On the Easton front

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ONE of the most useful little rules for a contented life - which should probably lie somewhere in order of importance between number 10 (never eat anything you can’t pronounce) and number 45 (when someone brings out their guitar, it’s time to drink up and leave the party) - is the Sheena Easton rule, which runs thus: if you want to reach your silver wedding, or even the paper one, do not get hitched to The Modern Girl.

Last week at her Las Vegas show, Easton told the audience she was now single and planning to "start dating again" now that her fourth marriage, to plastic surgeon John Minoli, was over after 13 months. Indeed, the longest Easton, 44, has managed to stay with any of her husbands is 18 months. At the same age even Joan Collins was still deeply domestic with husband number three. Easton would save both time and alimony if in future she simply found a man she didn’t like and gave him a house; yet ironically most of her estimated 40m fortune is based on hits where she portrays herself as long suffering but devoted.

‘Morning Train’ - better known as ‘Nine to Five’ - is about blissful domesticity waiting at home for hubby, the Modern Girl pretends to have an independent life but is really staying home to watch TV when her bloke’s not around, while ‘One Man Woman’ means exactly that. Only later does Easton embrace single-entendre material such as ‘Sugar Walls’, penned by Prince, moving her image from Good Wives to Readers’ Wives and causing that reliable arbiter of rock, Tipper Gore, to dub the disc "pornographic". This conferred much-needed credibility on Easton, an artist with a reasonable range but the vocal expressiveness of Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis.

Sheena Shirley Orr was 10 when her father died. From then on, her mother, Annie, struggled to bring her up along with her five brothers and sisters. Her first public singing engagement was at a family wedding anniversary party, when her mother "pushed me down to the front" of the hall to sing ‘Early One Morning’. From then on, she wanted to be a singer.

As a fresh-faced 20-year-old from a Bellshill council estate, she shot to fame in 1980 on Esther Rantzen’s documentary The Big Time. At first she was dismissed by no less an authority than Lulu’s manager, who complained that Easton lacked "rugged individualism" but Sheena was undeterred, telling Rantzen: "I want to be famous."

Her first marriage was to actor Sandi Easton. When they met at the RSAMD in 1978 he was 29, she was 19 and they were, she said, "crazy for each other". However, within a year Sandi, though not his surname, became surplus to requirements. The marriage broke down after eight months, just as her career started to take off. Within weeks of The Big Time being shown, she had two records in the UK Top Ten and then another hit with the title song from the Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.

Sandi later sold his story, reflecting that "maybe Sheena was looking for a father figure when she married me. With her being so materially successful, the pressures became enormous in our relationship. She would ask what I thought of her voice, and if I was technical and told her, she would say, ‘How dare you criticise me?’"

In March 1999, Sandi Easton, was found dead in his council home in Stenhousemuir, near Falkirk, aged 47. He died alone, having never fully recovered from the death of his mother, two years previously. His last message from his ex-wife, almost 20 years earlier, was a letter warning: "Don’t you dare contact me again." She did not attend his funeral.

In 1984, Easton married for the second time, to her American agent Rob Light in a 100,000 ceremony. Eighteen months later she threw him out, telling him: "I’m going to New York tomorrow. Make sure you and all your stuff are out of the house by the time I get back."

In the absence of satisfactory husband material, she still went ahead and adopted two children, Jake, now nine, and Skylar, seven. Motherhood was something she was determined to experience, she said, "just like the one in the Waltons". She also chose to rework her stage image, most notably with Prince. Their duet ‘U Got the Look’ was an American Number One at the end of 1987. She also tried acting, playing Don Johnson’s fiance in five episodes of Miami Vice, a role that included a marriage and a death scene that probably added up to her most successful relationship to date. "I’m not Meryl Streep," she said, correctly.

Linked first with Johnson and then tennis star Andre Agassi, there was also speculation that Prince had given her more than songs. "For years, they’ve tried to put me and Prince in the same bed," she has noted. "At one point, the tabloids ran a story that Prince and I had a big falling out, and I had fled from his arms to Don Johnson. Prince laughs at all the stories just like I do."

By the end of the Eighties, any interest in boilers suits had evaporated, Miami Vice had finished and the Purple Prince had moved on. Easton’s career took a nose-dive, and her first attempt at a comeback in 1990 ended in disaster when she was booed off stage during The Big Day concert on Glasgow Green.

This brings us to Sheena’s Accent. In one of her first interviews she insisted she would never lose her distinctive accent because "I am proud to be a Scot". Nowadays her accent is a fascinating sound that is the polar opposite of the Sean Connery Syndrome. Sir Sean has managed to convey Spanish, Irish, Lithuanian, English and American, all without moving more than a square mile from Fountainbridge. Yet Connery hasn’t lived in Scotland for more than 40 years. On the other hand, Easton has stayed in America for a fraction of that time and sounds like John Wayne’s daughter, once describing herself to a sceptical Kirsty Wark as an "old broad".

However, close questioning from Wark as to her personal fortune revealed Easton’s combative side, as well as a partial return of her old accent. The singer - who gained US citizenship in 1992 - built up her fortune from shrewd dealings in the property market but has denied being a multi-millionairess. "I don’t know which is worse - allowing people to believe I’m filthy rich and have been concealing the fact, or to plead that my success isn’t quite up there with Michael Jackson."

Easton has ascribed Scotland’s coolness towards her to the fact she does not live here. On the other hand Annie Lennox doesn’t either, but she would never suffer the same indignity wreaked on Easton, booed and bottled off the stage in Glasgow when the audience took violent exception to being greeted with "It’s grate to be back in Scadland."

In the mid-Nineties she tried to relaunch her pop career with an eye on the gay market. Unfortunately, gay men didn’t want her either. Easton had been eclipsed by Kylie, while Lulu remains our longest-serving Scot with an American accent. Out of sight, out of mind and out of the charts, she hasn’t had a hit in Britain for more than a decade.

In 1997, Easton married film cameraman Tim Delarm in a rushed, secret ceremony in Los Angeles, having apparently decided that her children needed a father. Eleven months later she sued for divorce, claiming he was stalking her. While waiting for the divorce, she began seeing 44-year-old plastic surgeon Minoli. Married in November 2002 the split happened just before Christmas. "He worked in Beverly Hills and she worked in Vegas, and the weekend marriage and commuting drove them apart," said a friend.

So what next for the Bellshill banshee? At the moment, she is working in Las Vegas where she has developed the reputation of a diva-style temperament without the pulling power. Staff are told not to talk to or look at her, and comic John Padon, who had been Easton’s opening act, has said: "She was an absolute bitch to be around. She acts like she’s a miniature Barbra Streisand."

Hardly a character reference to attract the next Mr Right, or even Mr Right Now, although Easton has her own opinion on her lack of judgment. "My trouble is I’m a fool when it comes to men and I think I always will be."