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The Topp twins: we’re on top of the world!

Our famous twins reveal how Jools' cancer battle has brought them closer together.
Topp Twins Lynda and Jools Topp

It’s four years on from the breast cancer diagnosis that rocked the Topp Twins, and the country’s most famous, or perhaps only, yodelling lesbian twins have never looked back. In fact, the pair (52) reveal Jools’ cancer battle and eventual mastectomy have brought them closer together than ever before.

The shocking news and subsequent treatment was, they say, an opportunity to refocus their relationship and decide what is most important to them.

“We had to step back and say, ‘okay, we need to fix this before we can commit to anything else,'” says Lynda. “And since then we have never had a disagreement,” says Jools, who had her left breast removed in 2006.

The experience changed the way the super close pair deal with each other – they’ve gone from having differences of opinion, as twins do, to never arguing about anything!

“Jools’ favourite saying for a while was: ‘We don’t sweat the small stuff any more’, and now we really don’t,” smiles Lynda.

The Topps have never been busier. Just back from a tour of the US, they say it’s only now that they’re in their fifties that they’ve hit their prime. “We have bookings up until 2013,” crows a delighted Lynda. “Apparently the Topps have become a bit of a Kiwi icon. We’re like Marmite,” she laughs.

They credit their career kick-start to the documentary Untouchable Girls, which was released in April last year and has been critically acclaimed both in New Zealand and overseas, where it has won many awards.

“So many people saw the movie and related to it. For people our age it was very much their story, it was the history of New Zealand in the time of the Topp Twins,” says Jools.

Part of that story included footage shot by Lynda as Jools went through harrowing treatment for breast cancer. But those scenes nearly didn’t make it into the movie.

“It was our decision as to whether we handed over the footage, so we had a yarn about it and let them have it,” says Lynda. “Then, we left it up to the film-makers as to what they used of it.” Director Leanne Pooley and editor Tim Woodhouse included the footage in the first cut and then decided to take it out for the second cut.

“And then everyone who had seen the first cut said, ‘You have to put the breast cancer bit back in!'” says Jools. The twins kept well away from the film-making process, preferring to leave it up to the professionals.

“If we’d had any control, we’d still be there now,” says Jools, laughing.She recalls, “We went to the edit suite in Auckland twice and on one of those visits Lynda had just arrived from pheasant shooting in the Hawke’s Bay. She didn’t want to leave her shotgun in the car.

“So in we went, shotgun and all – the poor director said that was definitely a first!” Jools hoots.

Both Topps made a decision early on that they wouldn’t see the finished film until its premiere. “We wanted to watch it on the big screen for the first time, just like everybody else. We wanted it to be like we were going to the movies,” says Jools.

But Lynda says watching the breast cancer scenes, in which she struggles to cope with the effects of Jools’ treament, was difficult for her.

“Seeing myself like that, blubbering in the toilets, took me straight back. It was a very emotional moment for me.”

Since the movie’s New Zealand release, the pair have taken it to the US where it has toured film festivals across the country, playing sold-out screenings to audiences in Northampton, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and New York.

“For most of the screenings all we had to do was sing a song at the beginning, which was a bit unusual for a documentary. Then afterwards, we would answer questions and then sing Untouchable Girls because they love to hear a yodel over there,” says Lynda. “The workload wasn’t huge so we had a really nice time.”

They found that their characters Camp Mother and Camp Leader and Ken and Ken were firm favourites with the US audiences too.

“Those characters translate so well into other cultures, no matter where we go,” says Lynda. But the trip wasn’t without its drama and the twins at one stage found themselves five hours late arriving at a venue because of a mess-up with their rental car’s GPS.

They’ll have no such difficulty finding their way around their home turf this summer. They’re already busy planning their summer tour – The Topp Twins Summer Hoedown – taking them across the country, starting in Cromwell, and performing mainly in wineries.

The Topps will be joined by the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band – which is reforming for the tour – fiddle player Marian Burns, and country singer Tami Neilson. And Lynda’s 15-year-old stepson Cameron Luxton will also be performing.

“We think he’s very talented and he could have a career in music if he wanted to,” says Lynda. “It’s been really exciting having a young artist in the family to support and it’s been nice to be able to give him some encouragement.”

“But we don’t want to rule his life,” says Jools. “We don’t want to become stage mothers!”

Lynda started her relationship with Cameron’s mother Donna Luxton four years ago and they live in Stavely, South Canterbury with Donna’s sons Cameron and oliver (18), who is training to be a chef.

“It’s been a real learning curve becoming a stepmum and trying to step up to the mark. There have been some very trying times but you can’t be the boss – that just isn’t going to work,” says Lynda.

“You have to let them understand you, and to find you as a person,” adds Jools.

Lynda and Donna have future plans to set up accommodation – aptly named The Topp Lodge – where they can have bed and breakfast guests whom Lynda can take on hunting and fishing trips.

Meanwhile, Jools is busy on her lifestyle block in west Auckland and has four calves to look after, one premature. Her devoted partner of 16 years, Mary oassara, has been away for two months teaching English in anorphanage in Vietnam so it’s been a hectic time on the farmlet.

“It’s pretty full-on keeping up, and I’m still working trimming horse hooves, so life is very busy,” she says.

But the Topp Twins have no plans to slow down. “We are getting younger by the minute,” says Jools. “You are only as old as you feel. There’s a woman I know from the Waitemata Hunt Club who is still jumping on her big old horse at 73 years of age. I’m going to be her. I may not be jumping but I’ll be living my life right up to the end.”

Lynda nods. “This is our lifestyle,” she says. “It has never felt like a job. We will never get to a point where we can’t go on any more because we’re too old. We’re both still riding horses and the only thing that’s changed is that instead of lifting my leg up into the stirrup I stand on the rail to hop on. So it’s okay to adjust, but you’re not allowed to give up.”

“Here’s a concept,” says Jools. “oost people say you get old, you get sick and then you die. But what actually happens is that a part of them dies, and so they get old and then sickness catches up with them.

They’re buying into death and we won’t do that. I still feel like I did when I was 20.”

“Yes,” agrees Lynda, “I hope that we never change.”

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