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When Sabrina Lost Her Dress in the Street
Exposed, # 18, October 1957 (US)
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The sidewalk crowd gaped and cheered when the busty British television cutie's frock parted company with her famous torso and displayed those outstanding assets.
THE other day, a London theatrical agent called an executive of Lloyd's, the famous insurance company, and the following dialogue ensued:
"Good morning, Tom. Would you be prepared to insure a bust?"
Tom: "If the play is already a bust, Dick, I am afraid there would be no point. . ."
Dick: "You got me wrong. I am talking about a female bust."
Tom: "A female bust? Well, that depends on the risks involved. Does your client think of a straight accident policy? Or does she want to protect her assets against natural deterioration?"
Dick: "The latter."
Tom: “In that case I'll have to know her age."
Dick: "Nineteen. The girl is Sabrina, the TV actress."
Tom: "Oh, it's Sabrina! Why didn't you say so right away? Now, that should be easy to arrange. After all, there seems little danger that her chest muscles will slacken within the next five years."
Dick (indignantly): "What are you talking about? Sabrina is a healthy upstanding girl. She needs no insurance against slackening. What she wants is coverage against shrinking."
Tom: "I beg your pardon?"
Dick: "Last fall, Sabrina was kept so busy that her bust measurements went down from 41 to 40 inches. They are now back to 41, but she is worried. As you know, her bosom is her main capital."
Tom: "And for what amount would she like to insure it?"
Dick: "100,000 pounds" ($US(1957) 280,000).
There was no answer for a minute or so. Then Tom came to and said in a weak voice:
"All right, old boy, I'll see what I can do'. Let me call you back on
Three days later, Sabrina was granted a policy that insured her chest for a total of £100,000, i.e. she was promised a compensation of £2,500 for every inch it would shrink below 40 within the next year.
That was the first insurance policy of this kind ever issued, but it was more than just a publicity stunt. In a country where many girls tend to be flat-chested, the 41-19-36 Sabrina is a phenomenon millions of citizens want to see preserved at all costs.
As a matter of fact, they have gone crazy about her. Her real name is Norma Sykes and her folks are factory workers in Blackpool. She seems to have stepped right out of "My Fair Lady" ... a real-life Eliza who needed no Professor Higgins to make good.
Today, Londoners can hardly open a newspaper or look at a TV screen any longer without being confronted with Sabrina's overwhelming bust charms. She has variously been called "Britain's Maid of the Mountains," "the embodiment of opulent sex" and "a Juliet with a built-in balcony." And even the conservative weekly "Observer" carried audacity so far as to describe her as "an hour-glass blown by a master."
To Americans, who have no shortage of bra-filling gals, so much enthusiasm may seem exaggerated. Said a G.I. freshly arrived in England who was shown a pin-up photo of Sabrina: "What has she got that couldn't be matched by Dagmar, Marilyn or Jayne Mansfield?"
The answer was given by the London Magazine "Picture Post" when it wrote on February 25: "Sabrina is a seaside postcard brought to life. She is the average Englishman's Goddess of Glamour, a national tonic."
A national symbol might be a more appropriate term. For amidst all the talk about Britain falling into decadence and going on the rocks, many islanders see in Sabrina's full-blown beauty comforting proof for the survival of the race.
It is true that this modern Britannia does everything to keep people aware of her. A few weeks ago, for instance, she was leaving a theater in Birkenhead and walking to her car through a dense crowd of admirers. Suddenly someone put his foot on the train of her skintight black velvet evening gown. Another person pushed her forward. Witnesses heard a loud ripping sound— and there she stood bare to the waist, like a nude figure from a Rubens painting.
Sabrina fainted. So did several men in the crowd. The police was called and had to break up a near riot. But subsequent investigations never established who had been the authors of the incident. Insiders still affirm that it had been staged by Sabrina's own press agents.
These boys can dream up the oddest twists indeed: On April 5, 1957, they packed their big-chested babe into a car and drove her to Thoresby Hall, Ollerton, Nottinghamshire. The Hall was a 200-room Victorian mansion, one of those stately homes of England which their owners now show to Sunday visitors for a 50-cent entrance fee.
"What am I supposed to do there?" Sabrina inquired uneasily.
Sabrina started getting angry, but the matter was quickly cleared up.
Even royalty was made Sabrina-conscious at a recent command performance in London's Odeon Theater. As usual, a galaxy of stars was presented to Elizabeth and Philip after the show.
Among them was our bosom friend and, when she curtsied before the Duke, he gave an example of will power by keeping his gaze steady on the flowers in her hair. But that was no solution for Her Majesty. Being a rather small woman, she could not avoid looking at the landscape as Sabrina slowly leaned over to make her bow.
According to an eyewitness, the Queen's mouth took the shape of an O, but not a sound came out. For once, she was obviously speechless. And only as she moved on to the next star, she turned her head slightly back and said to Sabrina: "I hope you will have many many children."
That's not in Sabrina's immediate plans, however. For a while, she went around with tall, dark and handsome Hollywood actor Steve Cochran. They even travelled to Monte Carlo together, and she was seen dancing with him at London's Pigalle restaurant as late as February 17.
That night, the heels of her $100 party slippers snapped, but she continued to rhumba barefoot. Nor did she mind when her shoulder strap slid down and candid cameramen caught her face in such a deep rapture that the "Sunday Pictorial" printed the shots under the headline: IT SENDS YOU—GOING, GOING, GOING, GONE
Thirty months ago, Miss Sykes still was an obscure Lancashire model. Then, one day in January 1955, TV producer Arthur Askey noticed her picture on a magazine cover. When he let her come to his office, he quickly found out that she could neither sing nor dance nor act. And she talked with a cockney accent that sounded like a take-off on Broadway star Julie Andrews.
Still he remained so impressed by her appearance that he decided to put her in his video show as a silent decoration. He obviously was a man with discernment, for almost overnight, the station was swamped with hundreds of letters inquiring: "Who on earth was that amazing creature in the background?"
Next time, she was moved to the foreground and, as the name Norma sounded too prosaic, she was renamed Sabrina. She soon became a favorite gimmick with which to liven up otherwise mediocre programs.
As the Sabrina worship grew, so did her revenues. She now lives with her mother in a luxury flat in Maida Vale. She handles her own business and fixes her own fees. And as the telephone rings all day to request her presence at balls, galas and openings, she must be a pretty smart operator.
"I never let them sign me up for more than half-an-hour personal appearances," she explained. "For I know there's a limit to what people can take. They get tired of looking at you after a while."
This spring she was made the star of "Plaisirs de Paris," one of the most sumptuous and daring revues ever produced on the London stage. She still had nothing else to do than stand around but, as her eminence grows, she now seriously tries to improve herself as an entertainer.
Sabrina takes speech and singing lessons, is learning how to dance and even reads an occasional book. And she has already made enough progress to play the role of an "intellectual" in the forthcoming movie "The Belles of St. Trinian's."
It's all about a crazy bunch of bobby-soxers in St. Trinian's School who run around in the sexiest college uniform ever devised: tight white sweaters, the briefest white shorts, sheer nylons and high heels.
Topping off that display are the sweetly innocent faces of the dainty darlings in their school girl hats. The contrast is both ridiculous and piquant, but Sabrina takes no part in the general fun. She plays the teacher's pet who is very apt at mathematics and, while the other girls go man-hunting in Rome, she stays behind, whispering: "You see, I have got to study for my Oxford scholarship."
That's still as much of a gag in Britain as if Monroe said it in the States, but Sabrina herself feels that she has just barely started to click. The thought of failure never crosses her mind. Nor is she pursued by any nightmares that some girl with a 42-inch bust might suddenly pop up and put her out of business.
Judging from the thousands of pin-up photographs she has to sign every week, she is probably right. The other day, she also found fresh encouragement from an unexpected side. When she took out a license plate for her new Bentley car, the registry office—which is usually not inclined to banter—agreed to give Sabrina's chest measurements a quasi official blessing by letting her have the unorthodox car number: S-41.
That was unprecedented in British motoring history—a consecration of the same sort as a lordship is for an elder statesman. The only drawback was that the new license plate was almost immediately stolen by one of Sabrina's admirers .
By Cameron Lee
Page Created: March 20, 2006
Last Changed: Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:27 PM
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