The Inevitable End of a Love Goddess


On 10 May 2008 artist Susannah Edwards re-enacted a bizarre event, which for a brief moment in 1959 bought together post-war depressed London and the ambrosial glamour of Hollywood. Jayne Mansfield, in town to make a brit-flick, in her characteristically publicity hungry way, opened a budgie show in Haggerston, east London. Jayne eventually went back to her Pink Palace home and Edwards’ modern day bird show, complete with human budgies went on to become an exhibition at Tatty Devine in east London. Writer Iain Sinclair also found the Hackney Gazette cover, which is all that remains of Jayne’s visit and wrote about it in his book Red Rose Empire. Thus Jayne was beamed into the consciousness of middle England when Sinclair’s paean to Hackney became Radio 4’s book of the week.

Jayne often appears when least expected; her phantom-like presence enhanced by impossibly blonde hair glowing supernaturally around over emphasised features… There she is in the first film to feature the original rock 'n' rollers. A Hollywood caricature with an impossible figure juxtaposed against the raw teen spirit of a rough looking Gene Vincent. There she is again on the cover of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, her low-cut satiny dress barely covering her forward tilting body.

Sweet Jayne was once a superstar, the embodiment of female sexuality, but she outstayed her welcome, became in the words of Paul McCartney an 'old bag' and died on the road to yet another night club engagement. Now poor Jayne is fading fast, an occasional media curiosity. Eventually she will be erased from all but the oldest memories, replaced and replicated by multiple new soul selling wannabees. Naïve Jayne didn’t spend enough time on her craft, too busy opening supermarkets and appearing in Men's Magazines. She just didn’t leave any good work. The early silent movie stars thought they were immortal, forever living out their melodramatic tales on the silver screen, but their films deteriorated and now look laughably naïve. As for obsolete Jayne most of her films are unavailable, not even good enough to warrant the expense of DVD reissue.

Jayne stands out now not for her talent but for precisely the opposite. The mistakes of her life are repeated throughout celebrity and non-celebritydom alike. Her lack of substance and spectral presence are a sad symbol of the malaise of modern life in the capitalist west.


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