Her name was Nicholson. Vivian Nicholson. Everybody called her “Viv.”
She worked in a factory as a mother of 4 kids. She lived in Yorkshire.
Now Viv was not yet a Jehovah’s Witness when what happened...happened.
It was after what happened she turned to the cult for solace.
What horrible event had ruined her life you ask?
Viv’s husband had bought a winning LOTTERY ticket and won $5.5 Million.
In the U.K. they call it playing the “ football pools.”
They were the biggest winners in history (at the time) and the year was 1961.
The first question winners are asked is: “What will you do with all that cash?”
Viv’s honest reply later became the title of her book (and a musical!)
“SPEND SPEND SPEND!”
The first tragedy which struck?
Four years after hitting the jackpot, Keith Nicholson was killed at the wheel of his new Jaguar, leaving an estate of just £42,000
In 1968, Nicholson won a three-year legal battle to gain £34,000 from her husband's estate but rapidly lost it all through more uncontrolled spending, as well as taxes, legal fees, unpaid bills, and bad investments.
She bought a large bungalow with her second husband, Keith Nicholson, they sent their children to boarding school, and turned to a life of constant drinking, partying and shopping.
But Viv was the sort of lady who could really bounce back. Resilient, I guess you could say. She remarried three times, dyed her hair to match her cars, and traveled the world spending all her money.
Did you notice the word “all” in that last sentence?
Nicholson and her husband lived up to her promise, taking just three years to spend the £152,000 – the equivalent of £3.5m today
Yes, Viv spent every last pound and farthing.
Now, the story gets more interesting :)
Eventually, she was reduced to stripping in a club and consoled herself with alcohol. Maybe writing a book about her life would bring revenue!
Whew! It’s time to get straight with the Lord Jehovah--right?
She returned to Yorkshire, to live with her granddaughter, Brooke, and to become a (wait for it---wait for it…) a devout Jehovah's Witness.
At age 62, she lived on a state pension and had a job as a perfume sales assistant.
Besides going door to door...She still loved to shop.
A musical about her life, Spend, Spend, Spend, premiered at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, starring Barbara Dickson.
Here is an interview with Viv back in the day.
Q: Do you buy lottery tickets now? And what's your favorite scratchcard?
A: No I don't buy lottery tickets or scratchcards. I am a Jehovah's Witness now and have been for 21 years. Gambling is not allowed.
Q: What do you think of those lottery winners who say the money won't change their lives?
A: You read about them every other week and they say that their lives will not change. Then you read about them later and their lives have changed. It makes some people lonely. One winner went to live in Spain and had to come back because he was drinking too much. Some people's wives leave them. I think it's silly to say that the money won't change your life.
Q: Did people treat you differently when you had lots of money?
A: This was strange. When we won the money, we were sent to Coventry by the people in Garforth, where we lived. They didn't want me on the same housing estate. No one spoke to us and it was hard for me to speak to anyone. Had someone moved next door I would have made myself known to them and been friendly. It was very lonely. After about four years, people started being OK, but it was too late by then. Even my old friends left me. They said they didn't want people thinking that they were going about with me because I had money. It's sad because they were lovely people.
Q: Were you worried about having a musical made of your life?
A: I was. When I gave my consent, I never really thought anything would happen with it. I just left it with Justin and Steve [Justin Greene and Steve Brown, who wrote the lyrics and music for Spend, Spend, Spend]. Then, two years later, they'd done it and announced that they were going to the Leeds Playhouse. I was saying to myself, "Oh no, what have I done?" I was living a quiet life as a Jehovah's Witness and was happy. I was worried that it would rake up my past again.
Q: Do people recognize you when you knock on people's doors as a Jehovah's Witness?
A: Yes they do. Some look at me and say: "I know who you are." Then they close the door on me. Others are happy to see me. They say: "Hey, you're Viv Nicholson, aren't you?" But I never think of who I am at all when I knock on people's doors. I go as myself, rather than as a famous person.
Q: What about the job as a stripper in the Manchester club?
A: There I was, wearing a pair of tights I had to borrow from my sister, and I said I was going to ‘spend, spend, spend'. I took to singing in nightclubs for a while. And then I was asked to strip at this revue bar in Manchester, and I went because it was £50 a night and I was hard up. I was supposed to go in front of the audience, and start singing 'Big Spender'. And I hate that record. It used to hurt me to sing it. The club managers said to me, 'Drop your dress when you get to the end of the song.' And I said, 'Only if I can leave my bra and knickers on.' They refused, but I wouldn't do it.
I kept my knickers and bra on. Afterward, I was frogmarched into the back and told, 'You'll do it properly tomorrow or you're sacked.' But the next night I dropped my dress to reveal my underwear. I got the sack. In total I earned £50, which didn't even cover the petrol there and back. I couldn't do it; I just wasn't a stripper.
Viv and her husband were no different than many such winners.
They splashed out on cars, jewelry, furs, champagne parties and a sprawling ranch-style home, but after her husband was killed in a car crash, it was the huge tax bill left her bankrupt.
Viv’s turn to Jehovah’s Witnesses was accompanied by a descent into dementia. At that point, she lasted another 5 years before her death at age 79.
Viv spoke to a reporter:
“In my head, I'm 35 years old. When people ask, 'Why do you look so good?' It's because I won't let another year, another week, another month, another hour, take over my life. There are people younger than me who look dreadful. Pluck the eyebrows, I say, get the pounds off, rouge up those cheeks! I've been a Jehovah's Witness since 1979. I trust in the heavenly Father Jehovah and he's always there for me.”
Viv Nicholson, born April 3, 1936, died April 11, 2015
In the British newspaper, The Telegraph, this was printed:
“Two months after her win, she estimated that she was spending money at the rate of £1,400 a week. After the £4,000 luxury bungalow came the cars, a silver Chevrolet and a pink Cadillac, in which (once she had learnt to drive) she would roar up the gravel drive and over the manicured lawns of her children’s private school, having dyed her hair pink-champagne blonde, then green, then yellow, then blue. With the cars came the clothes, furs, frocks, shoes — she once bought 14 pairs at one go — jewelry, watches and exotic holidays.
But her chief excess was drink. After the open house at their local pub, the Miners’ Arms, to celebrate their win, there were lavish parties at the new home they had named the Ponderosa, with its own corner cocktail bar literally awash with alcohol, and so much champagne that Viv claimed to bathe in it. They filled their days back at the pub, with daily sessions starting at lunchtime and often not ending before four the next morning.”
Her memoirs, Spend, Spend, Spend, published in the 1970s, earned her £60,000.
This money, too, seemed to trickle through her fingers; she lost £12,000 in a failed boutique venture because – out of guilt – she gave the clothes away.
Finding the money had run out, she drank to excess and took at least one drug overdose. Two suicide attempts took her to the edge of a nervous breakdown. But in 1979 she became a Jehovah’s Witness, renounced drink, and became an energetic proselytizer, distributing The Watchtower door to door around the streets of Castleford.”
I've searched for more information on Vivian and nothing in any detail about her induction into the JW Hall of Fame
was found :)
Anybody know anything to add?