Role Models

Role Model: Amanda Lear

Go down to the Queen of Chinatown with Amanda Lear

Go down to the Queen of Chinatown with Amanda Lear

“Faust was right have no regret
Give me your soul and I’ll give you life
And all the things you want to get
So follow me…
–Amanda Lear “Follow Me”

Why, hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers! I know, I know…I’ll speak softly. We all had one too many glasses of our World Famous Pumpkin Punch this Halloween. But what better way to soothe your aching soul (and head) than with a Role Model post! After a hard night out, I find it’s always good to center yourself by obsessing over one of your many filth elders. So follow me and go down go down, dear readers, as we celebrate the Queen of Chinatown herself: Amanda Lear.

Frankly, dear readers, I’m appalled we haven’t celebrated Lear before. With her alarming yet appealing dance moves, a voice Nico would kill for and her mysterious personal history, as well as her connections to Salvador Dali, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, Lear is a vision straight out of a coked-up disco daydream.

Just watch Lear’s moves in one of her many versions of her transformative “Follow Me.” She spins, camps, vamps, spins, stares creepily, flails her hands about and true to her name, leers her way through the song. Queens take note, Lear’s disco performances are some of the best drag I’ve ever seen. Plus, she just seems to be having so much fun.

Explaining her own popularity, Lear once stated, “In Italy, I’m big because they’re all so sex-obsessed. In Germany, I succeeded because they’ve been waiting for someone like Marlene Dietrich to come along ever since the war. I played on their need for a drunken, nightclubbing vamp. And I’ve won the gays, who are crucial because they have all the best discos, entirely because of the extraordinary legends about me.”

amanda+lear_live+07

Speaking of extraordinary legends, Lear’s birthplace, date and gender have all been a source of debate throughout her career. For her part, Lear has only encouraged the confusion, creating her own uncertain and unknowable mythology.

1939, 1946, 1948 and 1950 are all dates that have been thrown around for her birth. Lear was possibly born in Saigon or British Hong Kong, alternately claiming her mother was English, French, Vietnamese or Chinese and her father was English, Russian, French or Indonesian.

As for her gender, many have claimed Lear is, in fact, trans with rumors swirling that the surrealist master Salvador Dali paid for Lear’s transition. April Ashley–a trans entertainer–claimed Lear worked with her at the trans revue Le Carrousel in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s. Other performers also mention working with Lear, whose rumored birth name was Alain Tapp.

With these various questions about her life, Lear’s otherworldly personae not only seems enigmatic but almost alien. Lear’s encouragement of these rumors and continued refusal to clarify can be seen as a radical act, particularly regarding her gender.

Amanda with Salvador Dali (via formidablemag.com)

Amanda with Salvador Dali (via formidablemag.com)

What we do know about Lear’s life, however, is certainly more than role model-worthy. Speaking several languages, Lear grew up in the south of France and Switzerland, studying art in Paris and London. Beginning her career as a model, Lear met Dali in 1965 through the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and would remain Dali’s friend and muse. Describing their relationship as a “spiritual marriage,” Lear’s androgynous look and own form of surrealism clearly mirrored Dali’s own aesthetic. Apparently upon meeting, Dali told her that she had “a beautiful skull.” Wow, what a charmer!

Not only connected to Dali and Brian Jones, Lear also had relationships with Bowie and Bryan Ferry. Though linked to these men, Lear is an outspoken supporter of one-night stands, heroically stating “five hours is all you need with anyone.”

Amanda on the cover of Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure

Amanda on the cover of Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure

While Lear was introduced to the music industry on the cover of Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, Lear began her own disco career on the recommendation of Bowie. And we’re oh-so-glad she did. With hits like “Follow Me,” “Enigma (Give A Bit of Mmh To Me),” “Blood and Honey” and “Fashion Pack,” Lear’s odes to disco excess are mesmerizing as well as maddening. Just try to listen without doing her trademark hand gestures.

While I could go on and on about Lear’s performances, why not let Lear speak…well, sing for herself. Grab an Advil or a restorative Bloody Mary and enjoy spiraling down an Amanda Lear YouTube hole for the rest of your Sunday:

And I feel like I have to highlight this baffling anthem specifically:

 

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