OK, we’ll start with a couple of questions from Brian.
Is there a story behind how you changed your name from Rosa-Marie Leopoldnya Lubienska to Rula Lenska? I can see where the Lenska came from but where did you get Rula from?
My Father when I was a little girl and had a head full of golden curls used to call me “Zlota Kula” which literally translates as little golden ball... Since my name was Roza pronounced Roozha .... mixed with Kula... My nickname at home was Rula... Then when I decided to shorten my name for obvious reasons, but did not want to anglicise it completely.... I decided to use Rula.
I, of course, know Rula Lenska from Rock Follies, but I remember a nationwide commercial in the United States - perhaps a hair shampoo? - that started off with you saying ‘I’m Rula Lenska’ and made you a household name... the question is, how did this American commercial come about? Has have you had a chance to do much work (or spend time) in the United States other than that infamous commercial?
This commercial or rather series of commercials was for Alberto Culver........I don’t quite know how it came about, but I have always had a lot of hair and since Rock Follies had a showing in the States I guess that is where it came from.... When the commercial became a cult, I came over amongst other things to do the Steve Allen show, and was asked to stay on in LA to meet producers and talk about further projects. At the time my little daughter was only 10 months old and I could not bear the prospect of being away from her for longer than a few days, and I could not afford to bring the whole family over “on spec” so to speak. Many promises were made and much was talked about but sadly nothing.... so far.... has come to fruition in the States.... I am still hoping.
T.J Wood has a couple of challenging questions for you!!
Hey - Thanks for giving us fans of Rock Follies so much information and the chance to Q & A with Q.
My questions to Rula:
In the series you played the person that was the most beautiful (and vulnerable). I read that when you got the good word that your auditions went well and you had been selected to play Q, that shortly after your celebrations you were informed of the death of your father. I was wondering if that sequence of great news being followed so quickly by suchdevastating news caused you to become forever cautious and thus, vulnerable - regarding your acceptance of compliments and other good things that happened in your life?
My darling Father only died 6 years ago, and was very much alive when I was offered the part of Q. I believe that vulnerability is an essential part of portraying a character, and let’s face it she was written with oodles of vulnerability. Yes I am cautious, now perhaps more than then. I used to be very spontaneous and pretty crazy, but I guess that mellows with life’s knocks and aging....
Also, if I may add one more question. I loved Julie Covington’s acting and singing voice both of which expressed so much sincerity. Without holding back now please be honest and tell us if she was that type of person to work with on the stage and in her non-acting relationships.
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Julie had a magical singing voice and she was also a great actress. In fact I was very envious of her, because it seemed to me her part was the most developed and 3 dimensional. I loved her, though she was not always easy, but then who is, and I admired her hugely, and we had a lot of fun.
Thanks again for giving me this chance to ask these questions. B-T-W I am a writer and I am now 60 years old (make that young!). I first viewed The Rock Follies on PBS in the late 70’s. I loved it then and love it even more now that it’s only performances are in my memory. With my very best wishes to all of you,
This from Johan in Sweden
Hi Rula! First of all I’d like to thank you for being a part of such a great thing as Rock Follies. I’d say that R.F and Abba together were the main reason for me choosing to be a singer/songwriter. At the moment I teach kids how to play instruments and sing. One of the young bands have actually made a cover version of both “Good behaviour”, and “On the road”
Now over to my question. I’m a bit curious if anything silly or extra funny happened during the recording of the series. It would be great to hear some funny anecdotes from “behind the scenes”.
Many many funny things happened over the 2 years we filmed both series. Since Howard the author was always with us throughout rehearsals writing the next episodes, frequently things we said as ourselves became integrated into the characters we were playing, So slowly the characters and their reactions became very close to home. In a group of three there is often 2 against 1 this format kept altering, but was there throughout.
A quickie from Helen
After you finished making the “Rock Follies” series, did anyone ever ask you to sing in a movie or TV show?
There were some enquiries as to whether we would go on the road as a Bona Fide group...... I would have loved to but there were differences of opinion. I have since sung in “A little Night Music” playing Desiree, and apart form that only in Pantomime.... I did make a couple of singles, but I would rather forget about them!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cathy has lots she’d like to know. Here are some great questions
Rula, in RF and in Take a Letter Mr Jones your hair holds up so beautifully. Did you wear wigs for these shows, or suffer under hot rollers and hairspray to achieve your look?
I am blessed with a lot of hair, and it sets and holds a set very well.... Most days on the set when we came into make-up I would set my hair on heated rollers, and it would pretty much stay that way. Sometimes I wore pieces, and of course different coloured wigs in the fantasy sequences
I’m in the US and we don’t get much news about you, apart from the news flashes supplied by Cary, the webmistress. Are you in another TV series currently, or perhaps a movie, or better yet appearing in the Theatre, in London? My husband and I will be there in the spring, and if you’re in a play, we’d love to see you.
I finished a couple of months ago in “An Inspector Calls” in the West End. I have just been on TV. in this country’s most popular soap “Eastenders” Movies sadly seem to have eluded me so far. There is much in the offing but nothing concrete at present apart from filming in Africa .......Art and Elephants......click here
Do you love animals and are you involved in any animal rescue or charity work?
I am passionate about animals and conservation, and have been deeply involved with several animal charities for over 25 yeas. The Born Free Foundation., The Environmental Investigation Agency, and I am a trustee of “Wildlifeline”...I have done many commentaries on Wildlife, and have also been on working expeditions in Africa and Asia, and dream of getting my own series about Wildlife on T.V.I have also co written a book called “Mammoth Hunt” with Colonel Blashford Snell.
Have you written your autobiography?
Not Yet, but it is swimming in my thoughts.....
What are the first few things that come to mind when asked “What is important to you?” ?
Love............ Harmony,......... Peace ...............true communication, deepening spiritual awareness.
Do you live in London or in some lovely flowery village?
I am now back in London, since 6 years, but I did live very near a sweet “Flowery Village” for 16 years, and out of choice I would much rather live in the country, surrounded by open spaces, and many animals.
If you weren’t an actress having a chance to play different roles, would you prefer to be a rock star or a high-paid super executive? Or something else entirely?
Something else entirely, I would love to be a hands on Conservationist, and photographer. A life that would involve much travelling to exotic and exciting locations, Of course the money to fund these expeditions would be nice..............
Many things being talked about. I am working on a treatment about my mother’s memoirs, who had a fascinating and extraordinary life, hoping for a TV docudrama. I have several theatrical suggestions being talked about. and also some very unusual TV projects, but nothing signed on the dotted line at this moment...............
Thank you so much, Rula and Cary!
And some questions from Kim
Thank you for agreeing to answer questions Rula, Rock Follies was unique and in many respects ahead of its time, now there are rumours of a remake, what are your thoughts now?
When we filmed R.F an all woman band was a novelty, it was innovative and daring.... Nowadays there are girl bands in profusion, so I think a remake would not have the same impetus I think a "What has happened to the little Ladies all those years on" type of programme would be good fun though.
It will be really great to see the Rock Follies again when it is finally released on video/DVD. What are your favorite moments from the show?
The "On the "Road " episode was always one of my favourites...and I loved the surreal fantasy sequences. "The Blitz was fun to, and all that "Beverly Sisters" routine.
Having had the opportunity to see the show again quite recently I really enjoyed your portrayal of Q, very funny and sad, I really liked the campsy cute routine. Like Charlotte and Julie you have carried on a notable career in the theatre and TV and most recently Eastenders. I would like to know what started your career as an actress?
Ever since I remember I always wanted to be an Actress, I did all sorts of competitions as a teenager, then after school did two years at Drama College (The same one as Charlotte) and then my first part was in a Francis Durbridge thriller in London's Westend.
Mark has these comments and questions
We don't see enough of you on TV, although I recently saw you in Eastenders, thought you were excellent and you're looking as good as ever. In nearly 30 years since Rock Follies you've changed very little.
I wish there was more TV available... my sort of style does not seem to be fashionable at the moment, but hopefully it will come back,,,,,
I'd like to ask you if you can recall any particular funny cock-ups and out-takes from the recording of Rock Follies, stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor, never to be seen by we die-hards!
There were endless funny moments but I cannot sadly give you examples the old memory seems to be blank in that area for the moment. I don't think out takes were ever compiled, and of course we along with everyone else saw only the finished products.
Also, do you have the albums from the show and if so do you have any particular favourite songs from each series?
I do have the albums from the show even the original vinyl recordings!!!!!!particular favourites were OK, Julie's "The things we have to do" ,"Wolf at the door" and "The Real Thing"
And finally, what type of music do you like listening to and who are your favourite artists?
Rather a broad selection..... I love close vocal harmonies, ie. stuff we don't get much of anymore nowadays..
The Byrds and Eagles were huge favourites.... Crosby Stills and Young... Eric Clapton....Kim Carnes .... Elkie Brooks....Bread....Simon and Garfunkel....... and lot's more.
David would like to know about working with Andy Mackay
Ms. Lenska. I really love the music Andy Mackay wrote for Rock Follies. What was it like working with Andy Mackay? I understand you did some work with Andy and The Explorers on their promotional album ‘Calling’.
I was and am a huge fan of Andy’s and it was a privilege and a joy working with him. He became a close personal friend and though we do not see much of each other at the moment we always stay in touch. I thought his music for the show was fab. and for me the whole composing side of the songs and the rehearsals, and harmonising of vocals was very very exciting.
Now some questions and comments from Bob
I would like to ask you how you got the role of Q and did you have any worries about the singing? Did you also made a single after RF?
I got the part through a series of auditions as we all did... Yes I was terrified about the singing, but loved the challenge... and yes I did record a couple of singles, but thank God they never came out!!!!!!!!!!!
You said some nice things recently on TV about Julie Covington’s Evita single. We know you are still friends with Charlotte, are you still in contact with Julie?
Sadly very infrequently.... I still think she was one of the greatest female singers I have ever heard. and her version of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” has never been bettered.
Are you surprised about the interest in the show after all this time?
........ No not really It was hugely innovative and daring TV, very avant garde for it’s time.... What does surprise me is that it was never reshown.........
And finally did you enjoy your recent stint in Eastenders that we are all enjoying at the moment? It is great to see you on TV.
I had an absolute ball. It was magic being on location in Spain, and waking up to sunshine every morning, and Barbara, and Mike were such fun to work with.
Even after so many years, could you possibly see the chance of having a follow up to Rock Follies? If so, where do you think Anna, Dee and Q would be today in the music world?
I always thought a follow up would have made a great series...... I think probably Dee would have become a great Rock Star.... Anna would have gone into some humanitarian work, and Q would have found a rich man.... I think Anna and Q would have become very good friends as Charlotte and I have become in “The Real Life”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Little Ladies told us about "These Incredible Highs" when they were on the Road. What Highs did you have making Rock Follies?
Every high you could think of.... good scripts, great music and lyrics.... fantasy sequences.....fine actors ...exciting dance routines... and wonderful costars...and costumes.....etc etc.
Also - was it a surprise when the Rock Follies album went to number 1 in the Album charts - knocking Led Zeppelin off the top?
Yep it was a huge surprise and a great great thrill..............I remember we were doing a promotion tour with Andy... somewhere in the North, and we were sitting in a radio station, and Jane Andy's wife was leaping up and down outside the window of the control room waving the album cover and making No. 1 signs.......Oh heady days!!!!!
Meg is determined to find out about Derek but has lots more questions for you.
Rula, not only are you a beautiful actress, but the combination of wit and vulnerability you brought to the character of Q made her into someone I found fun, funny and very likeable. How do you yourself feel about the character of Q? Did you like her? Did you see aspects of yourself in the character?
Thank you..... the more we got into the series the more I identified with Q. Sometimes she was incredibly silly and naive, and so was I. Yes I did like her though I found her very annoying at times, and I would beg Howard to make her a bit brighter!!!!!!!!!. In every part one plays, there are shades of oneself to a greater or lesser degree.
I always thought you had a wonderful, sultry, smoky cabaret voice. Have you made any solo records? If so, how could I buy one? And if not, have you ever considered doing a CD-say of cabaret standards?
My voice is now even deeper, and the couple of singles I made I would rather not talk about!!!!!!! I don’t think my voice is good enough to do a solo album, but I did love being a “Harmony Queen”...............
I think I especially enjoyed your work in the second season-or, that is, it seems to me that you had some especially fun scenes to do in the second season. I wonder if there was a scene or scenes in Rock Follies that you yourself especially enjoyed doing?
I loved the fantasy sequences........ There were also many moving moments like when we all sang “The Real life”... Many comic moments. i.e. Loony Tunes, and in the boxing ring for “Round One”. So many.............
This is a question I also asked Beth and Charlotte, and is just my own pet obsession. What ever happened to the actor who played Derek? He was my favorite male performer in the show, and I was terribly disappointed when he did not return for the second season. But he seems to be a mystery man, in that no one knows what has become of him! Do you have any idea what happened to Derek?
Sadly I cannot help you either.... What a hunk he was..... our dear Hyper Huggins. And what a lot of trouble he got the “Little Ladies into”
Recently here in the U.S. Carol Burnett had a reunion of the performers on her Seventies variety show intercut with favorite scenes from tapes of the shows. It was very successful. Has there ever been any thought of having some kind of Rock Follies reunion, in one form or another?
No there hasn’t but wouldn’t it be fun.... maybe you could raise a petition!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I loved all the songs in Rock Follies. I am wondering, did you have a favorite song of all the songs the three of you sang? And finally, this is not a question, I just want to say thank you for answering my questions, and for your marvelous performance in Rock Follies-the group would just not have been the same without you!
Many favourite songs.. “The Real Life” I found moving .... OK I thought was a great song, but perhaps my favourite was Julie’s “The things you have to do”. I am so glad you liked the show... I have to say even after all this time I have incredibly fond memories of it, and it was a dream job.
And finally a couple of questions from the Mistress of the Web
Rock Follies was badly disrupted by Thames TV industrial action. How difficult or frustrating was that to you all?
Hugely frustrating and difficult. We were riding so high, and loving it so much it seemed doubly cruel...........
Howard Schuman was of course very important to the whole Rock Follies phenomenon. Apart from writing it how did he help to mould the TV series? Was he on set with you all?
As far as I remember he was in rehearsals all the time. Dance rehearsals, acting rehearsals and singings rehearsals and recordings.... All the time he was writing and in the second series, many many times I found lines and thoughts written for Q which I had voice as Rula during rehearsals...... very spooky.
In Rock Follies there was a whole episode devoted to the Hype. How did you feel about the Hype that surrounded the show then and how do you react yourself now to hype? As probably the best known of the Little Ladies do you like media attention or is it just something you have to put up with?
Literally 2 days after Follies started airing my life changed. From being able to walk incognito round the local supermarket looking scruffy and with no make-up (ish) Suddenly thee was huge media interest and recognition on the streets and various. At first it was magic and very exciting but sometimes got intrusive. Now I take it all with a pinch of salt when it happens. It is only a matter of opinion and it is very dangerous to believe sparkling things that are written about you. And very hurtful when they slam you.... So I try not to take to much notice.
What did you think about the news of the release of the Series video’s and DVDs?
I must say I am thrilled..... I could never understand why it has not been repeated. It was so successful, and so different, one of the really special programmes of that era from many aspects.... My only worry is how (without reshowing the original on terrestrial TV,) will they excite enough interest to sell the Videos and DVD’s.... By reshowing it they may hook a new generation.... Though girl bands now are 2 a penny
Copyright The Rock Follies Website 2002
Rula appeared on Celebrity Big Brother 2006. There's a good
interview with her on ICSurrey - click here
You can still read about all the goings on at the Celebrity Big Brother website - click here
you to everyone who has submitted questions
and a huge thank you to Rula for answering them
Charlotte Cornwell Q & A Beth Porter Q & A