Amanda Lear  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Amanda Lear (née Tapp, born November 18, 1939, in British Hong Kong) is a French singer, lyricist, composer, painter, TV presenter, actress and novelist.

Lear began her career as a fashion model in the mid-1960s and was also the muse of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. She first came to the public attention as the model on the cover of Roxy Music's album For Your Pleasure in 1973. She was a multimillion selling Disco Queen in the mid-1970s to the early 1980s mainly in Continental Europe and Scandinavia with hits such as "Queen of Chinatown", "Follow Me", "Enigma (Give a Bit of Mmh to Me)" and "Fashion Pack". Lear has sold 15 million albums and over 25 million singles worldwide.

In the mid-1980s she positioned herself as one of the leading media personalities in mainland Europe, especially in Italy and in France where she hosted many long-running TV shows. Since the 1990s her time has been divided between music, television, writing and movies as well as pursuing her career as a painter. Currently she lives in Saint-Étienne-du-Grès near Avignon in the south of France.

Early career; modelling, meeting with Dalì and those 'rumours' (1965–1974)

In 1965, Lear was spotted by legendary French modelling agent Cathérine Harlé and, eager to find a way to finance her studies, she returned to Paris to catwalk for rising star Paco Rabanne. Soon thereafter, she found herself being photographed for magazines like Elle, Marie France and Vogue and modelling for fashion designers like Mary Quant, Ossie Clark, Antony Price, Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. After some time, she dropped out of art school, began modelling full-time and went on to lead a bohemian and flamboyant life in the Swinging London of the Sixties, hobnobbing with the rich and famous like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Brian Eno, Twiggy, Sacha Distel, David Bailey, Yul Brynner and Keith Moon.

While clubbing with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and her then boyfriend, the Guinness heir Tara Browne, in a Parisian nightspot named Le Castel in 1965, she was introduced to a man that was to change her life - on many levels according to some - none other than Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalì (1904–1989) who instantly saw a kindred spirit in her. Lear's biography My Life With Dali, which was first published in 1986 and had Dalí's approval, gives a detailed and intriguing insight into the lives of both the great genius and his muse. She accompanied him and his wife on trips to Barcelona, Madrid, New York and Paris and spent every summer with Dali at his home in Cadaqués in Catalonia. Dali served as a mentor to her; travelling with him, Lear discovered the great museums of Europe, Parisian salons and restaurants, New York bohemia and his homeland, Spain, while she, in return, introduced him to the younger generation of the counterculture in art, fashion, photography and music in London. The factual accuracy of My Life With Dalì is however disputed by many researchers of Dalì's life and work.

Although she remained Dali's confidante, protegée and mistress all through the Sixties and Seventies, Lear was also romantically linked to Brian Jones, had a year-long affair with the married David Bowie and was briefly engaged to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music but in 1979 she married French aristocrat Alain-Philippe Malagnac d'Argens de Villèle who, in fact, was the former lover turned adopted son of controversial gay novelist Roger Peyrefitte.

Despite modelling nude for Playboy Magazine in 1977 and Amanda saying "and they could see I was a woman like everybody else", she was and still is widely rumoured to be either a transsexual or an intersexual because of her height (5ft 9.25 /176 cm), her masculine facial features and, most of all, her exceptionally low baritone-like vocal timbre. The fact that Lear is a naturally-born man is today considered an open secret in Continental Europe although Amanda has since the early 1980s insisted that these rumours are the result of a planned succès de scandale, a clever publicity stunt thought up by herself and Salvador Dalí to get her career in music started, just like her contradictory statements about her childhood. " - Everything Dali said, I just listened to. He was the genius, who was I? When it came to launching my career, he told me I was a lousy singer and if I wanted to sell records, I'd have to find something other than the music to attract people to buy them. So we built the Amanda Lear persona into something very intriguing and very ambiguous and it worked."

However, Britain's first publicly confessed transsexual April Ashley has since gone on record in her autobiography April Ashley's Odyssey [1] to say that she worked with Amanda in legendary Parisian drag show Carrousel Club in the late 1950's. According to Ashley, Lear was then a man in his early twenties, called Alain Tapp, performing in drag shows using the stage name Peki d'Oslo and a regular member of the Carrousel ensemble as they toured Germany, Scandinavia, Italy and South America. This early alter ego could in fact be a reference to her Eurasian origin; Oslo/Peking.

These claims were later confirmed by famous German transsexual singer, actress and nightclub owner Romy Haag in her 1999 autobiography Eine Frau Und Mehr (translated as A Woman And Then Some). Just like Ashley, Haag describes that she first met Lear under the name Peki d'Oslo at the Carrousel and that the two also worked together at Romy's famous nightclub Chez Romy Haag in Berlin, in the early seventies.

In March 2007, renowned British music manager Simon Napier-Bell (Dusty Springfield, The Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, Japan, Wham!) was the next eyewitness to come forward, saying that " publishers sent me off to Paris to make a record with Amanda Lear, someone I’d known years before as a young Asian-looking guy called Peki who hung out in the Gigolo, a gay bar in London in the 60' s. Now that Peki had become Amanda, I wasn't interested anymore, but other people were - Amanda's new companion was Salvador Dali."

April Ashley claimed that Alain Tapp, also known as Peki D'Oslo, had already changed her stage name to Amanda when she persuaded an elderly Scottish gentleman to marry her for 50 pounds in order for her to obtain British citizenship, the gentleman in question just happened to be called Mr. Lear. Ashley also insists that Lear and Dalì met long before 1965, probably in 1958 or 1959 while Lear was still working at the Carrousel as a female impersonator. Some sources go even further, saying that Lear was Dalì's greatest - or possibly the most bizarre - artistic creation of his whole career, suggesting that he was the one who paid for a sex reassignment that was to have taken place in Casablanca, Morocco in 1963. (see Georges Burou)

However it should be added that Dali, David Bowie and April Ashley have stated that Amanda is transsexual and rumors of her transsexuality predates her meeting with Dali. She appears to have attempted to go into stealth mode after moving to London and finding her career hampered by her past.

British actress and comedienne Joanna Lumley, who not only bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Lear but also was a fashion model in London in the mid-Sixties herself, has in several interviews confirmed that her glamourous but notoriously foul-mouthed Absolutely Fabulous character Patsy Stone was loosely based on the mysterious life story of a certain A. Lear.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Amanda Lear" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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