10 October 2020 08:40
'Asperger's means it's easier to just put it in a box and move on. Gemma O'Neill, as she was known at the time, told her teachers it didn't matter if she passed any exams because her life path — arm in arm with her pop idol, a regular on Top Of The Pops — was already set. Their three daughters are called Raven, Persia and Echo, which they possibly wouldn't be had Gemma given up on her childhood dream and married a nice accountant instead. Pictured: Gary Numan and wife Gemma at their family home in Los Angeles 'It looks like Hogwarts,' admits Gemma. ('It's s**t,' says Gary, whose humour is still more Hammersmith than Bel Air. His voice was once described as 'pitched between Gene Pitney and a Dalek', and his look was similarly android — all bleached hair and heavy eyeliner (applied by his mum, but he kept that quiet at the time, as you would).
The odds were certainly stacked against Gemma and Gary's love story — recounted in Gary's autobiography, published this month — having a happy ending. In 1992, when Gemma was 24 and, it must be said, there were fewer fans around, Gary realised that he hadn't seen her for a while and wanted to know if she was OK. The twist in the story, is that by the time he and Gemma started dating, Gary was on his uppers. 'People thought I was a gold-digger, but, in fact, I was the one buying groceries, because he couldn't afford to eat,' admits Gemma. After her dad managed to wangle a meet-up and a signed single for his star-struck little girl, Gemma started to pitch up at gigs, often queuing afterwards to get Gary's autograph.
Pictured as a teenage fan: Gary Numan with Gemma, his now wife, getting his autograph in 1985 years before they got together He talks today of Gemma 'rescuing' him. One thing is certain: he's happier with fame this time around, because Gemma is at his side to help him negotiate it. When Bowie arrived on set, though, he made it clear he didn't want Gary there, and so Gary was asked to leave. 'I never found out why, and he did say nice things about me later, but at the time, who knows? 'You can have a bad day but you don't have to be a tw*t,' she says. Interestingly, Gary says he never feels hurt in a situation like this. 'He'd sent his driver to get me a McDonald's,' Gary grins today. Another thing was bothering the young Gary Numan, too: in his early 20s, and at the height of his fame, he had started to develop a bald patch. 'I want to get some nice ones over my scars, but you have to wait a year,' she says. Gary Numan's career was built on him being a bit of an oddity. 'It's like corned beef and porridge put in a sock that's lost it's elastic.' 'I don't care that I look like a patchwork quilt. Gary and Gemma are also candid about their struggle to be parents. 'I can't think of what it actually means when I sing it, otherwise I wouldn't be able to perform it,' he says. What's most surprising about Gary Numan's account of his life is how, well, human it is. 'Every second counted,' explains Gary today. Their second and third daughters arrived naturally, and without intervention, 'as if my body reset itself', says Gemma. I didn't want that for my girls, and you don't have it here.' So what do their daughters make of their dad's music these days? 'Funnily enough, I called up to them the other day to tell them to stop making such a racket and discovered they were actually playing my music,' laughs Gary. (R)evolution by Gary Numan is published by Constable on October 22 at £20.