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Celebrity Families

Marcia Hines on love, parenthood and why her mother will always be with her

She's our 'Queen of Pop' who arrived in Australia aged 16 and pregnant and never left. Now the mischievous star chats with The Australian Women's Weekly ahead of her latest show Saturday Night Fever.

By Juliet Rieden
When Marcia Hines first arrived in Australia in 1970, she was literally living the dream. She was on her own but wasn't even remotely afraid.
"What's a 16-year-old got the right to be scared of?" she says laughing.
No, this ambitious American import with dazzling looks and music in her soul, was pumped; dizzy with the wonder of possibility. And as we sit down together some 50 years later, I can sense that sharp-edged joie de vivre still coursing through her veins.
At 65 Marcia is limbering up to jump on stage once more in a high-energy production of Saturday Night Fever.
"The greatest thing about this Saturday Night Fever is they've written me into it," she beams.
The role, which will see Marcia singing two of her own dance hits from back in the day – 'Your love still brings me to my knees' and 'You' – is suitably called "Disco Diva". I can almost feel her hips swinging already.
Marcia is returning to the stage in Saturday Night Fever. (Image: Corrie Bond)
Marcia is fun and sassy, but she's also fuelled by an extreme level of hard graft that has kept her on top form when many might be thinking of retiring.
Singing is her passion and doing what she loves has been a powerful tonic that has sustained her through the toughest times.
Marcia's father Eugene Hines died when she was six months old leaving mum Esmerelda to raise Marcia and her elder brother Dwight on her own.
At 14 Marcia won an opera scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music.
"That was interesting, not my thing but I learned a lot. I took it for about six months and left. I didn't want to be what they wanted me to be. I was more into Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin, The Supremes. I wasn't into standing still. I think my mother forgave me," she laughs.
And then came and Australian production of the musical Hair.
Marcia's says her strong mother Esme was instrumental in her upbringing (Image: Corrie Bond)
"I was following a dream."
It felt like this was meant to be. Destiny was knocking. Esme didn't seem fazed at all by the famed nudity in the show and neither was Marcia.
"It was the hippy world. It's so funny. If you blinked you missed it. It was so dimly lit. It was my choice entirely and at first I thought, no, I won't, but it was so discreetly done and it was a statement as well. I wanted to be part of that."
It turned out being more of a statement than she had planned, for Marcia was pregnant. She had actually arrived in Australia pregnant but didn't notice until six months later.
"I remember calling Mum and saying 'I'm pregnant'. She said, 'yes, I know, I could tell by your pictures that you sent home. I was just waiting for you to tell me.'"
The father was Marcia's boyfriend back in Boston but there was no question of him coming to Australia, it was far too expensive, and Marcia had signed a contract, so she couldn't return to the US. In any case she was having way too much fun.
Enter Esme, who calmly took control.
"She said, 'you've chosen a very strange career, so if you can't take care of your baby send her home'. I didn't send her home then, but that support was great to hear and because we were being paid incredible money, I was able to have a nanny and Deni was taken care of."
"Then when we were getting ready to go on tour and I didn't think the tour was the right place for a child, nanny or otherwise, I took Deni back to Jamaica."
Baby Deni stayed in Jamaica with Esme and the extended Hines family for the next two and half years. "It was better to leave her in a secure environment," explains Marcia.
In 1975 Esme joined Marcia and Deni back in Australia and they all lived together. "I won't say my mother was a saint but I think some people just are good mothers and I was really blessed to a great mother," says Marcia. "Deni had two parents; her gran and me."
Australian audiences welcomed Marcia's voice with open arms. (Image: Corrie Bond)
Marcia's career as a pop singer soared and in the late 1970s she was our best-selling female artist and dubbed the Queen of Pop. "That was when I first realised I'd been adopted by Australia. Because I wasn't even a citizen then; I was a permanent resident and that was a great honour."
But it hasn't all been plain sailing. In 1981 while away on tour, Marcia received a phone call that will stay with her forever.
"My mother called me and said, 'Marcia, your brother has passed away'. I started crying and she said, 'you need to try and gather yourself. It's an unfortunate situation that's happened. Worse than unfortunate. I buried your grandmother, your grandfather, your dad and your aunties and uncles. It's time you stepped up and go on to Boston and do what you've got to do.'"
Esme simply couldn't face burying her own child and passed the mantle of maternal responsibility to Marcia. Dwight, also a musician, was just 27. He had committed suicide leaving no note.
Deni, Esme and Marcia celebrating Christmas in Sydney 1999. (Image: Supplied)
"He hung himself. It was horrible. He was the light of my life. Growing up we did everything together."
The shock was followed by deep grief and brought Esme and Marcia even closer together. Then during the making of Australian Idol, Marcia lost Esme.
"It was very quick," says Marcia. "She died in my arms. That was my gift. It wasn't awful, but it was the beginning of the end. For me to hold her and to know that she had held me, was pretty nice. But I don't think she's ever left me. When I get confused we have a bit of a chat."
Marcia Hines stars in Saturday Night Fever at the Lyric Theatre Sydney from March 29. For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.au
To read the full interview with Marcia Hines, pick up a copy of the March issue of The Australian Women's Weekly. On sale now!

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