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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, 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.
Oh, my stars and garters, yes. I hate the telephone. I had to spend all kinds of time on the phone yesterday wading through officious folklore and bureaucratic shenanigans, and, as a consequence, I’ve kept my phone off almost this whole day. I only turned it on when Miss D, knowing me too well, alerted me to the fact that she’d be calling in the late morning and I ought to turn my cell on at least until I heard from her. I did, and, once she called, I silenced it again.
I warned her that I think I am slowly transitioning toward abandoning phones as a method of communication altogether. It started with my hatred of texting and has steadily devolved since, to the point that I scowl any time I see someone with so much as a bluetooth earpiece strolling around. Ass, I think to myself, and actively begin to draw wide Borg comparisons. Go ahead, everyone else on Earth it seems, and do join the collective hive-mind of buzz and nothing-talk, but resistance is not so futile in my book. People will claim to hate their cell phones and act like it’s such a hassle to be tethered to everyone they know at all times, shrugging and alluding to the convenience of being able to instantly hear from colleagues or family, but the truth is mainly that you have just allowed the phone to become necessary, and to paraphrase Ms. Steinem, it is no more needed than a shrimp’s hipster fixie bicycle, even if he does have the coolest nalgene bottle evah, with a special attachment for him to hook it on the bike so he can take drinks at intersections and look like hot shit. (You know how shellfish care about appearances. Pfft. Sooo shallow. You’d never catch a catfish pulling that manner of chicanery.)
Look, I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell was a nice guy with nothing but good intentions who could not possibly have foreseen the midnight calls of drunk out-of-touch friends or robo-dialing mortgage adjusters who interrupt dinner, but when I run across him in Heaven, he’s getting a punch in the gut just the same.
Bonus Patricia Highsmith sketch because I can and she was the source of the quote that started this chain of luddite fit-pitchery. I do not have a Graham Greene sketch or I’d post one of him as well — The Destructors is a favorite short story from Way Back.
Very, very special Valentine Vixen. The lovely and talented, and in my book unendingly wonderful with so much more to her than the surface by which she is constantly judged, Pamela Anderson was Miss February 1990. Pammy was only 23 years old, she had just moved to Los Angeles after living most of her life in tiny Comox, B.C, Canada, and her interview will just about break your heart.
She was discovered by accident while being her gorgeous and naturally attention-grabbing self at a simple sporting event.
Pamela took in a B.C. Lions football game in Vancouver and made a national spectacle of herself. Duded up in blue, the signature color of Labatt’s Beer, she caught the eye of a national-TV cameraman. Football fans all over Canada called the network to inquire about the sideline stunner at the Lions game. Next thing she knew, Pamela was a Labatt’s poster girl. (“B.C. Beauty.” Playboy, February 1990.)
To keep her wits about her, she kept a journal in which she recorded her experiences. “This is the beginning of a new life for me,” she wrote. She worked as a model and studied airline routes in her spare time. She got her certification as a travel agent, just in case her plans for an even bigger move didn’t work out. (Ibid.)
She kept up the journaling and also expanded to other writing, too. She used to be a regular contributor to Jane magazine back when I subscribed because I was, like, sooooo counterculture and didn’t need any typical beauty magazines (Jane is now owned by Glamour so in my face) to tell my oh-so-over-it ass how to catch boys and flutter my eyelashes, thank you very much, and Pam’s editorials cracked me up. She can be wickedly sarcastic, and turned most of her wit on herself, totally willing to mock the image but then turn around and reveal this sweet and sensitive side, too. Very cool.
Damn. “I’m a dreamer, too, so I guess I belong here.” Think about all the total shit she has been through, the complete Hollywood wringer that has spun her around and wrung her out again and again since she said that in 1990.
Dating abusive and disease-ridden scummy cads, overindulging in the sea of substances that surrounded her rock and roll lifestyle, getting out and keeping her kids clean, being lambasted left and right for her body, judged solely on her looks; having her every move under scrutiny and criticized constantly as if she is some empty-headed set of shellacked boobs and nothing more, when really she is this sensitive and hilarious writer with a huge soft spot for animals and abused children, it’s like — the crux of injustice. Man. Excuse me, I … I have some dust in my eye.
Pamela Anderson has been for many years a highly visible spokesperson for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Yes, I know PETA is not perfect. No, I don’t need to hear about it, because, like I just said, I know. Many nonprofits run in to choppy waters when they are closely investigated and PETA, because its beneficiaries cannot speak for themselves, comes under close scrutiny and is found lacking very often in public forums. Got it. But can we at least agree that it is really cool that Pam Anderson took on the mantle of ambassador to animals years ago and has stuck with it through thick and thin, both in her career and her cup size? I think that is admirable and demonstrative of her sensitivity and persistence.
Bardot and Pammy. Many similarities. Strong, opinionated blonde sex symbols under whose famously nice racks beat determined hearts of gold.
Since two legendary blonde bombshells and all ’round inconic sex goddesses are better than one, Brigitte Bardot and Pamela Anderson have now united to call for an immediate end to the Canadian seal hunt. (“Pamela Anderson and Brigitte Bardot Unite: ‘Love Seals, Don’t Club Them!'” 13 Feb 2008. PETA2 Daily Blog.)
This afternoon while visiting the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in Paris, Pamela filled in for Mme Bardot (who is ill and can’t travel at the moment) and held a press conference publicly condeming the seal hunt and everyone who wears or designs fur. (Ibid.)
The seal hunt, which runs from November through May, really is fucking gross and awful. If you live in one of the five remaining geographical areas that still have it, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but holy hell, write a letter or something, would you? That shit is purely against God’s will, I’m almost positive. It’s got me all kinds of cussing in disgust over here.
The final quote from the interview with Playboy is really heartbreaking.
That is just exactly the way of it, you guys. So maybe the next time you are in a group of people and someone makes an allusion to Pamela analogizing her to trash or implying she is some blonde bimbo, perhaps you will remember that she is a sweet, poetic soul from a small town who has never meant anyone harm a day in her life, and you can step up like a gentleman hero and tell that hater to shut their ignorant piehole.
Besides being possessed of arrestingly modern looks (it is truly startling how easily this photoshoot could have been done in the cheap-and-chic, Ikea-styled apartment of some sweet young hipster last weekend), Kim Farber is also unique in the pantheon of vintage playmates because she worked nights as a “Theater Bunny” at the Chicago Playboy Theater before being selected as Playboy‘s Miss February 1967. To my mind, that gives her a very special position in the empire’s history.
Playboy opened the sadly short-lived Playboy Theaters — notable for screening not exclusively the racier content you might expect, but also rare classics, indie flicks, and films that had been met with censorship in their attempts at playing nice with other distribution channels — in only a scant, lucky few cities.
So far I have only chased down for sure the origins and present doings of the sites in Chicago (more on that in a sec) and New York, where the theater was in Manhattan on W. 57th street.
I had a false lead in Corpus Christi, TX, but I went ahead and called and, believe it or not, one of the town’s own officially sanctioned websites has mislabeled the Harbor Playhouse Theater as the Harbor Playboy Theater: the venue is not now and has never been a Playboy Enterprises property. Simple typo which the city of Corpus Christi has yet to notice or rectify, but it gave the guy I asked about it earlier this afternoon a good laugh.
I ironed out the discrepancy (a google search turned up the town’s link to the theater under the name “Playboy” but yellow pages and all other sources called it “Playhouse;” I couldn’t let mysterious sleeping dogs lie!) by straight-up calling the theater and asking them myself. As I said, the guy I spoke to laughed heartily and said no way. I didn’t bother explaining that there were, at one time, Playboy Theaters, as the difference between cinema and stage work sometimes makes people whose life passion is working for actual factual live theaters a little uppity and superior about plays vs. movies, plus, why interrupt the flow of happy karma? I laughed too and thanked him for his time.
That’s not the only telephone digging I’ve done this week, actually. Several days ago, I also called San Diego Rattan to ask if there was any chance they were ever known as “House of Rattan,” the shop run by the mother of Miss February 1969, Lorrie Menconi (answer: again, no). The very confused woman on the other end of the telephone assured me the store had only been called “San Diego Rattan” throughout its history.
I then asked in as friendly and “sane” a way as possible if she had any idea what had ever happened to the House of Rattan (she did not, as she moved to San Diego from Redondo Beach in 1999 and had never heard of House of Rattan).
I said my Girl Scout leader grew up in Redondo Beach, and her daughter (my dear Sarah-fina) was born in Torrance; plus, a sorority sister from college was from nearby Rancho P.V., so we talked briefly about Redondo, the merits of Rancho Palos Verdes vs. Palos Verdes Heights — or “PVH,” as the cognoscenti call it — and how Girl Scouts used to have so many more badges for water sports. (Not the sex-and-urine, super-kinky kind, but rather the kayak-and-diving, woman-against-the-sea kind). She was mainly very confused and almost concerned, it seemed at the start of the conversation, about my rattan line of questioning, so I felt like I needed to regain emotional lost ground with friendly, “aren’t-I-so-normal,” bantery small talk.
She was not annoyed — she was very friendly and even apologetic for having no answers to my left-field queries — but I am pretty sure she thought I had some extra-special Things Going On upstairs. I did not drop the magazine’s name at any point in the discussion, keeping the conversation on a strictly wicker-outdoor-furniture, geographical-social-casting, and oh-these-Girl-Scout-times-they-are-a-changin’ basis, so maybe rabid rattan fans are a Thing and she was initially afraid she had one of them on the phone. I’ll never know!
Though many people have made remarks along similar lines, my guess is that the uncredited author of Ms. Farber’s write-up is probably referring to the Reverend Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832).
Rev. Colton more specifically said, “It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance, rather than of contemplation, and of accident, rather than of design.” (Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to Those Who Think. Colton, Rev. C.C. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. (p. 39). via that there ol’ google books. take it for a public domain spin!)
Proof of this maxim is our valentine Playmate, Kim Farber, who was steadfastly taking tickets at Chicago’s Playboy Theater when she was pointed toward a gatefold appearance by a Playboy staffer who had gone to the theater and discovered that its prime attraction was not on the screen. Kim gratefully consented to pose for Playmate test shot. “Of course, I’d always wanted to be a Playmate, but once I got settled in my Theater Bunny routine, I never thought I’d get closer.” (Ibid.)
When she finally returns Stateside, Miss February hopes to pick up the thread of an apprenticeship in fashion coordination and design (“If I had my way, I’d drape the whole world in bright orange”), which she interrupted to become a Playboy Theater Bunny. “Before I commit myself to a career,” the dark-haired beauty explains, “I want to get some traveling out of my system.” (Ibid.)
I’ve got sadly no idea where the sweet and doe-eyed young gamine’s travels took her, in the end — Ms. Farber has either changed her name or vanished off the face of the earth, because if you have learned nothing else from my ramblings I hope you at least agree that I’m pretty all right with that there ol’ research — but I can happily tell you both the backstory of its inception and the denouement of what eventually happened to the Chicago Playboy Theatre. It’s an involved but very interesting story. Go potty now and smoke if you got ’em, cause here we go!
The Playboy Theater in Chicago was located at 1204 N. Dearborn Street. It began its life as the Dearborn Theatre in 1913. It was remodeled two decades later in 1934 by William and Percival Pereira. William, who ascribed the sterile and stark look of his architecture to his interest in science fiction, would go on to design the distinctive pyramid-shaped Transamerica Building in San Francisco, one of the most recognizable — and, next to the Lucy Coit tower, my personal favorite — features of The City’s skyscape.
The theater was sold, expanded, and given a much-needed facelift, when it re-opened as the Surf Theater in the 1940s. The new cinema boasted a seating capacity of 650. It remained the Surf Theater until September of 1964.
The Chicago Playboy Theater opened its doors at the end of September, 1964. Chicago was the home of Hef’s fledgling empire, and, in its heyday, was bustling with bunnies. There were Playboy clubs, hotels, restaurants, and the Theater, all along the famous Loop.
Besides being known for the unusual films it screened, the Playboy Theater was one of the hosting venues in the early years of the Chicago International Film Festival.
The theater changed hands in 1976, a year after Hugh himself blew irretrievably once and for all out of the Windy City in the wake of the dissolution of his long relationship with Barbi Benton. It was renamed the Chelex, and famed Chicago Sun critic Gene Siskel once wrote a scathing review of a film he saw screened there, concluding that the venue itself was so distracting that it made the film even worse; he said he sat near the back and had to keep his coat, hat, and even his gloves on during the movie because it was so goddamned cold.
The theater then changed hands again in 1979, and was renamed the Sandburg Theater, after Chicago native son and poet Carl Sandburg (“came in like the tide on little cat feet,” you know, that guy?). A well-regarded arthouse cinema-spot, as you might guess from the lofty name, the Sandburg mainly screened repertory and indie films.
My partner Albert Berger and I re-opened the Sandburg Theatre as a repertory house showing double features of classic films on May 22, 1979. Our opening week was a festival of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Although home video was starting to appear back then, most of these films could not be seen at that time except on television. We leased the theatre from famous Chicago real estate mogul Arthur Rubloff, who had developed much of the Magnificent Mile among other properties. (Bill Horberg. March 8, 2008. Internet post retrieved February 25, 2010.)
The theatre was shuttered when we took it over and in very poor shape. It still had the bunny logo design carpeting from the days when it operated as The Playboy, and a marquee with disco style lighting. (Ibid.)
When the tenure of the ambitious and admirable Misters Horberg and Berger came to a close in 1982, the theater was sold, condemned, and demolished. A Walgreens (another longtime and homegrown Chicago tradition) now stands on the spot.
It was the 1,000th Walgreens to be opened and there was quite the to-do of it at a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony held at 9:00 a.m. on September 6, 1984, presided over by James Thompson, the governor of Illinois at the time. Interestingly, the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony was Cary Grant, whose own movies had often been screened in the Old Dearborn and Surf Theatre days of the 1930’s-40’s.
Grant graciously agreed to be present and speak because he was a family friend of the Walgreens (the article where I read this factoid lists his connection as being to “Betty,” but I think they meant Mary Ann, as no Betty as ever been an heiress or married to an heir of the Walgreens chain). Like Mr. Grant, Mary Ann Walgreen (née Leslie) has since passed away. She was very active in Chicago-area charities well before the time of highly visible CEOs and public relations folderol, which means she had no obligation to be so involved, and did it out of the goodness of her own heart. R.I.P. to them both.
Final fun fact: Before it closed its doors in 1976, the Chicago Playboy theater’s final booking was a double feature of Mel Brooks’ The Producers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?”) Sounds to me like an excellent way to close the place down — if they were licensed for beer, to boot, then I need to get on time traveling, stat. That’s all for tonight, and I sure hope you’ve enjoyed this lengthy foray into the Playboy past.
Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, 1992).
Anna: How about a nice collagen buff?
Madeline: “A collagen buff”? You might as well ask me to wash with soap and water!
Anna: I could do your make-up myself…
Madeline: Make-up is pointless. It does nothing anymore! Are you even listening to me? Do you even care? You stand there with your 22-year-old skin and your tits like … like ROCKS and laugh at me…
This is a noteworthy film for me because, besides being hilarious and featuring fun performances by some of my favorite actors, it’s the first movie in which I ever saw Isabella Rossellini.
When I found out that on top of being crazy-beautiful, she is Ingrid Bergman’s daughter (she and her twin resulted from a marriage whose scandalous origins nearly got the great Bergman blackballed), I was totally blown away.
However, today’s brief research turned up a surprising fact about what was, for me, one of the more memorable scenes in the movie, when Isabella in the role of Lisle von Rhuman, the sorceress who provides eternal youth to the materialistic L.A. clientele shown in the film, emerges naked from a pool in a rear view.
Come to find out all these years later, it was not Isabella. A body double was used in the scene. It was a chick named Catherine Bell. Even today, at 57, the lovely and talented Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini still makes annual lists of “Most beautiful women,” so I can only guess that either (a) Ms. Rossellini’s modesty forbade her to bare all and she requested the body double because she had enough clout between her talent and her lineage to demand that kind of thing, or, (b) her actual ass was so mind-meltingly terrific that the studio felt it would be irresponsible to expose it to the viewing public, fearing it might spark riots, mind control, and catatonia. Almost definitely (b), wouldn’t you say?
edit: So, despite having had a huge lady-crush on Isabella Rossellini since I was 13, I somehow missed the fact that she had scoliosis as a kid and underwent painful bone grafts, braces, stretching, and spinal surgery to correct it which left her with a network of scars. Thus, no back-side-nudity for Isa, now or ever. Still predict her ass was mind-meltingly terrific, tho.
Photographed by Richard Fegley.
Kona was born and raised in Honolulu but has been living in North Carolina for the past year while she attends college. … By the time she turned 16, she had followed her younger brother, La’au, into the surf and soon was challenging ten-foot waves (well, one anyway – and that was enough). “I was always the only girl out there surfing, besides my friend Kili,” she says.
(“Aloha, Kona.” Rowe, Chip. Playboy, February 1996.)
Ms. Carmack used the same trick in college that I did: sitting up front so you can’t fool around. If I wasn’t in the very front row, I started feeling like I could tune out or even skip class, so when I got serious about school, I was front and center in every course. If I hadn’t done that, lord knows how long it would’ve taken me to finish college!
Regardless of the subject, Kona sits in the front row so she doesn’t miss anything. “It’s kind of nerdy, but it works,” says Miss February, a marketing major with a 3.4 GPA. “I also raise my hand a lot. If I don’t understand something, I’m not just going to sit there.”(Ibid.)
One of the most liberating moments of her first year came during English 101, when she wrote a term paper blasting antiporn crusader Catharine MacKinnon. “She argues that Playboy is pornography,” says Kona. “I don’t happen to agree.” She got an A.
Kona excels in the classroom, but she’s no egghead. (Ibid.)
Nick and Victor are great names, but Fletcher and Tristan, erm, not to step on any toes but … not so much.
My daughter’s father’s sister named one of her two sons Tristan. He is an adorable and bright little boy but, out of all the boy names in the world, I’m not sure it’s the first one with which I would’ve gone. I think my husband once told me his mom wanted to name him Tristan but my father-in-law put his foot down. Isn’t that how the story went, husbandoh? Pretty sure it was “Tristan” or “Dorian” or some shit, you know, something real get-your-ass-kicked-in-school faggoty.
I like how I make guilty amends for possibly insulting dudes named Fletch and Tristan, but cheerily slander homosexuals. I guess it’s because I know that I’m not a bigot. But all apologies just the same to anyone with no sense of humor and anyone who has somehow missed the fact that I rather obviously trend toward batting both left and right and therefore ought be excused from call-outs for gay slurs with the same impunity that permits black people to call each other you-know-what. (Boy, that didn’t even come out very sincere, did it? Jonohs once told me I apologize too much, but it seems when the chips are down and I have to mean it, I’m not much good at mea culpas. Sorry again.)
In a business in which it’s easy to put on an act, Carmack doesn’t have one, leaving her vulnerable and exposed, especially to the question that has to be asked: “So, what about the Playboy thing?”
“Oh you!” she squeals, “The very first question!”
Carmack has no regrets about posing for the magazine’s February 1996 centerfold.
“It got me into the entertainment world and taught me so many lessons. I learned how to survive, how to be tough, how to be professional. I would not be the person I am today without having had that opportunity.”
This picture came from a different Playboy photoshoot and was shot by Chris Peter Paul. Kona was Miss March 1998 in Playboy Germany and 1997’s Playmate of the Year in Japan, so I’m guessing it’s from one of those, or possibly the Year In Review. I included it here because it is cute.
Yet she wishes people would get over it.
“When people meet me, they always say, ‘You’re so nice. You’re not at all like what I imagined.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, thank you!,’ ” she says, with a huge, grateful grin and her arm extended in a pretend handshake.
(“Kona Gold.” Kam, Nadine. December 19, 2000. Honolulu Star-Bulletin.)
In 2001 Carmack moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California for cinematography. She graduated in December 2003 with cum laude honors, completing the five-year program in half the time. (“Old Friends — Kona Carmack.” Moniz, Melissa. August 2, 2006. MidWeek Oahu.)
One of those “little films” was a popular and successful documentary about the life of Duke Kahanamoku, aka “The Big Kahuna.”
Born in Waikiki in 1890, Kahanamoku pretty much singlehandedly turned surfing into an international sport, bringing his “papa nui” longboard, built in the style of old school Hawaiian olo boards, to the mainland and to Australia for swimming and surfing exhibitions. He was also a several-times-over Olympic gold medalist in swimming and in water polo.
In Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city’s harbor. Twenty-nine fishermen went into the water and seventeen perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued. Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport’s police chief at the time called Duke’s efforts “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.” (the wiki.)
Pretty awesome, eh? Super-interesting man and great life story.
Upon graduating from film school, Carmack started work as a production assistant on the HBO series Deadwood. The next year, Carmack was promoted to executive assistant producer to Greg Fienberg. (“Old Friends.”)
After Deadwood, Kona went on to work as assistant to producer Randy Zisk on one of my favorite television shows of all time, Monk. Super-cool!
Although her home and career for the moment are in Los Angeles, her heart still belongs to Hawaii.
“I miss my family so much, that’s No. 1,” says Carmack. “I also miss surfing – I surf every day when I’m home. And of course I miss the food. I love it at home, I miss everything about it.” (Ibid.)
Carmack definitely plans to move back to Hawaii eventually, mostly to be closer to her mom and family.
“My mom is my best friend, and I’m really proud of her with what she’s been doing all these years for Easter Seals,” says Carmack. “It’s really her passion to help children with disabilities. She’s just wonderful, and she’s my inspiration.” (Ibid.)
The Easter Seals are a nonprofit that provide aid and services to children and adults with autism, special needs, and other disabilities.
The organization that would become Easter Seals was founded by Edgar Allen, an Ohio-businessman who lost his son in a streetcar crash. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. That hospital continues to operate today as Elyria Memorial Hospital. After the hospital was built, Allen learned that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired by this discovery, in 1919 he founded what would become the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind. (the wiki.)
Click here to visit their website. My goddaughter’s brother is autistic and though Panda and the Mister are some of the most loving and supportive people you will ever meet, not everyone is as lucky as Nathaniel. So please consider making a donation? — Hey, this could be your big shot at impressing Ms. Carmack!
Dig Leslie Nielsen on the cover. Goddamn, he’s one suave fucker. (Left-field Blue Velvet reference to wind things down. You’re welcome.)
Adam West is such a glorious ham.
Batman, Superman, and … the Marquis de Sade?! Oh, Life. You saucy minxes!
In the 1960s, both high theory and popular culture used the Marquis de Sade to link concerns about violence and social repression with an investment in sexual repression in the psychoanalytic sense. While Sade’s writings suggest the incompatibility of complete sexual freedom with political emancipation, this apparent contradiction was meant to vanish within a framework of general liberation. …
[However,] the elision of the distinction between intimacy and sexual pleasure allowed — and continues to enable — the notion that sexual acts translate into liberationist politics rather than creating potentially insoluble social conflicts.
(Steintrager, James. “Liberating Sade.” The Yale Journal of Criticism 18.2 (2005): 351-379.)
In her Playmate interview, the lovely and talented Nancy Harwood, Miss February 1968, states views on the diametrically opposite end of the spectrum from yesterday’s first Valentine Vixen L.F. (Miss February 1970, all posts with references to whom have been removed from this site at the request of a different LF), but they ended up in virtually identical fields, showing once again that it is possible and even perhaps God’s intention in creating a species of such diverse intellects to achieve goals of peace and harmony no matter if there are little areas of difference between people. We can walk parallel paths and reach the same destination, and not imagine ours to be the only way home. Does this make sense?
Photographed by Bill Figge and Ed De Long.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian mystic who has introduced the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Mia Farrow Sinatra, among others, to the joys of contemplation, can also count Nancy Harwood among his followers. When Miss February faces the “altar” in her bachelorette pad in Burbank — it’s adorned with artificial flowers of psychedelic intensity from Mexico — she forgets not only the cares of a part-time college student but also the care-nots of a 19-year-old coming of age in Southern California. (“The Girl From Inner Space,” Playboy, February 1968.)
“It’s like getting high without drugs,” explains the pharmacist’s daughter — who got the message when she and many others, including pop idol Donovan, meditated with Maharishi recently at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium: “You could actually feel your neighbors going up, up and away!” (Ibid.)
Like so many of her tuned-in generation, Nancy grooves to the varied sounds of today’s many-splendored pop musical world — Hugh Masekela, Wes Montgomery, the Beatles, the Stones and Ravi Shankar. She also enjoys fraternizing with a variety of people at school, at the beach (“I used to go in for a lot of surfing, but paddling out got to be a drag”) or on Sunset Strip. (Ibid.)
I have a lot of friends with long hair, though I wouldn’t necessarily call them hippies.” However, Nancy informed us that abrasive contact with the “real” world is taking its toll on the flower children: “The Strip now has a lot in common with skid row — everybody’s just milling around and most of them are up tight. Last spring, people were turned on to one another; now, everybody’s on his own trip.” (Ibid.)
In my opinion, Nancy accurately pegs here the increasingly dissident years in the aftermath of the Summer of Love, which was 1967. You will hear the same complaint from other people — it was like that time was a golden hour that was never successfully recaptured, perhaps inevitably leading to the narcissistic solo drug benders of the seventies and subsequent desperately empty materialism and casual sex of the 1980’s. I honestly think we almost brought it back around in the 1990’s as far as caring about one another and giving a shit about the environment once more, but we lost it again somehow … I apologize to my daughter’s generation in advance for whatever comes next.
Another very unusual shot. They followed Nancy around to school and some peace rallies protesting the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. It’s not an experiment they tried much with the playmates, showing the reality of their lives, but it pays off with an idealistic gal like Nancy because that is part of her dimply but flinty-blue-eyed charm — the tinfoil beneath the icing of what you think is a cupcake but is actually a very determined young woman.
The more conventional side of Nancy’s education includes psychology and business courses at Los Angeles City College, a school she likes because of the diverse origins and upbringings of its students. Her ambitions are to model — Vogue’s Veruschka is her ideal — and to dance, preferably in films. (Ibid.)
According to her biography on her official site, Nancy put her classes to good use, and then some.
Nancy has been involved in human potential work for more than 15 years and is available for a personal coach. She is sought after as a coach because of her own experience and professoinal success. In her coaching, she integrates her extensive knowledge of body mechanics, diet, vitamins, and goal setting.
Due to her combination of brains, beauty, and free-love-based idealism and spirituality, Nancy was a tremendously popular Playmate during this time, especially with soldiers serving overseas during the Vietnam War.
Her feature was so popular that she received nine duffel bags of mail from American troops fighting in Vietnam in the following months. (official bio.)
She has remained a serious physical fitness buff, and has the same body weight and figure today that she had 25 years ago. (Ibid.)
The proof is in the pudding: check out the shots below!
DIG THE FABULOSITY!! l to r: Wonderful Helena Antonaccio (Miss June 1969), nothing-less-than-legendary star of the burlesque stage Tempest Storm, and beautiful flower child Nancy at Los Angeles Glamourcon in November of 2003.
Special thanks forever and always to the graceful, fun, funny, and all-around cramazing Helena Antonaccio for the above and below smashing shots of playmates and stage stars of yore in current action.
You must rush, rush, rush to Helena’s website and flock to her booth at any convention you attend. I can always count on the one-of-a-kind Miz A to Bring It when it comes to wonderful pictures. Bella, if you did not exist, I would have to invent you. *Muah!* ♥ (I get mooshy.)
Final present shot of Nancy:
Picture of Nancy at Glamroucon 15 by wonderful and hilarious J Greely, photographer of beautiful women and more recently zoo animals, who says, “I have nothing against naked women but I do object to clothed animals, so it evens out.” Check him out.
As a final awesome note, per her official site,
Ms. Harwood is currently President of the “original” Centerfold Alumni Association, which is composed of past Playmates and Centerfolds of the Month. These models are featured Playmates, whose dates of appearance range from August 1956 through June 1997.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Ms. Harwood!
The lovely and talented Cherie Witter was a seasoned model by the time she posed for Playboy as Miss February 1985, and I’m happy to report she was born in the same neck of the deep dark crick gypsy needleleaf rainforest as myself!
Photographed by Richard Fegley and Arny Freytag.
Modeling takes, as Cherie would say, “a major amount” of dedication. Especially in an area that’s somewhat off the beaten track for the fashion industry. The towns where Cherie grew up — Marysville, Everett, Edmonds, Bellevue — appear only on fairly detailed maps of the hilly farm and forest land, lakes and seashores surrounding Seattle. (“Cherie On Top,” Playboy, February 1985.)
Although it’s a picturesque area, it hasn’t been a center of fashion since the boom days of the Klondike gold rush. Of course, few people today wear miners’ boots. And with the gold all but played out, people in Seattle have been forced to build ships and planes, catch fish and harvest timber. (Ibid.)
Erm, that’s a fairly inaccurate depiction of the history of the Pacific Northwest (did they seriously leave out Lewis and Clark? and how on earth was any part of the Klondike Gold Rush to do with fashion? it was dudes in flannel and gumboots, my friend, and whores in eight layers of clothes against the cold — read Call of the Wild, dumbasses), but I’ll take it.
The rest of my family being born where our deep roots lay, in Northeastern Washington and the very far north woods of Idaho, makes me very smug and proprietary about the Puget Sound — I believe only my cousin Richie shares the coast of Washington as our birthplace, among the, like seventy of us cousins and our kids. Rich was born in Marysville and I was born in Bremerton.
I found a very dicey and suspicious fan tribute page to Ms. Witter on the myspace which looked too scammy for me to link to, but I found her legit facebook and will share only that she now lives in a really gorgeous town further up the Puget Sound called Mukilteo. I’ve been through it only once in my grown-up memory, but it’s beautiful country — a lot of the landscape cinematography and ferry scene stuff for the American film version of The Ring (Gore Verbinski, 2003) was shot around the area.
Knowing the proximity of Mukilteo to Bremerton, up in that there ol’ Sound, I decided to test Google’s ability to use the ferry system in its directions. The Sound consists of dozens and dozens of peninsulas and islands connected by a spotty system of bridges which span the “narrows” —our colloquial term for straits of water slim enough across so you can see one another’s buildings but deep and riptidey enough that if you drove you’d sink and if you swum you’d drown— but it’s often quicker to shoot around on the reasonably efficient ferry transit system.
Also, you can see orca whales. I’m not kidding. It’s amazing. They come right around either side of the boat in good-sized pods and circle and flip and do all kinds of shit. They are kind of show-offs. They scared the heck out of me when I was a kid because of their teeth, though.
So I typed in a query for directions from Mukilteo to Bremerton in Google and … FAIL. Google maps and driving directions, on the first shot out of the gate, told me to drive a crazy-stupid-lengthy route around I-5S to 16-W, the lonnnng way, from Mukilteo to Bremerton. This is extra stupid, because anyone who lives in the area will tell you Mukilteo is a pretty popular transport hub for the ferries.
But I will give the site credit for eventually recommending the way I would’ve instinctively gone, which is to drive down to Lynnwood and Edmonds, take the Kingston-Edmonds ferry, get to the Kitsap Peninsula, then drive 104 to 3 into Bremerton. Duh. (Sarcasm.) Look, I don’t get to be “smarter” than google very often, so give me my moment! Speaking of smart, Ms. Witter had this to say about people’s perceptions of her intelligence based on her looks, an important lesson in not judging, no matter whether the subject of your judgment is, in your estimation “a dork,” or a beautiful idiot:
Oh my saltines, so dang adorable.
“I feel as if, at times in my life, I’ve been fighting what I have on the outside. I feel that, when people meet me, I don’t really have a chance to let them know what I’m about, or to prove that I’m worth knowning. And I don’t like having to prove that to people.
“But a lot of people who meet me are surprised. And they tell me they’re surprised; that’s what’s funny about it — they’re honest. They say, ‘I’m surprised, really surprised that you have not only your looks but you have something upstairs too.’ I like that.” (Ibid.)
In one of those great little coincidences that somehow abound in the small world of Playboy (the more you investigate the playmates, the more fun connections pop up), here’s a brief cross-pollenation note about the cover of Ms. Witter’s centerfold issue:
The brain-asplodin’ly cute model posing in the chaps and spurs is the lovely and talented Julie Michelle McCullough, who appeared in the “Girls of Texas” spread in this issue of Playboy and returned a year later to headline her own spread as Miss February 1986. And guess who was on her cover that February issue one year later?
Cherie Witter! I guess they have each other “covered”? Cherry pop tarts, I sure hope for all our sakes that’s the worst pun I make today. But no promises. Anyway, how about that? Pretty great. Stand-up comic and good-time gal Julie is one of my all time faves, so here’s another link to the feisty “funny bunny,” who, just like Ms. Witter and so many of the great playmates I’ve gotten to highlight this month, is walking and talking proof that beauty and brains aren’t mutually exclusive.
Happy birthday to a very special Valentine Vixen, the lovely and talented Lorrie Menconi, Miss February 1969!
Tomorrow is brain-asplodin’ly cute Ms. Menconi’s 62nd birthday. Felicitazioni, bella!
The write-up which accompanied Ms. Menconi’s centerfold, titled “Tuesday’s Child,” focused on her birthday and the implications of her Pisces nativity. You know how I feel about zodiac-quackery (unless what I’m reading is painful, scathing, and insulting, I am highly skeptical), but how can I resist an Italian sister in pigtails? Flap-flap, quack-quack — let’s discuss the zodiac.
Astrologically speaking, Lorrie Menconi has her pretty head in the stars. “I was born on Tuesday,” our valentine Playmate told us, “February 24th 1948. That makes me a Pisces, so I think it’s perfect to appear in the February issue — it just has to be good luck. I guess you could call me a zodiac nut. But so many Piscean characteristics are true of me that it’s hard not to believe in it!” (“Tuesday’s Child,” Playboy, February 1969.)
Exhibiting a prime Piscean trait — talkativeness — Lorrie goes on: “Pisces is a water sign, which may explain why I’m so crazy about living in California. We moved to San Diego when I was very young, so I don’t know what it’s like to live away from the water.”(Ibid.)
Damned skippy, they are.
When Lorrie isn’t involved in the aquatic life, she indulges another Piscean fancy — a love of animals. Lorrie attributes some of her fondness for fauna to her mother, who wrote a children’s book called The Pony Who Lost Her Neigh. (Ibid.)
The Pony Who Lost Her Neigh must be out of print now, because all the traces that remain on a fairly deep search are Lee Menconi-Bandh’s copyright claims, first from 1965, renewed in 1993. Bummer. I’ll keep looking.
“All the animals in the story,” Lorrie explains, “were based on our family: my father, my three sisters and me. There was billy goat Harry, pony Susie, porky Marilyn and duck Rosane. I was a turkey — you know, ‘gobble, gobble’ — because I talk so much; there’s that Pisces again.”
Ms. Menconi, I can imagine many, many things. That you “sell anything you can imagine” made of rattan is a dangerous thing to say to a person who opens my eyes in the shower because I’m positive that, in the time it took me to suds up my hair, a shark has swum up the drain and is a centimeter from sinking his rows of razor sharp teeth into my foot (yes, I grasp physics and biology and am aware on an intellectual level of the impossibility of such a thing; no, that doesn’t stop me from opening my eyes and getting soap in them).
Rattan flyswatters, minivans, and light bulbs; rattan bikini bottoms; rattan file cabinets; rattan noodle soup; rattan statues of Ra, the Sun God; rattan Audubon guides to bird-watching and rattan flatware to compliment an ornate set of rattan china — all of these, you sold at your mother’s shop, Ms. Menconi? No? Then I cry fie and false advertising! “House of Rattan,” indeed. More like “Shack” or “Porta-Potty of Rattan.” Even “Junk Drawer of Unimaginative Rattan,” maybe. Pfft.
I kid. She was totally cute and is still completely beautiful; further, her family sounds very supportive. Ms. Menconi travels on the convention circuit, and also maintains an official website, where you can purchase autographed copies of prints from her justifiably popular Playboy spread.
Besides her looks, her adorable enthusiasm for her hometown of San Diego has also clearly held.
“You know, San Diego is called the place where California began, because the Spanish padres founded their first mission here in 1769. So this year, we’re celebrating our 200th birthday. I’m really proud of this city — it’s sunny and warm and beautiful.” (Ibid.)
Her official site is sponsored by the San Diego Beachlife Press.
Again, supersonic birthday wishes and eskimo kisses to the lovely and talented Ms. Menconi, and many, many happy returns!
I can only bear to do this once every few months, but here is the fabulous Ms. Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.
Don’t get me wrong, she is a wonderful person, but when it comes to the character I am simply all about my Jul-Newms. The only reason I was able to do this today is that I already posted up Julie earlier (below, as a blonde, in a smashing corset along with a bat and a scarecrow in pinstripes — really, an out-of-sight picture on virtually every conceivable front) when I was nattering on about baseball and twenty-two.
Had a great weekend up in the great white woods with the fabulous friendohs, other than the kidlet being wretchedly sick; if she dies of double-pneumonia-screaming-meemies-and-bad-hair (very common and tragic disease) it is sure to be my fault for falling prey to her “I’ll be fine, Mommy, please please please let me go to the snow!” baloney sauce and not just keeping her home like I ought to have. The only component missing that would’ve made the weekend even more perfect were Paolo and Miss D, who’d sadly decided, with greater wisdom than the kidlet and me, to stay home so Paolo did not compound his cold. We are hoping to do a follow-up trip in the Spring and I can’t wait for them to come along and appear in my annoyingly copious pictures (my friends are kindly tolerant of my photographic shenanigans, but I’m very lucky they’ve never seized the camera and thrown it off a cliff).
Did You Know? This beautiful child is actually a festering harbinger of plague and germs that can singlehandedly fell a houseful of hale and hearty adults in Just Two Days. “Think I’m cute, do you? Enjoy the bronchitis, suckaaaas!”
Poor Corinnette, who rode with me and Gorgeous George and the kidlet, was probably sick to death by Sunday night of Elvis, which we bumped in the car nearly the whole weekend, partly because we’re both huge fans and partly because Gorgeous George was the driver which left me as the passenger with way too much time to look over cliffs and dread death at the hands of unknown reckless drivers (I trust Geo implicitly: it is those loose cannon other sons-of-bitches that I fear will careen around a corner and cost me my child’s life), so we played tunes that I could stare out the window and sing “Little Sister” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” along to, giving me something familiar to focus on rather than hairpin turns and speeding Subarus.
At one point along Highway 140, when we were on a straightaway and I was feeling less Nervous Nellie —had my eyes open and everything! just like a big girl!— I remarked to Geo, “Elvis Presley really was a great performer. It’s too bad he wasn’t more popular,” which we thought was hysterical.
Gorgeous George’s wonderful parents were as wonderful as they always are, and Saturday night, after playing word games and bullshitting over beers and barbeque for a few hours, Pam-tastic and Senior (Geo’s folks) screened this nothing-less-than-cool-as-shit movie for us about the early career of Shirley Muldowney that seriously revved me up.
Still from Heart Like A Wheel (Jonathan Kaplan, 1983), starring Bonnie Bedelia and Beau Bridges as Shirley Muldowney and Connie Kalitta. Anthony Edwards (pictured) plays her grown son, who is on her pit crew. It’s a really great, great movie. I sat next to Pam-tastic, who had posters of Shirley all over the den we were watching the movie in, and she filled me in on extra details while we watched. Amazing experience. They’re so great.
Shirley Muldowney was the first NHRA female champion drag racer; her struggle was totally engrossing, and a story I’d never even heard of, which I love finding out about all new shit when it comes to deeply detailed sports, and for it to be a lady driving fast on top of it just sealed the deal. I am going to try to find more screencaps and factoids to share more about her in the coming days. Pam and George even know her. They are rad. Kick ass, I’m serious. Best in the West!
Lo-Bo and the Gentleman when we’d finally stopped trekking past protected meadows (normally I’m all in favor of those but cheese-and-rice, I had a sick kid and it was really coming down; it was a great relief to stop walking). They are watching Corinnette gather the materials needed to demolish the Great Dane’s mini-snowman. All respect due to Niels and his snowman, I need to say that for being built by an engineer, that thing sure went down like a bitch.
As a follow-up to my last entry before leaving town, on the bookfoolery front: I took neither Vonnegut short stories in the wake of Jonohs’s novel-loans nor Panda’s much-maligned copy of Oates’ Zombie up with me to read while on our weekend Yosemite retreat. (Although I did let kidlet bring her comic book, and I did not at any point attempt to swipe it: I can be taught!)
I realized the only logical choice to take for a trip to the snowy woods with friends was a book about a trip to the snowy woods with friends: Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King. It was perfect to sink in to bed at night and re-live the highs and lows of that admirable group of old friends after spending the day having so much fun with my own.
I really dearly love every one of the four lead characters in Dreamcatcher and will happily tell you all about why I think they are some of the best and most shining examples of King’s already-wonderful pantheon of character creations if we are ever stuck on a tarmac at the end of a runway while they repeatedly de-ice our plane; lord, how a real estate secretary from Miami wishes this were just a random example of a situation and not pulled directly from my real life.
Jonesy and the Beav (Damian Lewis and Jason Lee) attempt to hail a helicopter in Dreamcatcher (Lawrence Kasdan, 2003). This movie is jam-crack-packed with hot men bein’ hot. And nice and brave and heroic. Great book, great flick.
Anyway, snow and friends in the novel. Snow and friends in my life. Synchronicity. Except we did not encounter aliens. That I remember. Moving along, the free time I have today while watching my little sicklet means I have almost no choice but to pass the time between making her food and giving her cold medicine by finally crack-a-lacking on posting up the undone Valentine Vixens. Come sail with me. HMS Sexytimes, ahoy!
“O, frabjous day! Calloo, callay!” (Carroll, Jabberwocky.)
Computer is fixed!, day off with the littl’un!, Spring Training has begun! and it’s my favorite day of the year — 2/22! Historically, this is my lucky day. I’ve always liked this date best out of the rest of the calendar. Twenty-two is my lucky number from very, very far back, followed closely by two itself (twenty-two trumps just-two because what’s better than one two? two twos. three twos, as in two-hundred-twenty-two, are okay but still inferior because they are three and not two in number. do not attempt to unravel this logic) and this was also the birthday of my first friend, Alex; feeding ducks with her by the little pond at Noble Library in San Jose is one of my first memories of laughing just from being happy. I wish it stopped there with the whyness of twenty-two-ness, but I get kind of …. into numbers.
See also: my lucky time (10:22 PM, or 22:22); the pages of Treasure Island and Wuthering Heights on which I hide money (222 and 22, respectively); the exact uniform number of Robinson Cano and less auspiciously Roger Clemens.
Ask me someday about my theory that he is two people, one the familiar Texan do-gooder and all-around nice fellow Roger Clemens we came to love, and the other an evil, lying, cauldron of seething rage named Rogero Clemenzetti. A wicked and long-dormant personality who will stop at nothing to satisfy his creepy id-like aims, Clemenzetti emerged after a rat bit Clemens in an otherwise empty subway car between Long Island and New York, and he has never been successfully suppressed ever since — it is a very sad case of Jekyll-and-Hyde and I’m surprised no one else has caught it.
Picture from Star Trek Movie Night at the Giants’ AT&T park via Trek Movie.com, taken 4/27/09. I did not attend, as I was at the zoo with my kidlet for her 5th birthday — but we went to the movie later that week and we both cried at the beginning; we are diehard fans of Treks TOSand TNG (not so much the soapier others), but we looooved the reboot and did not find it sacrilegious at all (hot boys don’t hurt neither, and it’s about time we got some girl fan service up in this piece!).
In other thrilling baseball connections, 22 is half of the jersey number of Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson (4’s and 44 are goodish numbers because of their relationship with 2, being both the square of it and divisible by it, but 8, despite being not just a multiple but its cube is not as good, I feel less comfortable around 8 because it’s just getting too far from 2); 20 (an also-very-very good number because 2 + 0 = 2) less than the number of one of the sport’s greatest heroes, Jackie Robinson (being 42 which is a super-very good number because of DA); and, best of all, it is 20 + 2, 20 being Jorge Posada’s jersey number, though he wore 22 for a few weeks in 1997, before the re-acquisition of Mike Stanley (meh), when Posada switched to 20 so Stanley could once more wear 22 (again, MEH).
As you can see, 22 is the best number there is, 20 and 2 being close seconds, and therefore 2/22 is the best day of the year. Period. Also: baseball.
Sorry for the long and pointless diversion but if nothing else, I hope this has proven to you the depths of my numerical mania, and the next time I scoff at the zodiac, feel free to remind me that I have insanely detailed schools of superstition of my own and would do well not to throw stones.
via Michael Leget on the photobucket.
If you think all that was bad, you should talk to my husband, who is medicated for obsessive compulsive disorder, some time about the Importance of Doing Things By Three. He will make a believer of you or die trying. It’s a passion that probably frightened away other, wiser girls, but actually endeared him to me.
So because, as I mentioned, I’ve been sick, that means I have been sleeping a lot during the day and furthermore taking weird cold medicines, and consequently have had some strange, sleepless nights this week. Jonohs is moving away soon, a fact which I’m frankly pretty distressed about, but its up side is that it forced me to finish up under the gun all the books I’d borrowed from him over the months of our friendship. I’d managed to return some here and there but I still owed back two Vonnegut novels. After finishing up the book I was already in the middle of (First Among Sequels, by Jasper Fforde), I read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater somewhere in the wee small hours of this morning, and, staring at the clock and feeling feverish but wired once I’d finished, I decided to crack in to Mother Night.
The crew is headed to Yosemite this weekend and I thought it’d be nice to already be mid-book when I settle my brains for tonight’s winter’s nap. I don’t dislike starting a new book under any circumstances, but I do prefer to begin a serious literary undertaking from the comfort of my own bed as I find familiar and unobtrusive conditions to be the most ideal for minimal distractions and maximal speed of absorption.
But, typically, I fell down in to the guts of it and forgot I had only meant to get a good bit in and then stop. Kurt Vonnegut has done that to me many a time — I’m really glad Jonohs got me on his novels but I do miss my phase of reading his short stories because time was so much better measurable — although once I did nearly forget to get off my bus when I was reading “Harrison Bergeron” for the first time.
Long story short (short story long?), I wound down Mother Night just before sunrise, closed it, dropped it on the floor (sorry for admitting to sort of abusing your book, Jonohs; the floor is carpeted), and lay on my back drumming on my own abdomen for around fifteen minutes weighing my options. I was feeling logey-headed-toward-tired, and I noticed when I blinked I was weirdly sandy in the eyes, but it was too near waking-up time to take anything to help me sleep.
I thought, why not start Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates, which Panda had loaned me about six months ago after her pronouncements of its disgusting loathsomeness piqued my interest (I love a freakshow but I hate violence against kids —I once unceremoniously threw a book away* when it opened with the brutal and needless murder of a child— so we’ll see how far I get in it; I am not predicting too far). However, I remembered it was in the garage, and that seemed like a long way to walk, plus I’m not sure it’s a good thing to be mid-read in for tonight when I’ll be wanting something light and put-down-able with the friendohs, so instead I snuck over to my kidlet’s side of the room and swiped her Super Friends comic.
Bad decision. She woke up to find me reading it and became indignant at what she saw as trespass on her side of the room. She sat on her bed with her hands on her hips (we sleep in twin beds separated by a night stand like a couple in a 50s sitcom or as if we are Jan and Marcia Brady — three guesses which of is which in that metahpor) and began chastising me for not asking before I borrowed her comic book. Something about how self-righteous her posture was coupled with the fact that she was clearly parroting some now-forgotten lecture which I must have given her in the past about “being respectful of others’ property” made me spontaneously throw a balled-up kleenex at her face, so we had a little pillowfight and then shuffled off to the kitchen to scare up breakfast.
I know, right? Stellar parent, amazing intellectual, and super-put-together adult, thoughtful and never-perverse journalist — people often ask me, how do I do it? To them I say, “I drink?”
*I do not remember the title but the book was by Iris Johansen, who I roundly encourage you to boycott. Not only because her fucking piece of shit novel opened with the murder of a child (sorry for the king-size cusses but she really pissed me off), but also because she was on thin ice with me already due to her overuse of synonyms for said — such a hack hallmark — especially “grimaced,” in my prior experiences with her “work.” People grimaced at each other left and right in the few books I read by her. “He grimaced.” “She grimaced.” UGH. First of all, using anything other than “cried,” “asked,” “replied,” or, on very isolated occasions and with great restraint, “sighed,” as a signifier for said is cheap amateur hour bullshit. It breaks up the narrative flow and smacks of junior high purple prose. Second, people do not go around grimacing their words. So it was not only redundant and unimaginative, but also basically not even picturable. And topping that previous bad impression by graphically killing a kid in her this-is-your-last-chance-with-me-bitch novel? Fuck her. I threw it away and I’d do it again; I’m sorry if that horrifies you, but I didn’t want anyone else to read it either. Some shit is trash.
Playboy’s centerfold spread in their February, 1959 issue was an interesting shoot for the still somewhat fledgling magazine. In it, you can see that Playboy had by now moved away from prepaid-for-nudie-calendar shots and into its own photography, but was still finding its footing in terms of genuine artistic merit in the still-developing genre of the erotic nude, juxtaposed with the larger and more commercial task of bringing in strong circulation numbers.
Playboy and Hef had begun to establish themselves as hallmarks of legit gentleman’s refinement, but the magazine’s output was continually looking to find its sea legs insomuchas sex could meet sophistication at the corner. This shoot, featuring the lovely and talented Eleanor Bradley, is a really interesting one in terms of composition. This for me is especially true of some of the more unsual framing — sometimes it’s cropped very close-in and tight, like the above shot, making Ms. Bradley seem larger or more looming in the viewer’s eye than she is (the upward-facing angle of the camera contributes to the forced perspective in the centerfold shot as well).
But in other instances, the framing is positioned with so much room around her, such a vast empty lookspace or headroom between her and the composition’s outer edges that you get the sense you yourself have just left the picture, stepped back to take the shot, or maybe that you are trying to memorize the total scene for maximum later recall. Do you see what I mean, contrasting the centerfold shot with the ones just above and below, and does that make sense?
Varied framing is the cut of my jib here, people. Is it translating? Are you on the trolley? Because I feel like all that may have got away from me. I’ve been sick. I really like subbing but I think the teacher I was in for on several contiguous days last week must have left her desk-things littered with germs because I’ve been in dire, Ny-Quil soaked straits for several nights now.
Anyway. As I scrolled through some of the truly well-done shots in the pictorial, I found myself paying close attention to eye-popping bursts of primary color and interesting compositions and it seemed to me like what Mr. Vogel accomplished here was an early, though somewhat curtailed (perhaps by budget??) attempt at a spread with an actual factual unified artistic theme. Yay!
The interior shots are even okay. But I must say. Though I am a huge fan of the black velvet capris and who can argue with toplessness?, I’ve always found the iconic shots of Frank Sinatra in the composition here kind of … inexplicable. No real good reason for their inclusion in the spread is to be found in the copy accompanying her pictorial nor in the very shady and shallow delving in to Ellie’s own history that the article skitters about performing before grinding to an abrupt halt.
Moreover, unlike Sinatra, she was from a small town outside Chicago, at the time Hef’s home and the magazine’s HQ — quite the enemy “second city” still at this time to NYC, Frank’s preferred stomping-grounds, and a far cry from his native Jersey, so we may also strike those connections from the list of raisons d’etres vis-a-vis this shoot and its stylings. Further, though never out-of-style in this Italian girl’s opinion, even I must admit that Ol’ Blue Eyes did not make a movie that year nor re-release any particular hits. Strange choice of prop.
In fact, during this time, Sinatra was mostly known for increasing embitterment over his flagging record sales and for criticizing rock music as widely and often as possible. He is quoted in the late 50’s as saying, “[Rock ‘n roll is] sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. It manages to be the martial music of every side-burned delinquent on the face of the earth.”
That’s right, you side-burned, delinquent whippersnappers. Why, when Frank was starting out as a musician, he walked uphill both ways in the snow barefoot to his heroin dealer’s house after his recording sessions, and he liked it. Fight-fixing was a dime, whores were a nickel, and gin was free if you kept your mouth shut about which gangsters were illegally hiding money in offshore accounts in Cuba. Those were the times! These corrupt, lazy beatniks and mods wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes on the mean streets of Capitol Records or the MGM Grand in Vegas. Un-American crop of Commies, is what they are. Damned hippies are all soft — soft , I tell you!
(In case your sarcasm-early-warning systems are offline for routine maintenance today, what I am driving at here is that the Rat Pack were a madly loveable but fairly goddamned degenerate bunch of pots, to be popping off and calling kettles black. Look to the plank in thine own eye, hepcats.)
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Playboy sez:
A chance encounter made this small-town girl our February Playmate.
A lovely-visaged Valentine to brighten the short, drear days of the year’s shortest month, Eleanor Bradley became our February Playmate almost by accident — or was it fate? A small-town girl from the Midwest, she’d looked forward with excitement to her first West Coast vacation, to the wonderful time she’d have in sun and surf.
And fun she had; but what Eleanor didn’t anticipate — and what proved to be the high point of her vacation — was that our photographer would discover her strolling the glistening strand, and that this would lead to her becoming our valentine Playmate. We believe our readers will share our feeling — after gazing on her tawny beauty — that fate was kind indeed to bring us this sweet siren by the sea.(“Vacation Valentine,” Playboy, February 1959.
That is the entirety of their write-up on her. So while pictorial spreads were getting loads better, the Playmate interviews were still pretty much in their infancy.
Bradley was discovered by Playboy while she was in Los Angeles to visit her sister. After the pictorial, she remained active with Playboy for several years, usually with promotional trips and the like; she also was a regular on the syndicated TV show Playboy’s Penthouse and “Playboy After Dark.” She also posed for other men’s magazines in the early 1960s, along with her career as a mainstream model, mostly in the Midwest. She again posed topless for Playboy for the magazine’s 1979 feature “Playmates Forever!” (source)
Do not click the link to that source if you don’t have a pop-up blocker and/or you are at work. Then again, I guess if you’re here and haven’t already closed this browser window, you probably are not at work. Sometimes I forget my own journal is pretty NSFW, too.
Here are some more details on the Waukegan, Illinois native direct from the source herself, in an article she wrote for the Lake County News-Sun, published in 2009.
I worked my way through high school at the Jewel Food Store, the first one in Waukegan, on Washington Street across the street from Waukegan Township High School. We lived in a rented room ($10 a week) in the back of Carmella Corso’s beauty shop on Butrick Street. Wow, that name just popped right back into my mind.
“Eleanor Bradley visited many Marine training bases around the United States as Miss Marine Air Reserve.” (Courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times and Lake County News-Sun).
The Globe Store reminds me of when, I think in 1956, several classmates and I modeled bathing suits in their window and shocked passers-by; we pretended to be mannequins, then just slightly moved — what fun. Also did their fashion shows and some print ads.
My most influential teacher was Miss Schwinger; she encouraged me to stay in school and graduate.
I graduated in ’57 and went to work as secretary to Fred Lawson, head of public relations for Abbott Labs.
I became Playboy‘s February 1959 centerfold, went to work for Hugh Hefner at headquarters in Chicago, and traveled 100,000 miles around the country doing appearances at colleges. I did all the original “Playboy After Dark” television shows. As Miss Marine Air Reserve, I visited many Marine training bases around the United States.
After Playboy, I got married, had four children, started high fashion modeling with A+ modeling agency, became a top 10 model for 13 years.
I was on the 25th class reunion committee. The meetings were always at Bertram’s Bowl on Washington Street.
(“Modeling bathing suits: Modeling career began in storefront window.” Giannetti, Eleanor Bradley. April 27, 2009. Lake County News-Sun.)
As Ms. Bradley has very nicely summarized her achievements in her own lovely words, which is normally exposition I would cover, I will instead concern myself between the remainder of the pictures from this spread with relating a few facts about Waukegan’s surprisingly numerous sci-fi connections. (E’s journal: come for the porn, stay for the geek-talk!)
My all-time favorite science fiction author and king among personal patron saints, Ray Bradbury, was born in to a long-established Waukegan family in 1920. (His great-grandfather was elected mayor in 1882, to give you an idea of his roots there.) Bradbury grew up in the town and has used it as the inspiration for his fictional Green Town, where he’s set stories and novellas such as Farewell Summer, Something Wicked This Way Comes (my very-favoritest among very-favoritests, which I re-read at least once a year), and Dandelion Wine.
Another sci-fi writer concerned with Mars hails from Ms. Bradley’s hometown as well. Though he lives in Davis, California now, Kim Stanley Robinson, Chomskyite author of the Mars trilogy and self-described green socialist, was born in Waukegan. Mr. Robinson wrote his doctoral thesis on Philip K. Dick and he’s married to an environmental chemist, just to ratchet up his sci-fi magnificence even higher. Like Ray Bradbury and some of Vonnegut’s work, Mr. Robinson’s writing is regarded as an intersection of science fiction with genre-transcending social themes and polish: literary science fiction.
The character of Jason Blaze in Ghost Rider hails from Waukegan, as does non-fictional comedic genius Neil Flynn. You know Flynn as Janitor on Scrubs, but, if his most recent sitcom role in a pretty nerdy and delightful series is not geeky or esoteric enough to fit this theme for you, he also played a cop on an episode of Sliders in 1991. Before I wind down the sci-fi angle altogether, I need to ask:
Am I the only person who’s been stumbling over the clunky and rather laughable, upwardly mobile phrase “speculative fiction” lately in its apparent attempts to supplant “science fiction” and “sci-fi” as the new hep nomenclature for all things dorky? Because I am NOT drinking the kool-aid on that one. I don’t care if it dates me in a decade at a convention or something. I will be That Guy. I don’t care. I’ll call it sci-fi ’til you pry the toy phaser out of my cold, dead, Wolverine-barbecue-mitt-covered hand.
As a final and more sobering but still sci-fi-related thought, Waukegan is home to a whopping three Superfund hazardous waste sites. To give you an idea of the slightly unnerving disproportion of that figure, the National Priorities List identifies only about 1200 in the entire country. Sadly, the hazardous waste has not imbued anyone with superpowers — quite the opposite, in fact, and it’s a major health concern. For more info on all that crazy eons-of-environmental-shenanigans and horrors of irresponsible corporate greed, pick up the book Lake Effect by Nancy Nichols, a 2008 true account of the effects of PCBs on Waukegan residents, including the death of Ms. Nichols’ sister. Troublesome and very next level.
So many Valentine Vixens to post up in all their fun and special glory, so little time left in February all of a sudden! Yikes. As with the NSFW November project, I am once more faced with the question of whether I’ve bit off more than I can chew. It’s a challenge, but that’s all right: I was so selective with this month’s lonelyhearts ladies, handpicking only my tippy-toppy-bestest, most favoritest centerfolds, that there is literally not a single one that I am not totally psyched to share more about with you. So let’s do this!
The lovely and talented Laura Misch Owens was Playboy’s Miss February 1975. Those aren’t just pretty code words for taking it off on this one, dudes. Besides being beautiful, as evinced by these photographs, Ms. Owens is also a brilliant, witty, published author who happens to be forthright, charming, and absolutely-fall-down-freaking-hysterically funny. I’m going to let her talent speak for itself as I juxtapose the Playboy purple prose that accompanied her pictorial spread for them with her own take on the events, excerpted from an article she contributed to Salon.com about her time as a New Orleans bunny, written in 2005.
The headline and summary for Salon run, “When I was a Playboy Bunny in New Orleans: ‘I married a cop of easy virtue, posed nude in Hef’s magazine, drank all night at Lucky Pierre’s, and appeared in the worst movie ever made. It was Big and it was Easy, and now it’s gone.'” (“When I Was a Playboy Bunny,” Misch, Laura. 10 Sept 2005. Salon.com.)
Playboy sez: “Delta Lady: Meet Laura Misch, a New Orleans lovely who’s taken the Crescent City to her heart. Lucky New Orleans!” (“Delta Lady.” February, 1975. Playboy.)
Fresh out of high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 18-year-old ex-cheerleader Laura Misch was confronted with that same question that has plagued most new high school graduates: What now? … She pictured herself with rabbit ears and a Bunny tail. She had an idea! “I dashed off a letter, enclosed a Polaroid of myself and sent it to the New Orleans Bunny Mother, since she was the closest to Tulsa,” Laura recalls. “The next thing I knew, I was in New Orleans with a new job.”
I stepped off the Braniff flight from Tulsa, Okla., at Moisant Field on Jan. 12, 1973, with $34 in my pocket and the promise of a job as a Bunny at the New Orleans Playboy Club. I was 19, with big, proud titties suitable for framing, and wearing enough Maybelline to sink a barge in the Industrial Canal. I didn’t know it yet, but I would spend the next seven years in the City That Care Forgot. By the time I escaped its humid clutches, the Big Easy would fill me up and wring me dry.
On the subject of a career in moving pictures, Playboy quotes Laura and adds their own advertiser/biz-skewed copy to her youthful sentiments, saying,
“I adore everything about New Orleans. I’ll never leave.” This creates a conflict in her life, for she also wants to be a movie star (“Who doesn’t?”) and most stars have to emigrate to Hollywood sooner or later.
No longer a Bunny since the temporary closing of the New Orleans Club some months ago, Laura has just finished an on-location shooting as an extra in Dino De Laurentiis’ new film, Mandingo, starring James Mason and Susan George. In the movie, which is about life on a slave-breeding plantation in the pre-Civil War South, Laura plays one of the girls in a Mississippi delta whorehouse. This is how she describes her big scene: “A door opens and through the doorway you see me standing there, clutching my underwear. Then I blow a sensuous kiss to a satisfied customer.” Since it was her first scene in a movie, and she appeared seminude, to boot, Laura admits to having had a certain initial apprehension. “I thought it would be awful with all those people watching me,” she says. “But they were good about it and kept their eyes on my face.” If you say so, Laura. (Playboy, February 1975.)
Oh, Laura. You had me at “Hello!”
This picture of Laura as a young bunny in N’Awlins is not from the Playboy pictorial spread. It accompanied her delightfully fun article for Salon.com.
For her part, the real, unvarnished, marvelously disingenous Laura says today,
I’m sure you’ve seen me in Mardi Gras Massacre, having my innards cut out by a guy wearing an Aztec mask. One Web site lists this gem as one of the worst movies ever, ever made. I’m proud. And remember “French Quarter,” with Bruce Davison and Virginia Mayo? You don’t?
Adorbably candid! Love it.
On the subject of her corrupt-cop, but seemingly loving, as much as he could be, given all time and circumstances, husband during those years, I think Ms. Misch Owens has a light and bittersweet touch, appropriately appreciative/critical/reflective (as all reviews of such relationships must always be) but not overly maudlin; a delicate balance to reach.
Somewhere along the way I had gotten married to Eddie, a cop in the French Quarter. … I thought he was terribly exciting. He’d bring me along to all-nighters at Benny’s, a joint on the levee. I was required to sit silently for hours while Eddie twirled his gold wedding band.
Benny was like 75 with about three teeth and had a 14-year-old girlfriend. This last fact struck no one but me as particularly odd or disgusting. Like everything else wild and evil in New Orleans, it was greeted with a shrug and a wink.
He introduced me to the shady characters, shady ladies and shady ways of the Crescent City that I never would have tapped into otherwise. Without him, I never would have had a private room with a private waiter — Joey Guera — at Antoine’s. Never would have had a real king cake at a family party, never would have gone fishing out of Empire, La., with so much beer aboard our little flotilla that we almost sank. And if we had, so what? There is nothing like a native New Orleanian.
I cannot, in my broken state, express strongly enough how much I aspire to acheive Ms. Misch’s disarmingly candid brand of levelheaded, logical but loving, analytical prose in regard to my own dissolving marriage some day.
We parted ways, eventually. I went down to Miami and he went back to being a bachelor. He retired from the force as a lieutenant and was freelancing as a security man at “tittie bars” and rich people’s houses Uptown on Audubon Place, last I heard.
Reporting on recent events, Ms. Misch adds the following epilogue to her relationship with her Big Easy first husband:
I phoned him just before the eye of Katrina must have passed very near his house. I got his answering machine. Some silly nonsense about how he wasn’t home, he was checking out the latest Saints trade. I said, Hey, you idiot, call me.
Today, Ms. Misch Owens is a novelist under the name of Laura Watt and has written non-fiction for the Miami Herald, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Post. Sardonic and enduringly adorable — thanks a mil for the inspiration, Ms. Misch!