"I never thought I'd see that kind of fame again," said ex-Eastenders' "villain" Martin Kemp of his time as the bass player in Eighties new romantic outfit Spandau Ballet. Almost 15 years on and after suffering two brain tumours, the actor has regained his star status.
Although it is widely assumed that Martin is a popstar-turned-actor, the reality is actually the opposite. Born on October 10, 1961, in Islington, London, he was just eight years old when he started taking acting classes at a drama school across the road from the family home. TV soon came knocking, and from the age of 11 to 14 the young Martin starred in over 30 different productions, including one in which he appeared with Vanessa Redgrave.
Acting remained on a back burner, however, and in 1978 Martin joined his big brother's school band as the bass player. A year later the group took the name Spandau Ballet and the rest is history. Although Martin admits that his brother, Gary Kemp, has always been the more musical of the two and these days his children laugh at the old photos, Martin's model looks made him the pin-up boy of the decade. Spandau Ballet were one of the defining bands of the Eighties, and Martin enjoyed incredible success with them countless chart hits, sell-out tours, classic pop tunes like True and Gold, and époque defining videos.
The two siblings also teamed up on the silver screen in the highly successful gangster movie The Krays, which premiered in 1990. By this time, Spandau Ballet had split up and Martin's incarnation as the infamous East End criminal Reggie Kray served to open doors for him into the acting business.
In 1988, the actor wed his long-time girlfriend Shirlie, a former Wham! backing singer and co-member of short-lived pop duo Pepsi and Shirlie, on the island paradise of St Lucia. The couple met through George Michael, whose fan club Shirlie still runs.
Martin and his wife spent the early Nineties living between LA and London as the former Spandau Ballet member tried his luck in low-profile films in Hollywood where his second child, Roman, was born. Daughter Harley was born nine months after Martin and Shirlie were married.
After a miraculous recovery from two life-threatening brain tumours in the mid-Nineties "Steve Owen" as he was known to millions of Eastenders fans made his Albert Square debut in 1998, and hasn't looked back. Originally offered the part of one of the Mitchell brothers, Martin has been a key player in some of the popular soap's most dramatic scenes. He stayed with the BBC soap until April 2002 before signing a two-year golden handcuff deal with ITV believed to be valued at £1 million.