During the halcyon days of the 1960s it would be impossible to identify two more popular and glittering iconic pop culture superstars than John Lennon of The Beatles and French film starlet, Brigitte Bardot.
While Lennon was arguably the greater star of these two, Bardot's massive appeal as the pouty blonde sex symbol should not be underestimated. Bardot was as huge in Europe as her American counterpart Marilyn Monroe was in the United States.
The lives of these two disparate figures, the acerbic English lad from Liverpool and the willowy Parisian, intersected at least once, according to various accounts.
And this epic tete-a-tete amounted to far less than what John Lennon had hoped for.
During the 1950s, when Lennon, a greasy-haired Liverpool delinquent dreamed of unreachable fame and wealth (which, incredibly, he would achieve in the following decade), Bardot ranked as the number one sex symbol in the hearts of millions of British lads – including all of The Beatles, but especially Lennon, whose devotion bordered on adolescent fanaticism.
Indeed, Lennon became so obsessed with Bardot (as he was with Elvis Presley for far different reasons), that he forced his girlfriends to dress and look like the Gallic vixen.
Consequently, Cynthia Powell (who would later become the first Mrs. Lennon), was pressured to dye her hair blonde, wear black eye make-up and don tight skirts (like a poor man's 'Merseyside version' of Bardot).
"John's perfect image of a woman was Brigitte Bardot,” Cynthia once complained. “I found myself fast becoming molded into her style of dress and haircut. I had only recently gone through my change from secretary-bird to bohemian when I met John, but under his influence another metamorphosis was taking place and this time the emphasis was on oomph! Long blonde hair, tight black sweaters, tight short skirts, high-heeled pointed shoes, and to add the final touch, black fishnet stockings and suspenders."
Bill Harry, the founder of Liverpool’s legendary Merseybeat music newspaper in the early 1960s and an early friend of The Beatles, noted that Bardot's impact on British men was “immense.”
John Lennon, he noted, placed a photograph of her on his bedroom ceiling, so he could gaze at her breathtaking beauty and fantasize about her.
Lennon's obsession with Bardot would last well into the 1960s, after his fame far surpassed her own. In January 1964, during The Beatles’ first concert tour in Paris, the lads sought to meet the woman of their dreams in person.
According to an American journalist named Michael Braun who befriended the group and accompanied them to France, a request to meet with Bardot was rejected because the actress was busy making a film in Brazil. Rather than the sultry actress, her representatives sent The Beatles a box of candy with a note that read: “Let's hope these sweets will make up for her."
However, a French photographer named Jean-Marie Perier claimed he arranged a meeting between all four Beatles and Bardot in late January or early February 1964 at the Hotel George V in Paris.
"I will always remember the moment I opened the door, the effect she [had] was amazing,” he wrote. “The silence that followed was the most difficult to fill. The Beatles were sitting in a corner of the room. Paralyzed, they looked like a blanket… Meanwhile, timidly sitting at the other end, she [Bardot] examined them as if [they were on] a record sleeve.”
Apparently, Perier failed to take a snapshot of this monumental assembly of superstars. Adding some doubt to his account.
Another more ambitious attempt to link The Fab Four with Bardot also failed. Reportedly, Walter Shenson, the man who produced The Beatles’ wildly successful debut film, “Hard Days' Night,” wanted the group to make a comedy version of the Three Musketeers with the Parisian vamp. That never came to fruition -- although Richard Lester, the director of ‘Hard Day’s night’ did eventually helm a Musketeers film several years later (without The Beatles or Bardot).
Lennon did not come face to face with the source of his adolescent sexual fantasies until May 1968, according to his friend Pete Shotton. At that time, a framed photo of Bardot adorned a wall of Lennon’s mansion in the London suburb of Weybridge, in Surrey, strongly indicating his ardor had never died.
This long-awaited meeting was apparently arranged by Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ publicist and press officer, who was informed that Bardot was staying at the Mayfair Hotel in London. Bardot’s representatives apparent invited all four Beatles to her suite, but only John accepted, given that Paul McCartney was away in Scotland and (for reasons never made clear) George Harrison and Ringo Starr turned down the chance to meet the iconic actress.
Lennon and Taylor went alone to meet the woman of every young man’s dreams.
"Naturally I begged John to let me tag along, but since Brigitte had specified that she wasn't prepared to meet a crowd of strangers, only Derek was permitted to accompany him,” Shotton wrote. “[John] arrived home somewhat earlier than I'd expected, looking far more sullen than the occasion warranted."
Shotton claimed that Lennon explained to him that the thought of meeting Bardot in the flesh had made him so nervous and anxious that he dropped acid beforehand, rendering him practically mute in her presence.
“The only thing I said to [Bardot] all night was 'Hello,' when we went to shake hands with her,” Lennon reportedly told Shotton. “Then she spent the whole time talking in French with her friends, and I could never think of anything to say. It was a terrible night -- worse than meeting Elvis. "
Even worse, Bardot’s English was poor and Lennon could not speak French at all. Bardot had arranged for a dinner at a local restaurant, but feeling unwanted and overwhelmed, Lennon begged off and returned home, leaving a puzzled French actress and her party behind.
Lennon later described the ill-fated meeting this way: "Met the real Brigitte a few years later. I was on acid and she was on her way out."
What is particularly interesting about the May 1968 incident in the London hotel was that John Lennon had changed drastically from the early days of the mop-top Beatles (not to mention the extraordinary changes he and his world had undergone since his salad days in 1950s Liverpool). By this period, Lennon was arguably the most famous person in the world – but his fame had come at a heavy cost. He had become disillusioned with his success, hopelessly addicted to drugs and his marriage to Cynthia was crumbling.
Indeed, at the time of the purported May 1968 meeting between Lennon and Bardot, the Beatle had already started a relationship with Japanese performance artist named Yoko Ono – a woman who (physically anyway) was light years away from John’s ostensible ideal "blonde beauty."
It seems odd that at such a late date, the 28-year-old world-weary Lennon would still hold a torch for Bardot. That same month, students in Paris rioted, demanding significant changes in how France was run – a disturbance that Lennon would soon song about in a song called “Revolution.” (It would have been highly interesting to hear a conversation about these riots between the Socialist Lennon and the politically conservative Bardot).
As for the ravishing Brigitte, her film career sputtered out by the mid-1970s and she settled into old age as a very controversial and polarizing figure in France, in light of inflammatory remarks she has uttered about Islam and immigration, among other things.
There are no reports of the two ever having crossed paths again.
Bardot is now 79 years old.
John Lennon’s life ended in December 1980, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.