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ONE LOOK AND ALL BRITAIN GASPED
'People', 29 June 1955
When Sabrina swayed into focus on TV screens she didn't speak, but her name was made overnight.
She merely slid off the sofa
WHEN Britain's now-famous television blonde, Sabrina, made her
first appearance earlier this year, she did not speak, sing, dance, do
conjuring tricks or even pull faces.
the most talked-about person in UK entertainment
The effect on the British nation of this simple anatomical display was startling and, to the rest of the world, a little bewildering. In a single stroke, Sabrina became the most talked-about person in UK entertainment for years.
The primary reason for this violent public reaction was probably that nothing quite so crude had previously appeared on the chaste television screen of the BBC-that same BBC which, not long before, had reeled in genteel horror when Australian Ron Randell blew an unrehearsed kiss to his female viewers.
undercurrent of protest
In the uproar that followed Sabrina's debut there was the inevitable undercurrent of protest, from the inevitable sources - disapproving housewives, churchmen and public morality officials.
THE BBC ignored them all. Sabrina had appeared suddenly in the middle of a fortnightly comedy series starring Arthur Askey and she went on appearing in each episode until the series came to its scheduled end.
She continued, moreover, to remain absolutely dumb and to do little more than manoeuvre her bosom within camera range. Then, as soon as the TV series finished the BBC, as suddenly as it had taken up Sabrina, dropped her.
too hot for the BBC
The TV bosses announced austerely that they had no future plans for her. Sabrina, a London newspaper columnist remarked, was too hot for the BBC to hold.
SABRINA didn't care. The BBC had named her (one of its producers, alarmed at her real name of Norma Ann Sykes, decided, a little ineptly, to call her after the delicate girl in Milton's poem, Comus) and launched her.
[Oh dear - another version of how she got her stage name! That makes 3 so far. See the Sabrinaname summary - Ed.]
It paid her £20 for each fortnightly show but, before the series had ended, Sabrina was collecting up to £200 a time for personal appearances - opening fetes, boosting charity appeals, walking on in music halls - all over the country.
Her average weekly income is now six times bigger than that of the man who discovered her, she rents a 15-guinea flat, employs a maid, an accountant and a secretary to deal with her 300 weekly fan letters. She has bought herself a £200 mink stole and is soon to acquire a high powered sports car with leopard-skin upholstery.
Sabrina is no longer dumb
She has signed a contract for "several thousand pounds" to appear in a movie and has been booked for a national variety tour with a leading comedian. Moreover, Sabrina is no longer dumb. Her voice, which was never heard on TV, is now raised in voluble chatter wherever she is.
It took on an indignant note recently when she called at Scotland Yard
to complain that nude photographs of her (some of them made up
into calendars a la Marilyn Monroe) were being sold in Manchester and
I was hungry and alone
"I thought if I posed for pictures in the nude it would. help me to be success in modelling," she told police and Pressmen. "I was hungry and alone and didn't know what I know now.
"Now these photographs could ruin me. I have everything to live for and I think it's terrible that unscrupulous people are trying to take advantage of something I did when I was just a kid."
It was, however, a photograph, though not a nude one, that rescued Sabrina, then plain Norma Sykes, from sordid obscurity.
She was born the daughter of a working-class family in Cheshire and at school became a county champion swimmer. When she had just turned 13 she contracted severe rheumatic fever [polio? Ed.].
bedridden or convalescent
FOR two years she was bedridden or convalescent and during that time she made artificial jewellery for sale. Part of the proceeds helped to feed her and part she put aside for the day- when she would be well enough to take herself to London and look for work as a photographers' model.
That day came in early 1954. At first she worked for photographers in the less respectable districts of London and some of them persuaded her to pose nude. One, less crude in his methods, took a colour shot of her clothed and sold it as a cover to a national glossy magazine. The cover took the fancy of a BBC television executive who at once hired Norma Sykes to put glamour into the Arthur Askey series.
her figure is not trim
He was a little taken aback when she appeared for her first interview. No one, meeting Sabrina at close quarters, could call her beautiful or even good-looking. Her skin is poor and blotchy (probably as a result of her long illness) and her figure is not trim.
BUT her image, filtered through the kindly screen of television
or presented in a well re-touched photograph, has a full-blown seductiveness
that attracts immediate attention.
But she realises that, on beauty alone, she can't go much further in British show business. So, with almost pathetic eagerness, she is trying to learn to act-at least enough to carry her in a variety show (she is relying on the director to get her through her film).
a girl needs to have more than a big bosom
Main result of her drama coaching to date is that she can mime a number of character poses and, with the help of a few props, get herself up to look, at least while a camera clicks, in turn like a demure Juliet, a vamp, a Cockney flower-seller and a Wagnerian heroine.
"I'm taking this thing seriously ," she says. "I haven't always been as lucky as this. So I'm not running any risks. After all, a girl needs to have more than a big bosom."
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