|Born||Rosa Marie Lubienski
30 September 1947
St Neots, Cambridgeshire, England, UK
|Spouse(s)||Brian Deacon (1977–87)
Dennis Waterman (1987–98) (divorced)
Rula Lenska (born Rosa Marie Lubienski, 30 September 1947) is an English actress of Polish descent. Best known for her work in the United Kingdom, she is remembered in the United States for a television advert that presented her as a celebrity, even though she was not widely known in the US at the time the advert was produced (see below). She is the former wife of British actor Dennis Waterman.
Lenska was born at St Neots, Cambridgeshire, England. Her aristocratic family came from Poland and owned a castle and estate in Dzików. Her father, Major Count Ludwik Maria Lubienski, was personal secretary to Józef Beck, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Later he was adjutant to General Władysław Sikorski, the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and the chief of the Polish military mission in Gibraltar during World War II and led Radio Free Europe in Germany. Her mother was Countess Elżbieta Tyszkiewicz escaped from Poland to Italy and later survived (with her mother) two years in Ravensbrück concentration camp. She has two sisters: Anna, an actress who appeared in a few films in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Gabriela. Lenska was educated at the Ursuline Convent School in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.
Her big break was as Little Ladies' band member, "Q," in the British TV series Rock Follies (1976) and its sequel Rock Follies of '77 the following year. By this time, she had renounced her title as a Polish countess; she has said of the decision, "In England it doesn't count, if you'll excuse the pun."
Rock Follies was not widely seen in North America, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lenska became famous in the United States and Canada for her Alberto VO5 hair products commercials. The commercial began with a closeup of her stating, "I'm Rula Lenska." People assumed this was a product endorsement by a celebrity whose name the advertisers expected them to know—although, in North America, Lenska was virtually unknown prior to the VO5 ad campaign.
In a Tonight Show monologue that aired after the commercials started running, Johnny Carson asked "Who the hell is Rula Lenska?" and began using Lenska's name as a running joke on his show. Around the same time, Jane Curtin played Lenska in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Soon (at least to US audiences) Lenska became famous because of the mere assumption that she was famous. Most people in the US were unaware that she had an acting career in the United Kingdom, and believed she was a model. The discovery that she was not that prominent in the United States led to Alberto-Culver's eventual decision not to renew its contract with her, bringing an end to her commercial "starring roles".
Film, TV and radio
She has appeared in television series such as Special Branch, Minder, Boon, The Detectives, Footballers' Wives, To the Manor Born, One Foot in the Grave, Casualty, Space: 1999, Return of the Saint, Robin Of Sherwood, the Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks- (in late 1970, she got down to the final 5 actresses short-listed for the part of companion Jo Grant), Doctors and EastEnders, in which she played Frank Butcher's girlfriend, Krystal, in a 2002 Costa del Sol special. She played Mrs. Peacock in series 2 of Cluedo.
In 1976, she starred opposite Alan Price in Alfie Darling, appearing naked in several scenes. She also starred with John Inman in the short-lived (six episodes were screened) 1981 series Take a Letter, Mr. Jones, with Lenska as an executive and Inman as her secretary. In 2003, she starred in the black comedy Paradise Grove alongside Ron Moody. She played Lintilla and her clones in the second Radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and can also be heard in the third, fourth and fifth radio series which debuted on BBC Radio 4 in May 2005. She has presented travel programmes for the BBC and has recorded many audiobooks. In the 2005 film Gypo, which was the first UK feature film to be made under Dogme rules, she played a Romani refugee from the Czech Republic living on a caravan site in Margate. She starred in Garvey in the independent British film Jack Says, opposite her one-time EastEnders co-star Mike Reid, which was released on DVD on 22 September 2008. She lent her voice to the upcoming animation film Agent Crush. In 2009, Lenska joined the cast of Coronation Street as new character Claudia Colby, an old friend of Audrey Roberts. In May 2011, Lenska quit the role in order to join the Calendar Girls tour in August 2011.
She has toured extensively both in the UK and abroad and appeared in several West End shows (most recently in The Vagina Monologues and 84 Charing Cross Road) and in many pantomimes and is a regular performer (and part of the original cast) of the touring play Seven Deadly Sins Four Deadly Sinners.
In December 2005, she appeared on stage with the London Gay Men's Chorus for their Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay. She sang and danced while also hosting the show at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the () Dome Concert Hall in Brighton and the Barbican Centre in London.
At the equivalent show in December 2006, comedienne Sandi Toksvig corrupted the lyrics of a song to suggest Lenska had a Christmas job in Debenhams. In 2007 she was to tour alongside Marti Webb and Sheila Ferguson in a new musical about menopause called Hot Flush.
Celebrity Big Brother
Her work on tour with the London Gay Men's Chorus is assumed to have prompted her participation in the United Kingdom version of Celebrity Big Brother in January 2006. Her reason for accepting the invitation to go on the show was "I'm a crazy Polish countess who likes a challenge". During the show, she declared that she had been a “Tibetan Buddhist” for many years but had been practising “Buddhism for the common man”, which has no hierarchical structure (Nichiren Daishonin), for two years. On 13 January 2006, with fellow housemate, British MP George Galloway, she attracted the attention of the media by indulging in a role-play task set by Celebrity Big Brother, in which Galloway pretended to be a cat licking milk from her cupped hands, and Lenska stroked his ears and moustache. On another occasion during her time in the BB house, when accidentally locked in the toilet, singer Pete Burns quipped, "Oh dear, what can the matter be, clapped out actress stuck in the lavatory." Lenska was voted out of the show on 20 January 2006, the third housemate of the series to be evicted, after Jodie Marsh and Faria Alam.
On 23 January, three days after eviction, she gave an interview to UK radio station BBC Radio 5 Live berating Burns for his attitude and unfriendliness towards her. She also expressed disgust at Burns's wearing of a monkey fur coat. The "cat" incident with Galloway was highlighted, but Lenska insisted that there was nothing "untoward" about it, and laughed off any suggestion that she was romantically interested in the controversial MP. Her chosen charities were Wildlife Line and Children in Crisis.
She has been married twice, first to actor Brian Deacon (4 June 1977 – 1987), with whom she had one daughter, Lara Parker Deacon, and secondly, to actor Dennis Waterman, from 3 January 1987 until 31 March 1998. Both marriages ended in divorce. She and Waterman met on the set of Minder in 1982. Her marriage to Waterman ended because of his violent behaviour towards her and in March 2012 he caused controversy with some comments on that aspect of their relationship: "‘It’s not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her. She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different." Rula Lenska said that she was relieved that he had now admitted beating her.
Waterman's daughter, Hannah Waterman, was starring in EastEnders at the same time Lenska made her guest appearances, although they did not share any scenes together. In 2009 she sought compensation from the Polish government for the Communist state's seizure of her family's Polish estate.
- She is a blood donor and also an ardent conservationist, and has travelled widely raising awareness about the world's dwindling wildlife.
- She has presented two documentaries about wildlife pencil artist, Gary Hodges ('Drawn to Wildlife' and 'Wild at Art'), which were produced in aid of wildlife. 'Drawn to Wildlife' was broadcast on 'Animal Planet' and an out-take from 'Wild at Art' was shown on ‘Alright on the Night's All Star Special.’ Both documentaries were produced and directed by David Felber.
- In an interview with The Independent, she described herself as "passionate, romantic and slightly eccentric".
- She can pilot a Hot Air Balloon. She first went ballooning as part of a charity publicity stunt.
- Birth name per www.findmypast.co.uk
- "Meet the Big Brother celebrities", BBC News, 6 January 2006
- Xan Brooks "Galloway enters Big Brother as unexpected house guest", The Guardian, 6 January 2006
- Rula Lenska, Rula: My Colourful Life. Kindle edition. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00F96605O/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb,
- Chicago Tribune blogsite
- Saturday Night Live archive
- Scott, Paul; Anthony Bond (21 March 2012). "Rula Lenska 'shocked and relieved' after ex-husband Dennis Waterman finally admits that he punched and slapped the actress". Mail Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Naomi McAuliffe, "Dennis Waterman and the 'problem with strong, intelligent women'", The Guardian, 20 March 2012
- Joan Smith, "Blame the victim – a classic with wife-beaters", The Independent, 21 March 2012
- "Dennis Waterman's attack confession brings relief to victim Rula Lenska", The Daily Record, 21 March 2012
- Rula Lenska to seek compensation for family estate lost to communists
- Rula Lenska at the Internet Movie Database
- Rockfollies interview
- E-Motion Magazine - Interview with Lenska
- Celebrity Big Brother — transcript of "cat" incident with Galloway
- Rula Lenska out-takes from 'Wild at Art' documentary
- American Alberto VO5 commercial