Friday, 2 March 2018

Books: Twiggy

In 1975 Twiggy wrote her autobiography at the age of 26.  Many acquaintances described Twiggy as being the ultimate example of a 'Cinderella Story'. She was discovered at the age of 16 and almost overnight became the ultimate sixties model.

Throughout her biography Twiggy comes across as being sweet, shy and kind hearted. She always tried to see the best in people and was genuinely grateful and surprised for the success she had in her life. The book is easy to read and provides many interesting anecdotes about her experiences and the people she encountered. She doesn't go into depth about the more personal aspects of her life and only briefly touches on her breakup with manager/boyfriend, Justin de Villenuve, and subsequent relationship with Michael Witney (who at the time of writing was not yet her husband). Owing to her youth she occasionally comes across as a bit naive and I'd be interested to read her second autobiography, Twiggy in Black and White, which was written more recently. Have any of you read it?

Sadly this book is no longer in print, though it often pops up on ebay, so if you fancy a read have a look! It really is a great way to learn more about Twiggy and her career as a model in particular.

Apologies for the watermarks! But here is Twiggy at a book signing for her autobiography. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

This Month: February

-A sit in is held in Greensboro, North Carolina
-Queen Elizabeth II creates the Mountbatten-Windsor surname, to be held by all her future descendants
-The play Toys in the Attic, written by Lillian Helman, begins it's run on Broadway, eventually reaching 464 performances
-Princess Margaret announces her engagement to photographer, Antony Armstrong Jones (Earl of Snowdon)

Princess Margaret & Antony Armstrong Jones

-Marilyn Monroe's last completed film, The Misfits, is released
-Sabena Flight 548 crashes, killing everyone on board, including the US figure skating team

-Jackie Kennedy's White House Tour is broadcast. She goes on to win an Emmy for her performance.
-Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance together for the first time
-The Judy Garland Show debuts. Originally a once off, it's popularity led to a series the following year.
-Photographer, Inge Morath, marries Arthur Miller

Jackie Kennedy during the White House tour

-The Beatles debut album is recorded
-Sylvia Plath commits suicide
-Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is published
-Female suffrage is enacted in Iran
-The Crystals release their album, He's a Rebel

-Much to the delight of female fans, The Beatles arrive in New York
-The Beatles appear on Ed Sullivan, Beatlemania and the British Invasion begins in the US
-Dionne Warwick releases the album, Anyone Who Had a Heart

-The youngest child of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, Stephanie, is born
-A one shot measles vaccine is introduced in America
-Malcom X's home is firebombed, his wife and children were present, though no one was hurt
-Archaeologist Margherita Guarducci claims to have found the remains of Saint Peter
-Malcolm X is assassinated

-Jacqueline Susan's controversial novel, Valley of the Dolls, is released
-At the Golden Globe awards, Dr Zhivago and The Sound of Music are the big winners
-Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company play at the Filmore

-The first of the Kenosha Killings takes place in Wisconsin. To this day the case remains unsolved.
-Aretha Franklin records 'Respect'. February 16 is declared 'Aretha Franklin Day' by the city of Detroit.
-Jefferson Airplane release their album, Surrealistic Pillow
-Dolly Parton releases her debut album, Hello, I'm Dolly

-The only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie, is born
-There is a royal wedding in Denmark for Princess Benedikte

-Vickie Jones is arrested for impersonating Aretha Franklin in a concert. However her impersonation is so good nobody requests a refund.
-Mary Hopkin releases her album Postcard, featuring her hit song, 'Those Were the Days'

The back cover of Mary Hopkin's Postcard, with notes by Paul McCartney and photos by Linda Eastman

Sunday, 28 January 2018

This Month: January

Something a little different! A list of events that happened during the sixties in the month of January. I've tried to focus on moments directly relating to women.

-Actress Margaret Sullavan dies age 50
-Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson is born
-National Airlines Flight 2511 explodes mid air, killing everyone on board. The case remains open to this day

-Australia becomes the second country to permit the sale of the pill
-JFK becomes the President of the United States
-He appoints the first female White House physician; Janet G. Travell
-Marilyn Monroe divorces husband Arthur Miller

Janet G. Travell

-The Beatles audition for and are rejected by Decca
-Jackie Kennedy films a tour of the White House, which is broadcast in February
-Petula Clark has her 1st number one in France, with the song, 'Romeo'
-Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton begin an affair on the set of Cleopatra, the ensuing scandal goes as far as the Vatican.
-Euince Gray dies in a fire at the age of 77. It was long speculated that she was Etta Place, girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. Later photographic evidence disputes this.

-'The Big Freeze of 1963' Britain suffers through one of it's coldest winters on record
-The Mona Lisa is exhibited for the first time in America
-The Beatles single, 'Please, Please Me' is released
-Sylvia Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar, is published

First edition of The Bell Jar, published under a pseudonym

-19 year old Mary Sullivan becomes the final victim of the Boston Strangler
-The magazine Jackie, is first published, it's main market is teenage girls
-Future first lady, Michelle Obama, is born
-Margaret Chase Smith announces her candidacy for the US Presidency, the first woman to be taken seriously in such a role
-Mary Whitehouse launches her 'Clean Up TV' campaign in Britain. For the remainder of her life she remains dedicated to eliminating the use of sex and violence in mainstream media.

-A sneak preview of the film, The Sound of Music, is held in Minnesota
-Civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper punches Selma Sheriff, Jim Clark, in the face
-Petula Clark has a No. 1 single in the US with 'Downtown'. The first English female artist to achieve this since the arrival of the Beatles
-Cilla Black releases her album, Cilla 

-Indria Gandhi is elected
-In Australia the three Beaumont Children disappear. To this day they have never been found.

Jane, Grant & Arnna Beaumont

-San Francisco hosts a Human Be In
-Linda Ronstadt (with The Stone Poneys) and Laura Nyro both release their debut albums
-Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is first introduced in the Detective Comics

-Eartha Kitt visits the White House and causes controversy with her comments about the Vietnam War
-Sharon Tate marries director Roman Polanski
-Aretha Franklin releases her album, Lady Soul

-The Beatles perform their final concert on the rooftop of their Apple building
-Fairport Convention release the album, What we Did on Our Holidays. It is their first album to feature singer Sandy Denny

Fairport Convention (with Sandy Denny standing)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Julie Christie

"I like a peaceful existence. Films have caused me an enormous amount of anxiety because I don't have a lot of confidence"

The quintessential English actress, she became an icon of 1960s London and proved her versatility in both comedy and drama. Her films remain some of the best love of the decade and she helped pave the way for future actresses by playing complicated female characters.

Julie Christie was born in Assam, India 1940, where her father owned a tea plantation. Christie went to school in England and was expelled from one convent school for telling a rude joke. She developed an interest in acting after being cast as the Dauphin in her schools production of Saint Joan. In 1961 she appeared in the television show, A for Andromeda, which garnered her a certain amount of attention. Her breakthrough role was in the 1963 film, Billy Liar, in which she played free spirited Liz. She quickly became a fan favourite and gained further acclaim in the film Darling (1965) for which she won an Oscar. That same year she starred in her most famous film, Doctor Zhivago. She briefly dated fellow actor Terence Stamp and became a fashion icon. Her characters embodying the feel of Swinging London. In the following years she starred in Fahrenheit 451, Far From the Madding Crowd and Petulia. In 1967 she moved to Los Angeles but remained a favourite in Britain.That same year she appeared in the documentary, Tonite Lets All Make Love in London, which cemented her status as one of the most popular faces of Sixties London.
When the sixties ended she starred in several films with her then boyfriend Warren Beatty, including McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) and Shampoo (1975). She won further acclaim for the films Don't Look Now (1973) and Away from Her (2006). She currently lives in Wales with her husband Duncan Campbell and remains involved with film and is passionate about environmental causes.

Julie was the first free spirited London girl to burst onto the scene. She embodied the times choosing to act in both avant garde and mainstream films. Her characters were complex, sensitive and intelligent and she brought a naturalness to all her film roles. She also wasn't afraid to tackle controversial and difficult themes of infidelity, mental illness and female sexuality.

As London fashion swept the world Julie's look was at the forefront. She favoured shift dresses, pleated skirts and knitted sweaters. A long sleeve shift dress made by designer Betsey Johnson and worn by Julie in a magazine spread became known as 'the Julie Christie dress' and was a best seller. Time magazine said "what Julie Christie wears has more impact on fashion than all the clothes of the ten best-dressed women combined". Her gold Oscar dress was hand sewn (either by Julie herself or a friend, depending on the sources). Her role as Lara in Doctor Zhivago even started a mini fashion revolution with long Russian style coats and hats becoming all the rage.

Despite being in the public eye Julie has always tried to retain her privacy. Despite being such a prominent figure of the sixties she was always shy and nervous about her fame. Her naturalness was a welcome change in the acting community and her interviews are candid and gentle. She represented a new way of being for many young women and her work continues to inspire both in the film world and in fashion.

"I prefer real life, whatever real life is. I no longer have a career to build and I can get by. I consider myself a lucky woman"

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Girl in the Song- Prudence Farrow

When The Beatles arrived in India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, they were joined by the Farrow sisters, Mia and Prudence. Prudence was so dedicated to meditation that she became reclusive. John and George Harrison were tasked with bringing her out of her room and John wrote 'Dear Prudence' in response. Prudence recalled of the song,
"I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done"
Prudence went on to teach transcendental meditation and eventually became a primary school teacher.

(Prudence is seated to the left of Ringo)

Have a listen! (Also of note it is actually Paul McCartney playing drums on this track)

(The Beatles songs are no longer on Youtube, so if you follow the link above you'll be able to search for 'Dear Prudence' and find the proper track)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Jean Shrimpton

"I don't live my life through the prism of the past"

The worlds first supermodel, Jean Shrimpton,  began modelling at the age of seventeen and became the muse of one of the top sixties photographers. She popularised the mini skirt, causing a scandal when she appeared in one at the 1965 Melbourne Cup.

Jean Rosemary Shrimpton was born in England, 1942, and brought up on her fathers farm. After a brief stint in secretarial school and a failed screen test it was suggested that she attend an academy for modelling. By the age of seventeen  she was gracing the pages of high fashion magazines. Whilst working for Vogue she was sent on assignment with photographer David Bailey. Bailey's images of her revolutionised fashion photography and he and Jean soon began a relationship. Jean quickly became the most photographed, famous model of the day appearing in all the major magazines and was instrumental in popularising modern clothes and hairstyles. Her relationship with Bailey however was marred by his constant infidelities and she eventually left him for actor Terence Stamp. Jean and Stamp were claimed to be the most photographed couple in swinging London, though Jean later claimed to hate the limelight and confessed she was dissatisfied with her work as a model. In 1965 she and Stamp travelled to Melbourne, Australia, where she caused a scandal by appearing in a white mini dress at the Melbourne Cup. The still conservative Australians were shocked by this youthful way of dress that had become relatively normal in Britain. In 1967 she took a foray into acting, starring alongside singer Paul Jones in the film Privilege.
Known as 'The Shrimp', a name which she hated, Jean gave away modelling in her early thirties. She opened an antiques store and became interested in literature and photography. In 1979 she married photographer Michael Cox with whom she had a son, Thaddeus. In 1990 her ghost written autobiography appeared, she admitted that she had only agreed to it in order to have repairs made on the Abbey Hotel she and her husband owned in Cornwall. Today Jean continues to  manage the hotel with her husband and occasionally gives interviews though she remains reluctant to talk about her past.

Jean's gamine looks did for modelling what Audrey Hepburn's had done for film a decade earlier. 'The Shrimp's' boyish figure and doe eyes were both envied and emulated. Many were amazed at her inherent naturalness in front of the camera. Without Jean there would have been no Twiggy or Penelope Tree. Though Jean's personality was not as accessible as Twiggy's, she was youthful and captivating, bridging a divide between upper and lower classes.

The images David Bailey took of Jean revolutionised fashion photography. Their work reflected a joie-de-vivre present for much of the decade. Fashion was no longer the domain of expressionless models and clinical settings, fashion was now a world of youthful experimentation. Not only fashion photography but fashion itself was catered towards youth and colour. Young women felt they could relate more to these new models from their own worlds and backgrounds.

Jean's ethereal beauty changed the world of modelling forever yet she always knew there was more to life. Her interests were wide ranging and she was determined to keep her private life private. She was always professional in her work but had an air of mystery about her that fascinated the wider public. Jean's work opened up a world of fashion for the young and inspired a generation of young women to pursue their own fashionable dreams.

"I am a melancholy soul. I'm not sure contentment is obtainable and I find the banality of modern life terrifying...But Michael, Thaddeus and the Abbey transformed my life"

Friday, 3 November 2017

Girl Groups: The Shangri-Las

"We were as tough as we needed to be. We had little to no protection on the road, and I usually carried the band's cash. It was a scary time"

The Shangri-Las were unusual in the world of 1960s girl groups. They did not come out of Motown and their songs, whilst catchy, often reflected the darker side of teenage life and relationships. Violence, death and runaways were frequent themes in their songs.

The group was originally made up of sisters Mary and Betty Weiss and twins Mary Ann and Marge Ganser. They formed the group whilst still in high school in their home of Queens, New York, and were signed to a record label the following year, 1964. They had two major hits with, 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)' and 'Leader of the Pack'. They appeared alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and were briefly a trio when Betty left the group in late 1964 to have a baby. Betty left against in 1966 and in the following years both twins left and rejoined, Mary Weiss, the lead singer was the only permanent member. The group eventually broke up for good in 1968, though they briefly reunited in the late seventies.

Owing to the tough neighbourhood they grew up in and their favoured outfits of black pants and shirts, they were known as the bad girls of pop/rock, and often false stories began circulating about their 'tough' escapades. One famous incident found Mary in possession of a pistol, a cautionary measure as they were constantly fending off fans, and despite being teenagers they had no real protection. Still she credits their tough image for protecting them against unwarranted attention from the male bands they toured with.
The group continues to be an influence today and is credited with inspiring punk music. Tragically both Gasner twins have passed away but Mary continues to be involved in music, releasing a solo album in 2007.

"The Shangri-Las were punk before punk existed"