Where did she go?
On September the 17th the Croydon Guardian, a weekly free local newspaper covering South London, devoted an article to Iggy after the Church had revealed that Iggy had probably been a regular visitor at the Purley dancehall The Orchid. The article was brought to my attention by Matthew Taylor from Escape Artists who was so kind to point me to a scan of the article, neatly hidden in a dark corner from The City Wakes website.
It all started with a remark on the Late Night forum why no one had ever tried to locate Iggy. Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake promptly denied this and added some extra titbits to the Iggy enigma. He had found out that she was probably a South Londoner who used to go dancing in dancehalls in or around Purley. More about the Church’s quest to locate Iggy’s dancing habits can be found on a previous entry on this blog: Shaken not stirred.
This ended with the promise that the Church would try to find some more information about the place and the people who visited it. A mail was send to a historian of the Bourne Society but without success. The same message however to a journalist of the Croydon Guardian was immediately replied. Some initial information was exchanged and journalist Kirsty Walley did an excellent job by getting testimonies, not only from Anthony Stern, but also from a DJ who used to spin records at the Orchid, Jeff Dexter, and who still remembers Iggy.
In the Swinging 60s she was an iconic model who broke the heart of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. Known only as Iggy she is thought to have lived in Thornton Heath and was a regular at the Orchid Ballroom in Purley between 1963 and 1967. Then she vanished and for the past three decades the former 60's in-crowd has wondered where she went?
Former friends, director and artist Anthony Stern and DJ Jeff Dexter, are both searching for the enigmatic model, who featured naked on the cover of Barrett's solo album Madcap Laughs. She was nicknamed "the Eskimo" because it was thought that she was part Inuit. DJ Jeff Dexter, who regularly played at the Orchid, vividly remembers the beautiful girl who used to talk to him while he played his set. He first noticed her in 1963. He said: “Iggy was part of a group of very wonderful looking south London girls. She was unusual because she did not look like anyone else at the time. Since she disappeared, she has become a bit of an enigma.”
Dexter says that he met the director and artist Anthony Stern in 1967 and that Iggy became involved with him at about the same time. Anthony took many pictures of the model and also made a film of her, which will be shown for the first time at the City Wakes festival this October in Cambridge. Stern said: “Iggy was my muse. I met her at a Hendrix gig at the Speakeasy. She was a lovely inspiration and free spirit. I never knew her real name.” “We used to hang out together, occasionally dropping acid, staying up all night, going for walks at dawn in Battersea Park.” The artist said he recently discovered photographs that he took of Iggy on a houseboat near Lots Road in Chelsea. “She entirely captures the spirit of the Sixties, living for the moment, completely carefree.”
Photographer Mick Rock remembers turning up at Barrett’s to take photographs for his solo album cover. At an interview in 199 he said: “Syd was still in his underpants when he opened the door. He’d totally forgotten about the session and fell about laughing. Iggy the Eskimo was naked in the kitchen making coffee. She didn’t mind either. They both laughed a lot and it was a magical session.” The most iconic images of her appear on the album, where she poses naked in the background.
After she broke up with Barrett she disappeared. Felix Atagong, who has set up a website in her honour, said: “According to the painter Duggie Fields, she got married to a rich guy from Chelsea and led a ‘decent’ life after that.”
Anthony and Jeff both admit they have spent time looking for her. “the truth is, if she has not come forward by now, she probably doesn’t want to be found,” said Anthony.
(picture insert: It-crowd icon: Iggy the Eskimo). An online version of the article can be found here.
An entirely new and previously unreleased picture of Iggy accompanies the newspaper article. This comes out of the personal collection of Anthony Stern. It is believed that more pictures from his collection may be unearthed on a later date.
Jeff Dexter Light & Sound Show
Ian ‘Sammy’ Samwell had been a member of The Drifters, the backup band for Harry Webb. They would become a wee bit more successful when Harry changed his name to Cliff Richard (it was Samwell’s idea to cut the final S from Richards to give the pseudonym extra spice). At the same time the backup band was renamed to The Shadows (as there was already an American band call The Drifters). When Hank Marvin joined the band Ian Samwell stepped aside and concentrated on composing hits, producing and disk jockeying.
Samwell was probably the first to acquire a star status as a DJ, before that the DJ had always been the invisible nobody who turned a few singles when the bands on stage were switching places. For the first time in history people came to The Lyceum to see the DJ at work instead of the house band.
As a producer Ian worked with Aynsley Dunbar, Georgie Fame, John Mayall, The Small Faces and he would also be known as the man 'who discovered America'. Ian 'Sammy' Samwell passed away March 13, 2003.
As a youngster Jeff Dexter wasn’t into pop music at all, but dancing with girls was, so he simply gave in. At The Lyceum (1961-ish) he met DJ Sammy Samwell and they soon became friends. Not long after that Jeff made quite a name because he was barred from the dance floor for making an attempt at The Twist, originally a Hank Ballard B-side. When a few weeks later The Twist became a Chubby Checker superhit The Lyceum hired the mod they had banned before. He became a professional dancer and had to instruct the dance crazy public the moves of the week.
Around 1962 – 1963 Jeff moved to The Orchid Ballroom, the biggest ballroom in Europe with four different bars.
Chicken & Chicks, as they called it. Fish bar. Chicken bar. They had this big ice igloo where they sold ice cream sodas. They had an upstairs bar. And they had a roundabout which was another bar, a revolving bar, all in this wonderful huge building. (Taken from DJHistory.)
Jeff Dexter noticed Iggy in 1963.
Iggy was part of a group of very wonderful looking south London girls. She was unusual because she did not look like anyone else at the time. Since she disappeared, she has become a bit of an enigma. (taken from the Croydon Guardian.)
While Ian Samwell was the main DJ at The Orchid Jeff worked as a dancer and singer of the house band and as an occasional DJ. This would become his prime profession and later on he would also spin records at Tiles, UFO and Middle Earth (where John Peel was another DJ).
As a member of the Underground in-crowd, (the index of Days In The Life gives him 20 entries), he would witness the raise and fall of the movement that wasn’t a movement to begin with and the hostile reaction of the powers that be.
Middle Earth closed after the horrible scenes of the police raid. We had had a private party that night and somebody had brought along their children. The police raided, found the children and told the Covent Garden porters we were crucifying children in there. So they smashed the place to pieces. (…) Jenny Fabian and I were locked in the box office while they wrecked the place.
The Church seriously wonders if he had better luck with Iggy.
Sources (other than the above internet links):
Bacon, Tony: London Live, Balafon Books, London, 1999, p. 101.
Green, Jonathon: Days In The Life, Pimlico, London, 1998, p.222, p. 283.