Where Have I Been All My Life?

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For someone who has professed “terminal shyness,” Annette André has written her memoir with arresting honesty and generosity. From a lonely childhood in Sydney, Australia, and overcoming a chronic illness to become a professional ballet dancer, Where Have I Been All My Life? reveals the truth behind her storybook romance with a famous bullfighter, how Benny Hill proposed marriage, and why a chance conversation with Prince Charles helped to change the course of her life. 

Guest starring with Roger Moore in more of The Saint episodes than any other actress, Annette quickly became one of the most popular TV actors of Britain’s “Golden Age,” in such classic series as The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Persuaders! and her most memorable role of all, as Jeannie in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). From her fly–on–the–wall view of Burton and Taylor’s romance while filming Cleopatra to the perils of shooting A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, and her appearances on the West End stage, Annette found writing the story of her life “excruciatingly hard work, but like a good orgasm, damn well worth the effort.”

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK….

From Chapter 1

I never saw the blow coming but when his fist hit my cheek, I vividly recall seeing the shocked face of the  man with a small black moustache seated in the front row. Catapulting toward the bed upstage, I felt as if my brain was exploding with blinding daggers of light. But incongruous as it seems, what stands out the most from that violent moment all these years later, was wondering what Oliver Hardy was doing at the Bush Theatre without Stan Laurel?

If this incident which happened on opening night of The Collector, in 1972, seems an arbitrary start to the story of my life, I assure you that it’s not. Who is to say with any certainty where, in the long corridor of years and incidents, is the single defining moment that separates all that went before and was to come after; where a door opened that changed a path to the future?

What is remarkable to me about the choice I’ve made where to begin this narrative, is the surprise of what it turned out to be and the indelible effect that it had on the rest of my life. Now, in retrospect, I believe that punch delivered the most unlikelyof turning points imaginable – the befuddled, baggy–pants bit of business with Laurel and Hardy notwithstanding.

From Chapter 16

This 1:00am in the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge set the scene that has since defined Hollywood for me as a land of eternal youth disguised as a well–polished, greying–at– the–temples casting couch.

In most professions, job interviews take place during normal business hours but for the actor leading a catch–as– catch–can existence, there are no norms. And so it was that I found myself seated in a plush banquette, a plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon between me and a famous film director. His assistant had called to say that this late hour was the only time he could see me before leaving for New York in the morning. He’d been in casting sessions all day and evening but was interested in meeting me for his new film.

If I had any doubts about his sincerity, they were somewhat diluted by his bringing a script of the film and placing it in front of me while he described in detail its plot and the character I might play. He was a charming man, surprisingly modest and disarmingly proud of his two college–aged children. By the time my nocturnal breakfast dishes were cleared it was 2:30am and I was feeling hopeful that I had given a good enough account of myself to win a shot at testing for the role. He glanced casually at his watch. “So, what are your plans for the rest of the night?” “What rest of the night?” I laughed, “It’s almost daylight.” “Exactly, no reason to trek home when my suite’s two floors up.” His hand was on the script before I’d recovered from the ambush. He’d no doubt played–out this charade many times

before, yet he managed to make it seem fresh and unrehearsed. I was barely out of the banquette when I heard him say without rancour, “It was a pleasure meeting you.” Is it just my imagination or was that farewell a bit like a hit– man assuring his victim, “Nothing personal?”

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