Martin Kemp is one of the latest stars to join Keith Lemon on Through The Keyhole. As the Spandau Ballet star invites fans into his home, we take a look back at his special bond with his son, Roman Kemp. Speaking to HELLO! in 2015, the father-and-son duo revealed that they enjoy the easy banter of old mates, talking over each other and making gentle jibes. "He has no personality - he's a shrinking violet," joked the former EastEnders actor. It's no surprise to hear, then, that Martin and his wife Shirlie broke the number one parenting rule and brought up Roman and their daughter, photographer Harleymoon, to be their friends. It clearly worked.
"We have one of the best father-son relationships I know," Roman said proudly. "I'm very fortunate to live in a family where we get on." It was perhaps inevitable that Roman would be influenced by his parents' career choice - Martin has combined being a pop star with an acting career, while Shirlie found fame with Wham! with her singing partner Pepsi. Roman, who has had a record deal, dabbled in modelling and has been a personal trainer. "He's only 22 and he's had 48 careers," joked his dad. Did Roman, who has found his niche as a Capital Radio DJ, know he'd follow in his parents' footsteps? "I've seen the success that my mum and dad have had and I know the life I lived as a kid was because of what music did for my family. I guess I never tried to go against the grain and say, ‘I want to do my own thing.’"
Martin Kemp with his radio DJ son Roman
"But you have to remember that Ro wasn’t just surrounded by me and Shirlie," said Martin. "There was my brother Gary, his wife Sadie [Frost] at the time, who was making films, George Michael. We didn’t sit around the table and talk about being celebrities. It was all about work – and when I see Ro now, he has a fantastic work ethic." He also has what it takes to succeed as a radio DJ – namely the ability to "talk, talk, talk".
"That and try to be in a good mood at 5am," added Roman. "But you forget everything else when you’re there – you have so much adrenaline that it becomes all about the music and the job." There’s also a fair bit of technological know-how, which he also takes in his stride. "It’s like manning a space ship," he shared. He juggles his radio slot with other presenting work, including hosting the biggest football show on YouTube for Adidas. His ambition is to build his presenting profile for TV.
"Do I give him tips? No one can give him tips," smiled Martin. "As a kid he bought a little DJ kit and it became his hobby. It’s what he does now. Something the family talks about a lot is that success doesn’t mean how much you earn but how happy you are." Was Martin ever worried that Roman wouldn’t find his calling? "No. From when he was a young boy I saw him in the entertainment business. He was always doing impersonations. One Christmas he asked for a walking cane so he could do impressions of Frank Sinatra for his nan. Once I picked him up from football. Rain had stopped play. I commiserated with the organiser, who said, ‘Don’t worry, Roman sang to us all morning.’ So he always had it in him."
Martin and Shirlie's decision to raise their kids as their friends was born of the fact that he grew up inside a band – he was 17 when he joined Spandau Ballet – and in a big group of mates. "We wanted to have a laugh; for everyone to voice an opinion," explained Martin. The family still gets out the karaoke every Christmas and tries to wrestle Shirlie, who favours Alanis Morissette numbers, off the mic.
"There was no discipline," said Martin, who would appeal to his son’s better nature rather than reprimand him. "I’d just show him if he hurt my feelings." Roman added: "I’d do the same with my kids. It was the same with Dad and his parents. He’d wear stupid stuff and Grandad didn’t bat an eyelid. It makes you more mature if someone isn’t disciplining you and you’re learning on your own about right and wrong." For someone so young, Roman is very open about his desire to have his own family. "Not now, but it’s one of my ambitions – why not? I had an amazing childhood, why would I not want that for someone else? I’m lucky that when I think about family, it’s positive."
That’s despite the fact that his dad had two benign brain tumours in 1995. Roman said he was too young to remember and his mum did a good job in putting a positive spin on it. "She was like, ‘Right, how do we move on?’ To this day I don’t know how they got through it." Martin shared: "It’s always the people around you who suffer more. I was in the middle of it. In fact I was quite enjoying it as I was on morphine for eight weeks. Happily addicted to opium. It was the luckiest thing that happened to me. It wasn’t cancer but benign tumours they could take out. It could have easily been a flip of the coin and I wouldn’t be here today and that made me appreciate what I had."
The Spandau Ballet star shares two children with wife Shirlie Holliman
His health scare has had no impact on him as a performer, having been back on tour with Spandau for the past two years. His experience of touring now compared to when the band was at its height in the 1980s is very different. "The first time round is a bit of a blur," he revealed. "You spent all day in bed with a hangover. In my 20s I wanted to be Keith Richards and that was the life I was living. Now, I’m 54 so if I do that I’d be ill. I look after myself. “In the old days I thought rock’n’roll was a way of life. But it’s not. It’s theatre – you get up and put on a show. It’s still an amazing chance to feel that much love coming at you and none of us in the band takes it lightly. I could never sleep because of the buzz. This time, after the show finished, I went back to my hotel room."
The fans still flock – they’ve been selling out to 10,000-odd every night on tour. Some are as girlishly excited as in the old days, throwing bras on stage. "It’s fun," said Martin, blushing slightly. "Everyone gets out of it what they want. It takes more than a band to make a great show, it takes an audience as well." Roman remains a fan. "It’s like supporting your team. And it’s fun."
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