Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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Derryn Hinch remembers Sabrina

From "Human Headlines: my 50 years in the media" by Derryn Hinch (2011),
Cocoon Lodge Pty Ltd, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9805726-1-2.

Before Madonna and Cher and Pink and Beyoncé there was a 1960s British 'actress' with no surname, who made the papers every day. Sabrina. We never knew her last name.

Sabrina had two huge movie assets and both were well in front of her. They were called breasts. She appeared in those execrable double entendre-laden Carry On movies with people like Kenneth Moore and the bristling, bearded Sir James Robertson Justice. Plus a couple of mandatory mincing queens.

Her main claim to fame in Australia was that she appeared in a tight, white sweater in an oil commercial in the early days of Australian TV (I think for Castrol) [Caltex - Ed.] and her assets were amply displayed. The original good oil.

Sabrina's Caltex ad
Picture from the Sabrina Caltex Ad page

In a weird coincidence she made a visit to New Zealand while I was in high school. I read about it, salaciously, in a newspaper I had to nick from my father (it was the NZ version of Truth.) And there was the pneumatic Sabrina in Wellington. I can't remember why. I mean, they would later ban Mandy Rice-Davies because of the Profumo Affair. As a teenager I was so grubbily impressed by Sabrina's 'weapons of mass distraction' that when, the following week, we were assigned an English essay about anything, I chose her. I still remember the intro 50 years later: 'She came, we saw, she's contoured.' I was fourteen. The English teacher grudgingly gave me 95 per cent for my essay. Also gave 95 per cent to the class goody goody who wrote a thesis on Elizabeth I. The teacher at least con­ceded my essay was clever and colourful. Maybe he secretly perved on the Carry On movies.

Flash forward a very few years to Toronto, Canada. I am 22 years old [1966 - Ed.] and bureau chief for United Press International. A New Zealand novice, in journalism for less than six years and from the other side of the world, was now bureau chief for UPI, one of the most famous wire service news agencies in the world. Sabrina hit town to appear in one of those door-slamming English farces [ The Loving Couch - Ed.] in which, inevitably, tizzy, pneumatic young women end up on stage in their underwear or a mini-towel. The promoters invited me to interview her at a, surprisingly, less than salubrious Toronto hotel. We met in the lobby and Sabrina breathily invited me up to her hotel room. Nothing salacious; she wanted to see herself on the TV news.

As a promotion for her comedy play Sabrina had agreed to pose for local newspaper photographers and TV cameras wearing the latest, shocking (!) swimsuit. Well, it was 1966. She wore a tight, tiny bikini with an impossibly plunging neckline but her assets were kept in place by a panel of black mesh or latticework joining her bra to her knickers. I thought if you actually wore this on the beach to sunbathe your body would look like a chequerboard when you took it off.

Sabrina in Toronto 1966
Note: This picture was not with the text

Her hotel room was so small that there was no sofa to sit on and so we stretched out on her bed to watch the news. Well, she watched. My screen was fogged.
Imagine it. At fourteen you are in an English class with a lot of other farting, wet-sock smelling male students at the New Plymouth Boys High School at the 'arse end of the world' (as Paul Keating would say more than 30 years later) and getting a 95 per cent mark for an essay on a blonde bombshell named Sabrina — based entirely on a voluptuous photo of her you had seen in a tabloid newspaper snatched from your father. And a mere eight years later you are lying on a bed with her in a hotel in Toronto. Tell me there is no god of lust!

Sabrina showed me revealing photos of herself wearing only knickers and a see-through bra. She explained how her front verandah was so large, her waist so small, her hips so tiny, her balance so precarious and her back so bad that she actually wore a flesh-coloured metal brace down her back while on stage to guarantee she remained upright, forthright and didn't slip any discs.

Another thing I remember about that sexy, unforgettable night for a 22-year-old — skipping a couple of explicit things and moving right along — is that there was virtually no nightlife in Toronto. We finally found a hash house that was still open around 10 o'clock and had the worst crumbed chicken dish you could imagine. And the place was unlicenced. But, for a kid just out of Kiwiland, I had suddenly found a licence for an incredible life.

Page Created: 18 July 2014

Last Changed: Wednesday 2023-07-12 14:09

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