PETA Weber has never wanted to speak publicly about her father, Andy Gibb, the youngest brother of Bee Gees fame.
She didn’t want to acknowledge that she had a celebrity dad and until now, she hasn’t been ready to speak about some of the more painful memories of what that entailed.
But after a reunion this year with her cousins to record an album together called The Gibb Collective, she’s finally ready to embrace that famous surname. She’s told her story exclusively to news.com.au.
“HE WAS JUST A GUY ON THE END OF THE PHONE ... ”
“I didn’t have the chance to get to know my father as well as I should have,” says Peta. “As I grew I learned that he was famous, and that he had famous siblings, but for me he was just a guy on the end of the telephone line.”
Peta’s mother and Andy married here in Australia. It was around this time that things were really taking off for his brothers in America, and it was not long before Andy got the call to come over and join them. So, it was with excitement about things to come, the newlyweds packed up life over here and headed to the USA.
“They were there for about a year when mum became pregnant with me, by then cracks were already showing in their relationship. My father was caught in the fame and parties and, of course the drugs. He couldn’t escape it,” says Peta.
“I think, basically mum gave him the ultimatum to get straight or she was leaving. He didn’t, so she did and it was messy. There were lawyers involved and it was all over the press, it was a hard time for our whole family.”
“I WAS JUST A NORMAL KID”
Peta’s life in Australia was a far cry from the celebrity lifestyle her father was living in the US.
“I knew I had a dad, I knew that he was a singer and that he lived in America, and that’s it really. It wasn’t until much later that I knew he was famous,” Peta explains.
“I remember mum calling me into a room once, pointing at Solid Gold on the TV and saying, ‘That’s your dad.’
“It was so difficult for me to reconcile that this guy in gold pants was anything to do with me or my life, or the guy who called me from time to time. It was pretty confusing actually.”
“THERE WAS NOTHING GREAT ABOUT HAVING A CELEBRITY DAD”
Occasionally the press would sniff around Peta and her mum, but that never ended very well.
“I remember once we were on the cover of a gossip magazine over here. After that I demanded that I never do any press related to my dad. The bullying was relentless.”
“Your dad’s a drug addict.”
“You think you’re so good.”
“You think you’re better than us.”
But while school was difficult, Peta was just hoping for a greater connection with her father. “I always wished we had a more of a chance to get to know each other. I wanted to be close to him, like any daughter wants with her father. But outside forces conspired against us.”
“I do vividly remember one phone call where he asked me to come over. He promised to introduce me to Michael J Fox, and I was pretty keen on that idea,” she laughs.
“It never happened though.”
“THEN HE DIED AND MY WHOLE LIFE WAS THROWN INTO A SPIN”
Peta had not long turned 10 when there was a huge ruckus at her house.
“I’d qualified for the district swimming carnival and I was really excited about competing. I was in bed the night before the carnival when all hell broke loose,” She explains.
“Mum, my grandparents, the phone … everything was going nuts. There was no sleep in the house that night. My father had died, and everyone was freaking out.” she explains.
Andy Gibb had struggled with drug addiction throughout his career, finally seeking help in the mid-eighties at the Betty Ford Clinic. However the damage was done. On March 10, 1988, he died at a hospital in Oxford, England, at the age of 30.
The cause of death was determined to be myocarditis, a heart condition.
Peta’s Australian family had tried her whole life to make sure things were as “normal” as possible for her, so Peta still managed to swim at her carnival
I can’t remember who took me now, but they made sure I got there. We were flying out to London straight afterwards, so I remember telling my friends that I probably wouldn’t be at school. But they already knew, it was everywhere in the press already.”
“THE MEDIA WAS RELENTLESS”
The press were camped outside the carnival, and they were brutal in their chase as a very young Peta made her way through the airport.
“I was told, ‘Keep your head down, and if anyone calls out your name, look down.’ We were being papped, and it was quite frightening,
“Everyone was distraught for the longest time.”
And for Peta, the new-found attention brought back the bullying.
“It was worse than ever after he died. It was torture, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and it’s followed me throughout my whole life.”
Peta still struggles with people knowing that part of her life. While she doesn’t actively deny it, she becomes uncomfortable with people talking about it.
“It’s nothing to do with my work or who I am as a person. I met an ex’s mother once, and the first thing she launched into was, ‘Tell me about your father, what are your uncles like?’”
As for the press attention, it has ebbed and flowed as Peta has gone through life but, until now, she’s mostly avoided it.
“I’ve always politely declined any media requests. When my uncles Maurice and Robin passed away, the press came knocking on both occasions, but, until now, I haven’t been ready.”
EMBRACING THE GIBB, ON HER OWN TERMS
“I’d see my uncles every time they’d come out on a tour. I would catch up with them, but their kids were rarely on tour.
“I’d hear, ‘Oh you and Sam look so much alike, you’ll have to play one day’ but it never worked out like that.
When Maurice’s daughter, Sam contacted Peta last year to ask if she’d like to be involved in The Gibb Collective, a project to bring together the children of Andy, Barry, Robin and Maurice to cover classic Gibb songs, it took a bit of soul searching.
“I do sing, I’ve always loved singing and I work with a vocal coach, but the idea of singing on this project was, initially, hugely uncomfortable.” she says.
But that two hour phone conversation with Sam made Peta realise that there was someone out there who had shared exactly the same experiences, and made her feel part of her dad’s family, and it gave her a feeling that she wasn’t alone in all of this.
“My father is an integral part of the Gibb musical legacy. I came to the conclusion that if anyone was going to represent him, it should naturally be me”.
This year marks the The Bee Gees 50th Anniversary and the 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Fever. The music created in those decades since has left a legacy of some of the most influential and recognisable sounds of our times.
The first single from the album is a group cover of, Please don’t turn out the lights featuring Peta, Sam, Barry’s son Stephen, Maurice’s son Adam, and Robin’s son Spencer. Other Gibb cousins have also recorded songs for the album.
And, upon the encouragement of her producer, Peta, sings a beautiful, lesser known song of Andy’s too.
“My producer and vocal coach, Tash Rindfleish, heard this song and squealed, ‘This is perfectly constructed pop, they don’t make songs like this anymore, you HAVE to do this.’” Says Peta.
“I wanted something that was written by him alone. Not that I don’t have huge respect for the stuff that he wrote with his brothers, I just wanted this to be a connection with him and I in the studio.”
Joining The Gibb Collective began as a way to face her past and connect with her dad, but for Peta she has gained something so much more.
“I’ve found such a connection with my cousins. The long overdue family reunion to come out of this project is something I never expected. I’m finally able to connect with that side of my life in a positive way, on my terms and in a way that makes me feel proud.”
Source : www.news.com.au