Literature Society: Samantha Fox's Forever
When I was ten or eleven years old, my sixth grade class in Milwaukee went on a field trip to visit the sacred Cathedral of Capitalism that is Water Tower Place. For some reason my only vivid memory of the experience involved visiting one of its schlockier shops and lustfully ogling a poster of 1980s pin-up phenomenon Samantha Fox in a signature state of undress.
For a few sweaty moments, I did a quick mental calculation as to whether or not it would somehow be possible to furtively buy a sexy poster of a pop tart I fancied and somehow keep my possession a secret from both my school and my repressed stepmother, who would undoubtedly have hurled it angrily in the trash if she’d found it and punished me for bringing such smut into our proper Middle Class Jewish suburban home.
Looking back, there’s something weirdly innocent about that sexy poster. Today’s eleven year olds have access to a dazzling array of pornography of all stripes if they have access to a computer, but for me, sexually-charged music videos, calendars and yes, posters, of sex symbols like Samantha Fox and her slightly more successful contemporary Madonna had to satiate my impure curiosity about the female form.
Fox first rose to fame as a 16 year old “Page 3” girl in her native England. Page 3 girls are a curious phenomenon: they’re peddling T&A and the ripe sexuality of nubile young women in the most blatant, prurient manner imaginable way, but also in a manner tame enough to be squeezed in between ads for laundry detergent, horoscopes and box scores without feeling screamingly out of place.
To be honest, I did not think about Fox very often between that glamorous afternoon in Chicago when I ultimately chose not to buy that sexy poster of my faraway crush for solid reasons and when I got a press release for her autobiography, Forever, a few months back. For me, Fox’s autobiography falls very much into the, “Eh, why not?” category as opposed to the “I MUST write about this” column.
Mild curiosity (and this column) ultimately got the best of me so I ended up reading this book in the perfect context: I was visiting my dad for his 70th birthday over the break with my wife and three year old son and needed something non-challenging and mildly diverting to help distract me from the non-fun aspects of life in sub-zero Chicago weather in a nursing home in Morton Grove.
I was looking for something adequate to help pass the time and this book filled that need. According to Fox, this book was the culmination of multiple attempts at finally setting quill to paper to tell her life story over a period of decades that fell through for one reason or another, including a woman Fox accuses of tricking her into drinking too much liquor so she could set her up for a drunk driving arrest.
That sounds awfully nefarious, and a little hard to buy, especially since Forever is full of similar accounts of Fox meeting someone, either getting a good or bad vibe from them, and then this new person fucking her over personally, romantically or professionally. Then again, Fox worked in the modeling and music industry of the 1980s, when coked-up jackassery was at an all-time high, when guys like Harvey Weinstein and James Toback were the rule.
You don’t have to be a Freudian analyst to draw a direct line between Fox being attracted to one glamorous, dangerous, dishonest, cruel and jealous partner after another (Wikipedia identifies one of her great loves as a "career criminal") and her traumatic personal and business relationship with her father-turned-manager, who was charming and well-dressed and charismatic but also a violent alcoholic with a cocaine problem who beat his wife and, in the incident that precipitated a complete break, his adult daughter years long after she’d risen from working-class Cockney anonymity to become one of her country’s biggest sex symbols.
Fox’s father easily emerges as this story’s most fascinating and monstrous character. It’s no wonder that Fox had difficulty trusting people even before she was robbed blind by her own father. It’s equally unsurprising that Fox consciously or unconsciously seemed to choose partners who resembled her father, larger-than-life characters who wined and dined and wooed her but also ripped her off financially, cheated on her or tried very unsuccessfully to seduce her, like the late David Cassidy, who shows up just long enough for Fox to be horrified by his bald spot and free-floating grossness.
Even when Fox praises someone, she can’t help but degrade them at the same time. Kiss’ Paul Stanley, for example, gets high marks as one of Fox’s best male lovers, something she chalks up to his extensive experience in the art of love-making. He also comes off as a fairly decent human being but that doesn’t keep Fox from mentioning that he’s the only man she’d ever been with who wore a gold thong G-string to bed and left his ratty hair extensions lying around. And he comes off almost uniquely well among Fox’s sexual partners.
In a Pollyanaish burst of self-delusion, Fox says that her role in life was to cheer people up and help them have fun but she also seems very aware that a Page 3 girl, calendar model and all-around international sex symbol’s job is to facilitate the act of masturbation. To that end, Fox spends a fair amount of the book on Boner Patrol, like when she notes with both amusement and irritation that a co-star in an early video made his carnal feelings for her known his constant, annoying erection. At in-stores, meanwhile, Fox can’t help but notice the raging boners of her many male fans.
Forever depicts being a sex symbol as one headache after another. She’s perpetually pursued by stalkers, maniacs and mentally ill fans, including one gentleman who paid Fox the curious compliment of getting her name tattooed on his forehead. Before I read Forever I had no idea what an international phenomenon Fox was at the height of her fame. She seems to have inspired a low-level, much tackier form of Beatlemania everywhere she went, with fans perpetually willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of catching a glimpse at the “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)” hit-maker.
For years, Fox’s life was a dizzying blur of public appearances and photo shoots and tours and partying with rock stars and pop stars and horrible gastrointestinal distress. It was all quite the mind-fuck for an unassuming tomboy with a cockney accent but through it all a dark cloud hovered over Fox’s life and career in the form of her father.
Even after rocketing to international stardom, Fox allowed her father to control her finances and her career, despite him not having anything in the way of qualifications to do either. The rock and roll world of the 1980s is the worst possible place for an alcoholic and a drug addict without self-control or discipline, and Fox’s father did immeasurable harm to her psyche and her career.
Fox’s father’s deterioration provides the book’s most morbidly fascinating passages, including a horrifying nadir when the enraged alcoholic brutally beat his grown-up daughter in a furious rage, kicking her wildly so hard her body was covered in bruises. That was the end of their personal and professional relationship and the man Fox once looked up to and admired died in a homeless shelter after years of not seeing Fox, albeit in a room festooned with pictures of his famous daughter.
Fox eventually found love with one of her subsequent managers, a much older woman named Myra she spent seventeen mostly happy years with before her longtime soulmate died of Cancer.
Forever is not a terribly deep book. It was ghost-written by two co-authors in a bland style filled with irritating writerly tics, like beginning sentences containing bad news with “sadly” or “To be honest.” I’m perpetually irritated by these space-wasting crutches. Does anybody really need to be told that it’s sad that a relative died? And can’t we just assume you’re being honest? Do you really need to specify that as often as the authors do here?
Forever was perfectly adequate for my needs. It’s a somewhat passable time-waster, especially if you’re on vacation and have nothing else to read. Yet for a book titled Forever, this is awfully disposable. I doubt I’ll remember much about it a year from now, or even a month from, except maybe for Paul Stanley's gold G-string and hair extensions. It’s the quintessential beach, or freezing cold weather read, easy to start, easy to finish and even easier to forget.
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