She’s not a superbitch after all

FORGET the shoulder-pads, the bitchy comments and the lip gloss that shot Kate O’Mara to international stardom in Dynasty. When she breezes into lunch in an Edinburgh diner, the look is far more understated.

She’s now in her 60s, clad in blue denim, with her long, brown hair scrapped back and her mascara just a tad smudged, yet those familiar feline features are instantly recognisable.

A nervous fan approaches and asks for her autograph, much to the delight of the actress who is up there with Joan Collins when it comes to being one of television’s superbitches.

She’s here with her production of A Woman of No Importance, taking time out from treading the boards at the King’s to reveal there’s more to the woman who played the bizarrely named Caress Morrell than trading insults and plotting the downfall of her rivals.

Indeed, her own life story reads like something from the very soap opera that made her famous.

Married and divorced three times, she is now happily settled with her partner Mark Nobel, a fellow actor some 20 years her junior who she has no plans to marry.

But that’s not all. She already had one son, Dickon, a child from her first finished marriage which had finished, when she fell pregnant again. The baby, Christopher, was handed over for adoption at birth, his existence only becoming public knowledge three years ago.

But there was to be no happy ending. He has complained that Kate has disowned him for talking about their relationship, and she steadfastly refuses to discuss that area of her private life.

Formidable, vampish and certainly not the kind of woman who stands for being pushed around, Kate has already made it clear she calls the shots.

The intention was to meet somewhere suitably plush in keeping with her high-maintenance image, but the 62-year-old vegetarian is having none of it. "Miss O’Mara will not be railroaded from her chosen lifestyle," she declares, which is why she is sitting in the the basic surroundings of Susie’s Wholefoods Diner in West Nicolson Street.

"I’m not a foodie," she continues. "I don’t live to eat, I eat to live and am so convinced in my beliefs that it’s important to me not to endorse something just because I’m being bought a free meal."

She was in her teens when she first gave up meat, partly because she couldn’t bear pictures of starving children in Africa and partly because the food at the boarding school where she taught during her gap year was so awful.

"The school food - especially the meat - was so revolting that I couldn’t eat it," she says. "I found a health food shop, bought some nut paste, and had that on bread instead of the meat course, and suddenly I felt so much better.

"After art school I went into acting and on my first job met an actor who was a committed vegetarian. He made me aware of the moral implications which completed my conversion."

She has shunned the plastic surgeon’s knife, convinced the fact she doesn’t smoke, drink or eat meat has helped stem the evidence of the march of time. "As far as I am concerned, you are what you eat," she says.

She admits for years she ate very little, unable to force her fork past her clenched teeth, because she was so consumed with guilt for having so much food while others had so little.

Of course, being slim as well as beautiful did not exactly hamper her acting career.

She is among the small screen’s best known femme fatales, although there has been the odd deviation from type - most noticeably when she played prisoner Virginia O’Kane, in the popular ITV series Bad Girls.

"I was attracted to that part because I’d always done very glamorous, escapist characters before, never one as gritty and in your face as O’Kane," says Kate. "I knew Bad Girls attracts a younger audience, and it’s vital to get oneself known to that audience because, unless they watch me in re-runs on UK Gold, they won’t know me from a hole in the ground."

Those repeats include some of the best known television series from the last 30 years. The Brothers, Triangle, Emergency Ward 10, Doctor Who, The Persuaders - with screen legend Tony Curtis - and a number of Hammer Horrors such as The Vampire Lover and The Horror of Frankenstein.

However, it’s with Dynasty that Kate will forever be associated, even though she insists she has little in common with her bitchy character’s lavish lifestyle.

HER home is a 17th century cottage and while there is the odd antique, she ensures they are sat on, eaten off and put to work.

She accepted Dynasty for two reasons, she says. One, ‘to put a boot up the arse of her career’; and two, to earn enough to start her own theatre company.

Which is why Kate is just as likely to be found producing and directing these days, as acting.

Pulling out a folder of poster and costume designs she says: "I enjoy producing because the show becomes your baby. The play is my idea. I’ve cast it, designed the set, obtained the costumes, painted the set. I’ve even chosen the music. But the ghastly thing about being a producer is that once the curtain goes up there is nothing you can do.

"At least when you are in it you have some measure of control. If something goes wrong you can maybe put it right. When you are in the audience there is nothing you can do."

lKate O’Mara stars in A Woman Of No Importance at The King’s Theatre until Saturday.

Tastes like the real thing at down to earth veggie diner

Susie’s Wholefoods Diner doesn’t appear to be the kind of place you’d find Alexis Carrington exchanging sneering comments with fellow Dynasty bitch Caress Morrell.

It’s fairly plain, but don’t let that put you off.

"This is what I try to seek out," explains actress Kate O’Mara, who, in spite of her image as maneater and superbitch, turns out to be a committed vegetarian.

While her Dynasty character Caress probably chewed raw meat for breakfast, Kate is more of a chickpea and lentil lover.

Susie’s carrot, millet and lentil bake appears before her, accompanied by broccoli smothered in light cheese, all topped with ginger sauce.

"It’s divine," she declares between mouthfuls, "because it tastes of real food. The trouble with some cooking is that the real flavours get cancelled out by the wine, cream, and butter sauces."

As a confirmed meat eater, I feel compelled to go vegan for the day in support of her ideals. Besides, there’s no steak on the menu.

My fears that I’d be chewing all afternoon on cardboard are quickly set aside and I’m pleasantly surprised by a cashew flan which arrives with chunky carrot, succulent onion, and a crunchy cashew topping that is light and tasty.

Kate splashes out on a dessert of fruit salad with cashew cream which she says tastes just like the real thing, while my chunk of banana walnut cake - somehow made without eggs or dairy products - is perfect.

Colourful paintings hang around the sparsely-decorated diner. Kate muses: "It looks almost like a student place which is what I always try to find. Maybe its a left-over from my days at art school, but I’m at home here."

The Bill

1 x medium plate carrot, millet and lentil bake with broccoli cheese 4.20

1 x medium plate. cashew nut flan with pasta and roast vegetable salad, and carrot and red pepper with toasted mustard seeds 4.50

Fruit salad with cashew cream 1.95

Banana walnut cake 1.60

Glass pineapple juice 1

Glass red grape Juice 1

Total 14.25

Susie’s Wholefoods Diner, 51/53 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh Tel: 0131-667 8729