The outfits and accessories from the designer wardrobe of the late Hannelore Smart – wife of the late British circus performer and impresario Billy Smart Jr – will be offered in Ewbank’s Vintage Fashion auction on October 27.
Hannelore – known as Hanna – was the German Pan Am flight attendant on a trip taken by the then 38-year-old Billy from Los Angeles to London. They immediately became besotted with each other and married just five weeks later on the beach in Acapulco, Mexico with George Best among the guests.
On the day of the wedding, Billy told the Daily Express: “I was sitting in first class and Hanna served me. There were only a couple of other passengers, so she had plenty of time. She came to sit next to me, and we just talked and talked. Since then, we have been together almost the entire time. And it’s really terrific. We are so in love.”
Having grown up and performed in the famous circus launched by his grandfather, Billy, had become an expert of training and caring for animals, as well as a striking performer, whose Wild West presentation as Davy Crockett made him a star. He appeared in two Royal Command Performances and three films shot at Billy Smart’s Circus – Circus of Horrors (1960), Berserk!, with Joan Crawford (1967), and Circus of Fears (1967), with Christopher Lee. Living the high life, he also had relationships with Diana Dors, Sabrina, Jayne Mansfield and Shirley Bassey.
Once he met Hanna, though, he had eyes for no one else, and working with Billy’s brothers, the couple ran the highly successful Windsor Safari Park (today it is Legoland), a venture that would lead to Billy consulting Prince Rainier of Monaco on setting up his own safari park. Once they sold Windsor Safari Park in 1977, Billy turned his business mind to property development in England and Spain, while acquiring homes for his family in England, Monaco and Colorado.
Family photographs show the couple mixing with the likes of Rod Stewart, Elton John, Burt Bacarach and Sean Connery, while Hanna built a substantial and impressive wardrobe to meet the needs of a life of glamour, travel and business, whether skiing in The Rockies, holidaying on palm-fringed beaches, or power dressing for charity events. She was also an expert water skier and competed as showjumper and as a long distance runner for Germany, as well as being a proficient ice-skater.
She chose outfits from a string of leading designers, from Jean-Paul Gaultier and Chanel to Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior and Thierry Mugler. Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci also featured strongly. Luggage was by Louis Vuitton.
“Drawing up the catalogue for this consignment was like reliving the high life of the 1970s, 80s and 90s,” said Elena Jackson, who oversees Ewbank’s Vintage Fashion auctions. “The heady mix of a dramatic and enduring love story, a non-stop life of sporting prowess, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and royalty, and an extensive runway of beautifully designed gowns and accessories – this collection has it all!”
A proportion of this sale will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Society charity.