ROWENA ‘Bunty’ Harker Leder from Grassington has - she freely admits - ‘led a full and mainly frivolous life’.

Her life of show business and international travel started with her working as an au-pair in France and saw her becoming a Bluebell Girl at the world famous Lido in Paris, dancing topless.

While a Bluebell, she was part of the first European show to cross the Atlantic when the troupe became the resident performers at the then newly opened Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. While a Bluebell she met several stars of the time, including Rock Hudson and Marlene Dietrich, who she says had a crush on her then boyfriend.

Her varied career path also saw her carrying out a long haul stint as an air stewardess with BOAC - now British Airways - when she flew internationally for ten years. Between 1961 and 1972, she lived in South Chelsea, London and freely admits to ‘helping make the 60s swing’.

She married aged 36, took up public speaking in the 1990s, and just three years ago recorded an exercise video on staying fit at 80 which so far has been viewed more than 16,000 times on YouTube.

In 2018, she stood down as secretary of Skipton Music Society, a position she had held for almost 30 years. Now, having just celebrated her 84th birthday, and a carer to her husband, Bob, 94, she has just finished the autobiography she first started back in 2017.

‘Love and Laughter Around the World’ starts as life is today - ‘pretty hellish’ as a carer for husband, Bob, who she says has always had a great sense of humour, and then back to the start, growing up in Grassington, going to Skipton Girls High School and family life with parents who divorced, and then re-married.

“I was born in 1936 and, like my father and grandfather, lived in the Dales.To have been born three years before the war started, in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales and to live there throughout the war, was a golden time. I feel I should say we suffered a great deal, but I don’t remember any suffering,” she writes.

She recalls walking to school, through thick snow in the winter, with older sister, Anne, and picking wildflowers in the spring. Her parents divorced in 1946, unheard of at the time, and a terrific scandal, and then re-married four years later.

In 1953 she was crowned the first ever Grassington Gala Queen, a celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, followed up by the town entering a float in the Skipton Gala.

She left school and home aged 17 and went to Blackpool, where she learned to be a hotel receptionist, hoping that would lead to world-wide travel. A year later, and she was working at a hotel in London where she enjoyed the single life, including two Italian boyfriends, who took her to Italy and taught her to eat spaghetti, properly.

In the middle of the 1950s, she went to Paris as an au-pair. Then, answering an advertisement in The Stage Magazine, she got a job as a Bluebell girl. “I was later told that Miss Bluebell knew whether she would take a girl almost immediately because of how they walked down the rather grand steps,” she writes.

“I am eternally grateful to Skipton Girls’ High School for the posture lessons some of us had to take. Because of my height, I slouched appallingly from 13 to 15, but wanted to get my P for Posture badge to stitch on my gym slip so made a concentrated effort to walk tall with head up and back straight.”

“I met with Miss Bluebell and her agent and she took all my particulars. I towered over her, but she seemed very kind. I did a few pirouettes and moves and then she asked me into a small room and asked me to take my sweater off in order to look at my boobs. At this stage I really did not know there were topless showgirls.”

At one point, Paris Match magazine took the opportunity to photograph 80 Bluebell girls in town at the same time. The girls were all photographed at the Palace of Versailles, all wearing high heel shoes, black fishnet tights, black leotards, and full stage makeup - must have been quite a sight.

A new life as an air hostess began in 1961 and at the age of 25, Bunty became known as ‘Rowena’ and so started ten years of long haul travel, which included being trained in applying make-up and looking glamorous.

“Flying was becoming very chic and fashionable and we stewardesses had to play our part in all the ballyhoo. I went along with it very happily but had my feet firmly on the ground. After putting on stage make up in Las Vegas and Beirut for two years this was a doddle.”

Love and Laughter Around the World’, priced £20, can be bought at the Stripey Badger, Grassington, or online at: