Former Bond girl Honor Blackman celebrated her 89th birthday this week. Her most famous character, Pussy Galore, one of 007’s most interesting opponents (depicted as a lesbian in the Ian Fleming novels and the leader of an all-female team of aviators in 1964’s Goldfinger), was riveting to watch in action. Blackman, the oldest actress to play a Bond girl, has always been full of surprises. In the 1960s, she learned Judo for her role as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. Following her role in Goldfinger (by then, an expert in martial arts), she penned a self-defense book for women. Blackman’s proto-feminist beliefs, penchant for strong female characters, and physical prowess in a male-dominated sport eschewed stereotypical notions of women. Here are ten other glamorous female celebrities who excelled in activities and quirky hobbies that surprised the public (often quick to pigeonhole women).
Lauren Bacall exuded an effortless elegance and laid-back chic. Her remarkably approachable personality extended to her hobbies. She loved beer steins and collected them for show. Though, being a member of the original “Rat Pack,” we imagine several of her steins were put to good use. You can see several of the drinking vessels on display in this photo with husband Humphrey Bogart.
Ann-Margret’s sex kitten screen persona saw her riding on the back of several motorcycles during her film career, but the Bye Bye Birdie actress has been an avid motorcyclist since her youth. Her uncle instilled a love of bikes in her at an early age. She also fell hard for motorcycles after watching The Wild One. Throughout the 1960s, she was the Triumph cover girl. “I have always loved speed. You know the feeling that you have in a convertible, with the elements and everything, the little bit of danger, the speed,” she told Larry King in an interview. Margret was still riding a bike when interviewed in 2000.
The original Hollywood “It Girl,” and perhaps the first Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Clara Bow had a vivacious energy and girlish charm that didn’t always match her sometimes serious sex symbol facade. “A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered,” she once said. In a 1930 issue of Photoplay magazine, readers were introduced to some of her favorite hobbies — roller-skating and football. Bow used to roller-skate up and down the driveway beside her house — at least until a crowd of fans formed. “When football season is on, she goes to every game she can get to — and every year, she entertains the whole University of Southern California team en masse at her home,” Photoplay wrote.
Evidence of pin-up and screen queen Rita Hayworth’s infatuation with bullfighting is scant — at least online. Since her role in 1941’s Blood and Sand — in which she played a seductive socialite who leads an up-and-coming bullfighter astray — Hayworth continued attending bullfights and even took lessons throughout the 1960s. It seems she also practiced at home with husband Orson Welles (below), who played the part of the bull.
Anna May Wong
Nestled in Rustic Canyon north of Los Angeles sat a swanky clubhouse for wealthy men called the Lofty and Exalted Order of Uplifters (named by Oz author and member L. Frank Baum). First established in 1913, members over the years included Walt Disney, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy. In the 1920s, cinematographer Charles Rosher leased a plot of land on the property where he built an idyllic bungalow and filled it with Oriental antiques as an homage to his lover, actress Anna May Wong. It was at the club that Wong honed her horseback riding, swimming, and archery skills — proving that the style icon wasn’t simply posing for pretty pictures in her bathing suit or with bow and arrow. She lived the life, too.
She was praised for her sultry, exotic looks, but Hedy Lamarr’s scientific accomplishments are rarely discussed. We actually have Lamarr’s early work with co-inventor George Antheil (the avant-garde composer) to thank for the convenience of today’s wireless communications. “In 1942, she invented an electronic guidance system called ‘frequency hopping,’ which helped make cell phones and other wireless technology possible,” writes the USA Science & Engineering Festival. At the start of the Second World War, Lamarr immigrated to America. She was told she could help the war effort by using her status to sell war bonds (by Charles F. Kettering and others), but Lamarr had a keen interest in science and wanted to explore other ways of contributing to the cause. Website Women Inventors explains:
The international beauty icon, along with co-inventor George Anthiel, developed a “Secret Communications System” to help combat the Nazis in World War II. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel.
Lamarr and Anthiel received a patent in 1941, but the enormous significance of their invention was not realized until decades later. It was first implemented on naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequently emerged in numerous military applications. But most importantly, the “spread spectrum” technology that Lamarr helped to invent would galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible.
As is the case with many of the famous women inventors, Lamarr received very little recognition of her innovative talent at the time, but recently she has been showered with praise for her groundbreaking invention. In 1997, she and George Anthiel were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. And later in the same year, Lamarr became the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, a prestigious lifetime accomplishment prize for inventors that is dubbed “The Oscar™ of Inventing.”
You can read more about Lamarr, the inventor, over here.
Even when she wasn’t dancing her way into the public’s heart with frequent collaborator Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers was always on the move. She beat Frank Sinatra at golf, fished when time would allow, became a competitive skeet shooter, and a “near champion” tennis player.
A darling of screwball comedies popular during the 1930s, Carole Lombard and second husband Clark Gable were an unstoppable team. The media was fascinated with them, so when Gable divorced his estranged wife to elope with Lombard, the paparazzi was sure to follow. The couple moved into a 20-acre ranch in Encino, California where they spent time hunting and tending to their barnyard animals. Their vacations consisted of more hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The cameras loved Lombard’s heart-shaped face and delicate features — a striking contrast to her tough-talking style and knee-deep-in-the-mud sporty side she indulged freely during her downtime.
During an outing with her nephew Jack Grant in Beverly Hills, Hollywood’s ultimate modern woman Katharine Hepburn set foot on a skateboard for the first time. Grant was writing a skateboarding book at the time and encouraged his sophisticated aunt to give it a whirl. Hepburn had always demonstrated a prowess for athletics and refused to conform to society’s expectations of women, especially celebrities, so she was a natural when it came to the male-dominated sport.
Hollywood groomed Marilyn to play the stereotypical “dumb blonde,” but the actress was far more complex than the silver screen would allow. Stories, writings, and personal articles revealed after her death, still surfacing over 50 years later, reveal a passionate woman with an intellectual curiosity that was rarely given the spotlight. Monroe was an avid reader. Her library contained over four hundred books. She attended night classes at UCLA, where she studied literature and history. And she wrote poetry that explored her deepest fears and desires — a collection of which was published in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters.
Only parts of us will ever touch only parts of others – one’s own truth is just that really — one’s own truth. We can only share the part that is understood by within another’s knowing acceptable to the other — therefore so one is for most part alone. As it is meant to be in evidently in nature — at best though perhaps it could make our understanding seek another’s loneliness out.