It’s 27 years since the final episode of ’Allo ’Allo! aired, but Vicki Michelle is still stopped in the street by people calling out, ‘Ooooo, René!’.
Vicki played the saucy waitress Yvette for a decade, and despite having a string of successful roles since, she’s still Yvette to millions of people.
‘Everyone always wants to chat about ’Allo ’Allo!’ she says raising her palms skywards.
‘I don’t mind – people tell me how much their dad loves me, and yesterday a woman came up to me and just gave me a big hug, which was lovely.
‘You travel anywhere and people know you, because it ran in over 80 countries – I even got spotted in Bulgaria once.’
There’s a reason why the farcical, innuendo-filled show is still so well loved, and Vicki believes we need that sort of humour now more than ever.
‘You don’t get laugh-out-loud, cheeky humour any more, and I miss it,’ she says.
‘I think the show would have to be a bit more PC these days, although I don’t think it was that bad.
‘It’s boring now – everyone’s frightened to talk to each other in case they say the wrong thing.’
We’re sitting on a plump velvet sofa in a hotel lobby, and Vicki is looking as glam as it gets – a good decade younger than her 68 years.
We tell her so, and she tips her head back and laughs.
‘Oh bless you. I haven’t had anything done yet, darling.
‘If I did have any injections or anything, I’d end up looking about 10.
‘It makes people look like hamsters.
‘I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, though – there might be a time when I think about it.
‘Sometimes I think it’s starting to go a bit here…’ she says, pinching up the side of her face.
Vicki is such a glamour-puss that she says she won’t even leave the house without make-up on.
‘My nanny taught me to always look my best, so I always do my make-up first thing – you never know who will knock at the door,’ she says.
So doing I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! in 2014 was a bit of a challenge.
Her biggest fear wasn’t crawling through a tunnel of rats or eating a tarantula, but leaving her beloved make-up bag behind.
‘It was my worst nightmare,’ she laughs.
‘I had my eyelashes dyed and my eyebrows done before I went in.
‘My luxury item was a brown pencil, so I could use it as lip liner and eyeliner.
‘Then I realised that the lanterns had charcoal in them.
‘I went, “Charcoooooooal!” and I dipped the end of a leaf in it and made a wonderful eyeliner.’
Vicki very nearly didn’t make it into the jungle at all when she was hit with a horrifying health scare.
To get fit for the show, she started going to boxing classes, but soon began to have a bad pain in her side.
‘The doctor pressed my side and said, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry.”
‘That’s not what you want to hear,’ she recalls.
‘I had a cyst on my ovary the size of a rugby ball.
‘The doctor said, “How can you not know about this?”
‘But I just thought it was middle-age spread.
‘My stomach was enormous.
‘It was really scary, but I had keyhole surgery to drain it right away.
‘I didn’t tell the show’s producers because they wouldn’t have let me in.’
As well as I’m A Celeb, Vicki has appeared in celebrity versions of Cash In The Attic and MasterChef.
More often than not these days she can be found in the theatre, most recently on a 70-show tour of Hormonal Housewives, a sell-out comedy play about the highs and lows of being a 21st-century woman.
Vicki herself is no stranger to the odd hormonal outburst.
‘I can go from nought to a million in a nanosecond,’ she says.
‘I probably lose my temper with my husband every other day, but you need to clear the air and get rid of that something that’s been winding you up.
‘He knows I’ll be right in the morning.
‘I reckon men get hormonal as well – the man-o-pause is real!
‘Past a certain age men get a bit more grumpy, but they also mellow with age.’
Vicki has been with hubby Graham for 45 years, ‘…and I’m only 35, love!’ she quips.
For her, the secret to a happy marriage is respecting each other’s careers (he’s a director of photography on films) and giving each other the space to take the jobs they want.
Vicki has travelled all over the world as an actress, even taking her baby daughter Louise on tours to places as far away as Australia.
It’s no wonder Louise, now 30, has grown up to be an actress too.
Louise and Vicki are close, chatting every day and seeing each other regularly.
‘I had Louise at 38, and by that time I just didn’t think I’d get pregnant, because I’d been on the Pill for so long,’ she says.
‘Then I did and it scared me – but she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.’
It’s a family full of actors.
Vicki’s mum studied at LAMDA before marrying her Billingsgate fishmonger father, and her sister Ann starred alongside her in ’Allo ’Allo!.
The close-knit sisters have recently been rocked by the death of their mother.
‘Grief is so shattering,’ says Vicki, tearing up.
‘It’s been hard for all of us.
‘I put things in boxes and don’t get them out, but then as soon as I start talking about her…
‘It comes in waves. Everything sets me off.’
Thankfully, Vicki has a good support network, with many family members living close by in Essex.
‘I love living there and having my family around me,’ she says.
‘There was a time when I thought we should move somewhere like Surrey – somewhere we were expected to live.
‘But Essex is where I’m from and I’m not going anywhere.
‘It’s kept me grounded and stopped me from getting carried away with my own self-importance.’
With that, Vicki’s heading back to Essex to meet Louise for a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and we reckon she deserves it. ■
ONE FOR THE ROAD
‘I’m fanatical about my motorhome.
‘I love the freedom it gives us – we can spend a night up the mountains, then the next we’re by a beautiful French Chateau for a tenner a night.
‘We share the driving – I’m pretty nippy in it now, although Graham (right) is banned from moaning about the traffic.
‘One of the best things is how friendly everyone is.
‘We often have a glass of something with our neighbours, and once a random stranger even helped us clean up when our loo overflowed.’
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR SUNDAY?
■ Early riser or lazy lie-in?
I always get up early.
I wake at 6am when the light comes through, but I’ll probably get up about 7-7.30am.
I’m a morning person and I have a hot water and lemon to start the day.
■ Sunday roast or pub lunch?
I love a roast.
It’s normally me who cooks, but Graham is quite good now too.
That’s another thing – as men get older they start to cook.
It’s brilliant, my dad did it too.
They didn’t cook for their whole life, then all of a sudden they just start.
■ Weekend away or Sunday brunch at home?
I really love being at home because I tour so much.
Louise comes round for brunch – we have a really close relationship and talk every day, like friends as well as family.
She’s a really good cook – TV nowadays is full of cooking shows instead of comedy, and she loves watching them.
■ What couldn’t you get through the weekend without?
Getting outside. I love doing a bit of gardening.
I feed the birds and also the foxes.
A couple of years ago we left the sunbeds out and a fox we feed was only sunbathing on the flipping thing!
Last night he had chicken, a few chips, dog food and a few bones that I get especially from the butchers.
I also like to give him kipper skins to get omega-3, and he loves raw eggs!