LIZ JONES: My date with Nick Kamen, my Essex dream boy

My date with Nick Kamen, my Essex dream boy: LIZ JONES recalls her meeting with the Levi’s model, following his death at 59

The scene was the bachelorette pad in London I shared with my sister Sue. It was 1985 and we were watching Channel 4.

That’s all I can remember about the evening because suddenly, there he was. Nick Kamen. Everything else dimmed.

We were transfixed: firstly, strangely enough, by the soundtrack: Marvin Gaye’s I Heard it Through The Grapevine: its opening beat echoed the pounding of my heart as, enter stage right, this beautiful young man who slowly removed his jeans to reveal crisp white boxer shorts.

Nick died in his flat in Notting Hill, West London, on Tuesday. His brother Ronald, 65, revealed he’d suffered from cancer for two years and was being nursed by his girlfriend, Lucinda (pictured: Nick Kamen two years ago after cancer diagnosis)

He had seductive eyes, a shock of slightly Elvis black hair, a beauty spot, a smooth chest, cafe au lait skin and, to two Essex girls, he was utterly divine.

I remember my sister screaming: ‘Why didn’t you press “record”?’

The use of classic soul was ground-breaking, but so too was the fact the ads — for men’s jeans — were aimed at women: we wanted our men to look like Nick Kamen (hell, we wanted our men to be Nick Kamen) and the brand clocked the power of the purse.

What was also a first was the licence the ad gave us to lust. The idea chimed perfectly with what was happening in society. 

He had seductive eyes, a shock of slightly Elvis black hair, a beauty spot, a smooth chest, cafe au lait skin and, to two Essex girls, he was utterly divine 

I was working on Company, a feminist magazine, and as well as shooting power suits with shoulder pads we were publishing articles on self-defence, ‘reclaiming the night’, career advice and even how to get a mortgage (I got my first mortgage in 1983; my dad had to be guarantor).

Women were portrayed as powerful, and so along came Nick Kamen, doing his own laundry. A boy-man, who was completely unthreatening. We could own him, like a pet.

I set about trying to meet Nick and his younger brother, Barry, an artist and model for The Face.

It took five years, but in 1990 I met them at the office of Nick’s publicist, Barbara Charone, who looked after Madonna — who’d also taken a shine to him (witch!) and given him a leg-up in his brief career as a pop singer.

I remember sitting in the office, in a Kamen sandwich, feeling a very lucky lady indeed.

Within a year of the Levi’s ad, he had launched a pop career, his true ambition, thanks to a leg-up from admirer Madonna (pictured together) 

They were both Essex boys: confident, cocky: I imagine if they took you to the cinema, they’d be all hands. Barry was stocky, cerebral, quieter. Nick oozed confidence and charm.

You could feel their working-class parents’ control from afar, instilling good manners and a strong work ethic. I had my article laminated. Of course, neither contacted me again.

Then a weird thing happened. In October 2015, I dreamed Barry came to my house. The dream was incredibly vivid.

I woke up the next day, still thinking about him. I fetched my phone, scrolled through Twitter. Barry had died aged 52. And now Nick has gone too.

Two lovely down-to-earth lads who were perhaps too nice for fame. If I hear Marvin Gaye these days, I’m taken back to the 1980s, when anything seemed possible.

My heart still pounds.

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