A sixties trendsetter
on TV's Ready Steady Go!
Cathy McGowan - Back on the screen with some famous old friends
Sixties trendsetter Cathy McGowan is back on the beat. The petite presenter, who was famous for her long brown hair and mini-skirts is now reappearing with her old friends from the days of Ready Steady Go! but in a very different guise. Cathy took some time offfrom her busy schedule, to talk to Hello! about her new and exciting life.
After a 16-year absence from our screens, Cathy is back doing what she does best: live television, and on the subject she knows best: the world of entertainment, for Newsroom South East, the regional news programme which follows the Six O'Clock News.
"The producer thought there was a place for news about show business and I do the whole thing myself," Cathy explained. "I don't interview my guests. I'm not a reporter; we have a chat."
Most of the people who appear with Cathy are old friends, so it really is more like meeting up for a good chinwag than a formal interview.
"Most of them would come and see me anyway," she said. "The reason that people like whatI amdoing is that they feel they are eavesdropping on a conversation between two old friends rather than seeing them in an artificial interview where they have only five minutes to say everything."
She attibutes her success in persuading celebrities to appear on the programme to trust.
"I do all the work myself. I don't want researchers ringing my friends for me. And they know I would never ask them something that I wouldn't answer. When Vanessa Redgrave appeared with me, it was the first time in 10 years she had done a television interview, and I asked her things like the cleaning and the Hoovering!"
Cathy's bubbly personality ensures that celebrities tell her far more than usual about themselves.
"Terry Stamp took me to his old house, his school, his barber's and the grocers. We reallly did have a great day. It is such a privilege to be trusted like that."
She was privileged to speak to George Lucas at the Indiana Jones premiere. "He even directed me in the interview, and told me what to do with my shoulders - they are very important,youknow." she laughed.
Although Cathy goes to premieres she stresses that the only time she goes is when she is working . "I am not a socialiser: I don't go to trendy places. I don't understand how people go out all night. It is a full-time job getting ready."
She much prefers being at home surrounded by her daughter Emma, and Emma's many friends." I wanted Emma to have a life like I had in Streatham. I never wanted her to think she was a showbiz kid. We are very close, she is the most important thing in my life."
Emma is quite used to being surrounded by famous faces. Elton John is a frequent visitor. When Cathy moved in, he gave her a Victorian screen for the house.
"Elton is the most fabulous and kindest friend anyone could ever have - he is so supportive."
Friendship is something that Cathy always prizes highly. Her two greatest friends are novelist Pat Booth and photographer Gabrielle Crawford, ex-wife of actor Michael Crawford. "You have to work at friendship," she said. "You can only be the best of friends if you have been through hard times."
"I am very lucky to have had friends who have always been there," she added. And her friends were there when she needed them most, during her recent divorce from actor Hywel Bennett, who had a drink problem. "I gave Hywel all the support I could when he needed it, as a friend. He has had a lot of courage to come through it. He has got a great career and is a wonderful actor. I couldn't be more pleased for him. But I would support anybody who was down."
Cathy has the sort of face taht inspires trust and confidence in people. "People seem to feel that you are a part of them and that if you can do it then they can," She sas of her divorce. "I had a lot of letters and I would like to think that my divorce helped others."
She admits to finding it "weird" that her image is so much in people's heads. "Taxi drivers all knwo who I am and ask after Emma. It is weird that I am tied up with so many people's memories."
Indeed to many children of the Sixties, Cathy epitomised the era. She used the latest terminology often inventing words on the spot. Although the actual format of the programme may now seem dated, at the time it was the in thing. All the top stars appeared on the showand it was Cathy herself who was responsible for bringing The Rolling Stones on the show. "My producers asked where I went in the evening and I often went to a club in Richmond to see the Stones. He said I should get them on the show."
"The wonderful thing about the Sixties is that it was the first time you had a chance to achieve things if you didn't have influential parents. People grabbed it and enjoyed it. But the Sixties are terribly overrated. I wasn't part of what was supposed to be going on. I didn't see any of it. I was working all the time, and had everything under control. I still have a right rein in my life."
While most people try to leave their youth behind them, Cathy has turned hers into a new career. "I'm really lucky," she said. "All my life my career has been mixed up with my friends and I wouldn't want it any other way."
Interview: Sarah Cartledge
Main Photo: Gabrielle Crawford