If Magpie was Blue Peter‘s trendy younger brother then Susan Stranks was the sexy art teacher to Valerie Singleton’s headmistress. She reminded me a lot of my Primary School art teacher Miss Paice who looked like a lanky Mary Quant and taught us how to make tie-dye t-shirts.
Here’s another raven-haired beauty for you. Haven’t had any Bobbie Gentry here in way too long. An obvious song choice but I’d never seen this clip before and it’s just sublime.
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)
Well, this was a real find. For years there was a grand total of one Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls video on YouTube which was frustrating for someone like me who adored Ms. Murray and the album she made with that lot. So finding this clip of them performing three songs was like discovering the Holy Grail, the lost city of Atlantis, and those keys you dropped behind the couch years ago.
I saw her live in 1980 with the Invisible Girls and it’s still one of the best gigs I’ve ever been too, and not just because I had a huge crush on Pauline. They played the entire album and when the audience shouted them back for a third encore Pauline said “we’ve run out of songs” so they played them all again.
All the recent hoo-hah over the 50th anniversary of the release of “Love Me Do” made me wonder with dread how many similar celebrations we’re in for over the next few years and how utterly sick we’ll be of it by the time they get to the 50th anniversary of “Let It Be.”
While it didn’t cause quite so much commentary, this week (Tuesday in fact) marked the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of this song on French television (during election coverage apparently) which made it a huge hit and Francoise a big star. I think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?
Any excuse to post this magnifique video.
Yes, it’s Valerie Leon again. As someone commented last time she does seem to crop us here a fair bit, usually in short videos or the occasional picture which is a bit like her career really — lots of quick guest appearances (as the anonymous “crumpet” usually) and very few bigger roles. I should give her a post of her own one of these days.
Afraid I’m being a bit of a lazy bones on the writing front at the moment, can’t seem to summon up the energy to finish anything long off. Plus I’ve actually been busy on the freelancing front and am about to get even busier — which is good! Money!
Download: Won’t Somebody Dance With Me – Lynsey De Paul (mp3)
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)