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!