Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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Why Sabrina stopped playing with playboys

'Uncensored' [published in USA]
January 1958

Royalty and movie stars each found Sabrina fair. But when they got the boot was it due to loot? Or because a Hollywood Lothario got in her hair?

[ Picture of Duke of Kent. Caption: Duke of Kent, Lunnon's #1 playboy reportedly wouldn't mind pressing suit for hand of shapely Sabrina]

[ Picture of Johnny Ray. Caption: When Johnny Ray began to play with artist Novella Parigini it cost him dates with former pal, Sabrina.]

by Sean Flynn

Sabrina abed

ONE EVENING not long ago, a buxom blonde, weighing 140 pounds, appeared without warning on British television. No words preceded her entrance, and the entrancing blonde herself stood silent. Yet the effect was as shattering as a right cross to the button. The singular effect was marred only by noise made by a mass hitching of chairs closer to what the cathode tube was offering.

Who made this impressive debut? None other than Sabrina, the lass from Lancashire who has been called the most woman in England, giving her all for the first time for video. The event marked a new milestone in the career of this chubby-faced charmer who gained fame by being two inches bigger than Jane Russell and an inch larger than Monroe where it seems to count most.

Yet, despite the publicity her monumental proportions have brought her, the UNCENSORED fact is the British public-at-large knows little of the private life of one of its most solid citizens, including Diana Dors.

Dumb Blonde with Million Buck Look

To the average viewer, Sabrina seems a dumb blonde with a million dollar look. Nothing, though, could be further from the truth: for here is a doll who has really had it. She gained a form of notoriety through some playing cards that carried her famous frame in the nude, yet managed to survive to the point where today a million bucks isn't too far away.

Born in Lancashire just 23 years ago, Sabrina went to work early to augment the family income, since her parents, were people of very moderate means. Only too soon she found remarkable physical proportions were a liability. Today she can laugh about it, but it was no laughing matter in those days when she first went to the labor exchange for a job, as a maid. As the story goes, she told the clerk she wanted a post as a maid. The clerk took a double take. "M-m-milkmaid?", he stammered.

Sabrina's face reddened. "Housemaid," she said sharply, wondering when the clerk was going to look her in the eye. She breathed a sigh of relief when his gaze finally moved upward and he handed her an application.
When Sabrina relates this story now she still is seemingly puzzled when gales of laughter follow her recital. "They think I'm too dumb to understand what they're talking about," she confided to UNCENSORED'S reporter. "But I'm not."

Act or not, dumb or smart, Sabrina 's managed to parlay her figure into a fancy-figured salary. Only a year and a half ago, she was dining on kippers regularly, but dating from the time the episode of the nude playing cards hit, she had it made.

Even if she had never posed for the zesty pasteboards, her friends are convinced Sabrina would have made it. "She's the kind of a girl who can take anything that breaks," one recalls." And always come back for more."
This source ain't just kiddin', either. When Sabrina broke into modelling she was known as Norma Sykes, her legal handle. Like almost every other British girl in her circumstances she aspired to show business. One day, out of work, she was scanning the help wanted ads when she noticed a call for models, no experience needed.

The place was a tiny studio, but Sabrina turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. For the job she received about three bucks, but posing in the altogether bothered her, so she never went back. The UNCENSORED fact is that she didn't know then that sbe was posing not for a few bob, but a career. The photos she made actually started her in show business.

[ Picture of Steve: Caption: Steve Cochran was once top man on Sabrina's totem pole. Romance suddenly curdled.]

[Picture of the 5 of spades , only censored! - Caption: Playing card of Sabrina caused storm]

It was strictly accidental that Alex Sterling, the noted British glamor photographer happened to see them. One squint at Sibrina's [sic] well-molded architecture and he flipped. Summoned to Sterling's studio, Sabrina at first demurred about posing but finally consented. The resultant work was viewed in London's picture magazines and the vox populi reacted just the way photographer Sterling had. "It's impossible that she could have remained hidden this long," a picture magazine editor told UNCENSORED. "Even in a record cricket crowd she'd stand out."
Agents thought so, too, and there was a fight to get to Sabrina first. Offers poured in asking to represent her and the amazed Sabrina began to wonder what all the shouting was for. "She really learned, in that period," a friend recalls. "And she almost quit when nearly everyone she talked to promised to make her a star, and wanted her to drop up to their cozy flats, have a drink and talk it over."

Fortunately, Sabrina picked a smart agent - the kind who didn't make a pass. His name was Bill Watts. He didn't claim he'd make her a star; all he did was sign her to a five year contract. He was smart as well as being an agent she could trust. Sabrina did the rest, with her famous dumb blonde routine that began with her first appearance in a show.

She had one line to say; to wit, "Doesn't it make you want to spit?" But it wasn't what she said during the show. it was her remark after that started her frame on the way to fame.
Invited to a backstage party after the premiere, a group of critics seized on Sabrina - if you'll pardon the expression - and asked what, besides one line, she really did in the show. They were kidding but Sabrina didn't know it.
She shrugged. Eyes popped admiringly. Then she said. "I really don't know. I'm just a dumb blonde."

The remark made every paper and from then on Sabrina had no need of kippers. Nights found her being wined and dined in London's costliest restaurants by the town's blades. Diners at La Rue's, Simpson's and the Dorchester, the latter a favorite playground of Princess Margaret, were used to seeing her. Or as used as anyone can get at seeing Sabrina.

But if they figured they got an opulent eyeful then, they'd really see nothing yet. Out of nowhere, the nudes Sabrina had taken months earlier, suddenly appeared on playing cards, along with those of other eyefuls. There was no mistaking Sabrina, of course. This was definitely the famous star of British TV and theatre, in spades, and when the newspapers latched onto the story - wowie !

Scotland Yard Got Case

Matters got so out of hand that Sabrina, fearful of losing her prestige, registered a complaint with Scotland Yard. Nothing came of it, nor were her fears confirmed. If anything, being seen in the altogether, made her more popular than ever, Her mother, meanwhile, continued to kick up a storm. "Norma was just an in- experienced girl when those pictures were taken," she told reporters furiously. "And the Law should call them all in."
But all of Britain, figuratively, took Sabrina to its bosom. One newspaper even predicted Sabrina would become more famous than Lady Godiva. This prediction led another enterprising columnist to suggest Sabrina do a Lady Godiva in a forthcoming pageant. She turned it down, only to learn later another nude on the playing cards, a young lady named Pat Pedrick, accepted the offer.

Sabrina didn't mind. She was in the throes of romance with, of all people, Johnny Ray. Meeting the electric American performer at a Dorchester party, Sabrina went for him at once. The meeting was the first of many dates, but for quite a time no one was wise to it. Not until Sabrina, confiding in a friend, tipped her mitt by telling the pal, "Johnny can hug harder than any man I know." Somehow, the re- mark found its way into the column of a widely-read writer and the secret was out.

Ray, however, went off to Rome where, reportedly, his interest in curvy artist Novella Parigini, miffed Sabrina no end. Next thing anyone knew, she was seen about town with another American.

Cochran over a picture. [Sic – perhaps a forgotten editorial comment]

This friendship extended into a movie Cochran was making, in which Sabrina had a part. When the film was finished, Cochran went back to Hollywood. Sabrina suddenly cut down on her dating and, a few weeks later, to everyone's surprise, announced she was going to tour the Midlands and the North. The reason she gave was that her fans demanded it, but the UNCENSORED fact is that all of a sudden she'd given up romance. Her mother was quick to point out that it had nothing to do with either Cochran or Johnny Ray. .'Norma doesn't care about men," she said flatly. " After all she's only 20 and there's plenty of time for her to settle down later."
Actually this statement was pretty close to the truth. Like Marilyn Monroe, Sabrina suddenly refused to answer the phone. "Plenty of wolves alter her all the time," a close acquaintance confided to UNCENSORED. "The phone in their apartment never stops ringing."

Is A Duke In The Running?

Despite her statement that she's so busy she has no time for boyfriends, UNCENSORED learned that the lush lass from Lancashire has turned down marriage offers from six well heeled men-about-town, one of them titled. There were rumors one of her mysterious suitors is the Duke of Kent, but, that, as we say, is only a rumor. Just the same, Sabrina is no stranger to the merry madcap cousin of the Royal Family, and it's a cinch that when she made her TV debut, Kent was one of the millions of viewers who gazed in awe at the most-looked at monument England's had since the one to Lord Nelson.

What Sabrina's next move will be is a subject of speculation in many circles in London. One thing they're betting on is that it won't be marriage. 0f that, Sabrina says, "1 don't mind dining on filet mignon and pink champagne with a man now and then. But I don't want romance for dessert."

'Or too much champagne, either," she said. .'This is a hard world and I like to stay sober in it."
She probably will, too. But it's a cinch she'll keep the rest of the world dizzy looking at her.

See also:

Dating Sabrina

What I think about Men (1956)

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