Mojo Ultimate Collectors Edition MARCH 2007 - by Martin Aston


Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure (1973)

Was he or wasn't she? In April Ashley's Odyssey, the autobiography of the first British transsexual to go public, Ashley wrote about a certain "Peki d'Oslo, otherwise Alain Tapp, later Amanda Lear". In one of Lear's own trash-disco classics, Fabulous Lover, Love Me, she purrs, "The surgeon made me so well that you could not tell that I was not somebody else", while Roxy Music's PR, the late Simon Puxley, agrees it was common knowledge that she was once a he.

Not that Lear has ever confirmed it. She claims she was told by her mentor, artist Salvador Dali, to pretend she was once a man. "It was a phoney publicity stunt in order to sell records," she claimed. "No one wanted a boring girl like any other. But it was the time of The Rocky Horror Show, and I was around, looking glamourous, and people always dream, don't they? The lady is a girl, and that's it."

Born to an English-French father and Asian-Russian mother, Lear was fashion modelling for Ossie Clark when Bryan Ferry caught a show. "Bryan and [Roxy designer] Anthony Price thought I'd be the right girl with the right attitude, because the girl had to be way before her time. 1973 was too early for the black-leather dominatrix look, but I was right, probably because I was very tall. They wanted a girl who looked like a Hitchcock movie, a little bit dangerous but arrogant at the same time. I had to be able to carry off that ridiculous shiny-dress look."

Lear had never heard of Roxy Music, "but Bryan was very charming. He took me out and offered me the job, but he never mentioned the black panther." The shoot, in an empty south London street, "was a bit frightening. They overdid the valium for the animal, though, and it couldn't get up, poor thing. It was lying flat on its stomach. When it came to it, they had to paint the eyes open on the sleeve. I was looking fierce though."

The result impressed one David Bowie. "He fell in love with the girl on the sleeve. I think he was a little disappointed when we met because I looked nothing like that, but he lived with me for a year. He originated my singing career, paid for my singing and dancing lessons and my first demo. Elton John, Freddie Mercury, they all said, 'You must sing.'" And so a camp Euro-disco queen was born.

Through the 1980s and '90s, Lear reinvented herself as a TV celebrity o various chat and panel shows in Italy and France, while landing the occasional TV/film role and stoking her popularity on the gay club circuit, all the while living with her husband Alain-Philippe Malagnac in a farmhouse in the south of France: "I have a dog and two cats and olive trees. To you it might look boring, but to me it is wonderful. It is a normal life. I cook for my husband. I go every day to the market. This is happiness. And the rest - false eyelashes and makeup and going on TV - is not. It is work."

Events took a tragic turn in 2000 when a fire killed Malagnac and burned down their farmhouse. Lear has kept working: her thirteenth album, With Love, was released in France last year, and she was the eccentric fashion designer Edna Mode in the Italian and French versions of the film The Incredibles.