Since, in essence, the initial personal attraction was visual – the awesome aural impact arriving later – please see the sister page to ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Pictures’, ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Sound’ to hear what I mean – it has long been an ambition of mine for ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ to include a page in the Blog dedicated to the – mostly highly scenic 😉 – photographic record of Valinka’s life and work.
Here is, therefore, a selection – that will be added to/have their captions changed over time – of photos either saved from the Web or taken from screen shots, mostly from the ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ documentary, with captions according to the best of my current knowledge.
One of the earliest images of Valinka – who was actually named ‘Valéria’ at birth, but whose professional name was made to ‘harmonise’ with the Czech variant, ending with an ‘-e’, variously with and without the accent over the middle ‘-e-‘ – about which those outside the immediate family know – already ‘rocking’ the polka dots that would serve her so well in later life!…for example, the dress seen below in which she performed her first single at the Bratislavská Lýra of 1969
In a 1973 edition of the in-house magazine of the Communist Young Pioneers, ‘Sedmička pionýrů’, Valinka makes reference to having taken ballet lessons from the age of four and having carried that on until realising that singing held greater attractions and that she “didn’t regret it”. Neither does her army of fans!
The young Valinka at home in Michalovce with her mother – the family was Hungarian-speaking and apparently the first words Valinka would ever have spoken in Slovak would have been at school, which makes it all the more extraordinary that she would go on to become (of her generation) the finest female interpreter of the Czech language in Pop.
Perhaps the first colour photo of the young Valinka – the professionalism of which was maybe an indication of the fame to come. This is not your average family snapshot with lighting like that!
Class VIII.B. at the Gymnázium Pavla Horova, Michalovce, with Valinka highlighted second from the right on the front row. I was aghast at the informality of this when I first saw it. “This is what school in the 1960s looked like under a one-party state???”
What I take to be a leaving party at the Gymnázium Pavla Horova, with some classmates from VIII.B. clearly recognisable – the ‘Star of the Show’ – now I wonder who that might be 😉 – holding the flowers.
A few family snapshots, in colour, of amazing quality and clarity, of a teenaged Valinka – with her ever-characterful eyes – on the cusp of nation-wide prominence
The Band Leader/Pianist Otakar Krásenský – the man who first encountered Valinka’s considerable singing talent and with whom the teenage Valinka sang at the lakeside Jazz and Swing club by Lake Zemplín, near Michalovce. Although Valinka would go on to a career in Pop it was Jazz and Swing where her roots lay and it was that background that probably gave her an edge in quality – that, together with her later theatrical background, which would itself have probably assisted in bringing expression to her singing. (My late mother was an amateur Operatic Singer and she always stressed the importance of the acting part of singing Opera)
Three utterly captivating studies of the sixteen-year-old Valinka on ‘Mladá Píseň’ (‘Young Song’), in 1968, in Jihlava, where, incredibly, she was not the Winner! That was later to be rectified in Česká Třebová, where Valinka was indeed very much ‘Number One’!
Those three images are, so it transpires, stills from Valinka’s appearance on the show, ‘Za písničkou do Jihlavy’, originally broadcast on 17th April 1968, therefore, none too long after Valinka’s sixteenth birthday on 29th January of that year. Here is a more extensive selection of stills, including some from Valinka in probably her first-ever TV interview, some of Valinka backstage, adjusting her hair and a couple of Valinka spotted in the background, with Valinka performing ‘Slunný podnebí’/’Tám, za vodou’ (see below) in the lighter outfit and her first single, ‘Sunny’ (see below) in the darker one. One can watch ‘Za písničkou do Jihlavy’ in its entirety at Czech TV’s ‘iVysílání’ catch-up service.
The sixteen-year-old Valinka’s launch into the nationwide spotlight on ‘Talent 68′, where she performed the song that gave this Blog its name – covering The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’, singing (in ‘Slunný podnebí’/’Tám, za vodou’) about dreaming of being on a hot beach, ‘breakfasting on a kilo of bananas’.
Evidently contemporary with the Valinka who appeared on ‘Talent 68’, probably a first publicity photo.
The photo from the sleeve of Valinka’s first single with Panton (1969) – a Jazz treatment of Bobby Hebb’s Soul classic, ‘Sunny’, backed by ‘Čekám’, recorded on 26th May 1969. Rarely have a pair of eyes looked so compelling – a seventeen-year-old with ‘attitude’!…taken by Petr Polák
Valinka at the Děčínská Kotva for what would have probably been her very first major stage appearance as a fully professional singer at just seventeen years, four months and three days of age – 1st June 1969, with fellow member of the Divadlo Rokoko, Karel Bláha…Valinka looking quite cool and almost feline in this shot, taken by Oldřich Holan.
Advance publicity for Valinka’s forthcoming performance of ‘Sunny’ at the Bratislavská Lýra of 1969
Valinka at the Bratislavská Lýra – 19th June 1969 – mind-blowing stage presence at just seventeen years and still less than five months! – clearly wearing the same outfit as seen above, also, showing off her first item of iconic footwear – polka-dot boots!
The path from Eastern and Central Europe to the Girl Group and later, Bubblegum Pop ‘factory’ that was the Brill Building in the Big Apple was a very well-worn one for the Jews of that part of the World. I do not think that Valinka was Jewish herself, but I have reason to believe that her then-future husband – with the name he had – may well have been and, furthermore, that Valinka’s mother would herself have gone on to a second marriage where she would become Jewish by marriage, resulting in both being buried together at the Nový Židovský Hřbitov (New Jewish Cemetery) in Prague. This remarkable pose of a still-very-young Valinka in front of a Portuguese-language advertisement for Pan Am gives one an inkling of where – in a parallel universe – she could have ended up. I mentally know it as the ‘Valinka – Global Legend’ photo!
In the book, ‘Sem tam’, on Jitka Zelenková’s life and work – more on her, later on, on this page – by Jaroslav Kříženecký and Jan Adam, on page 36 there is a superb photo, from 1969, of the members of the Divadlo Rokoko, including Valinka, wearing the same pair of striped, flared slacks as can be seen above, in this clearly very early example of Valinka in action on stage – definitely one of life’s born performers!
Here is that photo referred to above. From left to right: Karel Bláha, Drahomíra Vlachová, Darek Vostřel, Pavlína Filipovská, Jitka Zelenková, Jiří Šašek, Valérie Čižmárová, Karel Štědrý, Karel Hála, Milan Klipec (the composer of the music and lyrics of Valinka’s second single, ‘Když mě chceš’ and its flip-side, ‘Proč se ti zdá’; in the case of the lyrics for the former, along with Pavel Náhoda) – an early taste of champagne for the young Valinka!
I have reason to believe that the occasion on which these photographs were taken would have been the Premiere of the Divadlo Rokoko’s production of ‘Rajský ostrov’ at the Žofín on 24th September of that year. If so, I think the photo of Valinka on stage would have been the work of Pavel Jasanský and that of the Divadlo Rokoko members would have been that of Vilém Sochůrek.
The cover of the ‘Sedmička’ magazine (the preceding title of the aforementioned ‘Sedmička pionýrů’) of the Third Year (1969-1970), No. 11, dated 13th November 1969 – already a cover girl at seventeen! This was part of an ongoing series of celebrity features running at that time in which notable personalities were asked about their hopes and dreams of younger days – although there was one child star in the series who was asked about what they thought life would be like in the future – the caption reading, ‘When I was thirteen – Valérie Čižmárová tells all’, which for Valinka would have been all of four years previously!
Valinka’s first fully purpose-composed single, recorded on the very final day of the 1960s, ‘Když mě chceš’/’Proč se ti zdá’ – with the first of the shots by Vilém Sochůrek; very atmospheric – perfectly capturing the mysterious ‘whirlwind from the East’ that was blowing into the Pop Scene of the Czechoslovakia at the time
A signed, in-action photo contemporary with the ‘Když mě chceš’/’Proč se ti zdá’ cover shot above, from a Slovak-based Pop Culture magazine entitled ‘Populár’, probably – given the microphone and hairstyle – also a work of Vilém Sochůrek from the same photo shoot. Intriguingly, in the accompanying article, Valinka makes reference to learning English in childhood (together with German), but not Russian, even though Michalovce was only a matter of tens of miles away from the Soviet frontier at the time, possibly indicating that, even as far east in Czechoslovakia as that, life was more Western-oriented than one would ordinarily have imagined. It also illustrates the fact that Valinka would have been prepared linguistically for her unrealised immediately pre-death plans to sing Soul songs in English. I’d have loved to have heard her speak my native language. That would have been beyond my wildest dreams!
Valinka backstage at the Divadlo Rokoko, in 1970, aged eighteen – not short in the self-confidence department 😉 …a wonderful kiss curl in the hair, too! This would probably, going by the dress that Valinka is wearing, have been on the occasion – on 18th September of that year – of the Premiere of ‘Muž,který přišel do jiného stavu’. If so, these are two more ‘Vilém Sochůreks’, I think.
Two shots taken on the steps at the Karlův Most, Prague, in 1970, with that fellow denizen of the Divadlo Rokoko, the then probably twenty-year-old Jitka Zelenková. You don’t only get one hugely talented young Soul singer in the Czechoslovakia of 1970! (and I know there were many more than just these two!). When I visited Prague in January 2017 I could not avoid feeling the necessity to go down on my knees to kiss the ground underneath where Valinka’s and Jituš’s feet had stood. I have never felt so powerfully moved to do anything like that in my life. I have also never really been a religious person, as such, but I was completely taken over by some spirit or other then. I suppose it was just crazy, crazy love! “It’s completely irrational. I probably look ridiculous. But I don’t care!”
After moving from the less high-profile Panton label, on which her first two singles had been released, to the better-publicised Supraphon label, on 5th December 1970 Valinka recorded her third single, consisting of covers of two Bubblegum Pop classics – the song for which she is perhaps best remembered, ‘Léta letí’ (originally Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Looky, Looky’) and what has been a relatively long-standing personal all-time favourite, ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (originally Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution’s ‘Sha-La Love You’). Here is a photo more or less contemporary with those recordings, which are referred to in the text, with Valinka looking quite mean, moody…and magnificent!
By way of a post-script to this paragraph, it has taken quite something to knock ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ off its perch, but I think, in terms of its significance in Valinka’s recording career, her 28th August 1972-recorded ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ has finally achieved the apparently impossible. Please go to the aforementioned ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Sound’ page to hear what I mean. Pop Music in 1972 really could sound as cool as this…if one has Vladimír Rukavička, Pavel Vitoch, Sbor Lubomíra Pánka and – last, but not least! – Valinka on one’s side. I happen to think that 1973 would not have ‘happened’ without ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ in the run-up to that incredible year.
I have made reference elsewhere in ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ to the strange connection between the worlds of Pop from the former Eastern Bloc and novelty, Bubblegum Saturday Morning TV/cartoon acts from the U.S., via the likes of the aforementioned Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution. Running at exactly the same time as the TV series with Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution, ‘Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp’, on another network, was the series featuring the cartoon group, Josie and The Pussycats. Valinka may have had the ‘Blackness’ in her voice of the pioneering African-American character, sung by Patrice Holloway and with the first name Valerie, to boot (Valerie Brown), but here – in a photo that would appear to be from this period in her career – she has certainly got ‘the look’ that puts her in the same territory as Cheryl Stoppelmoor/(‘Cherie’)Moor/Ladd, the singer behind the blonde of the group, Melody Valentine…as remarked on by Austin Roberts at this page dedicated to Josie and The Pussycats. ‘Mini-skirts and bellbottoms’ indeed! – See, also, the photo of the company members of the Divadlo Rokoko, the immediately preceding one of Valinka on stage and the Karlův Most shots above! – Furthermore, at various times on various platforms, I have described the Valinka of the 1970s as a sort of ‘Charlie’s Angel of Czechoslovakia’, which would also connect with Cheryl Ladd. I’m thinking here primarily of the Mozarteum studio photo, the photo with the polka-dots and hat, the rear album photo and the ‘forces’ sweetheart’ photo below. Again, with this photo, it is the characterful eyes that stand out – Attitude!
Another photo – that I have dated as ‘1971’, although it may be 1970 – with a similar atmosphere: the Valinka who would have recorded such as ‘Léta letí’, ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ and my mobile’s ringtone, ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’, with the Karel Vlach Orchestra’s horn section screaming out of the blocks in the opening bars – a real attention-grabber, as a ringtone should be!
The nineteen-year-old Valinka in a TV listings magazine publicising ‘Kabinet 71’. Since I talked of being ‘crazy’ regarding the above shots taken at the Karlův Most, seeing this for the first time made me write (in Czech!) ‘Crazy, Sexy, Cool’ – the emphasis here being on the ‘Cool’.
In the earlier days with Supraphon one of the classic sleeve shots for her singles was this one by Luboš Svátek for ‘To je léto’/’Synu můj’ (1972), the latter of which was a (today, super-apocryphal) cover of Paul McCartney’s controversial song, ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’. Like in the case of the sleeve for ‘Sunny’/’Čekám’ – “those (Irish-like?) eyes!!!” They certainly have me entranced!…
…eyes which were so electrifying that this light bulb which Valinka is holding in this 1972-vintage shot should surely be glowing as bright as bright can be!
Some more of Luboš Svátek’s work from 1972 – for the sleeves of some of Valinka’s 1973 releases – serious style! One will also note that the super-trendy choker Valinka was wearing for the shot with the light bulb gets another outing here.
The marriage (in 1972, I think I have worked out) to the prestigious doctor, Josef Langer – one of the ‘A-List’ couples of the Czechoslovakia of the 1970s
Valinka in a still of a performance the aforementioned ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ on the 1972 TV show, ‘Písničky ke kávě’ – probably her first TV appearance as a married woman, since her wedding ring can clearly be spotted on the third finger of her left hand during a performance of one of the other two songs featured on that show, ‘Pán s loutnou’, the other being ‘Koko’. As well as the song Valinka was performing having been a favourite, this moment captured is one of my favourites, too – the very beginning of the performance where she turns to face the camera with an almost Mona Lisa-like smile.
A couple of clearly contemporary shots of Valinka in action on stage. As always, the attitude of this young woman positively pours out of these images…and the best was yet to come in ‘that’ year of 1973, just around the corner. I think it can safely be said that Doctor Langer had just landed quite a handful!
A series of stills of Valinka performing ‘Pojď jen dál’ on the TV show, ‘3. program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’ on 28th June 1973. No doubt, the general public of Czechoslovakia had been aware for getting on for half a decade that Valinka had been a very pretty girl. Now, five months after coming of age, they could see what a beautiful woman she had become. The lyrics of ‘Pojď jen dál’ are about the singer starting off in a soliloquy as to why a potential suitor is so hesitant about daring to approach her for fear of appearing ‘wicked’, turning towards that suitor in the second half of the song and putting those thoughts directly to him. One may feel some sympathy, though, for that party, since the phrase “she’s out of my league!” does spring to mind when looking at these shots! It is often frustrating, when looking at TV recordings from the early and mid 1970s from the Eastern Bloc, that broadcasting technology did trail the West by such an extent, resulting in relatively few colour recordings from that time, because I would have loved to have seen what colours those stripes were on Valinka’s very stylish candy-striped jacket, but then again, could the Web handle this level of glamour in glorious colour?
This second set of stills from that TV performance – most showing wider shots of Valinka’s outfit – forms what could be the basis of an idea of what that jacket could have looked like in colour, also based on what were clearly favourite colours of Valinka’s…and favourite colours of mine, too! (see below) I think these shots also reveal another classy item of Valinka’s footwear – strap-heeled (probably) black (patent?) shoes with (probably) white platform soles.
High Summer, 1973 in the High Summer of Valinka’s recording career, with Skupina Svatopluka Čecha, the band who accompanied Valinka on several of her recordings from that incredible year of six singles, plus their respective flip sides, plus another on top of that. The year after her marriage to Josef Langer this was a musical marriage made in Heaven. The following series of tracks left behind by this all-too-brief collaboration of just five months’ duration in the actual recording studio in the very heart of what I think of as ‘the year’ is an impressive legacy to have left behind: ‘Důkaz mi dej’, ‘Huascarán’, ‘V poschodí pátém’, ‘Malý princ’, ‘Láska na dlani’ (in a duet with Richard Kybic) and ‘Náhodou’. Oh! I think the little lady’s in charge 😉
Valinka at Mozarteum, Prague, where she did all this fine work with Skupina Svatopluka Čecha, sometime in between 4th May and 24th September 1973. It is almost beyond belief that one as staggeringly sensational as Valinka was at the time could also turn out recordings that were the envy of the very best in the business – an unmatched combination of spectacular looks and talent that was simply pure Pop Gold!
This signed photo of Valinka wearing a black and white polka-dot outfit that was a sort of hybrid between a trouser suit and a jump suit has hitherto been dated as late as 1975. When one flips the image over (note the back-to-front signature) it becomes crystal clear that this is the woman contemporary with the one in above stills taken from ‘3. program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’ and the photos variously with Skupina Svatopluka Čecha and at Mozarteum. I theorise that people just assumed it must be a twenty-three-year-old Valinka, since nobody could possibly look this mature and self-assured at just twenty-one – but then again, when wasn’t Valinka mature and self-assured, if some of the shots above are representative of her overall demeanour? At any rate, it has to be considered an utterly timeless image of Global-level style and glamour….in a small country in Communist-era Eastern Europe, forty-four years ago as I write. This photo (one of the earlier colour images of Valinka in the public gaze) gives just an impression of what the privileged few who may have watched Valinka in colour on that TV show – I think colour broadcasting would have existed in a very limited way at that time in Czechoslovakia – would have witnessed…that beautiful golden shade of her cascading locks.
During this memorable year of recorded music Valinka was interviewed about her life and work by the in-house magazine of the Young Communists, ‘Sedmička pionýrů’. Here is a shot of her from that article wearing the same black and white polka-dot outfit, which must have been a favourite and which would still be stunningly fashionable today.
In the ‘Sedmička pionýrů’ article, Valinka made reference to having had an eight-month-old white poodle bitch called Čika as a present from her still-new husband for Christmas 1972. Here is Valinka – in the aforementioned polka-dot outfit – at home with Čika, probably sometime in the subsequent year.
I have long wanted to get a better idea of what this highly significant outfit would have looked like in full and it is thanks to the ‘Valérie ČIŽMÁROVÁ’ Facebook Group that I have, at long last, had that opportunity. Below, we see a comparison between two tops of a similar pattern but – and this can be detected even in a monochrome image – with clearly different colour-ways. With that seam from toe to tongue it is highly likely that the shoes Valinka is teaming with her polka-dot outfit here were, if not quite in the same range, certainly in the same vein as the ‘Blingy Platforms’ referenced later. For one, like Valinka, who was short of physical stature – if gigantic of voice! – her greatest hour perhaps occurred at just the right time in ladies’ fashions: the height of the platform craze…’height’ being the operative word!
Judging by the hairstyle I would say that this study in cool glamour – a woman as ‘cool’ as she could be ‘hot’ – would have been contemporary with the ‘Sedmička pionýrů’ article shot and that with Čika. It is yet another photo that shows that this was a pair of eyes impossible to ignore.
Two more shots from that ‘Sedmička pionýrů’ article, from what I take to be slightly later in the year, by which time Valinka had had a slight re-styling to introduce a very distinctive twist in the hair down the left-hand side of her face…that would go on to be a look characteristic of about the following twelve months.
Vilém Sochůrek was back on photographic duties between three and four years after ‘Když mě chceš’/’Proč se ti zdá’ for Valinka’s launch into the age of colour on her singles sleeves – the sleeve for the last of Valinka’s 1973 recordings, ‘Spousta příběhů’/’Zrzek’. Photographed in the prime of life and in colour, showing off her glowing blonde locks, Valinka rarely looked more stunning. Vilém Sochůrek also took two photos of Valinka in black and white, featuring the same sky blue top as also seen in the ‘Sedmička pionýrů’ article, decorated with charming four-leaved clover motifs, teamed with quite the sexiest garment I have ever seen, that I have hitherto thought to be a mini skirt, but, on closer inspection and with the aid of further detective work, I now know to be a pair of high-waisted hot pants – the wavy-edged black suede ones that later had an outing on the sleeve of Valinka’s eponymous LP, recorded in the first half of 1974 and released in 1975. She also rarely looked cuter than in the one Vilém Sochůrek probably grabbed while she was smiling broadly – truly loveable in every way!
This is an attempt to ‘re-construct’ those hot pants as if Valinka’s arms were not in the way.
From truly loveable to truly indescribable here – Vladivoj Burjanek’s shots for Valinka’s 1974-recorded, 1975-released eponymous LP. Although I find it a terrible job to keep my eyes off the edge of the right leg of ‘those hot pants’ in the rear cover shot, especially the bit where the hemline is just about level with the top of the back of the park bench – 😉 – everything else Valinka is wearing here is pretty damned eye-catching too – the fabulous printed top, decorated with a cascading flounce down the front, reaching down to the hemline of the hot pants, in the same range as the one she is wearing for the above shot at Mozarteum, that makes one wonder about the fashion houses of the Czechoslovakia of the time…
– although, given the fact that, in Jana Kocianová’s autobiography, ‘Zahoď starosti’, it is clear that, being the fan of FIAT cars that she was, there must have been a fairly energetic trading relationship going on in the 1970s between Czechoslovakia and Italy (a country known generally then for its amicable relationship with those of the former Eastern Bloc), so, a sizeable portion of those fabulous fashions that the female Pop Stars of that nation were wearing at the time may have been Italian too, meaning that this could be a case of ‘Michalovce wearing Milan’ –
…and bejewelled slip-in white platforms – that I have subsequently mentally dubbed ‘Blingy Platforms’ – I still have to pinch myself to think that this is the former Eastern Bloc we are talking about here. I also think that it isn’t what most think of as ‘stereotypical (statuesque) Eastern European beauty’. It’s a cuddly, big-thighed little blonde bombshell of a beauty – a real woman’s figure probably to delight Feminists as much as ‘us blokes’!
The other thing one can detect about this photo – on closer inspection – is that there is no obvious seaming around Valinka’s heels, meaning that she would probably have been bare-legged at the time…and look what a gorgeous shade those legs are…long before today’s ‘Essex Girl’-style fake-tanning! Given bare legs and suede ‘those hot pants’ must have been a highly sensual item of clothing for Valinka to have been wearing at the time.
Furthermore, given how attention-grabbing that rear cover shot is, the front cover is none too shabby either!…almost unearthly. Also – since I have reason to believe that the park bench photo is the wrong way around on the actual LP sleeve, given what side of her face that distinctive twist in the hair should be…so I have helpfully flipped that photo here – this further reveals that these two iconic images were taken probably just seconds apart from each other, without the need for extensive re-composition.
I have come to the conclusion that the park bench photo was reversed on the LP sleeve so that Valinka was gazing admiringly at her handiwork in the recording studio at Dejvice down the right-hand side of the sleeve, rather than turning her back on it – a very neat device on the part of Vladivoj Burjanek and the designers of the sleeve, but one that has deceived a whole generation of fans!
It is notable that, in the ‘hotness’ list mentioned below, the other entrant from what I have termed ‘The Girls Of The Golden East Era’ was the composer (both music and lyrics) of ‘Koukej, se mnou si píseň broukej’ – which is one of the four ‘oldies’ in a medley that forms the opening track of the LP – Petra Černocká. In her autobiography, ‘Co mě maminky (ne)naučily’, Petra makes reference to her anxiety – in the course of the filming of her classic 1971 film, ‘Dívka na koštětí’, starring as the teenage witch, Saxana and also performing the theme tune – about the scene where her long witch’s gown gets ‘the Bucks Fizz treatment’ (as in the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest Winner, ‘Making Your Mind Up’) to reveal her legs: her comparing them unfavourably with her friend, Miluška Voborníková’s. Of course, that scene demonstrated that she needn’t have had any worries on that score!
Judging by some photos I have seen of Valinka with her friend, Jitka Zelenková, at the Divadlo Rokoko, I suspect that Valinka may have had similar feelings vis-à-vis Jituš, with her comparatively long and lithe pins – Valinka, by contrast, having comparatively stocky legs (one might also gather that from the Karlův Most shots above). It is this fact that adds yet more to the extraordinariness of the park bench photo – a woman who in general, throughout life, would probably ideally have had her legs covered up, for those very reasons, caught ‘in the moment’ when they never looked more sensational. It also occurs to me that, for a woman who may have been rather self-conscious in the leg department, (longer-than-average) hot pants may have been more the way to go than a mini skirt – thus giving Valinka an opportunity to draw the viewers’ attentions to her real bodily ‘asset’ – her fabulous rear end! In essence, this shot, therefore, is a precursor to something akin to Kylie Minogue’s legendary golden hot pants. It is that iconic a shot. However, this rear end is meaty and bold – not pert and petite!
In Mary Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme’, there is talk of how Diana Ross and Florence Ballard contrasted so dramatically in terms of both figure and voice – the one all ‘stick insect’ and light of voice and the other ‘broad in the beam’ and deep of voice. I think that this makes Valinka more a ‘Florence’ than ‘Diana’. I also happen to think that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman from Michalovce was ‘Blacker’ than no less a Pop personality than Diana Ross! She not only had a ‘Blacker’ voice. She had a ‘Blacker’ figure, too!
Hot Hungarian paprika in the blood, sweet black treacle in the soul! The hottest, sweetest, blondest ‘Black Beauty’ ever!
Finally – in this somewhat extensive exposition on the probable story behind the photography for the LP sleeve – I think that Valinka may have paid a return visit to the hairdresser for a slight readjustment to that twist and for a slight bleaching to a more overtly blonde shade, as opposed to her previous ‘Goldilocks’ look. This – combined with a mostly black top and black hot pants and white shoes – could not be more dramatically contrasting, ‘maximalist’, ‘statement’ dressing and styling…and one that would have also contrasted from the textural point of view – floaty and diaphanous up top and quite stiff down below. The ‘Goldilocks’ look, plus sky blue, was a cute enough image for a singles sleeve, but – and with her theatrical background Valinka would have been aware of this – for shots for an LP sleeve one is playing a very different ‘role’. It demands ‘bombshell’ and drama…and this is precisely what we get…on an epic scale!
This is to show what the right leg of Valinka’s hot pants would have looked like without the upwards lifting on account of the top of the back of the park bench, thus bringing it level with the hemline on the left leg. It is eminently clear that it was an astonishingly feminine item of clothing and Valinka must have looked a real picture of loveliness walking around the streets of Prague wearing them.
A couple of black and white shots of Valinka – clearly contemporary with the LP cover shots, with that same twist in the hair down the left-hand side of her face as seen in the front cover shot plus a printed top – that I take to be the one seen in the Mozarteum shot, but, despite the similarity in pattern with the top seen in the shots for the LP, is not the same as that: the cuffs here being elasticated, while they are not in the case of the top for the shots for the LP: the overall background colour clearly also being too light for the black of the top for the LP shots – and her utterly memorable ‘Blingy Platforms’.
By way of a further illustration – in this black and white photo of Valinka in the top featured on the LP sleeve – we are looking at two different items of clothing from the same fashion range. This clear view of the neckline (half-obscured in the shot for the front cover of the LP) shows it to be obviously different from the one for the Mozarteum and in the other black and white photos above. It makes one wonder if Valinka loved one so much she wanted one very much like it, but in a different colour-way.
You’re a platoon of Czechoslovak soldiers based in the German Democratic Republic and it’s 1974. Who might be top of your wish-list of celebrities to drop in for a visit? How about a twenty-two-year-old Valinka? Would that hit the spot? Not half!!! Just when you thought Valinka couldn’t turn up the male temperature any higher at that time she does just that. But then again, she was never knowingly any less than at least stratospheric in all sorts of ways! I wonder if that cap is still around and how much it would fetch on eBay 😉
With a link to things military, this, together with many other images of Valinka around this time, very much evokes a time in my life when I would have been following the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, who played all the Wartime-flavoured material of the greats of that earlier era, most especially Glenn Miller. Karel Vlach, who had accompanied Valinka on her 1971 Děčínská Kotva performance, ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’, her 1973 recordings, ‘Pojď jen dál’, ‘Sbohem, školní bráno’, ‘Spousta příběhů’ and ‘Zrzek’ and her album, had been a major personality on the Popular Music scene of the Wartime Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. After the cool, straight-haired Valinka of the minimalist 1960s and early bit of the 1970s, the Valinka of 1973 going on 1974 would probably have taken Karel’s mind right back to the ‘maximalist’ (to return to that fictional word!) ‘bombshells’ of the 1940s. The likes of ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Colditz’ were on the TV screens of the UK at that time, adding to the vibe of Wartime in the 1970s. Maybe similar trends and styles were in play over the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, too. This is further backed up by the slightly puffed shoulder lines (another classic Wartime look) seen below in the ‘Discogs’ photo of Valinka and the stills from the ‘Našich deväť’ performance of ‘Správnej hoch’.
The aforementioned army cap is not indeed on ebay, but this front cover of the East German TV listings magazine, ‘FF dabei’ (for programmes from 25th November to 1st December 1974), featuring Valinka on the front cover with the East German star, Peter Albert, with whom she duetted that year in the song, ‘Wir lieben alles Schöne auf der Welt’ and with whom she would have been appearing on the Saturday of that week in the show, ‘Gemeinsam mach’s Spaß’ very much is, (the photo being taken by Michael Wagner) and I have ordered and received it. I have only hitherto seen a black and white photo of Valinka with Peter, clearly from the same photo shoot, so to see Valinka’s dress here in all its riot-of-colour glory is quite something to behold. Also (to carry on the aforementioned theme of bling), if one takes a very close look at the pendant Valinka is wearing, it seems that it bears the mark of a cross of sorts, which would certainly not have fitted in with the notional ‘godlessness’ of the former Communist Bloc. It also appears to have a red centre with four green arms of the cross, which (probably unintentionally, although one never really knows) may be a coded reference to the colours of the Hungarian flag and therefore her Hungarian-speaking heritage.
Surrounding the magazine are the following objects:
- a set of Bohemia dessert bowls, plus a larger serving bowl, made in Czechoslovakia
- an AKA RG 25 food mixer, made in the German Democratic Republic
- a clothes brush, also made in the German Democratic Republic
- a couple of snapshots of Valinka’s home town of Michalovce, from the Spring of 2016
- a couple of snapshots of Peter’s home city of Erfurt from the Summer of 1995 (yes…I have visited both!)
- a street atlas of Derby and surrounding settlements, including my home town of Belper
So, in short, this is ‘Made in Michalovce/Czechoslovakia’ meeting ‘Made in Erfurt/the German Democratic Republic’ in Belper!
The front cover of that edition of ‘FF dabei’ in detail.
A close-up of Valinka from that front cover, showing – in colour – the full reality of the vision that would have greeted those very fortunate Czechoslovak soldiers that year in the German Democratic Republic.
Since I frequently imagine Valinka as – as referred to above – a ‘Global Legend’ (and see below for a comparison with a global legend of today) it is quite good to get just an impression of Valinka as a ‘stadium-and-festival-rocker’. The first of these shots of Valinka performing outdoors, probably in 1974, does just that. The second, from what is very likely to be the same occasion, is a simply dazzlingly glowing image, that again, like the shot above in the tan-coloured hat, demonstrates Valinka’s global glamour at twenty-one and twenty-two years of age – one of the great beauties of any world of celebrity, let alone just Pop Music!
The site description to ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ makes reference to Valinka as a ‘Singer/Actress’. Here she is in a cameo as the Singing Water Sprite in the 1974 film, the classic Kafkaesque Romantic Comedy by the director of many films in a fantasy vein – including the aforementioned ‘Dívka na koštětí’ – Václav Vorlíček, ‘Jak utopit Doktora Mráčka aneb konec vodníku v Čechách’. As well as this cameo two of her songs were played in the background during scenes in the film – ‘Koňskou dráhou’, from her album recorded that year and ‘Tak měj mě rád’, one of her singles from the ‘big (singles) year’, 1973.
In this slightly metallic wig (I don’t think this is her real hair) and make-up I think Valinka effects the pre-trim Katy Perry, which is quite fitting, since, in a poll earlier this year on the website of a Czech celebrity news portal, Pop stars from various eras were compared on the bases of four qualities in a set of four ‘Top Twentys’ – one list being based on, for want of a better word, ‘hotness’. I kid you not that – at one standing of the poll – Valinka was being considered as one step above Katy Perry in that list. Of course, ever since I found out about Valinka, she’s been tons hotter than Katy Perry to me: not just one notch! In addition, if one thinks of another possible look-alike, if one takes another look at the aforementioned magazine cover photo from 1974, Valinka gives another glamorous blonde, who would have come to prominence that year at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton – ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog – more than a run for her ‘Money, Money, Money’. I also think that the second, wider shot reveals what I was remarking earlier concerning Valinka’s figure. Even as a very young woman she was certainly no ‘Size Zero’, so real sexiness does not flow from having what most would consider a ‘supermodel figure’ – in fact, anything but that, I would contend. I am not sure if there was a similar trend for young ladies to be on diets going on in the former Eastern Bloc as in the West at that time, but as a hearty provincial lass I could no more imagine Valinka being ‘on a diet’ than fly in the air!
When it comes to ‘hotness’ if any of Valinka’s outfits could have been described as as ‘hot’ as her (to me, at least!) legendary hot pants from that year of 1974 this was it – once again, demonstrating that she was certainly ‘hot in dots’. It could not be much shorter than it was! This series of screen shots come from the TV show, ‘Zpěváci Supraphonu – Hudební obrázovka’ of 21st September 1974. Unfortunately, it is still in black and white, so it is impossible to gauge what colours these are. I have seen colour photos of Valinka wearing a blouse like this and it was yellow. As an adoptive Norwich City fan I’d like to imagine the dress as green to complete the green-and-yellow colour-way! The song Valinka was singing on the show was ‘Náhodou’ – one of her 1973-recorded classics. This is the song with perhaps Valinka’s most memorable note – an extended one that seems to go on for ever, timed recently by me at seventeen seconds long – bringing us back to the fact that this spectacular-looking young woman (still only twenty-two) was also spectacular-sounding.
About a year down the line from her singles sleeves entering the colour age we at long last get to see what one of Valinka’s favourite colours was, thanks to her TV appearances now beginning to be in colour – this time on ‘Ve společném rytmu’, on 15th November 1974 (singing ‘Sněhova vločka’). Deep joy of deep joys, for a man whose favourite football team’s entry onto the playing surface is often accompanied by their fans singing (to the tune of ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’) “Oh when the Greens (oh when the Greens), go marching in (go marching in), oh when the Greens go marching in, I want to be in that number, when the Greens go marching in!”….it’s green !!!…and I now love her even more than I did before! This marks the start of a gloriously green pattern over the next couple of years or so. I compared Valinka to Katy Perry and Agnetha Fältskog above. As one who covered The Sweet’s ‘Co-Co’ as ‘Koko’ I think – especially in the last of these shots – Valinka (with the new, slightly straighter, hairstyle) and The Sweet’s Brian Connolly could almost have been separated at birth . Well, he was himself considered a very sexy blonde 😉
Valinka: ‘hot in dots’, ‘gorgeous in green’!
To ‘hot in dots’ and ‘gorgeous in green’, in this 1974 shot – possibly reflecting the outfit Valinka wore for her appearance on ‘3. program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’ the previous year – dare one add ‘sexy in stripes’? In the aforementioned “Forces’ Sweetheart” photo one calls to mind one British “Forces’ Sweetheart” of modern times – Katherine Jenkins. In this, I get more than just a touch of another – Pixie Lott.
The photo – probably from late 1974 or early 1975 – that was my first contact with Valinka’s staggering looks on the Discogs site while looking around all these ‘exotic’-sounding names that seemed to have populated the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ scene. One doesn’t forget an image like this in a hurry! Nor that she was my first Slovak. Nor that it wasn’t the west of Slovakia where she originated, but about as far east as one could get. Nor that, by my mental arithmetic, she died at just fifty-three. She could have turned out to be an absolutely terrible singer with an almost unlistenable voice. But no. She was also the most gorgeous voice of her generation of Pop singers in Czechoslovakia. Well, no less than Věra Špinarová said so. So that is about as good an endorsement as one could get!
I promised earlier some pictures of Valinka ‘gorgeous in green’. Well, this is she in the Spring of 1976 (on an unfortunately unspecifiable date) on the TV show from the studios in Bratislava, ‘Našich deväť’, performing ‘Správnej hoch’. The meaning of the title is ‘Office Boy’. One would imagine that, around that time, Valinka would have been one of the ultimate fantasies for many an ‘office boy’ of the Czechoslovakia of the age to be at the other end of the telephone line! As always it’s ‘those eyes’ that do it. If only one could see through a telephone line!