Christopher Lee – My first true love

Chistopher Lee as Rochefort - modified from juntajuleil.com

Christopher Lee as Rochefort – the character who influenced my dating decisions for the rest of my life

When I was young (back in the mists of time and the days of yore when adventure was in the offing and there were no cell phones, TV remotes or personal computers), I developed a major crush. Like many other pre-teens at the time, I fell hard for a celebrity.  Unlike many other pre-teens at the time, I didn’t fall for a teeny bopper idol like David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy or Leif Garrett (although I did think Davy Jones from The Monkeys was kinda cute).  No, when I fell (and fell hard, with the kind of obsession that only pre-teens and stalkers can summon), it was for an older man.  A much older man.  A man 40 years older than my 13 year old self, British actor Christopher Lee.

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Sir Henry in Hound of the Baskervilles. Only Christopher Lee could make fainting seem so sexy!

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Best. Dracula. Ever.

I can’t quite remember when I first saw him. It might have been in one of the wonderful Hammer horror movies where Lee played Dracula (bite me, pleaseohplease, bite me!) or his turn as the fainting Sir Henry in Hound of the Baskervilles.  I watched a lot of horror movies from an early age.  But the movie and the role that really captured my young imagination (and slowly developing hormones) was The Three Musketeers, directed by Richard Lester, and starring an awesome cast.  As fond as I am as Gene Kelly as D’artagnan, there will never be a better four musketeers than Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finley and Richard Chamberlin.  but the awesome sauce on top of it all was Christopher Lee as the one-eyed villain Rochefort.

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“Be advised, Gascon. Turn and run.”

Oh man… he could sword fight.  He had this amazing deep and resonant voice. He had an eye patch… and he started my fixation with men in cavalier garb. Christopher Lee is the reason that almost every significant male interest in my life either knew how to sword fight or was willing to learn, and also didn’t mine dressing up in boots, breeches, and full sleeved white shirts.

I wanted to be Milady de Winter ’cause she had a thing going with Rochefort. But I also wanted to learn to sword fight.  No damsel in distress role for me.  With my friend Cindi, I started writing Three Musketeers fan fiction with myself as Constance DuVallon, sister to Porthos.  She of course, was taught to sword fight at a young age because that happened all the time back then, right?  Well, in my world it did, and that was all that mattered.  I filled a dozen little notebooks with my fantasy life as a 17 century noblewoman who knew how to sword fight and who just happened to be Milady’s half sister or something like that, and who just happened to catch the eye of Rochefort (the eye… get it?  Hahahahah!!! okay…).

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Raowr…

It didn’t stop with Rochefort, though.  Once my infatuation well and truly set in, I would watch anything and everything Christopher Lee was in.  I’d scan the TV guide every week for his movies and when I found the listings, I’d cut them out and save them in a cigar box where I kept all my special ‘stuff.’  I must have cut out fifty or so over the years. I bought horror movie coffee table books, collecting as many as possible so I would have a diverse selection of Christopher Lee pictures and bios.  I’d scan the photos for sale at conventions such as ComicCon for eight by tens of my hero.  I wondered why anyone would choose Roger Moore’s bland James Bond over Christopher Lee’s devastatingly sexy Scaramanga “the Man with the Golden Gun.” I also conveniently ignored the existence of his wife, who I’m sure was a wonderful woman and probably a bit more age appropriate.  She just wasn’t me. 

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“Where’s my damn hat?”

The best present I remember receiving as a child was one Christmas when I found a Rochefort doll sticking out of the top of my Christmas stocking. My sister Lisa had taken an Ivanhoe action figure and hand made a Rochefort outfit for it, including hat with a stitched black yarn “wig” attacked inside.  It’s not included in this picture because one of the cats dragged it off and I hid it away for safe-keeping, evidently in a place so safe that I can’t find it now… 

My family was also amused by my infatuation with a man forty years older than my 13 year old self.  They teased the hell out of me. But it didn’t matter.  I knew it could work.  We even collectively wrote a poem about it, which I’ve included below. This year I turned 53; the same age Christopher Lee was when my 13 year old self developed such a crush on him.  It seems funny (ironic) to me now that back then I thought 53 was OLD.  Like, ‘you’re gonna die in a few years, old man!’ old.  Now it seems impossibly young (I’m not middle-aged, NOOOOO!)!!

At any rate… the poem. And forgive me, Christopher Lee, for sending you to hell  ’cause I don’t really believe in it anyway and also, you would never go there ’cause you brought so much happiness to so many people. It’s just that it rhymed, y’know?) 

Christopher Lee is 53

Christopher Lee is 54.
we don’t have to say 53 any more.

Christopher Lee is 55.
I’m surprised he’s still alive

Christopher Lee is 56.
He’s sick but nothing we can’t fix

Christopher Lee is 57.
Now he’s on his way to heaven. 

Christopher Lee is 58.
He’s knocking at the pearly gates.

Christopher Lee is 59.
He’s meeting with the one divine 

Christopher Lee is 60… well…
Now he’s on his way to hell.

When I found out Christopher Lee had passed away, I cried, the first time I’d actually shed tears over the death of a celebrity.  I realized how much of a benign influence this man had on my life, his charisma and roles helping to shape the paths I took and the interests that became passions, such as sword fighting, the horror genre and… well, men in cavalier garb.  He was a vital, talented man until the end and he will always be my very first love, even if he never knew it.  :-)

And we’re off!

As mentioned in my last post, I have been tagged by Marvelous Marvin (henceforth known as MM) to spill the beans on six things my readers might not know about me.  Six unusual things.  This is kind of a toughie ‘cause most of the off the wall things about me are in my bios on whatever social network or blog I’ve joined or written. I actually spent some time thinking about this between 4 and 6am when I couldn’t sleep this morning, figuring it was a better way to entertain my brain than worry about finances.  But I’m still having trouble, so I’m gonna start with one and see where it leads me.  In fact, I’m going to cheat a bit and blog on one new and fascinating Dana factoid a day.  I’m also supposed to tag six people so in keeping with my one a day (just like a vitamin!) revelation, I’ll tag one person at a time. This will also give me a chance to figure out who Marvin has not already tagged.  J

 

Okay, number one:

 

 Sword fighting is unusual (at least it was when I started; it’s become a lot more common as more renaissance faires and live gaming groups have sprung up over the years. Most of you know that I do theatrical combat, but most people don’t know how I got started on this swashbuckling past, so I’ll make this number one:

 

My first sword fight was actually a short sword fight at the San Diego Renaissance Faire the very first year it was held in the Balboa Park Organ Pavilion. I dressed as a gypsy in a full circle red skirt, cinch belt and off the shoulder white blouse and sauntered around the faire with all the confidence of an 18 year old having a good skin day.  As I waited in line for some food (probably the ubiquitous turkey leg), I overheard a conversation between a two guys in breeches, puffy white shirts and boots.  One of the guys was complaining that his fight partner had backed out at the last minute and he wasn’t going to be able to do his swordfight.  The fellow talking was in his ‘20s, had a mane of thick black hair, shot with silver, smooth olive skin and nice features.  Dashing.  Cute.  Puffy white shirt. 

 

Without a second thought, I stepped forward and said, “I’ll do it!” 

And thus begun my checkered career in theatrical combat and my introduction to Chris Villa, my first combat teacher. Chris took me up on my offer with an equal lack of hesitation, taught me the basic parry/cut/thrust positions as taught by SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) in an hour and we performed the fight, complete with appropriately cheesy and sexist dialogue shortly thereafter.  It went well and I soon became totally enamored with everything about sword fighting, including my teacher.  

 

Chris started my predilection for men who swordfight.  Something about the musculature of swordsmen, all smooth, subtle ripples under the skin instead of big old bulky Ah-nold type guns.  And I’m sucker for the breeches and boots.  Oh heck, it’s all about the romance that goes with the entire package.  While I’ve met plenty of total assholes in the world of theatrical combat, I have never met one who lacked romance in his soul. 

 

Chris was my first real boyfriend and we eventually became engaged. Things didn’t work out – I was SO not emotionally mature enough to settle down, but Chris had a huge impact on my life and was responsible for giving me the gift of what became an integral part of my life.  He also got my cat high, but that’s another story.

 

Eventually I’m going to dig out my old photos and scan them so I can share a pictorial history as well.

 

And for my first tag, I tag Other Lisa!