One song that Colin Miller probably won't be singing to his new baby grand-daughter, is 'Nessun Dorma' (which means 'None Shall Sleep'). Jane Bewick Green went to meet the grandad who turns heads wherever he goes because of his resemblance to a certain opera singer
THE PAVAROTTI lookalike from Burton-upon-Trent is thrilled with the arrival of his fifth grandchild, born on July 22 2013 —the same day as HRH Prince George.
"My daughter, Jen, had little Evalyn in the morning at 5.53am, weighing 9lbs 3oz. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, she was overdue, and we did wonder if Jen would have her baby on the same day as Kate — and she did!"
Colin is now a proud grandad to five children aged from 21 to the little newborn Evalyn. His daughter, Jen Woodbridge, and her husband, Ben, live in Bristol, where Colin and his wife Mandy travelled to greet the new addition to the family.
"I love being a grandad," he says, "and it is hard when your family disperses and you don't get to see your grandchildren as much as life allows. I was lucky to see my eldest grandchildren a lot when they were growing up — but one of the younger ones lives in Edinburgh so I only get to see him a few times a year because of the distance.
“Skype is marvellous for in between those visits though! I'm lucky that Jen has decided that for the first few months she and Evalyn are going to come and stay with us for part of each week here in Burton. I'll be able to be a real hands-on grandad and can't wait to take my new little grand-daughter out in her pram.
“My son-in-law Ben has just qualified as an accountant so he'll be able to get some proper work done while Jen and the baby are here and Ben will come and fetch them home each Wednesday."
Evalyn, and Colin's other grandchildren have rather a special grandad. He's been a professional Pavarotti lookalike for nearly 25 years. "I grew a beard when I was just 16 and still at school. I hated shaving," explains Colin. "But the headmaster made me shave it off — though I did keep the moustache. I'm quite olive-skinned and tan easily, so I do look Mediterranean but I'm 100 per cent English. I grew my beard back as soon as a could, and people did tell me from time to time that I looked like Luciano Pavarotti."
Colin and his wife were running a successful floristry business in Burton, when the BBC used Pavarotti's 'Nessun Dorma' for the opening title sequence for their Italia '90 World Cup coverage.
It brought opera to the masses and Pavarotti became a household name — and Colin suddenly found himself in the spotlight. It went crazy.
"People were stopping me and asking for my autograph, newspapers were running stories about me, and the momentum kept going as Pavarotti's album went to Number One in the charts. My wife Mandy then suggested I join the Susan Scott lookalike agency."
The work started flooding in. He was hired for the opening of shops, flown around the world to make 18 TV commercials as 'Pavarotti' and helped to sell Italian furniture, clothes, finance, Swedish mineral water and coffee —as well as Portugal's Toto-Lotto.
"I've had an amazing time," laughs Colin. "A Portuguese diplomat met me at the airport and the place was full of paparazzi when they flew me there for their lottery commercials. The TV company had said that Pavarotti was coming.
“I was treated like the real man himself — with limousines, a tour of Lisbon, and a whole floor of a luxury hotel to myself. It was incredible. I've had similar VIP treatment in Sydney and Bangkok. People know I'm not really him of course, but something makes them still behave as if I am."
Although he sometimes mimes to backing tracks, Colin can pull off a pretty good 'Nessun Dorma' himself, as well as a serious smattering of Italian, with a terrific accent, and has uncovered some natural acting talent, which has been rather useful.
Did he ever meet the maestro himself?
"Oh yes, a few times. The first time was in Harrods. He was there to sign autographs at the launch of his fragrance. I'd got there early and started getting hassled by people asking me for my autograph because they assumed I was him.
“Harrods gave me a security guard to help me fend off the fans but that made it worse because they really did think then that I was him! Pavarotti arrived with Mohammed Al Fayed, who owned Harrods, and Al Fayed stopped and really stared at me.
“Pavarotti was very nice to me, saying, "Grazie, Grazie", and The Times newspaper photographed us together. That started a roll of TV interviews and me appearing on the Big Breakfast."
Pavarotti has dominated Colin’s life for a long time now.
When I arrive to meet him in pouring rain, he gallantly holds up an umbrella for me that is covered with Pavarotti photos, and the car in the driveway has the registration plate P14 PAV.
"Sometimes at the traffic lights I do get people hanging out of their cars singing 'Just One Cornetto' at me,” he sighs. "Then there are the passengers at Lichfield Trent Valley where I now work for Virgin Trains. I'm on the platform, so when trains stop, people do sometimes open the doors and windows just to take my photo. I go into 'auto-Pav' and do the pose for them in my red uniform. It's nice to be able to make people smile."
But Colin's decided to hang his Pav hat up and retire soon. "I'm going to have a 'short, back and sides' and lose the beard," he says. "I'd like to link it to a charity event as I've been heavily involved in charities like The Donna Louise Trust and Me and Dee.
“If I'm asked to, I'll still help them out and will have to find a beard from somewhere. But I'm 63 now, I'm up for work at 4.30am and if I have a Pav gig then I often don't get home till after 1am. I can't keep doing those kinds of hours and I think Mandy would quite like her husband back," he smiles.
It will also give Colin the chance to spend more time with his newest grandchild. "I've been Pavarotti for my grand-children at their school fetes and fayres and they've seen me play Santa Pav too," he laughs.
"When I give them pocket money, I say 'Here's a tenner from a tenor'. Now, I can just be grandad. I have 30 years' worth of Pavarotti stories and loads of photos so I may just have to write a book."
What would Colin say to Prince George's new grandpas, Prince Charles and Michael Middleton? "Listen to the parents, offer advice and encouragement when asked, do offer praise, and let the new parents know that you're there if you are needed."
Bravo Colin. Bravo.
This feature is taken from the September issue of Staffordshire Life, which will be out in shops on Friday, August 23rd.