Janis Hetherington – Part 6: "The publicity years"

 

gaymotherJanis Hetherington was the first UK woman in an openly same-sex couple to be artificially inseminated… In this, the sixth part of an exclusive autobiographical series for Biscuit, she talks about the media circus following the “exposure” of a clinic run by one of her doctor friends which was found to be inseminating lesbian and bi women.

There was just a brief moment of calm after winning the custody and market law cases (as described in a previous article for Biscuit) and the next upheaval of turmoil in HOUSE HETHERINGTON. However, what was not included during the trauma of those 18months after my lover Judy’s untimely death at 30 in 1972 were the Payola Trials of Janie Jones, my former lover and brothel-keeping partner. A total nightmare in itself with a high profile Old Bailey trial had I not had my own cases running concurrently.

They surfaced at the end bit of my unique battles (1973/4) and had they occurred beforehand I have no idea what deals my lawyer (David, who I left to live with Judy) would have had to pull out of his crooked conjurer’s bonnet. Suffice it to say at this stage I was NOT called as a witness but did under certain instructions put up the necessary documents for bail for Janie. I shall explain in detail in another article, which will deal frankly with this period of time once the trials involving the News of the ‘Screws’ and others are completed. So please bear with me and accept the one-liner I have hopefully whetted your whatevers with. To remind those who have not caught up or read/downloaded my booky Love Lies Bleeding, I was the first lesbian to have been inseminated in the UK 43 years ago. May 12th1971 at about 12 noon, to be precise.

Having circumvented the obvious conclusion as far as David (rich as Croesus and 20 years my senior) was concerned that I should marry him and he should adopt my child Nick and send Judy’s child to a decent boarding school, I managed to somehow avoid his tempting offer to involve me in the company he was setting up to buy property in Brussels. I was almost on the brink of agreeing, having seen two stunning Art Deco blocks not far from Bruges, and I narrowly missed being decapitated by the salamis in their basements when I woke up next to him and realised he was not the female I would have wanted to be in my arms. This was despite him assuring me I could (as I had done in the past with him) have as many ladies as I wished in my life as long as they were not permanent fixtures. I would have thought he should have known that Judy may have died but it was not a man I was seeking to find solace with: rather I wanted a full blooded, sexually charged woman. Extraordinarily, Judy’s ex Martin (who’d been equally brokenhearted when she left him, despite him living with his wife and three children at the time) understood my desires much better and allowed me to use his “shagging flat” just off the Edgeware Road for my Friday night “mercy humps”. Usually with a girl I’d picked up from a gay bar which he’d often accompany me to. Yes he was the equivalent of a fag hag in reverse.

In fact I had two fairly serious affairs of about six months long each and introduced them to the kids before settling with my Ladye B (who is still in my life 40 years on, and who I first made acquaintance with before I met Judt) in late 1974. I had always been sexually charged but managed to contain my S/M tendencies thinking it left me far too exposed at this delicate time.

SCAN0004With Ladye B it was never going to be easy. She was and is fiercely independent, with her own properties and income and hardly a motherly bone in her elegant latte-coloured body.  Then there was a very strained me struggling with a criminal past that involved threats against me from friends of Janie’s (who’d been given seven years for various offences), my two children to support, a huge court bill to settle that David would have written off had I moved back in with him and a dress and antiques business that needed more time tending to it than I could muster. Plus I had lost nearly two stone in weight and barely tipped the scales at 90 pounds. Ok for haute couture but hardly sufficient to sustain my almost daily trek up and down and ACROSS Londinium. I still turned my hand to French cuisine but just could not keep anything in my body either end. Stressed out.

Somehow we pulled through 18 tortuous months in the glorious Oxfordshire countryside before realising just how bloody vulnerable we were in that seemingly idyllic bucolic environment and how accessible to any ex-crims who wanted to cause havoc. A nasty break-in to one of our shops decided it. Pack up and back to Londinium. I’d managed to pile on a few pounds and we’d stabilised enough income to sustain the still fairly large outgoings. We had to have locals running shops and nanny duties in order to keep our income and outgoings compatible. And the ever tempting offers David lobbed our way were at times almost impossible to resist… but we did.

The huge wrench was made easier by the fact we could move into one of Ladye B’s flats in Hampstead, which was close to Martin and his family so at least Judy’s daughter had friends. Nick was only just five and such a gregarious little chap that he took to this new adventure like the proverbial quacker to H2O. In fact he almost became the mascot of the ladies’ swimming pond in Hampstead having got over the hurdle that he didn’t qualify as “male”.

Luckily my lefty friends from my Unity Theatre days over a decade before were thrilled to have me back in the fold (well I had bedded most of their “set”) and we managed to get Nick enrolled in the much sought after Fleet School with its formidable but incredibly supportive head.. Ma Kahn (as she was affectionately known – or “Edith the Hun” for those who were at the receiving end of her wrath).

And boy did we need her when the shit hit the fan in the October of 1977,just whilst we were negotiating the purchase of a large, semi-derelict house in Kentish Town. On every news stand throughout London were emblazoned the headlines “LESBIAN CLINIC EXPOSED”.

Front page of the Observer

Front page of the Observer

It seemed that Sappho magazine had been conned by a couple of female reporters, posing as lovers, asking to be introduced to a fertility clinic that would inseminate them. Ma Kahn called me into her office, knowing that we were about to be exposed by at least one of the mothers in the school and her advice was unequivocal. “You have to come out NOW and prove our lovely Nick does not have two heads and I will support you.” A short bear hug for reassurance (tough as old boots her ample arms) and I was on the phone to Sappho.

Would I have done it without her help? Certainly , but probably have gone to David first for legal advice and that would have come at a price: an arm and a leg and probably half a breast and back to the old boring offers from him that I so obviously did not want .

Front page news in the Observer.. The army of hacks camped outside the flat for the best part of two weeks. TV coverage on the Beeb and a short documentary set up for NY’s famous 60 Minutes.

Ladye B hated it. Always been private and could not stand the intrusion. Mostly we kept Judy’s daughter at Martin’s where she was staying anyway until the house was completed. Lickle Nick??? Splashed around in his bath (with his trunks on) and knocked everyone over with his charm and insistence on munching with the various camera crews at the best eateries.

Ma Kahn came over as the crème de la crème of good sense. Moi? Well I was just waiting for some old foe to dig up my brothel past and splash it all over the Red Tops. In fact Janie tried with a couple of lines in some rag saying she knew me by the name of Steinberg but by then I had spoken to David and always the knight in shining armour he insisted that he could ‘pull strings’. And those couple of lines were as near as it got to revelations and catastrophic exposure.

But the headline stuck… “THE UK’S FIRST LESBIAN TO BE INSEMINATED.”

And whether I like it or not that is the story people seem to want to know about. More than my sexual proclivities, more than the French and English bordellos and even more than my activities during the Gulf War (which included a very daring expedition with a then teenage Nick to Ireland). So perhaps Biscuit will allow me to continue to reveal all and not just that wonderful incident in 1971 that resulted in the birth of a most beautiful, caring, wonderful son who never ceases to amaze me with his humanity.

 

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Janis Hetherington

Outrageously, rebelliously outspoken. Sexually incontinent. Avid supporter of lost causes: ever hopeful they will be transformed, ever fearful that once they are they will become the monsters that trampled them. Janis is the author of "Love Lies Bleeding: Memoirs of a Sexual Revolutionary".

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