The Blond Singing Star from Pontardawe
By Melinda McCracken
THE CURTAIN AT O'Keefe Centre falls on the applause of a packed house, then rises, and this slender blond girl stands on stage, an innocent figure in her long pale blue dress. The curtain falls again and it's intermission.
Backstage, Mary Hopkin's manager is carrying her guitar, as Miss Hopkin pauses to offer a lily-like hand for shaking. She is like a Dresden doll in her long dress, and disappears into her dressing room to change.
The door across the hall opens and Engelbert Humperdinck steps out, resplendent in dinner jacket and in a waft of cologne. He is intimidating in his bronze make-up: he looks too much like a star and not enough like a human being. He is unbelievably well-groomed and good-looking.
He says something about being superstitious, and always goes on and off stage at one side. He goes through the door out on stage where the orchestra is building up to his cue. The door closes, but you can hear the huge wave of applause as he breaks into his song.
Miss Hopkin is sitting in her dressing room which is big and gold-colored, with the mirror framed in light bulbs, and she has changed into a short black pleated skirt and yellow blouse. She has long legs and she's wearing tights, even though it's a hot day.
If she'd been nervous on stage it's impossible to tell. She doesn't appear worried or relieved, just relaxed and fresh. Her room has scarcely any of the showbiz clutter. There are two bouquets on the table, and tubs and jars of make-up.
The little girl from Pontardawe, Wales, is a star sitting in her dressing room, talking in her soft Welsh accent, and she's exactly what you'd imagine a pretty girl from Wales to be like:
"It's not hard to sing to so many people. I can't really see their faces. I just want to get on with it. I don't think about what I'm doing. I think about singing. But I do have trouble thinking of things to say between songs. I have to say something, but I don't like talking. I'd just like to sing."
She says her mother sang to her when she was little. She has two sisters. She met Stan Carrington, the manager, six years ago at the University of Wales. "He's an architect, really, and is not in the business: so he doesn't try to push me around and make me do things I don't want to do. Which I wouldn't do anyway."
She stares down at the soft drink in her hand. She used to sing for working men's clubs in Wales: "They came to play bingo. I got up with my guitar to sing for them. They were a nice audience. I hope they liked it."
Of the Beatles: "I know Paul (McCartney) best. He's really the only one I can talk to....A press officer said that John and Yoko (Lennon) might come to see me, but it's so hard for them, with so many people.
She is an admirer of Joan Baez and Judy Collins. She saw Joni Mitchell on television in London: "She writes all her own songs instead of singing other people's, with other people's feelings in them. But I haven't yet. I like folk songs, songs that have something nice to say, and nice melodies.
"A lot of traditional Welsh songs are sung without accomplishment and they're not very musical."
Her tour with Humperdinck is the second big thing she has done, aside from appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show twice, the last time (last Sunday) to sing her new hit, Good-bye, which McCartney wrote for her.
"I am a bit scared of New York next week. I am singing at the Royal Box in the American Hotel. There's a comedian on with me. The stage is about this his high (she held her hand about two feet from the floor) and the tables are right next to the stage. There won't be very many people. But they'll be drinking and eating.
"When you're on stage you're alone, and I'll be able to see their faces and see them watching me. I'm a little scared about that."
She says she doesn't have a boy friend: "Nobody serious. It's hard when you're touring. But it's a good way to avoid the ones you're trying to get away from. You just say, 'Well, I'm off to America.' The roses are from one of them. He said he would come to New York but he didn't, thank goodness. They really are lovely roses, though, aren't they?"
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