“We shy away from the modern world because people are so quick to judge and ridicule you for being different. We live in a free world and should be able to do as we please. It’s just something that I have loved and been into as long as I can remember. I was just born at the wrong time!”
When Joanne Massey aka Lola Lamour was approached by the producers of the “Time Warp Wives” to be part of the documentary, she was promised lots of coverage of her singing career as Lola Lamour. Instead the show concentrated on the housewife aspect of her life and nothing more. Joanne was not only disappointed but also felt misrepresented in the documentary and so she wants to set the record straight as to who she really is.
“I am just an ordinary girl from Birmingham, England,” Joanne said when she first described herself. When she talked about her family life Joanne mentioned that she has a great family, that she was bought up by a wonderful mom and dad in a very loving and protective environment, that they taught her right from wrong and good from bad, and that her family is always there for her. Then she added, “I am a total Daddy’s girl”.
Her Sunday afternoons were spent watching old films with her dad and her brother and Summer holidays were spent watching Elvis films with her mom. “My brother was a huge influence on me as he read lots of books on the old stars and was always full of amazing facts. He was older than me and had money to buy records. He used to get a lot of old stuff that I would then listen to.” In those days there was no Internet so Joanne would constantly bombard her mom and dad with questions about films, film stars, singers, fashions, and the old days.
As a girl, Joanne had attended an all-girls grammar school and got good grades. She said that she never really had much ambition, though. “I just wanted to marry somebody like Rock Hudson, have a Dachshund and be as good a person as Doris Day.”
She considers herself to be a very lucky person. “I have a good life. A fabulous supportive husband, he is my Rock! I have two Dachshunds. I exceeded my expectations!” Joanne also said that she has a terrific circle of friends. “We are very close and can rely on each other for anything.”
Joanne said that she is quite happy with the simple things in life. “To quote the song,” she says, “’The best things in life are free’, I believe that to be very true.” She also loves animals. She gets a lot of pleasure from country walks and feeding the birds and deer that come in her garden. “It makes me smile each day to see them.” Joanne says that a perfect day would be to be at home with her husband Kevin and the hounds. Maybe a walk, some baking, and then snuggling on the sofa, watching a good old movie.
Joanne has three jobs and she enjoys them all. She works part-time in the shop at a National Trust property near where she lives. “Its a great place to work. Its right on my doorstop and I can cycle to work in the Summer on my 1930's push bike! My colleagues at the shop are good fun and lovely people. I also get to meet and chat with the customers and many locals come in for a chat.”
On some weekends she also works for the lord who lives at the property, which is her second job. Joanne said that it has been a great experience for her working there. She also had worked for Lord Patrick Lichfield up until his death a few years ago. “I enjoyed every minute of it. He was a true English gentleman and I miss him.”
Joanne would work at his house whenever he would have a house party, which was every other weekend in the Autumn as it is shooting season. “I was and am a maid. I do the rooms, serve dinner and help in the kitchen. Pack and unpack for guests. It was one of the best experiences of my life as I met many rich and famous people.” Since Joanne began her singing career, which is her third job, she hasn’t been able to work there much.
Her singing career began as a dream. “When I was young, I would watch all the old stars singing in the movies and dreaming that I could be like that one day. I never really thought that I could sing but I would just sing along to Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day.” The turning point came when she was reaching the milestone age of 30. She decided that she should do something about her dream. “I had always lacked any confidence and was unsure about my ability. I mentioned it to Kevin and he bought me a CD for my birthday with some backing tracks on for me to have a go at singing with them.”
One evening, her friends Martin and Deb, also from the Time Warp Wives show, had come over. Joanne hid in the dining room while they were in the living room and sang "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree" to see if they thought she could sing. Her friends said that it sounded good so she plucked up the courage to join her local Amateur Dramatics group. “Again, I nearly chickened out but my ‘rock’, Kevin, made me go....he drove me there and practically pushed me in the door.” This turned out to be a good move for her. Firstly, it enabled Joanne to meet her best friend in the whole world, Nikki. “She is quite a bit younger than me but has a great sense of humor and loves anything retro. We hit it off right away and have been best friends ever since.” Secondly, it gradually gave Joanne the confidence that she lacked. Joanne then landed her first solo gig, which required her to sing "Secret Love" by Doris Day. In the next show Joanne had a main part. She eventually worked up to lead roles. The highlight of her career came when she got to play her dream part of "Calamity Jane".
Meanwhile, her friends Martin and Deb saw an ad taken out in their local paper by a big band looking for a singer. Of course, they thought of Joanne. “I felt so silly when I called the band leader,” she says.
He asked what key she sings in.
“I don't know!” she replied.
He asked if she read music.
He asked how old she was. She was 31.
“He was nearly putting the phone down and I jumped in by telling him I knew all the old songs. He fired loads of song titles at me and I said I knew them all. He agreed to give me a go and I got in!”
Joanne spent several weekends attending 40's and 50's events. She would always listen to a friend of hers, Paul Harper. He is a natural entertainer, singer. and comedian. “I mentioned that I had started singing and he said that I could get up and have a go with him. After that, it all sort of snowballed and I got bookings coming in. Me and my brother decided that the name ‘Joanne Massey’ was far too boring for a singer. I picked ‘Lola’ and he picked ‘Lamour‘.
Now she spends nearly every weekend at an event somewhere in the country. “I mainly sing at wartime events, on railway stations, on old trams, in disused airfields, at hangar dances, village halls, I have even done arenas! I do many events along side Paul Harper. He has really helped me develop my act. We have fun together and do some duets and a bit of comedy. It keeps things fresh.”
Singing has been something that Joanne loves doing. “You can let out a lot of emotion in a song, happy or sad. I love to entertain people and its such a buzz if people are enjoying it. Its a great feeling when you see the residents enjoying the show and singing along.” Some places where Joanne performs are old folks’ homes, sheltered housing, and stroke clubs. She also performs for people with Alzheimer’s. She said that it’s so rewarding to get a reaction from people who cannot express themselves very well. And that it always amazes her how people who are suffering from memory loss can still remember words to songs from 60 years ago.
Joanne has appeared on several TV shows, including a house moving program and a Doris Day documentary, which she was very pleased with. The Time Warp Wives documentary, on which, Joanne, her friends, and their respective husbands appeared, turned out to be a disappointment for her. She expressed her sentiments when she said, “I feel that we were all misrepresented in the TWW documentary, not in all aspects of our lives, but definitely our working lives and our social lives.”
The producers came to visit them and spoke to them all about how they wanted to make a program that showed their exciting lifestyle, how it was interesting and fun. “The lady producing the show was interested in the fact that people chose to live in the past. After the initial interviews, the producer told them that she wanted to concentrate on the women as they were the stronger characters and had a lot to say. She seemed genuinely interested in the fact that we all work and also manage to keep house and keep up our appearance. We were all strong women, as were the women of the time, especially wartime women who kept the home fires burning, etc! I was promised lots of coverage for ‘Lola’, and so we agreed to do it.”
When filming finished, they were called to say that they were changing the title from Time Warp Women to Time Warp Wives. “This was obviously what she must have wanted all along.”
Then the producer came to Joanne’s house to show the final documentary to her and her friends. “Tea and cakes on hand of course!,” Joanne added.
After they watched the show Joanne told the producer that she was really disappointed in the final product as she had hardly mentioned her singing career. “There was no advertising for Lola. We filmed some great footage at 40's events of me singing and lots of people in period clothing that she left out. I was also angry that she had just concentrated on the housewife aspect when there was so much more she could have shown.”
Joanne then added, “Don't get me wrong, I do love to keep house, bake and be a housewife, but there is certainly more to me than that. This didn't come across at all.” She then had emailed the producer of the program since it was finished and expressed her disappointment in how it turned out. “I trusted her to show us all as we really are. I also told her how upset Di and Deb were.”
The producer expressed how sorry she was they felt that way, though she indicated that they had lots of good feedback.
There has been a mixed reaction to the Time Warp Wives documentary. Some people loved it and some hated it. Most people that Joanne has seen at events where she sings have said that they loved it and that they really enjoyed the program. “Older people especially said that it bought back lots of lovely memories. That makes me feel so much better.”
On the other hand, people that know Joanne have all said that it wasn't a true portrayal of her at all. They also thought that the documentary was inaccurate, staged, and quite amusing. “My friends all know that I run around all the time doing so many things, traveling all over the country, always busy. I don't just stay home cleaning my floor! If I have a day off, I love to bake, keep my house nice and have tea ready for Kevin, but there is definitely more to me than that!”
There were also many people on the Internet and various critics in newspapers who said that Joanne and her friends were like the Stepford Wives, and that they had their heads in the sand. “We were slagged off by womens’ lib people and lots of forums on the internet were saying that we were silly. All these things were very hurtful. When you have been depicted incorrectly, you feel so frustrated. We all spent days on forums justifying ourselves. [If] I did choose to stay at home and look after my house and husband, then that would be my choice. What’s wrong with that? Nothing! Just because we choose to wear the clothes and surround ourselves with things from past eras doesn't make us freaks. Everyone has their own style and taste, this just happens to be ours. [It goes to] show that people are less considerate these days and have no manners.”
But, Joanne concedes, “I know that you can't please all of the people all of the time.”
Joanne has been a "Timewarpian" since she can remember. “It’s a complete passion of mine and something that I have loved since I was a child watching those films and singing along with Doris Day!”
Joanne had embraced this lifestyle ever since she was a teenager and started to develop her own style, instead of having to wear what her mom chose for her. She then started going to 50's gigs and then 40's gigs. “I have only had boyfriends who also shared my passion and when I met Kevin we dreamt of our ideal home. We got married and then were free to buy lots of household items and furniture. I have never been into anything else!”
We asked Joanne why she loved retro things. She said, “There is so much style to everything, clothes, decor, cars. Everything modern just seems bland to me in comparison. I couldn't imagine driving anything but my Ford Anglia. Our house to me is so bright and cheery. Color everywhere!” And the fact that Joanne hides modern things away, because it doesn't go with anything of her decor. “It would look out of place to have a microwave on the side in my kitchen. Its only the same as somebody having a home decorated in a Victorian style not wanting an Ikea sideboard!”
A good suit, nipped in at the waist, is a favorite of hers. Joanne loves to feel ladylike. She doesn't go out of the house without her make-up. “My hair became red after watching the film Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth!” Joanne said.
When asked if she wore jeans, she said, “Yes, I do wear jeans, but they are original 1950s ‘Jeanies’, like a Capri pant style with a side zip.”
However, Joanne doesn’t own any sports wear at all. Nothing made of fleece and no trainers. She does, though, have some Converse pumps and some wellies for walking the dogs. “I do sometimes buy new clothes but only if they have some retro styling”, she added.
Joanne has been inspired all her life by so many old stars, old films, and singers. Her two favorite stars that she mentioned were Doris Day, which is her main inspiration, and James Stewart from A Wonderful Life. Joanne mentioned that all of Doris Days films are "feel good films".
“If I ever feel down, I just listen or watch Doris and it brightens my day.” Doris Day has also dedicated her life to looking after animals.
Joanne told us that modern technology is a good and bad thing. “The improvements in health care and research are all wonderful. Mobile phones are great for an emergency, and computers are a must in today’s society. I don't know how I coped without one.” Joanne buys her vintage clothes from America from the comfort of her own home. She can source things to decorate her home with, and research anything she wants to know about old movies. Joanne’s thoughts about our modern world are, “It’s good these days that women have more of a choice in life and can do whatever they want . Also, the ability to travel and see the world [sic]. You can experience a lot more in life as things are more accessible and more achievable.”
The one thing about the modern technology that Joanne doesn’t like is that people don't communicate in the same way anymore. People just text each other instead of actually speaking or writing letters. The Internet also has lots of bad things, like pornography. Also, children nowadays spend too much time playing computer games, which is full of violence. “What happened to playing outside with your mates? The way we used to play when we were young taught us about friendship, and I think we also learnt skills that help us as we get older. My husband Kevin used to paint things and make go carts. This is probably why he is so handy nowadays.”
Besides that, Joanne doesn't like the modern fashions, the cars, the films, or the music. She just hates how society has changed. “People are less likely to look out for each other. People just seem to worry about themselves. What has happened to community spirit? I hate how people have lack of respect for themselves, their neighbors, their country. You can't even tell somebody off for defacing your property as you are likely to get kicked to death or stabbed. I know there has always been crime, but not to such an extent.”
The only modern TV show that Joanne loves to watch is Ugly Betty. “It puts across a great message. Betty is supposedly ‘ugly’ just because she looks different to them . Betty is always saving the day and is so moral and thoughtful. You just love her to bits. She is the best person in the show, showing you don't have to be beautiful to be beautiful. Oh, its great!”
We asked Joanne what year would she have preferred to live in and why. “That’s a hard question. I think that I would maybe like to have been born in about 1925. That way, I could have lived through all my favourite decades!”
If Joanne could go back in time she would choose the year 1953. “I just love the film Genivieve. Its in color and was made in Britain in 1953. Everything looks so beautiful. I just want to be there.”
Joanne described what a perfect world would be. “A perfect world would be a peaceful world where people looked out for each other. No wars, no crime. Love thy neighbour! People would be happy because they had the sun in the morning and the moon at night. Doris Day would be president!! Just like living in an episode of The Waltons.”
When asked to describe herself, Joanne said, “Sensitive, quite stubborn and fun-loving!”
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