If Cheesecake Could Sing, It Might Sound Like Sam Fox, Topless Model-Turned-Rocker

updated 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Britain's most popular tabloid, the Sun, is read by 12 million people daily, and one or two of the reasons is Samantha Fox. Once a month or so Fox, 20, drops her top for a Sun photographer and poses as a "page three lovely," a busty British cheesecake tradition as sacred as it is sexist. Her natural attributes—which include a thick cockney accent and an unpretentious approach to her calling—have made her something of an R-rated national treasure, ogled by some and winked at by almost everybody else. Even Princess Anne, greeting Fox in a reception line, couldn't resist observing, according to Fox, "Outfit's a little tight, eh, Sam?"

The answer, no doubt, was yes. Fox is nothing if not pragmatic about her assets and ambition. So far the latter has prompted her to open a London pub, Sam's; endorse a line of budget clothing for the working girl that includes lingerie ("You can put rhinestones on them and you look like the bee's knees, don't ya," says Sam); and release an LP, Touch Me. Her musical stylings, which might be called bubble-gum lust, are far from subtle: The titles include Suzie, Don't Leave Me with Your Boyfriend, Wild Kinda Love and He's Got Sex. She is also very far from unsuccessful: Her first single, Touch Me (I Want Your Body)'sold four million copies in Europe and Australia and was released in the United States last October.

The secret to success, says Sam, is hustle, hustle, hustle—a trait that she says comes naturally to a cockney. "There is renewed cockney pride in the U.K. because of people like Michael Caine," says Fox, who still lives with her parents and sister and brother in a working-class London neighborhood. "Ten years ago the cockneys were considered just the money-makers, gangsters and tearaways. These are the people who wheel and deal in life, right? They want to make money because they don't have it." Despite her achievements, she says, "I still keep my accent. I still consider myself a working-class girl and would send my kids to public school. You can't be taught to be brainy. You've either got it or you don't."

The same rule applies to page three lovelies, and Fox's father, Pat, says that he "knew early on that all this might happen. She always had a good figure and there were photographers interested in her for a long time." Fox first appeared on page three in 1983; since then, says Pat, 42, who quit the construction business to become Sam's manager, "she has become sort of a family project." There are Sam posters and calendars and Sam personal appearances at $4,000 per, but not all of her projects are for profit. In 1985 Sam and her page three sisters, under the banner of Bare-Aid, cajoled fans into contributing $100,000 to African Relief activist Bob Geldof. "Who would we be," asks Fox, "if we didn't do our part?"

Right now she's doing her part to promote her LP in the U.S., making the rounds of reporters and radio stations. "At the end of the day no one is going to go out and do it for you," she says. "It's all self-promotion, ya know." And at the end of a long day of interviews, her true colors still assert themselves. Strolling down Los Angeles' trendier-than-thou Melrose Avenue, Fox bypasses the glad-rag boutiques ("I have plenty of those") in favor of a joke and novelty shop. Among her purchases is a tiny camera that contains teasing pictures of well-built but scantily clad men.

"It's for a friend," she says.

Honest.

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