Iggy the Eskimo; a friend, a model and a possible love interest of Syd Barrett graced the Swinging London’s Scene in the 1960s. Yet, she vanished from the scene as abruptly as she arrived on it, and her figure remained engulfed in mystery…
Iggy the Eskimo was a mysterious figure in the 1960s London Scene for she looked like nobody else at the time. With her long dark hair, lovely Asian features, button nose and baby face, this South-Londoner, whose real name is Evelyn, sprung from the mod scene at the Orchid Ballroom in Purley. Her unusual looks are due to her mother descent; she hailed from the Himalayas. Whiles her looks attracted attention, it was her personality that charmed the London Scene. Iggy was free-spirited, lively, adventurous, not a care in the world; incredible creature, no other word for her.
Iggy gained notoriety by appearing in a newsreel shot at Granny Takes a Trip and in Melody Maker, demonstrating a new dance. Iggy embodied the free spirit of the decade, a true flower power, she lived in the moment, for the moment. Dancing at the Cromwellian Club, shopping at groovy boutiques or walking around wearing an elegant gold lamè 1940s dress, but with no underwear and completely exposed, remembers Duggie Fields.
Soon after meeting Antony Stern, Syd Barrett’s Cambridge friend and a film maker, at Henrix gig at The Speakeasy. Iggy enchanted Anthony and soon became his muse. Stern made a short film of Iggy pirouetting in a London Park. ‘Iggy was terrific fun to be with and to photograph‘, recalled Stern, ‘I remember walking through Battersea Park in the early mornings together. I made a short film of her dancing in Russell Square, the ultimate flower child.‘
Stern also said, ‘Iggy was my muse. I met her at Hendrix gig at the Speakeasy. She was a lovely inspiration andfree spirit. I never knew her real name. We used to hang out together, occasionally dropping acid, staying up all night, going for walks at dawn in Battersea Park. She entirely captures the spirit of the Sixties, living for the moment, completely careless.’
Iggy met Jenny Spires, one of Syd Barrett’s girlfriends, in spring 1967. in fashion store Biba. Iggy admired the dress Jenny was wearing and invited her to a party that night. They went clubbing together. ‘A lovely, sweet, funny girl, always on the scene at gigs and events.‘, recalls Jenny.
Jenny was the one who introduced Iggy to Syd in January 1969, right before she traveled to America. Iggy was homeless at the time and Jenny also wanted Syd to have a companion, so Iggy moved in. Though Syd is now considered to be some kind of dark, mysterious, brooding and secretive poète maudit, this perception of Syd is exaggerated and does not do him justice. Syd was a cheerful character, always ready for a good laugh, not just at a shared joke but sometimes just for the hell of it. Mick Rock, the photographer who shoot the back cover photo for Syd’s debut album The Madcap Laughs, captured this lively and charming Syd while skylarking in Holland Park with Iggy and an unknown brunette. Syd can be seen scampering around in his psychedelic finery, laughing, climbing trees, living the hippie ideal while Iggy is seen playfully running around, wide-smiled as well.
Iggy is perhaps the best memorable for posing on the back cover of The Madcap Laughs. Iggy is seen gracefully and artistically posing completely nude in the background, while Syd crouches in the foreground; an artist in isolation, living in a dark and illusive world of his own, in a world made of dreams and memories, turning his back on reality that is becoming more and more disappointing as days go by. While the cover photo was taken by Storm Thorgerson, the back cover photo was taken by Mick Rock, a friend of Syd who, having started taking pictures only months earlier, still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a lyricist or a musician. When Rock arrived that day, Iggy answered the door completely naked; not unusual thing for hippies and students at the time.
Now famous floor, painted in orange and mauve stripes, was painted by Syd and Iggy that morning; Iggy only helping him to finish it more quickly. Iggy was also the one who put kohl around his eyes for that elegantly wasted look. Iggy in the background, painted floorboards and the car outside were just elements that happened to be around; strange coincidences give this album cover a special allure, filled with sadness, nostalgia and a certain magic. But the most striking, most intriguing element of the photos is Iggy. Who was she, many have probably asked themselves, but the mysterious face was anonymous, well, it was until Iggy, or Evelyn, told her story once and for all, pleasing her fans and admirers.
Iggy wasn’t even aware that Syd was a famous psychedelic rock star at the time. Nor did she know that her beautiful bottom graced the back cover art of Syd’s album. She was impressed by his guitar playing but never made a connection between Syd from Earls Court and the face she must have seen at UFO years before. Syd played a tape of the song ‘Terrapin‘ for her once and she considered it to be quite catchy. Iggy didn’t know who he was, Syd, nor anybody else, knew her real name, the wonderful ’60s; good time to be had, tripping on acid, exploring the depths of your mind, that’s what matters, not names, dates or reputation.
Nevertheless, Iggy had vanished from Syd’s life as quickly as she drifted in. There were stories of her marrying a rich banker from Chelsea or joining a religious cult. Nothing of the sort happened. Iggy has been married since 1978. The life she led in Swinging London when the culture, music and fashion were at their peak, is now behind her, but she was reached by The Croydon Guardian reporter after an ex-Cambridge mod Pete Brown sent the magazine a letter saying that he had spent some wild nights with Iggy in the 1970s.
Turns out that Iggy is a daughter of a British army officer and a woman from the Himalayas. Her father had travelled to a remote village in the Himalayas where he met the woman that would become Iggy’s mother. Iggy was born in Pakistan and attended army schools in India and Aden, before the family moved to England. There, Iggy lived at the seaside and attended art school. She was a mod in Brighton and met many ’60s rockers; Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, she saw Hendrix make his UK debut at the Bag O’ Nails in November ’66, joined the counter-culture throng in April ’67 in Alexandra Palace for the 14-Hour Tehnicolor Dream, before living with Syd Barrett in Wetherby Mansions and becoming a part of the myth about The Laughing Madcap.
P.S. This page focuses purely on Iggy the Eskimo and her life, so you might want to check it out!