowd and his memories of Wales.

We sat down and the singing legend gave me a few decent quotes and while we chatted the young female agency photographer that the Western Mail had booked to get some shots to illustrate my interview, stood on a chair, presumably to get a photo that was a bit unusual.

Not unusual, just a bit unusual.

Did you see what I did there?

OK, please yourselves.

Unfortunately the photographer’s adventurous idea didn’t go down well with Tom’s son, Mark Woodward, who was also his manager.

Almost simultaneously he ordered her not to take the photo, to get down from the chair and just to make sure she did, he pushed her off it.

Fortunately she wasn’t hurt after stumbling to the ground but it left both of us pretty stunned.

That signalled the end of the interview as the burly, scowling mustachioed Mark ushered his father towards the limo.

I wasn’t sure why he would have been so heavy-handed until someone later told me he was paranoid about his Dad’s growing bald patch being exposed.

Mark doesn’t have to worry about that so much these days.

Several surgeons have seen to that.


What I’m Looking Forward to this Week

A FEW weeks ago I said I was looking forward to dyeing an old pair of brogues a new colour and adding a dark patina to them.

I was too confident about the results, but having added a couple of coats of dye, some polish and a mirror shine to the toe caps I’m pretty pleased with the results, which you can see being admired here by Poppy the dachshund.

Unfortunately she now wants to go the same colour with a slightly darker patina around her nose.


Reasons to be cheerful

My other Tom Jones story is one I was told.

My best contact during my time as London Editor of the Western Mail was a very talented performer called Stifyn Parri who was wildly camp and flamboyant and had appeared in Les Miserables in the West End and in the title role of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

His major claim to fame though was taking part in the first gay kiss on British television.

He was Gordon’s boyfriend in the Channel 4 soap Brookside.

Stifyn (he was named Stephen Parry but decided to “Welshify” it) set up a social club for Welsh people in London called Social, Welsh and Sexy (Sws is the Welsh word for kiss) and was always a great source of gossip, stories and laughs.

When I met Stifyn one day in his usual haunt, The Groucho Club in Soho, he was even more excited than usual.

It turns out that the previous evening he had been a guest at a recording of the ITV show ‘An Evening with Shirley Bassey’.

“Oh she was amazing, a true diva, with such lovely frocks,” he told me.

“The audience was full of celebrities and everyone loved it. I was standing in the gents and who do you think came to stand at the next urinal?”

I said I couldn’t hazard a guess.

“It was none other than The Voice himself, Tom Jones.”

I asked whether they had spoken.

“No, but I had to take the opportunity to have a look down at it…if you know what I mean?”

I said I could hazard a guess.

Stifyn continued: “Well, let’s just say I WASN’T disappointed!”

“And then I had a seat in the front row for Shirley Bassey’s performance and she wore a shimmering gown which was skin tight, she must have had to have been sewn into it.

“You can’t wear knickers with a frock like that.

“Then at the end of one of her numbers she kicked her leg up in the air and I could see it all.”

As I sipped my gin and took this all in, he added:

“Do you know what? When I was going home after the show last night I realised something.

“In the same evening I had seen the crown jewels of the king and queen of Wales.”

Have a great weekend.

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