Article image

Title: How success has saved Holly Johnson
Author: Robin Eggar, Gill Pringle
Source: Daily Mirror
Publish date: Saturday, March 9, 1985

THE CLUB: Day Two of Frankie’s sexy secrets

By Robin Eggar

How success has saved Holly Johnson.

SUCCESS has saved Holly Johnson. In just one year he has moved from the bleak prospect of a Liverpool social security office to wearing top designer clothes and lunching in top London restaurants.

It is thirteen months since Relax seduced its way to the top of the pops and Frankie Goes To Hollywood became overnight superstars.

Holly says cheerfully: “I know it’s a bit melodramatic, but we were on a downward trail of death and destruction.

“If Frankie hadn’t taken off, I and the other members of the band could easily have been dragged into the sewer. We were teetering on the edge.”

When Relax was first released Holly was living the song’s philosophy to the hilt. He was totally promiscuous and proud of it.


“I am searching for the ultimate erotic experience,” he said just before Christmas, 1983. The life of a heterosexual is a dull and boring one. I’m open to all offers.”

Today, behind his tortoiseshell glasses he just smiles at the memory and says: “I’ve had to become a lot more stable in my personal relations.

“Then I was exploring the seedier side of life trying anything and everything. But being in a band on the wave of a giant success I knew it was very dangerous.

“I suppose success saved us all. It threw us into a maelstrom. We have to survive.”

A friend gave Holly a portable filing cabinet last April. He laughs as he recalls the cabinet’s little tags marked Bank, Insurance and Mortgage. That was when, aged 24, he decided to grow up.

“Now my lifestyle is very different, almost traditional. I go to bed before one in the morning and get up early. There are NO drugs around.

“I only go out to nlghtclubs occasionally… I like to celebrate my birthday.”

Back in the days before Relax, Holly was afraid of nothing.

“AIDS doesn’t frighten me,” he said. “It is an overrated danger.”

Things have changed now and Holly has the courage to admit it.

“AIDS ss frightening because it will spread. We are all at risk.

“It has certainly helped to calm down my excesses. Last summer I saw a friend of mine die of AIDS. It freaked me out totally.

“It was enough to make me cry - and I haven’t done that since I was 17.”

Although Holly is open and honest about the knife edge he walked he clams up tight about his home life. He has a friend Wolfgang, who travels with the Frankies group.

“I don’t like to talk about it, but I do have an anchor in my life now. A partner who is a bit older than me and a lot more sensible.”

Frankie Goes To Hollywood know that they still have a lot to prove. They still have to get an Amercian hit.

“Just imagine if we had arrived in America to a Beatles type welcome,” says Holly.

“We would have become hideously arrogant. You’d be talking to an absolute monster.”

Holly Johnson has conquered that. Fame and fortune suit him.

…and Mark became a pin up

WHILE pop fans made Frankie’s Relax the biggest single of 1984, they still faithfully pinned up the boys from Duran Duran and Wham! on their bedroom walls.

But in just a year loyalties have switched, and a new sex symbol has emerged from the Frankie camp in the form of handsome guitarist Mark O’Toole.


“I have never worn lipstick and I only sleep with women,”. insists six foot Mark.

“You wouldn’t catch me wearing a bloody dress.”

The fans love Frankie’s music – songs such as Two Tribes and The Power Of Love - but the strong gay stance of the band’s Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford frightened them off.

But since the girls have latched on to Mark as their new idol, his face has adorned the front cover of every glossy pop paper.

Fans beseige the record company offices with poems, pictures and love letters - and all of them for Mark.

With his cool good looks, this Liverpool lad is a real charmer.

Yet it took some time to convince his friends and family that it was the girls he was charming and not the boys.

Mark and the band’s Peter “Ped” Gill and Brian Nash are staunch heterosexuals, but when they made their TV debut wearing slashed leathers and chains, friends began to wonder.

“I’d be going down the pub with me dad, and all his mates would be laughing and asking ‘where’s yer frock’ or ‘lend us yer lipstick’.”

It’s clear Mark adores his pals Paul and Holly, but there’s just one star he can’t abide - Boy George.

“What a wally. He’s just like some old woman. Always complaining and slagging people down.

“He’s just the sort of person who gives the gays a bad name.”

Two years ago, Mark didn’t even dream he would be keeping company with the likes of Boy George, or exchanging jokes with his friends Duran Duran and George Michael.

He was just about holding down an £80-a-week job with Liverpool city corporation’s housing department.

In those days a new outfit for Mark might have still left change out of £20 after a trip to Top Shop or one of the city’s second-hand stores.

Today he thinks nothing of paying £500 for a Jean Paul Gaultier suit or several hundred pounds on a Katherine Hamnett shirt.

People who may have dismissed him during his early days turn their heads to look at this good-looking, self-assured young man today.


“We’re just having a good time. We get invited to great parties and we travel the world and earn lots of money.

“People do offer us drugs, but that’s not unusual in this industry, and I sometimes worry about drinking too much.

“But my greatest nightmare would be waking up and finding none of this really happened.”