BUCKS FIZZ legend Cheryl Baker has revealed how friends and fans have sprung into action after she revealed she was “totally broke”.
Bandmate Mike Nolan offered to sprint round with a fistful of cash, while a fan in Australia wanted to organise a whip-round.
Cheryl says: “Mike rang me and said, ‘I’m coming down on the train. Pick me up at the station, I’m bringing cash for you’.
“My skating partner from Dancing On Ice, Dan Whiston, called and offered to send money.
“A fan in Australia put a call out, saying ‘Cheryl’s destitute, we need to start a collection’.”
Cheryl, 66, who won Eurovision in 1981 with Bucks Fizz, singing debut single Making Your Mind Up, and went on to enjoy a string of hits with the band, now performs with group members Mike, 66, and Jay Aston, 59, as The Fizz.
But she told last week how her finances have hit the skids thanks to the pandemic.
It put paid to a tour The Fizz had planned last year and they have had barely any work since the start of the first lockdown last March.
Cheryl, who appeared on Dancing On Ice in 2018 but now can’t pay a hefty tax bill, says: “As a band we had a tour planned as well as festivals and Eighties weekends.
“Everything was cancelled or post-poned and now some of the dates that were postponed to the beginning of this year have been put back again. I’ve just been told one gig, set for March 6 this year, will be in 2022.
“My family is all in the entertainment business and we all came to a standstill last March. The industry is on its knees.”
Being out of work for so long might have brought Cheryl to her knees, too, but she refuses to be beaten and is relentlessly upbeat.
She lives in an idyllic farm cottage in Kent with husband of 29 years Steve Stroud, 68, a guitarist who played for Cliff Richard for 20 years and is now in The Fizz as well as having his own Ultimate Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band.
The couple’s twin daughters, singer-songwriter Kyla and choreographer Natalie, 26, have been back home with them since the pandemic hit.
Cheryl says: “A friend always says I have a bluebird on my shoulder. My glass isn’t half-full, it’s overflowing.
“In a funny way, lockdown has been good for me. I’ve been walking my German shepherd, Cuba, for miles and my daughters have returned home. It’s been a joy.”
But there is still the issue of paying the bills, of course.
Cheryl was in similar straits in 2011 after a wrangle with original Bucks Fizz member Bobby G meant break-aways Cheryl, Mike and Jay could no longer play as Bucks Fizz and had to change their name to The Fizz.
They lost a number of gigs and, to make ends meet, Cheryl, who trained as a secretary, asked a business owner pal for work.
She says: “I typed letters and cold-called people. I used my real name and would say, ‘Hi, my name’s Rita Stroud, are you interested in . . . ’ I was earning a living, my daughters were proud of me.”
So what could Cheryl do this time round, to keep the wolf from the door? She says: “I could be a delivery person but I don’t want to risk my health by working somewhere.”
Instead Cheryl — who also co-hosted former kids’ TV show Record Breakers from 1987 to 1997, seven of those with the late Roy Castle — is getting work through the CelebVM app, where fans pay for personalised video messages from celebrities.
But Cheryl, who gets 75 per cent of the £30 fee her messages command, was shocked when online trolls started on her.
She says: “I had messages saying, ‘You’re charging for messages? How low is that? You’re fleecing fans’.
"I responded saying, ‘How am I supposed to earn a living? I still have the same bills to pay’. I don’t want to fleece anybody, we’ve all had a year of struggle.”
Cheryl, Steve and daughters Natalie and Kyla have hosted a few virtual evenings, At Home With The Stroudies, singing and chatting to fans.
The Fizz did an online Q&A with fans last summer, and played one live show when Covid-19 restrictions were eased in September, at a theatre in Tonbridge, Kent.
Cheryl says: “It was a 500-seater theatre but with an audience of 120, for Covid restrictions.
“It was so good to be back but when I looked out on a sea of faces, distant from each other and masked up, it choked me up.
“We could hear them cheering but couldn’t see their faces for their masks. I thought, ‘When is this all going to end?’”
Last November The Fizz also featured with other Eighties pop stars in an online series created by their producer Mike Stock called That Was Then, This Is Now.
Cheryl still looks fabulous, but she is pleased to be a pensioner. She says: “I get a state pension, thank goodness, so there is an advantage of getting older.
“I started paying into pensions when I was 21 but, for one reason or another, had to cash in all but one. So I get a £700 state pension a month plus £250 from my private one, which is great.
“At 66 I still have a mortgage. I don’t suppose there are many people my age who still have one, they’ve been sensible with their money or downsized.”
She adds of the latest lockdown: “If it was just me and Steve at home we would spend most of the winter in the kitchen, where we have an Aga. But with the girls back we have the heating on all day, which is expensive.
“We’ve just been much more frugal. We’re not going anywhere anyway, it’s just bills for the house and food.
"I haven’t got a big income but I’ve got lots of love and happiness around me and that’s worth more than anything.”
Steve is eligible for government help because he is self-employed. But a “really good year” for Cheryl in 2018 means she has fallen through the gap.
Their daughters each have their partners staying with them — Natalie’s boyfriend Ben and Kyla’s girlfriend Caitlyn — and both pay toward their keep at the hotel of Mum and Dad.
As well as her tax worries, Cheryl is in the bizarre position of having to pay back a cheque for £1,300 mistakenly paid into her account instead of that of US actress Cheryl Baker, who gets royalties for bit-part work she has done on the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon film franchises.
Despite her money worries, though, Cheryl has relished having time on her hands, like many of her retired friends.
She says: “I love work and don’t want to stop but I’ve had that opportunity for the past year, so I’ve been writing my autobiography and doing loads of gardening.
“I have a veg garden and we ate our own broccoli, carrots and potatoes on Christmas Day. I’ve started planning the veg garden now because I know this spring I still won’t be working.”
Cheryl has also been doing work for charity, making video messages for free and donating a dress for a Who Gives A Frock auction to help the Intensive Care Society, supporting hospital workers.
This year marks 40 years since Bucks Fizz won Eurovision, with that famous skirt-ripping routine, which Cheryl still does at gigs.
She jokes: “I think the legs are the last to go with ageing.”
Sadly, though, The Fizz’s plans for a big anniversary gig this April will probably be postponed.
Cheryl says: “We booked the Indigo venue at the O2 London but I doubt we’ll be back to normal by then and we wouldn’t be able to afford to do it with reduced capacity.
"We haven’t cancelled but I can’t see it’s going to happen.”
For now she plans to get back to running and hopes to do the London Landmarks half-marathon in May, in aid of child bereavement charity Abigail’s Footsteps, of which she is vice-president.
A stone heavier than she would like, she is otherwise happy and says: “I know how to lose weight but don’t know if I can be bothered. I’m enjoying life.
“I had Botox and fillers in my forehead at one point but the next morning they had slipped down the side of my nose. I thought I’d be disfigured for life.
“After that, I thought, ‘I don’t want to put stuff in my face again’. I am happy in my skin — irritatingly content.”
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