Not since voluptuous Hazel Court dashed across screens in a mini nightie in Dick and The Duchess has a British actress created such a stir with American male viewers as has Diana Rigg.
Diana plays the appealing Mrs. Peel, heroine and co-undercover agent with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in The Avengers, a sophisticated spoof on all the current spy nonsense.
ABC has thoughtfully included The Avengers in its second season, starting Friday at 10 p.m. Actually, the series is returning by considerable popular demand, having first appeared during ABC’s 1965-66 second season.
I thought it only fitting to welcome back the charming Miss Rigg, so I placed a call. I got her while she was relaxing in a flat at Knightsbridge, a district just outside of London.
“Hello, Diana, I hope some of my colleagues you’ve already talked to were astute enough to welcome you back on behalf of all us American girl watchers.”
“Oh (she laughed), well, some of them were women so they can be excused that.”
“I guess you’ve heard the series has been well received over here.”
“Yes, we’re very pleased about that, delighted and rather surprised, especially on the basis of its being an English series, without any sort of compromise toward making it an English-American product.”
“Have you received any offers to work here as a result of this popularity?”
“No, not that I’ve heard of.”
“That’s strange (sheer negligence on the part of our producers, I thought). Tell me, Diana, have you ever been in the States?”
“Yes, I was with the Royal Shakespeare Company when we came over to do ‘King Lear’ for the Lincoln Center opening two years ago. And I’d like to return if the offer’s good. I’m available.”
“I know you’re single, so there’s no family ties to hold you there. Does this mean you’re also available for marriage, too, or are you strictly a career girl?”
Not Good Idea
“I’m not available for marriage, no. But that doesn’t mean to say one’s hard-headed, or fantastically ambitious. Umm, it’s not a philosophy I advocate for other people but for myself I don’t think the state of marriage is a particularly good idea.”
“Oh? (I cleared my throat). Have you seen yourself in the series on the telly there?”
“I don’t watch television. I don’t like myself. Everything, to me at least, is transparent. I can see the workings of my mind, the technique. I know too much about myself to find myself particularly… umm, attractive.”
“Oh? (cleared throat again). Is there anything new in this present series, other than color?”
“I think there’s more comedy worked in. The difference is between getting involved in ludicrous situations and making a comment on them, which I think is a mistake. One should, at the same time, be able to keep a level of awareness so that you can bring as much comedy within this ludicrous situation as possible without actually setting yourself or the situation up. Do you see what I mean?”
“Uh, yes (I shook my head, negatively). But I hope you haven’t lost that subtle British touch. What about fashion this time? Those trouser suits you wore last year were… ah, interesting!”
“Yes, I know. But you Americans still don’t admit women to your restaurants in a trouser suit. When I was in New York, I was turned away…at lunchtime! I have a new designer now and we’re going ahead with fashions that will really make viewers sit up.”
“You’d never have a trouser suit problem in Hollywood, Diana. Are you going to be as athletic this season? Karate, judo?”
“Oh yes, everything. I even do Kungfoo, which is supposed to be even more lethal than Karate.”
“Do you have time for anything outside of the series?”
“Yes, I do something for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is to try to get young people interested in the theatre. It’s sort of mobile theater called Theater-Go-Round. We go everywhere.”
“Very commendable, indeed. Anything unusual in the first show?”
“Well, for one thing it was terribly cold on location. I speak so strangely that someone accused me of being drunk (she laughed)! You see, it was freezing and I practically had nothing on!”
“Well! Any final personal message for the American male?”
“Hmmm, you mean something they can think about. Let me see… just tell them, ‘don’t fight, give in’.”
As I hung up, the only thing white I had to wave was a Kleenex tissue.