Samantha Juste (born Sandra Slater; 31 May 1944 – 5 February 2014) became known on British television in the mid-1960s as the "disc girl" on the BBC’s Top of the Pops. In 1968 she married Micky Dolenz of the Monkees. Their daughter is actress Ami Dolenz.
Life and career
Sandra Slater was born in Manchester, England to a dressmaker named Phyllis and studied textile and dress design at Rochdale College of Art. The tall, long-legged blonde soon became a teenage model and took the name Samantha Juste.
Top of The Pops was a weekly half-hour programme of current popular music, initially conceived and produced by Johnnie Stewart (1917–2005). It was first broadcast from a converted church in Rusholme, Manchester on 1 January 1964. Samantha Juste was an assistant to Cecil Korer, the programme's assistant producer. After the first few episodes, Juste replaced Denise Sampey; for 3½ years she sat alongside the host (initially disc jockeys Jimmy Savile, David Jacobs, Alan Freeman and Pete Murray), to place records on a turntable and apply the needle as the artist was about to perform. Simon Dee, who first introduced the show in 1966, recalled that "I got my introduction right [and] didn't get too distracted by the luscious Samantha Juste, my lovely co-host".
Some viewers found Juste's ritual incongruous since the artists were there to perform. But since they were miming, something about which the BBC made no secret, there was honesty about the procedure. Indeed, on one occasion, a record by the Swinging Blue Jeans was played at the wrong speed.
Juste appeared briefly in the 1965 Swinging London film The Knack ...and How to Get It, directed by Richard Lester, and also released a 45 single the following year. She was one of two British women signed to Strike Records (whose first single and only "hit", Neil Christian's That's Nice, was issued in February 1966) and its subsidiary Go. The other was Jacki Bond, a secretary with Strike who, like Juste, had little musical experience.
Juste performed No One Needs My Love Today, written by Phil Phillips, on Top of the Pops on 24 November 1966. This record was produced by Miki Dallon, the backing music provided by an orchestra conducted by Ken Woodman, who had worked with Chris Andrews and Sandie Shaw and is best known for Town Talk, which became the theme tune of The Jimmy Young Show when BBC Radio 1 opened in 1967. No One Needs My Love Today was not a hit, but it was featured as a climber by the offshore "pirate" station Radio London in the week beginning 20 November. One critic commented that "any vocal shortcomings on this single are outweighed by her charming delivery". Both No One Needs My Love Today and its "B" side, Pierre Tubbs' If Trees Could Talk, were available on compilation discs and to download 40 years later.
During Top of the Pops Juste met artists who contributed to the British rock boom of the mid-1960s. In January 1967 an American group called the Monkees, formed for an eponymous television series, reached the top of the British charts with I'm a Believer, by Neil Diamond. The drummer Micky Dolenz (b. 1945) recalled (in the third person) that he spotted Juste as he passed a studio cafeteria:
She is tall, blond[e], beautiful, and wearing an emerald green outfit that ends up in a short skirt (very short) which tops off her unbelievably gorgeous legs ... She holds his glance briefly then looks quickly away with that haughty sophistication that only the British can do so well.
Juste and Dolenz began a relationship, prompting such headlines as "Samantha traps Monkee" and "Pops girl goes ape". Dolenz appears not to have realised that Juste was a celebrity and the publicity took him by surprise. "Monkeemania" was such that some of the Monkees' female fans resented Juste — "she even showed up one day with ink stains on the emerald green dress" — and Dolenz claimed the couple spent a week in her London flat. For much of 1967, Juste and Dolenz spent time together in England and California. Rick Klein, a friend of Dolenz and best man at his wedding, described a vacation with him in England during which Juste acted as "permanent guide", travelling with them to Stratford-upon-Avon in a rented Triumph car. Then, a few days later, savouring "Swinging" London:
Micky and I went to the Carlton Towers to see Samantha Juste in a fashion show and she looked outasite. After the show, we took off for Carnaby Street again and we went crazy buying clothes ... Micky really dug all the clothes at Biba's and Susan Lockes and practically bought out the stores. He also bought a dress for Samantha. It was the same dress that Sam wore in the fashion show and it looked fantastic on her.
Juste wrote articles for the teenage magazine 16 about time with the Monkees. She gave up Top of the Pops and moved with Dolenz to California, where they lived in Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. In June 1967, they attended the Monterey pop festival.
Peter Tork [of the Monkees] and Micky turned up at the pop fest in Monterey, Peter acting as one of the emcees [masters of ceremony], Micky wandering around the grounds dressed as an Indian with a lovely British [woman], Samantha Juste, at his side.
Juste and Dolenz were married in July 1968. Dolenz's stepfather, Dr. Robert Scott, officiated. The couple's daughter, Ami Bluebell Dolenz, became an actress. Dolenz and Juste hosted parties attended by musicians and celebrities; Ringo Starr of the Beatles dubbed Juste "Earth Mother" for her having made him a chip butty (a french-fry sandwich) and eggs when he arrived after a "rip-roaring all-nighter". Their friend, the songwriter Harry Nilsson, invited Dolenz and Juste to travel with him to Ireland to lend credibility (in Dolenz's words, "Samantha maybe ... but me?") when he met the parents of a woman he thought he might marry. Juste's father, Leslie Slater, helped Dolenz construct a studio used for "jam" sessions by John Lennon, Brian Wilson and Alice Cooper.
The Monkees disbanded in 1971, and Dolenz's self-indulgence took its toll on his marriage. Juste and Dolenz divorced in 1975, Juste retaining custody of their daughter, although they were reconciled as friends by the early 1990s. In 2002 Juste was photographed with Dolenz at Ami's wedding in Beverly Hills to actor and martial artist Jerry Trimble and, a few months later, attended Dolenz's own wedding in Calabasas to his third wife Donna Quinter.
While in California, Juste began her own fashion business, which she moved to Acapulco, Mexico, in 1976. She taught design in Ireland, then returned to Southern California, where she and Ami began an online jewelry business, Bluebell Boutique.
Juste suffered a stroke in her sleep on 2 February 2014 and died on 5 February 2014 in Los Angeles, California.