Friday, 19 October 2012

Blonde on Blonde

From image to performance, I have many influences, male and female, from sexed up film stars to peacock rock musicians. One thing that is consistent in my ever-changing influences are blondes. As a blonde myself, it could be that I subconsciously feel that I can emulate what other blondes have. You always hear blondes claim that the likes of Marilyn Monroe (the Champagne of Blondes!) influence their image while brunettes may lean more towards Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn. I adore the likes of the dark and sensual Ava Gardner but I tend to just admire them.  My list of blonde icons are endless but here I’ve whittled it down to my top three and explore what it is about them, in terms of image, that makes me tick. And no, as much as I adore Marilyn she’s not here! 

One major source of blonde inspiration is Brigitte Bardot - the original sex kitten. The long tousled mane, the kohled-up eyes and neutral pout of Bardot is seen everywhere from sixties fashion connoisseurs to glamour models to Kylie. It’s a morning-after-a-passionate-night look that can be either individual or mainstream. Bardot’s sexiness was playful and appeared to come more naturally to her compared to American pin-ups. Bardot was sex. One of Bardot’s most celebrated moments on screen is her fiery dance in And God Created Woman (1956). In this scene Bardot moves as if possessed by an erotic demon, starting with baby steps to a slow drum beat and culminating to wild, skirt-ripping hip-swinging mayhem on a table. This scene has inspired many including a recent Dior Addict ad campaign and my mambo act!  Another iconic moment was in a TV special (Special Bardot - 1967) where a leather-clad Bardot draped herself around suspended chains and go-go danced around a motorbike to the Serge Gainsbourg-penned Harley Davidson. This sequence was swinging sixties sexy-sexy and partly influenced the look of my Biker Girl act. 

Like Bardot, Catherine Deneuve is blonde, French and worked and/or made love with the same men. That’s where the similarities end. Deneuve, like Alfred Hitchcock’s blonde actresses, is often cited as a quintessential ice queen. Deneuve has always appeared elegant and detached. Even in comedic roles she has never been brash. It’s the mysterious demeanour that keeps everyone guessing and a major part of her appeal. Her enigmatic coolness lent itself to roles in films such as Repulsion (1965) and Belle Du Jour (1967) where she portrayed suppressed characters consciously or subconsciously seeking a sexual outlet - classic fire under ice. In one of my favourite films, The Hunger (1983), Deneuve plays an immortal vampire who promises selected humans eternal life if they become her vampiric lover. Her slicked back blonde hair and ruby lips nonchalantly blowing out cigarette smoke stand out in the Bauhaus-led opening sequence set in an industrial club where she seeks out her latest prey. Deneuve's cool otherworldliness was perfect for the role. 

 My ultimate blonde icon has got to be Debbie Harry. Through VH1 and remixes of Blondie’s Atomic, I first became aware of Debbie Harry at the age of thirteen. She had Monroe-esque prettiness with slavic cheekbones and haphazardly bleached barnet combined with a feisty attitude and an innovative punk spirit. A devastatingly knock-out combination. Harry’s performances were full of character and variety - she would go from sexily breathy in Fade Away and Radiate to angry and trashy in Rip Her to Shreds. Image was an important factor for Blondie (apparently keyboardist Jimmy Destri got in the band because he wore nice shoes) but they also explored a wide range of music genres (including disco and hip hop which included a collaboration with Coolio on 1999’s No Exit) and wrote songs which have stood the test of time. Blondie had both style and substance. For me, Debbie Harry confirmed that you can be sexy and flaunt it without dumbing down or sacrificing individuality - a far cry from the fifties bombshell. Without Debbie Harry, there would be no Madonna or Lady Gaga.

My top three blondes all have different appeals to me be it kittenishness, enigma or edge. Their gold and platinum tresses reflective of their spirit and attitude. All three are not bubbly child-like blondes like the starlets from the forties and fifties (yes, Bardot’s career was launched in the fifties but it was the latter part and her sixties image has more universal influence). My top blondes are hot-blooded women who roared instead of squeaked. They graced our screens and magazine covers in the late twentieth century when sexuality became more overt thanks to more relaxed censorship laws. Image from the sixties onwards became less restrained which to me is sexier by far. I love pre-sixties looks but I can imagine a great shag must have ruined the victory rolls. Give me cool, subversive, tousled, back-combed, kohl-smeared super sexy blondes any day!       

1 comment:

  1. Another fascinating post, Honey! It's always interesting hearing who burlesque artists take inspiration from, and these three choices explain a lot about your look and performance style. They each have a wonderful appeal, but together they sum up so much more of what it means to be blonde than Marilyn ever could. Thanks for all the history snippets too - I think I'm going to learn lots from your posts :-)