Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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Otago Daily Times

22 May 2012

This article appeared on the web with no mention of its primary source of information. I hate it when journalists wander along, suck the blood out of 15 years of research and don't even bother to acknowledge their source, let alone say 'thanks'.

Sabrina, the best of the blonde bombshells

By Roy Colbert on Tue, 22 May 2012
Howls of protest greeted my recent Jayne Mansfield column. It is only now I have plucked up the courage to come out from behind the sofa and leave the house.

Marilyn Monroe was so much better, they howled. In the anthropological history of blonde bombshells, for indeed, this is what they were called, Jayne, claimed the howlers, was barely a footnote in Marilyn's long and storied history. Make your case, they howled, or go back behind the sofa.

Only a lesser man would go back behind the sofa. I have but one word for the calumny and horse droppings of these waterheads: Sabrina. A longer memory may be required to recall and relive the shattering effect this woman had on British entertainment in the 1950s.

Possibly only myself and Gordon Parry can cerebrally stretch that far back to survive in a debating chamber on this topic. But Sabrina was the real thing.

Britain's answer to the confetti eye-candy leaping daily from the casting couches of Hollywood, Sabrina, quaintly at birth named Norma Sykes, sadly never scaled the cinematic heights for which her staggering upper body suggested she was destined. In fact, she was hardly spotted in a film, and when she was, she would usually either chew gum or shrug her shoulders. Sabrina answered dialogue silently and then left the room sideways. She was always filmed from the side, to trumpet, though trumpet is too small an instrument for this, to tuba what the writers of the day called an hourglass figure.

43-17-36. Phew! Sabrina had a waist-hip ratio of 0.47 when she started modelling - 0.47!!! Wikipedia does however say "she filled out later".

Sabrina and her managers yearned for a career in film, even though she had the talent of an anvil. In Blue Murder At St Trinians , Sabrina received co-top billing with Alastair Sim and never spoke a word, she merely sat in bed, sideways, reading, and let the action unfold all around her. She was seen more in television with comics such as Arthur Askey, who made every veiled reference to breasts a man could make in those days without being put in prison. More significantly, Sabrina was a constant reference on The Goon Show , which was far and away the funniest thing in Britain back then.

"By the great measurements of Sabrina" was an oath commonly uttered by Neddy Seagoon, and there were frequent Sabrina musings. One discussion had Bloodnok trying to provide Seagoon with food for thought ...

"Unexploded German skulls."

"I hadn't thought of that."

"Elephant soup with squodge spuds."

"I hadn't thought of that either!"

"Sabrina in the bath."

"Ha ha ha ha! I do have some spare time!"

However, Sabrina's crowning moment came on television in 1959, when she turned up on an Australian Caltex ad. Which is kind of sad if you are running your career past your grandchildren, but that's just how it was. Maybe, like Spike Milligan, Sabrina had Australian connections; I have shamefully not done the research for which this column is known; but suddenly, there she was, pulling up at a Caltex service station in an open sports car, smiling at the camera with a smile that had Take 47 written all over it. The Caltex man appears ...

"The good thing about being a Caltex station operator is that the nicest things happen to you. The other day, who should drive up but Sabrina?"

Well, why not, it's only a 10,000-mile drive. The camera lingers on Sabrina's breasts.

"Of course I recognised her straight away," says the Caltex man.

They go into the office, Sabrina sideways. Apparently Sabrina wants to know if the Caltex ads about engine oil are real. She doesn't say this, the Caltex man says that's what she wants to know. Sabrina doesn't speak until 57 seconds into the 1min 48sec ad, when the Caltex man hands her a hot frying pan upon which he is doing the engine oil demonstration and she touches it, saying, in a voice that is pure Take 71, "My goodness, it really is hot!"

Then follows a conversation about "fair dinkum", a term that predates both the psychedelia of the late '60s and the religious penchant for speaking in tongues, before the demonstration is successfully concluded and Sabrina beams into the camera, sideways, and says, "Then it's Caltex for me!"

Sabrina is in Hollywood, still alive, divorced from a plastic surgeon. She turned 76 last Saturday. The argument over whether Jayne Mansfield is superior to Marilyn Monroe is therefore as irrelevant as a carbon credit, a complete waste of rational thought. Sabrina is far superior to both of them.

- Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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