Mrs Gary Numan was 11 years old when she decided she wanted to grow up to be Mrs Gary Numan.
Gemma O’Neill, as she was known at the time, told her teachers it didn’t matter if she passed any exams because her life path — arm in arm with her pop idol, a regular on Top Of The Pops — was already set.
She wrote to Jim’ll Fix It asking if he could fix their wedding.
How nuts. And yet here we are. Mr and Mrs Numan (technically Mr and Mrs Webb — Numan is the singer’s stage name) are today reflecting on 23 years of marital bliss.
It’s been quite a poptastic marriage, too. Their three daughters are called Raven, Persia and Echo, which they possibly wouldn’t be had Gemma given up on her childhood dream and married a nice accountant instead.
It’s quite a story — but then the Numan/Webbs are quite an unorthodox couple.
They decamped from Britain in 2012 and now live in Los Angeles, in a house which was built in the Nineties but modelled on a medieval castle.
Mrs Gary Numan was 11 years old when she decided she wanted to grow up to be Mrs Gary Numan. Pictured: Gary Numan and wife Gemma at their family home in Los Angeles
‘It looks like Hogwarts,’ admits Gemma. There are turrets and secret passages, as well as a complex computer system which controls all the electrics.
(‘It’s s**t,’ says Gary, whose humour is still more Hammersmith than Bel Air. ‘Instead of one TV going on the blink, you have 14 TV sets that don’t work.’)
There’s a giant sculpture of a dragon in the garden. The seats they’re perched on are covered in leopard print.
Gary Numan’s career was built on him being a bit of an oddity.
The ‘Godfather of synth’, he was one of the first electro-pop superstars in a world where barely anyone owned a pocket calculator, let alone a computer.
When he emerged — seemingly from nowhere — in 1979, his image was as starkly outre as his sound.
His voice was once described as ‘pitched between Gene Pitney and a Dalek’, and his look was similarly android — all bleached hair and heavy eyeliner (applied by his mum, but he kept that quiet at the time, as you would).
By the age of 21, the outwardly cool, but in fact, deeply shy, and quite troubled, Numan was worth £6 million.
The odds were certainly stacked against Gemma and Gary’s love story — recounted in Gary’s autobiography, published this month — having a happy ending.
After her dad managed to wangle a meet-up and a signed single for his star-struck little girl, Gemma started to pitch up at gigs, often queuing afterwards to get Gary’s autograph.
Before long, Gary knew the name of his biggest fan.
In 1992, when Gemma was 24 and, it must be said, there were fewer fans around, Gary realised that he hadn’t seen her for a while and wanted to know if she was OK.
He got her number from his fan club, which was still run by his mum, and gave her a call.
Gemma’s own mother had just died, so he took her out for the day, to cheer her up.
The following year she moved in, and they were married in 1997.
The twist in the story, is that by the time he and Gemma started dating, Gary was on his uppers.
His star was on the wane and the lifestyle that had brought him a string of flash cars, aeroplanes (he was famously an air display pilot in his spare time) and even a speedboat had gone.
He still had a house — just — but there was no furniture in it.
‘People thought I was a gold-digger, but, in fact, I was the one buying groceries, because he couldn’t afford to eat,’ admits Gemma.
After her dad managed to wangle a meet-up and a signed single for his star-struck little girl, Gemma started to pitch up at gigs, often queuing afterwards to get Gary’s autograph. Pictured as a teenage fan: Gary Numan with Gemma, his now wife, getting his autograph in 1985 years before they got together
Gary was £600,000 in debt, and on the verge of going under — in every sense.
He talks today of Gemma ‘rescuing’ him.
‘She believed in me, when no one else did. I was struggling with the music; my confidence was at an all-time low. I thought my success was a fluke. I had a real hang-up about my lack of ability. I don’t know what would have happened without her.’
He chides her for what she describes as her ‘Sergeant Major-ness’, but it’s clear she has been the driving force in the reversal of his fortunes.
There have been fits and starts along the way, but his 2017 album, Savage, reached No. 2, which, he says, was a greater triumph than his 1979 No. 1, The Pleasure Principle.
One thing is certain: he’s happier with fame this time around, because Gemma is at his side to help him negotiate it.
As a single man in the early days, he really struggled.
Now he talks openly about having Asperger’s syndrome, which made him uneasy in social situations. Not for him the cheery, chatty persona that it is helpful for pop stars to have.
‘I suppose a lot of people would have thought I was aloof,’ he says. ‘I just wouldn’t go up to people and talk, or think to ask how they were.’
His relationship with the music press was often fraught, and not improved when he admitted he had voted Tory. He was pilloried for that and regarded as even more of an oddity.
You’d kind of expect the memoir of an Eighties pop star to be chock-a-block with anecdotes about holidaying in Aspen with George Michael, or partying with the Le Bons — not Gary.
His account mostly highlights the surreal and lonely world he found himself in. His allies were his family.
His dad — a bus driver who knew nothing of the music business — ended up working as his manager.
It sounds like a brutal world, too. At the height of his fame, Gary was invited on the Kenny Everett Christmas show, and was overwhelmed when he discovered his idol David Bowie would also be there.
When Bowie arrived on set, though, he made it clear he didn’t want Gary there, and so Gary was asked to leave.
‘I never found out why, and he did say nice things about me later, but at the time, who knows? His career wasn’t going that well. Maybe he thought I was a threat. Maybe he was having a bad day.’
Gemma is still livid. ‘You can have a bad day but you don’t have to be a tw*t,’ she says. ‘That could have been so hurtful.’
Interestingly, Gary says he never feels hurt in a situation like this.
‘Asperger’s means it’s easier to just put it in a box and move on. You don’t get emotionally involved.’
Not all the big stars turned out to be disappointments, though. There is a lovely anecdote in his book about him being taken out to dinner in Toyko by Queen.
Freddie Mercury noticed he wasn’t eating, and asked why. He apologised and said he didn’t like sushi, but was happy just to be there.
A little later a limo pulled up, with a bag of McDonald’s food in it. ‘He’d sent his driver to get me a McDonald’s,’ Gary grins today. Gemma approves: ‘What a legend.’
Another thing was bothering the young Gary Numan, too: in his early 20s, and at the height of his fame, he had started to develop a bald patch.
He had his first hair transplant and, unusually for a celebrity at the time — was very open about it. Singing the praises of the clinic that performed the op meant a second one, free.
Now there have been five in total and he sports a startling shock of inky black hair.
Both he and Gemma are covered in tattoos, but Gemma doesn’t have as many as she’d like.
‘I want to get some nice ones over my scars, but you have to wait a year,’ she says.
Scars? Ah yes. There are quite a few. These come from the couple’s other showbiz hobby: self-improvement of the cosmetic variety.
Gary’s face is definitely tauter than it should be for a man of 62. ‘My face was falling off, so I had it pulled back up,’ he admits.
His wife — ten years his junior — shares his fearlessness when it comes to the scalpel.
She starts to tell me how many operations she’s had, but I lose count.
Suffice it to say there have been a string of boob and nose jobs, a facelift, she’s had an ear pinned back, fat removed from her back, her bingo wings taken away and she’s had her entire body lifted.
Gary Numan’s career was built on him being a bit of an oddity. The ‘Godfather of synth’, he was one of the first electro-pop superstars in a world where barely anyone owned a pocket calculator, let alone a computer. When he emerged — seemingly from nowhere — in 1979, his image was as starkly outre as his sound. Pictured: Onstage in 1982
Thankfully, neither of them is remotely squeamish about the details, so I’m treated to a cheerily graphic account of hardcore cosmetic surgery.
‘I had massive boobs, so I had reduction after reduction,’ she says. ‘Friends with implants had an easy time, but mine have always been problematic.’
Once, one of her newly reduced boobs made an unexpected exit from her body, while they were in bed.
Gary was left trying to stuff it back in. ‘Oh it was a nightmare,’ Gemma laughs.
‘The anchor stitches came undone and everything was oozing out. He had to pull it all back together and tape me up before driving me back to the hospital.’
He gazes at her adoringly, but is rather baffled by her desire to constantly slice and stich: ‘I do think she’s got a form of body dysmorphia. She’s never been happy with how she looks.’
She doesn’t disagree, but points out that after every pregnancy her body refused to ping back.
‘I have Irish skin — it’s thin,’ she explains. ‘It’s like corned beef and porridge put in a sock that’s lost it’s elastic.’
So what if she has scars, she says. ‘I don’t care that I look like a patchwork quilt. It’s better than how I felt before.’ Are you finished now? ‘Nearly. The legs are next.’
Gary and Gemma are also candid about their struggle to be parents. Their three daughters, aged 17, 15 and 13, were hard won.
They went through seven rounds of IVF, lost several babies, and endured more heartache than most could bear.
One of Gary’s songs is about the loss of their first daughter, who did not make it to term. ‘I can’t think of what it actually means when I sing it, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to perform it,’ he says.
What’s most surprising about Gary Numan’s account of his life is how, well, human it is.
There are laugh-out-loud moments, such as where he recounts dashing to the fertility clinic immediately after having sex (for a test to see how his sperm were behaving).
This involved them having sex at the bottom of the stairs at home, with the car in the driveway, engine running.
‘Every second counted,’ explains Gary today.
All the fertility struggles ended with the birth of Raven in 2003. Their second and third daughters arrived naturally, and without intervention, ‘as if my body reset itself’, says Gemma.
The move to California seems to have been inspired by Gemma, too. She hankered after better weather and a ‘safer’ environment for the children, and seems to have found it.
‘There isn’t the yob culture you get in the UK. I hated that p***ed-up drunk thing you get, with leering blokes giving you hassle. I didn’t want that for my girls, and you don’t have it here.’
So what do their daughters make of their dad’s music these days? ‘Funnily enough, I called up to them the other day to tell them to stop making such a racket and discovered they were actually playing my music,’ laughs Gary. ‘That stopped me in my tracks.’
(R)evolution by Gary Numan is published by Constable on October 22 at £20. To order a copy for £17.60 (offer valid until October 17, UK P&P free), go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.