2017-12-15

Iggy Rose: Eskimos and Unicorns

Iggy, 1967.
Iggy, 1967. Picture: Iggy Stern.

You could find many weird folk running around in London in the sixties, but there was only one Eskimo. On the 13th of December 2017, just a couple of minutes before her seventieth birthday, Iggy Rose, aka Iggy the Eskimo, peacefully died.

Crumbling Land

She was born in the Himalayas, on the fourteenth of December 1947, in a country she has always refused to name, but it was probably that part of India that became Pakistan, after a particular bloody separation, with its death toll running into the hundreds of thousands. Her father was an officer in the British army who married a local beauty. Their first child was Evelyn, but for one reason or another she would be known as Iggy. Her mother gave her an indigenous name as well, Laldingliani, meaning gift of the gods, in a language Iggy never spoke.

Iggy, late forties.
Iggy, late forties.

Update December 2017: Iggy's mother, so was confirmed to us, wasn't from Pakistan, but from Mizoram, situated at the North-East of India, sharing borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Iggy grew up as any normal child, although she already had the special gift of running into trouble. There is the family anecdote of the cat Iggy wanted to pet in the garden, until her parents, or the servants, found out it really was a hungry tiger on the loose.

For a while all went well, with Iggy and family living a luxurious and protected life in one of the British enclaves, politely ignoring that a civil war was raging around them. One day a mob invaded their house, burned it down and, if Iggy’s recitation of the events is accurate, they narrowly escaped a lynching party.

Family picture, late forties, early fifties.
Family picture, late forties, early fifties.

Next stop: Aden, Yemen. Another melting pot of colonial and religious problems. This was only a temporary solution as the family returned to England where they lived the upstairs life. Iggy always stayed vague about her family ties, but there might have been some railway money in the family, from the time that railways were still a great money-making thing.

Rome, late fifties?
Rome, late fifties?

Wild Thing

Iggy hit puberty, running away from home at fourteen, discovering boys, girls, booze, and speed. These were the days when young adults refused to lead the life of their grey parents, refused to listen to that boring BBC and refused to agree with the après-guerre nuclear warmongering. There may also have been some family turmoil, at times Iggy alluded to that, other times she just blamed her exit from home upon her temperamental character.

Iggy danced through life, her pretty looks and free spirit mostly assured her some food and a place to stay. Through a well-known DJ she turned from mods to rockers and Brighton was changed for London.

Enter Brian and Keith and others, for what could be called a groupie career, although she never was a groupie pur sang. In contrast to some flower power beauties who have made a fortune by talking out of bed, Iggy stayed discrete about the people she met, from Beatles to Yardbirds. There is the story how she was at a Rolling Stones party, went 'home' in the evening, slept on the stairs of a house portal, returning the next day as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Probably for Iggy, it was. She never was a trophy hunter, nor a fortune seeker.

Iggy and Jenny Spires met at Biba and they went to a Dusty Springfield après-event. Jenny returned the favour and introduced her to Syd Barrett who had left Pink Floyd, a band Iggy wasn’t particularly fond of. Iggy had always been more of a Motown girl. She stayed for a couple of weeks at Wetherby Mansions and she visited Barrett over the period of a few months, until – one day – Duggie Fields told her that Syd didn’t live there any more.

The legend that Iggy vanished all of a sudden isn’t true, she just wasn’t traceable on the Floydian radar any more. In those days it was enough to move a couple of blocks where she frequented other, equally alternative and underground, circles. There were painters, musicians, actors, movie directors...

Iggy on a movie set, 1974.
Iggy on a movie set, 1974.

Rose Tinted

In coffee table books, invariably written by men, we read how beautiful and carefree British psychedelic underground was. It wasn't always for those who didn't make a fortune out of it. The summer of love wasn't particularly women friendly either. Bad things happened to Iggy. Luckily, many good things as well.

Iggys wedding, 1978.
Iggy's wedding, 1978.

In the mid-seventies psychedelic tomfoolery was over and Iggy had to look for a job. She worked on a horse-farm for a while and met her husband there. They got married in 1978 and relocated to a small village in the Horsham district of West Sussex where she worked in a local supermarket. Even there she was the stuff legends are made of. In a (long defunct) Facebook group people remembered how she would throw groceries at those clients who didn't treat her with respect. The management had to get rid of her before she could injure someone.

The Cambridge City Wakes festival (2008) triggered something of an Iggy the Eskimo revival but Iggy's public life really started when Mark Blake, from Pigs Might Fly fame, wrote about her in a Syd Barrett Mojo Special (2010). One reader actually knew her and her quiet life was suddenly interrupted. She was interviewed for Mojo and she learned there was some kind of Iggy fandom on the world wide web. Contrary to general belief it wasn't The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit who found her. Mark Blake did.

Iggy discovered Facebook and made many, many, many friends.

A rose is a rose is a rose

Iggy was Iggy, nothing less, nothing more. Loud-mouthed, obnoxious, loyal, sweet and with the greatest heart you have ever seen. Talking to Iggy on the phone would mean a constant battering of your eardrums while she rattled a hundred and twenty words a minute. Her emotions could change from joy to anger to uncontrolled sobbing in less than a minute. If she was mad her vocabulary was lively enough to make a sailor blush. Iggy didn't wear masks. Iggy was the truest and most direct and brutally honest person I have ever seen.

Iggys attempt at a selfie, 2014.
Iggy's attempt at a selfie, 2014.

The last time when I spoke to her, I asked: “ Iggy, is it good that I call you from time to time?”
“Why?” she answered. “To check if I am not dead yet?”

I'm gonna miss those comments of her.

Face- and other books

Iggy always had big dreams. If Kathy Etcham, Jenny Fabian and Uschi Obermaier could write books about rock stars, so could she. Unfortunately Iggy's unstoppable enthusiasm for literally everything around her made every attempt to interview her an impossible task. One day she told me that her book needed pictures of unicorns to thank all her lovely Facebook friends for their friendship and love. She was not joking. Iggy was always incredibly happy with the support from her Facebook friends. This was enormously important to her. She was always thankful for that.

It was an honour to have known you, gal.

Sincere condolences to Andy and her family. Many thanks to everyone supporting her.

Dream

If you ever go to heaven there is a rainbow garden where an Eskimo girl is dancing, there are friendly tigers and gentle unicorns. Birds are singing and circling around her like in a Disney movie. Brian is jamming on a sitar. Syd is strumming some chords. It is a happy place.


Many thanks to all who have helped Iggy all these years, her husband, neighbours, friends and caregivers... fans and freaks at birdie hop, clowns & jugglers, late night, no man's land...
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥ Paula ♥