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Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

My Life Story - by Sabrina

Australasian POST, June 23, 1960
with pictures from the article

More information on Sabrina's tour of Australia
Note: this is part 3 of a 4-week series in the Australasian Post. I don't have part 2 yet, but we do have the exciting part 1!

Wherever I go, I know that I shall always look back on that year I spent in Australia and know that it was there that my career was really formed.

I have only gone one complaint – and that is about Australian men.

They all look wonderful.  They have marvellous tans and they worship physical fitness, but they do not have any idea of how to deal with a woman.

They all seemed to be frightened of approaching me.

They all cheered and applauded me whenever I was on the stage, but during the whole twelve month period nobody had the courage to come up and ask me for a date.

Believe me, I am nothing like as frightening as the Sabrina legend the publicity men have built up.

One Australia even frightened me.

As part of my act I used to ask a man to come up from the audience to help me sing one of my songs.

It was never difficult to get volunteers and as I sang I would make my attraction as obvious as possible and vamp him.

There was nothing unusual about this.  Other artists have done it for years.

Sabrina blue dress

The result was that both the man concerned and the audience had some innocent fun.

This night I had hardly got the words out over the microphone asking for a man to come up on to the stage to help me out, when a dark young man [Michael] leaped out of his seat, rushed down the theatre aisle and up on to the stage.

As soon as I started my song I had a feeling that tonight was going to be different.

Suddenly, he took a step forward and kissed me full on the lips – with an audience of 1500 watching.

The slinky, very low-cut tight fitting evening dress that I was wearing was definitely not made for this sort of thing.

I did not dare to struggle too hard in case I came out of the dress altogether.  At any moment I felt the audience were going to be able to see for themselves that my bust owed nothing to artifice.

I was furious when I picked up a newspaper the following day.

In big black type there was an interview with the man who had kissed me!

Dragging my reluctant manager with me, I took a taxi to his business address.

I was so angry that I stepped forward and gave him a stinging right hand slap on the face.

Honor was satisfied.  I swept out feeling a different woman.

[See another report of this Sabrina episode]

There was no difference in the reaction to my physical attributes in Australia than from the reaction in Europe, except that Australians were more enthusiastic.

The enthusiasm was so great that sometimes I had to have a police escort.

Sabrina in bikini surrounded by police

I cannot claim any of the credit for my hour-glass figure.  I have never had to take any special care of it at all.  I eat as much starch and other fattening ingredients as I want and have never had to take any form of slimming exercises in my life.

However, even I cannot claim the credit, I can say that I am, let’s face it, thankful.

My shape may be a rarity, but I am proud of it.  I don’t mind showing it off to people.  If they stop looking, I’ll start to worry.  I am proud when they notice it.

Sabrina in St Trinians

Shapeliest schoolgirl at St. Trinian's, Sabrina starred in the film series. That book of mathematics indicates that she's excellent at figures - her own is world famous.

Whether anyone likes it or not, it is nature’s own handiwork.  I have never worn any artificial aids or corsets of any kind, simply because I have never had any need for them. You can imagine my anger when I picked up a Sydney morning paper to read that I had to wear steel corsets to keep my figure.

On the TV the following week I denied the story and issued a personal challenge to any member of  the newspaper staff to come down to my dressing room after the show and see for themselves.

Someone missed a good opportunity, because no-one even appeared.  At least the suggestion that I wore steel corsets was never made again.

I have been photographed often enough in skimpy bikinis to make the story look ridiculous.

Australia was also the place where I missed a date that I had dreamed about all my life.

Ever since I first went to the cinema I have been a fan of Frank Sinatra.  I used to swoon over his songs, had a large collection of his records and never missed one of his pictures.  To this day, I rate him one of the most attractive men I have ever seen.

One afternoon the phone rang at home and the operator told me that Mr Sinatra’s agent wanted to speak to me and would I accept the call?

I stammered my acceptance and I heard, as if in a dream, his voice on the telephone telling me that Sinatra had just arrived in Sydney, and wanted to meet me that night.

All the way through the show that night I was looking forward to it.

We met at a well-known night club where a crowd of several hundred people all clamoured for autographs.

Two young girls even elbowed past him in the crush and thrust their autograph books into my hand.  As far as I was concerned, this was all part and parcel of the business of being a star.

I turned away from Sinatra for a moment, took their autograph books, signed and handed them back with a smile.  The smile froze on my lips, for when I turned round, I discovered that Sinatra had turned his back on me and sat down.

That was the end of my date.  He never bothered to drop me a line or call me again.

Recently I was working in Miami at the same time as he had a booking at one of the other hotels.  I learned then just how much he disliked autograph hunters.

Two young girls got into a room on the eleventh floor of the hotel – one floor above Sinatra’s room – fastened a rope securely to the window and swung themselves out into space.  Gingerly they lowered themselves down until they were on the level of Sinatra’s room.  They stepped in through the window with their autograph books in their hands.

Sinatra was furious.  He opened his bedroom door and ordered them straight out – without signing their autograph books.

It was in Australia that I really learned what luxury living was like for the first time.  I broke box office records in Australia and made more money than most female stars had ever done there.

My mother, who had flown out to be with me for the start of my tour, was a great help to me psychologically.  She was my only link with home.

I received an enormous number of invitations to social functions and official occasions of every kind, but as far as I was concerned I would never go unless my mother was invited as well.

I explained this to the organisers of a big charity function in Sydney.  They wanted me to come as the guest of honor.

They agreed to invite my mother willingly enough, but when I got there I found that a place had been laid for me in the centre of the top table, but that my mother had been placed at another small table at the back of the room, almost in the foyer, with a lot of people that she had never even met.

I was furious and deeply insulted.  I ignored all the people at the top table who rose to greet me and walked straight over to the small table at the side of my mother.  I insisted that the waiter lay another place and sat down.

The organisers at the top table looked very embarrassed – and quite right too.  One by one their consciences got the better of them and since I still refused point blank to join them they came over to sit with me at my table.

As soon as dinner was over, I made a curt speech but refused to stay and join in the dancing, and got up with my mother and left.

[See another reference to this in Sabrina - Her Tour of Australia]

In spite of my success, not everyone in Australia was pleased to see me.  I must have caused a lot of headaches to people who were responsible for controlling the crowds that gathered to meet me.

The most spectacular reception I received was when I arrived at Perth for the first time.  I came in by air and there were more than ten thousand people jamming the roof at the terminal building all anxious to get their first look at my well-publicised figure.

Sabrina insures her bust
Sabrina insures her bust for 100,000 pounds

Sabrina insures her bust

I did not disappoint them, and stepped off the aircraft in a very figure-revealing tight summer sheath dress.

This proved too much for the crowd, who pressed forward to get a better look.  The result was that the roof partly gave way.  Almost miraculously, nobody was seriously hurt, but an awful lot got badly shaken.

In Australia I was treated not just as a gimmick, but as a star.  I was determined not to let them down.

It was in Australia, too, that I realised for the first time the mark that the years of struggle in Britain had left on me.

The fight in the jungle of show business had not left me unscathed.  I have not always courted publicity.

I did not believe that there was such a thing as the bad kind.  All publicity was good publicity, was the axiom that was hammered into me.  I accepted it all.

The falsity of this slogan was brought home to me for the first time when I attended the funeral in Sydney of Jack Davey, one of the most beloved personalities of Australian radio, and a friend of mine.

During the service I was genuinely touched and found myself in tears.  I looked up for a moment to find that, standing in the aisle were two photographers who were taking pictures of me.

IT SHOCKED ME.

It was soon after this that I made up my mind to leave Australia.

I knew my next goal – America.  I did not want to return to Britain until I had become a star against the toughest competition in the world.

* SABRINA has carried on a feud with glamor star Jayne Mansfield for years. The feud began when Jayne first visited London.

Sabrina says:

One of London's top columnists invited us both to lunch so that he could report the meeting of the top glamor girls of two continents. I accepted.
Jayne Mansfield turned down the invitation and added: "Who is Sabrina anyway?"
That was it. The gloves were off. I made up my mind that one day I would get my own back.
I got my revenge at the premiere of "On the Beach," in Hollywood. Jayne and I practically bumped into each other in the foyer. She almost pushed me into the theatre. It was a bad mistake - almost all the press photographers were inside.
Jayne had to wait outside while the photographers turned their backs on her, took picture after picture of me.
When they finally let me go, they felt they had enough pictures of blonde glamor girls. Jayne came in - and hardly a single picture of her was taken.

So many of my old friends – especially the men in my life – were American.  Guy Mitchell, Steve Cochran and Hugh O’Brian, television’s Wyatt Earp, amongst them.

I was really sorry to leave Australia, for I had had the most wonderful time.

NEXT WEEK: I was charmed by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

If anyone can help find the other articles in this series, please let me know

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