Contact me at the Sabrina Site
The Third Sabrina Interview - 2011
On 12 July 2011 I once again phoned Sabrina to catch up and find more about her amazing life. Over two hours some new and interesting Sabrinafacts came to light.
Please note that Sabrina's voice was far quieter than mine in the recording, so I had to manually amplify every sentence she spoke. The recording has been edited a little to protect Sabrina's privacy or remove irrelevant content.
| MP3 Part 1
M: Hello Sabrina.
S: Yeah hello.
M: This is Mark.
S: Yeah, hi.
M: How are you?
M: How are you?
S: Not too bad.
M: That's good. I've tested the recording and it's going well except your voice is very quiet. I was wondering if you could keep your voice up so we can hear you better. I know you've always had a soft voice on stage so you just need to push it out a little bit.
S: I didn't have a soft voice.
M: Um, I think a few people said you sang in a soft, husky way.
S: When I did that Ethel Merman thing...
M: In Tarzan?
S: Yeah, yeah that was it. She told me – she said "Belt up, girl. I'm the belter here"
M: And she was loud, wasn't she?
S: She really was.
S: Yeah. I mean she really was loud. I saw her – it was actually the first show I saw when I first went to New York. And she was REALLY loud. And I came away with that impression of her, never thinking I would – you know - do a show with her.
M: I imagine she was trained without microphones so she really had to reach the back rows all the time.
S: No, they have mikes hidden along the stage at the front.
S: So in every theatre they have that.
M: Right. We haven't talked in a while so I was wondering how your health has been.
S: Ah, not too bad.
M: You haven't done anything bad to yourself recently?
S: Done anything bad ?
M: Had any more car crashes or bad backs or anything?
S: Apart from nearly dying a few weeks ago. (Laughs)
S: Um well, it's a little personal. It wasn't anything I did. It was just something that happened and I didn't realise it until I started feeling a bit dizzy and my blood level had gone down to four. My haemoglobin (?) and apparently it should be 13 or 14 – something like that. So when I was in his surgery the doctor said you're lucky to be here to tell the story. And that was like the first I – you know – I didn't know.
M: So how's your back?
S: Ah, a bit wonky because that Joe - you know, the guy in the back, remember him?
M: Which guy in the back? Oh, Joe. Yes.
S: Yeah, he lives forever. He picked me up – like, put his arm around the centre of my back which has always been a tender area. And he just set off you know... hello?
S: Oh, OK. I thought...
M: Is Joe still there?
M: I thought you were going to do something about that.
S: I know. I just don't have the heart, you know? And I don't even see him. I haven't seen him for... Well, I shouldn't say that. I saw him about two, three – two months ago. That's when he put his arm around my back, lifting me. And that's a place you don't touch. And he's the one who should know more than anybody. And so I've been...
S: Oh God yeah. I've been in a lot of pain for it.
M: You haven't been in hospital lately, apart from nearly dying?
S: Well, they gave me like five pints of blood and I'm OK now.
M: That's good. I'm sure your fans will be happy about that. I've got a few questions that people have sent me for you.
M: And comments. I'll let the people know what your answers were. There's a message from Peter Russell who said he used to work for Joe Matthews on Lambeth Walk a few centuries ago –
S: Oh really?
M: - and he remembers meeting you then
S: Uh ha
M: So were you working, or were you just stepping out
S: No Joe was kind of like a photographer who made himself my manager and he was just a nice guy. And he had a nice wife and family. And ah –
M: Can you remember roughly when this was? Before you went to London?
S: Before I went? No, no, no.
M: Would have been after, yes.
S: Yes, after.
M: Because I don't know where Lambeth Walk is. I was wondering if it might have been Blackpool.
S: No, no. That's London.
S: Haven't you heard of Lambeth Walk?
M: I've heard of the song.
M: But I don't know the actual place.
S: It's London – bridge, and Lambeth Bridge. And it where all the cockneys are, I think.
M: Sorry, the which are?
S: The cockneys.
M: There's a message from Alan. Now, it's a bit depressing I suppose. Alan Bradley. And he said can you tell him where and when your mum and dad passed away-
S: Oh my God! Why?
M: - for his family tree. I think he must be, or must think he's a relative.
S: No, I don't want to go into that.
M: OK. I can understand that. And another person asked - William Atkinson – could you settle an argument for him, did you ever work on U.K. TV with Mr Teesy Weesy the hairdresser?
S: I think I met him but I don't remember – I never worked with him. I was on TV with him. So –
M: I can fully understand if you don't remember these things because it was quite a long time ago.
S: I know !
M: So later on maybe, I was thinking maybe you could pull out one of your scrapbooks – not today. But you could talk us through one of your scrapbooks and the things you want to talk about rather than just answering questions. So you might want to –
S: I've got a scrap – I've got a book here on South Africa that -
M: Ooh, that'd be good.
S: Yeah. That I was going to send to you for six months. Stephen's been away, and he's just come back so he'll pop into the post office.
M: Because I'm keen to know what happened after Australia, and after your film career, in South Africa and South America, so that'd be nice to hear. We've got a message from Mark Needham – do you remember Mark?
S: Yes, uh ha.
M: He said he was in Dallas Texas and he first met you at the Beverly Hilton. You came with Gordon and his lady friend, and you later visited him in Dallas and he later visited you in Burbank on several occasions –
S: Oh God!
M: And he said the Chinese restaurant with the Lemon Chicken –
S: Oh my God!
M: And he last spoke to you while you were in hospital and you did not want him to come and see you there. And he can still see the warm and considerate person behind your bright blue eyes to this day and he can't put as much cayenne pepper into his tomato juice as you did – one tablespoon, he thinks.
S: Uh hmmm.
M: So he hopes this message finds you well and he left his phone number in case you ever wanted to give him a ring, and I can give that to you later if you like. So let me know and I'll pass that number on to you if you like.
M: We've got a message from Ann, who's sixty, and she's been reading the site, and she's in Warrnambool in Victoria here –
S: In Australia?
M: Yeah, in Victoria, down near the coast. And she has distant memories of her parents travelling a hundred miles or more from the farm to Melbourne to see you at the Tivoli and it was all a rather grand occasion with daily life on the farm. And she doesn't know much about you apart from a vague memory of a glamour picture in a magazine and a lifelong appreciation of good corsetry. And she asked me to tell you she loved you –
S: Corsetry ?
S: What does that mean?
M: Well, corsets and bustiers and undergarments.
S: What's that got to do with me ?
M: Well, you did appear in a couple of pictures in corsets and things like that to show off your waist so I think she rather appreciated your talents in that area.
M: I think she rather appreciated the way you looked.
S: Oh, I thought she was alluding the fact that I promoted them or something.
M: No, I just think she liked the way you appeared in corsets. And she said she loves your natural glamour and beauty, a rare thing not to be seen in the modern day.
M: And a lot of people say that. They say they don't see people like you in the modern media any more, because you were a genuine-
S: That's what Stephen said.
M: It's something that's sort of disappeared, everybody's too commercial nowadays.
S: Everything's false.
M: Yes. Now the next one is from Judith Scholes – Atherton in those days – and she says she's from Blackpool and she remembers you from nights at the Winter Gardens in the early fifties-
S: Oh God!
M: - which is where she thinks you first started to turn heads, and she hopes you're well and happy.
S: That's sweet of her.
End of part 1.
M: Dennis wrote – He remembers you on the front page of the Reveille newspaper quite often back in the late fifties and sixties and he never forgot how gorgeous you looked and he fell in love with you hopelessly and he hopes you are well and he thanks you for the light you brought into his life.
S: Oh my God.
M: They still remember you.
S: It's amazing, isn't it?
M: Yep. And Peter from the U.K. says he remembers you from when he was a spotty schoolboy in the fifties and he remembers that "we talked about her a lot" and seems to recall that "she recorded a song called Climb up the Wall or something like that...
S: Climb up the Wall ?
M: But he can't find a reference to it. Does it ring a bell with you – Climb up the Wall ?
S: I don't know.
[Note: later investigations found it was Yana (Pamella Guard) who recorded 'Climb Up the Wall'.]
M: Because we know there's Persuade Me , and A Man and not a Mouse that you recorded, but we can't find any other songs that you put out or performed, which is a bit sad.
S: (Sings quietly) No, it was "Put out the Light." (?)
M: Motzi says his or her cousin Dicky Martyn was one of your dressmakers in the fifties.
S: Dicky Martyn? That sounds familiar.
M: M-a-r-t-y-n. And Motzi says, "I remember visiting him (Dicky) as a teenager and being very impressed by the garment he was working on at the time full of hand-stitched sequins and jewels and of course that fabulous shape." It may even be the one in the 1960 photo that I had on my site from 'April in Paris'.
S: Which one? From April in Paris ?
M: I've labelled the picture "April in Paris, New York 30th April 1960" and he thinks that might've been the dress-
S: What was the date?
M: 1960. Thirtieth of April in New York.
S: What colour was it?
M: I don't know.
S: It was black and white.
M: I'd only have a black and white photo of it.
S: It would be black and white if it was in a newspaper.
M: Yes. We have very few pictures of you in colour, which is sad, though I recently got a magazine of you and Terry Thomas –
M: - just the other day and you were performing the Three Musketeers
S: Oh really? That was in 3D.
M: Yeah. I always thought it was out of focus and then I discovered it was in 3D.
S: (laughs) No, 3D.
M: So, I had old copies of the photos on the site so I'll put up better copies soon. Now, Jerry Gay-
S: What was that other question you asked before?
M: Do you have any reminiscences of Dicky Martyn?
S: Dicky... I don't know where I know the name from. You say he was a –
S: Dressmaker. Dicky Martyn.
M: In the fifties.
S: Sounds like a singer or somebody – an entertainer - Martyn.
M: It might be.
S: In the sixties?
M: He was one of your dressmakers in the fifties and-
S: In the fifties.
M: And he remembers him working on a dress that you might have worn in 1960.
M: Jerry Gay thinks that Russell Gay might be his paternal grandfather and he's trying to find out information about Russell Gay. Do you have any knowledge of Russell?
S: I don't want to have any knowledge.
M: I didn't think you would.
S: I wish him well. I can't say (inaudible)
M: So you don't know anything about him?
S: Uh uh.
M: And you'd rather keep it that way.
M: All right.
S: I have a bone to pick with you. You keep bringing up these bloody nude things that he took.
M: There are a lot of them, yes, unfortunately.
S: A lot of them?
S: Yeah, I got fifteen shillings.
M: Which wasn't a lot.
M: Your photos-
S: And I did it because I had at the time a German Shepherd and it was a matter of "who ate?" And I had tins of tomato soup and I had to buy him meat. And I did it for him. You know Shane? The dog I gave to Steve Cochran.
[Sabrina and Shane]
M: And you had to feed him?
S: Yes. Uh huh.
M: That sad. You might be pleased to know that your photos are still appearing on eBay. Have you been to eBay?
S: No, no. I don't have a computer.
M: One of your pictures, photographs, recently sold for $156.
M: Really. There've been a few of them recently and they've been selling anywhere from $80 to $156.
S: Hmmm. I wonder which ones they were...
M: I've got a pageful of them. It's a bit hard to describe them. I might do that later if you like. I've never seen them before. They're brand new –
M: - and I think that's why they caught people's attention. So you're still very popular out there. And one person asked whether you'd consider selling signed photographs...
S: Well, that's what Steve wants to do but he talks a lot but never gets around to it.
M: Well we could maybe organise something.
S: He talks about doing something with you, but he's so busy doing nothing...
M: Well, have a think about it...
S: Gallivanting around. And he's often mentioned that maybe Mark and I can do something, you know? Yeah. So I'll get onto him.
M: Because I think there are people who'd be interested in getting a nice autograph.
S: Uh huh. We're supposed to go to England in a week or two.
M: He was, or you were?
S: We are.
M: I was going to ask if you'd ever thought of going back.
S: Yes, yeah.
M: That would be good.
M: There's a message from Roger who said he'd heard you were once a house guest of Lady Mander–
M: Lady Mander at Wightick Manor in Wolverhampton.
S: I don't think that's the name.
M: There is a manor there called that.
S: There is?
M: Mmmm. I looked it up on the internet. There is such a manor. But there's a road-
M: Wolverhampton, yeah.
S: Well I know – what's her name? Jackie, I think? Allen? I had a friend who owned a manor and it was a king – I don't know which one – George the - it wouldn't have been George the Third. Anyway he would say 'O to be a hundred miles away' and he was alluding to this manor house and when I became Sabrina I met this man who owned this house, this manor, and I stayed there many times. And he died and apparently his second wife who I never met, but Steve knew her, so he's gone to that manor house and so it's a coincidence that Steve went independently of me and I used to go there and stay frequently when I was in the Midlands. And it's not far from where Steve was born. And anyway – but I don't think it was – I want to say Wootten Way – what did you call it?
M: Wightick Manor. With Lady Mander.
S: Lady Amanda?
M: No, Lady Mander. M-a-n-d-e-r.
S: Um hmm. It must be another place.
M: Might be. Anyway, he said there is a road nearby called Sabrina Road and he was wondering whether it might have been named after you.
S: Yeah, in fact I've got a picture. Stephen gave it to me the other day. It's a coincidence.
M: There are a few Sabrina roads and drives that I've chased up, but most of them are named after the river goddess.
S: Sabrina Close, I think.
M: Sabrina Close. Do you know what town that was in?
S: No, I'll have to ask him because he gave me the picture. As I'm talking to you I'm looking. I can't put my hands on it.
M: That's all right. Maybe you can look it out later.
S: Sabrina Close, I think. I don't know. Something like that. No. Anyway. Any more questions?
M: Not direct ones. I thought maybe we could step through your life and fill in any gaps. Because we've got a lot of knowledge about the 1956 to 1958 sort of time but a few gaps before and after that maybe you could fill in. Because I've been filling in your biography and there's a lot of material now. I don't know how much of it is true and how much is not-
S: A lot of it is not true.
M: I sort of thought so, because half of it sounds like they interviewed you without actually talking to you at all. A classmate Peter sent in a photo of you when you were about ten and you were in Cale Green Middle School in Stockport.
M: And there's a picture of you with your class with your teacher Mr Fletcher –
S: Oh yes. I saw that.
M: - and the principal Mr Earnston.
S: Oh OK.
M: So do you have any other memories of your earlier days before you went off to London, during your school days or anything like that?
S: I remember more like the swimming and everything and once I – no, a couple of times it happened – I used to go and practise in the mornings before school and a couple of times I went and - before they actually opened – and I mean it opened, but not to the public – and they used to let me in because I used to practise. And I remember one time I dove in, and I dove in too deep and I hit my head on the bottom of the pool and luckily someone came in time as I was like coming up for the third time. And things like that.
M: And you never got to swim the English channel?
S: No, well you would have heard about it, wouldn't you?
M: I thought so, yes.
S: Yeah. No, no.
M: I'm just going through your biography trying to find bits that we need to fill in
End of Part 2.
S: But none of that's true.
M: Well, I'm trying to work out what is true and what isn't. Because it says you went with David Whitfield
S: No, I didn't go with David Whitfield
M: And you were working as a waitress in a seamy section of London
S: Well it wasn't – umm – ya. I'd say it was. But it was when I got off the train in King's Cross, I went to a hotel for a couple of days and.... Because before I used to go up to London to buy...
M: Costume jewellery?
S: ...supplies for the costume jewellery I used to make. And this time I'd gone... This was funny with my mother. Because she was so prudish, and yet... with her having this little guest house, you know? We had a lot of theatrical people who used to come, especially the bands who would come up to Blackpool for a month or two. So I got to know that crowd and I know I had a girlfriend and her name was Annie Ross and she was a singer - I think with Jack Parnell, I don't know, I can't remember the name, maybe (inaudible) – but she was a famous singer and she gave us a key. She gave myself and a little girlfriend I had at the time because we were just about fifteen or sixteen, and she said whenever you go to London you can always stay over at my apartment. So this girlfriend and I decided to pop off the London and this is one time – not the first time I went, but another time – and when we got there it was kind of late and we arrived and we went to bed and we both were being bitten and when we put the lights on the bloody bed was full of bedbugs and we couldn't get out of there fast enough. And we walked about. This was somewhere in Bayswater, and we walked about all night. Just going to transport cafes that were open at that time in the morning. And we were just sort of wandering about, not knowing where to go. And we wouldn't go back to the place because it was icky. So we'd rather take our chances on the street rather than be in that apartment with all the bugs. So that was one time.
But the first time I think I went to London my mother as I say was – she approved of one of these musicians with the (?) band and they were going to Bournemouth after Blackpool and he wanted me to go with him. I mean it was all above board. Nothing was going on. I was quite young, naturally. And she approved of me going with him, this guy, and she wouldn't let me go and stay in London on my own. And it's kind of strange. When we got to Bournemouth I got the next train back to London. I sort of did a disappearing act. And he called my mother and said to I'd gone missing. And that's what happened. That's when I went to London and arrived at King's Cross and stayed in this rather posh hotel which was really too expensive for me, but it was the only one that was kind of – I got into a taxi and I said 'Take me to the closest hotel' and he took me to this hotel. And a couple of days later I set out sort of walking and came across these billboards, signs and things offering work and places to stay etcetera and there was one wanted a waitress... and - ah - I'm having to think about this because...
M: Well one magazine said between meals you were kept busy serving slaps and roundhouse rights to the spivs, toffs and teddyboys who kept trying to find out if her measurements were real. When she was tired of slinging punches as well as hash she got a job as a housemaid.
S: No, not true. I was –
M: It sounds good though.
S: No, but it wasn't true. I wasn't aggressive. I never ever – you know there was that story that I went and tried to buy my photographs – and that never happened. And a photographer and a newspaper writer took me to this store that was selling them and I just went in and I asked if I could buy them and it was just too much. It would have been too expensive for me to have done that, and I just walked out. But it said I tried –
M: You were tearing them up –
S: Tore them up, but it never happened.
M: But it sounds good.
S: It doesn't sound good because it's not true.
M: But to sell newspapers it sounds good.
S: Well, but you said you were wanting the biography.
M: Oh yeah, but I'm sort of comparing what they say with what you remember.
S: Uh huh.
M: Remember you sent me one of your earliest photoshoots. It would have been around 1955 or so, 1954.
S: Who did?
M: You sent me an early photoshoot – one of your first professional shots.
S: Oh. OK. Yeah.
M: Another guy sent in pictures – a guy called Colin – sent in early pictures of you too around the same time and one of the was maybe for 'The Weekend Mail 1000 pound covergirl contest'. Do you remember anything about that?
S: No, no.
M: Because one of them, on the back of the pictures, mentioned this contest so maybe we thought you'd had these pictures taken for a particular covergirl contest.
S: No. You mean I went in for the contest?
M: Well, maybe.
M: Very similar shots were used in Span magazine in February 1955 though.
S: That's what appears on your website – a lot of pictures out of those Spick and Span little magazines and they seem to keep cropping up. I guess I've got all the pictures.
M: Colin said 'a number of years ago, my stepdad was talking to a friend and mentioned that he had a keen interest in photography and it turned out that the guy was at some point a London photographer and passed to me a box of negatives and print S: a total of thirteen different poses from a shoot he'd done during this time. The box was marked 'Sabrina – Norma Sykes'. After looking through my site he believed they could be one of the earliest shot taken of you with a striped bikini complete with a beach ball and a floral one-piece. And the pictures are of you sitting on a nylon net with a beach ball and a striped bikini. And there's another one with the same nylon net and the same beach ball with a one-piece and a hat.
S: I don't remember those. (I kind of remember those?)
M: It would have been very early in your career I would say.
S: I think so – maybe before Sabrina.
M: I think so. You look very cute though.
S: You may think so – I didn't.
M: A lot of people did. Now your first cover was Blighty, wasn't it? In April 1954.
M: This was well before Sabrina days.
S: I know. I have a lot of pictures B.S. – Before Sabrina.
M: It would be interesting to see those, because it would it would be nice to see the transition between the young you and the Sabrina you.
S: I've got a lot of them. A lot of them are Before Sabrina.
M: It would be nice to see those. 1955, everything goes...
S: I remember like I've got shoes on with kind of lace up the leg.
M: I haven't seen those ones.
S: Yes, you have them.
M: Have I?
S: I've seen them on your site.
M: With lacing up the leg. I'll have to hunt them out.
S: Just a little bit, you know? They just tie up the leg, up the ankle.
S: I mean, they don't lace all the way up the leg. (Laughs) I mean, they just tie at the ankle. They just kind of come round once and tie in a bow.
M: Right. One of the challenges is trying to get these photos into order, so I've been trying to find references to dates and get some –
S: And I know them all .
M: Do you? Excellent. I might send you some more photos so we can work out when they might have happened. Because we can sort of guess from your hair style, for example, but it's a bit hard to tell sometimes when photos were happening.
M: So you were very busy in '55 and '56 –
S: And in '57 I did the Prince of Wales -
End of Part 3.
S: Yes, that was in Blackpool at the Hippodrome.
M: Can you remember what you did in that show because I can't find anything in any programme to say what you were doing?
S: Yeah yeah. I know what I did.
M: Singing and dancing?
S: Yeah. I remember I did a song. It was one Marilyn Monroe did: Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend . And I remember I would go down a ramp into the audience and I would go down and I would take the jewellery off my hand. I just tied it on with a piece of cotton. And I would just kind of snap it and throw the jewellery to anybody who caught it. And I did sketches with Tessie O'Shea and Nat Jackley.
M: And the Nit Wits, and the TV Toppers, and Marianne Lincoln.
S: And the best thing was with – there was this group called the Nits Wits – and I did a song called Temptation , if you can remember that old song.
M: Not quite my day. I'll see if I can find it. Did you do any other recordings?
S: I'm not going to sing it for you. (Laughs)
M: I was actually going to ask, but I decided not to.
S: Uh huh.
M: Did you do any other recordings apart from...?
S: Anyway, this was the thing we were going to do for the Royal Command Performance, which would have been hilarious because it brought the house down every night. Because I was doing the song straight and they had this crazy group of men [The Nitwits] behind me all dressed up, you know, very weirdly and I know there was one guy and he had this sort of broken leg and I know I fell over the leg as I going off stage – on purpose, as part of the act. And then I turned around and I kicked it. It was a very funny sketch, you know, bit. That's what we were going to be in the Royal- I think it would have brought the place down, because it did every night at the Hippodrome [in " This'll Make You Laugh "] . So I remember everything I did. I don't really remember the sketches too well except appearing with Nat Jackley and Tessie O'Shea. And then doing- and I remember the dresses I wore and all that stuff
M: And you spent a lot of money on those, didn't you.
S: Uh huh.
M: And you mentioned that June Wilkinson claimed that she had to let your dress out so she could fit in it.
S: Yeah. Uh huh, well. If it makes her happy to think that, I guess, it's in her mind. It's not true.
M: In May 1956, probably the highlight of your career, you presented the twentieth Golden Collar Classic final trophy at Catford at the greyhound races.
S: Yeah, I remember that.
M: You do ?
M: Were you much into sport?
S: No, only swimming. Oh! As a child I was into long jumping and high jump and of course swimming. But I did also do those other couple of things too.
M: It must've been hard when the polio hit, and the rheumatic fever and everything.
S: I think that was before . Oh no. Let me see... I have to think about that one, when I had that. I try to put bad things out of my mind.
M: The 1956 Royal Command Variety Performance was cancelled because of the Suez Canal crisis.
S: That's what I was talking about.
M: And we have a picture of you looking very sadly at the dress you were going to wear.
M: The sugar-pink lame with shaded pink net.
S: Uh huh.
M: So that was a bit sad, I suppose.
S: Yes, and that's what I was saying we were going to do the sketch from the Hippodrome show at the Palladium in London for the Royal Variety show, and that was kind of sad because it was, as I said, it went over very big at the Hippodrome. It brought the house down every night. So nobody would be expecting me to do much. And the fact that I was singing a straight song. Temptation is a very – it's not a – you know – oh, I'm gonna just tell you – (sings) You came, I was alone, I should have known you were temptation. I'm not singing it.
M: No, of course not.
S: Those were just the words.
M: But thank you anyway.
S: But that was more straight singing. There we are.
M: In 1957 you were in America and you appeared on the Steve Allen show.
M: And we've got video of that.
S: Uh huh.
M: With you and Tom Poston.
S: You've only got a little bit. There was – I appeared – Steve Allen had those – they were called 'Three Men in the Street' and - Don Knotts and Bill [Louis] Nye I think, and another guy. And I did a sketch – a little bit – with each one. And I don't know why there's just only that one little bit.
M: From what I can find out you were on twice, 1957 and the next series, 1958.
S: No, I was just there once. [Note 1]
M: Somebody thinks you were in series 3, episode 24.
M: I don't have any video of that one, though.
S: Well, because it didn't exist.
S: Uh huh. I was trying to cancel it, and they took me to a Harley Street specialist to drain my nose because I had the worst cold imaginable. And I could hardly talk, let alone sing. And so I don't know if it added anything or not to the singing. But I couldn't cancel because they had an orchestra for the occasion. And you just can't tell them not to show up. But when Norma Newell who lived in the same apartment building that I had an apartment in. And he came down from his place and he said 'Oh my God' and he quickly called around and made some appointments. He called his friends and made an appointment for me to see this Harley Street specialist who drained my nose to open it up so I could get some voice.
M: You did well, though.
M: You sounded good.
M: Mmm. Very tuneful.
S: Stephen likes it. And somebody else, and I never did like my s- you know. I never listened to it (from) the time I did it until when you sent it to me. I'd never heard it in all those years.
M: Oh dear.
S: Uh huh.
M: Early in 1957 was the first mention of Steve Cochran that I can find. And there was an article in the Singapore Free Press, would you believe-
S: No .
M: - saying 'Together again, Sabrina and Hollywood film star Steve Cochran. They're sticking to what they said a few days ago – No romance, but they're oh so happy as they meet in Munich airport after Sabrina had flown out to Germany to join him. Sabrina is having a skiing holiday at...' something, something. That's all of the article that I could find. So I was going to ask you what you remember of Steve.
S: We were together for about four years or so.
M: Was that a happy time?
S: Yes . I wouldn't be with somebody for four or five years, whatever it was. Cos whenever he came to London we always went out and – you know – he wanted to marry me but I just wasn't into – at that time – to getting married. You always think the grass is greener, don't you?
M: And you ended up with Mr Melsheimer.
S: Oh God !
M: You opened in Pleasures of Paris at the Prince of Wales theatre in April 57 with George and Bert Bernard, Dickie Henderson, the Three Monarchs. Again, we don't have a lot of information about what you did in that show so I'm just wondering if you can tell me what sort of things you got up to.
S: Oh God, just about everything. I made about fourteen appearances in the show so I can't remember everything.
M: So comedy, dancing, singing – that sort of thing?
M: It would have been nice if they'd videotaped it in those days but didn't think of doing it.
End of part 4.
S: Well at the time I have a friend called Michael, and Michael would always – in fact I could call Michael and ask "What was I wearing when I went to the dinner?" and he'd just tell me. He's got just so much information on me. He knows everything. You know, like where I was, what I was doing, what I wore..
M: A very useful man.
S: He was a very sweet guy. What was I saying? How did I get into that?
M: Pleasures of Paris .
S: Oh, the Pleasures of Paris, yah. So as I was saying, I made all of those appearances that... well. When you look in the catalogue can't you tell...?
M: It has a few pictures of you but it doesn't exactly say what you were contributing.
S: Well, I know I did it with the Three Monarchs. I worked with them. And I did a couple of sketches with Dickie Henderson and then I had solo numbers where I had, like those Las Vegas shows where they have a big spectacular... you know. It was a big extravaganza show.
M: I just found the programme – the Tivoli one – and it said you were in Insufficient Coverage –
S: What does that mean?
M: I think it was a sketch with Shirley Reagan, Billy Baxter, and you were listed as "the risk".
S: That was the same sketch that we did in London at the Prince of Wales, and they did it in Australia, at the Tivoli. Yeah.
M: I can't see much else. You were with the Dargie Quintet as "The Blonde"
S: Yeah. That was – it was almost a replica of it. They – was it the Dargie- no.
M: Dargie Quintet.
S: What was it – what were they-
M: They were playing The Existentialists, I think.
S: Yeah, but what was the one in London?
M: I don't know.
S: Three guys and – there's a photograph of three chaps and me and we're all in white. The pants, white slacks and sweater. And that tiny belt.
M: You then went to Ascot in June '57 and made quite an appearance there.
M: Which a lot of people photographed. We've got quite a few photographs of you there.
S: Really? They were nice photographs, weren't they?
M: Hmm. They were very nice ones. And there was as newsreel – [Really?] - of the royal party driving up and you were "in there with men in high hats", it says. [Hmm?] so I've been trying to find a copy of that newsreel but it's very hard to come by.
S: No. I don't have it yet, I did - there was a tribute with Eammon Andrews – This is Your Life – for ITV in London – I went back for that.
M: That's right, yes.
S: How do you get these copies? I don't know how you do it.
M: It's just a lot of searching, really.
S: Oh my goodness.
M: Another – maybe - thing you don't want to talk about. Sixteenth of July, 1957, "It's false, says Sabrina. You sat in your dressing room in a West End London theatre, which is probably Pleasures of Paris - [Yeah] – and radiated hate waves toward an unknown person who linked my name with John Kennedy. And John Kennedy was Tommy Steele's manager, not the United States president.
S: No because I did know John, the president.
M: Oh, did you?
M: You didn't mention him.
S: Oh. Yeah.
M: And you – according to him – gave him your heart.
S: Oh God!
M: But - your famous statistics, loosely clad in a scarlet negligee – you said, "My heart's my own, thank you very much. I've got lots of boyfriends and John Kennedy's one of them. He takes me out, but that doesn't mean I'm going to marry him.
S: Uh. Well, that's the truth.
M: It's very hard to say who makes these things up or who tells the truth. Then you-
S: I think that was a very good answer!
M: And you knew Billy Smart and you appeared in his circus. I've got a picture of you and a chimpanzee at the piano.
S: Oh yeah [laughs]
M: That was nineteen-
S: He was a dear friend of mine. Another one who wants to marry me.
M: There's a bit of scandal later on – I don't know whether you want to go into this – on ninth of April 1958 about Paul Carpenter
M: That rumour about the naughty business by Kim Parker
S: I know, I know. But you know, I was told by a lawyer at the time that they can accuse like – Princess Margaret – on the same facts but there's nothing anyone can do about it. Anybody can say anything. You have got to go to court. And unfortunately she dropped the suit - I think they settled the divorce – but I would love to have gone to court because on all of the dates that she mentioned that I was supposed to be with Paul Carpenter... How I met them was – oh no I did a movie, Stock Car , and I was dating Steve at the time, and the four of us, we'd go out to movies or to dinner or something. And the night Steve came back to America one time they took me to the airport – well, took Steve and I to the airport – and of course he was leaving for America and they brought me home and we went to their apartment and we had like a cup of tea or a drink or something – it was in the night. But what I was saying, was it happens she was saying I was with her husband I was actually in other parts of the country doing personal appearances. So it would've been – I mean it would've put all of those rumours to rest if she had gone through with it. It was just a shame she never did. She cancelled and I was upset about that .
M: Apparently the judge forced her to return to her husband.
S: She did ?
M: Apparently she was forced to resume conjugal relations.
S: Oh my God !
M: Which sounds very nineteen fifties, where a court can force a wife to go back.
S: I didn't know you could do that.
M: Neither did I. It was a bit of a worry, but apparently she was.
S: Forced to go back – wow! I know there was just a couple of times we had to make appearances together to promote that stupid movie.
M: You really didn't like that, did you?
S: I really hated it. I hated the way I looked and –
M: And the dubbing of your voice.
S: Yes. I don't know why they did that.
M: I don't know why either. Maybe you weren't Cockney enough for them. Maybe you were too northern.
S: I didn't know I was supposed to be Cockney, to be honest with you.
M: Most of the others sounded Cockney, so maybe they expected you to be too.
S: But nobody told me I was supposed to do a Cockney accent.
M: I don't think they cared too much about what you sounded like until maybe later.
S: No, no. You're right. I don't think - they cared later. I had to do a lot of travelling, and a lot of work on songs during the week rehearsing them, and then go out – This was when I was in New York – and play night clubs on the weekend to try out the material. I mean I really worked hard to try to get where I – well, you know, to - I mean, I had the name . And if you don't give the audience, the public, something back, for putting you there – that's kind of very disappointing to them, isn't it?
M: It is.
S: So I tried the best I could to learn.
M: It was interesting you mentioned earlier that you don't sleep much nowadays, and there's an article from September 1958 that says, "It seems that the things that sound good in a dream are gibberish in the mind and research about sleep took our photographer into one of London's most fabulous bedrooms – Sabrina's. The whole of one wall of Sabrina's bedroom is panelled in glass-
S: A mirror.
M: "'I like a pretty bedroom', Sabrina said, 'I can't sleep anyway so I might as well have a lovely room to lie awake in. If you can find a cure for insomnia, let me know', Sabrina said. 'I sometimes lie awake at night. I design clothes in my mind. By the morning I've designed a whole wardrobe.'" So are you still having trouble sleeping?
S: I've always been an insomniac.
M: You must have a busy mind.
M: Now we're getting up close to the time you arrived in Australia. We're looking at November 1958 and you went to Rome and a whole lot of things were happening. You had your sculpture done by Assen Peikov-
S: You know in that photograph with him, there's Ursula Andress in the picture. There was – or was she the one who was a painter?
M: He was a sculptor and there was a woman who painted you too at the same time.
S: Well, it wasn't the sculptor, it was the woman- there were about three or four girls in that picture, and one of them was Ursula Andress. And I thought, 'Hmmm! Is she a lezzie?' It made me think at the time when I went there, 'Hmm! What's going on here?' Too many girls and no men.
M: Can you remember how long you were in Rome? Was it a couple of weeks?
S: Probably, yeah, uh huh.
M: Because it seemed you were doing a lot of things around the time.
S: Well they had me doing something every day when I was in Rome.
M: And then you arrived in Australia.
S: But in the interim I came to America, didn't I? I took off for America because you can go to Australia two ways via California or via Rome and then on to Australia. That's the way my mother went.
M: Yes, I've got one thing – the picture of you and Assen Peikov in Rome - the sculptor - that was dated twenty-first of November '58, and then there's a photo of you on the twenty-fourth in Hollywood-
S: Yes, yes.
M: With Steve, and it says you were on route to Australia. And at that stage you get lost, or your mother arrives and she can't find you, so did you travel separately?
S: Yes, we travelled separately because I had to go to Rome ahead of time to do publicity and she – we were supposed to meet in Rome and then come on to Australia. But when I got there, I had some friends who were going on to California and they persuaded me on a whim, probably after I'd had a glass of champagne too many, to go to California, so I did [laughs] and that's when they said I was lost. But it created a lot of publicity, didn't it?
M: It certainly did. I think your mum was glad to see you.
S: Yeah. I can't imagine her donning one of my gowns and standing in for me.
M: Well, you never know. She was not an unattractive woman.
S: My mother had a good figure.
M: Did she?
M: You must have got it from somewhere.
S: Yes. She did.
End of part 5
S: No, no.
M: If you do have a later picture of yourself... The last one you gave me, I think it was about mid-eighties...
S: With flowers covering my face.
M: And balloons. And you said it was a teaser, and I've been teased for about eight years now.
S: Oh [rolls?]
M: It would be nice to show you as you are, because I think some people will still doubt that you're alive and kicking.
S: Steven's got video of me. He's the one you should talk to.
M: Right. That would be good, because I'm still looking for The Phantom Gunslinger ...
S: I saw that. I asked Steven. He doesn't live far from me, Albert Zugsmith the producer, of course I don't know if he'd be alive now. I asked him [Steven] to go by his [Zugsmith's] house and to see whatever happened to him - try to trace him down. Never happens, you know?
M: That's the only movie I don't have of you.
S: It was on TV, and -
M: He grabbed a clip with his video recorder.
S: Yeah, I shouted at him. I said "Quick!", you know. And he brought in his camera and he took some from the TV.
M: It looked like a very strange movie.
S: Well, it was a take off of all the famous westerns like The Magnificent Seven and High Noon and you know, all the westerns. It was supposed to be about all the westerns. A little bit from each. I don't know how Hitler came to be in it.
M: And the Devil I think was in there too.
S: No, no he wasn't.
M: Well you ended up in hell, didn't you? Or someone ended up in hell.
S: Oh, well that was when - that was the end of the movie when they blew us up, didn't they?
M: I think so. Not having seen it, it's a bit hard to say.
S: Yes. We were blown up and that was the end of the movie. We all went off to heaven, so the devil wasn't in it.
M: Right. It's very strange that a film like Stock Car that hasn't been on for years, I managed to get a copy of that, a film like Phantom Gunslinger which is relatively recent and shown fairly widely on TV-
S: Recent ?
M: I still haven't got that one.
S: That was fifty years ago!
M: Well, compared to Stock Car it's relatively recent... So at the end of the nineteen fifties, heading into the sixties, that's when you went to Cuba as you talked about earlier, and you had your green chickens. And you did Florida, touring at the Singapore Hotel in Florida, and you did April in Paris in New York.
S: And I appeared at the Eden Rock.
S: Uh huh.
M: And what did you do there?
S: I did a nightclub act.
M: I don't know if you'd remember this - I can't -
S: I mean that was the Fontainbleu and The Eden Rock were two of the biggest hotels - or they were at that time - in Miami beach.
M: So you were doing big gigs
S: Uh huh. And I turned down - I was friendly with the owner - Maurice Landsberg [?] of the Eden Rock and he wanted me to appear at - he owned the Flamingo in Las Vegas and he wanted me to appear there and I turned it down.
M: Any reason?
S: I didn't think I was good enough.
[Note: I misheard Sabrina here, and thought she said "I didn't think it was good enough." which led to a strange exchange which I've omitted from here. It was only on editing the recording that I realised my error. This gap explains the apparent non-sequitur that follows.]
M: Do you follow modern music much?
S: Yes.I follow all kinds of music.
M: What your favourite types? Who are your favourite performers?
S: My favourite? Of course Elvis.
M: And Frank?
S: And Sinatra. I'm a little bit out of date, aren't I? But I like Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond. I'm just thinking of all the LPs I have. I have - I like all kinds of music. My favourite female singer was Sarah Brightman. Do you like her?
M: I haven't heard much of her. She's got a good voice, so I've heard.
S: She's got the best in the world.
M: Did she marry - uh...
S: She was married to -
S: Yes. And they got divorced. But it was funny, when she was in her late teens she was a dancer and she said she was going to take up opera singing and all her friends laughed at her, so like who got the last laugh? Because the last time I saw her she was appearing at the Tokyo Olympics. That was quite some time ago. Oh no, I have the LP of her when she was at the Venice Cathedral in Austria.
M: Right. You were at the Singapore Hotel in February 1960. A lot of magazine appearances still. You did April in Paris in New York in April '60. In that June that's when you were photographed at the Forum, the themed New York restaurant. You were offered the job as a mermaid at Bondi.
S: I lived next door to the Forum.
M: Did you?
S: I lived across the street from the Al Morocco [?] and next door to the Forum.
S: On East 45th Street.
M: In June 1960 you attended the premiere of The Story of Ruth. You were photographed at Idlewild Airport In September 1960 and it said you had been in the U.S. for five months at that stage and 25th of November 1960 you appeared as the Queen of the Artists and Models Ball with Dick van Dyke - and that was a stunning dress. And then 1961, nothing much seems to happen.
S: Sixty one?
M: Sixty one. You made Satan in High Heels .
S: I went back to England. And I then went to South Africa.
M: So that's when it happened. I've just got this big gap in 1961.
S: Oh, I went and did some cabaret work in Austra- Oh!
M: Sixty two-
S: Also I did a cabaret show. I don't know when that would be. It was probably after- wow - probably after - it was at Rico Dodgers [?] Don Juan night club which was the best night club in London, and in fact my choreographer died just recently. And so - I can't think when it was, though. It would be after the Prince of Wales, I think.
M: It would be nice if you had some record of it somewhere so we could get these things in order.
S: I'm telling you now [Laughs] hoping you'll make a record.
M: I'll try to sort it out later. All these little tips eventually come together. 1962, you returned to Australia to promote the Twist.
S: Oh God - with Lee Gordon?
S: Lee Gordon?
M: Yeah. And you weren't happy with him.
S: No. It was the other one... Saffron [?] was it?
M: I'm not sure.
S: Something - I don't know what-
M: In 1962, January -
S: He never paid me. That was the thing.
M: You said, "I hate the Twist. There, at last I've said it. I agreed to go on with shows only to keep faith with the public but I hated every minute of it."
S: Uh huh.
M: And then you said you planned to sue him.
M: And then you said you planned to sue Lee Gordon.
S: He deserved to be sued because he never paid me.
M: Right. It says you were in a state of dispute with Lee Gordon. "Here I am without a manager or anything to protect me. All I have is a written contract. It says "In part, in consideration of the sum of one thousand Australian pounds plus thirty pounds a day penthouse at the Chevron Hilton Hotel plus an air ticket from L.A. to Sydney and L.A. to London I agree to arrive in Sydney, Australia before January first, 1962, to promote through publicity the theatrical ventures of Lee Gordon. And you said, "I've had nightclub offers to stay here. They've even offered to bring out the man I aim to marry" - who we think is Sonny King.
S: [Laughs] I wouldn't hope to marry him .
M: It was a strange area, this time, because it gets really weird in the newspapers. February fourth, sixty two, in the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney: "I will marry Sonny, says Sabrina. I won't marry her, says Sonny. Of course he will, says manager."
S: Who was my manager?
M: It doesn't say.
S: I don't think I had one.
M: But apparently you claimed that you would marry American comedian singer Sonny King in Las Vegas within a week-
S: Oh God!
M: King says -
S: That's why - No! That's the wrong was around. Because- I went to Australia to get away from him.
M: This is what the newspaper says.
S: He was a boyfriend but - I remember - he was appearing - he had a lot of talent. He worked with Jimmy Durante and he was his junior partner. I had to put that in because people think 'She's dating someone the age of Jimmy Durante!' But no, it wasn't, he was his younger partner. And I'd gone up to Las Vegas - and I was in the audience one night catching his act and Elvis Presley came in, and I became friendly with Elvis. And after meeting Elvis I couldn't wait to get away from Sonny King. Because Sonny King kept saying he was going to get a divorce, and I thought 'Oh, that's never going to happen. I'm quite safe here'. And then when I was in Las Vegas suddenly he announced that he was getting a divorce in a couple of days, and I thought 'Oh my God!' You can just go into one of those wedding chapels and - you know - the next thing - as I said, it only takes a couple of glasses of champagne [laughs] and so I thought I'd better get the heck out of here. And then after meeting Elvis, who I rather fancied [laughs] and I mean, who didn't ? And he was really a sweety. And we became very friendly, but we couldn't date or anything because he was friendly with Sonny and I was supposed to be his girlfriend, so what happened was I got onto the next plane back to L.A. and there was a message from Lee Gordon on that particular day I arrived back in L.A. and he said did I want to go out to dinner with him that night. So I said OK and over dinner he said he was opening this Twist place and would I go and kind of open it for him. And I thought, anything to get far enough away. And how much farther can you go than Australia, you know?
End of part 6
| MP3 Part 7
S: Which in those days was like the end of the world. In the next day or two I was on the next plane to Australia to get away from Sonny King. I can't seem myself running away from someone I was going to marry.
M: Do you want to hear what the newspaper had to say?
S: Not really.
M: It's got everything backwards.
S: Yeah. I'm sure it has. Which one was it?
M: The Sunday Telegraph in Sydney.
S: Oh really?
M: February 1962. Apparently you were chasing Sonny and he's trying to let you down easily.
S: WHAT? He was trying to let ME down?
M: Yes. He was trying to get away from you.
S: Oh God.
M: It said that you claimed you would marry him within a week – and this is the beginning of February. King sends a telegram to the press denying it. When you saw the telegram you said, "That's not what Sonny has been saying to me. He's been asking me to marry him for the last six months. In fact he's waiting for me in Las Vegas now. He expected me back today."
S: He'd been asking me to marry him for about four years!
S: Yes. I wasn't going to go that route.
M: "Peter Freeman, who was one of Lee Gordon's managers who accompanied Sabrina from Melbourne said, 'I saw the cable from King asking Sabrina to return to the United States this weekend and saying, 'Divorce settlement finalised. Let's get married.' I think Sabrina sort of let the cat out of the bag with her announcement on Friday night and that embarrassed Sonny a little because he's still arranging a marriage settlement after his divorce has gone through." So it seems there are all sorts of strange journalists doing strange things.
S: It's probably, if you analyse it, maybe his divorce hadn't gone through?
M: It seems like it.
S: - and he was, like, making a settlement. I don't know.
M: Might've been embarrassing-
S: -arranging a settlement or something with his wife? He had several children. But anyway, ah…
M: Two weeks later, the story goes on, big headline: "I'm through with Sonny. Interviewed at her Sydney hotel, Sabrina said there was no love, nothing, in her life. And she produced a cablegram from Sonny. It read, 'Engagement confirmed. Come home immediately. Sonny."
M: And you're photographed with the cablegram with the heading, "No love, no nothing."
S: Well, I think that sums it up, doesn't it?
M: It was all a bit strange.
S: Well. At least I did have the evidence, didn't I?
M: And then the next thing on record is in April when you leave Australia-
S: This is all verbal.
M: In April 62, "Blonde showgirl Sabrina stormed out of Sydney yesterday declaring that she never wants to see Australia again. You left for San Francisco angry and broke."
S: I went to San Francisco once, and that was, like, for dinner.
M: So maybe they got your destination wrong. So it said, "The plane ticket cost me my last cent," she said.
S: Oh dear.
M: "I've been out of work in Sydney for almost two months."
M: It said you'd been out-
S: You believe that?
M: No no no. I just record what I can find.
S: Uh huh.
M: I've got a note there saying that it's unsure whether you went to Las Vegas or San Francisco.
S: I don't know.
M: Australian newspapers aren't that accurate at times.
S: Obviously not.
M: Now, this is the bit that we start to run out of information. In 1962, you do go to Las Vegas and you appear in a Follies Bergere show-
M: Follies Bergere. President Follies Burlesque.
S: Oh, no no no. I played with Patrice Wymore who was married to Errol Flynn, and Cherie North in a show called Showgirls . And we appeared also in the Riverside Hotel in Reno, and Lake Taho. And that's when I met Sonny King . So everything's a bit backwards.
M: Yes, well. This says '62, Las Vegas. Appearing in Follies Bergere, so-
S: Follies Bergere?
M: - which would be a copy of a French-
S: No, that was Showgirls , '62.
M: Right. I'll sort that out then.
S: Because I think we did that for a year. We took tours to Houston, St Louis, and then we went to- And then I did theatre. I did some plays – Rattle of a Simple Man .
M: Yep. From you scrapbook you sent me.
M: That was good-
S: What was the other one?
M: There was a lot of great information in that – Pajama Tops .
S: Oh, that was a trashy thing but it was the first play I'd ever done. And a friend of mine said you should do it at least to get some experience of stage work, you know? So that was the first stage play I ever did.
M: Did you enjoy that?
S: Well, you know it was – I can't say I enjoyed it. It was just a bit of fluff. You know what I mean? And June Wilkinson of course enjoyed that because she made a lot of it by that fact that she'd been doing it for years. She seems to forget that they asked me for years – Hi Stephen! Mark's on the phone from Australia. He [Stephen] was thinking about you yesterday.
M: Right. Well, I might finish up there, then, because we've been going for nearly two hours.
S: Really? Wow.
M: Well, I'll leave it there, and I'll get back in touch with you in maybe a week or so after I get this sorted out. I hope you stay happy and well.
S: All righty.
M: And if you maybe have a look at your scrapbooks and find one you'd like to talk me through –
S: Well, I'll send – I've got it – I'm looking at it. I've been looking at it for six months. Actually, I had it all completed, just ready to put in a box, you know, and send it. And then what I did is, I thought, "Oh! I'll try to make it more compact," and by doing that I kind of half undid it, so I'm kind of annoyed at myself. I'm all mixed up with it. [Laughs]. Not really all mixed up because it's – I would say - almost nine-tenths almost completed.
M: Good! And if you've got any dates, and times and things –
S: Well, uh-
M: That makes it really useful.
S: I used to cut the dates the dates off. But who am I trying to kid? Myself I guess. Well, you put my bloody birth certificate in the paper [on the website]-
M: Sorry 'bout that.
S: And please take those nudes out!
M: I think there's only one there, but I'll take it out if you want me to.
S: No, there's another one. I don't know.
M: I think there's only one.
S: Well, one's too many.
M: OK. I'll take him out then.
M: You have fun.
S: All right. And I'll send you the book, then.
M: Thank you. Talk soon.
S: Right. Byebye Mark.
S: Byebye. God bless.
|1 . Sabrina is right. After the interview, I found this page at tv.com , which said that Sabrina did appear in series 3, episode 24, which was aired on March 9, 1958. The episode summary records that "Sabrina (billed as an "English glamor girl") - attends cocktail party with Steve and encounters Gordon Hathaway (Nye), shy Mr. Morrison (Knotts), and a doofus who doesn't know his name (Poston)". It was previously believed that she also appeared in series 2, episode 38 in 1957, but this is not the case .|
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