They’re regarded in Hollywood as the perfect couple. She’s Susan George,recently voted the sexiest woman in the world. He’s Simon MacCorkindale, star actor, and just as dishy. They’re both very much in love, they both want to marry. So what’s the problem? Shirley Flack reports
The love affair between Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale began just a year ago this month. They’re a handsome couple she, with a face for the 1980s and he, tall, blond and very, very British. Their affair seems made to match.
It’s based on a friendship of many years, of seeing each other through crises which, coincidentally, happened almost together. It seems fate set them on some predetermined path. And made sure they’d meet at the crossroads.
In Los Angeles they soon became one of Hollywood’s best-looking, lovey-doviest couples. He proposed. She accepted. A wedding was planned, then postponed. Not in the time-honoured style of Hollywood romances where everything runs cold, but because Simon and Susan want to be married in an English country church, yet cannot find a clergyman prepared to marry them.
“It sounds ridiculous in this permissive age, with the Church opening its doors ever wider, but Simon has been married before and, as far as the Church is concerned, there can be no second wedding,” says Susan.
It cannot help that, first time round, he was married not just anywhere but in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The good-looking, rising young star and his pretty actress bride, Fiona Fullerton; marrying in the great Wren church as a privilege granted to his father, a wartime RAF officer and holder of the OBE.
Susan George expects nothing so grand. But she too has a deep sense of tradition and a conviction about the form her wedding should take.
“I’m so conventional in some ways, almost Victorian. I have always wanted a real English church wedding, with all my family. For me, it will be the first and, I hope, the only time. The fly in the ointment is Simon’s previous marriage.
“We’ve looked around and so far no-one will marry us. The church where I was brought up will do a ceremony and bless us, but I don’t want that. I want to take my vows under God’s roof. I believe that’s the only way.
“You can say it doesn’t matter; that you can take your vows in the middle of a field, which you can, but for me it has to be a church and until I can find one, I shall wait.”
All sorts of alternatives spring to mind, all of which have been examined and dismissed by Susan as not for her.
“No, I don’t want to be married in America. I know we could organise it there. And we don’t want to be married in London, although there are probably one or two clergymen who would bend the rules slightly.
“I want to be married from my home, and so far all the churches we have approached in the Berkshire area, which is where I come from, won’t hear of it.”
It’s a family problem that they share with their parents, whose letters to the couple in Los Angeles often contained accounts of hopeful inquiries they had made.
Susan has always known the right answer to the question of when did she hope to marry which she has been asked often enough over the years, and through several long-standing liaisons. “When I find the right person,” she would continually reply. What she did not know was that, having found the right person, this obstacle would stand in her way.
It’s an unexpected attitude to find in a woman whose life has hardly been conventional. She’s the blonde whose love affairs once claimed at least as much attention as her film roles.
She’s always had the knack of being linked with dangerously attractive men and, on occasion, with the sort of man whose breeding ensures that he will not be awed by the majesty of St. Paul’s.
Susan, whose escorts have included Prince Charles, has become better-known for her romantic ties with Jack Jones, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Connors, Georgie Best, Andy Gibb and the man who was her lover and manager, Derek Webster.
The girl who made her debut at the age of six, lisping in a Horlicks commercial, was being described as a sex symbol by the time she was 17. She’s been a big name ever since and in 1982 was voted the sexiest girl in the world.
Now, at 33, she must rank among the world’s more baffled romantics. Simon’s marriage to Fiona Fullerton was over long before Susan came into his life romantically.
“He finds it very hurtful that he once made a mistake and isn’t allowed to forget it.
“Why is it that he who has been married once, harmed nobody, but just believes he made a mistake cannot be allowed back to make the right, and most important, decision in his life? Why should anyone be denied the chance of a fresh start?” she asks.
Although her problem seems insoluble, there’s a feeling that she’s too optimistic to be defeated. She’s a trouper, with well over 30 films behind her and a few hard knocks in her past.
And she’s not afraid to look for unconventional solutions to her problems. This year she’s set to surprise us by emerging as a singer, bringing out her first album. She has been able to do so by seeking help from an unexpected quarter: from a teacher of self-hypnosis.
“Several years ago I had this great desire to sing, but was very frightened by it I had absolutely no confidence. I knew my voice was good, yet I couldn’t sing in front of two people without my voice wobbling,” she says. One possible reason for her fright was her experience of singing with Jack Jones, her former lover. Although Jones was land to his inexperienced singing partner, critical comparisons were inevitable.
Then Susan heard of a hypnotist who could help people lacking in self-esteem.
“At that time in my life I was low in confidence. I knew there were certain things about myself that were holding me back. I’m street bright, but my powers of concentration are weak. I needed to learn discipline. And most of all I needed to conquer my fear of singing.
” I wanted strength and she reinforced it. It really is a case of mind over matter, as she taught me. When I went into her class for the first time I was petrified, but I’m pleased to say that passed and I became quite competent in self-hypnosis.
“There’s nothing very mysterious about it. It’s just a process of preparing the mind to accept self-improving directions such as: ‘I will not smoke, I will make decisions, I will be positive.'”
Susan will sing in a jazz idiom, which is yet one more surprise. But it’s the idiom she feels her voice is most suited to.
She’s had offers to record before, but she declined. “They wanted to choose what I recorded and have me on stage holding a microphone and bopping around. But that’s just me using the name Susan George.”
She and Simon spent months working on demo tracks. “It’s been a process of trial and error, finding my singing identity. We made the demos in different beats rock, jazz, ballads, country and western. Eventually Simon and I decided on jazz as the best one.
“It’s going to be probably the hardest to sell, but that is the way I’m bound to go. It’s exciting and terribly ambitious to try and sell something nobody believes in.”
She seems no less determined that she and Simon will be married.
Mr. MacCorkindale has had his ups and downs too, after a bright and promising start to his career in rums like Death On The Nile and The Riddle Of The Sands. More recently he’s had some setbacks, notably the embarrassingly public rejection of an unlikely-sounding TV series, Manimal, which the BBC dropped from its schedules only days before the programme was due to be launched.
In it Simon played a crime-buster, whose major claim to fame was his ability to turn himself into any sort of beast from panther, to snake, bird or shark in order to chase criminals.
Some of his other roles have drawn critical comment, notably from himself. He has been quoted describing Jaws 3-D as “an absolute piece of junk”.
But he has shown a cool determination to make a success of his acting career, and to achieve it in Hollywood. It was his ambition that took him to Los Angeles and away from his wife in Britain back in 1981.
Susan had known Simon for several years. “At the beginning our relationship was based on friendship,” says Susan, “He was a good friend to me when I was down, and I was a very good friend for him at a time when he was low. We’ve known each other in our off times,” she recalls.
“I never even thought about being alone with him. I liked the way his mind worked. He’s obviously an incredibly attractive man he’s got lovely eyes but I thought more about his mind than his physical appeal. We were very much on the same wavelength.
“He’s a very strong human being. So am I. Put two strong characters together, and you’re bound to get a certain amount of rumpus from time to time and that’s good for both of us. The strength is complementary rather than destructive. I’d talked with him a lot and I’d seen his play, The Doll’s House, which he directed beautifully. It played at a tiny theatre in Los Angeles, which has about 50 seats.
“Within the company, he’d had his problems. I think I provided friendship and understanding, knowing what he was going through at that time and his mind was, to me, full of optimism and energy. He never stops working. He’s like me. I wouldn’t stop at anything. There’s nothing I wouldn’t tackle and he’s the same.”
For all that strength and resolution, it took forever to say “Yes” when the time came. “It would have been ideal if, having said it, we could have been married the next day. I’m an impetuous person. The longer I wait, the more nervous I get,” says Susan.
At that time, there were work demands to cope with too. Then, when they finally felt able to make their plans, the church problem cropped up.
That apart, they have had plenty of opportunity to enjoy their love affair. “After being used to very rocky relationships, for the first month of living with him, I used to go around to all my friends saying: ‘I’m a bit worried about this. It’s a bit too easy. He’s so lovely there must be a snag. Something’s got to hit me over the head any moment.’
“He says he still sees me waiting for a hole to open up. I’ve had my feet taken away from me too many times, it’s difficult to stand there and say ‘I’m all right. I’m rock solid.’ We came together at a particular time which was just right for us. And also, perhaps, I’m getting to be a better judge.
“Maybe I’m not finding it so exciting to have erratic relationships passionate and erratic. I think that’s what you go through as you’re growing up and eventually you settle.
“Maybe that’s a bad choice of words because you won’t settle, but your demands change. I’d always actually yearned for something steady, although I would never admit it to myself.
“I still have the stormy and the passionate, but there’s a lot more Rock of Gibraltar in Simon than anyone I’ve ever known before.”
Simon will never change her, Susan says. And she’ll never want to change him. “Once you start to change somebody to what you think you want, you begin to fall out of love with him, because he’s not the person you fell in love with in the beginning.
“He thinks I’m scatty and I guess I am. He’s so organised it’s not true. Together, he and I are chalk and cheese.
“As he puts things away, I get them out- It’s a funny routine to watch. When I say I can’t find something, he says it’s in the left-hand drawer, filed under such-and-such. And I say: ‘If you’d left it on the kitchen table, where it belongs, I’d know where to find it. . .’
“We’re totally opposite in some ways. Sometimes when he’s terribly serious, I get the giggles. I have to go out of the room to stop laughing and the more I giggle, the more serious he gets.”
And this handsome couple, intent on finding a beautiful future, have another little difference to sort out at some time ahead.
She has not made a secret of her desire for a baby. But the George-MacCorkindale household doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye on that particular family matter, either.
“Simon wants a football team. I only want one …” she says. “And marriage first, then babies.”
The surprisingly conventional Miss George has, it must be said, already gained one particularly striking baby: the shiny, black baby grand piano that Simon bought her, which was christened on its first night by Dudley Moore.
Susan George, singer, has everything she needs to make music. It’s hard to imagine that she will have to wait long for a wedding day that will cause a considerable song and dance.