The main job of British movie dolly birds in the 60s and 70s was to be passive objects for the likes of Sid James or Robin Askwith to “phwooaar” all over or to scream helplessly and faint when Christopher Lee appeared in a cape.
But with her imposing height (5′ 10½”), Amazonian build, and drop-dead looks, Valerie Leon didn’t fit the part of the ditzy barmaid or virginal damsel in distress so she was usually the one being sexually aggressive and domineering – entering rooms like a panther in heat, thrusting her cleavage forward like a deadly weapon, giving off enough horny static to power a large city – and it was the men who got all flustered and ran to the fainting couch when she approached.
She looked like such a you-are-not-worthy goddess that a lot of the time she wasn’t cast as a regular human being and played a variety of jungle warriors, aliens, and reincarnated Egyptian queens.
Even in the Hai Karate TV adverts, she came across like some amorous Terminator robot who could not be stopped.
Typically, when she did play a normal person we were supposed to believe she was such a crazed nympho that she’d chase after such weedy targets as Jim Dale, Ronnie Corbett, and even Charles Hawtrey. But I guess that was supposed to be the funny part.
Born in London, Valerie worked as a salesgirl in a London store after leaving school, and also had a spell as an assistant fashion buyer at Harrods. She moved to Paris to learn the language and work as an au pair.
Returning to the UK she tried for a job in a touring play and got the part for the grand sum of £12.10.0 a week.
She landed a small part in the stage production of Funny Girl and suddenly found herself in demand for guest spots on television for shows like The Saint, The Baron, The Avengers and Randall and Hopkirk – Deceased.
She was a ubiquitous presence on 1970s telly, forever popping up as the comedy crumpet on variety shows and sitcoms (she got a lot of publicity due to the scantiness of the costume she wore on Up Pompeii!) and you could always rely on her to class up a production – at least visually.
Her filmography is full of such nameless roles as “Hotel Receptionist”, “Lady in Bahamas”, “Serving Wench”, “Bath Girl” and, amusingly, “Queen of the Nabongas.” But one credit she should be proud of is having Roxy Music’s Beauty Queen written about her.
Apparently, she had a fling with Bryan Ferry at some point and now the opening line “Valerie please believe, it never could work out” makes sense.
Whether this is true or not (the internet says it is) I hope it is because someone as gorgeous as Valerie Leon should have songs written about her.
Elements of this article originally appeared at ‘Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop’ (www.londonlee.com).