The last post by the Big D got me thinking about my childhood crushes; the ones separate from my classmates as it seemed I had a crush on any and all girls in my school. Thinking back to the many actresses that populated the television shows and movies I watched, there were quite a few to choose from. There was, of course, Patty Duke who had a hugely popular show imaginatively called The Patty Duke Show –her father was played by the reliable William Shallert. Then, of course, there was Stephanie Powers, the sleek Girl From Uncle. There was Eartha Kitt, Catwoman on the Batman series, Claudia Cardinale from the beloved Once Upon a Time in the West was stunningly beautiful. Ursella Andress from Dr. No – well nothing needs to be said there; her first appearance in that movie is legendary. Barbara Eden (that outfit!!) of I Dream of Jeanie, and of course, both Dawn Wells, Maryann and Tina Louise, Ginger both from Gilligan’s Island made the list.
But to me, they all pale when put beside the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I mean to this day. Now she is a Dame of the Realm, back then she was Emma Peel of the brilliant British spy show, The Avengers (1961-1964). I speak of course of Diana Rigg, who is still going strong though she looks a bit different on Game of Thrones than she did in The Avengers.
Now, of course, there was more to that role than just her beauty; it was a groundbreaking part for a woman on television. She was a lead in a very successful show, an equal in all ways to her debonair partner John Steed played by dear Patrick MacNee. The character established an entire line of mod, pop style, and couture. The style of the clothes she wore quickly became an industry sensation; making it into the department stores, it sold effortlessly. But Emma Peel was more than just looks; she was intelligent, seductive, and athletic. Plus she could kick ass. She threw around bad guys on that show like Namath threw touchdown passes, with style, grit, and deadly accuracy. She was the total package.
I fell in love with her and have never stopped loving her. As kids will, when they fall, they fall hard. And I did. After seeing her for the first time, she became my Irene Adler (see A Scandal in Bohemia). There were countless others as I list above but there was only one Emma Peel.
I would religiously watch each week as she and Steed dispatched madmen, megalomaniacs, thugs, traitors, crazy scientists, and even deranged cats (not to mention man-eating plants!). If you have seen the show, you know of what I speak; if you haven’t you are, well…..let’s just say missing out on some great TV. And each time I watched, my eyes would glaze over, my heartbeat would increase, and I would start to sweat. If that wasn’t true love, I don’t know what was.
I followed her career and saw her live on Broadway in The Misanthrope (waited at the stage door but no luck) and Medea (won a Tony for that one); saw her marry George Lazenby on the screen and become the one and only wife of James Bond (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), saw her in countless other movies (one opposite Vincent Price –Theatre of Blood), saw her star in another short-lived television show; saw her nominated for a Golden Globe (The Hospital), numerous Prime Time Emmys, saw her do Shakespeare, regional theatre and saw her back in Game of Thrones until she met her doom in that epic episode.
On top of all that, in 1994 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to British theater and television.
A brilliant career. A wonderful actress; a powerful force of nature…….and through it all, to me…..she is always my beloved Emma. I saw a photo of her once with Oliver Reed, an actor who could be great when he tried but didn’t try very often; they were dating at the time, and I felt something uneasy…….it took me a few moments to realize it was a combination of jealousy and protectiveness. You can do better than that I told her photo, but she stayed smiling in it, so I guess she didn’t hear me. That’s the way it goes with love….or obsession; hard to distinguish sometimes.
As a joke, Les and I used to each have a list of people we found extraordinarily attractive. We agreed that if by some stroke of phenomenal luck we would have the chance of being with one of those people, permission granted! All bets were off – it’s been nice, be seeing you!!
Diana Rigg was and is first on my list. No joke.
We play with our needs, don’t we? Hard day, Mr. Daniels and Mr. Beam have the solution? Want to hear the epitome of perfection? Listen to Frank; Hankering for a laugh? Let Stan and Ollie, Bud and Lou or Seinfeld take care of that; Comfort? Re-read a favorite book (Sherlock anyone?) or cozy up to a purring kitty; A dose of coolness perhaps? Well, Harry Callahan or Mr. Bond will do…..but when I want to fall in love again…when I want to feel young again, and marvel at incomparable beauty and style, I have only to fire up the DVD player (old school), pop in The Avengers, sit back and there she is ….done deal.
I am a happy man.
Mrs. Peel, you are indeed needed.