A Lustful Mind: Lilli Carati’s Dreams

In the town of Varese in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, Ileana Caravati was born on 23rd September 1956 to a successful family of local merchants. With her lustrous dark hair, flawless olive skin and athletic physique, Ileana’s stunning looks and the fact that the region’s capital Milan was one of the world’s most fashionable cities, prompted her to go into modelling. At the age of 18, she entered the Miss Italia contest, where she won second place and earned the title ‘Miss Elegance.’

As a result of the competition, Ileana caught the eye of film producer Franco Cristaldi, whose company Vides Cinematografica had produced numerous successful Italian documentaries and films since its formation in 1946. In 1975, after changing her name to Lilli Carati, Ileana appeared in her first film Di che segno sei? Similar erotically charged offerings such as La professoressa di scienze naturali and L’avvocato della mala followed.

It was the 1978 film Avere vent’anni directed by Ferdinando Di Leo, and her raunchy performance alongside fellow Italian starlet, Gloria Guida, which made Carati a national sex symbol. In Avere vent’anni, Carati and Guida played two young women who leave home to seek adventure and sexual freedom, hitchhiking to Rome to join a Hippie commune before descending into a dark world of prostitution and gang violence. The film was heavily censored before its release in cinemas across Europe due to its explicit scenes, including a brief carnal encounter between the two lead actresses.

Above: A scene from Avere vent’anni (1978) Continue reading

Clouded By Illusions: The Beauty Of Gia Carangi

Life and death
energy and peace
if I stopped today
it was fun.
Even the terrible pains that have burned me and scarred
my soul it was worth it for having been allowed to
walked where I’ve walked. Which was to hell on earth
heaven on earth, back again, into, under, far in between
and above it.

Gia Carangi (1986)

The death of supermodel Gia Carangi went unreported by the press. Five days later, her funeral was a quiet affair, attended only by her immediate family, with a closed casket recommended for the woman whose exquisite face and fabulous figure had once stunned the fashion world. None of the photographers who had clamoured to capture her, or the fashionistas who excitedly watched her strut down a catwalk were there, or even knew she had died. She was certainly not the first young woman destroyed by the glamorous but notoriously fickle modelling industry, but as one fashion insider later remarked, ‘There were a lot of girls who were victims of those times — the night life, Studio 54, dancing, having fun. There were girls who took a lot of coke and destroyed their beauty, but I don’t think Gia was one of those. I think she was a victim of herself.’

Born in Philadelphia on 29th January 1960, Gia’s early life had been wrought by the unhappy marriage of her parents, Joseph Carangi, an Italian restaurateur and his wife Kathleen, who was of Welsh and Irish descent. Gia was their youngest child of three and their only daughter, although Joseph also had a son from a previous marriage. In 1971, Kathleen left the family home for good and later remarried, seeing her children at fairly irregular intervals much to the distress of her daughter, who was never able to overcome her sense of abandonment, as a friend recalled, ‘The one person Gia always wanted something from was her mother – and she just never felt like she got it.’ As well as her mother’s departure, Gia eventually revealed that she had been molested at the age of five, an experience that left her traumatised.

After being discovered by a local photographer whilst working in one of her father’s restaurants, Gia appeared in several advertisements in Philadelphia before moving to New York in 1978. Gia was signed by Wilhelmina Models straight away, with the agency’s owner Wilhelmina Cooper, who would become her mentor, enraptured by her ‘fantastically pliable face.’ One of Gia’s first assignments was for Vogue with the photographer Chris von Wangenheim in October 1978.

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Across The Sky In Stars: The Wisdom Of T. E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Tremadog, North Wales on 16th August 1888. The second of five sons, Lawrence’s father was Sir Thomas Chapman, Baronet of Kilkea Castle, near County Kildare in Ireland and his mother was a young governess named Sarah Junner, for whom Chapman had left his wife. Despite the fact they never married, the couple both adopted the surname Lawrence. In his later years, his early familial situation would be a source of awkwardness for Lawrence regarding his own identity, and he would change his name several times throughout his life.

The world Lawrence entered was an ordered and stable Victorian one, where Pax Britannica saw the longest ever period of peace in Europe and in which the British Empire covered vast swathes of the globe. However, the devastation wrought by the Great War and the carving up of once great empires brought about Lawrence’s elevation from an astute and skilled soldier into the mythical ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

In 1907, Lawrence went up to Jesus College, Oxford to read history and left in 1909 with a first class degree, the same year he visited Palestine and Syria whilst working on a dissertation that would later be published as Crusader Castles in 1936. His journeys ignited in Lawrence a powerful fascination with the Middle East and a deep affection for the people who lived there. After joining an archaeological expedition to excavate the site of Carchemish in Syria in 1911, Lawrence decided to extended his stay, and began learning Arabic, immersing himself in the local culture. He became particularly close to Selim Ahmed, also known as Dahoum, a young water boy in Carchemish who helped Lawrence with his Arabic.

Following the outbreak of war, Lawrence was recruited by British army intelligence, and in December 1914 he was sent to Cairo. In 1915, Lawrence learned that two of his brothers, Will and Frank had been killed in action in France and the tragic news only hardened his resolve to fight. When the Arab Revolt erupted against Turkey in June 1916, Lawrence was offered the role of adviser to Prince Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Grand Sharif of Mecca. Recalling his first meeting with the Prince, Lawrence remembered, ‘I felt at first glance that this was the man I had come to Arabia to seek – the leader who would bring the Arab Revolt to full glory.’ 

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Queen Of The Blues: Mary Millington’s Confessions

On 19th August 1979, Mary Millington’s lifeless body was discovered by her husband, at her home in Walton-on-the-Hill in Surrey; she had taken an overdose of paracetamol, washed down with a large amount of vodka, a slow and agonising way to die. Four suicide notes were found at the scene, each one documenting their author’s troubled state of mind and explained how she felt that death was her only option.

As the most recognisable adult star in Britain, for the past decade Mary had devoted herself to a tireless campaign for more liberal pornography laws, and for a freer debate on the expression of female sexuality. Even as she lay dying she wrote, ‘I do hope so much porn is legal one day, they called me obscene names for being in possession of it – I can’t go through anymore.’ The prospect of spending time in jail was one that haunted Mary in her final years, and the two London adult shops she owned and often worked in, had been subjected to countless raids. At the time of her death, she was due to appear before the Old Bailey on a recent obscenity charge, and feeling that she was being deliberately persecuted by the authorities, she confessed in one of the notes found beside her, ‘The police have framed me yet again. They frighten me so much. I can’t face the thought of prison.’

Born Mary Ruth Quilter in Kenton, Middlesex on 30th November 1945, Mary shared her birthday with Winston Churchill, something she often remarked upon. Mary’s mother, Joan Quilter, worked for the Foreign Office and her father was the opera critic, John W. Klein; the relationship was a casual one and dissolved soon after Mary was born, with Klein eventually losing contact altogether with both Quilter and his young daughter. A lifelong animal lover, Mary had ambitions to become a veterinary nurse, but was let down by her inability to pass the required exams. Nevertheless, she became an ardent supporter of several animal charities, including the PDSA, and was devoted to her own dogs. Continue reading