From the archive: Why Cliff would dress like Cilla, 1968

A look back at the Observer Magazine’s past – and an article entitled: ‘Peeping Over the Sexual Fence’

‘Frankly I like being a bloke far too much to want to be a woman. But if I had to be a woman it’d be a woman I’d like to marry, not the sexy blonde type. Someone quiet without being subservient… perhaps a brunette. Or someone like Cilla Black – a girl who enjoys life. Not shy exactly, but unobtrusive.’

Dear oh dear, Cliff, Cilla Black, unobtrusive? This, by the way, is a quote from Cliff Richard, from the 21 January 1968 issue of the Observer Magazine about, of all things, gender role models.

The article, ‘Peeping Over the Sexual Fence’, grapples with the Jungian notion that no one is exclusively ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’, offering kernels of insight, such as: ‘In a supposedly male-dominated society few men can easily imagine themselves in the role of the woman. The thought has castrating implications.’

Thus, four rather reticent blokes were asked to put aside said castrating implications and attempt to imagine themselves as the ‘more delicate’ sex.

In the hot seat were Tory MP Sir Gerald Nabarro, who comes complete with a handlebar moustache along with support for capital punishment and Enoch Powell. Then there’s Terry Downes (a British middleweight boxer), F1’s Stirling Moss and, of course, good old Cliff.

The consensus seemed to be that they would hate to be a woman but, if their hand was forced, they’d look like someone they would want to get off with.

Sir Gerald would be ‘one of those gorgeous telecasters, with blonde hair, décolleté dress, a plummy voice and pouting, carmine, sensuous lips’. Downes, on the other hand, would be the complete opposite: ‘I’d be dark and slinky, very smart and quiet - I can’t bear women who are always talking.’

Moss is a little more enthusiastic: ‘I’d have to be someone like Shirley MacLaine, with great personal vivacity. To have that sort of exciting quality would be fine.’ Juliana Piskorz


Juliana Piskorz

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
From the archive: the women’s issue, 1968
A look back at the Observer Magazine’s past

Juliana Piskorz

21, Jan, 2018 @5:59 AM

Article image
Cilla Black's funeral to be led by tributes from Sir Cliff Richard
Singer to be joined by Black’s celebrity friends Christopher Biggins, Paul O’Grady and Jimmy Tarbuck, for televised Merseyside service

Helen Pidd North of England editor

20, Aug, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Nicky Haslam and Cilla Black on their special relationship
Nicky Haslam and Cilla Black have been friends for 48 years. Here they talk about meeting in the Ritz and their 5.30am calls

Shahesta Shaitly

30, Jun, 2013 @6:07 AM

Article image
From the archive: Is your wife your best asset?
It’s 1971 and the Observer reveals how businessmen are helped – or hindered – by their wives

Juliana Piskorz

08, Apr, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: the truth about 1970s commercial air travel
A look back on an airlines exposé in the Observer Magazine. By Juliana Piskorz

Juliana Piskorz

18, Feb, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: Love, marriage and extramarital affairs in the 60s
A look back at marital advice from the Observer Magazine

Juliana Piskorz

11, Feb, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: football archetypes in 1968
Arthur Hopcraft assesses footballing greats, from George Best to Matt Busby

Chris Hall

11, Aug, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: mastering our aggression, 1968
Aggro wasn’t always a bad thing, apparently. By Chris Hall

Chris Hall

17, Oct, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: the genius of Eric Morecambe
Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan celebrates the funny straight man – one of British television’s comedy masters

Chris Hall

12, Apr, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
From the archive: Katharine Whitehorn’s modern manners, 1968
The Observer’s late, brilliant columnist on how to navigate etiquette, from hosting a party to losing your knickers

Chris Hall

24, Jan, 2021 @6:00 AM