Date: June 1998
Be sure to view the pictures from this article. Melanie's entire body was douched in gold. (Honestly). CLICK HERE
POSH SPICE'S FOOT DROPS OFF GINGER SPICE GIVES BIRTH TO PREDATOR BABY SPICE'S MOTHER WAS A GIANT DISCO CRAB 'I WAS A FOUL-MOUTHED SHOP BOTHERER' SAYS SPORTY SPICE GARY GLITTER DIES OF TORTOISE AIDS
These headlines are not real. They haven't been written yet. But after reading 1,500 pages of press cuttings dating back to the birth of the Spice in 1994, it can only be a matter of time.
When the official SpiceBacklash(TM) started in November '97, one paper asked its readers which Spice Girl irritated them the most. The broadsheets wanted them buried for crimes against the brain. People talked about hating them. That's "hate". As in, "I hate my arthritis." You could be mistaken for thinking these Spice Girls were sick, or evil. Papers can do positive, helpful stuff like rescuing donkeys from Spain and providing bedding for hamsters, so why waste space drumming up spite for the Spice Girls? It might stick in your gulliver but the Spice Girls are set inside kids' minds like sweets, bogies and getting bitten by Alsatians - if you attack them, you might as well go up Toytown and kick Sweep in the nuts. The Spice Girls will probably have a bigger influence on the future of Britain than any other female after Thatcher - and you can bet she never went like a bunny or gave away shiny motors on Turkish gameshows. The Spices enjoy football, footballers, quality merchandising, a dance, a bit of a swear, big shoes and having fun. They don't make beagles smoke tabs, push kids up chimneys or shut vicars' heads in doors for hard cash. They are a good thing.
At the back of a Brum photo studio, Mel C, a skimpy bikini, three tins of gold paint, my hormones and a make-up lady who looks like one of Charlie's Angels battle for space and attention. Despite the three bottles of `push the boat out' bubbly we've stuffed in the studio fridge, Mel C sits in an office chair supping lukewarm tap-water out of a cloudy pint glass. We've pulled a curtain around the office section of the studio for a bit of Eastern Bloc-style privacy. On the other side of the curtain, in an area no bigger than a wasps' nest, the photographic side of the loaded operation assembles its lights and equipment with all the decorum of a tramp trying to kill his dinner in a rubbish tip. "Fucknuts! Shit! Bollocks!" Quiet it ain't.
Does she like a swear herself? "I like to swear. I was going to say I don't know... but I do swear a lot. I think I like swearing. No. I think I really like swearing. I really have to watch what I say. I think it's because I don't read enough, I haven't got enough adjectives. Do you know what I mean? So everything is fucking this, fucking that, fucking something... When I first started doing kids' telly I thought I'd start swearing on the spot. But then I thought, when you talk to your nan you don't swear, so it must be possible."
You come across as being quite intimidating. "I had my tarot cards read to me the other day and the lady said that people find me really intimidating. I found that really strange because I'm really soft. I'm as soft as shit, I'm not really aggressive to anybody. She said that can actually intimidate people - because I'm so quiet, people can't read me. If I'm in a room with lots of people, it's not that I don't want to speak to them, it's just that I don't know what to say. It's like you can see people thinking, `Hmmm... you rude bitch', but I get embarrassed. I got stopped in a shop the other day by this gay guy and he was shouting: [squeals] "Oh it's Sporty, it's Sporty!" Making all this big fuss, and I was so embarrassed, people must think I'm just being rude."
Her mum was a singer in a band with a couple of record deals in the offing when young Mel burst into the chill air of a Liverpool maternity room back in '74. After being nourished for nine months on her mother's yearning for fame, there was very little doubt that Baby Mel was going to be an international superstar. At school she won large, cumbersome trophies for dancing and gymnastics - even snatching the school's mixed highjump record away from the lads in her third year. It seemed written in her destiny that she should be sporty. After school and college she became a full-time dancer and cracked her knuckles a lot ("it makes people upset"). Following that she went on the dole and then became a massive star when her band rose to fame on the back of the pop classic `Wannabe'. How long was she on the dole? "For about two years."
She must have many fond memories...
"Yeah, nicking food because I was so skint. Oh God, will I get done in the papers for this? But, erm, you just can't survive when you're on the dole. It's ridiculous, isn't it? Being a dancer I was trying to audition for stuff and I was living on five pounds a day, which takes the piss. If I had an audition in London it d be £3.50 to get there, and then you've got to feed yourself after that, and I couldn't afford to do nothing. Me and my mates used to have to nick food from supermarkets. We used to go in with empty carrier bags and come out with full ones. Saying that, we used to eat like kittens. I'm going to get done for this... but the thing is with supermarkets, it's all like kids working in there. They see you and they don't give a shit." You're unlikely to find Mel C or the Spice Girls nicking six-packs of Scotch eggs these days. You're more likely to find them sitting up in first-class with the likes of Mick Hucknall and the King of Spain. Doesn't she miss going out raving in fields with the hoi polloi, being naughty, knocking coppers' hats off and acting the goat on lager? "My last wild night out was probably in New York in February, a long time ago. But I was so rat-arsed after the Brits. We got this restaurant and invited a lot of friends and family. We all ended up so pissed, dancing on the bar to our own records, ha ha ha! I can't remember a thing. You know when you get drunk and can't remember a thing? I always get that, when you wake up the next morning and think, `Oh no, it must have been good. All I can remember is me dad looking at me going like this...' [shakes her head disapprovingly]."
What happened in New York?
"We were out there for a video shoot. I didn't really get round to going out, and ended up getting wrecked at the hotel. The others went to the Rolling Stones gig and then went off to this mad S & M club. I'm not really into going out. Mel B's not really into S & M, but they like going out and really exploring the world and seeing everything. I find it boring sometimes. When I was a teenager at college, out of work, I done it to death - staying out all weekend. I partied hard and now I just think, `Ooooh, [giggling] I'll sit in front of the telly, have a nice glass of wine.' When you get into your mid-20s you start thinking all this dancing and getting sweaty malarkey is a bit much."
Are you an obsessive person? "I'm quite erm... as a person... I'm a bit... I'm not a complete obsessive, but I like all me tins to be the right way in the cupboard."
"Well, I think there are a lot of people like that. It really annoys me if my flat's untidy. It does my head in, it really gets to me. When we were all living together we used to have to keep the house clean. The guy who was letting us stay there said we had to keep it clean or we were out - so we had a rota. Bathroom, kitchen, washing up, but Geri's job was to do the rota, d'y'know what I mean'? All she did was write the rota out. I just ended up doing everything. You know what I'm like, I'm domesticated. I can't have washing-up sitting on the side. Have you seen As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson as the compulsive obsessive'.' That's me. Lining up all his bottles of mineral water... I'd have to be Obsessive Spice. This industry has made me obsessive. Though saying that, I've always been a bit weird."
Do you ever question your sanity?
"No one's normal, but I think I'm a bit of a head case. I've had out of body experiences a few times. One night was quite weird because Geri had one the same night. It was after we'd done the Prince's Trust gig. I used to have them quite a lot. I'm floating around the room and spinning and that, and sometimes I'll go over the sea, and it's like I'm asleep but I can't make myself conscious."
Like drinking meths, then...
"I'm always scared that I'm going to see myself, that the end of my journey is to look down on myself. So I always wake myself up by breathing like this - `Huh huh huh!' - and panting like a dog. Isn't that weird? Huh huh huh huh!"
The miniature curtained space starts to fill up with the Spice entourage plus our own team of elite slap artists. We have to stop the interview to start the painting, else we'll never get the pictures done in time. Mel peels off her tracksuit, down to a sparkling gold bikini.The spray begins to cover the make-up girl's fingers as if she's caught a dose off King Midas. Golden particles fill the air, making breathing difficult, and I can feel my love-mud beginning to boil up like some mancient tar pit. Mel's hard dancer's body holds the paint like an eggshell. In a ballerina stance, she begins to morph into a golden statue, the paint intermittently blossoming over her from head to toe. Watching a beautiful woman getting painted gold is an erotic experience right up there with being held hostage by the Milk Maid Liberation Front.
The paint barely covers her multitude of tattoos. "I love me tattoos. I'm a tattoo freak, actually. Whenever I have a new tattoo I know which one I want to have next. Me last one, `Angel', was across my stomach. That's it. I don't want a new one. I've already got a cross, an armband and Japanese writing."
No Bull Dog Bobby`?
"No, but I've got a Liver Bird on me arse!" Very forward... do you get much bloke groupie action? "We're working solidly, so the people we meet, we meet through work. I met you today - I might not see you again for the rest of my life or we might meet again through work. We're not in a place long enough to form a relationship. You could be in a relationship while you're on the road, but I've not really met anyone. Obviously you want someone to be there so you can say, `Oh my God, I hate this and I'm so tired,' and have someone to say `It's alright'. It would be nice and I'm really fatalistic. I don't think, `Oh, why not me?' When it's my turn I know I'll meet someone and it'll be the right time for me. At the moment I'm so consumed with what I'm doing there doesn't seem to be any time for it.'
Do you get rich old men offering you money for sex?
"No way. I've got this guy who sends me fantastic flowers. But I don't think they know how to get to us."
You've been linked to a few blokes by the papers... "If it's someone quite tasty I don't really mind, but the embarrassing thing is if something has been in the paper about you and someone, and it's not true, and you have to work with them. Then you have to meet up and it's like, 'Hi!' Very embarrassing."
Who was that with?
"That was with Robbie."
"I didn't see him for ages and ages and then I went to see one of his gigs in Milan. I only really know him to say, `Hi, how are you doing?' Then I was at the Brits and at that point he was with the girl from All Saints, and that's really, really embarrassing. Everyone looking at you, thinking something is going on that isn't."
Do you have a male equivalent'?
"That's tough. I think a lot of Robbie. He's talented; his album's good."
Do you fancy him then?
"Well, I used to a little bit when he was in Take That. But once you meet someone it's a bit of a different story, isn't it?" You were also linked to Jason McAteer. In hindsight would you recommend to your young to fans that they stay away from professional footballers? "Ha ha ha! Erm, I've been friends with Jason for a long time, but from what I know of footballers I would be concerned if my daughter was knocking around with them. But you can't tar them all with the same brush, and David [Beckham] is a very nice, genuine guy - and Jason's quite funny."
Are you around for the World Cup? "I'm going to be in America for this bloody World Cup, aren't I? I'm gutted. I would have loved to have gone, but I can't even see one game. The first game is on the l5th, the first show in America is on the 15th and I'm off until then. Victoria will be watching David, so I'll catch as many games as possible. David's a really nice lad, and I let him off for being a scummer."
The last of the paint goes on and she looks awesome. Standing perfectly still in the middle of the room with people bothering around her, not making a sound. The door smashes open and in comes Baby Spice, all smiles, her hair done up in curlers. She's shooting elsewhere in the same building. "Shhhhreeeeeeeeeeeahhhh! You look great!" Seconds later Mel B sticks her head round the door. "Yeeeeeeah! Yeeeeeeeeah! Amazin'!" Some little berk from another magazine is peeking over her shoulder, his face all twisted up, having a good stare. Mel C stays quiet but you can tell she's uncomfortable with the Piccadilly Circus set-up. It couldn't be more public if we stuck a dwarf in a top hat on the main road charging people to see her pants. They disappear and the door gets locked from the inside.
Does she have to do much stuff that she doesn't want to? "If we don't want to do something then we don't do it. We had to sack our manager for our own sanity. Legally we can't talk about it. We just had to do it for the good of the band and our brains. The most tacky thing we did - that did wind us up but was good fun - was Surprise Surprise! The thing is that `Wannabe' is the cheesiest pop song ever written, outside of Aqua's `Barbie Girl'. Anyway, we had to do the `huh huh huh' bit and then and pop out from behind a poster grinning, and that was like `NO! I can't believe we're doing this!."
How did she feel about the all press attacks that started coming out around Christmas? "It worked in our favour really, because we didn't want our movie to be over-hyped. That's the worst thing that can happen, and with all this Spice Girls bollocks it was completely dissed by the press from the off, and we thought, good. Then people went to see it, made up their own minds and thought it was alright."
The worst press came from the showbiz bloke on the Mirror. "I've met him and looked at his pictures, and thought he looked like a complete twat. He's like Mr Bean on a bad day and he's the biggest geek that ever lived. I think, `I don't blame you mate, because if I was you I'd be pretty bitter an' all.' He's a complete git. Once, before he really started having a go at us, it was his birthday or something and he wanted us to custard pie him in the face, so he came down to the studios where we were working and we shoved a cake in his face. Top guy... hmmm. I pick up papers now and read the stuff people write about us and think, `Does anyone care about the shit they write?' About a weekend before we came home there hadn't been a mention of us in the tabloids for four days, and that's the longest we haven't been in the papers since we started as a band... which is pretty incredible."
Do you ever want to back out of being a Spice? "Well the schedule is fucking hard, but I love it. No matter what flak we get, with all we've fucking achieved I am proud to be a Spice Girl."
And that's it. Time's up. Wet wipes start jumping out of ladies' handbags and the scrubbing begins. Bit by bit, the paint comes away. The tats are back. With a deft wipe and a scrape, Mel C ends her time as the World Cup. It's closer than I'll ever get to the real thing, and obviously better. Imagine if you got the chance to win Mel C, and all you had to do was take on the best of the world's footballing talent. As an Englishman, that puts me at an instant disadvantage. It's enough to make you stock up on sausage and turn German. Well, almost.