Anita Harris on her career, life at home in Chertsey and her tour
- Credit: Archant
Actress, singer and entertainer, Anita Harris has travelled the world in an illustrious career that spans over five decades. From her home in Chertsey, she talks to Tinx Newton about the people she has worked with, her tour and life in Surrey
Anita’s show business break came when she was spotted as a talented teenage skater at an ice rink and was flown to Las Vegas, where she appeared three times a night in a revue at El Rancho Hotel. Sharing the stage each night were notable celebrities such as Mae West and Frank Sinatra, both of whom she feels very fortunate to have met.
“It was the most extra-ordinary thing,” she says. “Suddenly I was thousands of miles from home, and meeting these incredible stars whom I’d only ever seen on TV. Frank Sinatra was very kind and goodness those wonderful blue eyes! I shall never ever forget it, the thrill of suddenly being thrust into that world amongst so many talented and famous people.”
The magic of show business has stayed with Anita ever since, and she has worked continually in theatre, film, music and TV. She sang with the Cliff Adams Singers in her early career, and found fame in the pop world in the 1960s. She says: “My darling husband Mike, who was then my record producer and manager, got me recording a couple of Burt Bacharach songs. One was Trains And Boats And Planes which got me on to Top Of The Pops. Then Just Loving You was in the top 20 for six months. I am so fortunate that Mike is still my real creative buddy. We talk about my work a lot and plan together how we might add or change some aspect to keep the shows alive.”
Now married to Mike Margolis for 45 years, Anita tells me, with a twinkle in her eye, about his Surrey proposal. “It took place right on the river in Send. Mike proposed and we had some champagne,” she says. “However, the actual proposal, the one I accepted, was really in Marbella, but I think of that first one very fondly.”
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There is a real zest for life about Anita, which she puts down to a life time involved with theatre and music. In her self effacing way she frequently thanks chance and says: “It’s a gift, this life in show business, and the thrill never leaves me. Anyone who loves to perform knows the frisson that runs through as you wait to go on stage. And stage fright is no bad thing. It gives you an energy, and you find yourself in a kind of bubble, where you have to focus and do the very best you can every single time.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Anita recently donned an apron to appear on BBC’s Celebrity MasterChef. Not a naturally adventurous cook, Anita found the experience very nerve-racking. “I am a very ordinary cook,” she says, “the Sunday roast being a favourite of mine. I have never gutted a fish and an induction oven completely throws me. So MasterChef was a steep learning curve, but the production team are charming and they will you on to do well. I had no idea that being a chef was so intense prior to the show, now I am in awe of the staff in every restaurant I visit.”
All that jazz
In her 2018/2019 tour, Anita Harris in Concert, Anita celebrates her life with nostalgia and great humour. A wonderful cocktail of song, glitz, anecdotes and chat, she performs the songs that have made her into one of the country’s best loved stars including Memory, Just Loving You, Anniversary Waltz, Dream A Little Dream of Me, All That Jazz and Route 66, among many others.
In the show, Surrey musician, Peter Gill, is her musical director and pianist, a role he has played for many years. She has utmost respect for Peter and asks to mention internationally renowned voice coach, Ian Adam.
“Ian taught me to use the voice box from the lower abdomen, never from the throat. I believe this is why my voice is still in pretty good shape today,” she says. “When I was in CATS he advised me on how to sing Memory, which required great dramatic elements. He sadly died some years ago but he will always be a very special coach and friend to me”.
Anita pauses to reflect on her stage friends who have recently passed away. She is currently involved in a tribute to Tommy Cooper, and recently contributed to a tribute to Eric and Ernie. “I feel so lucky to have worked with so many wonderful and inspiring people,” she says. ‘These tributes are an important way to keep their memories alive, and to celebrate the pleasure they have given us all over many years.”
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