EXCLUSIVE by Jacqueline Bragg
SHE may be a glamorous, globetrotting Bond girl, but 60s icon Valerie Leon has been hanging out with the British expats of Andalucia.
The forever-young femme fatal dropped into Almeria, dining on seafood paella and champagne to celebrate her 76th birthday.
The Carry On star was in Mojacar, touring her one-woman show ‘Up Front with Valerie Leon’ in which she looks back on a glittering 50-year career.
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With her natural allure unabated, she takes her hero-worshipping audiences through a multitude of iconic movie and TV moments.
Fans, particularly Bond aficionados, flock to hear her cheeky revelations, including a three-in-a-bed scene with Roger Moore in The Saint that she says ‘was completely innocent!’ An unscripted kiss from him in The Persuaders was kept in the final cut, which Valerie says she ‘enjoyed immensely!’
She also worked with Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me as a hotel receptionist before featuring in Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery playing 007.
But Valerie refuses to reveal who she liked best: “They were so different, I will say that Roger was a lot more fun though!”
We meet over dinner following the intimate show in a small venue in Los Gallardos.
She’s statuesque, naturally beautiful (no surgery here), gracious, emitting an aura of youth and vitality, which more than belies her 76 years.
Performing in this pocket of Almeria allows her to catch up with friends who have lived in the province for over 20 years.
Leon embarked on this ‘rather scary’ new career a decade ago in the living room of the same pals.
She then transformed and developed the idea into the polished one-woman show that tours globally.
Starting off as a ‘shy, non-swinging sixties teenager’, she got her first break in the chorus line in Funny Girl on stage with Barbara Streisand in 1966 and never looked back.
Now a frequent traveller – she performs live on cruise ships and to small theatres nationally in the UK.
“I was rather nervous at the beginning, no role to play, just Valerie Leon!”
The Valerie Leon in front of me is confident, sassy and full of fun, as she reveals the comedy roles were her favourites.
She shot to fame with the Hai Karate aftershave adverts of the 1970s, which have remained in the national memory ever since.
Leon honed her whipping skills for the role with a specialist instructor. “I took the lessons in my garden and noticed that the neighbours were looking out of their windows, perhaps a little perturbed,” she said.
“These newly acquired skills did, however, lead to my part with Peter Sellers in The Revenge of the Pink Panther. A great actor, a wonderful actor and a special man, but difficult. He thought every woman would fall in love with him, but I didn’t!”
She is regularly invited to make guest appearances on TV. Recently, in September this year, arguments erupted worldwide over a potential ‘Jane’ Bond film being made, which Leon ridiculed.
She appeared on Good Morning Britain alongside Piers Morgan – where she said: “The world has gone mad – James Bond is a fantasy and a creation – it just doesn’t work for a Jane Bond.” Piers agreed. Leon added: “I was in mourning, I wore black. How can Bond be a woman?”
I ask her why she has decided that this gig, here in Almeria, is her swansong?
“I’m 76,” she sighs, but with a bright spark remaining in her eyes: “It’s hard work, but I will admit to you that I have had an offer for a cruise ship performance in August.
“When I get such a warm response as I have had this evening – I still can’t believe that so many people are so interested in my work – I feel a pull…so, who knows, shall we say ‘never say never again?”
Here’s hoping that you carry on Valerie Leon.
Want to know more about Valerie Leon? See her website: www.valerieleon.com