October 1970: TV - Movies Today

The Secret Bond That Ties Diana Rigg To Engelbert Humperdinck

On the surface there's not much to link Engelbert Humperdinck and Diana Rigg - except the fact that they're both from England. And very successful. And very popular in the United States.

Engel (as even his wife and family have learned to call him) is very Establishment. He met his wife Pat when she was a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, married her six years later in 1963, and he's never looked at another woman. Any excess of love he has goes instead to their three kids, Louise, 5, Jason, 4, and Scott, 2. Even though he's sold about 30 million records and has a personal fortune estimated at $4 million, he still enjoys the simple things in life. He and Pat and their brood didn't even move out of the tiny apartment they'd shared in his days on Welfare (yes, Welfare) until last year. Now they've an estate in Surrey with 2 Rolls Royces and a Mercedes-Benz to get them where they want to go. Of his success, he says simply, "My most treasured possession is my snooker table. I don't think about the money."

By contrast, Diana is a rather complicated lady, not as rich as we'd guess but much more deep and hard to know. She's not married; she lives quite openly with director Philip Saville. And to emphasize her anti-Establishment morals, she has recently been starring in a London play that gives her a four-minute nude love scene. In "Abelard and Heloise", Diana and Australian actor Keith Michell doff their clothes off=stage, then enter from opposite wings and meet in the center. "Hold me. Hold me closer. That's right," says Diana - and they lie down together on stage. Which means she's probably not the type of girl Engel and Pat are going to invite out to Surrey for a cuppa.

Yet oddly enough her differences from her compatriot may very well stem from the common bond they share. Traditionally the Catholic church has been quoted as believing, "Give us a child until he is six and he is ours." Certainly no thinking person denies that the early childhood years can shape any person's life.

Diana and Engel each did their early growing up in India. He was born there; hid dad was a British army captain. Diana went out from England when she was two months old; her dad was a manager of the national railroad. And for nine years each of them lived there, pale British children in a foreign land. Not for them the children's games their fellows played bak on their native island, not the counting rhymes, the frolics in the icy winter air, the fish 'n chips, the Cockney patter. Each was nine when he (or she) returned to a culture that was their heritage but oh so strange.

Children eact in different ways. Engel evidently decided he wanted in and lined up completely with the values of his peers. He even took the usual way to stardom in England, singing. He was not an overnight success as has been printed many times. Under his real name, Arnold "Gerry" Dorsey, he was such a show bix no-show that he suffered a nervous breakdown that put him in the hospital for six months. That all changed when he hooked up with Tom Jones' manager, Gordon Mills, and tried on a new name. The rest, as they say, is financial history.

Perhaps the measure of Engel's complete conformity to his new life in England can be taken by his attitude when it came time to do his army service. He was 18 and spent his two years in Germany. "I think it gives discipline. I don't enjoy fighting but it turned me into a man." And he regrets that England no longer has a compulsory service act to shape up other youngsters like himself.

Diana, on the other hand, never conformed, never got over her sense of alienation. Of her school days, she says, "Occasionally I got by but I was always a disturbance and they really didn't dig me much." Later, when she left school to try acting, she was again odd-woman out. At 5'9" she could scarcely play the sweet young things her age would indicate. It was only when she began doing Shakespeare in repertory that she came into her own - and eventually into "The Avengers" and now movies.

She's still, except for the director-friend who shares her flat, a loner. Says Diana, "I'm not really a star type. I don't like the premieres and autographs and things." But she's very live-and-let-live. Of her non-conformist views she says quietly, "I don't want to impose them on anyone else."

Diana and Engel have come a long way from their sunny childhoods in India. They've just traveled in very different directions.

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