Meeting the irrepressible Ingrid Pitt
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Ingrid Pitt - 1937 - 2010
It was in the early days of my co-editorship at Den Of Geek that I was introduced to Ingrid Pitt at a fan-fest event in Birmingham. Introduced and then left alone with her for half an hour behind the array of photos that she was selling for autograph hunters - many of them shots from works such as The Vampire Lovers that left nothing to the imagination.
Well, she had haunted my imagination as a young boy in the 1970s. I recalled to her the moment around my grandmother's house when I was watching The Vampire Lovers with my grandparents and uncles. As soon as Ingrid famously began to get out of that tin bath with an amorous eye on ingenue Madeline Smith, naked as the day she was born, my grandmother made her customary rhetorical question to her husband of fifty years - "We don't want to watch that, do we?" - and switched channels.
The only answer I ever heard my long-departed grandad make to such inquiries was a non-commital grunt, and if he had wanted to see young Ingrid get entirely out of the bath without suddenly switching over to Panorama, I can hardly think worse of him for it. Though I learnt a lot from his diplomacy in such matters...
Ingrid had heard such tales a million times. I sometimes felt that her threshold for talking about nudity and sex was probably passed sometime in the mid to late 1970s. She had stock stories on such subjects, but they were frayed, and she knew it, and didn't care. She was a woman in the autumn of her life looking over the whole of it, the complete tapestry - clothed or not.
It was so strange to be left with her. For one thing, she was incredibly complimentary, no doubt just to amuse me, but saying to my fellow visitors how handsome I was - a strange thing, to be chatted up by the woman who had haunted your dreams those years ago. She wore her eccentricity on her sleeve and apologised to no-one for her life.
And what a life - she span me so many tales, from the way Clint Eastwood would visit her for dinner whenever he was in London (they worked together on Where Eagles Dare in 1968 and remained friends) to the most horrendous tales of her life as a refugee from the Nazis. Ingrid told me one particular tale of being rescued from an 'occupied' forest by allied troops, alone and terrified, and many other remembrances from war-torn Poland that were so shocking that I really don't feel I can recount them without her permission - which I will never get now.
But I asked her if these tales had ever gone into an autobiography, and she told me that although she had written them, the publishers had told her that the stories were too depressing, too 'heavy'. I shook my head in disbelief.
About ten feet away from us were seated other 1970s sex-symbols Madeline Smith and Lana Wood; over on the other side, hidden by the partition was Caroline Munro, who we'd talk to later. All apparently 'past the period of interest' - beyond nostalgia. It made me sad to think that Ingrid had written her story but couldn't tell it. Perhaps because she wasn't nude in the tales.
I don't know why I was left with Ingrid for so long - we had no interview planned, as she was already a columnist for the site; but I liked the hell out of her. It does rob a man a little to actually meet the sex-symbols who illuminated one's youth, as you can never see their work so two-dimensionally again. But that's maturity, and it's not saleable - unlike the raft of naked photos spread out before us on Ingrid's stall.
Some of the people approached nervously, others with great enthusiasm, and there was one semi-psycho who felt that Ingrid owed him a free signed photo for some reason, apparently something to do with another incident at some other festival. The dispute got so bad that it looked like I was going to have to get up and physically defend the muse of my youth - but Ingrid had a power of indifference and an aura of force that a Jedi could admire, and eventually got rid of the man.
And we talked again, more of the war, more of her early days in Britain, coming from Poland in the 1960s, while she continued to add her moniker to 8x10s of her bare breasts and thighs.
I never personally met her again, despite her invitation to come to dinner with her and her husband one day, but we emailed a lot over the next few years, and she never failed to be eccentric and forthright.
I bought the DVD of Countess Dracula a year later just to hear her commentary, which was as eccentric and interesting as ever, if a trifle over-regulated.
Finally, the others came back, and the spell was broken. I was to meet many more stars that I had admired over the years in the course of co-editing that site, and they were often pleasurable conversations, but they always had an aim and a context. So, more than any of those, I shall remember Ingrid and the hard stories of her early life, told to me and apparently unsuitable for publication - and remember how I marvelled at a world where complexity, history and maturity weren't allowed to be part of the continuum or fabric of Ingrid's life, but simply constituted 'everything that happened before or after the nude scene in the bath'.
Well, anyway, she was beautiful.
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