Monday, 1 September 2008

“Viva Peters” - the career of Luan Peters


Luan Peters is a British actress, born Carol Hirsch, on the 18th of June 1946 in Bethnal Green, London.

Though not from a showbiz family- her grandparents were German ex-patriots who emigrated to London when her father was three, and he grew up to be a garage owner in the East End- she made her stage debut in a pantomime aged four, then went on to win a drama scholarship at aged 16 after a recital of Twelfth Night. Becoming sidetracked with a music career she started singing in a band for two pounds a night as a way of earning extra money in between attending drama school. Her singing career began proper in Manchester, where under the name Karol Keyes (named after her management Keystone Promotions), she fronted “Karol Keyes and The Big Sound”, a band previously known as The Fat Sound (for more on The Big Sound see http://www.manchesterbeat.com/bands/bigsound/bigsound.php). “We first met her in early 1966 when the Big Sound backed her” recalls the bands’ Kevin Parrott “Her first record was an Ike & Tina Turner number called ‘A Fool in Love’ on Columbia. The Big Sound auditioned with her at Abbey Road, but they used session men on the actual release (and you can tell, as it's rather bland). However, I still have the original Abbey Road acetates recorded with the Big Sound. I last met her in the early 1980s on the opening night of Stringfellows.”


She split from the Big Sound in June 1966. A year later she joined Joan Littlewood’s drama school at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, whilst continuing to sing in nightclubs “I was performing in a club one evening when an EMI man looked in. Through him I began making records for his company. My records didn’t burn up the charts, but they didn’t do so badly either”. A third and final name change came in the late sixties, Gordon Mills who had successfully given the stage names to Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, suggested she call herself "Delilah Jackson" to capitalize on Jones’ 1968 hit Delilah. Feeling that she didn’t look like a Delilah Jackson however, the soon to be ex-Karol Keyes decided to blindly stick a pin into a map and came up with a town in Russia called Luan (although some articles claim it was a town in China) “it sounded nice and I adopted it as my first name”. It was her love of films that caused her to come up with her surname “all of my life I’ve been cinema crazy, I still go two or three times a week” she told Photoplay in 1972 “I couldn’t think of a surname… until one night I went to see the film Viva Zapata, with Marlon Brando and Jean Peters”. Hence “Luan Peters” was born.

In 1970, she starred in the 13 part TV series ''Go Girl'', playing the lead role, a go-go dancer who finds herself involved in action oriented story lines. The show, produced by Kenneth F Rowles (later of Take an Easy Ride infamy) and actor Simon Brent, who also played Luan’s gormless DJ boyfriend in the show, was unfortunately beset by problems from the outset, which included the financers backing out, the production running out of money, and the actors union Equity closing the production down.


Luan and Rowles even went to America at one point to try and raise money for the show, but without success. The series was never broadcast and it is believed only the pilot episode was completed. However promotion of the series continued for a few years after it was made, as late as 1973 Titbits magazine announced the series would be “screened nationally by Harlech Television, starting in September”. The pilot episode only saw the light of day more than a decade after it was made, when it was released twice on UK video in the early eighties once under the title Give Me a Ring Sometime (which is actually just the pilot episode title) and another time as Passport to Murder. On the basis of the pilot Go Girl clearly had a lot going for it with lively, action packed plots taking place in picturesque locations, pop music interludes, cartoon inserts and Luan go-go dancing to Slade’s “Coz I Luv You” in hot pants. In the pilot episode her character, ironically called Carol, finds herself in possession of treasure map and targeted by a mysterious killer identified for most of the programme only by his tattooed hand.

That Go Girl was never broadcast at the time seems a genuine shame in retrospect, Luan single handedly carries the show with her good looks and acting. Had it been broadcast, you wonder if people may have thought of her in more of a leading lady capacity, as opposed to just small roles being leered at by Reg Varney or bitten on the tit by Hammer vampires.

A rare lead role did follow however in the british sex film Not Tonight Darling (1971) in which Luan played a bored housewife lured into an extra marital affair and then blackmailed into appearing in blue films. Luan gives a fully realized performance as a tortured, three dimensional character, compare and contrast to the now laughably wooden actresses who populate Derek Ford’s The Wife Swappers.
As well as Not Tonight Darling, and her two Hammer film appearances (in Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil) some of Luan’s other big screen roles include a waitress whose romp with Ian McShane causes him allot of trouble in Freelance (1970), although most of her screen time hit the cutting room floor in order to get the film an A certificate. No such problems befell Pete Walker’s early films Man of Violence (1969) and The Flesh and Blood Show (1972), which proudly lived up to their X certificates. Remembering Luan in an interview for the DVD release of the former, Walker recalled her as “a good working actress”. On her death scene “it was February and we threw her off the end of the pier in freezing conditions on that movie. To have her dead body floating in the ocean. So yes she was a good pro, and good memories of Luan”.





A small “blink and you’ll miss her” role as Bernard Bresslaw’s secretary in the David Niven comedy Vampira (1974) followed, as did a more lengthier role in The Devil’s Men (1976), a Greek horror film headlined by British horror icons Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence. Despite their and Luan’s efforts however its a rather dull film. Sadly Luan, and her nude scenes, were the only good things about her final films, the ill conceived The Wildcats of St. Trinians (1980) and the Australian erection failure sex comedy Pacific Banana (1981) in which Luan pulling off her top causes a volcano to erupt.

Luan was better served in her simultaneous threatre and TV career of the time. Her stage work included, “A Man Most Likely To” (1969, with George Cole), “Pyjama Tops” (1969) Paul Raymond’s famous show in which she co-starred with Bob Grant from On the Buses, and appeared naked on stage "for thirty seconds". “Decameron 73” (1973) was a similarly racy play well covered by the tabloids at the time. However Luan remained covered up to play Linda McCartney in “John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert” (1974), plus Tom Stoppard’s “Dirty Linen and Newfoundland”
(1976), “Shut Your Eyes And Think Of England!” (1978 with Donald Sinden and Frank Thornton) and “Funny Peculiar” in 1985.

She was also active on television in series such as: Z Cars, Public Eye, Doctor Who, Target, The Professionals and as Raylene Miles the busty guest whose breasts are groped more than once by Basil in the Fawlty Towers episode ''The Psychiatrist''. Evidentially Luan’s Australian accent was so good that some people still believe her to be an Australian actress!! Target, the BBC’s notoriously violent Patrick Mower vehicle from 1977, also gave Luan an interesting role in Denise Musgrave, a secretary at a corrupt haulage company that Det. Supt Steve Hackett (Mower) is investigating undercover. The role showcases Luan in a suitably malevolent mode, a jarring contrast to her usual nice girl roles. Perhaps taking method acting a little too far, the climax called for Luan to attempt to smash a bottle over Mower’s head after his cover is blown. While in the episode she fails to do this, it was reported in the papers at the time that she did accidentally brake a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne over Patrick's head during shooting!! The episode also features Mower and Luan disco dancing in what must rate as the most screamingly 1970s scene ever filmed.

In honour of her appearance in Public Eye in 1971, Titbits magazines ran a pictorial of Luan dressed as Sherlock Holmes, modeling a bikini, deerstalker cap and a magnifying glass.

Ironically Luan claimed her role in the episode Transatlantic Cousins was “one of the few times I have had to play down the glamour. I’m now starting to be judged as an actress- not just a dolly bird”. Her good looks and sex appeal, did occasionally seem to be working against her wish to be seen as a serious actress though, and its hard not to notice her frustration at this in interviews of the time. “My looks have been a handicap” she complained to Titbits “if a plain looking girl walks into a studio they say ‘she must be able to act’. But if you’re a pretty girl you just decorate the set”. Luan continued acting throughout the eighties, appearing regularly on Cannon and Ball's TV shows. According to Luan fan Freddie Baer “One week she slapped Bobby Ball (scripted!) harder than he was expecting, or, at least, he gave that impression to the merriment of the audience!”. Luan’s last known television role was in an episode in The Bill in 1990, in 2005 she was interviewed for the documentary Fawlty Towers Revisited, talking about one of her most famous roles.

Music wise, Luan’s biggest brush with the pop charts came in 1975 when she fronted the band 5000 Volts and appeared on Top of the Pops singing their hit song “I’m on Fire”. Controversy arose when it was later alleged that Tina Charles had actually sung vocals on the single itself, however it is believed Luan’s vocals were used for the Top of the Pops performance. Luan continued the release singles (mainly in Europe) throughout the 1970s. A versatile singer her recordings range from her early 60s soul recordings, to 1970’s Crazy Annie, which Luan belts out like Bethnal Green’s answer to Bobbie Gentry (“Crazy Annie was a good time, to a boy named Joe, Crazy Annie wasn’t crazy, oh no, no, no!!!” ) to the feel good late 70s disco of Love Countdown and the even better B-Side Beach Love. Her personal preference however was singing jazz and moody blues, describing her voice as “low and husky. You could call me a pop-contralto”.

Director Pete Walker once referred to his film Man of Violence as "a glossy Hollywood thriller made for three and a half pence with the necessary ingredients- Luan Peters with her 42 inch bust, and a bit of blood", upon reading this Luan retorted "I don’t have a 42 inch bust” later claiming her bust was 37" and that “I have a small back”.


Discography


Singles

*"The Good Love The Bad Love/Gonna Find me a Substitute" (Karol Keyes & The Big Sound, Unreleased Abbey Rd. EMI audition recording)
*"No One Can Take Your Place" (1964) (as Karol Keyes)
*"You Beat me to the Punch" (1964, Fontana) (as Karol Keyes)
*"Can't You Hear the Music" (196?) (as Karol Keyes)
*"A Fool in Love/The Good Love and the Bad Love" (1966) (as Karol Keyes)
*"One in a Million/Don’t Jump" (1966) (as Karol Keyes)
*"Crazy Annie/ Colours" (1970)
*"This Love of Mine/ New World Coming" (1971, Polydor)
*"Everything I Want to Do/Billy Come Down" (1973, Polydor)
*"Love Countdown/Beach Love" (1977,CBS,Germany)
*"Dolphin Dive" (1979)
*"It’s Me Again Margaret/Henhouse Holiday" (1980, Precision)
*"Trouble" (1981, from the film ‘Pacific Banana’)

Selected Magazine Appearances



* ''Mayfair'' (Vol.5, No.8, “Moon and Sexpants”, October 1970)
* ''Cinema X'' (Vol.3, No.8, 1970) "Lovely Luan"
* ''Saturday Titbits'' (4th Sep 1971)
* "C7" (Spain) (4th September 1971) No.543
* ABC Film Review march 1972
* ''Photoplay Film Monthly'' (May 1972)
* ''TV Times'' (16-29 December 1972)
* "TV Times" (31 March- April 6 1973) “Yoga with Luan Peters”
* ''Titbits'' (6th June 1973)
* "New Cinema" (Italy) (December 1973) Vol.5 No.12 “The Flesh and Blood Show”
* "TV Life" (May 1974) “Luan Peters Visits a Health Farm”
* ''Weekend Magazine'' (25th Dec 1974)
* ''Weekend Magazine'' (7th August 1974)
* ''Cinema X'' (Vol.8, No.3, February 1975 “The Devil’s Men”)
* "TV Times" (11-17 January 1975)
* "Record Mirror" September 20 1975 “Interview with Luan Peters”
* "TV Times" 30th October 1978 “Luan Peters in Mixed Blessings”
* ''Extra Deiz Minutos'' (Spain, 1980)



2 comments:

Glenn, kenixfan said...

Thanks for this post. This is probably the most comprehensive bio of Luan I've yet read.

In America, Vampira was released as Old Dracula and I remember it fondly. It used to run on late at night on commercial and cable television but now is impossible to find. It is due for a reissue.

The Greek thing with Donald Pleasance has been released under so many different titles that it's hard to keep track. Famously, the versions released legally are all PG-cuts of the film usually missing some of Luan's scenes.

Dry Gulch Pete said...

http://z2.ifrm.com/10701/5/0/p1051002/Teresa_May_MP_.jpg

Who's this? :D