Girls of Summer: Jonnie Nicely, Miss August 1956


Photographed by Hal Adams.

Total sassafrass: brace yourselves for the sap flood.

Playboy readers are a strongly partisan bunch, quick to tell us when they like something — or when they don’t. Last October, we were faced with the delightful dilemma of choosing between two potential Playmates, each lovely in her own way.

(“Command Performance: A near miss makes a curvy comeback.” Playboy, August 1956.)


We hemmed, hawed, made our choice; and in addition to the Playmate proper, we printed photos of the girl who didn’t quite make it. The result was a deluge of letters telling us we were blind as the well-known bat and should have picked the other girl.

(Ibid.)

I think even in 1956 if a man said simperingly to a fellow bachelor, “Blind as the well-known bat,” with his pinky up all hmmhmmHMM, he would’ve got his ass kicked. Unless it was Noel Coward. That dude was hard core.


The other girl’s name was, and is, Jonnie Nicely. She’s Miss August, and we’re glad. It grieved us to turn her down before.

(Ibid.)

Nice fawning write-up, but the wiki suggests the murky October shenanigans went down differently:

Nicely was originally supposed to be a Playmate for the October 1955 issue, but scheduling and creative conflicts temporarily pushed her aside in favor of Jean Moorhead.

Creative conflict? What an interesting and euphemistic phrase. I wonder what the real story is.

This picture was not included in the original spread but comes rather from The First Fifteen Years. Seeing as it is so close in composition to the picture which was ultimately selected as the centerfold, my guess is that it was down to those two poses and perhaps a few others as to which would be run as the main gatefold shot. I also conjecture that this one didn’t make the cut because she is not quite looking in to the camera.

Ms. Nicely hails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the US Marshals have their National Museum. Fort Smith’s nickname is “Hell on the Border.” The town motto is: “Life’s worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” which I understand is to encourage residency and visitation, but all I can think when I read it is, “… unlike in Detroit.”

This picture was not included in either of her Playboy appearances. It must have come from a shoot for a different periodical. I threw it up anyway because I dig the “Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” vibe that’s happening here. If you know the photograph’s provenance, please feel free to lay it on me.

This is so Psycho. Yes? The italian boy hairstyling, the thick brows and light-bullet bra, the pencil skirt and mirrored moment of intimacy. Very Janet Leigh as dictated by Hitchcock. But the picture predates the film by four years, so I’m not suggesting it was deliberate. Just echo-y.

These pictures are markedly different and grainier than all the others, so they may be the early October shots in question. Alternately, they may be poses for a different magazine, and the photos which are mentioned in Ms. Nicely’s write-up are the ones where she has very short hair and is goofing around in her bedroom with “go, team” type get-ups.

I do lean toward that explanation because it would mean that the shots where Ms. Nicely has longer hair and is in and around the house are more thematically unified instead of the kind of jumble it all looks like now.


This is my favorite shot and I wish I could see it in color.

The first group of pictures had an angle of youth and “oopsie, you caught me dressing,” and these latter group are suggestive of a more mature, consenting, young wifey type leading you around her house after she picks up the milk.

Does this make sense?

She apparently did other modeling work for a bit in the late 50’s, but she jumped ship to pursue work of a totally different nature. Ms. Nicely spent a long and trailblazing career as a mechanic for Rockwell International at their B-1 bomber plant.

The various Rockwell companies list a large number of firsts in their histories, including the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-25 Mitchell bomber, and the Korean War-era F-86 Sabre, as well as the Apollo spacecraft, the B-1 Lancer bomber, the Space Shuttle, and most of the Navstar Global Positioning System satellites. Rocketdyne, which had been spun off by North American in 1955, was re-merged into Rockwell in 1984, and by that time produced most of the rocket engines used in the United States.

(the wiki.)

I said goddamn, Jonnie Nicely! Way to do it.

Above is a recent picture of Jonnie promoting her Playboy issue and doing signings for fans. Below is a picture from one of my favorite ladies, Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), a vintage model who is super-active in the convention circuit and maintains a lovely website.


l to r: Ms. Nicely, Rick Linnehan (astronaut), Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), very special Valentine Vixen Kona Carmack (Miss February 1996), Cynthia Meyers (Miss December 1986), and Peggy McIntaggart (Miss January 1990) at the Los Angeles Glamourcon, November 2008.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world, ladies!

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12 Responses to “Girls of Summer: Jonnie Nicely, Miss August 1956”

  1. IzaakMak Says:

    In August of 1956, I was less than one year old. Thanks for a fascinating look back at that time, and the insights into how the world has changed since.

  2. Jimmy Johnson Says:

    Really strange, I was born August 20, 1956 and often wondered who was the playmate that month. Also, I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Ms. Jonnie Nicely’s hometown. I currently work at Georgia Pacific in Fort Smith with this girl, my best friend, whose name is Jonnie!

  3. Carol Lynn Says:

    What happened to Jonnie? Is she still with us.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Yes she lives in Lancaster, CA

  5. John Says:

    My great aunt, Jonnie Nicely, passed away last night, at around 9pm from complications resulting from lung cancer. I found this blog googling her name. Thought interested parties would like to know. She was a sweet lady and a remarkable person who, obviously, lived a remarkable life. She will be missed by all who knew her.

    • E. Says:

      Thank you for the update, John. Condolences to you and your family. I do not have to tell you what an extraordinary person your great aunt was, but I want to say so anyway. May she rest in peace.

  6. mickey Says:

    I check here every so often to see if E. has posted anything, even a response to someone’s comment, just to see if maybe she’ll start her netzine up again. Seems like she’s careful to properly credit and address any possible legal issues, even if she doesn’t have time to write. She also seems to send along a kind word to those who have sad news. Seeing as that she is a fan of Playboy and gets it out there that there’s more going on than a pretty face I am sure she would send on her regards to you. Anyway, not trying to do that for her or anything, just saying. Well, my regards to you and your family, and may the lovely and interesting Jonnie Nicely be at peace. I can’t seem to help it, but I wanted to comment that some of these images make me think of the contemporary actress Kirsten Dunst. I’m sorry, that’s maybe not any sort of thing to bring up right now, but… Anyone else? Anyway, may others also mark this lady’s passing and reflect on her long, adventurous and intriguing life.

  7. mickey Says:

    E!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cool, glad to know you’re still around. Whenever you dash off some more brilliance I’ll be sure to check back. Somewhere above Gotham– E. is hard at work– prowling the interwebs… If I had any skill I’d make you an E. bat-inspired logo and put that thing in the air!

  8. Dale Ealey Says:

    I’m a Playmate fan and consider them icons. Ms E I want to thank you for your blog. I always find something of interest here. Please keep doing what you’re doing!

  9. Selena Says:

    Hey jonnie , I just learned about you… And how you are ( my aunt) I want to be just like you!!

  10. Rakel Says:

    This is my Great Aunt ! She was so proud of her modeling career and of her duty on the bombers. I loved listening to her stories and how animated she was when she spoke with her hands and even when just a mere 75 lbs in the last days of her life she would take a stance and pose fluffing thin locks and smiling. Going to miss her.

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