I recently read Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Music Legend by Karen Bartlett, by far the best book about Dusty I have ever read. The book focused mainly on Dusty’s struggles with identity, her sexuality, and her background.
Dusty’s slavish devotion to her image has often been discussed, and it has been mentioned that she went everywhere as “Dusty Springfield”- even showing up for 3am recording sessions in full beehive and kohl-rimmed eyes. She felt trapped by her glamorous image, but also hated and despised her past self, the plain, soft-spoken convent girl “Mary O’Brien”. Dusty’s strict religious upbringing caused a lot of self-hatred, and she turned to alcohol and reckless behaviour to deal with the internal turmoil that plagued her.
Dusty was never able to reconcile the fact that she was gay with her public image, and aside from one offhand remark, would never speak publicly about her sexual identity or come out openly with any of her partners. She had to protect the “Dusty Sprngfield” image, as well as punish the “Mary O’Brien” inside of her.
On a black and-white TV, the bleached-blonde hair reads as shades of grey. The long gowns cover every inch of her body like a suit of armour. The heavy eye makeup almost completely obscures Dusty’s eyes. The consummate performer of “blue-eyed soul” never allowed anyone to see into her soul.