Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Clubland Venus: Paula Yates at the Reform Club

Agent Triple P had dinner at the Reform Club on Pall Mall last week.  We go there reasonably often as we know a couple of members.  Given its exclusive nature we were rather surprised, when we recently picked up a copy of UK Penthouse on eBay (to fill a gap in Triple P's collection), to discover a pictorial shot in the club featuring a young Paula Yates.  Paula was a rock and pop journalist in the early eighties.

This came from UK Penthouse Volume 14 no 5 (August 1979) and the pictorial didn't appear in the US edition, of course, due to Paula only being well known in the UK.

Paula Yates was born in Wales in 1959, the daughter of an actress, former showgirl and erotic novelist.  Yate's mother's husband was Jess Yates a well known TV personality who presented the religious Sunday show Stars on Sunday.  Jess Yates career and his popular show ended in 1974 when it was revealed that the  fifty-six year old had been having an affair with Anita Kay, an actress thirty years his junior, although he was separated at the time.

The Reform Club library contains over 75,000 books

The journalist who broke the story about Jess Yate's affair was called Noel Botham, who was a friend of another TV presenter Hughie Green.  Jess Yates had been Green's producer on one of his shows but Green couldn't stand him and wanted him removed.  Green told Botham about Yate's affair with Kay who sold the story to the News of the World (recently closed down by Rupert Murdoch following revelations of systematic phone hacking).

When Hughie Green died in 1997 Botham a wrote another story for the News of the World revealing that it was Hughie Green who was Paula's biological father and not Jess Yates.  Green had revealed this to Botham  twenty years earlier.  Paula only learned of this through reading the tabloid headlines.  Her mother denied it but Paula then took a DNA test which revealed, following samples from two of Green's children, that she was, indeed, Green's daughter.

The upper corridor of the saloon

As a teenager Paula became a fan of new wave band The Boomtown Rats and its lead singer Bob Geldof, later famous for co-organising Live Aid.  She pursued Geldof and started having a relationship with him when she was sixteen or seventeen.  By the time this pictorial appeared her fame was almost entirely based on her relationship with Geldof.

Very soon, however, she began a column in the Record Mirror and in the early eighties started co-hosting the TV music show The Tube which increased her profile enormously.

The floor of the main saloon

In 1986, after ten years with Geldof and having had a daughter, Fifi Trixibelle, with him they got married in Las Vegas in 1986.  However, the previous year she had met Michael Hutchence, lead singer of Australian rock band INXS, whilst interviewing him for The Tube.  They kept in touch and by the time she interviewed him again on The Big Breakfast TV show in 1994 it was apparent from the sexually charged atmosphere that something was going on between them and, in fact, it had been for some time.  Strangely, this series of rock star interviews, which were always conducted on a bed and had Yates flirting with most of her guests, were actually produced by her husband.

This window is between the library and the Upper Corridor of the saloon

In 1995 she left Geldof and, under Hutchence's influence started to take drugs and indulge in S&M activities.  Hutchence abandoned his then girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen, for Yates.  In 1996 Paula  had another daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, with Hutchence. In November 1997 Hutchence was found hanged in a hotel room in Sydney.  Paula, increasingly distraught and then learning the truth about her father shortly afterwards, sought psychiatric help but lost custody of her daughters.  She was found dead of an overdose of heroin in September 2000 at the age of 41.

In some of these pictures Yates can be seen sporting a tattoo on her right arm which was most unusual in those days but may explain her daughter Peaches', addiction to them.

The Reform Club was founded in 1836 by Edward Elice MP, a former fur trader in Canada who had made his fortune as a director of the Hudson's Bay Company.  The idea of the club was that it should be a centre for the sort of radical politics that had led to The Reform Act of 1832, which Elice was a strong supporter of. This act reformed the electoral system of the UK taking the first significant steps towards the system we have today by increasing the number of eligible voters and establishing parliamentary seats in large industrial cities for the first time.

The club's building was designed by Sir Charles Barry (whose most famous building is the Palace of Westminster and its distinctive "Big Ben" tower) and was modelled on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome (currently the French Embassy - Triple P went to a reception there once with his aristocratic lady friend I).

The balconied main saloon, where many of these pictures were taken is very much the most splendid room in any of the London clubs.  The upper level of the saloon leads, on it's southern side to the library which holds over 75,000 books.

The Upper Corridor of the saloon in 1841 Compare with the picture six from the top

There have been many famous members including Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells and Winston Churchill, who resigned however when one of his friends was blackballed. In Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days Phileas Fogg was a member of the club so his journey started and finished there.  It has appeared in numerous films most notably in the scenes at the fencing club in Die Another Day (2002) and, more recently, Sherlock Holmes (2009).

 The main staircase which leads from the Lower to the Upper Saloon

You are certainly not allowed to take pictures inside the club or use a mobile phone in the public areas.  We can't think that the club would allow a photo shoot like this today and wonder if there were any appalled letters to the club secretary at the time.

We never really liked Paula Yates and she subsequently had a nasty breast enlargement but here, as a nineteen year old, she looks rather splendid..  

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Non-centrefold Venus of the Month 9: Sydney Bradford, May 1977

Well, we have just managed to squeeze in our non-centrefold of the month for May in the actual month itself, for a change.

Here we have Miss Sydney Bradford from Penthouse's May 1977 issue which featured Pet of the Month Valerie Rae Clark on the cover. Sydney, by rights should have appeared in the June UK edition but for some reason her appearance was delayed until the August issue.

Sydney first appears down at the beach, although which beach we are not told.

Next Sydney is depicted all jungeliciously.  Triple P doesn't know much about plants so can't tell if this is bamboo or sugar cane.  Bamboo we would guess.

About all we learn about Sydney is that she was born on Hawaii (which she may or may not have been), that she was five foot five inches tall and 35-22-35; both of which could be true.

Sydney is one of those girls who appeared once in Penthouse but then disappears.  She has a distinctive face but we don't think we have seen her in another magazine of the period.

This was the third of Patrick T Barnes three pictorials for Penthouse between June 1976 and May 1977.  Again, we have been able to find nothing about him either.  It could have been an alias for one of the other regular photographers of course.

Here is Sydney with very big seventies sunglasses.  We like these sunlit ones as she looks nicely toasted.  Whether she is baking on a chair, in the jungle or by the coast her hair is always immaculate, however.

Even for 1977 this one is quite racy as there hadn't been a whole lot of labia touching in the magazine to date.

Lastly Sydney takes fifteen minutes of her life, sadly.  Despite this we like Sydney and wish she had done more modelling.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bond Girl Venus 1: Lana Wood - Diamonds are Forever

There are, of course, three types of Bond girl: the principal female lead (Ursula Andress, Jane Seymour, Eva Green), the secondary character who may be a brief dalliance for Bond, a villainess or  is killed off (or all three) (Shirley Eaton, Karin Dor, Talisa Soto) and the background girls who usually loll about the villain's lair.  The latter category often included many of the top models and starlets of the day.  Initially, these tended to be British but later on they became far more international.

The first real appearance of such a group was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) where, as Blofeld's angels of death, they were at least relevant to the plot, as opposed to being mobile set dressing as seen in the later Roger Moore films.  The group from OHMSS included an impressive roster of British-based glamour girls including Julie Ege, Jenny Hanley, Anoushka Hempel, Catherine von Schell and a very young Joanna Lumley.

To start with, however, we are going to look at a fine example from category 2; the secondary character.  Plenty O'Toole (the name is typical of this most knowingly arch of Bond films) played by the pneumatic Lana Wood who, as everyone knows, was Natalie Wood's sister.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) is an odd part of the James Bond canon and is almost like one of those Bond spoofs from the sixties such as the James Coburn Flint films or the Dean Martin Matt Helm series.  It was Connery's return after the single film appearance of George Lazenby and he was being paid the highest amount ever paid to a film actor up until that point.  Made on a tight budget (Connery's $1.2 million pay contributed to this, no doubt) with much of it shot in the US at the insistence of the producers, who wanted to keep tight control over the shooting, it arguably set the model for the Roger Moore films with its increasing use of knowing humour.   

Lana (left) and Natalie Wood

Lana Wood was born Svetlana Nikolaevna Gurdin to Russian emigre parents.  They had changed their surname to Gurdin from the original Zacharaenko and moved to Santa Monica where Lana was born on March 1st 1946. Lana's first film role was playing the same character at a younger age as her older sister Natalie in Johns Ford's The Searchers (1956).  Natalie had already chosen the name "Wood" as her stage name and Lana decided to take the same stage name as well.

A young Lana

She often appeared in walk on roles in her sister's films but by the mid sixties had started to make regular TV appearances as well as appearing in small parts in films like The Girls on the Beach (1965).  More TV roles followed including a fourteen month run in Peyton Place.

In 1970 she was personally approached by Hugh Hefner, who had seen her in Peyton Place, to appear in Playboy. Thinking this would increase her profile she agreed and her pictorial appeared in the April 1971 issue, accompanied by some of her own poetry.  Her sister, Natalie, was horrified but the subsequent press attention gave her all the publicity she had hoped for.

The piece in Playboy said that although Lana had been on film sets with her sister since the age of nine it wasn't until she won a part on Dr Kildare in 1964 that she decided to take acting seriously.

Sadly, her Playboy pictorial only featured five pictures but several of them, as you would expect, made the most of her most prominent assets.

She was offered another Playboy pictorial after Diamonds are Forever was released but she turned it down, sadly.

Utterly splendid!

Bond producer Cubby Broccoli saw the issue and contacted her about a role in Diamonds are Forever. Originally the producers had intended that she be considered for the role of Tiffany Case (eventually played by an annoying Jill St John) but although St John got the role the producers liked Lana so much they offered her the smaller part of Plenty.  This, we feel, was a shame and we think she would have made a better lead woman than the shrill St John.

We first see Lana in a Las Vegas casino in a jaw dropping purple dress.  Having dumped her previous man she soon hooks up with Connery's Bond.  Dumping men was something Wood knew about as she had been married and divorced five times before the age of twenty nine!

Her chemistry with Connery is palpable.  Not only had she known Connery before they made the film but she started having an affair with him during the shooting of the scenes in Las Vegas. When she checked into her hotel before filming began she found that her suite wasn't ready.  Connery gallantly suggested she come up to his in the meantime...  Worthy of Bond himself, that one, which is why Connery is Bond.

Unfortunately, some of Lana's scenes were cut from the film and one of these follows her scene at the craps table (where she was required to lean forward over the table a lot).  She is seen having dinner with Bond in the casino restaurant before inviting herself up to his room.

Next follows the famous scene where Connery unzips her dress leaving her in just a pair of see-through knickers.  Lana was only 5'3" tall and had to stand on a box for some of her scenes with Connery although she relied on very high heels for this full length shot.

Lana on set in the bedroom scene

At this point she excuses herself, only to be literally picked up by the bad guys who have been tailing Bond around the casino.  

They throw her out of the window where she lands in the swimming pool.   This is the last we see of her alive in the final cut of the film. She later said of this scene:   "I was told that I was going to be thrown in basically naked, but they told me not to worry because they were going to do it in the middle of the night.  And it's Las Vegas! Half the world's up in the middle of the night! There were all these people trying to get a look at me from their windows!"

Behind the scenes shot of Wood and crew members with Tiffany Case's handbag

However, in another cut scene, she returns to the bedroom, dripping wet and dressed in a towel, only to catch Bond with Tiffany Case.  She rifles through Case's handbag and discovers her address.  This explains a key issue we experience slightly later in the film which makes no sense otherwise. 

This is the scene where Bond and Case discover Plenty drowned in Case's swimming pool wearing a daringly see-through dress for a Bond film.  Only the existence of the cut scene where she discovers Case's address in her handbag makes this scene logical.

Wood would eventually make around 20 films and appear in more than 300 TV episodes but  nothing had the impact of her appearance in Diamonds are Forever.

Mercy me!

Although she continued to work in TV and films for ten years after Diamonds are Forever she only did a few roles after the death of Natalie in 1981.

After 1985 she didn't appear on screen for over twenty years although since 2008 she has been quite active again.

In 1986 she wrote a book, Natalie, A Memoir by her Sister, which was hugely controversial and alienated her own family as well as Robert Wagner, Natalie's husband who refused to let their children have anything to do with Lana.

Lana has never subscribed to the Robert Wagner killed Natalie Wood theorists and just commented that her sister had drunk too much on the night she fell off Wagner's yacht near Catalina Island.

Anyway, we think that Lana was a memorable Bond girl and we recall that when we saw the film at the cinema as a twelve year old it was certainly the first time we had really registered breasts.  We had just started senior school and the film was released in the UK 31st December 1971 so we would have seen it in January 1972.  We remember discussing it with some classmates who liked the pre-title sequence where Bond strangles a girl with her own bikini top (the first visible nipples in a Bond film and the cause of much excitement at school), Maurice Binder's particularly sexy title sequence and "that girl in the dress".

So fresh and perky!

So dark and sultry!