The girl who was all 'eyelashes and legs'

The girl who was all 'eyelashes and legs'

I was rightly admonished by a reader for not mentioning model Twiggy in last week's column concerning the "Swinging Sixties" in London. After all Twiggy was dubbed "The Face of 66" in a huge spread in the Daily Express.

Aged 16, skinny, with a boyish hairstyle she had an androgynous style which was to make her a huge star. She later became a talented actress and singer. Born Leslie Hornby, being so thin she was nicknamed "Twigs" at school and among friends long before she became well-known.

The first time I saw Twiggy was on a TV show in 1966 and I remember my dad commenting in mild disapproval, "She looks like she could do with a decent meal."

I liked her immediately because she was so natural, giggling after every other sentence and speaking just like the girl next door as befitting someone brought up in the not very flash London suburb of Neasden. In fact throughout her career a frequent observation from anyone who met her was her unspoiled charm, unaffected by fame. In one documentary several people refer to her as "adorable", not a word you normally associate with supermodel behaviour.

Twiggy herself could never quite explain her success in modelling. "At 16, I was a funny, skinny little thing, all eyelashes and legs," she said in an interview. "And then suddenly people told me it was gorgeous. I thought they had gone raving mad."

After being well received in America in 1967 she had her eye on bigger things and in 1970 surprised everyone by announcing her retirement from modelling. She wryly commented afterwards "You can't be a clothes hanger for your entire life".

Dame Twiggy

It wasn't long before Twiggy was receiving positive reviews for her versatile performance in The Boy Friend (1971) directed by Ken Russell. Twiggy admitted after its release "the dancing nearly killed me".

A lot more has happened in her life over the years including successful performances on Broadway and in 2019 being named a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

It is hard to believe the skinny 16-year-old who took the world by storm in 1966 is now 71 and happily married, living in Suffolk. Well done Twigs.

Glorious Neasden

Maybe one reason Twiggy appealed to me was because she came from Neasden, a name regularly used in the satirical magazine Private Eye of which I have been a fan since its first issue in 1961. The Eye was initially printed in Neasden and the editors adopted the name as an example of a typical nondescript London suburb.

The magazine would regularly report on the fictional Neasden FC as they went down to yet another heavy defeat under "ashen-faced" manager Ron Knee. The club appeared to have only two supporters, Sid and Doris Bonkers who had to put up with watching spectacular own goals by legendary defender "Baldy" Pevsner.

Through the regular references in Private Eye, Neasden developed such a reputation that just the mention of the place by any comedian would probably get a laugh. For the curious, the name Neasden means "nose-shaped hill".

In 1972 Eye stalwart Willie Rushton recorded a song entitled Neasden in a fitting tribute to the place in which he sings fondly about the delights of "the traffic lights and yellow lines/And the illuminated signs''.

Rogues' gallery

Private Eye played a significant role in the Swinging Sixties. I loved the way it poked fun at the Establishment, particularly targeting hypocrisy, cover-ups and obnoxious behaviour in high places. But it also produced some serious investigative journalism on sensitive issues newspapers were afraid to touch.

The Eye also conjured up such fictional characters as Sir Bufton Tufton, an MP totally out of touch with everything apart from a comfortable life. Then there was Mr Justice Cocklecarrot, a judge whose interpretation of the law had people scratching their heads.

Knacker of the Yard appeared in any story concerning the police. In Scotland he became McKnacker while in Ireland it was O'Knacker. Cashing in on all the litigation were solicitors Sue, Grabbit and Runne, never shy of making a fortune from frivolous lawsuits.

It would be remiss not to mention the teenage resident poet, EJ Thribb, whose poignant offerings usually came in the form of celebrity obituaries. The opening line always began, "So, farewell then…"

Banana justice

The current editor of Private Eye is Ian Hislop who some may be more familiar with as one of the regular hosts of the long-running BBC TV show Have I Got News For You. Hislop became Eye editor in 1986 and it is quite amazing he is still there considering the magazine is known for treading on many important toes.

Hislop is said to be the most sued man in English legal history. After one court decision went against him he came out with the wonderful "if that's justice, then I'm a banana".

Sandwich spread

Finally, watching the Open golf tournament last weekend coming from the Kent coastal town of Sandwich reminded me of one of the more delightful signposts on country roads in England.

Just outside Sandwich is a hamlet called Ham and sure enough at a nearby intersection there is a splendid signpost which points everyone to Ham Sandwich.

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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