Friday, July 25, 2014

The Girl in the Video: “Father Figure” (1988)

Introduction to series “The Girl in the Video 2” (including list of interviewees).

The video: “Father Figure” by George Michael.

The girl-now-woman: Tania Harcourt-Cooze (Tania Coleridge).

How old were you when you appeared in the “Father Figure” video?

About 21.

Where were you living at the time?

I had just moved out to L.A. from Milan, though home was England. I was in L.A. for eight years.

What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?

I had done quite a few, but none on the scale of “Father Figure,” where I was the lead. I’d done the Stones, Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

How were you cast in “Father Figure”?

I don’t really remember. When it came down to it, there were two of us left. You’d not meet [others in the running] till the end. The other girl was much shorter, blond—completely different look than me.

Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?

In those days, you just rolled from one job to another.

Were you a fan of George Michael’s music?

Not particularly. I certainly became a very big fan afterward, and not only because of the video.

How did you feel making the video? Anything stand out?

It was very exhausting. It was the first time I’d met George. He was sweet, brilliant. For some reason, they asked me if I could use my own wardrobe. The Winnebago that I was using [as a trailer] got robbed one of those nights, during the shoot. That [distinctive] white coat was the only piece that didn’t get stolen, probably because I was wearing it at the time. I remember seeing the Winnebago smashed to bits. That created a hoo-ha.

Just yours was broken into?

I think it was just mine.

What was the hardest part of the shoot?

It was a very big shoot, downtown L.A. It was 3-4 days—longer than usual. Heavy schedule. George was in it very little, in a way. I had no idea the extent I would be in the video. I had not seen the storyboards. Barely slept, I remember.

How was it to work with George Michael? What was he like?

He was great. A very intelligent, witty dude. I adore him. At the time, he was in that period of revealing himself as a gay man. It was a sensitive time.

You knew he was gay?

Yes, from getting so close. Getting to know him over those few days, he was clearly gay to me. I think he probably had to dig pretty deep to get through those love scenes. I remember it being quite tricky for him but we got through it. We had to kiss again and again…“take 37.” (laughs) We had to do the scene where he slaps me again and again. I had to say “George, just kiss me properly so we can get out of here!”

You could just tell he was gay—he didn’t say?

It was perfectly clear.

Any funny stories from the shoot?

It was so long ago. Little bits and pieces.

Anything go wrong on the shoot?

Andy Morahan shot it…here’s an interesting story for you. A very long cut of it was produced…I think a 20-minute version was done? I don’t know if I’ve even seen that. At the time, I had been with Tony Scott for some five years.
He wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of me being in a love scene if he wasn’t involved—so he shot the love scene. Just he and George and I there. You can notice a change in the way the film rolls.

What did Andy say about that?

I can’t remember. Andy was a friend. I think it was fairly amicable. Perhaps the collaboration was not a bad idea anyway. We were quite a high-profile couple in those days.

What did you think of the video?

Interestingly enough, at the time, I hated it. I was never particularly fond of anything I’d done. I never did enjoy watching them. What was interesting about it—having the model being such a major part of the video.

What did your parents think of it?

I did quite a lot of racy stuff in the ‘80s. I worked with Helmut Newton. I was often half-clothed looking suggestive, in a sophisticated way. I think it might have been hard for them to stomach. I remember my father had a hard time with the press ringing him up. For the next six months to a year after the video came out, I did press with George. The press would say I was his girlfriend. Very obvious cut-and-paste [i.e. fake] jobs of me on a beach with George. It upset my father that I was supposedly going out with George but hadn’t told him.

Did the video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?

I guess in a way. Most people seemed to know. I didn’t have many relationships after Tony—one more and then I married my husband. It became a big part of my modeling career. It marked my chart as a video vixen.

Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?

It created a lot of controversy over here. In fact it was banned in England because of the abuse of women aspect—the slapping. Shown only late nights. A cut that could be shown in England was done.
I can’t remember it straight.

What were you paid?

10,000—can’t remember if it was dollars or pounds.

Was that a typical fee for a video?

I recall you got paid a lump sum. With commercials you got your day rate and then repeat fees depending on how much it was showed. If you’re doing something like a chocolate commercial, you got paid well so you wouldn’t do other chocolate commercials for a year. The George Michael video got so much airplay, it overexposed me.

Were you recognized in public?

It became so huge. It positively took over my life for a while—the impact of it worldwide. I remember going into a music store in Venezuela and seeing it play on a huge screen on the wall. You never think people will associate it with you but I was getting mobbed in the store. People today would say it was going viral. Very iconic. In terms of screen time it was one of the biggest things I did in a way. People recognized me especially in Heathrow Airport. I got rushed through the airport being mobbed by young kids. I threw blankets over my head. People recognized me from it for years after.

The boyfriend of one of my girlfriends recently said “You caused a stir when we were all at school.” He’s about 10-15 years younger than I am and was about seven when the video came out.

Did you appear in other music videos after that?

Nothing on the scale of this one.

Did you ever meet other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video?

Not necessarily. It was part of our careers, all of us. I did a lot of commercials. My market was much bigger in motion picture—videos.

If you went to college, where and what did you study?

I was at Fine Arts College in London. Art history and drama.

What are you doing these days?

Beautiful and interesting project that I’m working on: designing Indian jewelry. My partner is Indian. I spent a lot of this year abroad. Polki Jeune is the name of the company. Polki is a type of diamond setting.

I saw that you and your husband run/ran a chocolate company?

Yes, t
hey did two TV shows about it here. I moved to Venezuela with my husband [Willie Harcourt-Cooze] and bought a chocolate farm. My husband and I divorced after 17 years, sadly. He still runs the company Willie’s Cacao. Available in lots of boutique shops and countries, but I don’t think the U.S. yet.

from 2009 documentary show 

Where do you live?

Outside of London in a really cute village called Marlboro, like the cigarettes. But it’s a very smoke-free zone. (laughs)

If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?

He knew about it. It was a strong part of my career.


Three—Sophia 15, William 14, and Eve 10.

What do they think of the video?

It’s fairly raunchy and they were little till not long ago. Four or five years ago, a director friend Jake Narva was over and he showed them! All the kids sitting around the kitchen table. They were all horrified. “When was this? Where was dad? You kissed that man!”

What did you think when you first heard from me?

I’m always pro people documenting these things. I thought good on you for putting this together. I was very happy to try and help out. [MTN: I absolutely love that Tania shares my sentiment on the cultural importance of preserving stories like hers.]

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this?

Not about this video.

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs?

Not specifically, not planned. I’ve signed autographs through my life—like that time in Caracas.

Would you?

Yeah, of course I would.

Did you stay in touch with George Michael?

Yeah, I did. He’s a great mate.


Yeah. I haven’t seen him this year but do see him. He’s a loyal, cool guy. A group all stayed good friends over the years—George, Kathy Jeung, me.

When was the last time you were in touch?

Last year.

How do you look back on the experience of this video?

A great experience. A real taste of something different. The worldwide impact was fascinating.

Tweet about this interview to @GeorgeMichael @Taniahc1!

Next: Richard Marx, “Endless Summer Nights” (1988).


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to put this interview together. The video of "Father Figure" is one of those vivid music video milestones that defined MTV's heyday - and I think a post like this celebrates those moments very well. We are going to post this today on our radio station's fanpage - since the song went to #1 in the US on this day back in 1988. Once again, this is a GREAT post!

Edinson Rueda said...

A great song, a great video, Tania is so beautiful in the video, so pretty, thank you so much for post this interview

Unknown said...

Was so hoping you would ask what was up with white mark on her knee un the final still picture of her... It has become a nagging mystery to me, with almost no chance of resolution.

Also, my God someone bottle her DNA as she has barely changed since the eighties! She even sounds cool, down to earth. From one girl to another, wow. And no woman loses her girlhood to become a woman, it's just another hat we get to wear. ;)

Forgive any grammar/spelling issues am having health problems.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Highly doubt she'll know, but happy to ask her, Kahldria!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Kahldria, this is Tania's reply:

<< How very kind of her - amazing to think there are people out there still thinking about me - and indeed pondering the question of the scar!! Please say THANK YOU to her.

Well - I wonder if it's a reflection as it was a tear sheet rather than an original still? Light reflection?

Alternatively I do have a few scars on my knees - general motor bike accidents!!!! >>

Imself said...

Man... George died last night... I love this song and iis a little conforting knew a little more about it's history.

Ajc said...

So terribly sad about George..he was such a huge part of the early days of MTV. Loved this video and always wondered about the girl in the video. I do have a recollection of her dating Tony Scott.

Unknown said...

I was completely in love with this woman. So beautiful. The video was really cutting edge and would still be considered modern IMO. Awesome video, song, artist and actress.

Unknown said...

RIP G Michael..Thks for the music.memories..I grew up to his music..condolences to his Family...Thks also on this interview

Anonymous said...

Father Figure is my favorite song and this video was perfect in every way. It truly is a timeless treasure. Thank you Noblemania for this excellent interview. ❤

Poji said...

I am so sad that George Michael is gone..I grew up to his music..he was such a beautiful man, with a beautiful voice!

Vana, the Street Fair Diva said...

Loved the video and song, loved George Michalel RIP. And girl love that white coat! Lovely memories!

Thomas said...

This is really great. My favorite video of all time, mostly cuz of her:)

Unknown said...

My favorite video and George Michael is the love of my life. Tania is so gorgeous and when I was about 6 or 7 years old this video was on the TV and I was so infatuated with her and wanted to be her. Father Figure is my all time favorite video and song.

Victoria Semenenko Real Life Victory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victoria Semenenko Real Life Victory said...

Thank you so much for this interview! That is precious job to keep memory about art pieces.With love from Ukraine and Real Life Victory ;)

Unknown said...

I don't ever comment, but that was a very nice interview, thank you for sharing. I am saddened by G.M's passing, he was a big part of my music and life in the 80's and I will NEVER forget him or Tania for their role in my life as a kid myself. Music of our time does help and influence the things we feel and do on a small but important scale, it is the one thing I've always loved as we all share in our love of music. Thank You.

Unknown said...

Was George Michael a good kisser??to me since I was 8, I fantasised about him. Do tell Tania

Unknown said...

I am a redhead beautiful tall thin small-time model because I had to stay locally and take care of family but I did Grace the cover of magazines and I've been all around the world I have the exact lips nose and profile of the model from freedom 90 that walks out in the long white dress I can't remember her name right now but she was one of the big models next to Cindy Crawford and Cindy Crawford & her have the same nose like me.

Unknown said...

I'm 28 and would love to have been the girl in The Father Figure video making out with him he's so sexy I don't care if he was gay item made that you know what hard and it would have been definitely on I got those big sexy cat eyes oh yeah

Unknown said...

I took is screen grab Of It, enhanced the image several ways. The white mark is not only on her knee, but extends below it. It looks very much like the top layer with the image got torn away. Like when you try to remove tape from the surface, but take the image to.

Unknown said...

George Michael "Father Figure" video was filmed 10-13 December 1987 in Los Angeles, CA, USA a photographer Chris Cuffaro who followed George during his Faith Tour in 1988 witnessed about shooting here

Unknown said...

Be sure to read the recent book by Andrew Ridgeley, "Wham, George And Me". Very insightful read.

Kevin Ambler said...

I can't get over how much the girl looks like corina the freestyle artist from the 80s

2catlady said...

Tania. I can't thank you enough for sharing this info with the world. Many of us would love to have had this gig with George. It doesn't sound like it was as much fun as it was work, be we appreciate your hard work!! It's devastating that George is gone, but knowing the back story from those who had a chance to know him, help fill in the blanks, and make it a little easier. I'd also love to get an interview with Lynn Mabry. She sang "Back to Life" with George in Rio, and it was quite flirtatious. Since I live in San Francisco, and she's just a bridge away in Oakland, who knows. Maybe I'll find out what it was like to dance with him!! Thanks again for sharing. You seem very nice...

Unknown said...

Just a few corrections 1 big one huge one she kept saying it wascontroversial for the domestic violence and also said he slapped her no she slaps him have seen the video a dozen or more times in 4 years not counting when it was famous and she slaps him only he never does and never would also I do not recall it ever being banned in England he never mentioned that I want your sex was the only one banned that I recall maybe these are typos? also his kisses looked perfect not bashing her as a person though I am not fond of the character for hitting my sweet boy so hard and at all she hit him not he hit her she said it more than once I hope it was a typo he would never have

Unknown said...

no hate intended just corrections

Unknown said...

2catlady Lyn also was on the Faith tour with him

Victoria Semenenko Real Life Victory said...

Tania was gorgeous in the video (she still is)) while George was playing his chip tricks of a pick upper eternaly searching for affirmation.

Unknown said...

Love this interview Tania just seems positively lovely. The greatest video of all time IMHO, and one of the most beautiful women of this generation, it really is iconic. Love to rekindle nostalgic moments like this, thank you.

AA said...

I am surprised that this has not been commented in the article, but the first version of the "Father Figure" video broadcasted shows in its last images a slowed down short footage of Tania sporting a fake moustache and smoking -or pretending to smoke- a cigar... This is not the version that has been commercialized in video compilations or the one available in YouTube. I have been unable to find any still or reference about this footage, but I am 100% certain that it was at the end of the first version of the video promo.