Paul Nicholas on his father’s influence
Who was your dad?
His name was Oscar Beuselinck and he was unlike most other lawyers of his generation. He grew up in the 1940s when solicitors were upper class and bowler-hatted; he was an office boy at 14 and ended up running the firm, becoming a flamboyant libel and showbiz attorney, representing everyone from Sean Connery and Richard Harris to The Beatles. I think they all liked him because they could relate to him. He was a colourful guy and while I loved and respected him, he could be irritating with a terrible habit of testing people to see how far he could push them. He’d come round your house, for example, open your mail and read it. He could really piss you off.
Did he provide you with an introduction to showbiz?
Occasionally he’d take me to shows when I was growing up in the 1950s – I remember seeing the Crazy Gang at the Victoria Palace – and sometimes famous people would come to the house, like the writer John Osborne. Dad wasn’t really a family man; he used to think relatives were boring. When I got my first high-profile showbiz job at 23 in the musical Hair, he encouraged me to take a stage name. I think he was looking after his own reputation, to some extent. While the sex, nudity and drugs didn’t worry him at all, he was concerned I wasn’t going to make anything of it. So I changed my name to Nicholas (from Paul Oscar Beuselinck) which I’ve regretted ever since. I prefer my own name.
How did the portrait come about?
His firm had it done for his 70th birthday in 1983. It’s now in my dining room so he looks down at all of us at Christmas with a wry smile on his face.
Are your stints as pop star, musical theatre performer and actor three different careers or a continuation of the same calling?
I just like to be involved with things that work whether it’s a pop song or a TV show. The pop career in the 1970s, for example, was all about having a hit record and not about being a famous pop singer.
Did you have a wild 1970s?
You never knew what was around the corner. I once received a phone call out of nowhere asking me to go and meet Pete Townshend and Ken Russell who were filming the Who’s Tommy. They played me the song and suddenly I found myself singing it in the movie while being thoroughly objectionable and dragging Roger Daltrey around the set by his hair. I remember Keith Moon and Oliver Reed spending most of their time organising drinking contests which were quite fun. I did try the rock singer lifestyle a bit, but every time I had a drink I used to spend four hours throwing up. You needed a cast-iron constitution back then and I’ve always had a sensitive stomach.
Do people still think of you as Vince from Just Good Friends?
The character of Vince just seemed to fit me and I could really relate to him. I had been previously married and had a motherin- law not too dissimilar to Daphne in the show.
Paul Nicholas directs a new musical version of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities at the Charing Cross Theatre in London until 12 May.
Interview by John Holt