The British Comedian And Actress, And Star Of The Bbc Tv's Famous sitcom, Hi-Di-Hi, doesn't Light up.

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James Leavey's Corner
  By James Leavey

The British comedian and actress, and star of the BBC TV'sfamous sitcom, Hi-Di-Hi, doesn't light up.


JL:Where did you start smoking"   

SP: I first startedsmoking in Nottingham, where I come from.  It was ridiculous: I usedto have this ritual every week of just smoking one cigarette andthen throwing away the other nine in the River Trent.

JL: Do you smoke now"

SP: Not at all. I stoppedsmoking when I was about 29.

JL: Why"

SP: I was in a panto andone night I came off and the director, who was also playing theDame, he said to me, “Your breathing was terrible tonight, Sue.  Yousounded really bad.”  And I thought, “Oh!” and I was riddled withguilt, and went out immediately and threw all my cigarettes in theriver. I’ve not had any more since.

JL: Didn’t I see yousmoking in Hi-Di-Hi, or am I imagining it"

SP: I smoked once, asPeggy, when she was just about to meet the entertainments director,and she was a bit nervous.  But all she did was take one drag, andstubbed it out. So she’s never really smoked.

JL:  Have you ever smokedon stage"

SP: I did last year inAbigail’s Party.  Ang’ smoked – she was supposed to have given up. Her husband Tony was also supposed to have given up, but he smoked acigar.  We were at this party and I smoked a cigarette.

JL:  Was it a realcigarette"

SP: Yes. But I did say tothe director to please please get me the lowest tar possible.  Sothey gave me a menthol thing, and it was fine.  As soon as Ifinished in the show, I thought, “Oooh, I don’t want to go back tothat.”

JL: You didn’t feeltempted"

SP: No, to be honest.  Ididn’t like the taste of it in my mouth.

JL: Why do women smoke"

SP: I think women smokebecause they’re seduced by all the movies and by their peers intodoing it, probably when they’re about 13 or 14.  They think it goeswith a grown-up sort of image or a devil-may-care I’m my own womantype of thing.  You know what I mean"

JL: Yeah.  Do you knowany actresses who manage to sing and smoke"

SP: I know two or threepeople who do it, and it doesn’t seem to effect their breathing oranything.  I think some people think ‘Actually it stills me nerves abit.”  But none of them smoke more than about ten cigarettes a day –I don’t know any women singers who are heavy smokers.

JL: Have you noticed whendoing your shows that there are less smokers in the wings"

SP:  Not in the wings,certainly, because smoking backstage can constitute the fire officercoming along and bringing the curtain down – so you wouldn’t dare doit.  Certainly in this show, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, there arevery few smokers.  And if they do, they’re on this show all night sothey haven’t got much chance to smoke, anyway, aside from probablyone in the interval.  I do think smoking has become less prevalent.

JL: If you were still asmoker, whose doorway would you like most to smoke in"

SP: Robert Taylor’s. Oohyes. Looking back on his old movies I loved the way he used to takehis cigarette out of his pocket and light it – it was fantastic! Sexer!

JL: Cigarettes and cigarshave long been useful props in the movies and on stage.  Do youthink there will ever be a time when they are totally banned fromstage and screen"

SP: No.  I don’t thinkthey will.  So many people still like to see actors who can expertlyhandle a cigarette, and they love the idea of a long cigaretteholder as well.  To me, it’s part of good stagecraft.

JL: But if smoking is indecline in the theatre, where will actors learn the craft ofsmoking"

SP:  Well I suppose whatthey’ll just have to do is look it up in old movies and video clipsand think, “Oh, that’s how they did it.”

JL: You don’t think dramaschools will start holding classes on smoking, then"

SP: Well actually, dear,why not. They already have classes on how to put your boots on.

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