It is with great delight that I can inform GOTGE readers that the Czech TV documentary on Valérie Čižmárová’s life and work, ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’, was, on 5th November, uploaded to YouTube by Nanncy Smejkalová. At the time of writing there are 905 views, which isn’t bad, but I cannot help thinking that it could be higher, given the stature of Valinka’s talent.
This video has been removed from YouTube due to multiple copyright infringements by the aforementioned Nanncy Smejkalová.
I first watched this programme on Czech TV’s iVysílání service back in January this year and I was amazed, then, to discover that – after previously having only seen the presenter, Eduard Pergner, talking to Valinka on ‘Talent 68′ – what she was using as the song to introduce herself to the world on that show was The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’, re-worded as ‘Slunný podnebí’ (‘Sunny Weather’), thus demonstrating the sheer good fortune that all one had to do to change the first word of the original English-language title was to add an ‘L’ and place an acute accent over the ‘Y’ and that, in the context of a possible Czech-language interpretation of the tune, it was a word that made sense.
Previously, Valinka – since I first discovered her on-line towards the end of August 2015 – had largely been just another one of the many names I was unearthing at the time of female Pop Singers of the former Eastern Bloc, but as one for whom one of the seminal moments of their youth was the memorable ‘You Really Got Me’ versus ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ scene at the slipper baths in ‘Quadrophenia’ to discover that she was so closely identified with The Kinks was highly significant. It took some time before I had the chance to work out that Valinka was singing about breakfasting on a kilo of bananas in that song, but to show that inventiveness (I am still unsure whether or not they were Valinka’s own words or whether she based that performance on a previously-extant Czech-language rendition) was clearly a demonstration of her future comic as well as singing talent.
Also, although I had been vaguely aware of her close associations with Jitka Zelenková and Miluška Voborníková, to see them being interviewed in the course of the programme clearly showed how close the relationship had been (it was quite satisfying that, before they were captioned, I thought to myself, “that’s Jitka Zelenková!” and “that’s Miluška Voborníková!”). I suppose it also finally made sense of why I just happened to discover those names initially – along with Valinka’s – in a very short space of time in August 2015. If they were that close to each other if one were searching for one of those names one would be likely to encounter the other two.
What I will never, ever forget, however, is seeing Valinka’s class photo (VIII.B.) and thinking, “I’d have imagined a lot more formal a one than that in a one-party state like Communist-era Czechoslovakia!” It was a true revelation and my other abiding memory is of my supervisor at work – when I showed it to her – being amazed that here we were sometime in the mid-1960s and Valinka was wearing trousers. She remarked that if she’d have been caught wearing trousers in school around that time she’d have been dismissed! – showing that, in this respect, the democratic UK was actually stricter at that time. It is quite ironic that one who would go on to be considered so ‘all woman’ during her years as a 1970s Pop Star is attired in the classic ‘tomboy’ fashion here.
As I was watching ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ it became obvious to me that a very significant person would be Aleš Korábek, who was clearly the person in charge of some sort of fan club. I would not have known back in January that, by year’s end, I’d be a Facebook ‘Friend’ and would have conducted an on-line chat with him using an automatic translation application. Another one, previously alluded to in GOTGE, was the person who clearly discovered the talent of Valinka, Otakar Krásenský. I really will have to get ‘chatting’ with him now, too!
The overall impression I took away from ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’, even with the shaky grasp I had of the Czech language at the time (and still do!) and without the benefit of being in a position to translate the transcript, was of a dazzling talent and personality – even without any formal instruction in Czech the word ‘gejzír’ used to sum up Valinka in one word does not leave much to the imagination as to what sort of person she was! – who lit up what was a pretty dark period, politically speaking and was taken away from us too soon. It was also very moving how it started with the jaunty ‘Léta letí’, segued into the opening bars of the mournful 1975 LP track ‘Padal déšť’ and ended with the closing bars of that song.
I am also delighted, today, with the news that GOTGE has its first follower – the Blog, ‘Cue Castanets’. I have – in the time since I first started making my GOTGE-related discoveries – been attempting to draw a direct connection between the glory days of the classic Girl Group era and what was something of another golden age of Female Pop Music beyond the Iron Curtain, at a time when, certainly in the UK, Female Pop was somehow considered ‘old hat’ and the big thing was the Glam Rock bands – strange, in that context, that another British band with whom Valinka became closely associated was The Sweet, via her cover of ‘Co-Co’ as ‘Koko’. Now I appear to be on the cusp of doing so, if one sees what the Blog is about!