Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Disco Queen

Amanda Lear (November 18, 1939) is a French singer, T.V. presenter, painter, actress, lyricist and novelist. She was allegedly born in Hong Kong, allegedly as Amanda Tapp. There are many theories regarding exactly when and where she was born as much of her life is shrouded in mystery.

According to Lear, she was born to a British Naval officer on leave in Hong Kong and a mother of Mongolian-Chinese origin. Soon after her birth, her parents separated and she was raised by her mother in Nice, in the south of France.

Much of the biographical information Lear has given has been a matter of speculation and debate in France, Germany and Italy since the early eighties. This stems from the fact that Lear has deliberately provided the media with different information and contradictory accounts of her early life.

As a child she spoke both French and English. By the time she was a teenager she was fluent in German, Spanish and Italian as well. Lear would use these attributes to promote her career all over Europe.

When she was 16, she relocated to Paris to study at L'Academie des Beux Arts before relocating to St. Martin's School of Art in London in 1964.

In 1965, Lear was spotted by legendary French modeling agent Catherine Harle and, anxious for a way to finance her studies she moved back to Paris. Her first major booking was a runway show for rising designer Paco Rabanne. Shortly after, she was photographed for magazines like Elle, Marie France and Vogue. She worked with many of the top fashion designers of the time including Ossie Clark, Mary Quant, Antony Price, Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel.

After some time, Lear dropped out of art school and started modeling full-time while rubbing elbows with the rich and famous like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Brian Eno, Twiggy, David Bailey, Yul Brynner and Keith Moon. While clubbing with Brian Jones and then boyfriend, Guinness heir Tara Brown she met Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dali who would ultimately change her life. Lear and Dali were kindred spirits who shared their worlds with one another. He showed her the European restaurants, museums and Parisian salons while she introduced him to the counterculture of the music, fashion and art scene in London.

Although Dali was married, Lear often accompanied him and his wife on trips to Barcelona, Madrid and New York. They spent their summers together at his home in Catalonia.

Lear remained Dali's confindante, protegee and mistress throughout the sixties and seventies. She also enjoyed a romantic relationship with Brian Jones, which resulted in the Stone's song "Miss Amanda Jones", a year-long relationship with the married David Bowie and was briefly engaged to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music. Amanda appeared on the cover of Roxy Music's album 'For Your Pleasure' in 1973. This was her first brush with International fame.

It was during her relationship with Bowie in 1975, that Lear was encouraged to leave the conservative fashion industry behind and launch a career in music. Throughout the mid seventies and early eighties she was a Disco Queen in Continental Europe, the Eastern Bloc and most other parts of the world.

In 1979, in a Las Vegas ceremony she married French aristocrat Alain-Philippe Malagnac d'Argens de Villele who was the former lover turned adopted son of controversial gay novelist Roger Peyrefitte. They were married for 21 years until De Villele was killed by smoke in a fire in his newly bought farmhouse in France.

Despite modeling nude for Playboy magazine in 1977, many people dispute the fact that Amanda Lear was born a woman. To this day it is still widely rumoured that she is a transexual or intersexual because of her height, masculine facial features and her low baritone voice. That Lear was born a male is considered an open secret in Continental Europe, although Amanda has since the early eighties contended that the rumor was a clever publicity stunt initiated by herself and Salvador Dali. British actress and comedian, Joanna Lumley who plays the notoriously foul-mouthed Patsy Stone on the British television series Absolutely Fabulous has noted that she based her character's mysterious life story on a certain A. Lear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

i heart nouveau

On a recent trip to Glasgow I was turned on to famed Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. After seeing his building-the Glasgow School of Art, I wanted to know more. I have always been a fan of Art Nouveau but never seen such an early and simply streamlined interpretation. I love the way his designs, at times, look more modern, danish, or mid-century than the Art Nouveau. Mackintosh (June 7, 1868–December 10, 1928) started his career focusing on painting and design and eventually apprenticed with a local architect all by the age of sixteen. Later in college he became interested in Japanese design because of its restraint, simple form, the use of natural materials, texture, light and shadow rather than pattern and ornament. It was also around this time that the Modernist movement began, developing designs based on innovative ideas and new technology. These things shaped Mackintosh's signature and he became know as a pioneer in this design movement. Though his career was short it made an amazing impact. All his major commissions were between 1896 and 1906, where he designed private homes, commercial buildings, interior renovations, furniture, prints and also had a font created that bears his name. His works are considered to be the some of the earliest examples of Art Nouveau. The Glasgow School of Art is regarded as Mackintosh's architectural masterpiece - being not only innovative and his largest project, but perhaps one of the most influential buildings ever constructed in Great Britain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pretty Woman

Juie Christie (April 14, 1941) is a British actress. She was a fashion icon in mod London in the 1960's and a Hollywood starlet in the 1970's.

After several major film roles, Christie's first big breakthrough as an actress was as the amoral model, Diana Scott in Darling in 1965. By the end of that year she appeared as Lara Antipova in David Lean's adaptation of Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago which would go on to be one of the all-time box office hits. In 1966, the 25-year old Christie won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Darling.

By the seventies Christie's career was blossoming. She starred in many blockbuster films such as Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Go Between (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), Shampoo (1973), Altman's classic Nashville (1975) and Heaven Can Wait (1978). During this time period Christie moved to Hollywood where her career was often overshadowed by her high profile romance with Warren Beatty. Enduring many of Beatty's notorious affairs with other women their seven year on-again off-again relationship ended in 1974.

Later that year Christie returned to the United Kingdom where she lived on a farm in Wales. During the eighties she made few films and tended to choose small, independent and risky projects to lend her talent to.

Throughout the nineties and into the millennium she hand-selected her film roles appearing in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996), Alan Rudolph's Afterglow (1997) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). At the end of 2007, Christie won the Best Actress Award from the National Board of Review for her performance in Away From Her. She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, the Screen Actor's Guild Award for Outstanding Performance and the Genie Award for Best Actress for the same film.

In November 2007, aged 66, Christie discreetly married her long time partner (since 1979) The Guardian journalist, Duncan Campbell. Her first marriage surprised many as Christie had always insisted marriage was not an option for her. She spends most of her time on her farm in Wales and is active in various causes including animal rights, environmental protection and the anti-nuclear power movement.