Bang Envy - Sylvie Vartan

For our next installment in the Bang Envy series we have the fun and fabulous Bulgarian-French singer, Sylvie Vartan. Blonde and bubbly, Vartan was one of the original yé-yé girls of French pop, making a name for herself in the early 1960s as a teen pop sensation called la collégienne du twist - the twisting schoolgirl.

Born in Bulgaria to a French-Armenian father and a Hungarian mother, Sylvie Vartanian emigrated to Paris with her family in 1952, when they shortened the family name to Vartan. Both her brother, Eddie Vartan (father of actor Michael Vartan), and the strict nature of her French high school spurred her interest in American rock-n-roll; her early favorites included Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley.

After finishing high school, Vartan signed with Decca Records and began recording an EP "Quand le film est triste" which went on sale in December of 1961. In 1962, she had recorded a French version of "The Loco-Motion", as well as "Tous mes copains" - both of which went on to become major hits. In the same season, she released her first album entitled "Sylvie".

In total, six of her thirty-one songs released in 1962-1963 went on to the European top 20.

In 1962 during a performance at the Olympia, Vartan met the famous Johnny Hallyday. In the winter of 1963, the pair went on tour together and were then married in the spring of 1965. The Hallyday-Vartan marriage made the duo the "golden couple" of France in the 1960s and 1970s. Their son, David Hallyday is also a singer-songwriter, continuing the family tradition.

With The Beatles in 1964.

I would die to have this bouffant bob.

With husband Johnny Hallyday.

In 1964, Vartan appeared again at the Olympia, headlining a concert with The Beatles and Trini Lopez. At this concert she played the hits from her new album Sylvie à Nashville, which included "Si je chante", "La plus belle pour aller danser", and new songs in English written by Paul Anka.

Because of her performances, Vartan created a "rocker-girl" style that had never been seen before, thus cementing her reputation as a yé-yé girl. Where others sang while standing in front of a microphone, Vartan sang, danced and moved around on the stage, keeping her act dynamic. Later on, she created complete, choreographed numbers with scores of costumes and backup dancers.

With Francoise Hardy in 1967.

Vartan continued to perform throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, both as a pop star and as a jazz singer. She and Johnny Hallyday divorced in 1980. Today, she is married to producer Tony Scotti with whom she adopted a Bulgarian daughter named Darina. Vartan has been honored by the French government as a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1987, and as a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1998. (She became an Officer of both these orders in 2006 and 2009 respectively.) In 2005, Vartan was appointed by the World Health Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal and Child health in the European Region.

Sylvie Vartan in 2011 - from PurePeople.com

Bang Envy - Britt Ekland

My, it's been a while since we had a good Bang Envy post around here! I'm not sure when Britt Ekland occured to me - I've been collecting her images here and there for some time and filing them away (as I do for all of my BE posts) and then coming back to them again & again to try to edit down to the best ones. While the Bang Envy category is full of French & Italian ladies of note, this may be our very first Swede...and the Swedes know a thing or two about allure - things we should all learn!

Although she was a model throughout the 1960s, it was her 1964 marriage to Peter Sellers that really brought  Britt Ekland into the public eye. Although the marriage was short-lived, Ekland went on to be one of the original "IT" girls of the 1960s-1970s, dating rock stars and even doing her time as a a Bond Girl opposite Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.

From the movies to the romances to the rock & roll, Ekland's life is a lovely mix of glamour, humor, style, and playfulness.

Classic Swedish glamour... modeling shots from the 1960s.

In one of the greater urban myths of 1960s Hollywood, Peter Sellers fell for Britt Ekland after just seeing her photograph. He then proposed to her after just one face-to-face meeting. After having daughter Victoria, the pair split in 1968. In 1973, Ekland had her second child, Nic Adler, with producer Lou Adler.

With Peter Sellers, circa 1964.

 I LOVE LOVE LOVE this look - the beret, the tunic with the pockets, and most of all the tassel necklaces. It's very Bonnie Parker meets Patty Hearst, with a little bit of Emma Peel mixed in. The perfect cocktail of so many different icons of the era, but reduxed and toned down for real life.

Ekland in a leopard cat suit, Vogue 1965 by David Bailey.

After a while (especially as the 1970s dawned), Ekland moved away from her classic "Swedish straight" hairstyles and signature bangs to a more natural, honey-blonde color & free-flowing style that was totally in tune with the new decade. In 1973, Ekland sealed her cult-goddess status in the folk horror film, The Wicker Man. Ekland's singing & slapping the wall while naked scene from the movie was considered so risqué that even now it's hard to find an original print in the United States.

Ekland on the cover of Esquire - a classic George Lois era - from 1969.

Ekland as one of the more provocatively-named Bond Girls, Mary Goodnight, from 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun.

Ekland met Rod Stewart in 1975 via mutual friend Joan Collins, and the pair lived together for nearly two years. After this, she went on to relationships with Phil Lewis from Girl & L.A. Guns, as well as Slim Jim Phantom, with whom she had her third child, T.J., in 1988.

Rod Stewart and Britt Ekland from Life.

Ekland still remains close friends with Sharon & Ozzy Osbourne, and remains a figure in the rock & roll scene. In the 2005 HBO biopic The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, Ekland was portrayed by Charlize Theron who invited her to attend the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Today, Ekland raises funds for Osteoporosis and Alzheimer's charities, and makes an occasional appearance on television. What a life, eh? So many things I'd love to ask her.....

Bang Envy - Linda Ronstadt

I owe this entire Bang Envy post to the soundtrack that plays at my job... Every so often "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" comes on the stereo and everyone sings along to Linda Ronstadt. This made me dig a little deeper. After all, if everyone knows this song there must have been a time when La Ronstadt was on constant rotation. When was said idyll of pop music? Probably in the 1980s sometime on a soft-rock station, but why judge? The fact remains that Linda Ronstadt is a bona fide legend in her own time, and one who continues to bring the talent well into her sixties. According to her Wikipedia page:

"In total, she has released over 30 solo albums, more than 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt has charted thirty-eight Billboard Hot 100 singles, twenty-one of which have reached the top 40, ten of which have reached the top 10, three peaking at No. 2, the No. 1 hit, "You're No Good". In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much", peaked at #2 in December 1989. In addition, she has charted thirty-six albums, ten Top 10 albums, and three No. 1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts."

Doing research on early Ronstadt I found some amazing pictures of her which show her as a fresh young singer capitalizing on the sweetspot between country, pop, and rock, and bringing the style to match. In her early days, Ronstadt seems to play up the look of an innocent young flower child, but within all of her cuteness there's an incredible amount of sex appeal. It's the best combination of the All-American Girl.

Born in Tucson, AZ of Mexican and German parents, Ronstadt began singing at 14 with her brother Pete and sister Suzy. At 17, she dropped out of college after just one semester and moved to Los Angeles where she met up with Bob Kimmel - a friend from home. Together they started a band called the Stone Poneys with Kenny Edwards in 1966. But just a few years later, in 1969, Ronstadt went out on her own.

The cover of Evergreen, Volume 2 by the Stone Poneys from 1967.

In 1968.

On the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. At 22, Ronstadt was invited for her first appearance on the Johnny Cash Show; during the rehearsal, June Carter Cash noted that the singer wasn't wearing any panties. Ronstadt's tart reply? "I sing better bare-butted."

Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Jim Beam in 1974.

Blazing a trail for "girl singers" in the 1970s, Ronstadt experienced the pressures and difficulties of relating to men musicians on a professional level. In a 1969 interview in Fusion magazine, she said it was difficult being a "chick singer" with an all-male backup band. But, finding her stride, she went on to become the most successful female singer of the 1970s with such albums as Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, and Simple Dreams.

All of her albums offer solid pop tunes that crossover easily into Country. Her mix of genres shows her complete vocal and stylistic versatility which was furthered later on in her career when Ronstadt recorded a number of albums of traditional Mexican folk and Ranchera music.

Also notable for her public romances, Ronstadt dated then California governor Jerry Brown, and was also engaged to George Lucas in the mid-1980s. Ultimately though, she adopted two children in the 1990s by herself and has never married. She remains a steadfast supporter of women's rights, gay rights, and is a vocal advocate of national arts programs. Most recently, Ronstadt spoke out against her home state of Arizona's controversial SB1070 illegal-immigration law, participating in a National Day of Action in January 2010.

On a trip to Africa with Jerry Brown in 1979.

The famous Rolling Stone cover from December, 1976. Image by Annie Leibovitz.

And what about "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"? Well, I ended up downloading Ronstadt's Simple Dreams album and have been listening to it on constant rotation. It is indeed a classic album for the ages, and if you don't have it, you should get it. To offer you another quote from Wikipedia:

At the end of 1977 Ronstadt surpassed the success of Heart Like A Wheel with her album Simple Dreams, which held the #1 position for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. It also knocked Elvis Presley out of #1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It sold over 3½ million copies in less than a year in the US alone. The album was released in September 1977, and by December, it had replaced Fleetwood Mac's long running #1 album Rumours in the top spot. Simple Dreams spawned a string of hit singles on numerous charts. Among them were the RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou", a Country Rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song, "It's So Easy" – previously sung by Buddy Holly – and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", a song written by Warren Zevon. The album, garnered several Grammy Award nominations – including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou" – and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, the first of three Grammy Awards he would win for designing Ronstadt album covers.

Simple Dreams became one of the singer's most successful international selling albums as well, reaching #1 on the Australian and Canadian Pop and Country Albums charts.Simple Dreams also made Ronstadt the most successful international female touring artist as well. The same year, she completed a highly successful concert tour around Europe. As, Country Music Magazine, wrote in October 1978, Simple Dreams solidified Ronstadt's role as "easily the most successful female rock and roll and country star at this time."

Bang Envy - Stefania Sandrelli

As I look back on the Bang Envy files, I noticed that there's a strong showing from the Italians more than any other. I would have thought it would be the French girls that dominated but no, when it comes to bombshells it seems the Italians know a thing or two. Which brings us to our latest installment: Stefania Sandrelli.

Although I first saw Sandrelli in a small supporting part in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (one of my favorites!), her early work from the 1960s shows her true appeal. It's unexpected, really. Sandrelli is so perfect playing the bourgeois Italian type because her beauty is sort of ordinary. Her eyes are close together and cross a little bit, her smile is crooked, and she doesn't have the kind of glamour or presence of Elsa Martinelli or Monica Vitti. She's cute, but not gorgeous.

As Jean-Louis Trintignant's character Clerici says in Bertolucci's The Conformist: "She's all bed and kitchen."

As a Vespa pin-up in the 1960s.

But then she turns on the sexy and the men seem to fall at her feet. Take Pietro Germi's brilliant 1961 comedy Divorce, Italian Style; Sandrelli was only 15 when she played the nubile Angela, the object of the middle-aged Marcello Mastroianni's obsession.

Her roles, especially from her early career, show a naive innocence that is eventually won over by the sex pot within.

I suppose it's her corruptible cuteness that makes her so appealing. She's a Lolita in a world of Humberts and every man's downfall. Again, this makes her perfect for the 1960s Italian cinema of middle-class character studies and satirical humor. Indeed, it's even difficult to find an image of Sandrelli from her early days where she actually has clothing on. She always seems to be in a swimsuit or wrapped in a sheet after tumbling from another man's bed. This is a bit disquieting because she was so very young at the time, which makes me wonder who was looking out for her. Also, she can act - both comically and dramatically, so it's unfortunate that her sex appeal is what is best preserved from this era.

Later on, the Sandrelli sex pot bloomed into her full glory, especially in films such as The Key and Jamón, Jamón which gave her cult status in the world of erotic film.

The movie poster for Lo la Conoscevo Bene or "I Knew Her Well" from 1965 illustrates the charms of Sandrelli front & center.

In The Conformist from 1970.

I love Sandrelli in Stealing Beauty as the advice columnist Noemi, because the role is so essentially perfect for her: a saucy, but aging beauty who falls for a younger man. Noemi is clearly a cosmopolitan woman of experience, but has decided to live the life of a Bohemian on a hilltop in Tuscany with other artists. And then love finds her. It's such an authentic story line for her, and so very appropriate for her age and personality.

Sandrelli (left), with Liv Tyler, Sinéad Cusak, and Rachel Weisz in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty from 1996.

In 2005, Sandrelli was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for her lifetime of work. Today at 64, she's still sought after for films, and if she keeps this up, legendary status isn't far behind.

At the Cannes Film Festival, 2010.

Bang Envy - Astrud Gilberto

Oh Astrud...! Her naive lilting voice has served as the gateway drug for so many intense jazz addictions. The kind that commence around the third year of college over cheap bottles of wine, and alternating pulls between the bong and the pack of Camel Lights. Somewhere, late at night, between Led Zeppelin II and Kind of Blue comes Getz/Gilberto or Beach Samba. At that moment the only thing that holds you steady in the smoky darkness are the many colorful mosaic glow candles and the voice of Astrud Gilberto.

Born in Bahia and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Astrud Weinert married musician João Gilberto, the "Father of Bossa Nova", in 1959. In 1964, his shy young wife was unexpectedly prompted to sing "The Girl from Ipanema" during a recoring of the seminal Bossa Nova album, Getz/Gilberto, an album which featured not only the Gilbertos, but also Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. This airy single went on to become an internation hit, reaching #5 in the United States and charting highly throughout the world. This song, as well as her version of "Corcovado" on the same album made Astrud Gilberto a household name and launched her career as a vocalist.

Astrud Gilberto and husband João Gilberto.

Singing with Stan Getz (left) in the mid-1960s.

During her early days as a star, Astrud Gilberto had a very wholesome, coiffed look. Her simple shyness seems to come through in the smooth, sweet hairstyles of bouffants and flips. After the Gilbertos emigrated to the United States, the couple became estranged; while the reasons are unclear, it is believed to be due to João Gilberto's increasing drug use and Astrud Gilberto's romantic affair with musician Stan Getz.

After the Gilbertos divorced and her own career began to grow, Astrud Gilberto's sweet style gave way to a sensual sexiness in her style and imagery. The well-coiffed 'dos became windblown, beachy, and adorably unkempt - a look that was perfectly in tune with the late-1960s hippie vibe.

The image that became the cover for Astrud Gilberto's Beach Samba album.

The Girl from Ipanema: Sexified

Astrud Gilberto continues to write, record, and perform music today. She lives in the United States, choosing a very private, reclusive life out of the media glare, and never gives interviews.  But her fans are legion and continue to grow. Long live the Girl from Ipanema!

Bang Envy - Juliette Gréco

Juliette Gréco with her Daschund near St. Germain des PrésJuliette Gréco has always intrigued me. Her throaty voice and peculiar beauty are far too unsettling to be considered classically beautiful, but she created her own type of glamour and style by virtue of being against the norm. Her idiosyncratic lifestyle among the famous artists and thinkers of the mid-20th Century has made her a true Bohemian icon.

A friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg, and the great love of Miles Davis, Juliette Gréco is the original cool chick. Her signature fringe of bangs with a long hairstyle became the look of Existentialist girls the world over (and still is!), especially when paired with all-black clothes and a smoky café. This is the look Astrid Kirchherr was going for when she started wearing capes and tailored suits.

An actress and singer, Gréco is usually known as the chanteuse who sings "Bonjour Tristesse" at the very beginning of the film of the same name. But it was almost ten years prior that she appeared in Cocteau's haunting film Orphée as one of the evil Bacchantes.

While her film roles were few but significant, Gréco still continues to record and perform her music today, at the age of 83!

Juliette Gréco by Studio Harcourt Paris - the classic Existentialist look of the late 1950s.

Young and alone in Paris after World War II, Gréco started to sing in the cafés and jazz clubs in the St. Germain area. It was here that she met other existentialists, artists, and musicians, including Miles Davis. While I knew the two had been friends, I didn't realize that they actually had a romance too. I tracked down this excellent piece from The Guardian that Gréco wrote about Davis in 2006 that tells their story beautifully.

"And there I caught a glimpse of Miles, in profile: a real Giacometti, with a face of great beauty. I'm not even talking about the genius of the man: you didn't have to be a scholar or a specialist in jazz to be struck by him. There was such an unusual harmony between the man, the instrument and the sound - it was pretty shattering...... In America his colour was made blatantly obvious to me, whereas in Paris I didn't even notice that he was black. Between Miles and me there was a great love affair, the kind you'd want everybody to experience. Throughout our lives, we were never lost to each other."

Emerging from her dark hipness of the 1950s, Gréco's look adapted seamlessly into the pop glamour of the 1960s. Her hair became bouffant and her smile finally emerged. In 1965, she starred in the famous French mini-series called Belphégor, showcasing her elegance and grace.

Two images from Philips Records, and two stills from 1965's Belphégor.

Most recently the film An Education featured a few of Gréco's songs in the film, using them as a symbol of the bohemian freedoms that awaited just across the channel in Jenny's mind. (The short sequence of Jenny and David's trip to Paris is set to "Sur les quais de vieux Paris", making it a picture-postcard of the city in springtime.)

Despite their modernity for the time, Gréco's chansons have become tunes as ubiquitous to Parisian romance as anything recorded by Charles Trenet or Edith Piaf. Her famous hit of 1963 "La Javanaise", written by Serge Gainsbourg, is now considered a standard, being covered by both Jane Birkin and Madeleine Peyroux. Her strange and throaty style is indeed an enduring sound!

Juliette Gréco in 2009 from Pure People.

All images found online; final image from Pure People.

Bang Envy Influences: Anna Karina

When is a Bang Envy post an Influences post too? When it concerns Danish-born actress of the French New Wave cinema, Anna Karina. (I should note that while I've been cooking this post along for weeks, re-watching her films and gathering some images, The Impossible Cool beat me to the punch this week by posting one of her pictures as well. But it's a really good pic, so you should all go over there and pay it a visit. Great minds think alike!)

I've been thinking a lot about Anna, her first husband Jean-Luc Godard, the colorful films they made, and how that whole time and look of the cinema has influenced fashion for decades. Most recently, Michelle Smith of Milly sent a number of mini Anna Karinas down the Fall 2010 runway, with peacoats, striped tops, and red tights to beat the band. If that proves anything it's just that Ms. Karina's colorful, kooky style is just as fresh and wearable today as it was in the 1960s.

Born in Denmark in 1940, Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer had a pretty rough childhood. Eventually she'd had enough of her mother and hitchiked to Paris in 1958 where she quickly became a fashion and commercial model. It is said that Coco Chanel was the one who helped her refine her professional name to Anna Karina. After seeing her in a Palmolive commerical, Jean-Luc Godard offered her a bit part in Au Bout de Souffle, which she refused. However when he asked her to join him in his 1960 film Le Petit Soldat, she agreed. The two married in 1961 when she starred in one of her most iconic films Une Femme est Une Femme.

Anna Karina with Jean-Luc Godard

That film, plus 1965's Pierrot le Fou are among Godard's most famous of the New Wave genre, offering wildly colorful photography, odd and adventurous story lines, and his idiosyncratic take on modern romance. It is through Anna Karina, like Jean Seberg in Au Bout de Souffle or Brigitte Bardot in Le Mepris, that Godard presents his own brand of modern woman: an angelic face hiding the soul of a thrill-seeking, manipulative, and even tawdry demon within. 

Images from Pierrot le Fou with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

I believe that it is the vibrant color palette (usually centered around red, white, and blue hues,) and the simple styles of Anna Karina in these films that fashion designers come back to again and again. The whiff of the ingènue schoolgirl gone bad and sexy all in one - it's a heady combination and one that certainly sells fashion. The Fall 2010 collection from Milly captured this to a T, even a little heavy-handedly with the berets, but it still works.

Milly Fall 2010. Images from Style.com

It's not just Milly who's looked to Godard for inspiration - I think Marc Jacobs comes back to him time and again, especially for the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. It's nice to know that designers still take their cues from the French New Wave of almost 50 years ago and still make it work. Or perhaps Jean-Luc Godard and his muse Anna Karina defined effortless chic in such a way that it always bears repeating?

To close, I had to post this little film re-mix created by Dimitri from Paris. A fantastic re-dux of Une Femme est Une Femme, the DJ has pulled together the playfulness, color, and mod New Wave essence in a fun little music video. (Plus, you can see how Anna Karina sported her red tights!)

Images from the internet, and the website Eff Yeah, Anna Karina which has more good ones to see.

Bang Envy - Elsa Martinelli

Elsa Martinelli might be the very definition of Italian bombshell. Sexy, curvy, bubbly, glamorous - she was the perfect thing for the varied character roles she played throughout the 1960s. On the flip side, she was also a great actress; this combination of sex-appeal and talent made her one of Orson Welles' favorites. She appeared with him in The V.I.P.s along with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as in the masterful Welles interpretation of Kafka's The Trial.

The big eyes with heavy brows were framed perfectly by a band of bangs, both long and short at different points in time.

As with most women, the shorter coiff makes Martinelli appear especially youthful, and more than a little similar to Liza Minelli. Perhaps in another decade she'd have been the perfect Sally Bowles?

From the opening credits of The Trial, in which she plays a spooky courthouse clerk.

Glamour like this only happened during the 1960s. Likewise, the hairstyle.

I just had to include this one - a priceless candid. Elsa Martinelli is second from the right next to the great Marlene Dietrich. At the far left, is Barbra Streisand wearing fabulous leopard from top to toe. I'm not sure who the other two ladies are, but all of them are in the front row at the Chanel fashion show in 1966.