‘I don’t expect my love affairs to last for long
Never fooled myself that my dreams would come true
Being used to trouble I anticipate it
But all the same I hate it
In 1981 with these exquisitely sung words, Kim Kallie as Peron’s mistress in Evita entered my life. I was twenty, still at drama school, and I sat in the audience utterly transfixed by this beautiful, heart wrenching performance. Bob Martin, the theatre photographer at the time wrote:
“Although it was a cameo role, her performance of one number, “Another suitcase, another show” proved a show-stopper. Of course Rice’s beautifully written lyrics and the song’s pathetic, heartbreaking qualities evoking the audience’s sympathy helped, but I believe it was largely because of the wonderful way Kim sang it.”
I learned that Kim Kallie’s mother was Judy Page. For those of you that have no idea of who Judy Page and Kim Kallie are, let me fill you in.
Judy Page is an outstanding singer and musical theatre performer. She has starred in many musical compilations : Brel, Piaf, Jerome Kern, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Judy Garland and Jerry’s Girls for which she won the Dalro Award for Best Performance in a musical. She is also known for the leads she has played in musicals such as: Chicago, The King and I, Hello Dolly and Mame. In 2012 she was presented with the Naledi Life Time Achievement Award. Being given my own Naledi Award, The Lesedi Spirit of Courage, I can appreciate the pride Judy felt on receiving this phenomenal award.
Kim is a singer supreme and has been awarded numerous platinum records. During the apartheid era, together with Attie Van Wyk and Phill Hollace they created the pseudonym of Margino for Kim. They toured around the country with Kim singing songs that they had collaborated on together. Kim has performed prolifically on stage in numerous successful productions.
When Kim was growing up, Judy realised with joy that there was another singer in the family. She and Kim recorded Montreal when Kim was 8 (Press here to listen!). It became a number one hit on the Springbok Hit Parade for ten weeks.
“That must have given you such a big thrill, Kim,” I remarked, “Did you excitedly talk about it at school?”
“There were positives and negatives to the whole story which followed a pattern throughout my life – good and bad. I was proud but shy about my recording. I both loved the fact that it was different to all my schoolmates but I also wanted to be one of them, one of the crowd. They were playing sport and I was going to rehearsals and recording studios. I realised that my ‘relative fame’ had an impact on my schoolgirl relationships. It took me years to come to grips with or even understand that. My mum was famous, winning awards and I had a small public profile too. Its tough to be different as a kid.
Would I change it in hindsight?
Never! We have had a wonderful journey together, mum and I.”
Forty years after seeing Evita, I phoned my friend, Kim.
“I am coming to Cape Town for four days. Please may I come and spend my first night with you?”
Kim laughed. “Sure!”
“My little Gaynor!”Judy said softly as she embraced me. It felt like an eternity since we had last seen one another. I got a warm hug from Moshe, Judy’s husband. How wonderful it was to cast my eyes round the dinner table at all the familiar faces that I had missed seeing for so long. Iain Banner, Kim’s husband was a longtime friend of mine. We first knew each other when I was 18. He still had those luscious smiling eyes that had made my heart race all those years ago. My memory is not a reliable instrument since my fall. Iain took great delight in reminding me of the time we had ‘smooched’ wonderfully in a yellow VW. I had totally forgotten about that kiss.
“Did I ‘smooch’ well?” naturally I asked.
Iain grinned. “Like a dream, Gaynor, like an 18 year old dream!”
I laughed. “You daren’t say anything else!”
I was sitting there with two great divas, Judy and Kim. They have allowed their voices to take flight, to whirr around rooms, alighting within people souls. Theatre can change people. So too can music. I have listened to Kim sing and have been so moved that the tears flowed down my cheeks. In the same way, I have laughed with Judy at one of her hilarious characterisations in a song from Jerry’s Girls. I envy both Judy and Kim, their ability to transport people to whatever they sing about. They always left me breathless with awe and my heart remained singing for a long time afterwards.
Before my fall, I had a reasonable voice. I remember sitting with my guitar, harmonising with Mums and getting so much pleasure. My big, lovable father used to weep every time I played: Both Sides Now.
Music is an amazingly potent and effective force.
Judy mentioned performing at Sun City years ago.
“I’ve never been there. I would love to go,” I commented.
“Yes, you have,” said Judy.
“No, I’ve never been to Sun City,” I said definitely.
“Gaynor, after your fall, you were at Headway. I was performing at Sun City at the time. I arranged for you and the whole of Headway to come and see me perform.”
“Oh…” I breathed as forgotten images fought together in my mind to become clearer. Suddenly the memory was there, sparkling brightly.
“Remember?” Judy’s deep husky voice prompted.
“Yes..yes…and you said in front of all those people…”
“I told them how you and I had been doing a production together. And each morning I would go and get into my car and there was a sprig of jasmine on the windscreen from you. Which was your way of saying: ‘Hi there, Judy! I’ll be waiting for you in rehearsal with a cup of coffee!’
I was so pleased to have this wonderful memory back.
I looked at Judy all these years later and the old affection and love came tumbling like blossoms from a tree, alighting us both with pink happiness.
“I love you, Judy”
She smiled. “As I love you, my Gaynor.”
She told me that before my fall, I went and saw her perform in The Cellar in Durban. After the show I said to her: “Judy, what a magnificent performance. I watched you closely and I know. I know how you do it!”
When Judy recounted this remark thirty five years later, I eagerly said: “And how did I say you’d done it, Judes?”
“You never told me. You simply gave me a knowing look, winked and walked out the dressing room with your arm above your head and your finger pointing skywards shouting: “I know your secret!”
“Damn, how I wish I could be that “knowing” theatre person of 35 year ago,” I exclaimed.
“So do I,” Judy laughed. “I would love to know what you knew then.”
Kim mentioned a time when their family was living in England.
“Yes, I…I..I think I remember you lived in England for a couple of years,” I said hesitantly.
“You should do,” Kim laughed. “You came and spent three days with us in Checkendon.”
Once again I felt my mind juggling around.
“Yes,” I finally exclaimed joyfully, “yes, I did.”
“We had heard of your show My Plunge to Fame in South Africa” Kim continued “and we persuaded you to perform it in our garden. It was packed with people.”
“That’s right,” I exclaimed. “They donated money in a hat. They were so generous! I used the money from that evening to fund the rest of my stay in England. Kim, I had forgotten all about that incredible time I spent with you Banners. Oh, I am so glad I have that memory back again!”
Judy and Kim love performing together. They have a mutual understanding of each other and this translates into a glimmering ease onstage. In rehearsal, they value each other’s input and are able draw out the best and discard the unnecessary. When watching Kim perform, Judy marvels at this woman who used to lie in her womb and rejoices in her musicality.
Kim says: “Mum was an absolute trailblazer, trend setter and a total beauty in her day. And then she had that voice!” She laughed. “She still has that voice!”
Ten years ago, Kim opened a school: The Kim Kallie Performance Academy. What unbelievable joy this Academy brings her. Students range from eight years old to eighty! They flourish under the extraordinary guidance of Kim and her team. As Kim says: “The aim is to enrich and help students discover their potential….They need self esteem, courage and a good work ethic to survive in this industry.”
I have watched some of these students on video and Kim must surely rejoice at what they are achieving. They are able to join the music and theatrical fraternities, form their own bands and book their own gigs.
This is how it should be! Passing on to others what you have learned in your life and then watching these little fledglings test out their wings, leap and…FLY!!!
I lay in bed that night elated by my re-discovered memories and my wonderful friends. I believe that people come into your life for a reason. Judy, Kim, Iain and Moshe were all there for me to conjure up memories and to remind me of what makes up friendship. The song, For Good from the musical Wicked recorded by Kim and Judy during Covid lockdown expresses exactly that:
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return…….