Whatever happened to the real Clair?

Source: The Daily Mail

Writer: David Wigg

Date: 13 April 2002

THERE can be few little girls who have had a song named after them.  But that's exactly what happened to three-year-old Clair Mills in 1972.  Taken by her blue-eyed prettiness and sweet giggle, pop star Gilbert O'Sullivan immortalised her in a song entitled "Clair".

What's more, it was an instant hit, going straight to number one in 1972, and keeping Gilbert in the charts for 14 weeks.

Clair's girlish giggles were specially recorded for the ending of the song, after Gilbert had sung the flattering lyrics about her, obviously finding her 'an enchanting little girl'.

But what happened to that sweet little girl Clair?  I found her happily living far from the public gaze - a housewife in Chertsey in Surrey, looking after her children, Oliver, eight, and Emily, seven.

Even at the age of three Clair wasn't at all fazed by having a song recorded about her.  From the moment she was born she was surrounded by celebrities and show business.  Her father was Gordon Mills who managed Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck and Gilbert O'Sullivan, and her mother was the model Jo Waring.

Clair, now 31, still remembers the first time she heard Gilbert's song about her, with lines like:

'Clair, the moment I met you, I swear, I felt as if, somewhere, had happened to me, which I couldn't see....'

'There were a lot of children at our house in Weybridge all having a great time swimming in the pool.  I was pulled out of the water, dried off and then my parents took me to the studio at our home.  I sat on Dad's knee and they tickled me to get me to giggle for the ending of the song,' she recalls.

'I know I must have felt a bit guilty as a child for having a song written about me, none of my brothers or sisters did.  I just did what I was asked to do.  It was exciting.  But my mum was wonderful, because she just treated us all equally'.

Clair's childhood was idyllic.  There was the beautiful home is leafy Weybridge and a second one in Los Angeles, where Gordon, became a tax exile.  Holidays were spent among the wild life of Zimbabwe and the showbiz glitz of Las Vegas.

Her angelic looks were deceptive, as she admits to have been 'a terrible child'. 'I hated school.  I think I was probable a clever child, but I really always enjoyed being at home more than anything else, either swimming or being with the animals.  I was a very homely child - I still am'.

But Clair's happy existence was shattered when she was 17.  She had left school and had plans to work with her father in music and artiste management.  But, in 1986, Gordon was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and died later that year at the Ceders Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

'It affected me very badly,' she says.  I think it was even more difficult because Mum and Dad were divorced.  It was also such a shock.  We weren't told anything about how ill Dad was until a week before he died'.

After her father's death she felt lost.  She tried a cookery course, then a secretarial course.  But nothing took her grief away and she remained unsettled.  'I knew I hadn't found what I wanted to do,' she says.  'I think I was always looking for a husband.  I felt that if I had a husband I could be confident.  I could be myself'.

At 21, Clair met James, who produces advertisements.  Two years later she had a son, Oliver, and a year later, Emily.  Clair and James never married and the relationship broke down after five years.  'We didn't get on as much as I wanted to and needed to - so it was best to part.  But we are still excellent friends and James visits the children'.

In May, last year, she married her present husband, Jason O'Bryan, a 28-year-old musician with a band called the Dub Pistols.  Clair always goes with the group on tour, and on a visit to LA, the first time since her father had died, she showed her husband the house where she use to live.  'I ended up crying, because it was just so emotional for me'.

Clair has inherited her father's ear for music.  She sings and has written many songs, but says she is far to shy to perform them.  'They're so personal that the only person I play them to is my husband,' she says gently.

Clair now shares her house with her mother.  'My mother remarried and it didn't work out.  The guy wasn't very good to my mother and she lost everything.  Although life is good now, the time between it certainly hasn't been easy'.