So it can be imagined how happy, but also how nervous, I felt when, at a little past noon on December 13th, I came down from my room at the Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly, to meet with Sue's friend, Ian Freeman - and soon after that, with Sue herself. Ian's an extremely interesting person in his own right, who's had a long, varied career in many aspects of British show business - as talent agent, assistant director, and freelance journalist, just to name a few of the hats he's worn. For more on his interesting career, click here. He currently serves as a director of The Heritage Foundation, a charitable organization; Sue does a lot of work with the "Comic Heritage" section of the Foundation.
Over coffee, we made small talk for a few moments, discussing my flight, impressions of London, the weather and so forth. Suddenly, "There she is," said Ian. I turned away from him, looking toward the door - and indeed, there she was, walking through the glass doors toward us. My very first impression of Sue was that she was a little taller than I expected (maybe she was wearing high-heeled boots), but this was clearly the same woman whose sexy dancing, and talent for comic acting, had kept me mesmerized and amused for all these years. I simply can't describe how happy I felt to finally see her in person after all this time!
I noticed right away that Sue seems hardly to have aged at all since her days on Benny's show. Her face is still lovely, and she's definitely kept her trim, sexy figure. I tried to compliment her on her appearance right away, but in the excitement of meeting her, I stumbled badly over my words. So I'll say it plainly here: Sue looks every bit as beautiful now, as when she was prancing around onstage with the rest of the Angels. Time has hardly touched her at all.
Ian introduced us, and Sue's friendly, outgoing attitude put me at ease immediately - the nervousness I felt went away very quickly, and the butterflies in my stomach quieted down. But things weren't entirely well with her. Sue told us that her daughter was very sick with a chest infection. Naturally, I was sorry to hear of her illness, and grateful that Sue had still come to see me! But Sue reassured me, saying that she'd gotten her mother to look after her daughter during this time.
Ian told us the plans he'd made: a quick drink at a nearby bar he knew, followed by lunch at "Café Fish," a seafood restaurant he highly recommended. As we left the hotel and walked along the northern edge of Piccadilly Circus, Sue filled me in on her present life. She and her family live east of London, in the county of Essex. "So you're an Essex girl?"1 I asked. She laughed at that: "Yes, I am an Essex girl!" she replied.
Sue keeps herself very busy these days, it seems. Comic Heritage, the charity with which she works, preserves and promotes the legacy of British comedians and the history of British comedy, and also raises funds for a variety of good causes. Besides her work with Comic Heritage, she also does charitable work for muscular dystrophy, and appears on radio and television shows, talking about Benny. (In fact, there was a brand-new documentary, The Unforgettable Benny Hill, taped earlier this year and featuring Sue, which was scheduled to air on Friday, the 14th - the very next day. She also appeared in an episode of The Lipstick Years, a six-part documentary series on women's roles in society, broadcast in summer 2000.) Between all that, and the everyday work of being a wife and mother, Sue's days seem to be well-filled, indeed!
Sue's children, two one-time members of "Hill's Little Angels," are now eighteen (her son) and sixteen (her daughter) respectively. Despite their early performing experience, Sue says neither of them show signs of wanting to pursue a career in show business.
1 A double meaning here: "Essex girl" is also a British slang term. According to Ian, "The expression 'Essex Girl' is an affectionate term, now very dated, which used to be applied to young girls ... who are a little, shall we say, 'laddish'! In other words, they enjoy a good time, like a drink or nine, like to go out dancing, have lots of boyfriends and may be somewhat easy with their favo(u)rs. ... Essex is itself a county (district) to the east of London which is popular with 'working-class' people who have made good - you'll find a lot of wealthy motor-traders, scrap metal merchants and footballers living in luxury in its leafy 'burbs."