The ideal beauty for the 1980s was a California girl – she epitomized the sexy beach culture and was the source of many a man’s fantasy: Bo Derek.
Her role in Blake Edwards film 10 launched her into the world as the latest sexy starlet. Bo Derek was the pinup girl that made many a man and teenage boy dream of beach bunnies, with her long blonde hair and buxom body.
Mary Cathleen Collins was a California girl, growing up at the beach and wanting to be a surfer. In order to pay for a new surfboard, Collins started modelling, and then started doing commercials. Collins got herself an agent and on an audition, met director John Derek.
Derek fell for the 16 year old model, divorcing his wife, actress Linda Evans, and moving to Germany with the young Mary, in order to avoid statutory rape charges in the United States, as she transformed from young surfer to Bo Derek. At age 18, the couple returned to the US, and in 1976 were married, when Bo was 20.
Bo appeared in the 1979 film 10 – as the fascinating sexy beach girl who captures the attention of actor Dudley Moore. Her cornrowed hair and gold tanksuit catapulted Bo to become a favourite of the male-dominated media and for women across North America the inspiration to want their hair braided.
She made her first appearance in Playboy Magazine in 1980, in a 12 page pictorial showing her frolicking with her dog at the beach, photographed by her husband John. She appeared twice in the pages of Playboy in 1980 and several times over the next five years.
Her poster (sourced from the film 10) was a favourite for teen boys to have on their wall, and her image was a popular style influencer to the 20-something woman of the 1980s. But her acting ability, in such gems as Tarzan, the Ape Man and Bolero, led Bo to be awarded two Golden Raspberry Worst Actress Awards.
Derek was also a producer on these film projects; and named in a lawsuit by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate over the creation of Tarzan, the Ape Man, for its weak depiction of Tarzan and its emphasis on her character.
I remember my friends and I trying to figure out how to cornrow our hair, and realizing it was more difficult than it initially seemed. My Mother wasn’t too impressed with the four or five cornrowed strands in my hair, and certainly didn’t want me to think Bo Derek’s hairstyle was something to be emulated.
Derek didn’t act again until the end of the decade, in a film produced by her husband, Ghosts Can’t Do It, which earned her a third Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress. She continues to act in small roles, and has been less seen in public since her husband passed away in the late 1990s. Bo Derek may have never conquered Hollywood’s A-list as an actress, but Derek certainly was the epitome of a 1980s sex symbol with her come-hither aura of a California girl.