My shock at hearing of the death of Kate O’Mara was really quite physical. It hit me like a bullet to the stomach. Kate was an eternal beauty. She was a woman that one might have described as ‘forever young’. She was born with fine bones and eyes that made you want to swoon but she worked very hard to maintain her beauty. She never abused Life’s gifts to her. She ate sensibly, she didn’t stay out late with the rest of the cast, drinking and carousing. My memories of her always include her slipping off early to a cottage she had rented somewhere out of town, wherever we were. I admired her enormously. I admired her work ethic, her discipline and her genuine warmth and kindness.
When we were first cast to act together in two plays at the Malvern Festival in England – one GB Shaw and one TS Eliot – all the silly newspapers made comments such as ‘two strong women – will they be able to share the stage?’; both of us had been described as ‘sex symbols’ from our roles on television. The press predicted we would be at one another’s throats, Dynasty-style. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
After rehearsals in London, the company moved to Malvern, to prepare for dress rehearsals on stage, in the theatre. I was terrified, beyond all reason and expectation. I had been shooting All Creatures Great and Small, as well as other films and TV roles and had not stepped on a stage for more than three years. Kate, on the other hand, was always touring, always out on the road, always working in the theatre. Theatre was her first love whereas I was more comfortable with cameras and film crews.
We were allocated the two principle dressing rooms, facing each other. The first night was almost upon us. Flowers, telegrams were pouring in at the stage door (predominantly for Kate). My nerves were getting the better of me. Knees knocking, voice croaky.
I can picture Kate now, in her costume of stretch jodhpurs looking slinky and slender while I was buxom in Edwardian full-length dress and corset. I remember her crossing the corridor and knocking on my dressing room door a few minutes before curtain up on that first night. By this time I was sure I would never make it to the stage, so extreme was my anxiety. Kate had been out and bought a herbal concoction for me. (Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedy). If the newspapers were to be believed, Kate would have wanted me to fail so that the good reviews and limelight were all hers, but that was not at all the real Kate. It may have been a TV persona she became famous for, but the real Kate cared. She laughed, she smiled and she shared. She got me imbibing a few drops of the liquid that has been a fail-safe for me ever since when stage fright gets the better of me and she talked me through my nerves.
After those early performances were over and the shows were running smoothly, we became friends. She popped into my dressing room regularly as one might pop next door to have tea with a neighbour. She talked to me endlessly about her son, Dickon, and wanted to introduce us. She idolised him.
As is so frequently the case in the world of entertainment, after the shows were over Kate and I went our separate ways but whenever we did meet it was with great affection. She took over my role in An Ideal Husband in Peter Hall’s production when I left for another contract. She had played the role before and was rehearsing in the theatre during the day while I was playing the part in the evenings. It gave us an opportunity to catch up. The last time I saw her was at the BBC. We were both being interviewed for some chat show or other. She told me then that she had many concerns about Dickon. She had lost weight and I could see that she was troubled. We hugged tightly and I wished her a happy outcome to the problem.
‘I have read all your books,’ she smiled warmly. ‘I am proud of you.’
I cannot describe how touched I was by this remark, by its generosity and its fidelity to a friendship that had been seeded three decades earlier.
Kate played vamps, bad girls, the scheming other woman. Nothing could be further from the real female. Kate was, and always will be in my memory, a real woman and a trooper. She was courageous, hard working, dedicated to the theatre and her son and she was a loyal friend.
God speed you on your way, dear Kate. You will be much missed.
Your friend, Carol.
Carol Drinkwater is an actress and bestselling author whose latest novel is out on Kindle, available in US and UK. Living out in France, Carol has written a series of books about her Olive Tree Farm, which you can locate on her website. http://www.caroldrinkwater.com/
Carol’s latest novel Hotel Paradise is the number one best selling Kindle Single on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hotel-Paradise-Carol-Drinkwater-ebook/dp/B00IXOBK4U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1394618527&sr=1-1 UK version
Special thank you to Carol for photo to accompany article
Kate photo links:
Kate photo links: