Maneater


The main job of British movie dolly birds in the 60s and 70s was to be passive objects for the likes of Sid James or Robin Askwith to phwooaar all over or to scream helplessly and faint when Christopher Lee appeared in a cape. But with her imposing height, Amazonian build, and drop-dead looks, Valerie Leon didn’t fit the part of the ditzy barmaid or virginal damsel in distress so she was usually the one being sexually aggressive and domineering — entering rooms like a panther in heat, thrusting her cleavage forward like a deadly weapon, giving off enough horny static to power a large city — and it was the men who got all flustered and ran to the fainting couch when she approached.

She looked like such a you-are-not-worthy goddess that a lot of the time she wasn’t cast as a regular human being and played a variety of jungle warriors, aliens, and reincarnated Egyptian queens. Even in the Hai Karate ads she came across like some amorous Terminator robot who could not be stopped. Typically, when she did play a normal person we were supposed to believe she was such a crazed nympho that she’d chase after such weedy targets as Jim Dale, Ronnie Corbett, and even Charles Hawtrey. But I guess that was supposed to be the funny part.



She was a ubiquitous presence on 1970s telly, forever popping up as the comedy crumpet on variety shows and sitcoms, and you could always rely on her to class up a production — at least visually. As a boy I would immediately, um, perk up when she appeared and would sit through some right old rubbish in the hope that she’d appear again, however briefly, in that low-cut cocktail dress or fur bikini and play havoc with my hormones.

I’ve no idea if she was any good as an actress, watching her my normal critical faculties tend to be short-circuited, and her filmography is full of such nameless roles as “Hotel Receptionist”, “Lady in Bahamas”, “Serving Wench”, “Bath Girl” and, amusingly, “Queen of the Nabongas.” But one credit she should be proud of is having Roxy Music’s “Beauty Queen” written about her. I never knew that until recently but apparently she had a fling with Bryan Ferry at some point and now the opening line “Valerie please believe, it never could work out” makes sense to me. Whether this is true or not (the internet says it is) I hope it is because someone as gorgeous as Valerie Leon should have songs written about her.

Download: Beauty Queen – Roxy Music (mp3)

Thank You God


Download: God Gave Rock and Roll To You – Argent (mp3)

(I have no idea who this is)

American Woman


A long time ago on this here blog I called Jenny Agutter the Manchester United of British totty, the champion of champions who made everyone else look a bit second-division (well, except Barcelona of course but you get my point). To extend the sporting metaphor I think Raquel Welch is the New York Yankees of the American kind (dolls? broads?): the imperious, all-time champ with the most glittering, um, trophy cabinet of them all. And to extend the metaphor even further I would gladly pay money to see the two of them have a fight to decide the world title.

Raquel was my very first celebrity crush, going all the way back to that innocent time in my life when I had no idea what you were supposed to do with girls but was just starting to notice the effect they had on me. My first encounter with her was in One Million Years B.C. which my dad took me to see at the ABC Cinema in Hammersmith (I can’t believe I still remember what cinema it was) but at the time I was too young to appreciate the girl running around in a fur bikini and just thought of it as a dinosaur movie — I’m sure my dad didn’t though. But a couple of years later I watched her 1970 TV extravaganza Raquel! (love that exclamation mark) and for the first time I remember, looked at a woman and thought Cor!!! which is an important moment in the life of a boy. I didn’t quite understand why, but I was so discombobulated by the sight of this fabulous creature I thought I was going to spontaneously combust into a little smoking pile of hormonal ash. Subsequent viewings of Fantastic Voyage and Bedazzled only cemented her legend in my impressionable mind and even now I can’t look at her without turning into that awkward, red-faced kid who hoped his mother hadn’t noticed how silently transfixed he was by the television.

While she might as well have been a goddess from another galaxy as far I was concerned, with her big hair, teeth, outrageous curves, and rocket-powered va-va-voom Raquel was definitively, quintessentially American. That might not seem very exotic now but very few of us had been to the States back in the 60s and 70s so she seemed as unreal and impossibly glamourous as the country itself, a far-away fantasy land that we only knew from television and the movies where everything was bigger, better and shinier. Gorgeous though they obviously were, British sex symbols like Jenny Agutter and Caroline Munro were girls you could almost imagine knowing or at least seeing in real life but they didn’t make them like Raquel ’round our way who looked as if she’d been designed by Boeing and custom-built by General Motors. She could only be a product of the country that gave us the Cadillac, the Big Mac, and the atom bomb.

So on this 4th of July I’d like so say thank you America, and happy birthday.

Download: State Of Independence – Donna Summer (mp3)

Fondarella


Late Friday nights on British television back in the 1970s was essential viewing for a hormonal teenage boy and budding cinephile (especially once his mother had gone to bed) for it was then that they would show cult, arthouse, and horror films which, besides being an introduction to the stranger and more risqué end of cinema, usually had some naked ladies in them too. My personal Hall of Fame from those nights on our couch includes Walkabout, Girl On A Motorbike, Baby Love, The Shuttered Room and To The Devil A Daughter which aren’t all particularly great movies (most of them aren’t in fact) but they burned themselves into my adolescent brain for one reason or other — well, OK, mostly one reason — so much so that I can still remember my first, slightly freaked-out encounter with them 35 years later.

Being a typical teenage boy I was also into comics and science fiction so a movie which combined those things with naughty bits would have to be pretty much the greatest thing since spam fritters, so when I first saw Barbarella — robots, spaceships, monsters and Jane Fonda bonking her way across the galaxy — I thought I’d died and gone to boy heaven.



A kitsch riot of sex, space travel and shag-pile carpets, it was like watching a very groovy episode of Dr. Who directed by Hugh Hefner and featuring Louise Jameson having it off with the Cybermen. Even though it was based on a comic book it was far weirder than anything Stan Lee ever dreamed up and wasn’t set in any world I recognized from reading Spiderman, (though I wouldn’t have minded seeing Gwen Stacy in one of those sexy outfits). I wasn’t really aware of this at the time but there was such a thing as “adult” — and French — comics which, in this case, meant sex, sex and more sex, plus really twisted, creepy things like the evil little dolls with razor sharp teeth which made my skin crawl at the time (and still do actually). The people who made Barbarella were clearly degenerate weirdos who did lots of drugs and it was bloody marvelous as a result. It probably did my head in more than any of the films mentioned above because it was so damn freaky (and silly and saucy) and even though it’s often camper than a row of tents it’s also visually stunning with some amazing set and costume designs.

And, of course, Jane Fonda looks absolutely ravishing in it. She’s had so many other lives since she made Barbarella — anti-war activist, serious actress, work-out video queen, billionaire’s trophy wife — that it’s easy to forget she was once a sex symbol (with a verrrry sexy voice to boot) and she’d probably rather forget she ever did something as fluffy and kitschy as that, not least because she apparently turned down the lead role in Bonnie and Clyde to do it. But my teenage self, for one, would like to thank her very much indeed.

You probably know that Duran Duran got their name from a character in the movie and played their first gigs at a Birmingham club called Barbarella’s, which makes my choice of record easy.

Download: Girls On Film (Night Version) – Duran Duran (mp3)
Buy: Barbarella (movie)

Kinski Boots


Inspired by a recent conversation with Davy H I dug out the soundtrack album to Francis Ford Coppola’s visually extravagant 1982 musical One From The Heart and sunk myself once more into its lush songs by the sandpaper-and-silk pairing of Tom Waits and Crystal Gaye. Listening to it also reminded me how heartbreakingly gorgeous Nastassja Kinski was in the film and the main reason I went to see it twice when it came out, her short-but-very-sweet role as an alluring trapeze artist was about the best argument I’d ever heard for running away and joining the circus.

With her exotic, pouty face and heavy-lidded eyes Kinski was almost dangerously sexy as if she’d been created for the sole purpose of driving men crazy and back then I would have gladly crawled on my hands and knees across broken glass just to touch the hem of her garment, or at least ask her to be my girlfriend. I wasn’t the only one either as she was usually cast in films as the mysterious object of desire that men would risk everything for (not just in the land of make-believe either, one famous director completely lost his mind over her.) In Cat People a man even risks being eaten alive by a panther just so he can have sex with her which, when you’re talking about Nastassja Kinski, seemed like a perfectly reasonable chance to take.

Download: This One’s From The Heart – Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle (mp3)
Download: Cat People (original single version) – David Bowie (mp3)

Something for the weekend

I’ve had a miserable bloody week at work and watching this has really cheered me up, it’s easy to mock but there should always be a place in pop music for this kind of innocent pleasure. I don’t remember finding The Nolans particularly attractive back then (though I did have a minor thing for Colleen at one point) as they seemed too wholesome and family-entertainment but now they all look, dare I say it…quite sexy.

Lucky Dip


My daughter doesn’t want to pick out any records for me at the moment, I think she’s rumbled that I’m just exploiting her for cute pictures on my blog and refuses to play ball, so I’ve hired these two to choose the music in future.

And what do you know, something else good that Phil Collins was involved in.

Download: I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) – Genesis (mp3)

Bondage


The first James Bond film I ever saw at the pictures was “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” which my mum took me to see when it came out in 1969 — or rather, she went to see it and took me along. Though I was thrilled by the car chases and fights and the bloke who got killed by a snow plough — the snow turned red! brilliant! — as I was only seven years old at the time I was completely oblivious to the appeal of lovely Diana Rigg (Diana Rigg!) in the part of Bond’s love interest Tracy Di Vincenzo. In fact, the only thing I remembered about her in the film was that she got shot at the end (sorry — spoiler alert!)

Two years later my dad took me to see the next Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” and by then I was older and more able to appreciate every element of the genre, not just the cars and action but, most importantly, the gorgeous women too which in this instance was well represented by Jill St. John who played Tiffany Case (it took me years to get that joke) and almost made me drop my Kia-Ora when she first appeared in that skimpy outfit Bond said she was “almost wearing.” I know “Diamonds Are Forever” isn’t rated very highly by aficionados but I regard it as my first “proper” Bond movie experience so it had a big impact on me and I still love it today. Yes, Tiffany Case is a very poorly-written character who changes from being a tough, capable cookie into an incompetent bimbo over the course of the movie but, as they say, you never forget your first and Jill St. John is still the Bond girl I would most like to have sitting next to me in my Aston Martin. If I had one, that is.

Download: Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey (mp3)

James Bond was a big part of my early cinema-going experience, my dad also took me to a double bill of “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” (I still remember sitting in a cafe with him and my sister one rainy afternoon while he was scouring the newspaper for somewhere to take us that day, then he saw that was showing locally and breathed a sigh of relief) and we saw the first three Roger Moore Bonds on the day they came out at the Odeon Leicester Square where the queue would be going around the block. At that time I was too young to have in-depth conversations about the movies with my dad so I don’t really know what he thought of the Roger Moore films. I just loved the gadgets and action — especially the Kung Fu fights in “The Man with the Golden Gun” — and then there was Jane Seymour in “Live and Let Die” but that’s another story…

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The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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