Throughout her life Mary was a forthright animal lover, and a vocal supporter of the PDSA charity (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals). During her childhood she had a small black terrier called Hector, and prior to becoming a model she worked for a period as a veterinary nurse in Cranleigh, Surrey. She also owned – at various times – six white doves, a Minah bird and a geriatric cat. However, it was Alsatian dogs she loved more than anything. Her most beloved pet was Lea, a five-stone female Alsatian whom she absolutely doted on. In 1976 the Daily Express published a story about Mary’s dog entitled Loyal Lea drags Mary into a Foaming Row! The report (which I suspect wasn’t entirely true) alleged that Mary had tethered Lea to a fire extinguisher in Woolworths in Banstead High Street, whist she went shopping. Unfortunately, Lea pulled the canister over, squirting foam all over the other customers. “I’m just a dumb blonde when it comes to these situations,” Mary apparently told the paper. “I thought it would be all right to leave Lea tied to the extinguisher!”
The story was accompanied by a picture of Mary with her powerful pet, photographed by the rear entrance to her sex shop in Norbury. For some reason the report only appeared in early editions of the paper and was subsequently removed. David Sullivan’s National News magazine speculated that the Daily Express’ famously right-wing editor Roy Wright had ordered that a frothy story about Britain’s ‘Queen of Sex’ be immediately excised from its pages.
Mary and Lea made headlines again a few months later when the dog gave birth to a huge litter of puppies in 1977, but Mary was left devastated when the dog accidentally ate poison and died horribly. Mary soon replaced Lea with two other Alsatians – Tippi and Reject – which she owned for the last two years of her life. Mary adored the dogs and she made special mention of them in the notes found with her body on 19 August 1979. ‘Any spare cash after everything is sorted [out] that Tippi and Reject don’t need, must go to Battersea Dogs’ Home,’ she wrote. Mary asked that her estranged husband was to look after ‘her darlings’ but, in reality, he dispensed with them soon after her death. The panting Alsatians which feature in the 1980 film Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions were just stand-ins hired for the day from an animal trainer. ‘I could never understand how Mary could supposedly kill herself and leave those dogs. She really loved them,’ David Sullivan told me last year. ‘It just didn’t make any sense.’
All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2015