What I know about women

Date

Robyn Doreian

"The first night I spent with my wife, Barbara, is the only first night with a woman I remember": Rick Springfield.

"The first night I spent with my wife, Barbara, is the only first night with a woman I remember": Rick Springfield. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

RICK SPRINGFIELD, MUSICIAN and ACTOR, 66, MARRIED

My mother, Eileen, is the strongest person I know. She grew up on cattle stations in NSW, where her British mother worked as a cook and my grandfather as a driver. Her parents died when she was 15 and so she left school, got a job and looked after her eight-year-old sister, Pat.

She and Pat lived in a boarding house in Depression-era Sydney. But, after breaking curfew following a celebration for Pat's 12th birthday, they were evicted. By that time Mum was dating my dad, Norman. Luckily, he had a great family who took them in.

I was born in Sydney, but Dad's job in the army took us to encampments around Melbourne. Then, when I was 10, we moved to England for three years.

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Eleven marked the first time I touched a guitar, kissed a girl on the mouth and had my first crush ˆ Hayley Mills. When I saw The Parent Trap at our local theatre, something stirred in me, other than thinking she'd be a good playmate. I wrote to her fan club and received an autographed photo. I still have it. It has my little 11-year-old lip marks all over her face.

I didn't have a lot of luck with girls in my teens, mainly because I was shy. At 16, I felt like the ugliest kid in the world – depression had set in. Mum took me to a psychiatrist but he freaked me out. He asked me to draw myself in relation to sex. Of course, I hadn't even had any.

Music became my salvation. Having seen bands like the Who, I felt the power guys with guitars had. So when I got onstage with [Melbourne band] Zoot in 1969, I felt that too. After shows, girls would be there, ready to have sex. Which was good for me, as I was still too shy to ask a girl out.

A phone call at 21 changed my life. It came at 3am from the hospital where Dad had been admitted with an ulcer on his artery. We learnt he had died when it burst, but they had revived him, and now he had brain damage. Me, my brother Mike and Mum slept together in the living room, as we didn't want to be apart. I remember waking and hearing Mum crying.

Before Dad died of cancer in 1981, he recalled things to a certain degree. But he knew he wasn't who he used to be, and it troubled him. That was the most painful thing to see. He inspired my first hit, Speak to the Sky.

I left Melbourne for Los Angeles in 1972. A few years later, at a gig at the Whisky a Go Go, [Exorcist star] Linda Blair came to my dressing room. She was 15, I was 25. Linda was pretty and sexy and we were emotionally matched. I connected with her family, which was important to me, as I was away from mine. We were together for a year. I still talk to her, as I do charity stuff for her animal rescue.

Elizabeth Taylor was a giant fan of my TV drama, General Hospital. In the early '80s, as Dr Noah Drake, I did a couple of scenes with her. I'm sure she thought I was cute, as she liked younger guys. She was older by then, but still carried so much with her because of who she was. Elizabeth was very sweet and after one scene, as we walked away from the camera, she said, "Isn't acting stupid?"

The first night I spent with my wife, Barbara, is the only first night with a woman I remember. [Barbara was 18 and the receptionist at Sound City Studios in LA when they met.] Barbara gets my struggle and successes. We've been through it all. She's an incredible human being, and on top of that she's burning hot, which is a pretty good combination after 30 years.

In my new film Ricki and the Flash, I play the guitarist in Meryl Streep's bar band. Meryl is a very open person, and doesn't wear her celebrity on her sleeve. The fact she learnt the electric guitar and got that down and then sang at the same time ... a lot of professional musicians struggle with that. She sings her butt off and was fearless with it. Being in a movie with her was like being in a band with Paul McCartney.

My mum is 95 now. She still lives in Parkdale, Melbourne, in the house my parents bought when I was 17. Mum is unstoppable. She still drives and reads three books a week. She is an incredible figurehead.

I don't claim to know anything about women. My sons, Josh, 25, and Liam, 28, have had better relationships with women than I ever had until I met Barbara. They both have such big hearts. As a dad I may have screwed up in a lot of ways, but they definitely know they are loved. I'm very proud of them as men.

Rick Springfield stars in Ricki and the Flash, in cinemas August 27.