“They look like they’ve been on a night out without me!” Miss Hope Springs exclaims candidly as she wrestles the final locks of her golden hair into perfect 60’s house-wife place. There is a sultry glare into the mirror as one last curl refuses to sit and receives a solid thrashing from the comb. Then all is right again and I am warned to hold my breath as the hairspray comes out.
So this is what it’s like to be sitting in the dressing room of a former Las Vegas showgirl turned nightclub chanteuse. The mirrors shine all around us as evening sunlight streams in on the dressing table, dancing shadows and light over the foundation sticks, lipstick and makeup brushes strewn helter-skelter across the surface. Her hair done, Miss Hope graciously takes her seat and picks up a well-loved foundation brush.
Miss Hope Springs has been touring since 1972 when her residency at the Pink Pelican Casino in Vegas came to an end, just before it’s demolition. Recounting fondly the tale of liberating a handful of her favourite sequinned dresses before the building came down, she pauses with her makeup brush in hand to blink away a tear. Her departure from the Pink Pelican and subsequent tour have led to multiple LP’s selling well into the “tens of copies”, some of which I learn have done exceedingly well in Scandinavia, apparently.
Her relationship with husband Irving Less (no shame on Miss Hope for not taking the surname!) her some-time manager and now renown hairdresser, has had it’s ups and downs, but she is currently living with him and his ‘business partner’ Carlos in their Winnebago, on Pimlico Green (she sings a great little number about it during her show), though she admits sometimes they park up at Homebase in Shepherd’s Bush, just for variety.
I suggest to Miss Hope that we rewind and start at the beginning. Did she choose a career in showbiz, or did the career choose her?
It was her mother, an exotic dancer by the name of Rusty Springs, who pushed her into the glitz and glamour of the show world. Miss Hope’s childhood ambition was to be a classical actress, but her mother wasn’t having it. The sensitive topic is broached in one of her songs of the evening, creatively entitled “Assets” (If you have ‘em, use ‘em). Her mother is now in the UK with her actually. Rather innocently I say that it must be nice to have mum around for support, to which she laughs, admitting that it’s reached a point in life where it’s the other way around now, what with her “On the Screwdrivers at 8am in the morning.”
Of all the people she’s met over her colourful career, the rich and famous, the weird and wonderful, who has had the biggest impact?
Goldie Hawn. Specifically that one New Year’s Eve when she slipped LSD into the fruit punch… It’s a long story documented in full effect via song, though Miss Hope admits with a bashful smile that it’s a number only appearing in her Christmas show, we won’t get to hear it tonight. Christmas seems a long way off, but its worth the wait for a good tale about Goldie Hawn, LSD and fruit punch if you ask me. I’ve promised I’ll be there.
Her Christmas show will be at Zedel’s at Piccadilly, one of her usual haunts, on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of December.
However, tonight’s show brings Miss Hope Springs to Wilton’s Music Hall, London’s only intact survivor from the early Grand Music Hall era of the 1800’s. It’s a beautifully decadent location, nestled in the heart of the East End, and like Miss Hope, remains in exactly the same condition as in it’s golden era.
But back to our story and the sunset streaming into the dressing room as Miss Hope tends to the final touches of her eyeliner and mascara. Her performances have been labelled as ‘tragicomic genius’, and I recognise that it must be tough to go out on stage and bare her soul to an audience, sharing all of her life experiences, ups and downs, falling off the horse and getting back on—as it were.
She agrees, pointing out that the show is always different from what people initially expect. For one night only, she pulls aside the backstage curtain and let’s us through into Hope’s world, showing us intimately how the glitz and glam of showbiz is not always what it’s cracked up to be.
It must be liberating to share about the life of a showgirl.
She sweetly puts me back in my place, reminding me that “being a showgirl” merely opened the door to for her to become the singer-songwriter she now is. I nod, I heard she was classically trained, which is incorrect — her musical director, Ty Jeffries, is classically trained, but Hope herself “only knows about four chords”.
It’s not that bad, I console her, I only know two. Surprisingly, she lights up to hear this “For anyone to play any kind of music is a wonderful thing,” she tells me.
So what is Miss Hope’s biggest advice for me then?
Listen to advice, and choose wisely who you listen to. Everyone will give you different advice, from ‘That’s not the right colour lipstick’, to ‘Give it up’. Take heed of your inner voice, not the voices in your head necessarily—we all pause here to laugh politely, and with a knowing smile she clarifies the voices she means are the deeper one, those telling you what’s your destiny. It’s a poignant moment, because she’s absolutely right.
She smiles and picks up a powder puff to daub her nose, “And no matter how long it takes—it’s a bit like Julie Andrews, climbing every mountain, fording every stream. It’s all about the journey isn’t it? Not necessarily where you are going.”
It leads me to ask if she has any specific thoughts on girls and boys hoping to get into the showbiz industry?
She definitely does. “Work hard, rehearse, practise, learn your craft, learn your instrument. If you are acting—go to class! And if you act, go to dance class. If you are a dancer, go to acting class. And if you do both of those, go to singing classes! It opens up more avenues of work for you. In America you know, most dancers sing and act—they work to work, incredibly hard! So they are ready when opportunity knocks. And even though I personally have been waiting forty-five *cough* thirty-nine years for it to knock—I’m still ready!”
She says “I’m still ready!” with such an innocent and wide-eyed hope in her voice that I have to believe her, but our time is up, and I’m whisked away with a kiss on each cheek to be seated for the show. I’ve left a good few laughs, and taken away much more than I bargained on. The gems of wisdom may be hidden behind the sparkling sequins, but they are definitely there.
Miss Hope Springs goes on to deliver a killer show; There are few artists who can have an audience in stitches before they’ve reached their punch line, but she does it multiple times with her bawdy honesty and the finger clicking, sing-a-long inspiring delirium that her songs create.
You can still catch her in the beautiful surrounds of Wilton’s Music Hall this evening if you are quick, and I would thoroughly recommend it—the cocktail bar upstairs at Wilton’s is divine and the atmosphere harks back to an era of grandeur that compliments the show all too well.
Keep an eye on www.misshopesprings.com for other upcoming tour dates!
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So I spent Tuesday evening in a dressing room in London’s East End with the alter-ego of Ty Jeffries, Miss Hope Springs. Having never interviewed a Las Vegas showgirl, or someone in drag before, I had the time of my life! and I hope you enjoy reading about my experience…