LOTTERY+STRIPPER+BIBLE STUDY = a Jehovah’s Witness Sister!
Don’t most financially-strapped blue-collar people buy lottery tickets - what’s so special about that?
Vivian, mother of 4, a factory worker - it was her husband who played the pools and WON £5.5 million pounds!
Viv and her husband lived in Yorkshire and 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 later - a musical!)
“SPEND SPEND SPEND!”
Who doesn’t imagined winning such a sudden fortune would be the end of life’s problems?
Not so fast!
Four years after hitting the jackpot, her husband died at the wheel of his new Jaguar, leaving an estate of only £42,000. What do you mean by “only”? I mean that is all that was remaining after a mad spending spree. Adjusted for inflation, the spending power amounted to £959,000.
In 1968, Vivian won a three-year legal battle to gain £34,000 ( £776,345) 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.
Viv 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 relentless shopping.
Viv was the sort of lady who could really bounce back. Resilient, I guess you could say.
She eventually 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 boast, taking just three years to spend the winnings.
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? Yes! So, she did that too!
Whew! It’s time to get straight with the Lord--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.
After a Bible study with the JW’s, she was baptized and became a minister.
Besides going door to door...She still loved to shop.
The 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 scratch card?
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 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.
Q: That musical about your life was based on the book you wrote. What was your reaction to seeing it all played out?
A: In 1999 ... It was very sad and frustrating to see my life on stage like that. It was very well done. The musical director and the cast were fantastic people, but I don't think they really understood the reality of what I went through.
Viv and her husband were no different than many such winners.
They splashed out on cars, jewelry, furs, champagne parties, and the sprawling ranch-style home, but after her husband was killed in a car crash, it was the huge tax bill that 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 learned 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.”
___________ Afterthoughts ...
When it comes to the desires of the human heart the old proverb holds true:
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR - it might come true.
A therapist once explained to me something I haven’t forgotten.
We humans have a “self” which is very very small. Not very much can fit inside. The mistake comes as we try very hard to make room for everything we might desire. What we end up removing to ‘make room’ is often the innocent and authentic part, leaving only an uncomfortable hoard of mere things.”
A storage closet instead of a human being.