Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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It's the prudes who make me see red! - says Sabrina

Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 28 October 1957

Sabrina I'M not exactly the angry type. My job involves being gay and entertaining people. And I'm too astonished at my success in a few short years to be the bitter, brooding type who stays angry for long.
Anger makes a poor Pin-Up. picture. I'd sooner be pictured laughing. And I've got plenty to laugh about.

But I do get angry sometimes. I get angry about you —those smart-alecky critics who are constantly sneering at me. I got angry at that section of the public that supports them. And at those catty women whose jealousy makes them rude even to my face.
Look at Sabrina they say — as if most of you hadn't been doing that for three years now. Look at Sabrina — can she act? Can she sing? Can she dance? Perhaps they had better come along to the Prince of Wales Theatre where I do a bit of all those things, twice nightly.

Venus is dumb, too

But that is not quite my point. Look at Venus do Milo. She acts pretty dumb. She can hardly dance, poor thing. But plenty of people have been getting enjoyment from looking at her for hundreds of years now.
Look at the very first Sabrina from whom I get my name.
Milton made her immortal in a poem. But all she ever did was to look fascinating as she did up her hair.
We don't even know her vital statistics.
You know mine. That's all you did know when I first flashed on to your TV screens and awoke to find myself famous.
I didn't sing. I didn't dance. I didn't say a word. But the fan-mail flooded in. And I've been riding on the crest of a wave ever since.

Some call me a "dumb blonde." If I hadn't cashed in on my opportunities I would have been dumb indeed.

And with another couple of inches some of those catty women would have done the same as I.

Blow at the public

But now come the howls. Even to indignant anticipation that I might appear in the Royal Command Variety. Is Sabrina a dish to set before the Queen? they asked.
It's not for me to say. But I can tell you that It's a dish many millions of Her Majesty's subjects have looked over with some enjoyment. I can claim to have added something to the gaiety of the Queen's people.
And that is why I get angry. Not so much for myself. I can take it. But all this criticism, although hitting at me, is really aimed at you, the public, who like me for what I am.

Why the devil can't they let us alone, these blue-nosed do-gooders who are so often out to spoil a bit of harmless fun? What hypocrisy It is to try to moralise over a Lancashire lass who was lucky enough to hit the public's fancy.
We're honest with each other you and I. I know where I stand to the inch. And you know why I Intrigue you. It's the hyper-critical critic who's fooling himself.
I'm no phoney. My measurements are real enough — and registered at Lloyd's. My hair is natural I've never been inside a beauty parlour in my life.
But these critics are the sort of humbugs who suggest that if I played Lady Macbeth in a low-cut nightie at the Old Vic. that is culture to be encouraged: but because I star in a revue all gorgeous girls and pretty dresses and songs and laughter, I am a symbol of something to be discouraged.


Who've got their sense of values out of proportion? Not I. My proportions are satisfactory thank you. and I've had the sense to cash in on them and try, with long hours of work, to improve myself for show business. Most of you seem to have enjoyed the process.
So let me tell the do-gooders that they're just a spoil-sport minority.

Even clergymen ask me to open their garden parties and bazaars. They don't do that because I sing in the choir or because they think I'm Dame Edith Evans. They know what they're doing. And I've probably raised more money for good causes than all my critics put together have ever done.
They don't raise a brass farthing. They just raise their hands in horror — and that sort of uplift is enough to make you want to spit, as Arthur Askey used to say.
Theirs is the same attitude to life that causes raised eyebrows when a Minister of the Crown takes an early morning dip at Brighton before speaking at a political conference.
Perhaps I ought to try that sometime.
The fact Is that anything that is a little unusual and gay and unconventional and amusing is frowned upon by the stuffy, old-fashioned. prudish Mrs. Grundys of Britain.
Life is real, life is earnest, they say ... and what they really mean is that life should be dull.

Room for me

But I don't believe that life is dull. Nor do you — most of you.
There is room in it for glamour and bright lights and fun and laughter. There's room in it for pretty girls and dancing. There's room in it — or so you have taught me in the past few years — for Sabrina.
That is why you should be angrier than I at these critics. For in attacking my particular act they are really giving you a gratuitous insult of a lesson in how you should spend your leisure.
You made me. I am grateful. But what shall we say together of those who would remake me in their own image? Anyone want a miserable flat-chested Sabrina in bluestockings and horn-rimmed spectacles?
What infuriating nonsense all this clever-clever criticism is. Live and let live, say I.
And to the dismal Jimmies I would say this. Perhaps I don't know as much Shakespeare as you do. But there's a line in "Twelfth Night" you might take to heart. Jolly Sir Toby said it to that miserable hypocrite Malvolio. And It goes:
"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
In other words, do you really think, for all your sober-sided moralising, that a man will no longer turn his head to look at a pretty girl?
Or open his eyes wider?
And smile back at Sabrina?

The following day, Arthur Firth published this response

30 October 1957 - Lancashire Evening Post - Wednesday , p.6

THIS was Sabrina's article on Monday. Arthur Firth, who in the past has not been uncritical of this shapely lass, emerges from cover, and replies.

Arthur Firth's...

Oh, Sabrina! What a broadside!

PHEW! It's all quiet now. I can come out. The shooting has died down, and shapely Sabrina who launched the broadside in these columns on Monday, has ceased fire.
She certainly walloped the critics and lambasted the cynics in her article of self-appreciation. Good old Norma! It is not often that a writer leaps to her defence in these days of slick, shampoo-style English. So why should she not be allowed to do it herself?
But I think she took too big a bite at the hand that feeds her.
It was not an ungrateful piece of writing. It was fair in many ways, but Miss Sykes must remember that the finest type of publicity in the world is that which makes folk sit up and take notice.

And that is what the critics did for Sabrina. Who can have failed to have read about the blonde girl from Blackpool, who hit television with an impact unequalled for a long time?


If it had not been for these so-called dismal jimmies I doubt if she would have been in a position to ask £100 to open a garden party or appear in top line revues.
It is not an easy life being a national figure, whatever the measurements; not always enjoyable being the target for every smart Alec you meet, but Sabrina forgets one thing. she chose her career. She chose to make a living as the dumb blonde in the first place, and she decided to make a bow as a singer
In doing that she stepped over many young women clamouring for a shot at the high spot in the entertainment world, and left a trail of jealous young ladies behind her.

Are we to blame if she made herself a stooge.


I have seen her new song and dance act. the one to which she invited readers, and warn her that she has a long way to go yet before she reaches anything like perfection.
But for all that she does deserve admiration. An opportunity that presented itself to her does not knock once for millions of other girls, and to ignore it would have been folly for an ambitious woman.
It is an age-old rule Sabrina, that you cannot have your cake and eat it. That is what you are paid for, to attract attention whatever the attending comments may be.

Count your cash again Norma, and I think you will agree it has been worth it.

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