Interview with Vesta Williams

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Vesta Williams I 'm a totally nutty person. I even laugh  at my own jokes" giggled one of our newest chart singers, Vesta Williams. The lady may wound oh-so-serious on record, but when it comes to interviews she's a different person entirely.

I 'm a totally nutty person. I even laugh  at my own jokes" giggled one of our newest chart singers, Vesta Williams. The lady may wound oh-so-serious on record, but when it comes to interviews she's a different person entirely.

It's now with some caution I'm putting pen to paper for, as Debbie Bennett, Vesta's press lady, will verify, some topics of conversation are better left unprinted. Ms Williams had flown to London from Holland where she'd appeared on TV and radio, to promote her runaway hit "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and her super "Vesta" album. Both releases have made her dreams come true ? "and the success is the same in the States. It's a love or hate thing over there, and I'm glad to say they love me at the moment."
Was she surprised at the success? Thoughtfully her reply was "I believe good music will happen eventually."

Vesta's immediate life revolves around promoting and touring, although she's no newcomer to either. "I did a lot of touring before I hit the 'big time' ? what a terrible expression that is ? but it doesn't present any problems for me. I spent $1,000 on two costumes, one gold, and one gold and green, for this tour. So that's just one bag. Should the time arrive when I travel with, say, $9,000 worth of clothes, then I'll worry about lost luggage and extra staff.
"And I personally carry my face with me." (Eh?) "My face, my make-up. I always keep that with me. When someone offers to take that bag from me, I scream ? 'no! I've got my face in that, so don't touch it!

VESTA has known no other life than music. She admits to being just so-so at school. "I had certain skills which I pulled on. I am a great interpreter of words, which helped me write lyrics. But I was a very bad student in maths. My father was a DJ, and because I can use my mouth, I used to do guest spots for him. That takes a certain type of personality and so on, which I had.

"So I was always being asked to introduce records. I loved it because it was so easy. You could say I was an early bloomer in terms of talent, and a later bloomer in terms of being an exhibitionist!"
Despite trying her hand at schooling and outside activities, the young Vesta also found time to enjoy adolescent love ? not once but several times. She laughed "I really can't remember a time when I wasn't in love, or when I didn't have a boyfriend! I went from one relationship to another . . . no space, no nothing. I guess I never wanted to be lonely. I'd leave one guy, then be p?g off with another one. I never had time to go through all that brokenhearted shit and suffer the way I should have done. I'd be off with another love.

"One of my ex-boyfriends pleaded with me not to leave him, and when I did he said he wanted me to be brokenhearted for four years! Girl, he took to hiding in the bushes to catch me out and watch me. I often wondered if it was me he was actually in love with or my money. Let me re-phrase that... or the money he thought I was going to make. I couldn't handle all that!"

At the young, but certainly not tender, age of fourteen, Vesta performed her first paying gig ... "I was a late starter too!" She sang with her sisters, hoping to become the next Jackson 5. Then Vesta got heavily into Tina Turner and decided she wanted to be her.
"Later I played with my cousins in a band and we gigged a lot. I was staying with my grandmother and I travelled three hundred miles on a round trip to gigs, and by myself. We never thought about being attacked or raped in those days. Hell, I was a big girl! I wore make-up, and lots of it too. I wore a padded bra; I padded everything I could find, so everyone presumed I was a lot older than I was ? and a lot of bigger!"

Should trouble ever rear it's ugly head, young Vesta had instant protection: her drummer cousin.
"He intervened at one time particular. I don't know whether I should tell you this ... we performed at a party where there was ... ladies of the night, and their pimps." It transpired that if a guy like the look of a lady, he tapped her on the shoulder. "I kept getting tapped, but I don't know what for. I didn't even know what it meant. We had no idea of the type of party if was either but, I can tell you, I was horrified later when we found out. Anyway, my cousin got me out of that situation, with a smile."

Today, her security comes in the form of a girlfriend, who is a karate expert! "When she gets her noonchucks out (wooden sticks with chains at either end) it's a frightening sight. I'm very thankful she's my friend, and not my enemy. Mind, I don't get bothered that much, but just in case it is comforting to know she's around."
Particularly, I added, when she's running off her mouth, something Vesta does quite regularly. More about that later.
As she had grown up on the rough and ready road in this business, Vesta was accustomed to all sorts of goings on ? nice and not so nice.

"Nothing really shocks me now, except sexual abuse, particularly with children. I don't think I saw anything really nasty because I was always protected from it. People over-dosing on drugs doesn't surprise me. I believe things like that happen through lack of parental guidance. When I see things happen to other people I use that as experience.

"I've been in some precarious situations though, but I reckon if I can survive living in New York, I can survive anything!"

The singer's current London visit isn't her first. She took Randy Crawford's place with the Crusaders during 1984/85 ? an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. With more hit singles behind her, it's on the cards for Vesta's own solo tour.

"My band is biting at the bit to get going and I think my show will surprise you. I do impersonations. It does mean I have to twist my mouth around and look real stupid, but I can impersonate Tina Turner, a brilliant Phoebe Snow ... oh, and Sarah Vaughan, complete with her handkerchief which doesn't do much. I also do {safm}Patti LaBelle{/safm} and Michael McDonald's duet ? and I do both voices!

"I've always been working out comedy routines. There's a lot of places in New York to study although my humour tends to be off-the-cuffs. Y'see, I don't think about what I'm going to say, so I really don't want to tamper with that in case I lose it."

Having such a quick tongue, no matter how funny, does have its disadvantages. "Oh sure, I've upset people with my mouth. I've got a very vivid imagination, and see humour in everything. And some people get the butt of my jokes ... but let me stress, I always take the mickey out of myself as well. Sometimes people get annoyed and ask 'what do you mean by that?' I fob it off. They don't have a sense of humour."

Vesta paused, then added "I have few friends! Actually, I have four friends in all. I meet thousands of people, yet never formed sincere friendships. Like, I go to the supermarket with these friends and we go crazy. I go in a buy one item and end up buying $200 worth of groceries ? things I didn't want and would never use. My craziness extends to knocking things down in the store, flirting with the guys, knocking over old ladies ? no, / don't mean that ? but it's all an experience. The staff are really glad to see the back of me!"

On a more serious note, Ms William was married and is currently in the process of divorce. She has an eight year old daughter, Tandia, whom she adores.

"I don't take her around with me, it's just impossible at the moment. When she's old enough I will, although that depends on how well she does at school. If need be I can always get a tutor to accompany her on tour. My boyfriend travels with me though, so I suppose they could keep each other company."
Vesta was reluctant to identify her boyfriend and husband, because, she insisted she wanted to keep that side o: her life very close to her heart. She did reveal her husband was a musician with a famous group, and the marriage was a
mistake for her because she couldn't be the wife her husband expected her to be.

"I'm unpredictable and I could never survive in a situation that was a routine to me. I become bored too easily. I consider myself to be well balanced but I believe I have a bad habit of making men feel insecure. Then they have a tendancy to get nasty because 1 am so secure.

"I'm even thinking of writing a book about my sexual experiences. That would be something . . . nobody would talk to me then!"

Vesta reads a lot of autobiographies ? those by artists, actresses and people in the music business generally. And she reckoned her book could easily be classed as a sequal to Jackie Collins' "Hollywood Husbands". The mind boggles!

Whilst on the subject, I asked how she thought men saw her. Laughing, she replied "They say I am well-stacked and I take that to mean I've got more than most women ? more than a handful, more than a mouthful!" (The next line has been cut for purposes of decency!)

Throughout our interview, which I loved immensely, Vesta Willams' quick sassy wit had me rolling about. Therefore conducting a serious chat was abandoned after the first five minutes. And what a pleasant change. As the tears flowed down my cheeks, what struck me instantly was the similarity between Vesta's tongue and that belonging to Joan Rivers.

"Actually you're not the first person to tell me that. No, I'm not insulted ... far from it. I'm very flattered. Joan is the funniest person living and I would love to do the sort of thing she's doing. What about me being the Black Joan Rivers?"

Well, it's got a sort of ring to it, don't you think?! (SD B&S)

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