|OUR BOYS: BOOZE, PILLS, MARRIAGE BUST-UPS. BUT THEY'RE STILL MARVELLOUS
(Woman Mag, February, 1982)
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You worry about your kids whether they're 14 or 40", say Barbara and Hughie
Gibb and, let's fact it, their famous chart-busting sons have given them plenty of
problems. One son nearly hooked on booze, another playing with pills.... and now there's
young Andy's on-off romance with an older woman. Even if she is Dallas's Pam, his parents
can't say they're too happy about that. But, as Donald McLachlan discovered when he talked
to them, crises that would have torn other families apart have brought the Gibbs closer
Mrs Barbara Gibb, neat and trim and still with an accent straight out of Stretford,
Lancashire, says of her famous Bee Gee sons: "Ooh... I knew our boys were going to be
big stars that day in Australia -only a year after we emigrated from Manchester- when
Barry came home and stuck a piece of paper in my hand and said, "Here, Mum, you've
got to phone that man right away; he's going to pay us �00 to make a record."
Well, �00 was a lot of money in those days; still is! So I knew they were going places,
The rambling house in California is furnished like some wealthy rancher's; all Western
carvings, wagon wheels and firelight dancing on brass. It's in a star-studded woodsy
suburb, 20 minutes from the heart of Los Angeles. But there's always a nice pot of tea on
the go for neighbours like Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), George Hamilton (Love at First
Bite) and Victoria Principal of Dallas fame, who drop in whenever they feel like it.
Hughie Gibb, lean, dapper and looking easily 10 years younger than his 66, leans back on
the blue and white patterned sofa and reminisces fondly:"I was always ambitious
myself, you know. I had my own band -Hughie Gibb and his Music- nothing fancy. I always
thought it would be great to make records or get on the wireless. Everybody wants to make
a mark, don't they?"
He shakes his head in amazement. "Funny I didn't make it, but you look at the boys.
Just amazing. The three of them with the biggest record ever; that Saturday Night Fever.
And young Andy out there on his own doing just famously. In my day the going rate for a
musician was 25 bob a night! I can't get over it sometimes."
They're not short of a bob or two now.
The boys' road to fame, of course, has not all been easy. The broken marriages, the rows,
the bust-up when Robin broke from the other boys and went off with his wife Molly -now
another messy divorce- and all the drink and the drugs.
"Maurice had an awful time with drink, you know. Oh, he was done for drunk driving
two or three times, at least. I remember he had a Rolls Royce in London and he could
barely see over the steering wheel," Barbara recalls, pouring the tea. "Well, he
hasn't had a drink in over a year now. Oh, he'd tell you himself he was a chronic
alcoholic. He was a social drinker first, when he was in his teens in London. I suppose
that's how it all starts, isn't it? Then when he and Lulu got divorced it upset him so
much that he drank more and more. He had a terrible problem at that time. Well, a year ago
he went into a clinic in Santa Barbara for two months. then he came out to have an
operation on his back - he had two discs removed - and went straight back into the
alcoholic treatment again. He says himself now that he was an alcoholic, and he goes to
the Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and everything. He's just wonderful now.
"And of course Yvonne, his wife, is so pleased about it, she's much happier now. It
wasn't that he was always falling down drunk you understand. It was just that he was
always at it. Hughie and I think that the drinking was a big part of Lulu and Maurice
breaking up. Lu -that's what we always call her- was a bit too independent to put up with
that -doesn't have the patience- whereas Yvonne is a very calm, patient person.
"We still see Lu, and think the world of her. I thought Maurice was pulling me leg
when he told us they were getting divorced. They were so close, she couldn't walk down the
street without both her arms round his neck. But that's past history and he's very, very
happy with Yvonne. She's a lovely girl."
The teacups are refilled and family snapshots are proudly passed round. Barbara's 83-year
old mother, Mrs Norah Pass, has come over from Australia for her annual holiday -paid for
by the boys. Bernice, 17 (something of a Gibb afterthought), who is waiting for her big
chance, as an actress, comes in from the cottage garden which she has made her own. There
is a fascinating closeness about the Gibbs that fame and fortune has only heightened.
For years Hughie, as the Bee Gees' manager, received 10 per cent of all royalties. Then
they moved from Australia back to England and signed up with Robert Stigwood. Now Hughie
and Barbara have "a very generous allowance" from Barry, who runs the whole
Barbara smiles fondly. "He's the boss and no one minds at all. He pushed us to leave
Australia and try London; he has a very strong personality and he's got stronger as he's
got older. Everyone looks to Barry for guidance; they've always idolised him. He's the
guvernor; if there's a problem we all pick up the telephone and call Barry. He lives in
Miami, like Maurice and Robin, although he's got six or seven houses of his own all around
the world. Some in Florida, some in England, this one here that he gave us and Gran's in
Australia. Drink? Oh, he's a tea addict! Everywhere he goes his teapot and kettle go with
him. We always have to laugh when the boys are touring; the reporters all come inexpecting
to see lots of drinking and partying and all that going on,and there are the boys sitting
down and the wives are making tea! We're very, very happy for Linda and Barry because
they're so happy with each other.
"It's nice for a mother to look at her children and see them happy and we hope in
time things will work out all right for Robin, too, although he's very, very unhappy about
his personal life just now, and you can't blame him, can you? He's had one or two bad
times, has Robin. When the boys broke up they all had a rough time of it. There was
Stigwood in Barry's ear, and Molly in Robin's ear, and Maurice on his own -he had nobody's
ear! He just didn't know what on earth was going on. It's really terrible when brothers
don't get on. And we didn't either, from one day to the next. Well the result was that we
didn't even see Robin for two years. Molly just more or less kept him away from us. He was
fairly successful but he didn't like performing by himself.
"I was in a shop in Wardour Street one day and there he was! So I said, "Hello,
son," and he spoke to me. Well you can't not speak to your own mother, can you?
We threw our arms round each other and had a little weep and he said "How can I get
in touch with Barry?" So we were all one big happy family again.
"He'd had a right bad rime too with pills. He was taking some kind of pills when he
was on his own and it all just got out of hand and they had to put him into a hospital
more or less to keep him out of the public eye. So he watches what he takes now. He'll
have a brandy in the evening but never before eight o'clock which we think is very very
"Of course Barry and Andy both smoke grass sometimes -marijuana- which we don't
approve of at all. But they're both grown men now. Barry's 35 and Andy's 24 and we just
don't say anything. It would upset everybody."
Andy, with his hit record show, Solid Gold, is also the toast of the gossip columns
because of his on-off affair with Victoria Principal, the Dallas TV star, 14 years his
senior. Recently the relationship is off. But "It happened last week so it could be
back on again next week. We don't know what went wrong, you never get to the bottom of it,
do you? They never tell you.
"They've fallen out before, but it's never been as long as this. He's moved his stuff
out of her place in Beverly Hills to his own house in Malibu and, as far as we know, he's
not seeing her any more. In a way, it's a relief. We like Victoria, don't say we don't,
but that's a big age difference, isn't it, 14 years? We don't like to see him upset
Outside the shadows lengthen over the open-air swimming pool, chilled now by the spring
cold snap. Barbara Gibb helps Hughie clear the tea things away and settles back down by
the fire. "You know, people think we've changed, that maybe we think of different
things now that we're better off than we ever dreamed. But when you're a mother nothing
changes really. Or a Dad, like Hughie. You still worry about your kids whether they're 14
or 40. You never stop thinking how they're doing, what they're doing." She grins
suddenly,"or who they're doing what with..."