The Beatles and Bardot

By Bill Harry  

John Lennon and Brigitte BardotWhen the Beatles filled in their biographical 'lifelines' for the New Musical Express in 1963, under 'Favourite Actresses', Paul wrote: Brigitte Bardot, George wrote: Brigitte Bardot, Ringo wrote: Brigitte Bardot. John wrote: Juliette Greco, which is surprising, because of the four it was John who was most fanatical about Brigitte Bardot.

For male teenagers in Britain in the late 1950s, she was the No.1 sex symbol. her impact on the young psyche was immense - not forgetting the girls who styled themselves on her.

Reveille, a popular tabloid weekly of the time, printed a series of centre page spreads featuring a pin-up pose of Bardot in sections. When the series was collected they could be assembled to form a life-size image of her. John Lennon religiously collected the parts and taped the full length photograph to the ceiling above his bed so that he could gaze up at her at night.

Pete Shotton, John's school friend, told me that Brigitte was John's favourite fantasy figure when they were at Quarry Bank school. "For the next fifteen years, at least, Brigitte Bardot was to remain John's favourite girl," he said.

John also favoured girls who styled themselves on the star. When Cynthia, his first wife, fell in love with him, John's friends told her she wouldn't make much of an impression on him because she didn't look like Brigitte. Once they started going steady she underwent a change. She was to say, "John's perfect image of a woman was Brigitte Bardot. I found myself fast becoming moulded into her style of dress and haircut. I had only recently gone through my change from secretary-bird to bohemian when I met John, but under his influence another metamorphosis was taking place and this time the emphasis was on oomph! Long blonde hair (out with the Hiltone), tight black sweaters, tight short skirts, high-heeled pointed shoes, and to add the final touch, black fishnet stockings and suspenders."

This obsession even found its way into his work. Helen Anderson, a student at Liverpool College of Art pointed out, "In his first six months at college, his paintings were very wild and aggressive. Every one he did incorporated the interior of a night club and they were very strongly drawn, very dark, and there was always a blonde girl at the bar looking like Brigitte Bardot. "Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe's fiancée, was to say, "John always called me the German Brigitte Bardot and he admired my long blonde hair and small waist."

Journalist Michael Braun, who accompanied the Beatles on their first trip to Paris, recalled that they'd made a specific request to their French record company that they'd like to meet up with Brigitte Bardot during their visit. "All of the Beatles, apparently, shared a desire to meet Mlle Bardot. The following morning a large box of candy arrived in their suite. Accompanying it was a card off the director of their French record company. "Unfortunately," it read, "Brigitte Bardot is detained in Brazil! Let's hope these sweets will make up for her."

At one time the Beatles had the opportunity of co-starring in a movie with their favourite pin-up. Producer Walter Shenson suggested that they appear in a comedy version of 'The Three Musketeers', with Bardot as Milady de Winter. Nothing resulted of that particular casting, although director Dick Lester later went ahead with the film, starring Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Oliver Reed and Frank Finley, with Faye Dunaway as de Winter.

Brigitte Bardot John used to have a framed photograph of Bardot on the wall of his house in Kenwood and he finally got to meet his dream girl in 1968. Pete Shotton recalled the historic moment, which had been arranged by Derek Taylor.

He wrote, "Naturally I begged John to let me tag along, but since Brigitte had specified that she wasn't prepared to meet a crowd of strangers, only Derek was permitted to accompany him. He arrived home somewhat earlier than I'd expected, looking far more sullen than the occasion warranted."

Shotten said that John told him, "I was so nervous that I dropped some acid before we went in and got completely out of my head. The only thing I said to her all night was 'Hello,' when we went to shake hands with her. Then she spent the whole time talking in French with her friends, and I could never think of anything to say."

Derek Taylor had received a message at the Apple offices in Saville Row that Brigitte was at the Mayfair Hotel and had requested a meeting with all four Beatles. When John arrived in the office, Derek told him the news and John reminded him that Paul was in Scotland. Derek phoned George and Ringo, but they declined the invitation. John and Derek took some LSD and in the evening set off for the Mayfair in their chauffeur driven car.

Although Derek had phoned earlier to explain that only John would be coming, communications hadn't been good and Bardot had a number of girls with her, presumably to balance out the party as she'd booked dinner at the fashionable Parkes in Beauchamp Place believing that all four Beatles were coming along. John squatted in the middle of the room and lit a cigarette. Both he and Derek felt that things weren't going too well and Bardot and her party weren't exactly fluent in English, while John couldn't speak any French at all.

A phone call was made to invite two young men to join the party for dinner so as not to make the male/female ratio too conspicuous. However, both John and Derek declined to join the dinner party and remained behind in the suite while a puzzled Bardot set off for Parkes.

Brigitte and her friends returned in the early hours of the morning and she handed John a guitar and asked him if he'd play some songs, which he did. Derek had fallen asleep in her bedroom. Later they said their Goodbye's and left.

Paul and John regarded Brigitte Bardot as 'the epitome of female beauty'. They compared every girl with Brigitte and had encouraged their own girlfriends to look like her, John with Cynthia and Paul with Dot Rhone. Paul bought Dot a leather skirt in Hamburg and encouraged her to grow her blonde hair long. By rights, Bardot should have appeared on the cover of the 'Sgt Pepper' album.

When Paul originally began to sketch out the ideas for the 'Sergeant Pepper' sleeve he had the four Beatles standing before a wall which was covered in framed pictures of their heroes - and taking prominence was a pin-up poster of Bardot. Although Bardot was drawn ten times larger than any other figure on Paul's original drawing, she was absent from the final tableau, indicating that a number of the Beatles original suggestions of their own heroes were left off the final set by Peter Blake and Robert Fraser who replaced them with a number of their own selections.

Blake had borrowed a wax figure of Diana Dors from Madame Tussauds and placed it in the tableaux. Probably thinking that one blonde bombshell was enough, Blake didn't include Paul's choice of Bardot. Dors wasn't a Beatles heroine, but Bardot was, which indicates that the 'Sergeant Pepper' sleeve wasn't really the collection of Beatles choices that people have always been led to believe.

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