The Real 'It' - Jean Shrimpton and Life Cycles

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
This shows how the 'most famous model in the world' in the 60's - Jean Shrimpton, was in fact, not happy with being a model or her life generally. Once again, in accordance with the key year in "Life Cycles Theory" she ultimately found her real direction.

Submitted: October 07, 2018

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Submitted: October 07, 2018



 Jean Shrimpton - The 'It' Girl. The 'Face Of The 60's'.

Have you ever watched the UK TV series called Escape To The Country? It's a pleasant and undemanding hour focusing on ordinary citizens, who are deciding to start the next phase of their lives in one of UK's many rural counties. We get to have a sticky beak inside three prospective homes and chances are if I begin watching towards my bed hour, I'll start nodding off before they reach house number three. I have actually renamed the show, "Escape To Unconsciousness", but that's another story. 
What in the heck does any of this have to do with the world's first true supermodel? The 'It' girl of the 60's, who lived in swinging London with actor Terrence Stamp and shocked racegoers at our famous Melbourne Cup in 1965, when she wore a mini skirt that was 5 inches above the knee line. I admit we were pretty easily shocked back then, but we who were alive in the 60's, have never forgotten that dress worn by Jean "The Shrimp" Shrimpton
The Famous Mini Skirt At The Melbourne Cup 1965. She didn't wear a hat or gloves and it was 5 inches above the knee. Pretty sedate now, but it was shocking at the time.

So what's the connection? Well there are two reasons I'm featuring this still-living former celebrity, who has assiduously avoided the spotlight for the last 40 or so years. The first is that like the previous post on this blog (Milton Hershey), she too appeared in the "people born on this day" section of the newspaper that I usually read. The reason they featured her was also because this was on the exact day of the running of the current Melbourne Cup. Secondly, she seemed to have lived her life in two distinct halves just like my last post on The Story Behind Life Cycles, featuring the medieval philosopher/monk, William of Ockham. Could her life pivot around the 'magic age' of 36 as well? Could it be her one stand-out year? The so-called age 36 "Year of Revolution". Could it furthermore bear any resemblance to the Escape To The Country TV show?

Well, of course, the answer's yes to all of these self-serving questions. However, as always, I'm humbled when just one more case bobs up out of nowhere. She's simply known for being a former model and she is now 75 years old. Again, what are the odds on tracing her life and career-altering events to one small 12 month section of her journey? 
OK then, let's get down to it. Jean Shrimpton was born on November 7th, 1942. She was discovered early on in 1960 by photographer David Bailey, who became her mentor and lover. Together they rose to prominence and by appearing on so many high-profile magazine covers etc, she became known as "the world's best known/highest paid model" and "the most beautiful girl in the world". As if all this fawning adulation wasn't enough, she was later called "The 'It' Girl"/"The Face Of The 60's".
But she says with conviction that she never enjoyed her fame. In a 2012 interview in The Guardian newspaper she says, "I've hated publicity all my life. I didn't even like it when I was a model." She puts her success down to happenstance, "it's just that when the spotlight came on, I was very good at striking a pose". As she stated, "I never liked being photographed, I was just very good at it." 


Jean Shrimpton And Terrence Stamp. The 'It' Couple Of The Swinging 60's........Or So It Seemed.

So basically she was not comfortable in her own skin at very time when she should have lapped up all the attention and glory. To boot, she hated her nickname "The Shrimp". When Bailey introduced her to heartthrob actor Terrence Stamp, she ended up moving on to her next relationship of three years and they were called the 'It Couple'. However the generally dysphoric Shrimpton didn't much enjoy this either, "We were two pretty people wandering around thinking we were important. Night after night we'd go out for dinner, to the best restaurants, but just so that we could be seen. It was boring. I felt like a bit part in a movie about Terence Stamp." Apparently she also hated dancing and took her knitting along to the disco much to the annoyance of Stamp.

Next came a short relationship with the photographer Jordan Kalfus, who introduced her to New York culture, which she loved (finally found something she liked!). Then on to a short, turbulent relationship with  hippie anarchic poet Heathcote Williams and after that the fledgling writer Malcolm Richie, living in Wales. She had tried her hand at acting, but that didn't work out and now did some amateur photography. When she was in her age 31 "Year of Broken Pathways"  and with her modelling money long gone, she decided to move down to Cornwall and start anew as a small-time antique dealer in Marazion. 

So this was her own personal "Escape To The Country", but wait a minute, it didn't correspond with her 'magic year' of 36 did it? So what's going on, I hear you ask. Well she may have moved, but she still wasn't settled in her life generally. She left Richie as she did with all her previous relationships, so she had a bad track record in finding her own Mr. Right. She wasn't really enjoying running the antique shop either, based on a later comment.

She could be considered a real dilettante ('dabbler') in both her career and love life at this point, so what turned things around? So completely, in fact, that she is still on the same course today. How did she find her real 'It' and of greater concern, when? One day a pleasant guy named Michael Cox, who was 5 years her junior, walked into her shop. He was an accountant's son, who renovated derelict homes, but they didn't have an instant attraction. He stated they wouldn't have met on a dating site, but they did drift together over time.

Now we are perched at the beginning of Jean's age 36 "Year of Revolution" (early Nov. 1978 to early Nov. 1979). It would have been around this time that Jean became pregnant, because her only child (a son called Thaddeus) was born in July, 1979. She and Michael Cox decided to get married as a result of the pregnancy and the ceremony was in a local registry office in early Jan, 1979. This low-key occasion couldn't have been more different to her previous glitzy life.

A second important event happened in this year as well. One of the people she had photographed told her about the upcoming sale of  a residential hotel called The AbbeyOld ladies used to pay 17 guineas a week for board and lodging and Jean used to lunch there.She bought it for 85,000 pounds and she and Michael commenced an extensive renovation at once despite her being unwell because of her pregnancy.

However it was this veritable Fawlty Towers, which became her real life's passion. Her real'It'. She and Michael are still involved to this day, although it is now run by her son and his wife. Yes, her life was lived in two halves, the first was nothing but a very glamorous disappointment, whereas the unlikely second half became her life's work. 

Shrimpton at 36 with her new husband Michael Cox pictured at their new establishment a residential hotel called The Abbey

Jean also had the opportunity to forget she was ever a famous model and just let herself go and show her age. In later life she would become very hard to identify as the 'It' girl of the 60's. No fashionable clothes and no concerns about her looks in general, as the photo of her at age 68 will testify.

Would you believe this was 'The Shrimp'?   

But oddly enough this was the real Jean Shrimpton. She had met her husband and life partner. They had a son born to her in her age 36 "Year of Revolution", which is what I call a real blessing and a"fated relationship" in family terms. He grew up at The Abbey and in time he met and married his wife and they now run the hotel and restaurant (which was added in the 90's) on a day-to-day basis. 

It is a wonderful story of a successful marriage and business partnership. It is also a wonderful story of Jean's own personal journey of discovery, that all began in her 'magic year', her age 36 "Year of Revolution". This was Jean Shrimpton's real 'It'. It is also just another of my many, many biographical stories that form part of the 'Real It' of "Life Cycles Theory". Remember only I give you the evidence. Lots of others give you untested ideas, that can sound well and good, but there's nothing backing them up. If you don't believe me then just check out Rational Wiki, or the Skeptics Dictionary, or just Google "some other idea about life"/criticism.

You won't find "Life Cycles Theory" anywhere there. That's because they'd have to really test my evidence first and it's too much like hard work.......  

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