Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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Sabrina's A Vulture for Culture

People (Australia) 31 October 1956

Sabrina's a Vulture for Culture|


Moody Sabrina

THERE is, according to Sabrina, only bad publicity "when they don't write about you.

One has heard this sort of thing from hardened comics, and politicians. It doesn't sound much like Norma Sykes, from Blackpool (who is known widely as Sabrina).

When Norma Sykes expresses this opinion, one responds as to a child who has said something scandalously beyond its years.

Who taught her to say that? — Norma Sykes doesn't remember because during the past two years many people have told her to say many different things. The girl who began her career by saying nothing again and again, has, in fact, learned almost all the answers. (Though one cannot always be sure that she has heard the questions.)

British television audiences first saw Sabrina like this - clad in a skin-tight dress, sliding from a sofa to undulate slowly towards the camera.

A nonspeaking decoration

Tired, perhaps, of being worshipped as Britain's No. 1 Dumb Blonde, she has set about creating a new character which retains her famous old exterior qualities and has culture, too. She is taking lessons in elocution and singing to improve her voice. She is dabbling in serious painting, beginning with still life. She is persevering with highbrow music and is wrestling with the abstruseness of philosophy. And lest anyone doubt that she is not attempting to expand her mental profile, she has pictures to prove it.

Sabrina is a success story of its time and country, and needs a Zola to do justice to it.
When, as an obscure Lancashire model, Miss Sykes appeared on the cover of a London magazine, Arthur Askey was sufficiently taken by it to put her into his new TV show as a nonspeaking, bosom-projecting decoration piece.

By saying nothing, Sabrina, as she began to call herself, succeeded in making electric contact with the public. Today the 20-year-old Sabrina is a star and a symbol. Wherever she goes she is the quarry of photographers; for opening bazaars she draws top fees, and crowds mob her during "personal appearances". Editors give up their front pages for her every word and move, ghostwriters are bent over typewriters embellishing her "memoirs", and every comic knows that to get applause he only has to say the magic word "Sabrina".

What Sabrina has "got" is no mystery. With her 40-inch bust and very blonde hair, she has become Bill Brown's goddess of glamor (made in Britain), the Teddy Boy's symbol for opulent sex. Incessant Sabrina propaganda has turned Norma Sykes into a national tonic, a seaside postcard brought to life, sex for the unimaginative, inflated into absurdity.

Of this unique position in the Britain of today, Sabrina herself has remained serenely oblivious. She doesn't know that she is the comedian's easiest laugh, the promoter's most obvious gimmick, the prey of every deadbeat and hanger-on of showbusiness, out for brief glory and the quick quid.

Jokes and gibes about her figure leave her cold. All she minds are insinuations that her hair is dyed, references to a Lancashire accent or inaccurate statements about her body measurements.

"And if anybody calls me a Dumb Blonde," says Sabrina, "well, it's vicey-versa. I'm only 20 — look at what I've achieved. I can go to Paris or America or anywhere I like. I got lots of money. I mix with people with a higher intelligence than most people. I got two television series coming up and a season at Blackpool. Look what I've got, yet it's me what's supposed to be dumb."

Sabrina - Norma Ann Sykes

She is studying elocution, music, painting and philosophy, and has pictures to prove she is serious.

The world of Norma Sykes has the depth of a cinema poster. With her father and mother (who "hates London" and can't wait to get back to Blackpool), she inhabits a flat in the northwest London suburb of Maida Vale.

There no painting disturbs the smooth pattern of the new wallpaper, no book litters the leather-and-mahogany. And there the telephone rings all day to request her presence.

Sabrina - Norma Ann Sykes


Sabrina makes her own decisions as to what she will do and what she won't do. ("Half-an-hour personal appearances are OK. But nothing longer. They get sick of looking at you after a while.") The spiritual horizons of Sabrina's world are the Caprice and Les Ambassadeurs restaurants, and the liveried doorman's finger touching his cap.

About her ambitions she is vague. She knows that she wants to be a success to herself in show business, but exactly what this entails she cannot say. "I haven't much of a voice," she says, "but I can put a song over."

Sabrina - Norma Ann Sykes

Now she's taking singing lessons.
"I haven't much of a voice,
but I can put a song over," says Sabrina.

She is just beginning to take dancing lessons. She makes no pretence to be able to act. And her disastrous variety appearances have not discouraged her. "I don't want to be just a glamor girl," she says, "anybody can be that."

Nor does she want to be a normal girlnextdoor. "My career comes first," she says, with an unfocused look that is her permanent expression. "I've got no time for boys."

She thinks of marriage and children as something rather undesirable that must be thrust at the back of the mind, like old age or death. "Don't you want to be loved?" she was asked. "My mother loves me," replied Sabrina.

Confidence in her future

Convinced of her potency as a personality, Norma Sykes sees no end to her present gaudy eminence. Failure is inconceivable. It never occurs to her that the public may tire of her.

And so, as Norma Sykes bends down for the photographers for the thousandth time, and signs "Sabrina" over thousands of pinup photographs for thousands of glamor-clamorers, as she dreams of her "West End flat" and the culture she can buy with lessons, what are the vistas that stretch before her?

Which is the way a Sabrina ends —with a hit or a whimper? Is it back to Blackpool and semi-detached oblivion with a young man and a hardened heart? Fame and glory as an actress a la Marilyn Monroe? Or could it be Zolaesque Decline and Fall in a fairground?—A sideshow freak: "Walk up! Walk up! The TV star in person! The genuine Sabrina!"

Sabrina - Norma Ann Sykes

She is dabbling in serious paining, beginning with still life.
It is part of an attempt to prove she is not just another dumb blonde.

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Page Created: 27 Feb 2010

Last Changed: Wednesday 2023-12-13 8:12

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