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- August 09, 1999
- Vol. 52
- No. 5
The Hit Austin Powers Flicks Have Brought the Swinging '60s Back into Focus, but Most of Those on the London Scene Three Decades Ago Have Learned to Oh, Behave
"When she came in she was a very ordinary kid, sort of unkempt and disheveled," recalls Edward Sexton, who dressed Lesley Hornby, 16, for her first photo shoot in 1966. But after hairdresser Leonard cropped her long tresses, what emerged was Twiggy. The Cockney sprite was termed "the face of 1966" by London's Daily Express—and her knock-kneed, 5'6", 90-pound frame set the fashion standard on both sides of the Atlantic.
Never mind the Beatles—this was Twiggymania, complete with lunchboxes, dolls and dozens of magazine covers. "The only scary bit was I did get mobbed a couple of times on that first trip to America," Twiggy, now 49, recalls. "The experience was kind of devastating for her," attests pal Tony Walton, a set designer. "Everybody felt they owned her." Long before the waif look of the '90s, Twiggy made being thin in. "I was laughing with Kate Moss the other night," she says, adding that she never dieted in those days. "She was saying, 'I get so bored with people blaming me for being skinny.' And I just laughed."
Twiggy fell in love with acting in 1970 while starring in the movie The Boyfriend. At age 20 she retired from modeling and began acting full-time. She is now appearing in the Off-Broadway musical If Love Were All and lives in England with her husband of 11 years, director Leigh Lawson. (She has a daughter, Carly, 20, from her first marriage and a stepson, Jason, 22.) "I loved it," she says of modeling, "but it was a long time ago. It was great, and it gave me my break, but it's the past."
PETULA CLARK, singer
"They say if you can remember the '60s, you weren't really there," says Clark, 66—adding that in her case, memory lapses are due strictly to jet lag. While London was swinging, the Epsom, England, native was embodying its spirit in Europe and the U.S., performing smash hits such as 1964's "Downtown." The singer and actress (1968's Finian's Rainbow) lived in Paris with her husband, French music publicist Claude Wolff, but often hopped the Channel. The mother of Bara, now 37, Kate, 32, and Patrick, 25, ducked the parties but not the duds. "I used to do Carnaby Street," she says. "I seemed to be wearing lots of mauve."
With "Downtown," Clark—who had sung for World War II troops as a child—became the first British woman to hit No. 1 on U.S. charts, then notched 15 straight Top 40 singles, including "My Love" and "This Is My Song." In the '70s, she turned to the stage; she is now touring the U.S. as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Between tours, Clark nests with Wolff, 66, in their Geneva flat or French chalet. She saw the first Austin Powers ("It was very funny—I'd forgotten how London used to look"). But "you can't minimize the '60s by saying it was just about fashion and music," she muses. "Nothing was the same after the '60s."
MICHAEL CHOW, restaurateur
"Different decades have different cities," muses Chow, 60. "The '20s was Berlin, the '30s Paris, the '50s Rome. The '60s was London."
And the cuisine was Chinese. Mr Chow, the glitzy Knightsbridge restaurant the Shanghai-born former art student opened in 1968, quickly became a mecca for mods with the munchies. Mick Jagger, Julie Christie and the Beatles all dined regularly. "I remember Paul McCartney banging on the table singing 'Back in the USSR' as he was writing it," says Chow.
Chow, sent to British boarding school at age 12, set out to "out-chic everybody," he says. Trendoids thronged later Mr Chow outposts in L.A. and New York City, and artists such as Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel and Keith Haring painted Chow's portrait.
After a '60s marriage to model Grace Coddington, Chow wed trendsetting jewelry designer Tina Lutz, who died of AIDS in 1992. (Their daughter China, 25, starred in '98's The Big Hit; son Maximillian, 22, is in college.) He, current wife Eva Chun, 43, a fashion designer, and their daughter Asia, 4, live in L.A., where his latest eatery, Eurochow, opened in June. As long as his restaurants bustle, Chow says, he doesn't miss the '60s: "The environment is different, but the essence is the same."
DAVID BAILEY, photographer
As famous for dating beautiful women as he was for photographing them, Bailey, now 61, brought swinging London into sharp focus with his stylish portraits of the era's icons, including girlfriend models Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree and pals Mick Jagger and actor Terence Stamp. The nattily dressed Bailey, who was married to actress Catherine Deneuve from 1965 to 1970, regularly partied with the rich and fabulous at London's Ad Lib club. "You'd sit between John Lennon and [Rudolf] Nureyev," Bailey shrugs. Says interior designer Nicky Haslam, who worked with Bailey at Vogue in the '60s: "He set the trend."
The son of an East End tailor father and a machinist mother, Bailey continues to shoot, and he has just completed directing a feature film, The Intruder. Splitting time between his London studio and a home in the Devon countryside that he shares with his fourth wife, former model Catherine Dyer, and their three children (Paloma, 14, Fenton, 12, and Sasha, 5), Bailey has left his swinging days behind. "I'm not very nostalgic," he admits. "I mean, I loved the '60s. But everything got better."
RICHARD LESTER, director
"I went to lunch at Buckingham Palace once, in 1968, wearing Cardin bedroom slippers, a flowered, frilled shirt and a bright-green suit," recalls Lester, now 67. The same cheeky spirit had infected four mischievous moptops in A Hard Day's Night and Help!—and turned the films' innovative director into a virtual fifth Beatle.
The Philadelphia native had made TV shows and three movies when he was tapped to bring Beatlemania to the screen. Filming in London for the '64 and '65 films, he says, "was terrifically fun and terrifically hard. By the time you'd finished the first take, 2,000 kids would have turned up—and the police would say to us, 'Piss off, we can't have this kind of disturbance.' "
Lester later directed such U.S. films as 1976's Robin and Marian and Superman II and III. Wed since 1956 to choreographer Deirdre Vivian Smith (they have two children) and retired with homes in London and Spain, he cherishes his time in '60s London, he says, for the thrill of being "at the center of the universe."
JEAN SHRIMPTON, model
As '60s lore has it, during a publicity tour of Australia for a fabric company, model Shrimpton found there wasn't enough material for a dress she was planning to wear. "Make the outfit a bit shorter," she told the dressmaker. "No one's going to notice." In fact, the dress, which ended four inches above her bare knees, riveted the world. The mini was born.
Raised in a middle-class family in Buckinghamshire and educated by Catholic nuns, Shrimpton, now 57, "turned the fashion industry on its head," says then-rival model Celia Hammond. "She looked like a real woman instead of the established models with gloves and bags and little pillbox hats." But even at the height of her fame, the model known as the Shrimp was "incredibly unstarry," says then-Vogue staffer Nicky Haslam.
In 1974, Shrimpton moved to rugged Cornwall, where she met and married Michael Cox (they have a son, Thaddeus, 20). The couple now run a 300-year-old hotel, the Abbey. "It suits me down here," Shrimpton told David Bailey in 1998. "It is nice to be at the end of the world."
VIDAL SASSOON, hairdresser
"The Duchess of Bedford would be sitting on the stairs, because the place was packed," says Sassoon, 71, recalling his '60s salon. "It was full of people from the theater and society but also nurses and housewives. We cut out elitism."
Not to mention the fuss of the perm, tease and bouffant. "At that time hair was dressed," he says, "but with my cutting a woman could wash it and it would fall back into place." The innovation proved revolutionary, as did Sassoon's new shapes, including the super-short gamine cut worn by Mia Farrow. Hair's undisputed It man, Sassoon mingled with the Beatles at parties, and though he never cut their hair, "it was our look," he says slyly.
Sassoon grew up poor in East London. After a stint in the Israeli army he returned to London and in 1954 opened a hair salon. He put down his clippers in 1974 and now lives in L.A. with wife Rhonda, 48. (He has four grown children with his former wife, Beverly.) As for his hometown, "London is more hard-edged now," he says. "It doesn't have the soul of the '60s."
MARY QUANT, fashion designer
If the '60s were a Youthquake, Quant's fashions did a lot of the shaking. Others may have sold similar abbreviated skirts and candy-colored tights, but "Mary Quant had 'the look,' " says scenester Frankie Leigh, now a publicist in Los Angeles. It shocked some. "There were bowler-hatted men," the designer says, "bashing on the shop window."
The daughter of London schoolteachers, Quant married art-school classmate Alexander Plunket Greene in 1957 (he died in 1991; their son Orlando is 29), and the London clothing and cosmetics boutique they opened soon became the epicenter of fashion. "John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] used to drop in to buy things for their girlfriends," Quant recently told Britain's The Independent. "The girls in the studio fainted." As the '60s waned, Quant didn't. Today she runs shops in London, Paris and New York City, plus more than 200 in Japan. Though '60s fashions are hot again, don't expect her to dwell on the look that made her famous. "Fashion is about tomorrow and change," says Quant, who lives alone in Surrey, outside London. "I always want something new."
Julie K.L. Dam and Samantha Miller
John Hannah in Los Angeles; Nina Biddle, Liz Corcoran, Amanda Harvey, Dietland Lerner and Ellin Stein in London; Jennifer Longley in New York City and Gabrielle Cosgriff in San Antonio
- John Hannah,
- Nina Biddle,
- Liz Corcoran,
- Amanda Harvey,
- Dietland Lerner,
- Ellin Stein,
- Jennifer Longley,
- Gabrielle Cosgriff.
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