Anneke’s love life was just as colourful. As a teenager she fell for actor/pop star Anthony Newley, becoming pregnant by him twice (the first ended in an abortion). He dumped her for Joan Collins. She then married Michael Gough, a character actor 25 years her senior, and there were two further marriages – “conveniences, basically, for papers to stay in America and Canada”.
Her two volumes of autobiography (Self Portrait and Naked) are impressively candid, deliberately Impressionistic in structure. And that’s how our interview goes: Anneke effusing on one topic before seizing upon another. “This is the way I talk, Patrick. It’s like a Monet painting. A little dash here and a little dash there. Is that all right?”
It’s our third meeting, this time over lunch at an Italian restaurant in Hampstead. It’s almost the first anniversary of Gough’s death, when, as she puts it, “He stepped out of his Michael Gough costume – that’s how I think of it.”
He’s best known to filmgoers as Alfred the butler in the Batman movies and to Who fans as the Celestial Toymaker. Their marriage lasted almost two decades: “Seven years were good, seven unhappy and the rest were undoing it, but I never stopped loving him from the wings all his life.”
Anneke gave up acting in 1970 to bring up their children on the Norfolk coast but doesn’t regret it. “I was trying to keep my marriage together. Mick was jealous of people I was working with. The belle époque of the 60s was coming to the end and we were all moving out to the country, thinking even then London was too full of cars. I threw myself into country life.”
They grew apart, making her deeply unhappy, “but unhappiness is an interesting place because, in unhappiness, you change. You do something.” Anneke upped sticks and travelled, “roaming all over the world”, immersing in other cultures. In the late 1970s, she lived in an ashram in India, becoming a disciple of controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. “I was richly criticised by everyone, but I was brave and knew it was the right thing to do.”
After years of soul-baring and meditation in orange pyjamas in Poona, Oregon and London, and gardening and cleaning in California, she settled back in the UK in the 1990s. “You know the name of that cottage, Dunroamin’? That’s me.” Life now means a small home on the edge of Dartmoor. “It’s heavenly. Deep peace and quiet, wind in the trees, growing my vegetables… I’ve lived there ten years, the longest I’ve spent anywhere in my entire life. All the plants I’ve put in are maturing.
“I don’t get out much,” laughs Anneke, though she’s often up in town, pooling appointments. She’s planning a third book (of photos) and a meeting with Mark Gatiss. The night before our meeting she’s been partying with chums in Soho. “I ended up in a deep gay bar. I don’t know which it was but the waiters were gorgeous! I came out and Soho was heaving. Quite frightening! I talk to everybody in London. I love seeing the mix of people and faces.”