PAULINE PEART KNEW HOW TO SHOCK – AND THAT WAS BEFORE SHE ENTERED HORROR FILMS

In conversation with Clayton Goodwin

Pauline Peart produced the first – and probably still one of the most stunning upsets – in the history of West Indian beauty contests in the United Kingdom when she won the Miss JOFFA title in 1968. Such events were entering the initial flow of the first Golden Age of contests after JOFFA had united what had been hitherto a disparate and haphazard activity with the success of Nicki Lodge and then Bunny girl Margo Glee. By then it was accepted that winners would come from a coterie of contestants with experience of competing and modelling. There were a good few of them in contention that night at the very up-market Royal Lancaster Hotel in West London, and then Pauline …… Let me take you back to that evening and set the scene.

It was a very cold night – “wrap-up warm time” Ms Peart remembers – with a sprinkling of snow. The favourite contestants were eyeing up each other and assessing their prospects. Yet when she took the stage Pauline made all the predictions superfluous. She was very tall and different, an outsider to the growing number of models expected to dominate the expanding circuit of competition. Her “St Elizabeth” accent cut across the affected and modified speech patterns of accepted genteel expression. Pauline was then, very much as she is today, proud of being herself. The public, and cognoscenti of pulchritude, should not have been surprised by her success.. In her young life Pauline had been “around” for some time even if it was outside of the fashionable West End venues.

I remember meeting her first when, as a cosmetology student, she starred in the annual hair and beauty graduation promotions presented by Madame Rose, whose salon at Harlesden was “the place to go” for news and a study of the trendsetters in beauty and hair-styling care, at the Porchester Hall, Paddington. This venue and the Commonwealth Institute hosted most of the high-profile events in London’s West Indian heritage community. The guests included the leading promoters and entrepreneurs of the day including shipping-magnate Lloyd Enwright Campbell, who with his name-sake (but no relation) journalist Theo Campbell, had so recently launched the JOFFA (Jamaican Overseas Families and Friends Association) social, commercial and promotional initiative.

Because of her height and sophistication people could not believe that Pauline, then only a few days past her 17th birthday, was as young as she was. Nevertheless, I can remember meeting her from her school not long before the contest. After her success she was in great demand for appearances at trade, modelling and promotional events, and her face was much used on leaflets and in advertisement. She was associated particularly with the Hair Show of Dyke & Dryden Ltd, pioneers and leading exponents in the hair and beauty business. In those days, alas, it was not customary for models to be paid in spite of the increased business that they brought to their patrons. Taking into account the time and cost of travel and preparation, Pauline could not afford to stay in this sector too long.

In the early-1970s, Ms Peart was prominent in film, television and stage performances. Although her repertoire extended from historical drama to situation drama, Pauline is remembered best for her roles in the “Carry On ….” comedy films which, if I remember correctly, are still the most successful and popular British comedy cinema series and in Hammer films. The latter were outstanding horror films based around Dracula and vampires, featuring top international stars as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, which attained remarkable cult status. A good part of their attraction was a cast of exceptionally beautiful girls, of whom Pauline stood out, who were depicted in promotional publicity as having sharp fangs dripping with blood. She remains good friends with other Hammer girls Caroline Munro and fellow-Jamaican Martine Beswick.

Pauline explained that she was quietly confident of winning Miss JOFFA because she knew her own capability and knew that she was good at what she planned to do. The attitude of being herself – “very much me” and “still the same” – remains with her to this day. It is an incentive and example to all who come after her and want to succeed in the same activities. Before the recent Covid-related travel restrictions Ms Peart attended fan conventions in this country and overseas, following her maxim “do whatever you can”. She takes a positive interest in the social media, in which she is seen often to be supporting worthwhile causes.

From schoolgirl to screen siren, Pauline Peart knows how to shock ….. which is strange when you consider that on personal acquaintance she is such a nice lady.

Pauline Peart and Clayton Goodwin on the night of her triumph in 1968. Did they still look the same when they came together for this interview.  SSShhh …. that would be telling.

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