Julie Lee: Driven
On the fast lane to tragedy.
In early May, 1983, Thames Valley police responded to a call about a horrific car accident near the Datchen Junction of the M4. Minutes earlier, 28-year-old Julie Moxon of Yorkshire had lost control of her car which went on to smash into a lamppost before exploding in a terrifying ball of flame. Miss Moxon was rushed to the Wexham Park Hospital where she lingered in intensive care for several days, her neck broken and burns covering her entire body, before succumbing to her injuries on May the 9th. When the accident was reported in the papers, Miss Moxon wasn’t named as a young woman from Yorkshire. Instead, the headlines screamed: “Sex Film Star Julie (Lee) Trapped in Fireball.”
This tragic, explosive end to such a young life is in stark contrast to how it began. Into decidedly working class surroundings in Sheffield, Yorkshire, Moxon was born in 1955 to a Chinese mother (who spoke no English) and a British father (who spoke no Chinese.) She attended the Old Hall Comprehensive School in Kimberworth, Rotherham where even in her youth she had a reputation for being driven towards success and also for being willing to do whatever it took to achieve that goal.
As she grew older she worked in her parents’ sweet shop in Holme Lane and later opened her own chip shop. Being a shopgirl would never be enough for the ambitious Miss Moxon, she knew she had to get her face out there. Thus, she changed her name to Julie Lee, became a figure (read: nude) model and soon opened her own agency. Figure models were a dime a dozen in those days, so she knew it was time to up the ante.
According to online postings from Sheffield locals, Julie’s modeling agency soon became an “escort service.” A fixture on the club circuit, she regularly used these nightspots as venues to recruit beautiful young women to join her company, promising them easy money as arm candy. It wasn’t long before the young women of Sheffield realized what was really expected of an escort and Julie was soon frosted out by many of them. She had to find a new avenue to fame and fortune, so she packed her bags and relocated to London in the late 1970’s.
Success was not immediately forthcoming and, according to her future employer David Sullivan (one of film’s most prolific pornographers), Julie began working as a high class prostitute. One suspects she took this path in order to make connections with the wealthy and powerful, but the venture was for naught.
She set her sights on becoming an actress and her sultry looks were certainly a perfect muse for the camera. Julie would shortly after become acquainted with the aforementioned Sullivan. Sullivan had been developing a film called FUNERAL IN SOHO when his leading lady, the legendary Mary Millington, committed suicide. Looking to Lee as a replacement, Julie readily agreed, even agreeing to appear in the film for free provided she was given the lead role.
Lee certainly cut a striking figure onscreen. Her face and body were exquisite and her exoticism gave her real presence. Problem was, whenever she delivered her dialogue, she did so in a thick Yorkshire accent that shattered the illusion created by her exotic features. Still, for the film (by that point retitled EMMANUELLE IN SOHO) it hardly mattered and she was no better or worse than any of the other actors appearing opposite. The film came as a last gasp of the British sexploitation cycle and is an absolute mess. Still, when the film premiered in Sheffied, Julie was in attendance and feted as a local success story. It seemed she was on her way.
While the film became a baffling hit at home as well as in Hong Kong, when it faded from screens Julie was not any closer to achieving the celebrity she so strongly desired. Desperate to keep herself out there, she appeared in Sullivan’s next film MARY MILLINGTON’S WORLD STRIPTEASE EXTRAVAGANZA as did her SOHO co-star Mandy Miller. While EMMANUELLE IN SOHO was smarmy but harmless T&A fodder, STRIPTEASE EXTRAVAGANZA was exploitative garbage, trading on the notoriety of Millington’s death to present a lethargic stream of strippers interspersed with offensive jokes from dubious comedian Bernie Winters. Julie appears, without a lick of dialogue, in one of the stripping scenes – a rare flash of charisma in a dreary exercise. Much of the 45 minute run time was padded out with stock footage from other Sullivan productions.
Julie Lee’s film career was over before it had properly begun.
Friends of Julie’s at the time remember her ambition morphing into desperation as her film career stalled. She reportedly returned to prostitution boasting a string of famous and connected men as clients. It wasn’t enough. Soon after she was dealing in cocaine and her looks began to belie the depths into which she was sinking.
Julie Lee made one last stab at success by entering a beauty contest. She left that contest as runner up and climbed into her ill-fated Mercedes. Several days later she was dead.
Julie Lee never found fame and fortune…she never even found infamy despite dipping her toes into sex films and escorting. On the surface it might seem that her quest for success was all in vain. While EMMANUELLE IN SOHO is not a great film, it is still watched and talked about nearly 40 years after Julie Lee took her last breath. In a film full of shocking performances, Lee stands out. Her ambition and drive is evident on her beautiful face. Her acting might not have set the screen alight but her breathtaking presence made her unforgettable. Onscreen, Julie Lee is immortal.
Though it was through tragic irony, Julie Moxon of Sheffield got her wish after all.
REVIEW Emmanuelle in Soho