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“The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.” — Kahlil Gibran.
Archive for February 28th, 2010
The lovely and talented Nancy Jo Hooper was, in addition to being a born model and Playboy‘s Miss February 1964, several other “Misses” as well. We will get there.
I say she was a born model because she knows what she is supposed to be selling here — but, like any good model, she is “selling” it by dint of excellent effort, and not necessarily because she “feels” it.
Though she oozes that kind of satisfied, curvy, cat-like sexuality that made Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor famous, Pompeo Posar said in the Playmate Book that, when he asked Nancy to give him a pose that was “a little more sexy,” she responded immediately, “But I don’t know anything about sex!” a disarmingly nervous and virginal response from a practical woman with some chutzpah and a good gift for acting, but a more bookish actual personality.
From the heart of the old Confederacy we recently received a pair of candid snapshots and a few hopeful words, enticing enough for us to send a staffer to Savannah to meet Nancy Jo Hooper, the walnut-haired 20-year-old who was to become this February’s Playmate. Hazel-eyed Nancy Jo has lived all her life with her parents and younger sister in the same Georgia town, so small that she asked us not to name it, because if six visitors arrived at once they’d cause a traffic jam. (“Georgia Peach.” Playboy, February 1964.)
Actually, I’m pretty sure that is bullshit and she was from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The small-town thing is true, but the Georgia part is a smokescreen, just like the name she is modeling under — it’s similar enough to her real facts to have the ring of truth, but is not quite the truth itself. Understandable subterfuge in a person trying to make a national name for herself under her real name. But I’ll get to there.
Now a telephone-company employee, this Southern bell ringer previously clerked in a drugstore, there heard Playboy purchasers tell her she was Playmate material herself.
Discarding daydreams of discovery, she took the initiative by sending us snapshots of herself, because, as she explained in a caramel drawl, “It occurred to me that no one from Playboy would ever find me here on his own.” (Ibid.)
Nancy Jo’s flight to Chicago for test shots marked her first airplane trip, and her first visit to any city besides Savannah. Soft-mannered, soft-spoken and shy (“I really enjoy walking alone in the park”), well-read Nancy Jo offers the sort of attractions that could once more set armies marching through Georgia. (Ibid.)
Also they would march to a second Civil War because of Nancy’s controversial positions on state’s rights and slave ownership. (Joke. I just thought the write-up got a little overreaching there.)
AMBITIONS: To become a wife and mother.
TURN-ONS: Shoes of all kinds.
TURNOFFS: Insincerity, rudeness.
I LOVE BEING A PLAYMATE: Because I’ll look back on it as an important experience of my youth.
(Playmate data sheet)
Always a fan of a Brontë-loving girl. And Satchmo, too? Right on! And yes. She looks like Sophia Loren. Keep that in mind as I go on, here. Because it comes up again.
Okay, so in a search for Nancy Jo Hooper, I ran across a post at “If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger (There’d be a lot of dead copycats),” to which I already link in my blogroll but I’m happy to provide a specific post link here. It was a critique of the lovely lighting and photography done in her spread.
A gentleman commented to that post that he was looking for Nancy for a class reunion. He said her real name was Nancy Ann Harrison, and she was from Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Now, if you’ve been following the comments today, you’ll see I was way off base about thinking I’d turned up the modern incarnation of a former Playmate, although I am happy to report about it because I stand by being pleased to have discovered the work of the nonetheless wonderful Ms. L. F. (at whose request posts pertaining to her have been removed.) Sure, it ended up good because I got to read some new stuff and learn some new ideas, but I was understandably gun-shy about turning up a false lead again.
Being wrong is cool and it’s important because we are forced outside our comfort zones, given the opportunity to uncover something new and to show humility and the ability to learn from our mistakes, but, cheeseballs! I don’t want to always be the chump ringing in my buzzer only to stammer out the “incorrect” answer — being right sometimes is nice too.
So, I dug as hard as I could this time, much more strictly with myself than last time. And I turned up the following clipping from the Spartanburg, South Carolina Herald-Journal, an article dated July 8, 1962.
Yeah, she is the same girl, and yep, she still looks like Sophia — although the weight they give in the article is heavier than the one she listed two years later in Playboy. Either she went on a diet or the same fact-wrangler that invented her alternate name for her Playboy appearance also took liberties with her already-admirable figure.
Ms. Harrison placed as second runner-up in the Miss Dixie pageant; first place was Rita Wilson of Humbold, Tennessee (center in the above picture), and first runner-up was Susan Woodall of Weldon, North Carolina. There were twenty girls who competed altogether in the 1962 Miss Dixie pageant.
If you are like me and have been forced in your life, often against your will, to take your pageants seriously, or even if you are lucky enough to be unlike me and have never accidentally called the city of Patterson “a shithole” into an open mic during the Miss Apricot Fiesta competition, you may still be interested to read a little run-down of the Miss Dixie pageant rules.
Miss Dixie (“Queen of the South”)
This southern states regional pageant was held annually during the Fourth of July holiday in Daytona Beach (FL) since 1946. It was held by the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce. It seemed to have been discontinued in 1968.
To be eligible for the Miss Dixie contest, the girls had to have placed first or second in another major contest and be from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas or the District of Columbia.
They must be unmarried & between the ages of 17 and 26. Eligible Southern beauties had until June 18 (2 weeks prior) to file their applications. From 1957 onwards, the first 20 successful applications were accepted for the pageant. There were a Top 7, from which the Top 3 were announced.
Each contestant was judged on five qualities: intellect (5%), personality (10%), appearance in evening gown (15%), talent (30%), and appearance in swim suit (30%). The judges each picked the girls they rated from first to seventh in each classification of competition. The girl with the highest cumulative point score became Miss Dixie. (source)
Nancy qualified to enter the Miss Dixie contest by earning the title of Miss Sun Fun South Carolina, a pageant held at Myrtle Beach. She came in second in the national competition about a month before the Miss Dixie pageant, on June 9, 1962 — the winner was Ginger Poitevint of Huntsville, Alabama. Nancy made an impressive showing at the Miss Sun Fun USA contest; besides being first runner-up in the pageant as a whole, she also took top honors in the Swimsuit and Photogenic categories.
As they are rather obviously the same gal, I can only conjecture that all that pretty airy nonsense about Georgia was malarkey the same way Nancy’s name was, although it’s easy to see how they came up with it. I assume the strategy went, keep the first name, Nancy, because it is common and easy enough to keep track of, then use Jo (like Jo-Ann) instead of Ann, though as far as Harrison instead of Hooper — actually, that one I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m out of gas on thinking I knew how this went!
Dig the little trumpet hand puppet — super-cute. I would like to as a final grateful thought link once more to Pageantopolis , without which most of this post would’ve been boring and impossible, and the site is really great and tons of fun — I think I am going to have to start featuring more links to the work and online scrapbook of the very fun Donald West. Thanks!
Remember how Jayne Mansfield came up not once but twice over this month in the course of covering the Valentine Vixens, and I kept alluding to how she would appear later in her own extra-focused double-long entry later in the month? Totally keeping my promise right this second!
I have featured the lovely and talented Jayne Mansfield, actress, model and Playboy’s Miss February 1955, before as part of a “The Way They Were” feature, but here she is in her own right.
There is so very much, true and untrue, written about Ms. Mansfield’s personal history vis-a-vis her men and her mammaries that I decided to try and stick with showing some rare pictures and lesser seen facets of the other, more real side of her personality, and try and feature some clever quotes from her.
Because, as with Pammy, I am totally effing sick of the persistence of the “dumb blonde” thing, and I feel like when people write about Ms. Mansfield, it is usually in passing reference to her body or to her fame only as a symbol of sex in cinema, and almost never dwells on what was beneath the surface of the image she spun in order to be a Hollywood “success.”
The measure of a woman, get it? Funny, yes. The pose is cute but no, that’s no way to gauge us. Here is a kernel of widsom from me to you; write it down and you will land yourself some foxy dates:
“A lady is always greater than the sum of her parts, no matter the greatness of some of those parts.” — E., Right Here, Right Now.
Take it to the bank! Don’t be intimidated. Get to know a woman, ask her about herself, remember the things she says, and you will very easily win her over. Okay? So back to Ms. Mansfield. A couple pithy quotes from the buxom blonde:
“A forty-one inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee—a lot more.”
“I like being a pin-up girl. There’s nothing wrong with it. When I’m 100 I’ll still be doing pin-ups.”
That last is a tough one since she died relatively young. Also,
“If you’re going to do something wrong, do it big, because the punishment is the same either way!”,
“Sure, I know men. Men are those creatures with two legs and eight hands.”
and, more seriously, on the subject of desegregation and Civil Rights,
“God created us equal and we’re not living up to it.”
Jayne was famously married to former Mr. Universe, wrestler and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, but she was not above a pageant or ten herself. Here’s some fun stuff that I cobbled together from various sources about Jayne’s own beauty contest career.
From the wiki: “While attending the University of Texas, she won several beauty contests, with titles that included Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp and Miss Fire Prevention Week.” During this time, she was also married to her first husband, Paul Mansfield. She studied dramatic arts in Austin, then acting at UCLA when she and Paul moved out to the West Coast.
The wiki claims that the only title she ever turned down was “Miss Roquefort Cheese,” because she believed that it “just didn’t sound right.” A biography site I found included a more complete list of her awards, and here are my hand-picked-for-how-bizarre-they-are favorites of the titles Ms. Mansfield held:
Miss Tomato, Miss Negligee, Miss Nylon Sweater, Miss Freeway, Miss Electric Switch, Miss Geiger Counter (?!?!), Miss 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Miss 4th of July, and, last but most certainly not least, Hot Dog Ambassador (hell, yeah, hot dogs!).
This is my favorite picture of Jayne Mansfield — she is so enrapt in a conversation, mid-sentence and animated, that I think it must be the closest thing to what she really looked like. Because she had such a manufactured image, I find this candid touching.
Other fact you may not know about Ms. Mansfield: the famously blonde babe also made a bombshell of a brunette! Jayne got in touch with her “roots” for the film Single Room Furnished, the picture on which she was working at the time of her death. Adapted from a play by Geraldine Sanford for Jayne by her then-husband Matt Cimber (by the time principal photography in NJ was done, Cimber and she were split and Jayne was dating Sam Brody, her attorney, who died with her), the movie was very slow to be released and was tough to find for a lot of years.
The imdb summarizes it as
Three stories in one: Johnie (Jayne Mansfield) is married, but her husband deserts her when she becomes pregnant. She changes her name to Mae and takes a job as a waitress. She falls in love, but her fiancé leaves her just as they’re about to get married. So Mae changes her name to Eileen and becomes a prostitute.
I’ve heard it’s actually okay, but I haven’t seen it. Anyone?
Thinking about those final years, her slow decline and her sudden death, is a real bummer, so here’s a couple shots from a much happier time:
So, since the above pictures have raised the topic — Oh, my. The Pink Palace.
“I’ll have to have a palace, of course. I may not be a princess, but I am a movie queen, and every queen should have a palace.” — Jayne Mansfield
The house has become a part of the lore that surrounds Jayne’s “story,” with most people focusing on the heart-shaped tub, the pink walls, the fur carpets, the fountain of pink champagne, and so on, as evidence of what a Barbie Doll baked in a vanilla cupcake frosted with glitter she was alleged to be. But here is the real deal. Ms. Mansfield bought the Pink Palace in November of 1957 for a cool $76k after some very shrewd real estate backdoor bargaining. A 40-room mansion smack on Sunset Boulevard, the house was built in 1929 by highly regarded Los Angeles architecht G.C. McAllister and had previously been owned by singer Rudy Vallee. It could have gone for much, much more than what Ms. Mansfield wrangled as the end price. But it gets better.
You need to understand that Jayne was a very specific type of famous. She did not land in big moving pictures so much as her big moving boobs landed her in printed pictures. She was not rated and weighed to be serious in the manner of someone like Audrey Hepburn or even Marilyn Monroe, but you can bet your ass that “Jayne Mansfield” was absolutely a household name. That’s because she was an accessible gal who could move her some magazines. Rags like People and Star were born in this post-war Hollywood boom — men, average men, wanted to ogle star boobies, and women, average women, wanted to read about how they did their makeup, and Jayne was willing to provide both.
Jayne Mansfield created the brand of Jayne Mansfield, made herself worth knowing about before actually having a lot of star credits to her name. In this stroke of genius, in her complete creative control of a public image that made her famous mainly for being famous, she is sort of the fairy godmother of a Hilton or a Kardashian; hell, she wore a transparent wedding dress when she got hitched to Mickey Hargitay, and she was manufacturing wardrobe malfunctions and nip slips when Janet Jackson was still a twinkle in her mother’s eye. At the apex of her career, Jayne actually sold her used bath water by the bottle for $10.00 a pop. Walter Winchell said of her that she was making a career simply “of being a girl,” which the same can be said for a lot of D-listers these days. But I do feel the need to add that I believe Jayne was not as empty-headed and low-class as the current crop of celebutard and I think she had more tinfoil and hardboiled brains in her elegant hot pink pinky nail than Paris Hilton has in her whole spray-tanned size 00 body.
One really famous instance of Jayne’s cleverness with public relations was at a party thrown for Sophia Loren in 1957. Jayne stole the show by showing up braless in a very low-cut dress. Oops! Some of her decolletage spilled out, and suddenly the event swung from being about the lovely new Italian broad on the block to be focused solely on the Jayne Mansfield brand (available at a newsstand near you!). Above is a famous picture of Sophia grimly bird-dogging the shit out of Jayne, although I think she also looks faintly amused. The arch of her brows is almost a tip of the hat to Ms. Mansfield, as if to say, “Cheap. But well played.” I love it. It’s a pretty famous picture. The picture reminds me of when she went on The Tonight Show and Jack Paar, the forerunner of Johnny Carson, introduced her by saying, “Here they are: Jayne Mansfield!”
“Fucking-a!, how does this boobs-and-the-media history lesson relate to the Pink Palace?” you are asking, and I am saying, “Hall and Oates!, have some patience — it relates directly, and can you please clean up that language?” Okay, so. Parlaying this common-folks’ notoriety and fame in to lucrative wheeling-dealings, Jayne made phone calls and dangled phantom photoshoot promises to area interior decorators, asking for samples to use in her new famous residence. Tantalized by the possibility of a potential publicity relations juggernaut, decorators delivered by the truckload. Thanks to her fame and their greed, the clever Ms. Mansfield managed to decorate the entire mansion with over $150,000 worth of free stuff.
Most of it was in pink, the signature color of her public persona. However, privately she once wrote, “I’ve been identified with pink throughout my career, but I’m not as crazy about it as I’ve led people to believe. My favorite colors are actually neutrals — black and white — but then who thinks of a movie queen in black and white? Everything has to be in living color.” You see what I mean about complete awareness of the image, the public face, and her creative control over it? So much more to her than met the eye. The pink thing must not have been created completely out of whole cloth, though; Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU and Jayne’s daughter from her second marriage to body-builder Mickey Hargitay, remembered well enough her mother’s association with pink and her time with her in the Pink Palace that, in honor of her mother, she wore a pale pink wedding gown and a pink-gold heart-shaped locket when she walked down the aisle in 2004 with her husband, actor Peter Summer. (Whoa, there is dust in here again…so ridiculous, all this dust.)
This is Jayne’s actual headstone, at the Fairview Cemetery at Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, where she was interred following her death June 29, 1967 (exactly thirty-five years before the death of my cousin Thomas which changed my life forever). There is a memorial cinotaph in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, but it has the incorrect date on it. This error is not the Jayne Mansfield Fan Club’s fault; true to loveable character, Ms. Mansfield had given out for many years the incorrect year of her birth in order to appear younger.
Besides her work on the screen and in print, a lasting legacy of Jayne’s tragic death in an automobile-tractor-trailer crash is the so-called Mansfield bar, a safety feature now standard on all tractor trailers.
The NHTSA began requiring an underride guard, a strong bar made of steel tubing, to be installed on all tractor-trailers. This bar is also known as a Mansfield bar, and on occasions as a DOT bar. (the wiki)
Over the course of her career, the lovely and talented (and, I hope I have convinced you, underratedly clever) Jayne Mansfield appeared in Playboy magazine over 30 times. You may visit Jayne’s star on the Walk of Fame at 6328 Hollywood Boulevard. As her gravestone says, “We live to love you more each day.” R.I.P., Ms. Mansfield.