The Girl Behind Emma Peel: Part 3.

Tourists at Athens airport could swear that the young woman killing time in the long drab waiting room  by stopping at souvenir counters to inspect, for the umpteenth time, the pseudo-Grecian vases for sale was... Emma Peel.

She wore her auburn hair loose, letting it flow to her shoulders in the manner of the star of THE AVENGERS.  And her mini-skirt revealed a pair of very feminine, familiar and beautiful legs.

"It was not easy to say I was not Mrs. Peel," Diana Rigg recalls, "because I dislike lies.  But I would have had to explain why and what I was doing there, and it was a long story."

Actually, she was changing planes, going from London to a little-known place in Western Greece.

Eventually a shaky little plane which flies up into the mountains over some breathtakingly lovely countryside delivered her there, to make the trip worth her while.

Two days later, she took the same route back to London and Borehamwood, Herts., to resume where Emma Peel had left off.

It was an unconventional way to spend two days off the series.  "I go to the craziest places for the weekend," she said, dismissing all attempts to explain herself.

In the case of the Greek place, a British film unit was there shooting "Oedipus, The King", and lots of friends were there.

One weekend last winter she flew to Zurich, rented a car at the airport and set out, a map in her lap, for Klosters, the Swiss ski resort.

"I drove through the night, with the craziest Swiss drivers whizzing past me over the ice-covered road," she said.   "It twisted its way through the mountains, and I just hung on the wheel and prayed.  I could have turned back, but I didn't.  Too proud."

Until this experience, she had never motored on the Continent before, much less had snow-covered mountains by herself.

All of which seems to indicate that, not unlike Emma Peel, Diana Rigg is a rather unusual person.

It was she - and not Emma Peel - who helped to launch the mini-skirt, in an attempt to be different.

"The designer and the other men were horrified," she said, chuckling at memories of production executives looking aghast at the abbreviated skirt she was wearing and which she wanted Emma to wear.

"They pulled their hair ... said you can't do that, it's impossible ... I argued that one must look forward and not back and by wearing these brief skirts, one was looking forward.

"In fact, one was creating fashion very avant-garde, rather than remaining at the tail end of last year's styles.  And it turned out that I couldn't have been more right."

Not that she has profited financially from the so-called "Avenger-wear" that mirrors her ideas.  After all, she's an actress!

Nor does she care to identify with an image.   "I never wear the clothes in the series outside," she said.

"But there's a style there that I think is common to both of us, and I have no intention of changing my appearance after Emma Peel is no more.  After all, it was I who affected her."

She has no intention either of abandoning the mini-skirt, which, as far as she is concerned, was from the beginning Diana Rigg expressing herself.

Where the tastes of Emma Peel and Diana Rigg meet is champagne.  Emma loves it, Diana loves it.  And, for the record, she loved it before she became Emma Peel.

"I'm always very well stocked," she said, "but I never drink it at the studio.

"The stuff Patrick Macnee and I drink on camera is bubbly lemonade, very harmless.  I don't touch the stuff then.  You mustn't when you work.  At home, well, that's another story ..."

Diana's secret passion is to cook, and to have friends come to her house in London's St. John's Wood to enjoy her meals, without much ceremony, exquisitely prepared with the help of her home-grown herbs.

"I'm not joking," she proudly expounded on the subject of her herbs.  "They are all mine, and they all grow in window boxes outside my kitchen.  Every window has its own herbs.

"Left to right, I have sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, which is very beautiful, chervil, and two kinds of mint, sorrel and my bay trees.

"Bay tree leaves are marvellous for fish ... true mine are more like baby trees.  And basil, and fennel, and chives.  And that's it.  Except that they all live and prosper, outside my kitchen windows in London."  The secret passion of Diana Rigg ...

"I had always wanted to grow my own herbs," she said.  "This was my obsession.  So I got the address of a herb farm 95 miles out of town, and one morning I went there.

"A little old lady took me around and she muttered under her breath and said they would never grow in the London smoke.  I said I'd like to try anyway.  So, she shook her head and gave me what I wanted.

"They came in little pots, as I brought them back to London they were all looking sad and sick.

"So I put them in larger pots and stuck them in my window boxes and every day I watered them out of a jug.  And the miracle came to pass."

Diana Rigg has become enriched as an actress in the years at Stratford-on-Avon; on tours and the three years that she has played Emma Peel in THE AVENGERS.

She tells about the director she met at a party who told her he had a marvellous script for her.  She had it sent over.

"Well, if I wasn't the girl who comes tearing through the door with a gun in one hand and a flame-thrower in the other," she reported in mock despair, "I was the sexy siren sneaking through the door in Veronica Lake style.  I lost my temper, for the first time.

"I sent them a message saying that I couldn't do it."

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