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Brand New Day
Liz Kavanagh talks to Hove star David Van Day. Photographs by Ian Trevett

David Van Day made his name in the hugely successful 1980's pop duo Dollar but he's now ready to rock in a totally different way back in his home city of Brighton, and he's certainly making his mark. Having hit after hit with Guys 'n' Dolls, Dollar and Bucks Fizz, and running a Brighton burger van for a while, he now has a bolder ambition. "I want to help bring Brighton into the 21st century," he says, and you can't help but get the feeling that if anyone can, he can.

For starters, he's taking an active interest in the monorail proposals for the city and in plans for a paintball park, among other ventures. And his frustration at the time it takes to get things through the bureaucracy is even leading him to think about going into local politics, although not immediately he admits. "Whilst we have to protect the great buildings of the past, we've got to redevelop some of the monstrosities, to make our mark, otherwise future generations will say we did nothing in this city in our lifetimes." he says.

Brighton & Hove Life - Front Cover (January 2005)"Things seem to stand still. Why does it take so long to get some action? Rather than councillors and bureaucrats deciding for us, they should be asking us 'Do you want this?' Right you do, let's do it." In the last year David has got heavily involved in both charity work and business in the area. In the 1990s he chaired the sussex branch of the children's charity section of the Variety Club, and he is now giving his time to raising big money for a new local children's charity, Whoopsadaisy. This will provide respite care for physically disabled children in the redeveloped stable block at Stanmer House. The house is being totally refurbished by Cherrywood Investments, and the respite centre is the personal project of Cherrywood chairman Mike Holland and his wife Nina, their son Christopher has cerebral palsy. Meanwhile he is working as a marketing consultant for Adelphi Hotels, which is refurbishing the Abbey Hotel in Norfolk Terrace and introducing the David Van Day Room. This was David's idea, a place in the hotel where guests can get fast food 24 hours a day. "You put money in and choose a pizza or lasagna or shepherd's pie or whatever, and put it in the microwave," he says.

And burgers too? David is happy to be reminded of his burger stall, which not only gave him a "very nice little earner," as he puts it, but also put him back in the limelight nationally. "I was touring with Bucks Fizz but I didn't see a future in it and I was getting tired of all the travelling," he says. "It was paying a living and keeping my family of four but I do like my luxuries. I thought about doing public relations or something else but the quickest way to get cash coming in was a burger stall. I bought this rather shabby unit from a fairground worker and set up near the clock tower. The site was filled with drug addicts and I gave them little jobs and the odd burger. Brighton people seemed to be behind me, but as Churchill Square developed the council wanted me out. In truth the unit was an eyesore. I later got a modern grazing cart in Churchill Square and went upmarket, selling waffles. But I was still touring with Bucks Fizz and couldn't really give it enough time, so I sold it."

David Van DayThe burger stall got into he national press, and the coverage was typically about a pop star down on his luck, but David laughs that off. "They were doing those stories, and I was living in Hove Park and having Caribbean holidays," he says. "I actually didn't need to do it to live, I'd chosen to do it. Some people find that mind-boggling. But my roots were in the fairground, my father had been a travelling showman. He'd seen burgers in America and started making and selling them at fairgrounds in England. The burger stall made good sense to me and I was really proud of it." It also brought him renewed fame and work. Virgin featured his apparent downfall in a television advert for pensions. He and his former partner, Thereza Bazar, appeared again as Dollar in a TV series, Reborn In The USA, and they also featured in a big-name tour of major arenas. As recently as November they performed two songs at a packed Wembley Arena as part of a concert in aid of the Prince's Trust.

Even so, David says his Dollar and Bucks Fizz days are now over, unless similar events come up. "There is no future in it," he says. "I'm not going to bring Thereza over from Australia, where she's very happily married to a barrister and has two children, to go round holiday camps. Cabaret is dead. There are very few clubs left to tour, and then you just have arenas. Some towns are easier than others. The Brighton Centre is hard to fill because it's so close to London. Blackpool has three piers with three live shows. Brighton has one pier, with a karaoke bar."

Being a pop star is no longer cool, and the Pop Idol TV series has a lot to answer for. He says, "Pop Idol has taken the mystery out of the backroom stuff. They look desperate for success and fame, and that's so uncool." The pop industry has certainly changed, "The first Dollar record 'Shooting Star', sold 250,000 copies and got to number 14, these days you can sell 10,000 and be number one. Pocket money goes on the Gameboy, and there's downloading from the web."

David In Front Of Stanmer House - The Project That He Is Currently Involved In Marketing For Cherrywood Investments.So would David Van Day be a pop star if he had his time over again? For the first and only time he hesitates before answering, remembering how at 13 he got a full grant to go to the Italia Conti stage school, commuting from Brighton to London every day. That was after he appeared as Oliver in a stage production in Brighton and got shortlisted for the screen role. "I had the stage bug and really wanted to be a classical Shakespearian actor" he says. "Just before I joined Guys 'n' Dolls I had the opportunity to do a film test for a new TV series. Knowing what I know now I might have done the drama. Drama is in my blood and I still yearn to do it." But the wistful tone is short-lived. "I've got Brighton written through me, just like Brighton rock" he says. "We're a city now but not acting like a city. We've got to work at making this place important."

David Van Day is on the case.