Saturday 18 January 2020

It's no bombshell to say that, really, blondes rarely have more fun

As Hitchcock was aware, they are adept at faking an insouciance that doesn't exist, writes Emily Hourican

The myth that blondes have more fun is a persistent one. It lingers because we like the image it conveys; someone bright and bubbly, dancing lightly through life, glittering with an irresistible fire.

But Hitchcock with his instinct for the obscure and seedy, knew better. "Blondes make the best victims," was his chilling appraisal. "They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."

He wasn't talking about the cool-ice blondes, the Grace Kellys and Tippi Hedrens, but rather the many more who come imprinted with an innate vulnerability, running through them like a watermark.

When Lisa Murphy told Niamh Horan back in June of this year that she had been engaged three times but had never tried on a wedding dress, she did so with a smile, happy in the belief that three times would, in her case, be lucky.

But she was wrong, and her words horribly prophetic. Yet again, an engagement has proved insubstantial and ethereal for Lisa, not a binding promise so much as a temporary stop-gap.

First she was engaged to boxer Joe Egan, then to Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley, and most recently to Gerald Kean, who looked as though he hung the moon for her during all the years they have been together. But this week Lisa left the house she and Gerald shared, to move in with Jo Jordan, one of her co-stars on Dublin Housewives, and rumours of a split are not being denied.

Back in that interview with Niamh Horan, she said it wasn't superstition that kept her from finding and trying on a wedding dress. Perhaps not, but clearly some inner voice must have warned her that the traditional version of 'happily-ever-after' wasn't how the story was going to unfold.

For Lisa, the break with Gerald – a man she clearly loved and who seemed, in turn, to adore her – must be a shattering moment, and yet, chances are she will put a brave face on and come out smiling.

Because that is what blondes do. Blondes come early to artifice, as soon as the brilliant glow of childhood starts to fade, and many spend their lives trying to recapture the effortless appeal of those early days.

Outside Scandinavia, there are no natural adult blondes. Every shining head of golden hair represents a battle against nature, a triumph of desire over pre-determination. And so blondes learn all-too-early the impermanence of things, the lesson that nothing lasts. Colour fades, men leave, promises are broken.

Look at Twink, baby-blonde curls piled high; valiantly, gallantly, setting forth to present the difficulties of her life as a series of battles engaged and won. She confronts the hard blows dealt to her – her husband's affairs, his secret child – on her own terms, batting away pity in a bid to keep her dignity. A lifetime of showbiz have given her the instincts of a trooper. There is undoubtedly a private face, a place of far greater pain, but publicly, she wears that myth of blondes having more fun like armour.

Yvonne Keating, too, wore the armour, presenting a façade of shining perfection – the sculpted beauty with her perfect home, marriage and children. It was an image she wore lightly, yet worked hard to maintain, even when news of her husband Ronan's affair with backing dancer Francine Cornell washed away the future she had believed in. Clearly a woman who understood the impossibility of perfection, she tried hard to salvage the relationship, but ultimately had to admit that what has been broken cannot always be mended.

Even Anne Doyle, fiercely intelligent and dynamic, darling of the nation with her impeccable trademark blonde bob, in yesterday's Evening Herald, confessed that depression has, over the years, shown her some dark places.

The attempt to turn back time, to relive the days of infant beauty, means that blondes are well versed in faking an insouciance that simply doesn't exist.

Think of Katy French, in those months before she tragically died, trying so hard to present the image of a young woman in control of her life and career, with a future and a focus. Inside, of course, she was spiralling into a well of chaos, hounded by the fear that someone would out her drug use before she could find how to handle it, undoubtedly wondering what and where was the handle that she could catch hold of, the break that would stop her freefall.

And yet, she was good at the deception. She presented a convincing front. She played out the role of glamorous, laughing blonde, exactly as she knew the world wanted her to. Blondes play tragedy as comedy, and have done ever since Marilyn Monroe first sculpted that devastating dumb-blonde persona.

Truman Capote called Marilyn Monroe "a beautiful child", and that is probably the ultimate verdict on blondes. Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, Edie Sedgwick, Nico and Britney Spears, have all played to type. Amy Winehouse should have been a blonde. Madonna, for all that she puts on the childlike vulnerability of a blonde at times, is clearly a brunette – calculating, intrepid, successful. Blondes, as David Lynch understands so well, are often angelic, but rarely proof against the arsenal of the world.

Sunday Independent

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