CELEBRITY MARRIAGES can work...
33 years after... I still don't take Lady D for granted –Charles
We've come to know and see them like the two halves of a pea in a pod. And like the snail and its shell, we've always found them together, showing us that marital romance can be heavenly when a couple build their relationship on a foundation of trust and transparency, a willingness to forgive mis-demeanours and particularly where the offending spouse imposes self-discipline, and very resolute not repeat the same offence.
This in a nutshell summarizes the beautiful story of the marriage of Charles Oputa and Lady Di, the pretty African-American with nice dentition, who long ago crossed oceans and sprawling land mass with her lover on his power bike. Nigeria's craziest 'man brand', the irrepressible Area Fada known to all and sundry as Charly Boy, has remained 'glued' to his sweet lady for 33 years, renewing their union, keeping it fresh, and leaving 'normal' couples mouth agape in appreciative awe.
While many may see them as the crazy pair, they have nevertheless taught us that celebrity marriages can last. For them, the creed 'Till death do us part' is very real and alive. In this interview, they reveal the staying power of their marriage despite the storms that buffeted their union. Enjoy, its worth the time….
LADY D tees off….
What did you really find attractive about Charles Oputa? Was it his looks, manners, style or what exactly?
He smelled different. At the time I had a few Nigerian friends and always attended their parties but he was nothing like the Nigerians I had met. He had some kind of animal magnetism about him.
How did he propose and what made you say yes?
Now this is a gas, it was looking to me like he was never going to propose after spending almost a year and a half being his girlfriend or whatever he took me for at the time. I had to ask his permission to come with him to Nigeria, I had to ask his permission to be able to travel around with him and even though from his side I could see some unseriousness about our relationship, I knew he liked talking to me a lot and I knew that he would make a good friend. So one fine morning, I woke him up and demanded he marry me or I go back to America. That was in June 1980 and my first visit to Nigeria. The next morning me and him and a girlfriend of mine ran away to the registry and got married.
In one of your interviews you said Charles conned you into your first date with him. Is this his style and what made you trust him enough to marry him after that first date?
Charles was different; Charles was so open that you could almost read him like a book if you were close enough. He was always transparent and he would tell you exactly second-per-second how he feels. It was on this openness and communication that the trust we have today was built on. Yes, he conned me into our first date alright because he was too shy to ask me out.
Over the years has your trust in him been justified?
To a great degree yes! Charles really has not changed that much; it's just that he is not as outgoing and social like he used to be when we first met. Now he is more of a home person but the basis has always remained the same. He has this tendency of going the distance in anything he puts his mind to, and that is why he also has staff who have been with him for over 25years.
Looking back would you say he has remained the same man who asked you to marry him then, and if he has changed what are the changes?
Basically the same, with some changes. Now it's work, work, work! At the early stages of our marriage he knew how to let his hair down; we went to a lot of parties but these days it's about work, about the youths and about Nigeria. But one thing is for sure: he takes care of his home and nothing comes between.
What is the staying power of your marriage considering that you are both loving in the open as celebrities and most celebrity marriages do not last?
We talk a lot; we talk so much that it has now become difficult for any of us to have any secret. Charles listens to me and respects my views in so many ways and I also listen to him when it has to do with Nigeria and Nigerians because he is indeed street smart in a very sophisticated way. Charles is exceptional and that is what I saw from the beginning.
Did you have any challenges coping with your in-laws and the culture?
With the culture not exactly because I come from the Deep South in America and there is a lot of similarities in the culture. However, I must confess that it took me some time to get over the problem of NEPA (now PHCN) and the crazy drivers on the street.
That for me was a very rude shock. As for my in-laws, they are part of the reason my stay has been most comfortable. They are the best in-laws anyone could ever ask for, and I have been made ever so comfortable by the man I married.
Has he ever been involved in an affair that you knew about, and how did you handle the situation?
Fact is, I didn't know. He came to tell me; we talked about it and we resolved to move on. And that is the special thing I share with him – the openness. It wasn't meant to happen but it happened and we handled it maturely.
Definitely girls flock around him. Does that get to you, how do you handle ÷ .them?
I don't have to handle anything – he is a grown man. I can see he knows what he is doing, and I know when he is on stage and when he is off stage. I have the man Charles Oputa while you gals have the boy - Charly Boy - and there is a big difference.
Most people see Charly Boy as an old naughty boy. How do you see him, how would you describe him, what is about him that we don't understand or know?
Charly Boy is an image we built, Charly Boy is the character that loves to push buttons and push people, boundaries; Charly Boy is a character that was built to shock and awe timid Nigerians; Charly Boy is not my husband; I am married to Mr Charles Oputa and I have come this far in the marriage only because I am happy and content; so what you see and what I know are two different things. You probably don't know my husband – Mr. Oputa - because the public never sees him and as such the public will never know the essence of Mr Oputa.
Is he romantic, how does he play that out?
He has always been that way, but these days there is so much distraction with the work. Hundreds of youths come daily to see him for one thing or the other and his concern about his country and his environment but at least I know that every year from time to time he has managed to keep surprising me. I am sure you must have read about his stunt last year on our 30th wedding anniversary. Now that swept me off my feet!
Do you still find him sexy at his age and would you say sex is still a major part of the marriage?
Of course yes, at his age it is a sin for anybody to be that sexy, and I can tell you he still has all the moves once you can get the engine to start. Sex should always play a part in a healthy marriage because it's part of the intimacy couples share.
In your opinion, why do celebrity marriages fail? And what tips can you give to make a marriage successful?
I don't think they work on their marriages hard enough. I think they should be more open and also learn to be friends before becoming partners.
AND THE AREA FADA SPEAKS....
Do you agree with Lady D's assertion that you conned her into your first date? Why did you choose that toasting style?
It wasn't really a toasting style like you put it. First of all I was shy to be straight about what I wanted and secondly I was in a very troublesome relationship with my ex, so I figured an innocent 'come to my party' would work and then things could develop. At the point where I met her I was scared or bruised by my previous relationships and I needed somebody to talk to. And I am glad I ended up with her.
I read an edition of your Nuts and Screws column where you admitted being very naughty especially with girls. What made you decide Lady D was the woman to be with and stay with?
That wasn't the plan. I just needed somebody to talk to as I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil, trials and tribulations. Believe it or not I have suffered in the hands of women too because I was always ending up with the wrong kind of women I really had no business with.
And even after I met Lady D she didn't at the time qualify in my book as a lover or somebody who will be a lover. I was emotionally distraught and she was there to see me through my emotional turbulence; so she more or less grew on me. She was the one that proposed to me because marriage to her at the time was never in my cards.
After your marriage, what did you do with that naughty streak?
Its still there – it never really goes away only that this time around I have control over everything unlike 30 or 40 years ago. I am still mischievous when there is a need for that as Charly Boy though. But all of this is never in any kind of negative way or ways that could bring discomfort and pain in my family, they are my own kind of 'efisi' as Charly Boy
How old is your marriage?
We have been together for about 33 years now and we have been married for almost 31 years and lived in sin for almost 30 years.
Have you ever had an affair since you've been married?
I'm tempted second-by-second every blessed day, but now I have more control than ever in my life. Once or twice I didn't fall into temptation, I yielded to it. It became obvious that was a wrong route to take.
And you know what they say that 'the devil you know is better than the angel to come' is very true. Its different for me now because from Europe to the West to the East I have had my fill of women and lovers from White to Black to Red Indians and even with people from outer space and I am happy and privileged to have gone through these many experiences as a young person. So now na see finish de worry me!
How do you handle situations whereby female fans are attracted to you?
First and foremost as Charly Boy I'm an incorrigible flirt. Even Lady D knows that my flirting might be mischievous but its never anything I desire to conclude because the devil I know I insist is better than the angel to come. And then again as Charly Boy I guess it keeps the brand youthful, gregarious and exciting.
And as Charly Boy nobody, not even Lady D, has sole ownership. Have I confused you enough? Do you understand what I am trying to say? Simply put: I am on top of my game 24/7 because I create perceptions and imageries of what I want people to see at any given time.
What has been the staying power of your marriage, especially as celebrities?
Mutual respect and friendship, and the determination that against all odds we must make our marriage work. I grew up seeing my father and my mother together till date, and she grew up the same way seeing both her parents together.
And don't forget I have had a few failed marriages because the chemistry was wrong and I went into them for all the frivolous reasons. Sometimes I just think it's a question of luck and sometimes it's also a function of understanding your partner when that luck shines on you. For me I know I work hard in my marriage and I don't take for granted the fact that we have stayed for 33 years and going to sleep on it.
What tips can you give to make a celebrity marriage work?
They most talk all the time, communication must be perfect; they must see themselves as buddies, good friends and never as rivals. They most understand a stage is a stage; a home is a different matter.
For instance we will never let Charly Boy come into our house so for whatever stunt we might decide to pull it would be on stage and never in the home. The stage is Nigeria and the whole world; the home is one small corner that nothing from the outside that is negative must penetrate.