Nicholas, Nanny Heather and Simon
If you’ve ever wondered who gave Simon Cowell his wicked sense of humour – The Mirror may just have discovered the culprit.
Step forward Heather James, the devoted and much-loved nanny who cared for Simon and his brothers in the 1960s.
Heather, now 73, finds it amusing that such a well-behaved boy as Simon now has a reputation as TV’s Mr Nasty.
He has even sent her a signed picture of himself with the jokey comment: “To the person who taught me to be horrible. Lots of love (miss you), Simon xxx”
Heather says: “Simon was a lovely child and there was no nonsense with his parents, Julie and Eric
She adds with a laugh: “I don’t know what on earth happened to him when he grew up. Nobody can get their head around that.”
Nicholas, Nanny Heather and Simon
Heather is thrilled by the birth of Simon’s son Eric on Valentine’s Day and has even offered to lend a hand.
She said: “It’d be nice if he turned up with the baby. I’ve got a big pram which we could take Eric out in. I should think they have a nanny. But if not, nanny Heather’s available! When do they want me?”
But the new baby is not the only Cowell used to the high life. Heather remembers pushing Simon around in a custom-made pram, taking him to dine in the best restaurants and even a time the normally well-behaved lad was very cheeky to a policeman.
Heather was just 20 when she joined the Cowells as their live-in nanny and said the following five or so years was the best time in her life. She says: “I had a super, super life. I went on holidays with them, mainly to the south coast. The children were very good.
Dancer Julie, now 87, and music executive Eric, who died of a heart attack aged 81 in 1999, made her feel part of the family.
Heather explains: “Julie’s lovely, we took to each other right away. I think she always wanted a little girl and when I lived with them I took that place.
Tony, Julie, Eric, Nicholas and Simon
“She took me under her wing, I became like a big sister to the children. Nicholas had just been born, Simon was a toddler. She also had two other boys, Tony and Michael, with her first husband.”
Nicholas, now 53, is an estate agent, Tony a radio and TV journalist and Michael is a company director.
In the new spoof musical I Can’t Sing, based on The X Factor, you see music mogul Simon as a schoolboy singing about his showbiz dream.
But Heather recalls that the real Simon, though playful, liked to read and was good at school.
The multi-millionaire has a different take on his time at Radlett Prep School, Herts, and the independent Dover College.
In December he was criticised by teachers after declaring: “I didn’t work hard at school. I left at 16 and didn’t have any qualifications.
“I was useless. The secret is to be useless at school then get lucky.”
That was all in the future when Heather was taking Simon and Nicholas out in a big custom-made pram on shopping trips near their home in Elstree, Herts.
They were usually good, but once when she emerged from a sweet shop with four-year-old Simon she spotted a handsome young policeman by the pram.
She says: “Simon used to call police rozzers because his big brothers did.
“My mother used to say to me, ‘One day you’ll get married and it’ll be a good idea if you find a nice policeman – they get a good pension.’
“But Simon went up, grabbed his trouser leg and shook it and said: ‘Oh look nanny, nanny there’s a real-life rozzer here.’ I have never been so embarrassed in my life!
“The policeman said to me: ‘I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say nanny, not a very nice thing to tell the children to say at all.’
“He was so mad at me. So, bang went my policeman husband, thanks to Simon.”
But most of the time Heather was praised for the boys’ behaviour, even in smart restaurants.
She recalls: “We were having lunch in this posh place. There were lots of women in mink coats, who said; ‘Oh, do they let children in this place now?’
Simon and Nicholas
“But Simon and Nicholas were so good. When we got up to leave, one woman came to me and said ‘Oh nanny, I must congratulate you. What wonderful, well-behaved children you have. We didn’t even know they were here.”
Heather looked after the children until she left to marry husband Michael who, sadly, died five years ago, but still speaks to Julie every week.
“Julie told me about the baby. She was so excited. I said I want to see some photographs. I haven’t seen Simon for a few years but he can come to me if he needs any advice. I’d like him to have more children. Possibly a girl.”
“I hope to see Simon, his new partner and Eric more often. I’m looking forward to some cuddles with Eric.
“I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come. I watch his shows. I love the X Factor. He’s doing so well. I just ignore it when people call him Mr Nasty.
“I was a big part of Simon’s life. I was with family for many years. I wish I could do it all over again. They’re my family.
Read more on Simon Cowell’s early years in our 8 PAGE BIOGRAPHY ON SIMON COWELL
Source: The Mirror