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Viv Nicholson in October 2006
3 April 1936 (age 78)
Castleford, Yorkshire, England
Vivian Nicholson (born 3 April 1936) became publicly known overnight within Great Britain in 1961 when her husband Keith received £152,319 (equivalent to £2.96 million in 2014, adjusted for inflation) in a football pools win, and she announced to the press that she was going to "spend, spend, spend". Nicholson became the subject of tabloid news stories for years.
By her own admission, she found it hard to cope with the psychological effects of the money Keith had won. She came to feel distanced from the people she had lived among, who in turn could no longer relate to her, and developed an ever greater longing for a much more affluent area.
After her husband Keith died in a car crash in 1965, Nicholson's fortune rapidly dwindled to nothing: banks and tax creditors both deemed her bankrupt and declared that all the money, and everything she had acquired with it, belonged not to her but to Keith's estate.
Nicholson won a three-year legal battle to gain £34,000 from her husband's estate, but rapidly lost it all through bad investments. She relocated to Malta, but after she assaulted a policeman, the Maltese authorities deported her back to Britain amid a storm of tabloid publicity. She entered a mental home to escape from her third husband, who brutally abused her during the four days they lived together; the marriage lasted only thirteen weeks.
She made many attempts to regain both her public profile and her lost wealth, such as recording a single (entitled "Spend Spend Spend", written by her brother) and appearing in a strip club singing "Big Spender". None of these efforts proved successful.
After opening a short-lived boutique, she ended up penniless and, by 1976, claimed that she could not even afford to bury her fourth husband, who had died (and with whom she had broken up three years earlier).
In 1976, Nicholson co-wrote an autobiography with Stephen Smith, entitled Spend, Spend, Spend. It was later dramatised as the BBC Play for Today production Spend, Spend, Spend in 1977. The adaptation was written by Jack Rosenthal and directed by John Goldschmidt (who won a BAFTA award for the filmed play) and starred Susan Littler and John Duttine.
A successful musical based on Nicholson's life – Spend Spend Spend – debuted in 1998 and subsequently ran in London's West End. A photograph of Nicholson also appeared on the cover of The Smiths' single "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Barbarism Begins At Home".
- Bulent Yusuf "What Happened Next?" The Observer, 6 July 2003
- Richard Pendlebury "Spent, spent, spent - pools winner now living on £87 a week", Daily Mail, 22 April 2007
- Sheena Hastings "Spend spend spend Viv Nicholson: Older and wiser now", Yorkshire Post, 22 August 2008
- "Spend Spend Spend (15 Mar. 1977)", imdb website
- Jonathon Green "She had it all - and spent it", The Guardian, 9 October 1999