Friday, 28 June 2013

Shut the Dors


Probably best remembered by anyone under 40 for her cameo as the Fairy Godmother in the Adam and the Ants video Prince Charming, Diana Dors was born Diana Fluck in Swindon in 1931. Once one of the most famous and recognisable women in Britain, at one point Diana was feted as Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn died young and became an icon: unfortunately for Diana her early promise as an actress will forever be overshadowed by lurid tales of abortions, miscarriages, relationships with criminals, battles with her weight, and by her reputation as an orgy-throwing, drunken pill popper.
 

At 16 she was signed to the Rank Organisation: in her early films her chest was often strapped down, and her hair was its natural shade of brown. She made a bunch of unsuccessful films, but her stage appearances led to her winning Theatre World magazine's Actress of the Year Award.

 
In 1951 Diana met Dennis Hamilton Gittins (usually known as Dennis Hamilton), marrying him only five weeks later. There was little that the unscrupulous Hamilton would not do to further her career or to increase the income he derived from it. Her appearance became markedly similar to Marilyn's; she took on roles similar to hers and quickly became known as "the English Marilyn Monroe." Hamilton made sure that her name, and stories of her lavish lifestyle, were seldom out of the tabloids. It’s even been suggested that Hamilton would pimp Diana out to influential actors and producers.
 

Chances to star in several US-made movies were ruined by Hamilton: once when she refused to divorce him and move to the States and later when Hamilton turned down parts without bothering to tell her. The result was that her early promising career was restricted from this point forward to mainly British films. When she did finally make it across the pond Hamilton again ruined her chances by punching out a photographer at a party where celebrities including Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liberace, Lana Turner, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne were invited. The following day’s headline in the National Enquirer read Miss Dors Go Home – And Take Mr Dors With You. Despite that, Dors managed to squeeze in an affair with Rod Steiger whilst the pair were filming The Unholy Wife.
 

She managed to get shot of Hamilton, shortly before his death in 1958 but not after he virtually bankrupted her, forcing her to take on a cabaret tour to pay her bills. After a string of affairs she married comedian Richard ‘Dicky’ Dawson, but the pair divorced in 1966. Two years later, and with her two sons Mark and Gary thousands of miles away in America with their father (who would go on to be a major star on US TV), she met and married the actor Alan Lake. Their relationship was stormy, not helped by Lake’s heavy drinking and stint in prison for his part in a pub brawl, but it lasted right through until her death, from cancer, in 1984. Five months after she died a distraught Lake took his own life in the bedroom of the home they shared.
 

But back to the music. Diana’s single Where Did They Go was issued as the first release (Nom 1) on manager and producer Simon Napier-Bell’s own Nomis Records. Napier-Bell’s own illustrious career includes managing the Yardbirds, John’s Children (featuring a teenage Mark Feld aka Marc Bolan), Japan, Ultravox and Wham! He’s also co-author of the English lyrics to the Dusty Springfield hit You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me as well as of several books about his long career in showbiz. Diana had made a stab at recording several times: first way back in 1951 with the single I Feel So Mmmm, which she followed with her one and only album, Swinging Dors, in 1960.
 
 
This miserable offering was issued in 1982 and it’s shocking: she sounds like a third-rate drag artist looking back over an all-too short life and wishing he’d drunk more booze and shagged more men. It’s little more than a poor Those Were the Days ripoff – albeit 14 years too late - and everyone involved in this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Knowing that Dors was battling cancer at the time might add a sheen of poignancy but it’s still horrible. The arrangement is poor, the musicianship workmanlike and dull and the disc’s label incorrectly credits co-writer Gloria Sklerov as Sklervo: it’s all a bit ham-fisted. The track was originally performed by Peggy Lee on her 1971 album of the same name, and had previously been covered by Sandie Shaw.
 

The B-side is no better: It’s You Again is a dull-as-dishwater duet with her son (now a TV producer) Gary Dawson, here billing himself as Gary Dors; his paper-thin voice no match for her weather beaten, booze-and-fags weariness. Worryingly, the pair are singing a love song, but not a song about maternal love…

 
Ewww.

 
There’s a statue of Diana outside Swindon’s Shaw Ridge Leisure Complex. Sadly, the end-of-terrace mural of her and other local notables – including all five members of XTC – that once dominated a Swindon street is no longer extant.
 

Enjoy!
 
 

1 comment:

  1. Just so ingloriously vulgar and awful - on every conceivable level.

    The 'B' side's even closer to the musical gutter. Not a song in the tradidional sense, more a series of standard songwriting cliches strung together in a more or less random order. The music's equally vapid. Miniscule recording budget lttle interest from the musicians (if they were indeed sufficiently awake to even consider showing interest)and an arrangement that would barely pass muster in the murky world of clubland cabaret.

    Dreadful.

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