Amanda Lear is the ultimate pioneer in marrying music and image. After decades in the industry she is as provocative as ever. Speaking exclusively to Kim Jones, she offers up her views on everything from Madonna to Dali.
It finally happened in Paris, as these things often do. With his appointment as style director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in 2011, the career of British designer Kim Jones has transported him from London to begin a new, exciting chapter in the French capital. That the move generated extensive publicity and speculation should come as no surprise. Neither should the fact that Kim has quietly and successfully established himself at the global fashion house in just over a year through a combination of hard work, intuition and creative flair.
The Englishman in Paris, the streetwise London club kid abroad; these notions lend themselves to all manner of encounters and scenarios, whether real or imagined. Mr Jones arriving at work on the rue de Point Neuf, Mr Jones flicking through French cable channels looking for late-night repeats of Absolutely Fabulous, Mr Jones deep in conversation with… Amanda Lear?
Yes, it finally happened in Paris. Amanda, the enigmatic muse and legend of fashion, music, stage and screen, held court with Kim (a long-time admirer and self-confessed uber-fan) in the welcoming confines of his Paris office to discuss her varied (and often complicated) career, one which has lasted over 40 years.
If you think about it, I invented rap. I was just talking, which is what the kids do nowadays.
Over the decades, Amanda’s many guises have included fashion model, artistic muse, disco pioneer and most recently, acclaimed stage actress. There have been romantic entanglements and professional re-inventions along the way, which have only enriched her legacy. Her eventful life story features a supporting cast made up of such luminaries as Ossie Clark, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, with the incomparable Amanda as the dazzling main attraction. The longevity of her career has created a mythology in itself, for her exact age and even the place of her birth have never been verified. Of course, Kim remains far too much of a gentleman to ask Amanda to finally put these matters to rest, not when he has much more pressing questions to hand.
Before this Parisian encounter, the pair had met four years previously, a memorable-yet- all-too brief encounter at a London party which left Kim wondering when, if ever, he would be granted the opportunity or the time to ask Amanda all the important questions from his carefully-filed mental checklist. Her responses were all he or any fan could hope for, full of revelations, wisdom, surprises and laughs, even while dealing with the extremely serious and important issue of living one’s life as a cultural icon…
Kim Jones: Tell me about your life over the last four years. A lot changed since we last met.
Amanda Lear: I was having an affair with a beautiful Italian actor then. We stayed together about 8 or 9 years. He was very good looking and he betrayed me with a weather girl. Weather girls are such sluts! (laughs). I dumped him straight away. He came begging for forgiveness and to lick my feet, saying, “Please, please” but I said, “No, that’s it”. I never forgive. He got her pregnant and so I dumped him. Sometimes from a traumatic situation like this comes something wonderful. The next day I got a call from the biggest theatre producer in in Paris, Jean-Claude Camus. He said that he had a play for me and would I like to read it? I wasn’t sure, it was an English play called Doris Darling Bitch Bitch. It was quite funny. So I went there just to read it but I didn’t like the play because it was portraying a very bad woman. He said, “I’ve got another play for you and while you’re here you might as well read it”. So I did, and it was very funny! I read it a bit a la AbFab. You know, Absolutely Fabulous, where they’re always pissed and don’t give a shit about anything.
KJ: Yes! I love that. Good fun.
AL: That made them laugh a lot and he said, “This is the right part for Amanda” and if I agreed to do the play then he would produce it.
KJ: How did you respond to that?
AL: I told them that I had never done a play onstage before. I’d always worked for television or sung on a big stage, but a play… It’s every night, with very little money and it’s very tiring and very stressful. But on the other hand I thought, “Well, if I sign, I’ll be stuck in Paris for one year and will not have the temptation to go back to Italy to see my lovely Italian pig! (laughs) So I signed, just like that. And immediately after I was told, “My God you don’t realise it, you’re gonna be in the biggest theatre in Paris, Theatre de la Porte Saint Martin, 1,200 seats, every night, Sarah Bernhardt played there. And you’re gonna be there on that stage leading a comedy and you’ve never done it before” And I said, ‘Yes, I must be mad!” I went into rehearsal and made a point of learning my lines by heart, because everybody was saying, “Haha, Amanda Lear on stage, that’s gonna be a laugh. What a scream, the disco queen who moonlights as an actress!” They were expecting that so I knew that I had to be good. And it was a triumph! It was such a hit that we performed the play for 400,000 people for 3 years in a row. We went on tour, in Belgium and Switzerland and all over the place. Importantly, it cut me off from Italy, which was a good thing. No more of this trashy Italian TV, reality shows and bullshit… You know, Come Dance With Me, Iʼm a Celebrity… The second, very positive thing was that it opened the doors of the French acting world wide open. Because the real producers, all the actors, Alain Delon, everybody came to see the play and said, “Amanda you are good onstage, I wanna work with you”. So suddenly I started receiving dozens of film scripts.
KJ: Thatʼs amazing.
AL: They had discovered, at this stage of my life, that I can be funny and witty and a good actress. So, I realised there was a position to take. Between Joan Rivers and Joan Collins! It wasn’t there before, obviously, but now many the famous old actresses had died, like Jacqueline Maillan.
KJ: It sounds like good fun.
AL: It was! They offered me another play immediately afterwards, which I’ve been doing for the past eight months now. It’s called Lady Oscar. They wrote it especially for me. It’s very funny because the BBC came to interview me the other day at the Hotel Meurice. They thought Lady Oscar was something about Oscar Wilde but I said, “No, no, no, nothing so intellectual. Lady Oscar is a bitch, Lady Oscar is Anna Wintour”. I am the old powerful director of a big magazine like Vogue. I hate everybody and I’m very tyrannical. It is hysterical because for two hours during this play I shout and scream at everybody and lose my temper. And of course it makes everybody laugh to see an old powerful woman, you know, beautiful and thin and gorgeous and well dressed, suddenly go to pieces… It has been very successful and we are now going on tour for another year. There was a break this summer and instead of resting, I filmed a movie in Toulouse. I think for the next ten years at least, I see my future in the theatre. I love acting onstage -you have no idea! It’s new to me.
AL: You do get the jeebies before you go out. You know, “Oh my God, I’m going to forget my lines, they’re gonna hate me…” And suddenly there are 1,000 people sitting in front of you. There is no microphone, no tricks, no lip synch. You have to know your lines, you have to get into the part and be that woman for two hours. It demands a lot of energy, which is good for losing weight. There is a scene in the play where my coach turns up to give me a massage and the director insisted that I take off my dress. So, every evening I open my Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress and appear in a body onstage, half-naked. I know that all the women in the audience go, “Ooh! How old do you think she is?” It’s funny to hear all the comments. It was a bit of a war, which explained the diet and the slimming and all that. But it’s good to stay thin. Also, this is a very exciting time because, of course, just at the moment when I’m getting onstage and starting a new acting career, what happens? The record people remember me. Amanda Lear, who was long forgotten after the disco days finished. Suddenly all the producers are saying, “Amanda Lear, I love her, she’s amazing”.
KJ: Yeah, everyone loves you!
AL: I said that it was all long gone, but now there’s bands like the Scissor Sisters and other high energy bands, all remixing my music… I often ask, “What do you want from me?” And they say, “You don’t realise, you’re such an icon”. So they asked me to go back to the recording studio and do an album. I said, “I have no time, I’m onstage, I’m an actress now!”’ Of course, only in France do they know I’m an actress, not in America or England. For those people I’m still Amanda Lear the singer. So I had to go and record an album this winter and it turned out to be quite exciting, because obviously I refuse to do covers of my old songs like everybody does.
KJ: I love the fact that you worked with Louise (Prey) because she and I used to sit on my bed writing lyrics.
AL: Louise wrote me this very hot number called ‘La Bête et la Belle’ which apparently is a dirty phone call. You know, we’re all getting phone calls like, “Ahhhh… mmm, darling…. Guess what I’m holding in my hands…” The singer goes back to the hotel room and receives this telephone call. We filmed a clip at the Hotel Meurice. It’s very exciting because I get into my room, I undress, I’m on my bed and I get this phone call. This man is watching me on a screen and he’s obviously masturbating. I don’t know he’s watching me, I’m just listening on the phone, touching myself – it’s very sexy. It was banned on YouTube and I said, “That is it”. I mean you see, what’s her name, Nicki Minaj and Madonna wiggling their ass on the beach and they’re OK, but I’m banned. So eventually we complained and it’s now available to over-18s. The record suddenly started buzzing on the net and attracting people, so they ask me to go to Ibiza to sing at the Space, they want me to sing in Rome at Gay Pride… I said, “Darling, I have no time, I’m on stage!”. So I realise now that I have to try to combine both careers: acting and singing.
KJ: How do you feel about being on tour? You must have done that so many times.
AL: I love it, to tell you the truth. When I’m on stage in Paris it’s a bit routine, it’s every night, from my flat to the theatre, the theatre to my flat. On tour, every night you are in the best hotel of the town, you have a driver and get taken to the best restaurants. Sometimes you have the best-looking boy in town coming to bring you flowers, it’s very exciting! It’s tiring, but very stimulating, so I really enjoy it. Last year when I was on tour with my other play, I arrived in a hotel, I don’t remember exactly where, Toulouse or somewhere like that, and it turned out that my hotel was full with all the rugby players that you see naked on the calendar! Les Dieux Du Stade, stadium gods, and they’re completely naked!
KJ: Very homoerotic…
AL: I’ve got the calendar in my kitchen. So they’re all there, in my hotel and the rugby match is the next day so they’re not allowed out of the hotel at night because they must rest. But obviously they have no intention of resting! They were all in each other’s rooms, drinking Coca Cola, watching TV. My room was exactly next to theirs, on the same floor. I walk to my room and all the doors are open and when I go with my little trolley they go, “Oh, Amanda Lear we love you”. We had drinks together and made friends. And the next day they lost the match! On tour, I meet all these incredible people that I would never meet in Paris when I stay in my flat.
KJ: Out of interest, which singers nowadays would you listen to or do you think are good?
AL: Well, I quite like the Scissor Sisters, but I’m open to all sorts of things. I like Pitbull and Chris Brown. I don’t like Kylie Minogue, I’m not crazy about these very commercial pop singers. Madonna is the same. I used to quite like her but lately I think she’s taken the wrong direction…
KJ: Sheʼs not as cool as she used to be, is she?
AL: No, and she’s desperately trying to look like me! After all this time she finally got the cheekbones done… (both laugh) It’s very strange because she’s at a stage now where in fact she should stop showing the hot pants and go into a beautiful song, all alone in front of a microphone, not with 55 dancers in the back. She still wants to do that type of show, but she’s gone now, you know it’s too expensive, too flashy, too much. She should just do proper songs. Three weeks ago I went to see Dionne Warwick at the Olympia…
KJ: I heard that she was amazing.
AL: It was a bit sad, because she’s a bit old now, but to her credit it was just her, alone in front of her microphone.
KJ: Howʼs her voice now, is it good?
AL: No, not that good. It used to be. And the hair… She looks like Nelson Mandela. But I used to be mad for her. That is the type of singer we need now. When I started singing, we were just in front of a microphone and slowly with the arrival of disco music the boys arrived. So we all had to dance with 4 boys in the back. And then the singers themselves started dancing. So, in the end all the singers became just dancers. If you look at every video clip, they all dance like mad but nobody listens to the music.
KJ: They all blend into one now.
AL: I know, and it’s not singing. Singing is not about that.
KJ: I remember watching a Guy Bourdin documentary and they used ‘Follow Me’ as the music and it had such an impact. Because there was such a simplicity with the image and then the music just turned it into a different dimension. And thatʼs the thing that got me really interested in your music.
AL: Bring back mystery! Bring back charisma! Soon they will rediscover Marlene Dietrich, they will discover that this 60-year-old woman was incredibly sexy. They will slowly rediscover this type of singer because we’ve gone too far in all the Folies Bergère.
KJ: You were very much part of sixties London and I love that. You were modelling, Ossie Clark worked with you on Manolo Blahnikʼs roof and theyʼre such beautiful pictures. And you went from there and had such an interesting life. What was the scene like back then?
AL: It was cool, it wasn’t like now. The sixties were very exciting, because first of all there was no terrorism, there was no AIDS, there was no planet going to pieces. I mean, today we live in a world of fear. We cannot touch anything because we’ll get infected, you cannot talk to anybody because it’s not politically correct. I mean, God, it’s so fucking boring. I think that the sixties were a wonderful time. But when I say that, I sound like an old bat, reminiscing about the good old days…
KJ: No, itʼs interesting, because to me it was more exciting than today.
AL: We were terribly rebellious, but funny rebellious. The rebel today wants to break down everything, bombs everywhere, to destroy society. We wanted to change society of course, but in a happy way, with music, with love, with drugs, with booze, you know? It was fun, like, “Hey, we’re gonna change society, here have a flower”. We look a bit silly today when you see them all dressed up, but we really believed that it would make a better world, a better place to live. We believed that we would be happy, black, white, gay, straight, – it was all so open. Suddenly, nowadays, we live in a world where it’s incredibly difficult to communicate with everybody because everybody is questioning each other; “What are you trying to get out of me?” It’s impossible.
Lady gaga is doing all the things that I was doing. Crying with blood? We were doing all that years ago.
KJ: There are lots of people who donʼt know how you got into music. How did it happen? You had this link with Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. Thereʼs an amazing clip of you performing…
AL: Bryan Ferry is making a bit of a comeback.
KJ: Yes, I saw him at Kate Mossʼ wedding. He was singing there.
AL: And he would marry a girl called Amanda. It was very funny because I was modelling and he was looking for a girl for the cover of Roxy Music. His advisor was Antony Price, who always had this look a bit a la Thierry Mugler, for the real pin-up girl, with a wasp-like waist, corsets, stiletto heels. We are all there in this world of Manolo Blahnik, Antony Price et al. They decided that Amanda Lear was the ideal girl for the Roxy cover. I had no idea what Roxy Music was, but I met Bryan and he was absolutely charming and delightful. He put me on that cover and Karl Stoecker did the photograph. It was very exciting, with a black panther and all. I became very friendly with Bryan, we were going out together to the cinema and everything. And when that record sleeve came out, David Bowie fell in love with it. Not with me, he fell in love with that image, it was so striking, of a woman only cladin black leather with a leopard. It’s very Hitchcock. It’s a very strong image. When you think this is 30 years ago, it was way ahead of it’s time.
KJ: Itʼs still a beautiful image, really amazing.
AL: Nowadays you do not have a fashion show without a girl in black leather and a whip and the boots. But then it was, “Oh my God, what is she wearing?” And because the image was so striking, they asked me to go on stage with them. Brian Eno was still there and I was just walking back and forth in a see-through dress on stage. That’s how I got to meet Elton John and Freddie Mercury and all the people from the music business. And David Bowie fell in love with this image and asked to meet me. So one evening, my friend Marianne Faithfull called me and said that she was with David and that he would like to meet me. It was two o’clock in the morning so he sent me his car with his driver and I went to have a drink with him at his house. He looked ghastly, I think he had Flu – and that red hair… But he was absolutely charming. It was late and Marianne had to go to bed, which left us all alone. That was the beginning of a great affair, which lasted two years.
KJ: What was your relationship like?
AL: David was really fascinated by me. I don’t know why. I stayed with him and he was actually the first to ask why I didn’t sing, when I was a fashion model. I said, “Darling I can’t sing!”, but he paid for singing classes and sent me to this woman in London. She was teaching me scales, she wanted to get my voice right. My speaking voice had nothing to do with my singing voice, so she wanted my singing voice to be higher-pitched. When I finally got into the recording studio, it was the opposite. They wanted my lowest voice possible. I signed a contract with Man Man, and David Bowie’s manager Tony Defries. I followed him to New York and then after a while I realised nothing was coming out of the relationship. That’s when a record company from Germany, Anthony Monn at Ariola, called me. They were interested because in Germany they like these heavy blondes with a low voice, a bit Marlene Dietrich… So I flew to Munich and Tony Monn wrote ‘Follow Me’. We went into the recording studio and he made me smoke so many cigarettes and drink whisky at 4 o’clock in the morning so my voice was low, low, low. That’s what they wanted.
KJ: What did you think of the song?
AL: I wasn’t very convinced about it. I said, “It’s not what people want at the moment”. We were at the beginning of disco, Saturday Night Fever just came out. It was all about the Bee Gees.
KJ: You did ʻI Am A Photographʼ before ʻSweet Revengeʼ?
AL: Yes. ‘I Am A Photograph’, because, in my mind, David Bowie fell in love with a photograph, which is why I wrote the song. I am a glossy photograph, I’m just a photograph, I’m just glossy paper, I’m not a real human being.
KJ: The lyrics are amazing.
AL: Because I was very much still into the world of fashion, I was always obsessed with the business of the illusion. We are just illusion, we are not real people, we are not real women, we are just a fantasy, you know. Most of my songs were about this kind of misunderstanding. It became a success. I was first to be surprised. I signed a seven-year contract. Today you just do one record and if it’s not good, you’re out. But then we were signing a seven-year contract, so you knew at least for seven years the rent was going to be paid and you were going to do one album after the other. If one album wasn’t working, the next one would be. It was kind of security, because the record company was following an artist and the progression. I got in the business and I started selling millions of records. I think we sold about 18 million, all over the world. We distributed in Japan, Chile, South America, Russia, all over the place. And I became a disco queen. Everybody was a disco queen. Gloria Gaynor, Grace Jones… We all were.
KJ: But you had a different edge, thatʼs whatʼs so special about you.
AL: Well, I was writing my own lyrics. Which is not the case for all the others – all the commercial projects; Boney M, Giorgo Moroder etc… But I was always following my life, you know, the fantasy, the world, the illusion, the relationship, man, woman, the lies and so on. I was into my world. And it worked quite well.
KJ: I love ʻThe Sphinxʼ, thatʼs an amazing song.
AL: Yes, I think it’s probably the best song I wrote.
KJ: Thereʼs so many I love, but thatʼs one that stands out lyrically. ʻI Am A Photographʼ, ʻFollow Meʼ. And also ʻAlphabetʼ, thatʼs my top favourite.
AL: If you think about it, I invented the rap. Alphabet was the first song to be completely just spoken onto classical music. I was just talking, which is what the kids do nowadays. Blah, blah, blah. I’ll tell you, it’s always a problem to be ahead of the time. You are a pioneer perhaps, a visionary, but also you are not in your time. You arrive too soon. Later on we got Madonna and a whole breed of popstars. They all end up referencing somebody. I inspire, if you want. Madonna for example, when she went disco, she had the hair and the leather jacket like me. And they say, “Amanda who?” Lady Gaga is doing all the surrealistic things that I was doing with Salvador Dali. Crying with blood? We were doing all that years ago. But it’s good, that means that at least things are moving ahead. And I was perhaps right to do them.
KJ: It makes you really relevant today, though. Your legacy continues to be something that everyone looks for.
AL: Yes, they’re all my sons and daughters, my children, my babies. I’m very happy when kids like Louise or Brian Wilson contact me from Australia and say that they love me. “Are you sure?” And I think, “Well thank God they know me”. You know, they were laughing at me – “With that voice she will never get anywhere”. I realised that perhaps I was right, but also I represent a type of woman. – a bit like Anita Pallenberg, only she choose to have children. But a type of totally independent woman. Nowadays that’s what the girls want, nobody wants to get married in order to pay the rent and beg her husband to buy her a dress. They buy the fucking dress themselves. They have the money, they don’t need a man to pay for it. I was that type of woman, independent, strong, thinking like a man, not thinking like a woman. In terms of seduction, I was thinking like a man; the girls today behave like men. They want to pick up boys, seduce him, go to bed with him and dump him. No attachment. That’s a typical male trait. It’s not a ‘traditional’ female thing, which is all wishy- washy. I mean you have Sharon Stone, you have Sex and the City and you have the cougar women. It’s true that women’s attitudes have changed. In fashion nowadays, the girl on the catwalk is sure as hell, she’s strong and empowered. It has changed. I was that type of woman, which is probably why today designers like Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, or Jean-Paul Gaultier, love me. They adore me, because they say I inspire them. How? I have been around for 40 years! Yes, but they like that freedom, that liberty, that sense of “I don’t give a shit”.
KJ: Your music is something thatʼs inspiring. When Iʼm working I quite often I listen to your songs.
AL: The world of fashion is more involved with the world of music and art. Marc Jacobs is an avid art collector, he’s really into it.
KJ: Yes, I collect art as well.
AL: That’s really interesting. You know. Ricardo Tisci is totally into music, he will not do a thing without Alicia Keys or Kanye West. It is very close together, but before it was a separate world. Yves Saint Laurent had nothing to do with music. But nowadays, it’s all melted together. Which is why, when you go to a fashion show, you’re sitting next to a pop singer.
KJ: But youʼre like a precursor of that, because you were fashion, you were music, you were art, you were everything together. You know, your Dali story, Bowie and then your music. And Ossie Clark!
AL: It’s a little difficult for French people to understand because they like to put a sticker on your face. You’re a singer, you’re an actor, you’re a cook. Not all together. It’s just that, when you have all that energy, you have all those different means, all this media to express yourself. You want to draw, to dance, to sing, to talk to people. It’s just communicating your ideas. But they don’t like that. I say, “What about Jean Cocteau?” He was directing films, writing poems, making drawings. “Ah yes, but Jean Cocteau was a genius.” Oh excuse me, I though I was a genius. (laughs). In my case, that’s the way I see it. I’m difficult to pinpoint. But I like it, I don’t mind, I don’t want to be pinned into a speciality.
KJ: Going back to London, you performed at Kinky Gerlinky with the Chippendales…
AL: They called me one day and asked me. I remember we did a charity event there, with Jimmy Somerville. It was very exciting to be with the Chippendales.
KJ: I think you were in tiger skin!
AL: I had to share the dressing room because there wasn’t enough room for everybody… Boy George, was there… So I had to share the dressing room with the Chippendales. I didn’t mind. I found myself with those gorgeous boys walking about half-naked. And I was surprised because they were all asking if I had any hair spray, or could they borrow my hair dryer! They were so into their looks and their hair and their image that I thought, “My God…” But it was funny.
KJ: I think that you sang ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’…
AL: Oh, yes! Every year we had the election of Miss World. I really had such a good time and there was plenty of new photographers and designers. When I met Robert Mapplethorpe… He took a wonderful picture of me.
KJ: Iʼve seen it. Itʼs beautiful. I tried to buy it from an auction.
AL: It sold recently. I think Patti Smith put a stop on it or something. But anyway, it was a gorgeous picture. Again, I was just wearing a sweet little dress and Robert Mapplethorpe said, “No it’s too girly, wear my leather coat”. And he put it on my shoulder and did this photograph. In fact, after that I realised that I should always be wearing a leather jacket, because its masculinity with the feminine flowery dress was quite a nice combination. It’s amazing that I came across all those incredible people. Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali… But the strange thing about my destiny is that nothing is planned. Nowadays you have those career girls who plan everything. I never had any intention of doing anything, but I knew something wonderful would happen. That it is written somewhere. I don’t know what, I don’t know when, but I know it will happen. And it does. You just follow your star. But I don’t know. When I step out, I run into Brad Pitt waiting for me downstairs, you never know what’s going to happen. I think that’s wonderful about life. That’s why I don’t like going to fortune tellers, for instance.
KJ: I donʼt either.
AL: They tell you that in exactly six months you’re going to meet so and so… I don’t want to know. We’ll see. Anyway, it’s the end of the world in six months.
KJ: When you wrote ‘Fashion Pack (Studio 54)’, were you a regular at Studio 54? Did you go there very often?
AL: Well, originally, before Studio 54 there was another place called Le Jardin, I think, in New York. I used to go there with André Leon Talley. He was sin, and a good dancer. I was going with him to all these places and then the 54 started and I used to go there with Andy Warhol. And there was Halston, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli… Everybody. I remember even people from London, like Zandra Rhodes. I ran into her there one night. It was exciting because disco was really the beginning of this new way of life. Before that, there was small clubs, small venues. But suddenly there was a gigantic place that could hold two, three thousand people altogether all night long. It was the beginning of a new attitude. There was also the possibility of real shows, real attractions coming to sing there. I did the opening of the Palace in Paris and it was a big event.
KJ: And Salvador Dali?
AL: Salvador Dali was a very big part of my life. We’re still talking about making a movie. Lately it was Johnny Depp who was interested. But I saw the Woody Allen film ‘Midnight in Paris’ and thought Adrien Brody was quite good at portraying a young Dali. I had dinner with him in Paris before he did it, because he wanted more and more about Dali. And I really think that he would be good. Salvador Dali is a fascinating subject. He’s been very badly portrayed in many books as just a pervert or a funny man. People forget that he was an incredible draft man, that his drawings are amazing, very precise. And he was an incredible painter. Of course they forget this, because he was also such a social number. And he liked to be a show-off and give press conferences and be seen with famous people. Andy Warhol did the same, but artists are rarely seen drinking cocktails cocktails or at fancy events. They just stay home and paint, usually with no money and they are desperate. They paint by candlelight and suffer. And they die young, like Keith Haring. But Dali died very old and very rich and that isn’t the norm. To me he was a lesson, Dali was a teacher on how to be famous, how to handle the media and have people talk about you. I watched him whenever there was an interview, a television team. He always managed to get the centre of attention on him and say exactly what he wanted to say. He was a great showman. It’s been 25 years now since he died and this winter they’re going to have a huge retrospective at Pompidou. The king Juan Carlos of Spain is going to be there, I’m going to be there. I mean, they keep treating me like Dali’s widow, which is a bit annoying because I’m not, but I’m the only survivor, the only person with a photograph of Dali and me together. They ask me to talk about him at every show, every exhibition… But it’s good I do it for his memory. I really do think he was a great man and deserves to go in posterity, in history as an incredible artist. I always defend his memory. He was such an interesting man. His links with fashion also… He knew all the designers, Elsa Schiaparelli, he was very friendly with Christian Dior. I remember he took me to this surrealistic ball, Le Bal de Redé…
KJ: Oh, Baron de Redé! Iʼve seen the pictures, amazing. Iʼm obsessed with Baron de Redé. I have the auction catalogues of when he died and itʼs got all the photos in it.
AL: Everybody was there, Liz Taylor… And when I think I’ve lived this life, it’s wonderful. It’s something that I would never have dreamed of, you know. Again, I was a little fashion girl from King’s Road, London, I was one of those dolly birds. From Carnaby Street to Le Bal de Redé. It’s a wonderful life that I had and I hope it’s not finished.
He looked ghastly but was absolutely charming. That was the beginning of a great affair – Amanda on meeting David Bowie
KJ: Youʼve got so much energy, thereʼs going to be lots more, I can see.
AL: I don’t know why I’ve got so much energy. I could not take cocaine. If I take cocaine, my dear, you have to confiscate my credit card because I go berserk! (laughs) I get overexcited and I’m the king of the world and I’m the best. I couldn’t do that, because I’ve got that natural energy and have to do something.
KJ: How has your life changed since those early days?
AL: Suddenly I have discovered that I’m really happy by myself. Unfortunately, most of my friends from the sixties are dead, I mean, I’m a survivor. There are very few of us, there’s Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, the rest are all gone. All the great designers, McQueen, they’re all gone. Nowadays I just don’t see them much and I stay in my house and paint and I have my cats. Every time I was doing a show, I would buy a tree. All my friends would do a show and buy a watch from Vuitton, or diamonds or whatever. But I would buy a tree, they’re very expensive, fully grown trees. An olive tree costs about $3,000. In the end I’ve got a garden full in the south of France, full of trees, cypresses and magnolias and olive trees. And I look now and contemplate the garden I’ve created and I’m really happy to live in this environment, because wherever I look it’s me, I’ve bought it. It’s full of memories and happy things. I really enjoy being alone and my friends ask if I get lonely because it’s a great big house. But I never do. I paint, I call my friends, I go through all kinds of TV channels. You cannot be bored if you are creative.
KJ: Would you not like to have a steady man in your life?
AL: I’m not sure I want that. I tried marriage, I tried the long engagement, I tried the steady boyfriend. You fall in love and after tree or four years you’re not so much in love anymore. I think my next companion will probably be gay. There will be no sex involved and that I think will be the secret to have a real steady relationship. We’ll travel together, we’ll go to see theatres, movies, concerts, but we won’t fuck together. Because I mean when you start fucking around with somebody, you only see his body, his sex and that does not last. No way. That cannot last. I seem very negative about this, but it’s a fact. It’s a scientific fact that sexual attraction, passion, lasts three years. After three years and a day, ppfft. Piss off!
KJ: So itʼs the companionship?
AL: Really, I don’t feel miserable about being solitary.
KJ: Youʼre really busy anyway, so you kind of relish that time of being quiet too.
AL: I’ve always been quite rebellious and anti-social!
KJ: Youʼre independent.
AL: Independent and verging on anti-social! They invite me to dinner and I should invite them back, but I never do because I’m not very good in the kitchen. I don’t know how to handle being a hostess – it’s very difficult! But I find dinner parties in general a bit difficult. Invite me and at the last minute I think, “Oh, I won’t go, who’s going to be there? Oh shit, I’ll have to…” I’ll have to do a number, they expect Amanda Lear to be witty and I can’t stand being on show all the time. When you’re in the theatre, you’re so much on show every night. You really are on show, that for the rest of the day you rather walk around not doing a show, not talking to people, nothing. It’s a bit like the fashion world. When I was a model, I realised that we were so heavily made up and dressed up and wonderful, that when we were not doing the catwalk, the models looked disgusting. When you see them in the daylight you think, “My God, what is she wearing?”. They look like nothing, their hair is not washed. Because when they do a show they are so done up, they are so beautiful, they can’t be bothered in daytime. It’s a bit of the same in the theatre, you can’t be bothered to act all the time, you know.
KJ: Itʼs funny because whenever I get home I just want to watch TV and relax and not talk about fashion at all. You need other interests as well.
AL: Yeah, you don’t want all your time to be about what’s going to be big next season and how Marc Jacobs is today. I really want to clear my head and do something else. I mean, I travelled a lot when I was touring with the music. It was very exciting, I went all over the place, all these countries, I went to Russia, St. Petersburg, to America, I went to Japan, I’ve been all over the place.
KJ: You are still really popular in Japan.
AL: Yeah, I got a gold record there! It’s crazy! It’s the only place where I really felt like a complete alien. I mean, they were looking at me like I was coming from Mars, because they all look the same. They were very sweet. I had to have at least one affair with a Japanese. I mean, I’m in Japan – I might as well try. So I had this wonderful man, he was so sweet, very good-looking Japanese. Quite muscular, he was a sportsman. He took me to my hotel and we spent the night together, it was very sweet. In every country you at least have to find out… ‘what’s going on’.
KJ: As Iʼm so obsessed with your alphabet song, what would your alphabet of the new generation be? They have changed since you wrote the song, it would be interesting to know what you think now.
AL: Alors! How does it go, the alphabet?
KJ: A stands for Anything, B for Bionic, here you go…
AL: B is for Bionic and Bach. C for Claustrophobia, D for Dirty old man. Full frontal and Friends, we’re still there. G for getting a divorce (laughs), H for Hijacking. I for king-size ego. Yeah, right on. J for jukebox and junkies. Yes! L… leading lady. Nowadays I would probably say Lady Gaga. Me is for me, moi. N is for never again. Oh yeah, don’t do the same mistakes. O is for that famous story. Many people don’t understand that. There was the Story of O, which was a dirty…
KJ: I have the book up there!
AL: Hmmm, P for pain and poverty. Q for quality which is better than quantity. They keep telling me that size counts and I say that it’s not the size that counts, it’s the taste. (both laugh) R stands for rock and roll. Sexy and sad. T drives them totally mad. Yeah, really, we’re in a mad society. U are everything to me. V stands for a little voodoo. W, where and when. X sounds extremely mysterious. We have X movies, we’re also extra extra large. Y is a question I keep asking. And zero…. Well, you know… I think there’s nothing to change. It could come out today.
KJ: I think the musicʼs perfect.
AL: There is nothing to change I think.
KJ: Thank you so much!