Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Sexual power is a very big power

Very sad news indeed today - the utterly fantabulosa Fenella Fielding, Patron Saint and icon here at Dolores Delargo Towers, is dead.

As the estimable Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian today:
...she was destined to be remembered for just one thing, and she good-humouredly accepted that: a sexy-campy-vampy cartoon persona. This was most obviously her slinky Valeria in Carry on Screaming (1966), in which she reclines languorously on a chaise-longue, asks Harry H Corbett’s uptight-but-tempted police inspector: “Do you mind if I smoke?” and starts to emit vapour from her whole body. “And I was trying to give up!” says Corbett, reaching eagerly into the fog. That deathless line became the title of her autobiography. Everyone agreed that Fenella Fielding was smoking hot.
She certainly was:

However, she was so much more than that - in her long career, she tackled Wilde, TS Eliot, Ibsen, Saki, Shakespeare and Sappho, as well as a musical adaptation of a Ronald Firbank tale (Valmouth); hers was the voice on the tannoy in The Prisoner, and also that of the "Blue Queen" in the psychedelic Magic Roundabout film Dougal and the Blue Cat; she scored a West End hit in a revue co-written by the unlikely combination of Peter Cook and Harold Pinter(!); and she became a familiar face on our screens, taking in her stride the anarchic comedy of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, the bitchy repartee of Kenneth Williams, and the more family friendly humour of Morecambe and Wise ["Fenella Fielding - one of the finest female impersonators in the business,” joked Eric].

It was for her luscious, husky voice (as well as her sultry looks) she was most famous, of course, and she put it to very good use on the couple of occasions we met her - at Polari in April 2011, when she was reading an extract from her friend Michael Menzies' autobiography Deeply Superficial, and just last year at The Phoenix Club, reading passages from her autobiography.

Confirmation (if any were needed) that the lady understood all too well her "camp icon" status, she famously lent her dulcet tones to an entire album - one of our most treasured possessions! - of covers of modern pop classics, The Savoy Sessions - although she apparently regretted it, and tried to stop its publication. Read more about all that (and listen to some of the tracks).

Miss Fielding certainly was eccentric. She co-presented one of Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World contests in a Pierrot clown outfit [and was guest of honour at the celebration of his life we went to at Stoke Newington Festival in 2016]. She was chosen to present the 2017 "Bad Sex In Fiction" award for Christopher Bollen's The Destroyers (he wasn't present). In her speech, Fenella said: "Sometimes it really is better to give than to receive." Just this year (at the age of 90), she told a friend she had decided to take up driving. “You’re blind as a bat,” the friend said. “Don’t worry, darling,” she purred. “I’m going to have the windscreen made of prescription glass.”

Then, there's MetaFenella, "an interactive video portrait offering guidance for life inspired by Fenella Fielding", created by the artist Martin Firrell and available here. Its collection of recorded musings by our dearly departed grande dame herself is simultaneously inspiring and funny, and also quite odd - but it throws up some gems of advice, including:
  • "Sexual power is a very big power."
  • "Short Men: half the trouble but twice the fun."
  • "The power of the breast is well-known."
  • "People are very free with their bad advice."
  • "Always make the most of yourself."
  • "Do not marry somebody evil (no matter how attractive)."
  • "People who are judgmental lose everything."
  • "Don’t make it too sexy."
  • "Spying is a rather dangerous career."
  • "Thinking of preserving your youth is a terrible waste of your present time."

RIP, Miss Fenella Fielding OBE (born Fenella Feldman, 17th November 1927 – 11th September 2018).

There will never be another.


  1. Thanks for introducing me to this funny, smart, beautiful, and talented woman. Her sayings are hilarious and true!

    Rest in peace, Ms Fielding! Another star lights the heavens.

    1. She's an immense loss to the ever-dwindling pool of "true talent" on this planet... Jx

  2. A great loss indeed. I am so pleased that we got to see her.


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