The mad, bad and sad life of Dusty Springfield

A review of Dusty: An Intimate Portrait, by Karen Bartlett. The sexually repressed and mentally unstable singer’s rise to stardom was as meteoric as her fall

2 August 2014

9:00 AM

2 August 2014

9:00 AM

Dusty: An Intimate Portrait Karen Bartlett

The Robson Press, pp.340, £20, ISBN: 9781849546416

Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.

It is thus a tragedy that Dusty Springfield’s whole existence was blighted by her orientation, which explains ‘the silence and secrecy she extended over much of her life, and her self-loathing’. One glance at her chin should have revealed all — but the Sixties was not a fraction as liberated and swinging as people now assume. ‘Being gay was either a pitiable affliction or an actual mental illness,’ Karen Bartlett reminds us in this sympathetic biography. Victims were treated with aversion therapy and electric shocks.

Male homosexuality is frequently discussed (John Sparrow believed that ‘all the fun went out of it’ when it became legal), but generally we hear a lot less about the plight of lesbians, who ‘faced utter rejection by a society that emphasised femininity at all costs. Women must marry, and marry young, to avoid a life on the shelf.’

The agony created by such social stipulations was widespread and intense. I myself can recall heaps of furious married dragon-women in Wales, who wore wrinkle-resistant Crimplene trousers and sublimated their feelings working with horses or running Girl Guide camps. The chapel coerced behaviour — as did Catholicism. Dusty Springfield was born as Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien in 1939, the ‘dumpy red-headed’ daughter of Irish immigrants in Ealing. Even as late as 1973 she was telling her (female) partner, ‘If I walk into that church the ceiling is going to fall on me. I’m going to be dead because I’m such a sinner.’

Mary/Dusty was educated at a convent school. Her father was ‘overweight, bespectacled and balding,’ a tax adviser who refused to sit the accountancy exams because ‘he really wanted to be a concert pianist’. He also never did any gardening, as ‘there could be snakes hiding in the undergrowth’. Meantime, Dusty’s mother was continuously drunk and sat all day in cinemas.

It was a domestic atmosphere of ‘terrible tension and fuming rows’. occasionally enlivened with food fights at the dinner table. Dusty’s father called her ‘stupid and ugly’, so she scalded herself and self-harmed to prove she was alive and not thoroughly numb. ‘The feelings of inadequacy followed me through my life,’ she later admitted— and her solace was to listen to (and emulate) Carmen Miranda, Doris Day and Billie Holiday, who turned pain and a tortured personal history into art.

The nuns wanted Mary O’Brien to be a librarian — i.e. they’d perceived she was more likely to be a mousey spinster than a fecund mother. But the future Dusty was determined to rebel. She bleached her hair and turned herself into someone else. ‘I just suddenly decided, in one afternoon, to be this other person who was going to make it.’

Were this a musical on the West End or Broadway stage, this would mark the climax of Act One. Dusty immersed herself in jazz and the blues and made her debut in Clacton-on-Sea, teaming up with another musician who’d ‘once taught Elizabeth Taylor’s children to water-ski’. Calling herself ‘a calculating bastard’, Dusty merged rock-and-roll with ‘a folksy formula’, and wearing ornate dresses with stiff petticoats, belted out ballads in a style reminiscent of Cilla, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Kiki Dee and Petula Clark combined.

Dusty toured Butlin’s holiday camps in a VW camper, staying in digs with three-bar electric fires and a shared lavatory. She was a hostess in nightclubs frequented by the Krays and Christine Keeler. She appeared in cabarets with magicians, second-rate Spanish dancers ‘and a female fire-eater’. Her first television show was with Benny Hill. Bartlett doesn’t quite explain how it happened, but by 1963 Dusty was earning today’s equivalent of £25,000 a week.

The following year, the singer undertook a 29-date UK tour, followed by Australia and New Zealand. She was deported from South Africa, however, for ‘flatly refusing’ to perform before segregated audiences. Brutish apartheid reminded her of the prejudice and ignorance shown to homosexuals. To their eternal shame, Max Bygraves and Derek Nimmo publicly criticised Dusty for her stand, complaining that she’d now ‘made it difficult’ for British entertainers to go to the Cape and make big money. But racism was by no means confined to South Africa. At home and in America, Little Richard and Ray Charles never had their faces prominently shown on album covers.

Though Dusty spent much time in the States, ‘shooting in the woods’ in the South and encountering the bass-player who’d ‘taught Elvis how to do karate,’ she started to unravel at the very moment she won her greatest success. By 1966, ‘she had achieved more hit records than any other artist’. She had a nose job at the London Clinic. She was ‘constantly striving for perfection’, and was always late because it took three hours to apply her make-up. Dusty ‘often stretched the music business of the Sixties to their limits’ — but she also stretched the limits of sanity in her personal misbehaviour.

Dusty would send out for boxes of crockery, which she would then systematically smash against a wall. ‘That’s when I realised how weird it all was,’ says her lover, Sue Cameron. She tipped bags of flour over the band, punch bowls over her own head. Her pranks were not funny — they were mad. She festooned a house with lavatory paper, flung food in restaurants, and threw all her furniture into the swimming pool. She had a fight with Buddy Rich and knocked off his wig. (‘You fucking broad, who do you think you fucking are, bitch ?’). Dusty ended up in a secure ward at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, New York, suffering from a ‘catatonic nervous breakdown’.

The pills and vodka didn’t help. Dusty began drinking to give herself courage to have ‘sexual experiences’ with a woman, and as a ‘bachelor girl’, the very phrase used by interviewers, making her own way, she had no one to fall back on. No partner or family. Pitifully, ‘she wanted to feel safe — and never did.’ Sacked from The Talk of the Town, she was replaced by Bruce Forsyth. Asked to record a theme-song for a Bond movie, she couldn’t ‘get it together’ and Carly Simon was hired instead. By 1985, Dusty was reduced to earning $500 a night miming to her old hits in West Hollywood gay bars. ‘Battered and bruised’, and with her front teeth knocked out in a lesbian skirmish, she was admitted to hospital yet again.

Act Two, therefore, charts a pitiful and lonely decline. Dusty ‘wanted to be straight and she wanted to be a good Catholic and she wanted to be black’, sums up Norma Tanega, one of her partners. But Dusty operated at a time when ‘being gay was career poison’, so instead she went to pieces. The industry was so ‘homophobic and sexist, being a lesbian was considered awful and shocking’. Nor did newspapers want to know. ‘In those days girls in her situation didn’t come out and talk about being gay or bisexual.’ If actresses, they played tweedy old maids or sour housekeepers, like Agnes Moorehead. Or perhaps they became dog breeders or managed a garden centre. Maybe they became nuns. If you were Noele Gordon, you ran the gamut.

So: ‘she would scream a lot. She would also threaten to harm herself.’ When Dusty ran along the street, smashing car windows, Billie Jean King ‘arrived to calm things down’. Instead of suicide, Dusty got breast cancer. She moved to Taplow in Buckinghamshire, where she would eat only cauliflower and ice cream. Her household rubbish had to be cut up into pieces of identical size. She’d spend all day watching Bonanza in German on satellite television. She died in 1999. An operatic tale indeed — but did Dusty really have an affair in Mustique with Princess Margaret? If I am sceptical it is only because Hanoverians have small chins.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £16, Tel: 08430 600033. Roger Lewis has written books on Anthony Burgess, Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Christopher Hawtrey.

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Show comments
  • Donella Campbell

    This reviewer is clearly a sad, bitter and lonely individual.

    He has chosen the subject of this dreadful book to demonstrate the level of his ignorance and bigotry.

    I can only pity him!

  • JohnGray

    This is a shamefully ignorant and trivial acccount of a great singer. The reviewer clearly knows nothing about the subject and simply regurgitates a stream of tawdry gobbets. If this is the standard of journalism we can expect from the Spectator, I’d say “There’s never been a worse time to subscribe”.

    • rickmcinnis

      My feelings exactly. This is not what I would expect of this “publication”. Does everything have to be “edgy” these days? Edgy has become tiresome and expected, predictable and ordinary. Thoughts of sending money to subscribe vanished into the thinnest air. Good-bye.

  • Terry Field

    So being gay was a problem.
    Why did that change?
    Who benefits?
    Who does not?
    Only Peppa Pig knows the truth.
    All hail Bacon Boy.

    • red2black

      I remember reading about what happened to Alan Turing. I’m not ‘gay’, but people shouldn’t be persecuted if they are. Being gay seems to be a problem for people who aren’t and consider it ‘important’, seemingly like the author of this dreadful article. I didn’t know Dusty Springfield was a lesbian, and don’t care if she was. Why should such a detail about someone be prioritised when there’s so much more that makes them who they are?

      • Terry Field

        I wrote a little note on Parris’s stuff about not giving Turing an apology ex post.
        I agree about the police.
        I heard Gareth Pearce talking yesterday about the police lying in court.
        They are a horror.
        How we correct this state-within-a-state I have no idea.

      • Gilbert White

        This Turing thing is out of hand. We will never for sure but some of his sadistic sodomizing must have hurt vunerable young boys.

        • red2black

          You’re right about that, but I think there was more concern about him being a security risk due to the possibility of his illegal homosexuality being used to blackmail him into a betrayal of his country.

  • Patti G

    Really? Limitations should be personal.

  • JohnGray

    To give some examples of how ignorant and crass this review is. There’s no mention whatsoever of Dusty’s early success with the Springfields. The reviewer is at a loss to “explain how it happened, but by 1963 Dusty was earning today’s equivalent of £25,000 a week.” Perhaps because she was in one of the most popular bands of the time, enjoying big hits in the UK, USA and Australia? The Springfields were seen by millions on TV and headlined at the London Palladium in 1963. Instead he has Dusty appearing “in cabarets with magicians, second-rate Spanish dancers and a female fire-eater” etc because that fits the tawdry story-arc better. He seems to know nothing about the music of the time, lazily lumping Dusty in with all the other British 60s ‘girl’ singers (“she belted out ballads in a style reminiscent of Cilla, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Kiki Dee and Petula Clark combined” – whatever that means). Is he unaware that Kiki Dee started out singing backing vocals for Dusty before her solo career got off the ground? That Dusty was well established on the music scene before Cilla, Lulu, or Sandie broke through? ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’ sold over 1 million copies in 1962, the first single by a British group to reach the US top 20, speaheading the British invasion even before the Beatles. Nothing about Dusty’s achievements musically and as a producer, or her longer term influence. Just celebrity gossip.

    It is staggering that someone has been paid to pen such a cheap, lazy, dishonest piece of journalism and that the Spectator has published it.

    • surferpl

      Agree, Guest, with your analysis…. The “author” of this “piece” of shiite knows absolutely nothing about the music and/or music scene of the 60’s. I’d go on but you did such a great job of calling him on the carpet. What an ass^$#e.

      • Steve Barrow

        True – if he did, he would have known that in fact, both Ray Charles and Little Richard were both pictured on their album covers – Richard starting in ’57, and Charles in the same year. America was overtly racist, true, but both these artists had their faces shown VERY prominently on the debut album covers, and on most of their subsequent releases. This ‘review’ is, like most that appear in the Spectator, informed by the reactionary politics, not to mention backwardness of its ‘author’.
        “Dusty In Memphis” remains a classic soul album, nearly 50 years after it was recorded; that is more than be said of anything this hack has scribbled.

    • Katana Sharp

      I agree with you whole heartedly, to me Dusty was as classy as Elizabeth Taylor ever was and her music was a joy to listen to. This review is a poor dramatization of Dusty’s life and all I can say is that Dusty gave me allot of pleasure and whenever I saw her on TV she was in a class of her own and comparing her to Cilla, Lulu, or Sandie is an absolute travesty, they never came even close to Dusty Springfield or Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien and the author of this review has no idea of the music of the 50’s or 60’s that Dusty was so appropriately part of and was at the top of some of the best ballads ever sung and written. RIP Dusty as you will always be in my heart and our hearts forever.

    • Jay Igaboo

      You’re absolutely right, she could have sang rings round the other female singers mentioned.

      She was the backbone of The Springfields who did a folky sound and harmonised very nicely with her–“Island of Dreams”was surely bigger than “Silver Threads..ect?”

      Here they are for anyone wanting to enjoy it

  • hawkeye

    I am not a medical person, could somebody please enlighten me on the link between not committing suicide and getting breast cancer instead?

    • Gilbert White

      It is a literary artifact not meant to be taken literally!

    • Annie Belanger

      Or the shape of the chin and lesbianism? And what’s with the disgusting phrase “bobbing for apples”?

  • Fraser Bailey

    Whatever…she gave us Dusty In Memphis, not that the reviewer seems to be interested in the work itself.

  • It’s official: gayness is dull. Now a man that likes a woman and vice versa: THAT’S interesting.

  • olinross

    This is nothing but bull dung………This turd that wrote this garbage should be thrown back in the cesspool from whence he came..

  • Sue

    What an ignorant homophobe. Small penis syndrome no doubt….

    • Verbatim

      Do you think your own insult/ad hominem really contributes anything at all to this discussion?

  • EppyB

    Roger Lewis consistently seems to fly over the heads of just about everyone, judging by the comments, well done sir

  • Nylene13

    Didn’t she tour with the Beatles? I was only 13 but I think so.
    Always liked her music. What a badly written article.

  • ACE

    What an Ugly, pus-filled FOOL this reviewer is. What’s his name ? Roger Lewis, well Mr Lewis, rest assured you and your stupid bigoted garbage will be soon forgotten, The Spectator should be ashamed to give employment who regards his duty as a reviewer to trash an eminently successful singer’s life. If I was to meet you in person I would happily give you a good old fashioned horse whipping, just because you deserve it.

    • edithgrove

      My feelings exactly.
      “my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin”, Fraser you must be proud, just when we thought it couldn’t sink any lower.

    • Shadeburst

      Roger Lewis is reviewing Karen Bartlett’s book. Shit on her rather.

      • ACE

        Oh no he isn’t! He is stating his own low intelligence feelings and bigotry and presenting them as fact. He is a FOOL and so are you if you defend him

      • Verbatim

        No public person’s private life is EVER anybody else’s business – EVER!!

    • Thomas Jones

      I wish I could write as well as you guys. I enjoyed reading the article and your comments. Didn’t know much about Dusty but now I do.

      • racchy1

        Sadly, my friend reading this you wouldn’t know much about Dusty at all. Let’s be kind and say this is a very, very odd article indeed. If it reflects the book I wouldn’t know, but I think someone should know a bit more about the person so they can judge the book accordingly. A quick Wiki search and a listen to her records will tell you more than this really strange piece.

  • Yrrab Yeloot

    To think that anyone, let alone the greatest female singer of all time deserves this kind of crap slung on when she can’t defend themself truly boggles the mind.
    One can only hope that there is karma, so that the authour of this garbage will have her day of reckoning. Shame on you karen bartlett. May you someday rot in hell

    • edithgrove

      Until we know more, I think it’s Roger Lewis who should be the recipient of the karmic comeuppance.

    • tom dissonance

      yeah, you kind of messed that one up, Barry

  • Mike Allbut

    I’ve never been so gobsmacked to read this in all my life….I’m really appalled!! Who the hell is Roger Lewis anyway…never heard of him. I’ll leave the ‘big chins’ and ‘lesbian women’ to one side if I may..distasteful ‘cheap laugh’ trash…is this Andy Carr Chatty Batty by any chance??
    OK…from the age of 13 I’ve adored Dusty Springfield…Hands Up !! There are few other artistes that are IMMEDIATELY recognisable the minute they open their mouths…in that respect Dusty stands next to her world class peers Ross, Warwick, Franklin and Streisand….purleez forget 2 Star Lulu, Petula, Cilla and Sandie…I was there. Lewis obviously wasn’t….Dusty was voted over and over again throughout the 60’s by NME readers the BEST WORLD AND UK FEMALE VOCALIST with all that stiff competition…..she hosted the Motown review that brought black music to the UK …and with the Pet Shop Boys stormed back into the charts as she passed away…all her back collections are currently available in all music shops as I speak…
    As to her private life…so what?? it was another age and Lewis needs to take a chill pill and recognise not all of us are glued to the private lives of sad Cheryl Thingy- Whatever or could care less…
    WHAT a disrespectful, shameful revue of the life of one of the UK’s most talented women of all time…What was THE GUARDIAN thinking about….really appalling !!

    • Katana Sharp

      Well said and comprehensively covered every point of this disgraceful article.

  • Jim Eigo

    Brutishly uninformed, unnuanced piece. Who let this one in?

  • Dusty is one of my favourite singers. But as a person she was very flawed – serious mental illnesses (depression, self-harm, homosexuality, bipolar disorder), drug addiction, etc, That should not be held against her.

    • ACE

      I think that you mean well, but to state that she was “very flawed” and then reel off the list of “flaws” as including “homosexuality” is deeply offensive to all gays, and I have never heard before that Duty was “bipolar”. Dusty had a lot of pressure on her at the time, not the least of which would be growing up in the ’40’s and ’50’s in a deeply homophobic society. If you truly believe that homosexuality is a “flaw’ of some kind you prove that all these years later, bigotry and prejudice are still as ugly and oppressive as they always have been..

      • gerontius

        “and then reel off the list of “flaws” as including “homosexuality” is deeply offensive to all gays,”
        Gays are of course entitled to be as offended as they wish, and the rest of us are equally entitled to ignore them when they are offended.
        For my part I don’t care who scr’ws who, as long as I’m not involved.
        Perhaps gays should learn to get over themselves. Let’s face it, they’re as boring as Scottish Nationalists

        As for Dusty Springfield – I thought she was gorgeous.

        • ACE

          Hmmm, I am not sure why you felt a need to respond to my comment, when you state that the “the rest of us are entitled to ignore them(gays) when they are offended”.. I wonder about you as a human being. I do not only care about people offending gays, but also when people offend other races, ethnicities, other genders, older people, younger people etc. All people are equal and to offend one person (whatever the reason), because they are different is something that all people should fight against. Prejudice and elitism are always wrong. And yes Dusty was “Gorgeous”
          I met her and she was smaller in person, and amazingly pretty, much more so than photos would indicate.

          • I don’t wonder about him as a human being. I do wonder about you, however. You think that one person speaking can offend an entire race or ethnicity. Did you ask every gay person if they were offended by what he said? No, you didn’t, so you don’t know. However, I’m willing to bet that some of them don’t care what he thinks and go on with their lives.

      • Dogsnob

        How is it offensive?

        • ACE

          I think you know the answer to your question, and I believe the only reason you ask it is to give offense. But I’ll be courteous, it’s offensive because being gay is not, and should not be viewed as, a flaw. Just like non-gays, there are good, bad and indifferent individuals, to view people as flawed because they are gay, is bigoted and also stupid.

          • Dogsnob

            No, I do not wish to give offence.

            I just don’t see why people are made to tread on eggshells when talking about homosexuality and a host of other matters.
            I can use all the ‘preferred nomenclature’ and still beneath it all, bear hatred. I prefer to speak plainly and respectfully and to use my language in such a way as to explain myself fully.

            If they are honest and comfortable in themselves, I’m sure that gays regard the straight world as being somehow flawed and imperfect. Fair play to them.

          • ACE

            I think that some people might need to “tread on eggshells’ when talking about homosexuality. It’s not too long ago-historically speaking- that the only references to gays in UK, was in local newspapers, of poor guys being picked up in rural public toilets. There were no places to seek each other out. And I still feel a larger number of “macho” men would rather the sons and daughters were crooks rather than be gay. I appreciate your more thoughtful reply.

          • Dogsnob

            Those days are long gone aren’t they?

          • ACE

            Hmmm, if you think about it, they are not really that long ago. Times have changed very much in the last few years. I live in Florida, but it fascinates me that as I look at information about by homeland- the UK, how much has changed. Once the only real area of sophistication(and I use that term very loosely) was London and the area. But now most of the big cities have “Arty”/ trendy areas, with housing likewise matching it. If you’ve ever seen the comedy series ‘Little Britain” there are some very amusing and accurate character studies of the working classes. Think about Matthew Sheppard that was not really so very long ago. Do you think many “straight” men would be comfortable if a gay guy asked them out? Prejudices go deep and often cannot be explained rationally. Gay Lib movements really started in the early’70’s in London, again,n historically this is not so very long ago. Queen Elizabeth was 20 years into her reign before there was a gay lib movement, and those members were brave and heroic individuals.

          • Dogsnob

            Well yes times have changed, for good and bad.

            Unsure on ‘Sophistication’. I like to try and raise myself from the workaday mire when I can, but, bread on the table and all that.
            The ‘arty’ houses you speak of: unless you have a very impressive financial situation, don’t even bother looking – especially in London.

            ‘Little Britain’ I found to be funny in very brief flashes. For the most part, the same drear poking at various disadvantaged groups, mostly the working class, yes. Increasingly towards its end, those with mental or physical disabilities.

            I had not heard of Matthew Sheppard and the dreadful way he was murdered. We would all have things another way.

            I think it’s unfair to expect a straight man to be comfortable if a gay man were to show interest. We all are what we are and that should be respected both ways, surely?

            Gays are now, well and truly ‘libbed’. Time to stop fighting and scoring points. Life’s way too short.

          • Why is it a prejudice and not merely a strong aversion? And who is to say that such an aversion is ‘wrong’? I used to dislike lizards (they got in the house) — and that was an aversion I don’t have now (I find them interesting and similar to anurans). But my aversion was not morally wrong as it had no harmful consequences to the lizards.

          • You’re ignorant. Matthew Shepherd was used by the homosexual rights activists to generate sympathy for the cause. He was not murdered because he was gay. He was murdered due a drug deal gone wrong. The sympathy mine is exhausted, especially with the recent US SC case.

          • john

            Poor homophobes. So oppressed.

          • ACE

            A guy -a journalist wrote a book his research led him to believe that the murder was not necessarily based on Matthew’s gayness. He did not know Matthew neither do you. Because you choose to believe this guy-and I wonder if you’ve even read the book- does not mean it is accurate. I doubt if ever anyone will ever know the exact truth. At the time many people believed that the crime was based on Matthew’s gayness, it was not “used” by “gay rights activists” it was just believed to be the case. What difference does it make if one individual case was perhaps not exactly an example of hatred directed towards gays? There are plenty of other examples… you for instance, it is obvious that you are a bigot who chooses to direct his bigotry towards gays. You probably have other people that you are bigoted against.. most bigots generally do. If you want someone to hate I suggest you look in the mirror, you will find there the reflection of someone who well deserves to be hated.

          • I don’t think that straights dislike gays as people. I think that many of them are simply repulsed by their s xual behaviour.

          • ACE

            I don’t understand your comment. To say that many are repulsed by their “sexual behavior”, is such a sweeping generality, as though all gays sexual behavior is the same. I don’t know if you mean what they actually do sexually or if you mean the more provocative lives that some lead. I might no be comfortable with all aspects of sexuality or how it is presented, but I find the choice of word” repulsed” pretty repulsive. There are many gay people who don’t live in the big cities who live quiet un-public lives. For many it is difficult to come out and live an open life- even nowadays. For every open and welcoming family there are far more that are prejudiced and who reject more than they accept.

          • Callipygian

            Don’t be thick, dear. They don’t like the thought of men in the out door of other men. Etc.

          • Annie Belanger

            Then don’t think about it! How does it impact your life in any way?

          • Callipygian

            Clearly, the word ‘they’ missed you entirely.

      • marcus816

        I appreciate your kind, thoughtful and rational responses,. I fear that Schiller nailed it.
        “Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.”
        However, even as mere humans, contend we must.

      • Homosexuality is a flaw. Can’t handle free speech much, can you?

        Of course it is a flaw, because it is the active work of sin. People choose to give in to homosexual behavior and it destroys them. Point in case: the artist herself. It’s not society. It’s not other people. The problem is the thoughts and the actions of homosexuality. They always, always, always result in the destruction of the individual.

        To state that is to point to a cure. But far be it that you would want to be free of the problem. Rather you want to be told that everyone else is messed up – everyone but you.

        • john

          dont you have a cross to burn or something?

        • ACE

          Ok, “InRussetShadows” so you have revealed yourself as a Psychotic loony. By what right do you get to define “flaws”, “sins’ and what people give themselves into? You are obviously potentially dangerous, based on this and your other comments. You make judgments about other people and their lives, based on some sick, sense of values or ideals that you have chosen to follow. I doubt if you ever question them or consider how truly screwed up you are, you need professional help to deal with your attitude to gays and other individuals> But like all manic bigots you won’t seek out help, or even consider that you might be wrong.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    Huh? Who cares – the only important thing is that Dusty was a terrific singer with a wonderful voice, one of those rare voices that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

  • John Steadman

    Another victim of what we now call ‘homophobia’, it seems. A rather simplistic view I think.

  • NelRow23

    I had a Little Richard LP in 1964. The cover was a full (black) face photo.

  • tomgreaves

    Lesbians and big thrusting chins….the vilifications of the author of this article by commentators need no verifications, given that it begins with such a spectacularly unfunny joke followed by a series of sneers and ridicules. Nothing is sacred to the media and greedy journalists short of talent.

  • Shorne

    Somebody described Lewis’ 2003 biography of Anthony Burgess in this way;
    “Lewis at work here is like nothing so much as an adolescent publicly masturbating on the exhumed corpse of his father, and thinking this performance the acme of wit.”

    Looks like his style hasn’t improved much.

  • Catbird

    It’s the courageous artist who ventures into the deepest wells of human suffering and returns with our most precious jewels. This is their gift to all of us; what people love and remember; not the tragedy the lady experienced. Isn’t this what matters in the end?

  • More subtle Marxist agitprop from The Spectator. I can’t wait until the Marxist co-opted West* is cleansed of Marxist saboteurs, who every day do all they can to destroy Western civilization.


    *The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848 thought Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly, so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions.

  • Mc

    “no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.”

    Is that a euphemism for muff diving?

    • racchy1

      What do you think?

  • Malcolm Clark

    Really, lesbians and physiognomy? Chins?? Not funny. Not informative. If this article is still on your wesbite then I for one (and I’m sure many others) will cancel their subscription. Disgusting.

    • Come on now. You’re not actually a subscriber. Don’t expect us to believe that.

  • madethatway

    Roger Lewis, whatever you were paid for this dishonest, slimy, sleazy, inaccurate piece of shite was entirely too much. How do you sleep at night?

    Aren’t you fortunate that Dusty isn’t here to sue your arse to hell for labeling her a lesbian based on – of all things – her chin? Gods help defendants if you’re ever called for jury duty.

    This piece of literary sewerage condemns whoever paid for and printed it as entirely lacking in integrity, intelligence and decency. A Murdoch publication, is it?

    • You missed the fact that this was a book review. Oh I see. You’re an angry lesbian too.

      • lakegirl2

        And you’re an idiot. The “all lesbians have big chins” bullshit is Lewis’s through and through.
        Apparently, you can always tell a homophobe by their poor reading skills.

        • madethatway

          Did he mean ‘chins’ or ‘shins’? You can never quite tell with uneducated misogynists…..

          • lakegirl2

            That is absolutely true. Half the trouble of talking to these idiots is trying to decipher what they even intend to say. It’s like reading a 7 yr old’s book report, only the spelling is worse.

      • john

        The knuckle draggers have arrived!

      • ACE

        You don’t have to be “angry” or a ‘Lesbian” to find this review offensive, just a warm, compassionate, caring person and perhaps that is where YOU fall short!

        • madethatway

          Thank you, Ace – exactly my point.

          • ACE

            You’re Very Welcome, Obviously this “InRussetShadows” is some kind of warped Bigot.

  • FrankS2

    Not really a book review – just a synopsis.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    Who cares? She was a wonderful singer. I love her songs, her style.

  • Michael North

    I don’t think it’s only lesbians who have prominent chins. There is a sort of prognathous spasm in the faces of many male homosexuals, too – Alan Bennett, Elton John, Jimmy Somerville, Kevin Spacey, as well as non-famous ones I’m sure we have all observed. That annoying young SNP woman has it, too.
    That said, Dusty Springfield was great.

    • Sten vs Bren

      Well, you’re pretty odd but you know a decent singer when you hear one.

      Jimmy Hill?

    • john

      Maybe you’re onto something. For example, you and the author share an attribute that causes the stuff you both write to resemble rotting bull feces.

  • jim

    Kind of nasty tone to this article but she seems to have been a total headcase ,as well as a superb singer,at least for a few years in the sixties. That said,there is a touch of the angry lezzies about the responses. Special victim groups defend their own with utter ruthlessness. I’d say Dusty would have exhausted any normal person’s patience in about two hours.Life is way too short to be dealing with these unhinged females.

    • ACE

      Dusty remained a wonderful singer until her last album A Very Fine Love in 1995. Dusty was much loved by her fans and close friends, somewhere along the way emotions/ drugs/ relationships and just the strange pressure of being the best female singer ever produced by UK- but having little opportunity to “develop” in the late 60’s, probably combined to give her enormous problems. She was great at her shows in ’79 at the Drury Lane and Albert Hall( available on disc) and then again had her comebacks witht he Pet Shop Boys and her hits “In Private” and “Nothing Has Been Proved” in 1989. Don’t forget that a list of individual bad experiences, if presented en masse can seem like that was all that was going on. But there were other times, happier and better adjusted, You can see some interviews with Dusty during her career, on You tube that might give a better balance portrait.

  • And the moral of the story is: gay or straight, never let sex rule you. It is irrational and leads to unhappiness if the stars (so to speak) aren’t in your favour. Some have sex all their lives (or most of it: lovers that met while young and attractive seem not to notice when they become like Jimmy Carter and his wife), but for others, sex is a complicated business especially when they find themselves in that way mismatched. Those people, like me, have left the Garden of Eden, and it is much the wiser thing to acknowledge it and adjust accordingly.

  • Scradje

    For those who may be interested, there are some decent quality clips of Dusty’s successful early career in the folk trio The Springfields on YouTube. The leader was her brother Dion, AKA Tom Springfield, who also had an excellent career but retired in 1970 for unexplained reasons. Norma Tanega, also mentioned in this rather unkind article, had a hit with a strange number called Walking My Cat Named Dog, which also can be seen on YouTube. It is rather good.

  • Gilbert White

    Always seemed a sixties beauty with Geisha makeup, how did they disguise the chin? She sounded more Blue Bayou and Southern Belle than the other British, Gone with the Wind woman. Her often poorly mixed but brilliant vocals made Amy Whitehouse seem a bit Ga Ga!

  • Rush_is_Right

    ‘Being gay was either a pitiable affliction or an actual mental illness,’
    A lot of us still think like that.

    • marcus816

      “Think”… You are unclear on the concept.

  • Jay Igaboo

    “Battered and bruised’, and with her front teeth knocked out in a lesbian skirmish, she was admitted to hospital yet again.”……….. surely not?
    It must have been a man, the b@stard, because according to feminists, domestic violence (later broadened to “domestic abuse” in order to include every man on the planet) is an abuse of male power.
    According to the then Scottish Executive, and various councils throughout the UK it was defined as ” abuse of a woman by a man she had been in a relationship with.”
    I had protested this definition to my mangina MSP, and queried why it did not apply to women who abused men, or to the carpet-licking tendency, which are notoriously violent. Much harrumphing and evasions, and when I presented him with various stdies ( including The Scottish Crime Survey ) as evidence, all he could mutter was “We have to prioritise.”
    Have to say though, poor Dusty was as intrinsically disordered as most male and female homosexuals are: she was real talent, what a shame she was “on the other bus” and thus suffered from its attendant miseries.

  • Mr.Johnson Brown

    How to Fix a Broken Relationship” My name is Mr.Johnson Brown from France and I am a 59 years old. I was married to Mrs.Helen Baines Johnson and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Sam for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again., Thanks…….

  • Mary Ann

    It is wrong to ask a question about Princess Margaret when she is not in a position to refute it, she has children, it’s not fair on them.

  • @bushofgoats

    What a dreadful piece of moronic baiting. Surely Roger Lewis can’t be a genuine living human? He’s surely only a script, designed to trigger anger?
    Indeed, I notice neither he nor the editorial team have felt the need to defend this kind of reprehensible MRA-lite twaddle about homosexual chins. Roger? An editor?Anything to add? It would be interesting to hear your reasoning on why you felt this was an acceptable tone to adopt.
    If Roger is real, I expect he’s off ghost-writing the memoir of a misunderstood Dentist, chortling into his biscuits about how easy it is to annoy people on the internet. Your time is coming, you herbert.

    • Demonstrate how a script could assemble such a review, please. Do you know anything about what you speak?

  • marcus816

    Calling you a ” crazy old physiognomist” would be entirely too kind, “silly old irrational bigot” would be more accurate.
    You might try to remember that the task at hand is reviewing the book about the person’s life, not the life that the book is about.

  • Scott Hurst

    OK… you’re a “crazy old physiognomist” and a bigot and well… a raging fucking asshole. (I figure that’s allowed, since “You fucking broad, who do you think you fucking are, bitch ?” appears in the article)

    • Except that he didn’t say that you, personally. And he didn’t even say that. That was a quote by someone else about Dusty. Once again, you are shoring up the stereotype of the idiot liberal.

      • john

        Look everyone, its the norte americano idiot bigot bird. See its feathers in a display of ritual stupidity! Try not to startle it. Fragile dying breed this one.

  • lakegirl2

    “Roger Lewis has written books on Anthony Burgess, Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Christopher Hawtrey.”
    I assume the content of these books starts with comparing these men to other men, discussing their ‘obvious’ physical attributes and then denigrating their work and attacking their mental health. Oh, and end with a casual homophobia and misogyny.
    Roger Lewis may not be an idiot. Maybe he just can’t write about women with any intelligence.

  • Kevin K

    You might not be a crazy old physiognomist, but you are a common bigot.

  • plainsman844

    How does this level of bigotry make it past an editor?

  • john

    “you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin”

    You can always spot a sphincter brained author/editor by the smell of their output.

  • Annie Belanger

    Disgusting, bigoted, sexist review. Shame on the Spectator for publishing such a hateful piece of trash.

  • dal

    “At home and in America, Little Richard and Ray Charles never had their faces prominently shown on album covers.”

    This is so far removed from the truth as to call into question the veracity of your entire review. Little Richard was featured in full-face head shots on his first two albums “Here’s Little Richard” (1957) and “Little Richard” (1958). He was also pictured on the vast majority of his later album. Ray Charles was pictured full-face on his 1958 Atlantic debut “The Great Ray Charles,” and is pictured on most of his albums thereafter.

  • Joe Fabitz

    WOW Richard Lewis…..after reading these comments below I would say you have stirred the crowd somewhat. Every women with a liquor license has her panties in a wad. You have touched a raw nerve, to say the least!

  • SRR126

    I assume this piece must have slipped through while the editor was either soused or asleep.

  • jhannon

    You are indeed a crazy old physiognomist and also a sh*t who couldn’t include recognition of her artistic genius (see “Dusty in Memphis” and the self-acceptance epitomized by her later life turn with Pet Shop Boys. Oh, you are also a twit.

    • oldoddjobs

      Oh, you’ve never noticed lesbian masculinity? Or you did notice, and think it’s wicked to point it out?

  • polidorisghost

    When I was a teenager I found her singing very alluring. Would it have made any difference to me if I had been told that she was a lesbian? I don’t know now for sure, but I doubt it. My atitude, even then, was that you could bed who you like as long as it wasn’t me. ‘being gay was career poison’ Was it? – For a singer? If as you say she was referred to as a “batchelor girl” then it must have been pretty widely known and accepted and I don’t really believe that public perception of her would ever have been the cause of her problems. You are surely nearer the mark when you say that she wanted to be normal but couldn’t be.
    There but for fortune: Raise a glass to her.

    • Violin Sonata.

      I get this lady mixed up with the one who famously sang with bare feet ( I am one for
      bare feet 🙂 I should imagine it wouldn’t have mattered too much for men back then
      besides, she’d still be the opposite gender and men can separate who they are from
      what they do.
      Those days and earlier singers and actors during the golden age of Hollywood were
      appreciated more for their art and could be mysterious as the invasiveness of the
      Internet had not placed them underneath the microscope for all to examine and to
      have the need to know everything.

      • John Steadman

        The lady who was unable to afford a pair of shoes was Sandie Shaw.

        • Violin Sonata.

          Thank you. She couldn’t afford the shoes, poor little waif .

    • Jay Igaboo

      When I was 14, I had quite a fancy for Dusty. Like the rest of the public, I didn’t know that she was “on the other bus”.
      I fancy I could have cured her if we’d ever met- if she was turned on by pimpled adolescents, that is.

  • Landphil

    No mention of her success with her brother in the Springfields or in the 80’s with the Pet Shop boys?

    • John Steadman

      Yes – the stuff she did as a member of the Springfields was among the best of her career – nice pop-folksy stuff.

  • John Steadman

    Ah……Dusty was a very good pop singer who produced some very nice music, which I play regularly. I can’t help getting the feeling that she – or her memory – is being used, somewhat, to promote yet further the concept of homosexual victim, with the rest of us being the offenders.And who’s to say that her erratic and bizarre behaviour was necessarily a product of her sexual leanings?

    • Daniel Hudson

      You are either incredibly foolish or incredibly ignorant. The music business was awfully homophobic back then – coming out would literally kill your career. Dusty took a very brave move in the early 70s by declaring her sexuality and thinking that did not have an effect on her later career is ridiculous.

      • John Steadman

        Thanks, Daniel. Yea, at times, foolish and ignorant.

      • Jay Igaboo

        There’s an element of truth in your point that declaring one’self a homosexual could ruin your career, but that in no way disproves John Steadman’s point that the PC lobby are using her memory to promote homosexual victimology. nor does it disprove his conjecture that her loony behaviour is not a consequence, at least in part, or her lesbainism.
        That said, if the writer is to be believed( in my post above i evidence why he should not) it’s sad that she had such an unhappy childhood, and ultimately, such a sad life.
        My best guess is that her mentalism was created by an unhappy childhood, her lesbainism, especially so when society quite rightly disapproved strongly of it, and the crazy world of pop where fragile egos are massaged and indulged by the sycophants that surround them.

        • Daniel Hudson

          Before I continue, can I ask if you are gay yourself? If not, I don’t really think you have any say in this so called “homosexual victimology” or whatever you call it.

          • Jay Igaboo

            “Before I continue, can I ask if you are gay yourself?”……..

            No, Mate, I’m normal.
            Who are you to say I have no right to express an opinion?
            What about you, then, are you on the other bus, or sanctimoniously virtue-signalling your on-message values?
            The homosexual lobby, like all the other PC lobbies such as race, multi-kulti, “wimmin” and Eco-loonery, etc, would dearly love, and have almost succeeded, in banning any comment remotely critical of their policies and practices. Hitler, Mao and Stalin had much the same idea.

  • Anton

    Funny thing, I remember my cousin Shaun telling me, very early on in her career, that Dusty Springfield was a lesbian. I didn’t believe him for one minute as his social circle was confined to the factory and his local boozer, and his powers of observation were quite limited, as far as I could see. So I wonder how he came up with that idea?

    Not that it really matters. She was an excellent singer. I particularly like the one that goes You don’t have to say you love me,…

  • WTF

    Why all this obsession these days on race, color and sexual orientation ?

    I judge singers on how they sing, sports persons on their sports ability and actors on their acting. Its the frigging press and media that makes a big deal over everything. Years ago they tut’ tutted if someone was gay and now they castigate us for any comment about a celebs sexuality or some personal trait.

    I loved her music, I didn’t know she had personal problems at the time and finding out later she did is none of my business. All of us have some personal issues or other and its down to us as individuals to deal with it or get help if need be.

    • Doctor Crackles

      Why all this obsession these days on race, color and sexual orientation ?

      Good question. The problem is that the left daren’t let these things go or else they wouldn’t have any sticks to beat us with.

    • richard1949

      Totally agree

  • Maureen Fisher

    Teenage girls loved her clothes, her looks – so stunning and glamorous – and,of course, the wonderful voice. Shame she was so tormented about something that is no big deal these days.

    • Sue Smith

      She was probably ‘tormented’ by the fact that she wasn’t a real, or even half-decent, singer.

      • richard1949

        I hold the opposite opinion, I adored and still do adore her songs and her voice. In my opinion a treasure.

        • Sue Smith

          “Adore” and “still do adore” and “treasure” are not actually representative of vocal qualities. But you’re sure entitled to your opinion.

          For me, most of her recordings were horribly over-produced. There’s usually a reason for that, if you think about it.

  • Malcolm Knott

    There was another side to this: let’s not forget the quiet (if amused) tolerance of gay men and women by millions of ordinary people who never took these things very seriously. Yes, some gays, like Alan Turing, were treated abominably. Many more were left to their own devices.

    • MikeF

      Turing from what I know of his case seems to have been targeted by a police force anxious to notch up a conviction. The great irony is that that vindictive adversarial attitude to the public or at least certain sections of the public on the part of the police that led to his conviction is now used as weapon by the official gay movement to enforce compliance with its ideology.

  • John Guest

    Realy sad, tragic life.

    But by God she could sing!

    • Sue Smith

      Disagree about the singing; melodrama on steroids, belted out behind of a wall of sound. It was god-awful. Mawkish lyrics…”you don’t have to say you love me, just be close at hand”.

      Compare with this very grown-up elegance and sophistication….and it’s but one tiny sample:

      “Your looks are laughable,
      Yet you’re my favourite work of art.
      Is your figure less than Greek,
      Is your mouth a little weak?
      When you open it to speak
      Are you smart?”


  • Jay Igaboo

    Oh. God. yet another dreary lecture about what our attitude to the sexually baroque should be.

    I only ended up her because I was watching a very evocative documentary on Tom Jones that shown last night to mark the passing of he Jones boy’s wife, and he was singing a sizzling duet with Dusty where their enjoyment of blending their two very distinct voices was evident on their faces and in every note and gesture.
    I enjoyed the documentary immensely, as TJ was wistfully remembering his post-war austerity riddled childhood, which was similar to my own, apart from the fact that I had neither the TB that (literally) for the first year, imprisoned him in his parents house, or a voice within a million miles of his.
    In his genuflections to PC, Roger Lewis, the writer of this rather dreary piece strays far, far away from the truth e.g. “. At home and in America, Little Richard and Ray Charles never had their faces prominently shown on album covers.” What complete and utter nonsense, at best a the reiteration of unresearched or lying tripe that he’d heard in bien pensant circles, or its a deliberate knee-jerk lie.
    When I was a kid in the 50’s, I’d look in the record shop windows, plenty of black faces on LP sleeves, my ten years older brother had some. Little Richard and his (entirely Black) band played a set in the hit 1956 film ” The Girl can’t Help it” and they sure looked Black to me.
    As further proof that Lewis is full of it, here’s the Google image of Little Richard’s albums released in America and Britain in the 50s and 60s
    I see little evidence of white make-up.

    • antoncheckout

      “I only ended up her because… ”
      Given the contents of the review, that remark caused considerable surprise and some justifiable expectation of interesting biographical detail.
      Alas none was forthcoming.

      • Jay Igaboo

        Well spotted, Sir.
        I do not normally boast of my thousands of conquests, that one kind of slipped out, if you’ll pardon the term.
        To paraphrase the TV quizmaster who tortures the nation’s knowledgeable but unfeckable “I’ve started so I’d better finish” It’s well known that women, once one strong emotion, such as sadness is manifest, a golden-tongued cavalier such as I can easily arouse other, more primitive emotions .

  • commenteer

    Sorry to explode your theory, but chins of the type you mention are caused by not having overcrowded teeth properly dealt with at a young age. Good braces stop the apparent growth of the chin. Nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Well, obviously homophobia is a fashionable scapegoat, but I wonder if this book offers any real evidence to back the claim that it was what drove Dusty out of her mind. As opposed to some Larkinesque combination of heredity and a dysfunctional upbringing.

  • jkatze

    That you are clearly deranged does not give you a free pass. I submit ~ Cate Blanchette, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Amelia Earhart, Sharon Stone, C Zeta Jones . . . must I go on? You expect people to believe they are all gay?

  • Marie

    I believe God punished her because she was gay. It’s funny how gay people die early as they should.