Jackie Stallone, mother of Sylvester and sparky Celebrity Big Brother contestant – obituary

Jackie Stallone and her son Sylvester Stallone  - Ron Galella/Getty Images
Jackie Stallone and her son Sylvester Stallone - Ron Galella/Getty Images

Jackie Stallone, who has died aged 98, was an astrologer and fitness guru, and the mother of Sylvester; she was best-known in Britain for one of the great coups de théâtre of reality television during its heyday in the early years of the century.

For many years she was famous for nothing so much as her bitter relationship with her former daughter-in-law, the Danish film star Brigitte Nielsen. When Sylvester Stallone married Brigitte in 1985, Jackie – who once claimed to be the Princess of Wales’s favourite astrologer – had divined that the auspices were not good, and Brigitte blamed her for precipitating a rapid marital breakdown.

In Celebrity Big Brother with the racing pundit John McCririck, 2005 - Shutterstock
In Celebrity Big Brother with the racing pundit John McCririck, 2005 - Shutterstock


In 2005 Brigitte Nielsen appeared in the third series of Celebrity Big Brother. On her fifth day in the house she and her fellow contestants, including Professor Germaine Greer and John McCririck, were enjoined to dress up in “medieval” costume to herald the arrival of a new “Queen Mother”.

The new housemate proved to be Jackie Stallone, to Brigitte Nielsen’s evident distress. Mrs Stallone’s typically slurred declaration of her presence – “Yeah, I’m Drackie” – was soon constantly replayed on radio and television, and latterly became a popular internet meme.

Entering the Big Brother house at Elstree Studios as the Secret Guest  - J Quinton/WireImage
Entering the Big Brother house at Elstree Studios as the Secret Guest - J Quinton/WireImage

She quickly established a diva-ish presence. “Mrs Stallone … has a magnificent mane of bright orange hair, roughly the same colour as her lips and her eyes,” noted Craig Brown in The Daily Telegraph. “Is it a wig? It is hard to tell as she lolls about, her head generally lower than her knees, drawling her demands for a harpist and a nice glass of char-dar-naaaaaaaay to accompany her dinner.”

Jackie Stallone – whose record as the programme’s oldest contestant was never surpassed – was voted out by the public after four days. But although the closeting of two people with such a toxic history was denounced as a new low for reality TV, in the event Jackie and Brigitte bonded, with Brigitte subsequently accepting an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.

Jacqueline Frances Labofish was born in Washington on November 29 1921. Her father was from a family of Jewish immigrants from Odessa; he had met her mother, a Frenchwoman, while serving with the US Navy. Both parents were lawyers. Jackie Stallone claimed on her website that Charles Atlas had lived with them and “trained the family in gymnastics, weightlifting and jogging”.

At 15 she “ran away from home to join the circus” and became a “star aerialist”. In 1945 she married Frank Stallone, a hairdresser, and they had two sons, Sylvester and Frank Jr. She stood over the young Sylvester with a stick to force him to learn the piano, and paid him for every five minutes he spent reading a book.

In GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in 1988 - Laura Luongo/Liaison
In GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in 1988 - Laura Luongo/Liaison

Having divorced in 1957, she sat her final high school exams at 40 and went on to secure a Chemistry degree. She subsequently had her own daily exercise programme on television, founded a women-only gym, and in the 1980s “managed” a women’s wrestling team in the confected TV series GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

Later on she set up as a successful psychic and astrologer – inventing “rumpology”, an alternative to palmistry involving the fundament. She was an indefatigable giver of advice and told the newly single Duchess of York, on meeting her in Qatar, to marry a rich sheikh: “There are all these men dressed alike, all very rich and with no underwear. Perfect for a single girl.”

Jackie Stallone in 1981 - Sipa/Shutterstock
Jackie Stallone in 1981 - Sipa/Shutterstock

Jackie Stallone was a manifest devotee of plastic surgery, and had no compunction over shaving many years off her age, even when to do so suggested that she had given birth to Sylvester while barely pubescent. She continued to work out vigorously into old age, and a video of her pumping iron at 92 went viral.

Her second marriage, to Anthony Filiti, was also dissolved; they had a daughter, the actress Toni D’Alto, who died of cancer in 2012. She is survived by her third husband, Stephen Levine, and her two sons.

Jackie Stallone, born November 29 1921, died September 21 2020