Years of touring and TV shows mean Martin has some unbelievable travel stories (Picture: ITV/REX)
Musician and actor Martin Kemp has certainly seen it all while on the road.
From his son Roman nearly being born at LAX airport to sleeping on a bed of logs on 2018’s The Island with Bear Grylls, he’s had some weird and wonderful experiences.
He’s even seen history in the making, as Spandau Ballet were in Berlin the day the wall came down.
What’s your favourite on-the-road moment?
I spent three years working in LA after I made The Krays and the last year I was commuting between there and London. My favourite moment was when Shirlie was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with our son, Roman.
I got a call to go back to America to make another movie so Shirlie and our three-year-old daughter Harley came with me. As we were going through customs at LAX, Shirlie started having contractions.
We didn’t think you were meant to enter America when you’re that pregnant because they don’t want your baby to get an American passport so we were trying to cover her huge bump with coats and bags. Luckily, the guy at customs didn’t notice and it turned out to be Braxton Hicks.
It was the most heart-stopping moment I’ve had travelling but Roman was born at Cedars-Sinai hospital a week later and he does have a dual passport.
Martin fell in love with Rome on his first visit in 1981 (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm)
What is your favourite city?
By a million miles it’s got to be Rome. I first went in the really early days of Spandau Ballet in 1981.
From that moment I absolutely fell in love with the excitement of the city, the way you feel like you’re living inside some giant museum. Our favourite hotel, The Westin Excelsior [rooms from £230pn], is at the top of the Spanish Steps.
I’ve always been obsessed with anything Roman. If there’s a programme on Discovery about the Romans or some archaeological find, I’ll always watch it.
What keeps you sane on the road?
Nowadays, before I go anywhere I download a massive American drama. On the last tour Spandau did in 2015 the one that got me through every day was Game Of Thrones.
On the Spandau tour bus in the 1980s it was always EastEnders. We used to have VHS tapes of the show sent every week to Germany when we were recording but it made everyone homesick.
When were you most frightened abroad?
I was making a film in Rio de Janeiro in the favelas run by drug lords. It was the early 1990s and hell on earth. There was an open sewer running down the middle, young kids walking round with guns, people openly doing coke.
Usually we were given an armed guard but after a night shoot me and a guy who worked in wardrobe were stopped by these two guys in dirty old jeans and T-shirts. They put guns to our heads and started screaming in Portuguese.
Doing a documentary in the Brazilian favelas led to a terrifying experience (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)
The weird thing was that during the day we’d been using guns so I remember thinking, ‘That’s a nice gun.’ Then it kicked in what was happening and I started shaking like a leaf.
He checked my pockets, then spun me round, looked me straight in the face and went, ‘Spandau Ballet.’ I’ve never been so frightened in all my life. I went from thinking I was about to die to having somebody ask me for my autograph. My handwriting was all over the place.
Where is the strangest place you’ve spent the night?
Sleeping on the beach when I did The Island with Bear Grylls in 2018, just off Panama. They drop you off on the beach and you’re left to get on with it. You have to light your fire, build your bed out of logs and find food.
I slept on the beach most nights because I found it more comfortable than sleeping on the logs.
I had four weeks of it and loved it. It was pure escapism from real life, even though it was filthy. I barely ate for four weeks except half a coconut with bits of fish in it.
Doing The Island in 2018 was tough, but Martin loved it (Picture: Channel 4 Television)
What’s the best souvenir you’ve brought home?
A memento I wish I had but haven’t got any more is a piece of the Berlin wall. Going into Berlin in those days used to be the most exciting landing you could make in a plane.
You flew low over the wall and could see the encircled West Berlin. We were there doing a television show on October 3, 1990, the day the wall came down, and as we were driving to the museum at the famous Checkpoint Charlie border point we could see lots of people on the street.
Then we heard all this chiselling. People were taking chunks from the wall and selling it but I just picked up a piece of wall off the ground.
Martin was in Berlin on the day the wall came down (Picture: Scherhaufer/Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)
Where are you going next if you can?
That’s a tough one to answer at the moment. In recent years some of the excitement of travelling has been lost for me. Last year, I was in Hong Kong and the last time I’d been there was making the Highly Strung video.
Back then it really did look like a city on the other side of the world but now it could have been anywhere. If you gave me a round-the-world ticket now and said I had to go to work for a year, I think I would feel sick.
40 Years – The Greatest Hits by Spandau Ballet is out now. It’s A Love Story (Mirror Books) by Shirlie and Martin Kemp is available from spandauballetstore.com.
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected].