She’s been a model, a muse and partied with Mick Jagger. Now, Donna turns 60 (From Somerset County Gazette)
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She’s been a model, a muse and partied with Mick Jagger. Now, Donna turns 60
SHE was the darling of the ’70s and ’80s heavy metal world – Thin Lizzy pin-up and wife of the late, troubled Auf Wiedersehen Pet star Gary Holton, a model in demand who danced for Sylvester Stallone and appeared in cult cinema including 1979’s Quadrophenia.
This year, Taunton’s Donna Holton celebrates her 60th birthday after four decades as part of London’s rock revolution, dating and partying with the likes of Mick Jagger, Madness and The Clash.
Born Donna Campbell in Bridgwater on September 28, 1953, it was a “heavy” and harrowing childhood for Donna and her seven brothers and sisters. For years their parents subjected them to sickening abuse then disappeared and got away with it”.
The trauma left 12 year-old Donna with debilitating life-long arthritis, having to go “in-and-out of hospital”, spending a year paralysed from the neck down, and undergoing hip replacements.
Incredibly, it was through it all that Donna found her unbreakable fighting spirit. “I was on a geriatric ward with all the old ladies. I had to watch them to learn how to be a fighter.”
Breaking free, for the musicobsessed teenager, was the only option. Having left home when she was 14 for the “safety” of work as a nanny, Donna recalled the day her life changed for ever.
“I was 14 or 15 and listening to John Peel. He was playing Skid Row, Gary Moore’s first band, and I was like, I have got to go. So I hitchhiked from Bridgwater to London, got into the John Peel show, got backstage, and met Gary Moore.”
Moore and Donna stayed in touch until 16-year-old Donna moved to London for good, was ‘spotted’ as a model, and became a fixture in the music scene that defined an era.
“To me being part of it just felt normal. I was working as a nanny so I could afford somewhere to live but on my days off I would go to the King’s Road and people would take pictures of me.”
Among her old flames and boyfriends was The Clash’s drummer ‘Topper’ Headon, Jimmy Phantom of The Stray Cats and even the ”lovely, funny” Ozzy Osbourne before Sharon.
She was even paid £1,000 to table-dance for Sylvester Stallone in the south of France, and appeared on Top Of The Pops.
Living with the constant pain of chronic arthritis, dancing was the “only thing that helped me”, she said.
Inevitably, Gary Moore and Donna became an item, and were together for five years in her west London home.
Donna then became the poster girl for Thin Lizzy, and Moore’s muse when he left the band, writing ‘Song For Donna’ for her.
“He was underrated, definitely one of the best guitarists ever,” she said.
But then into the picture, a rival.
In stepped Heavy Metal Kids’ handsome cockney charmer Gary Holton, a rising actor and Moore’s bandmate in Sex Pistols’ offshoot The Greedy Bastards.
And when a friend discovered a letter from Moore’s mistress at the couple’s home, Donna’s mind was made up – she went to Holton.
“It was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, in that I knew he was a naughty boy, but I really loved him – he was beautiful.
Later Holton made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“He said, ‘What are you doing Tuesday?’ I said, ‘Nothing’. He said, ‘We’re getting married – be there’.
The besotted pair wed in Marylebone on two days’ notice, Donna wearing sparkly sequinned hotpants.
“The first year, I’ll admit, was difficult, because I had to wean him off the drugs. I had to be really patient and really calm with him. If he went on a binge I wouldn’t hassle him. But once we were through it, and were working together, we had such a good time,” she said.
Among the incredible highs, were appearances as a ‘special extra’ in several cult movies, with Donna joining her actor husband Holton on the screen of Bloody Kids, Quadropenia and Breaking Glass.
But as happy and alike as the couple were in those years, Donna’s “brilliant” relationship with Gary Holton became fraught with difficulty.
The discovery that a girl had fallen pregnant by him, and that he had reverted to old habits meant that in 1981 Donna – along with a devastating ectopic pregnancy – decided she “didn’t need this any more.”
Despite it all, however, the couple retained their close relationship, were “the best of friends” and never divorced.
Tragically, the Auf Wiedersehen Pet star died of an overdose, a fatal mixture of heroin and alcohol, four years later.
Husband number two convinced Donna to return to Somerset for good 18 years ago.
“I just met him near where I lived. He was 23 when we got married and I was 41. He was very jealous of all the people I knew in London, of my fame.” Soon after, their marriage fell apart.
Needless to say, Donna’s third husband, Tim Spalding, from Taunton, is “completely different”.
The couple met when Tim became Donna’s care assistant, helping her with day-to-day tasks.
“What he did was amazing,” she said. They will have been married for three years in December.
“I have never ever been free of pain, every day of my life. But I don’t care, because I’m used to it.
When you believe in yourself, you find the strength. There have been times when I’ll wake up and think, I don’t want this. I’m quite spiritual and very psychic, and I believe you have got to heal yourself, so I have always been very positive.”
Even now she is working her music industry influence, launching the UK career of explosive Barcelona rockers Stop, Stop! When stopping for breath on their UK tour, the Spanish trio live with Tim and Donna in the couple’s stunning Alice In Wonderland town centre house.
Donna added: “My life’s been amazing. I had a really, really difficult life as a child, and I’ve been through a lot, but I’m still Donna. I come back. Nobody can take that away from me.”
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