|LUNCH DATE WITH NANCY KWAN||© Cosmopolitan, November 1962|
Nancy Ka Shen (meaning "Delicate Flower") Kwan was born twenty-three years ago in Hong Kong. Her Chinese father, an architect, is a member of one of the wealthiest families in Hong Kong. Her English mother was a model. Nancy was educated in a Hong Kong convent, an English boarding school, the Royal Ballet, and the Beat Life of Europe. In 1959, she answered a Hong Kong newspaper ad for movie extras, emerged the star of The World of Suzie Wong and the contractual property of Seven Arts Productions. She has since made two films -- Flower Drum Song and The Main Attraction -- and in June married an Austrian ski instructor named Peter Pock. She expects a baby in April.
We had a great day for our ascent-- the time of year summer breaks into fall, sunny, clear, almost hot. Nancy had just been in St. Tropez with her husband Peter, and she brought him along for the elevator ride. As a mater of fact she had been ordered to Paris to fit a wardrobe for her new film Tamahine, and had been flown in from the Riviera virtually kicking and screaming.
The elevator, which goes diagonally up the base of the Tower, was as crowded as a Manhattan subway during rush hours, and, oddly enough, the crowd was primarily French. Miss Kwan and her husband were the objects of considerable attention, not because she was recognized as a movie star, but because they were obviously lovers and, even for Paris, an unusual-looking pair. Both were quite tan-- Peter, who is very blond and Nordic, a red-brown, Nancy an olive-brown. She is slightly over five feet tall, has perfectly straight, polished brown hair that falls below her shoulders and, frequently, into her eyes. Her figure is like two triangles, one inverted over the other, as she is broad-boned for her height and has a minute waistline. Her carriage shows her ballet training; she walks with her back arched and her toes pointed out. She wore a simple, two-toned brown dress and not a spot of make-up.
Young and Giggly
Peter and Nancy as a couple can best be described as young and giggly. Riding up in the elevator and at the lunch table they held hands, shared little jokes. Nancy, who is piquant as a kumquat, is naturally a tease and enchantingly ingenuous. "How's her cooking?" I asked Peter. "Fine," he said. She giggled: "I can't cook at all. I can't even make coffee." "How's her skiing?" "Coming along," said Peter and Nancy laughed out loud. "I can't even stand up on skis," she said, and they both laughed. What did they do in St. Tropez? They sunned in bikinis and did the twist in stretch jeans, and they ate salade Nicoise which we all decided to eat then and there as a tribute to the Riviera.
Marriage Embarrassed Her
I learned that Peter had never seen his wife in a movie and didn't particularly care to. They met while she was making The Main Attraction in Italy and was supposedly about to marry Max Schell. The Pocks were married twice-- once in a civil ceremony and once in a church in Hong Kong, a fact which caused Nancy considerable embarrassment. "I didn't know where to look in church," she said in her indefinably accented English. "I was, after all, already married. If I look at Peter I die laughing. My father was there, very solemn, very dignified (she mimicked). It was all so silly. Then we went on a trip and I met Madame Chiang Kai-shek and she told me all about what I had to do for China. She said, 'You look so young.' I told her I am young. She is a much bigger woman than I thought... you know, tall, large.
"Say," she said, pausing, "there's something odd about this restaurant. Yes, Odd. It moves." She was terribly right and for some time I had been stoically hoping she wouldn't notice. The view of Paris is incredible, indeed, but now and then it goes out of focus as the Tower sway jolts the equilibrium. "Maybe it's the wine," Nancy offered. I shook my slightly green head and, trying to change the subject, asked her how she liked being a star. She didn't-- "Ugh," I believe, was her word.
"I wish I could get out of my contract," she said. "I have three more years to go, then I'm going to retire. I'll go with Peter into the mountains-- high, high up in a little town where it's cold and snowy-- and I'll have children. Lots and lots of children. And I don't care what you say, this restaurant moves."
The manager of the restaurant came by to ask Nancy to sign his guest book. She wrote in Chinese, smiled weakly and noted: "That means 'Delicate Flower," but I am not feeling delicate." Bravely we made our way back to the elevator with the diagonal view and huddled in the center, trying hard not to look out the open sides. "You have any other ideas where to eat?" she asked sweetly. I did. There was this lovely round-bottomed sailbot anchored in a typhoon, and it had a great galley where we could do our own cooking. Th-th-th-that's all, folks.