Marsha Hunt

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Marsha Hunt is is an African American model, singer, novelist and actress. In late 2004, Hunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had chemotherapy but didn't want to go through the process of watching her hair fall out.[1] "I wanted to take control of my battle. If anyone was going to get rid of my hair, it was going to be me," Hunt said.[1] "We all had champagne and the women braided my hair, then Mazie (Hunt's granddaughter) started the ball rolling by cutting off the first braid. After that, everyone at that party took turns in cutting off a lock. I think people were wary at first, but when they saw how happy I was - I think I actually cheered when Mazie took her bit off - they relaxed and we had a ball." [1]Photo taken in September 2005.

Marsha Hunt (born April 15, 1946) is an African American model, singer, novelist and actress.

Contents

Early life

Hunt was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1946 and lived in North Philadelphia near 23rd and Columbia[2] then in Germantown and Mount Airy for the first thirteen years of her life.[3][4] Hunt still remembers Philadelphia with affection.[2] "When I think of myself as a wild kid, it's Philadelphia. It's Philadelphia steak sandwiches and the bad boys on the basketball court," says Hunt.[2] "I loved them."[2]

Hunt's mother Inez was her primary parent and worked as a librarian in a local library.[4][5] Hunt's father Blaire Theodore Hunt, Jr.[5] was one of America's first black psychiatrists[3] but Hunt says she didn't grow up with her father who lived in Boston and that when she was fifteen years old when she found out that he had committed suicide three years previously.[6] "In those days people weren't open with children about death," Hunt says.[6] "You certainly didn't tell them their parent committed suicide."[6] Hunt was brought up by three strong women: her mother, her aunt and her grandmother.[6] "I had a fabulous three mothers," Hunt says.[6] "Most people get one mother. I got three. And they were each individually very different and very wonderful."[6] Her mother, Ikey, was "extremely intelligent and education-minded."[6] Her Aunt Thelma was "extremely Catholic but very glamorous."[6] Her grandmother, Edna, was "an extremely aggressive and ass-kicking woman of the South -- very beautiful but totally into 'what you need to get done you can do yourself, and don't take any shit off anybody'."[6] When asked which of the three Hunt is most like, Hunt says "I loved them all, and hopefully I took something from each of them."[6]

Hunt says that she grew up in poverty but in her case it was not destructive.[6] "Your introduction to life through poverty can be very destructive. But in my case, it was not destructive," says Hunt.[6] "It was a positive thing: that I learned to love life without a lot of material possessions and without a notion that I needed what I did not have."[6] Hunt's family put a great deal of emphasis on academic performance and Hunt did very well in school.[4] In 1960 her family moved to Oakland so that her brother and sister could attend Oakland High School and prepare the attend the University of California at Berkeley.[4] "My family all stayed in Berkeley, so that's where I go when I go home," says Hunt.[2]

Hunt studied at the University of California, Berkeley went to Berkley in 1964 and joined Jerry Rubin on protest marches against the Vietnam War.[3] Hunt wrote in her book Undefeated that 1964 was the year when "we Berkeley students were sitting in for the Free Speech Movement, smoking pot, experimenting with acid, lining up to take oriental philosophy courses, daring to cohabit, and going to dances in San Francisco."[7] Hunt says that before coming to England, she’d had plans for an academic career "but I got into rock ’n’ roll".[8]

Move to London

In February 1966[7] Hunt moved to Britain and for a time lived in Edinburgh.[9] "I started hitching here, a student from California's Berkeley, at 19. I hitched on lorries from London, slept in Waverley Station."[9] Hunt says that in London in the 1960's anything seemed possible.[2] "You could arrive at Heathrow Airport with a Berkeley education, $1.83 in your wallet and end up in a blues band because you were pretty and American and black," said Hunt in 1991.[2] "Could start looking for an au pair job and wind up in the cast of Hair."[2]

Marriage to Mike Ratledge

In 1967 Hunt met Mike Ratledge of the Soft Machine. [10] Hunt was having trouble getting a visa extension to stay in England and proposed to Ratledge.[10] Ratledge and Hunt were married on April 15, 1967.[10] The Soft Machine were heavily booked and there was no time for a honeymoon but Ratledge and Hunt were able to spend two months together before the band headed for France later that year.[10] Hunt said in 1991 that she and Ratledge never held hands and never kissed but that "he comes for Easter. But that's what we called married," says Hunt.[2] "Our marriage is a lot better than a lot of marriages that think they're marriages."[2] Hunt and Ratledge had a short relationship but have remained married and the best of friends for many years.[10][6] When Hunt and Ratledge reached their 40th wedding anniversary Hunt called Ratledge up and said, jokingly: "We should renew our vows."[6] Hunt says Ratledge is "the nicest guy in the world" but when asked the secret of her happy marriage, Hunt says the secret is to "separate immediately."[6]

Start in Music

Hunt achieved national fame in England in 1968, when she starred as "Dionne" in the first rock musical, Hair, a box office smash on The London Stage.[3] Hunt only had two lines of dialog in Hair but she attracted a lot of media attention and her photo appeared in many newspapers and magazines. [4] "What was great about Hair, was that it was my hair. The person on the stage in 1966 was merely an evocation of who I was," says Hunt.[3]

"Thanks to the English imagining that all American Negroes could sing," Hunt found work as a singer for 18 months after arriving in England.[4] In February 1967 Hunt took a singing job with Alexis Kormer's trio Free at Last so that she could earn her fare back home.[4] In 1968 Hunt joined the group Ferris Wheel.[4]

Hair

Hunt achieved national fame in England in 1968, when she starred as "Dionne" in the first rock musical, Hair, a box office smash on The London Stage.[3] Hunt only had two lines of dialog in Hair but she attracted a lot of media attention and her photo appeared in many newspapers and magazines. [4] "What was great about Hair, was that it was my hair. The person on the stage in 1966 was merely an evocation of who I was," says Hunt.[3] Hunt was one of three American featured in the London show and when the show began she had no contract to perform.[4] When the show opened she was featured in so many stories that she was offered a contract right away.[4] "Do you know the only reason I did so many of the promotional shots for Hair was that I was the only one who would get up early for them?" says Hunt.[11] "I had the knack of looking as though I was doing all that, but I never was - at least not as much as you'd assume. Drugs? Ha! They were shooting us up with vitamin pills because we were so tired. The truth is, I didn't take drugs after the age of 19."[11]

After Hair

After Hair Hunt was professionally associated with musicians such as Mike Ratledge, Alexis Korner, John Mayall, Elton John, and Marc Bolan.[12] Hunt played at the Isle of Wight music festival in 1969 with her backup band White Trash.[12] Hunt's first single, a cover of Dr John's Walk on Gilded Splinters was released on Track Records in 1969; an album, Woman Child, followed in 1971.[13] Hunt met Marc Bolan in 1969 after having a minor hit with Dr. John's "Walk on Gilded Splinters."[13] "She showed up one night while we were recording "Unicorn," said Tony Visconti.[13] "The two of them just looked at each other and it was like magic. You could see the shafts of light pouring out of their eyes into each other. They were eating each other up alive. We finished the session unusually early, and Marc and Marsha walked out into the night hand in hand."[13] Hunt said in 2008 that Bolan "was a magical person and we had a wonderful time together."[6]

Hunt says in her autobiography that the relationship was based on more than physical attraction.[13] "I personified things which Marc rejected. He was reclusive, macrobiotic, and professed aversion to success," writes Hunt.[13] "To Marc, my visibility was commercial, and this wasn't appropriate to the serious art of music which he implied was validated by obscurity."[13] In 1973 Hunt was a member of a panel organized by British magazine Melody Maker to discuss women in music and their options open to black women.[14] "You got to slip in through the side-door as the statuary representative - and once you're in, then you do your damage," said Hunt.[14] "But you're kidding yourself if you think you're going to get in on your own terms."[14]

Hunt says that the music business "has been so kind to me it's been a joke. I didn't come to it with great talent."[2] Hunt says that she saw many musicians who could not deal with the pressures. "A lot of people really cannot deal with it," Hunt says.[2] "They think they're dealing with it. They are consumed by the pressures of it, the avarice of it."[2]

Modeling

Three months after Hair opened Hunt was on the cover of British high fashion magazine Queen, the first black model to appear on their cover.[4] In 1968 Hunt posed nude for photographer Patrick Lichfield after opening night for Hair [15] and the photo appeared on the cover of British Vogue's January 1969 issue.[16] "For me to get a call from Patrick Lichfield to do a fashion shoot, you think I’m going to say no?” Hunt says.[8] "I was a chorus girl getting £35 a week!" Hunt posed with and without clothes.[8] "In those days models did their own make-up and hair so I was expected to do all that."[8] Hunt says the bangles on her ankles and wrists were costume in Hair.[8]

Almost 40 years later Hunt again posed nude for Litchfield [15] recreating the pose for her Vogue Magazine cover after she had had her right breast and lymph glands removed to halt the spread of cancer.[17] The photo appeared on the cover of her 2005 book Undefeated about her battle with cancer.[17] "The 1968 photo was taken after the first night of Hair and that the 2005 shot was taken in January, five weeks after my right breast and lymph nodes under my right arm had been removed. I enthused about how wonderful it had been working with Patrick under those very different circumstances," wrote Hunt.[18] Hunt wrote in her 2006 book Undefeated that she never understood why the photo has continued to appear in newspapers and magazines over the last 37 years.[7] Hunt has also been photographed by Lewis Morley, Horace Ove, and Robert Taylor.[19]

In 2008 Hunt was to London foran exhibition of portraits by Lichfield, who had made a photo shoot of Marsha for Vogue forty years earlier.[11] "The pictures were supposed to be for the cover, which would have made me the first black woman on the front page of Vogue," Hunt recalls.[11] "It didn't happen, but there was a huge spread inside. In those days, it was quite something."[11] Hunt said that she held Lichfield in such high esteem "because he was such a gentleman."[11] "He never made a pass at me."[11] "We had a strange relationship. We weren't friends or anything, but he genuinely took an interest in my life. I think I expected him to be aloof, superior. But he was nothing of the sort. He treated this little negro girl from the US with the utmost respect.[11]"

Relationship with Mick Jagger

Hunt told journalist Frankie McGowan "I fell in love with Mick because I thought he was shy and awkward. I never went out very much with him and his friends because mostly they weren't my scene. He would come to my apartment or I would go to his."[20] Hunt is the mother of Mick Jagger's first child, Karis Jagger, who was born in London in November, 1970.[21] "We knew exactly what we were doing when we had Karis. She was absolutely planned," says Hunt.[21]

Hunt said in 1991 that she met Jagger when the Rolling Stones asked Hunt to pose for an ad for Honky Tonk Women which she refused to do.[2] "I didn't want to look like I'd just been had by all the Rolling Stones," Hunt says.[2] Jagger called her later and their nine or ten month affair began.[2] "And you know what? He's the only person who's made a mother of me, and for that reason I will be forever beholden," Hunt says.[2] Christopher Sanford writes in his book Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight that Hunt told journalist Frankie McGowan "I fell in love with Mick because I thought he was shy and awkward. I never went out very much with him and his friends because mostly they weren't my scene. He would come to my apartment or I would go to his."[20] Hunt is the mother of Mick Jagger's firstchild, Karis Jagger, who was born in London in November, 1970.[21] "We knew exactly what we were doing when we had Karis. She was absolutely planned," says Hunt.[21] "He was very insecure, and he need the stability of a child," Hunt told journalist Frankie McGowan.[21] "We weren't going to live together, that was never on the agenda," says Hunt.[2] It was like:'You'll be a really good mother' and 'You'll be a really good father.' What was a shock to me was when he wasn't a really good father, because he had the potential to be somebody special."[2] Hunt and Jagger continued as friends after Jagger married Bianca Perez Morena De Macias.[21] "For a long time afterwards we were friends. I became his kind of confidante, if you like. If Bianca was giving him a hard time he would come and tell me," says Hunt.[21]

Tony Sanchez writes in his book Up and Down with the Rolling Stones that Jagger considered asking Hunt to marry him but although Hunt was beautiful and terrific company, Hunt didn't fit Jagger's romantic ideal and he didn't think he loved Hunt enough to spend the rest of his life with her.[21] Hunt's feelings were mutual.[21] "I never married Mick because I knew it wouldn't work," says Hunt.[21] "I just couldn't be married to someone who didn't get up till two in the afternoon."[21]

When Karis was two years old, Hunt asked the courts for an affiliation order against Jagger and eventually settled out of court.[21] "Why did Marsha have to be so bloody silly? It wasn't as thought I was going to leave her and Karis to starve," said Jagger.[21] Since then, Mick Jagger has been close to Karis.[9] Karis would often go on holiday with Mick and his family as a teenager.[9] Jagger attended Karis's graduation from Yale, her wedding in 2000 and was at the hospital for the birth of her son in 2004.[9] "When you've had a child with somebody he's part of your life. We meet up on occasion. I'm closer to his mother," says Hunt.[9] "I always figured I was doing Mick a favor," said Hunt in 1991.[2] "That while he was behaving badly, I was doing two things for him: taking immaculate care of the daughter that we had together and wanted to have, and that I was leaving the door open so that when he was ready to come back, he could. And he did. And it's admirable."[2]

Hunt was asked in 2008 if she hadn't had to battle Jagger for money and recognition that he was Karis' father.[6] "That is a very long time ago," says Hunt.[6] "Do you know what I mean? My daughter is now 38 years old! She has two children and she is wonderful. She and the kids have just spent some time with grandpa in Mustique. So of course I have a relationship with him."[6] In 2008 Hunt was asked about the story that appeared in this article in Wikipedia (without a citation) that she met Jagger at a party in the Sixties and told him she wanted to have his baby.[6] "You must have read that on the internet," says Hunt.[6] "One reason I haven't had it removed is that it is proof that the internet is full of absolute bullshit. Ridiculous things have been written about me so often that we won't even go there."[6]

In 2008 Hunt talked her attraction to Jagger.[11] "He was educated. He was a radical. He was not the man people think they know now. Somehow, that all gets lost over time."[11] Hunt has no regrets over the way her relationship with Jagger turned out.[11] "No. What happened was not my fault. Besides, whatever happened with Mick, she went on to have such a fabulous life," says Hunt.[11] "There were uncles and friends of mine who adored her. I never thought she was deprived. In fact, now I think she is incredibly lucky. She could have had all kinds of fathers and she had Mick. Now he can really appreciates who she is and what she has become. I know that she would be a different person had he been around all the time, and, in a way, with hindsight, I can say, "Wasn't it lucky that he wasn't there."[11]

Hunt says that by the time Jagger came into Karis' life, she already had core values.[11] "She was 12 - formed - when they got to know each other. What are you going to do to a child of 12? You are going to have some influence, but there is already some core stuff pulled together by then."[11] "It's not about him. It's about his position, his lifestyle, his career, his choice of friends," says Hunt.[11] "I mean, my daughter had an incredibly stable upbringing. I read to her every night, sang to her. I have no idea how different things would have been if Mick had been part of her life, but I know that the influence of celebrity and all that goes with it is difficult for children."[11]

Hunt says she never turned her daughter against Jagger going out of her way to praise him "as all dads should be."[11] "When you have a child, you put them first, whatever," says Hunt.[11] "All your own feelings have to take second place. How I raised Karis is now what I'm proudest of."[11]

Brown Sugar

Christopher Sanford writes in his book Mick Jagger that when the Rolling Stones released the song "Brown Sugar" there was immediate speculation that the song referred to Hunt or to soul singer Claudia Lennear - " at least to someone, presumably black, probably female.[20] Hunt wrote in her 1985 autobiography Real Life that "I know he wrote a few of the songs for me or about me" including "'Brown Sugar' ('I got a taste of brown sugar, gonna leave white sugar alone')."[5] Hunt wrote in her 2006 book Undefeated that in "1970 when I'd had my last hit single, I was Mick Jagger's brown sugar and had Mick's baby."[7] When Hunt was asked how she felt about the song for an interview with the Irish Times in 2008, Hunt said "it doesn't make me feel any way at all."[6]

Attitude towards the 1960's

Hunt is a little peeved that people expect her to be all about that decade's sexual attitude.[11] "Because I don't think that assumption was ever right in the first place," says Hunt.[11] "I'd been to university. I had opinions, beliefs, intellectual strength. But, because of what happened, people thought I was some dunderhead. I was dismissed as a rock chick. You know the thing. You say my name and they think 'hot pants, Sixties, Jagger' all that s**t."[11] "You couldn't be a woman in your 20s in London at that time and not be part of the sexual revolution," Hunt added.[11] "I was all t**s and bum, and that was an expression of liberation. I thought it was my duty to take my clothes off, to show that women no longer had to hide."[11]

But Hunt remembers some 60's attitudes fondly.[11] "... It was a revolution, make no mistake. Sexual. Racial. None of us had a clue about how much it was changing the world. We did make a difference, in a way that you just don't see these days. Guantanemo Bay simply could not have happened then. We would not have allowed it."[11]

Writing

Autobiographer

Hunt began writing in 1985 and her first book was her 1986 autobiography, Real Life: The Story of a Survivor.[22] "Writing my autobiography which I called Real Life, I realised that I not only needed silence, I needed to be far from my detractors, where I didn’t feel restricted by someone else’s idea of who I was or what I was capable of," wrote Hunt.[22] "I soon discovered that to relate a feeling or anecdote on paper was far harder than talking about it. Writing wasn’t just jotting down notes and typing. It took days to get one measly paragraph right and, I realised to my horror, that prose required a lot of thinking, planning and re-vamping, a lot of erasing and Tippexing. Worse still, my memories and thoughts fluttered about like elusive butterflies. I found that I needed complete silence to catch them."

In 1996, Hunt wrote her family's autobiography Repossessing Ernestine: A Granddaughter Uncovers the Secret History of Her American Family about Hunt's search for her father's mother Ernestine who was placed in an asylum for nearly 50 years.[23] After Hunt's father committed suicide while she was twelve years old, Hunt's contact with her father's family was sporadic.[24] Hunt tracked down her father's father Blair Hunt shortly before he died in 1978 where he was living sedately in a seedy part of town with his companion of 60 years.[24] Hunt discovered that her grandfather had been a public school administrator and a leading member of Memphis's black community.[24] Blair Hunt talked about his "poor dear sick wife" who he had "put away" many years before.[24] Hunt discovered that her father's mother, Ernestine, had been born in 1896 as a free black and that she grew up in Memphis, "an intelligent, remarkably beautiful young woman who excelled in school and was greatly envied for her pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair."[24] Hunt tracked her grandmother down to a rundown nursing home and although Hunt was unable to discover why Ernestine spent 50 years behind bars, Hunt wrote that the reasons may have had more to do with racism and sexism than insanity.[23]

In 2005 Hunt released her memoir about her battle with cancer, Undefeated.[1]

Novelist

Hunt published her first novel, Joy, in 1990 about a woman who grew up to join a singing group reminiscent of the Supremes and died an early death. Set in a posh New York apartment in the course of one day in the spring of 1987, the novel contains frequent flashbacks that describe life in a black neighbourhood in the 1950s and 1960s. The book also deals with stardom in the music business and some people's inability, despite their riches, to make their own American Dream come true and to lead fulfilled lives.

Hunt published her first novel, Joy, in 1990 about a woman who grew up to join a singing group reminiscent of the Supremes and died an early death. Set in a posh New York apartment in the course of one day in the spring of 1987, the novel contains frequent flashbacks that describe life in a black neighbourhood in the 1950s and 1960s. The book also deals with stardom in the music business and some people's inability, despite their riches, to make their own American Dream come true and to lead fulfilled lives. "Within the book everybody is a victim and everybody's guilty," says Hunt.[2] "And I think that's real life. We get hurt, but we're also hurting each other all the time."[2] Hunt wrote Joy while touring England with a group performing Othello and said her fellow actors made fun of her while she was writing the book.[2] "With me being in the rock-and-roll business," Hunt says, "they had a bimbo-ette image of me, and I'm sure they all thought I was writing the next Jackie Collins."[2] Hunt says Joy is also about the racism that existed within black society at the time.[2] "Whether we are willing to admit it or not - and I think it will make blacks angry that I talked about it - when I grew up, there was color prejudice, and that is part of the story of this family," Hunt says.[2] "Maybe we're beyond that now, but I'm only 44 and I can remember it: Janie who had long hair and fair skin was loved far more than Janie's older sister who looks more like her father who has really kinky hair and got the grandfather's lips."[2]

Hunt said that living in England taught her how beautiful Black language was.[2] "It was living in England that taught me how beautiful black language is," says Hunt.[2] "It took me being part of the English society and playing with my English accent to hear: That's poetry, too, that's special, too. And by putting it on the page I preserve what I remember of something that is culturally important."[2]

Hunt's second novel, Free, published in 1992 tells the story of freed slaves and their children living in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1913.[25] Hunt's 1998 novel Like Venus Fading is inspired by the lives of Adelaide Hall, known as the "lightly-tanned Venus," Josephine Baker, and Dorothy Dandridge.[26] "If you don't understand about the condition of racism that existed in the States in that period of Irene's life (1920s-1960s), then this sounds unrealistic stuff," Hunt says.[3] "It was interesting writing the book in Ireland, because the Irish and the black experiences are so similar. Here are two peoples who were overpowered by another group who took their language and their art and defined them for the world."[3]

Hunt wrote her first four books living in isolation in a remote hideaway in France called La montagne.[22] "The hermit's existence drove me to create stories and characters and resort to writing them down if only to stave off boredom. That amount of isolation took hold like a drug. My thoughts grew dependent upon the silence and I received only one daily visitor who would be waiting for me each morning at the back door. She was a scrawny barn cat and I could always depend on her to eat and run. Apart from my early evening drive to the nearest patisserie for the daily baguette, I talked to no-one and the villagers in this remote farming enclave grew used to me only waving with a smile from a distance."[22]

Editor

In 1999 Hunt sought a job of writer-in-residence at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison and later collected selected writings from the prisoners and edited The Junk Yard: Voices From An Irish Prison.[27] "Write what you've lived. Write what you know. Write like you would to a trusted friend," Hunt told them.[27] The book contains fifteen stories divided into five sections: Childhood, Family Life, The Score, Criminal Life and Prison Life.[28] One publisher was critical of the repetitive themes of urban poverty, addiction, and life in prison.[28] "Instead of complaining about the similarity of theme, one should ask why so many have a similar tale to tell," said Hunt.[28] The Junk Yard: Voices From An Irish Prison became a number one bestseller in Ireland in 1999.[7]

Activist

During the 1997 Book Festival in Edinburgh, Hunt staged a one-woman protest, picketing Charlotte Square about the "shoddy administration" of the Festival.[9] The director of the festival was fired in the aftermath of her protest.[9]

Biography

Hunt has been working on a book about Jimi Hendrix that she considers her life work.[9] "I have a unique perspective on the Jimi Hendrix Experience that no-one else alive has because he and I shared something - black Americans who came to London were transformed and re-packaged for the US, although I never became successful there and he did."[9] Hunt says she is in a unique position to write about Hendrix.[8] "There have been many books written about Jimi," Hunt says.[8] "But nobody’s writing what I’m writing; nobody can."[8] Hunt says the book is complete and she hopes it will be published in 2009.[8] "The book required serious research about modern history and knowledge about the rock ’n’ roll business between the US and UK in the 60s of which I was a part."[8]

In September 2008, Jenny Johnston of the Daily Mail interviewed Hunt and talked about her book about Hendrix which had just been completed.[11] Hunt says that she never actually met Hendrix, but they shared a social history.[11] "Like Jimi, I was 'negro' when I came over in 1966, and in 1968, I became 'black'. But I lived past him to become 'African-American'. I was fascinated by the man, but also the age in which he and I lived. I wanted to chart the changes we’d witnessed. I was constantly discovering things about my own racial history - and it blew me away."[11]

Acting

Theater

In 1990 Hunt played Bianca in the BBC television production of Othello directed by Trevor Nunn.[19]

In 1971 Hunt played Bianca in Catch My Soul,[29] the rock and roll stage version of Othello produced by Jack Good.[4] In 1975 Hunt appeared as Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth.[4] In 1991 Hunt appeared as Nurse Logan in the world premier of Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan at London's Wyndham's Theatre.[4][30] Hunt became a member of the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.[4]

In 1994, Hunt performed a one-woman play in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival playing playing Baby Palatine, a 60-year-old woman who becomes the wardrobe mistress to a female pop group.[31] The play is based on Hunt's novel Joy.[31] Hunt was directed in the play by her daughter Karis Jagger.[31] "It was her idea to do this play together," said Jagger.[31] "We spent six weeks rehearsing in France. Because the weather was so good we marked out the shape of the stage with my teddy bears and rehearsed in the garden."[31]

Film

Hunt's film career included appearances in Dracula AD 1972 (1972) and Britannia Hospital (1982) directed by Lindsay Anderson. In 1990 Hunt played Bianca in the BBC television production of Othello directed by Trevor Nunn.[19] "I've lived in Hollywood. I don't watch much television, but I must admit that I saw a bit of the Oscars on TV recently and I had to ask myself how those people up on that stage got there," said Hunt in 1998.[3] "When I was in Hollywood, it didn't matter how you made your money - whether from cocaine or good works - and I'm sure it hasn't changed."[3]

Documentaries

In 1997, Irish documentary film-maker Alan Gilsenan made God Bless America consisting of six American cities seen through the eyes of six American authors.[22] "Granada asked me to participate in a documentary series featuring American authors giving their personal views of an American city of interest to them," said Hunt.[22] Hunt participated in the documentary film project with Gilsenan that resulted in Marsha Hunt's Philadelphia.[22] Gilsenan said "In the series, Marsha Hunt says that Democracy and capitalism succeed in America because of slavery so the American family was born out of a crime, and that until America comes to terms with that crime, there won't be any peace." [32] During the filming she fell in love with Irish Gilsenan.[22] "Call me impetuous, but within two months of that Philadelphia shoot, I had closed the shutters of La montagne, left a last bowl of food out for the cat, packed suitcase, typewriter and computer and moved against everybody's better judgement to the Wicklow mountains south of Dublin where Alan and I immediately made a new home."[22]

Hunt helped her former partner, Alan Gilsenan, fight colon cancer in 1999.[33] "I'd been a cancer carer and all these questions were ones we had in relation to him," Hunt says.[33] "Alan has totally recovered now and is in great shape. I saw him get excellent care and get well. He's now married and has a baby. I think these things can be positive in their way. It can be a wake-up call."[33] Hunt said in 2008 that she still sees Alan, "all the time".[6]

Hunt has also been the subject of a documentary, Beating Breast Cancer on ITV, broadcast on 26 September 2005.[7]

Battle with cancer

In 1968 Hunt posed nude for photographer Patrick Lichfield after opening night for Hair [15] and the photo appeared on the cover of British Vogue's January 1969 issue. Almost 40 years later Hunt again posed nude for Litchfield [15] recreating the pose for her Vogue Magazine cover after she had had her right breast and lymph glands removed to halt the spread of cancer.[17] The photo appeared on the cover of her 2005 book Undefeated about her battle with cancer.

In late 2004, Hunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, and told to have surgery to remove her right breast and her lymph nodes.[1] Hunt decided to have her surgery done in Ireland rather than returning to the United States.[1] "I had no intention of going to some clinic in America, where I would be treated like just another middle-aged black woman and hounded for details of my health insurance," she said.[1] "Irish people treat illness, and even death, in a very healthy way. They don't hide away from it and say that they are too busy to visit you. The Irish embrace the fact that you are ill, and it is almost a matter of honour for them to visit you and bring you gifts. I knew that in Ireland I would have a wonderful support system. And I wasn't wrong."[1] Hunt decided to have a complete mastectomy. "Everybody talked about me having a reconstruction,' she says. "Reconstruction - as if the breast is miraculously put back to the way it was. In fact, pretty much all you get is your cleavage back; you don't get any feeling or sensitivity. When I was making the documentary, I spoke to three women who had all had reconstructions and each one of them had had problems with it afterwards. And if you think about it, it isn't really a surprise. They take muscles from your back, skin from your thighs, fat from your stomach. You had a breast removed, but the rest of you was fine. Now half your body is hacked about - and for what?"[1]

The day of her operation Hunt wrote a note on her breast to the surgical team, telling them to have fun, make sure they took the right breast off and drew them a flower.[1] Once the operation was over Hunt says she felt happiness that the cancer had been removed.[1] "I didn't mourn my breast for a minute. I was still alive, still gorgeous, still perfect. In fact, I felt better than perfect. I felt sexier without my breast, because now I had a battle scar that showed I had faced up to what people fear more than anything - and got through it." says Hunt.[1] "You have to be practical, bite the bullet as you say. When somebody tells you your dick's going to fall off, this is going to happen whether you like it or not. Life will be a bitch but you have to figure out how you're gonna live it. Life is all hills and valleys. You better be enjoying the hills. There's no point weeping and crying in the valleys."[9] After her mastectomy, she contracted the superbug MRSA.[1] "In the end, I was given Zyrox - a very expensive antibiotic - and the infection started to leave my body."[1]

Finally Hunt had chemotherapy but didn't want to go through the process of watching her hair fall out.[1] "I wanted to take control of my battle. If anyone was going to get rid of my hair, it was going to be me," she said.[1] "We all had champagne and the women braided my hair, then Mazie (Hunt's granddaughter) started the ball rolling by cutting off the first braid. After that, everyone at that party took turns in cutting off a lock. I think people were wary at first, but when they saw how happy I was - I think I actually cheered when Mazie took her bit off - they relaxed and we had a ball." [1] Hunt has written about her battle with cancer in a memoir, Undefeated. For the cover of her book Hunt again posed nude for Patrick Litchfield [15] after she had had her right breast and lymph glands removed to halt the spread of cancer and recreated the pose for her iconic Vogue Magazine cover from 1969. [17]

The Irish Independent reported on August 27, 2008 that Hunt stood on a table at the opening of the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin to let everyone see that she had survived third-stage breast cancer after a treatment of chemotherapy, radiation and herceptin therapy at the hospital.[34] "I got up on the table for you to see I'm alive. Triple assessment kept me alive," said Hunt.[34] Hunt added that she had originally put off seeking treatment for five months.[34] "You wonder had I been not ridiculous and gone in June might I just be looking at first stage."[34]

In July 2007 Hunt got to talking about her breast removal with a twelve year old boy and told the boy that now she is like the Amazons of old who would have a breast removed so that when they went into battle they could use their bow without their breast getting in the way when they let their arrows fly.[6] "It was a thing of strength and of power," Hunt says.[6] "I only have one breast because I had breast cancer and one has been removed so I think it is important for myself not to pretend that I have two. Or to make people feel more comfortable because they are not looking at the absence of a breast where there'd be normally two."[6] "I had a physical image that was about two breasts," says Hunt.[6] "But I think it is really important to know that your breasts is not your image."[6]

In September 2008 Hunt disclosed that she is growing her hair back.[11] When asked if she would like to grow it back wild and carefree again again Hunt replies that "short hair is truly liberating I don't think I will ever grow it again."[11]

Hunt's Cyber-romance

In Hunt's book on her battle with breast cancer she devotes a chapter to a man she had known and had a relationship with at Berkeley in the 1960's. The relationship began when Hunt came across her old boyfriend's email address accidentally and sent him a message. "My friend had sent me a message, and I was scrolling through the other people she had sent it to when this name popped up. I thought, 'Is that the same guy?' So I sent him a message. And that was the start of it."[11] Hunt carried on a passionate correspondence with her Berkley friend although they never met. "I truly loved him. I found myself longing for the next time we could communicate. I asked my doctor, 'Could being in love affect my recovery. Is it good for me?' And he looked at me as if I was mad. But I do believe it helped."[11] Several years later the couple agreed to meet in person in a New York restaurant but the meeting never took place. "It was the oddest thing. He didn't turn up. Afterwards, I discovered an email from him saying, 'I haven't brought your number with me. Call me now. I will be at such-and-such a restaurant at such-and-such a time.' Now, I think it was fate that we didn't meet."[11]

After the non-meeting Hunt fell back out of love with her old boyfriend and the final straw was when he informed her by email that he was moving to Buenos Aires to take up the tango and invited her to come along. "I told him I tangoed at 20; I don't need to tango at 62. At 62, I want to potter in the garden, grow vegetables. I just want to grow old. Dancing? Done it. Let's move on."[11] Hunt doesn't think she is missing anything.[11] "...The reality is that I've probably had much less sex over my lifetime than most women my age. I've been celibate for the past nine years, for starters. I was in a relationship before that, but I was celibate for 17 years before him."[11]

Personal life

Hunt says that the biggest misconception people have about her is that she is wealthy.[6] "I'm rich in spirit, but not at the bank -- but because of various associations with various men ... they see your picture in the paper, you know?"[6] Hunt says that as she grows older she has learned that wealth is overrated, and poverty is underrated.[6] "You know what I'm discovering the older I get? Wealth is overrated, and poverty is underrated; and if you were lucky enough to grow up with not a great deal but a great sense of the wealth of life that holds you together for a long, long time," says Hunt.[6]

Hunt has been true to her belief that wealth is not necessary for happiness and has lived the "writing life" for last two decades in her home in the country in Pas de Calais in France.[6] "I write while I'm there. I garden while I'm there. Other people go to the gym; I have this house that's built on a hill -- and I walk up and down the hill," says Hunt.[6]

Hunt seems content that she never achieved major stardom.[2] "The more I moved away from my home, the more I realized how many possibilities there are in life if you don't run with the mainstream," says Hunt.[2] Hunt found "that America was not the end of the world. And when I got to Germany, I found that England was not the end of the world. When you continue to find frontiers in your physical life, you find new frontiers in your mental and emotional life."[2]

Hunt enjoys the solitude of living on her own and finds that being single means she has encounters and experiences that she wouldn't have if she were part of a couple.[6] "That's not to eliminate the fact that being in a couple is nice, but when you are with a partner, you are a unit that people tend not to penetrate," says Hunt.[6] "Being on my own, whether it's here in Dublin or in France, is that I don't have to ask anybody anything. For instance, when the Mater Private called I didn't have to ask anybody is it ok that I go to Dublin."[6] "I'm not good in relationships. I'm not good to myself in relationships," Hunt said in 1991.[2] "I would never have written this book (Joy) if I had a boyfriend. I wouldn't have had the discipline. I couldn't have been quiet. I think I like sex too much. . . . So, my thing is, if you don't know how to get up from the table, eating all this cake and candy, then just don't sit at the table. So I don't."[2]

Hunt has lived in Ireland since 1995.[9] She also lives in France where she owns a home in the countryside[9] about 60 miles from Paris.[2]

Black/American Identity

When Hunt came to live in Europe she found that people there called her an American not an African-American or Black - it was only in the United States that she was a hyphenated American.[24] "My skin color is oak with a hint of maple," writes Hunt.[24][5] "Of the various races I know I comprise - African, American Indian, German Jew and Irish - only the African was acknowledged. . .I was labelled `colored'."[24][5] Hunt invented a word to describe herself.[24] "When I stumbled upon the French word melange, which means a mixture and also contains part of the word `melanin', dark pigment found in the skin, it hit me like fireworks. Melange. I am a Melangian."[24][5]

Hunt said in 1991 that there is a pain inflicted by the black community on itself.[2] "We're so intent on moving up and getting over and improving many of the things that have happened, that we can't be honest with ourselves about our own fear - that the shiksas and the hick-sahs and the pick-sahs and the goys will overhear us," says Hunt.[2] "We're locked in. There is a solidarity of silence about our pain, which is not this pain inflicted by the (outside) community, but the pain inflicted by each other."[2] Hunt says that living overseas for most of her life has made her a foreigner in America.[2] "I'm scared to walk through Harlem," says Hunt.[2] "I'm more scared than you, because if I walked through Harlem with the weird shoes and the weird accent, I'd get my butt kicked faster than you. In a way, I'm the betrayer."[2]

External links


Citations

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Red Orbit. "She's the Sixties Icon Who Had a Child By Mick Jagger." by Isla Whitcroft. September 27, 2005.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 Philadelphia Inquirer. "Marsha Hunt's Life is Filled with 'Joy': The Irrepressible Performer has Mick Jagger in her past, old ties to Philadelphia, and a New Book" by Ann Kolson. February 16, 1991.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 The Irish Times. "Rebel to the Roots" by Kathryn Holmquist July 4, 1998.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 Marsha Hunt's Official Web Site. "History"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Real Life by Marsha Hunt. Published by Chatto & Windus, 1986
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29 6.30 6.31 6.32 6.33 6.34 6.35 6.36 6.37 6.38 Irish Times. "I'm lucky that I grew up poor" by Barry Egan. August 31, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Undefeated by Marsha Hunt. Published by Greystone Books, 2006. ISBN 1553652185 page 235.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 Journal Live. "Marsha on the trail of Hendrix" by Barbara Hogson. September 24, 2008.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 Scotsman. "Undefeated after battle with cancer" by John Gibson October 26, 2005
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 "Soft Machine: Out-bloody-rageous" by Graham Bennett. Published 2005. SAF Publishing Ltd.
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 11.14 11.15 11.16 11.17 11.18 11.19 11.20 11.21 11.22 11.23 11.24 11.25 11.26 11.27 11.28 11.29 11.30 11.31 11.32 11.33 11.34 11.35 11.36 11.37 Daily Mail. "Marsha Hunt: "I'm glad Mick didn't help raise our girl" by Jenny Johnston September 27, 2008.
  12. 12.0 12.1 UK Rock Festivals. "The Isle of Wight Festival." August 30, 1969.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 "Marc: The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar" by Mark Paytress. Published 2002. Omnibus Press
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: True Stories of Women in Pop" by Sue Stewart, Sheryl Garratt. Published 1984. South End Press.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Douglas and McIntyre Publishing Group. "Undefeated." Author: Marsha Hunt
  16. Daily Telegraph. " Viewfinder: Marsha Hunt, 1969, Patrick Lichfield." June 4, 2005.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 BBC: The Woman's Hour. "The Sixties star talks about her book." October 12, 2005.
  18. Daily Telegraph. "Cancer brought this beautiful, elegant man back into my life … When he died I cried and I don't cry easily" by Marsha Hunt. November 11, 2005
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 National Portrait Gallery. "Marsha Hunt (1947-), Model, singer, actress and writer."
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight by Christopher Sanford. Published by Omnibus Press, 2003. SBN 0711998337 page 194.
  21. 21.00 21.01 21.02 21.03 21.04 21.05 21.06 21.07 21.08 21.09 21.10 21.11 21.12 Up and Down with the Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez. Published by Da Capo Press, 1996. ISBN 0306807114 page 210
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 22.7 22.8 "On My Mountain Top." by Marsha Hunt
  23. 23.0 23.1 Amazon Books. "Repossessing Ernestine: A Granddaughter Uncovers the Secret History of Her American Family"
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 24.6 24.7 24.8 24.9 The Independent. "Coming back from the dead" by Marianne Wiggins. February 10 , 2996
  25. Amazon Books. "Free"
  26. Amazon Books. "Like Venus Fading"
  27. 27.0 27.1 Internet Archive "Official Marsha Hunt website"
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Barcelona Review. "The Junk Yard: Voices From An Irish Prison," edited by Marsha Hunt, Mainstream Publishing 1999
  29. Screenonline. "Jack Good"
  30. The Ride Down Morgan's Mountain. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 1991.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 New York Times. "Chronicle." August 20, 1994.
  32. Film West: Ireland's Film Quarterly. Issue 25.. "Alan Gilsenan Interview"
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 The Mirror. "I lost a breast ..Big Deal!" by Victoria Kennedy September 21, 2005
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 The Irish Independent. "New treatment leaves Marsha undefeated" by Louise Hogan. August 28, 2008.
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