Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat


From the age of 16, when she was declared ‘The Face of ‘66’ by a British newspaper, Twiggy has packed in a lot of living and a multitude of careers – as a world famous model, a recording artist, a film actress and an author (her second autobiography ‘Twiggy in Black And White’ was published when she was 48).

Born Lesley Hornby in Neasden, London in September 1949, she was to become the most famous model of the 1960s and one of the most familiar faces in the world. Her photograph was even encased in a time capsule and sent into space. However, her career in films and on record has not been as well documented as her modelling career under her boyfriend and manager of the time, Justin deVilleneuve.

Many people commented on the control he seemed to wield over her and he was dubbed her ‘Svengali.’
She says, “A Svengali? I don’t think so, but he made sure he ran every aspect of my life.”

Twiggy has recorded more than a dozen singles and appeared on seven albums. It was in 1966 that record label Ember approached deVilleneuve offering a contract for her to make records. “I don’t suppose they even knew I could sing,” she recalls, remembering she’d only left school six months previously. When her debut single was released in Japan it became a huge hit and she was booked to appear at the prestigious Budokan Hall in Tokyo. Twiggy paraded up and down the stage wearing different outfits while a Japanese group played Beatles numbers. Despite the numerous records she has made, Twiggy was only to enjoy one Top Twenty entry, ‘Here I Go Again’, which was a hit for her in 1976.

Once Twiggy was established as a model she sought to expand her career by becoming an actress. She and Justin thought that William Faulkner’s ‘The Hanging Tree’ would make a good film project for her and decided to approach the Beatles for backing. They met John Lennon and Paul McCartney and she was to say, “For me it was like meeting God…… Paul was the one who was my hero; he was the one I’d stuck pictures of all over my desk at school and on my bedroom wall. “At 13 it was him I’d screamed my head off for at the Finsbury Park Astoria. I was so excited to be meeting him at last, but trying to be cool. And he was lovely, just as I’d imagined, and he was the one I became most friends with. The Beatles did like the film idea, but we never managed to get it together.”

However, Paul suggested they contact movie director Ken Russell, and Twiggy was later to star in his film musical ‘The Boyfriend’ in 1971, for which she received two Golden Globe Awards. In 1968 there were plans for Twiggy to tour Russia and Granada Television intended making a documentary film of the trip. Unfortunately, it fell through. Twiggy said, “Paul actually wrote a song for that trip to Russia that didn’t come off – and it was ‘Back In The USSR’, which went on the Beatles' White Album.”

After ‘The Boyfriend’, Twiggy sought further roles, and a film called ‘Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance’ was planned. The name was inspired by the Gene Kelly song ‘Broadway Melody’, which contains the words ‘gotta dance’ and the story was to be set on a cruise liner in the 1930s.

Once again, Paul wrote a song for Twiggy, this time the title song. The film was never made and Paul later used the number in his ‘James Paul McCartney’ television special. In 1996 Twiggy released the album ‘London Pride’ which was a collection of classics from British musicals. She next released an album of Noel Coward numbers.

Her career in films hasn’t been spectacular, but it has provided her with steady acting work over the years and her movies, following ‘The Boyfriend’, have included ‘W’, ‘There Goes The Bride’, ‘The Blues Brothers’, ‘The Doctor & The Devils’, ‘Club Paradise’, ‘The Diamond Trap’, ‘Madame Sousatzka’ and ‘Istanbul.’

One of the most dramatic periods of her life occurred when she was cast in the thriller ‘W.’ Her co-star was 6ft 2ins former baseball player Michael Whitney.
The two fell in love, were married at Richmond Registry Office, and went off to Sardinia for their honeymoon. After a miscarriage Twiggy became pregnant again and their daughter, Carly, was born in 1978. Things began to go downhill when Twiggy discovered that Michael was an alcoholic. His behaviour became so erratic that it produced problems for the couple.

Twiggy She was to note, “It not only affected Michael’s career, it affected mine too. Los Angeles is Network City. If you’re not in, you’re out. People just didn’t want to have to cope with him.”

With no prospects for them in Hollywood, they decided to move back to London. Then, in 1983, Twiggy was offered the lead in the musical ‘My One And Only’ in the States. By the time of the musical’s last try-out in Boston, Michael’s alcoholism had become too much of a problem and they split up. Michael was jealous of her success in the musical and went into such a rage that he punched a hole through a wall and was dragged away by police. In New York he turned up at the stage door, completely drunk, resulting in Twiggy and Carly having to have protection from a bodyguard.

Twiggy realised that the addiction to alcohol had killed her love for him, but she agreed that he should continue to see Carly.When he turned up she was shocked. “The handsome man I’d fallen in love with was long gone. Haggard and thin, the muscles from his legs all wasted. His clothes hung on him. His hands shook. His eyes were bloodshot and he had bloodhound-sized bags under them".

Michael took Carly out on the eve of her fifth birthday to MacDonalds and they’d just finished their meal when he had a massive heart attack. The staff took Carly out to the back of the restaurant while the paramedics confirmed that he had died. A few years after the tragic events, Twiggy met the Shakespearian actor Leigh Lawson. They fell in love and were married in 1988. However, although she’s very happy to be Mrs Lesley Lawson, she can’t escape the name by which she has become so famous.

She commented, “I’m lumbered with the name Twiggy really. There was a point a few years back when I thought I’d stop using it and be Lesley Lawson. But every time I was written about it would be ‘Lesley Lawson, otherwise known as Twiggy.’ So my husband quite rightly told me to stop worrying about it.”

In recent years Twiggy has become one of the main models in Marks & Spencer media campaigns.

Twiggy            Twiggy            Twiggy            Twiggy            Twiggy            Twiggy            Twiggy

Also see:           Sixties City Fashion Pages

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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