Archive for the ‘Post-Christmas Pick-Up Day!’ Category

Post-Holiday Pick-Up Day: December, 1953 — Marilyn Monroe

December 26, 2009

Last but never least. December, 1953: photographed in 1949 when she was still obscure, this nude picture of Norma Jean “Marilyn Monroe” Mortensen was sold to Playboy absent of Marilyn’s control — it was the magazine’s first issue and she was a rising star by that time. She was also featured on the cover, again without her express permission, but there was nothing she could do about it. The pictures were the property of the photographer Tom Kelley. Kelley had pursued Marilyn a number of times asking her to pose for him, and she finally agreed during a particularly low point in her struggling early career, on the condition that his wife Natalie remain present during the photoshoot.

“Golden Dreams,” photographed by Tom Kelley.

Kelley sold the pictures.

Alhough the nude calendar shots are two of the most famous photographs in Hollywood history, Marilyn received only $50 for her efforts. Kelley himself received only a pittance when he sold the two shots to the Western Lithograph Company, but crafty manufacturers and slick promoters made a great deal of money selling bootleg versions of the calendar and other merchandise. (“Marilyn Monroe’s Early Career,” retrieved from

Western Litho eventually turned the pics over to Hugh Hefner, and Marilyn became the magazine’s inaugural cover girl and centerfold (then still called the “gatefold”) accompanied by the title “Sweetheart of the Month.” A bum deal. Really bad faith on Kelley’s and Western Lithography’s part. They probably could have blackmailed her studio with the photos and gotten more money than was got out of Hef, seeing as she had come out that year with the massive, career-making hits Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire (one of my all time favorite movies, co-starring Betty “Legs Insured by Lloyd’s of London” Grable and fabulous smoky siren Lauren Bacall — run don’t walk to the video store and grab it STAT), annnnnd Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (another absolute classic), making her a very hot and important-to-protect property in Hollywood.

Not only that, she already had half of Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business in the can and it would be ready for release by Summer. Western Litho could’ve turned a real buck off of those publicists and studio producers, waiting for the highest bidder to turn over the nude negatives to. But they didn’t much do their homework because apparently the guy in charge of the deal was was a greedy, shortsighted idiot. So he undersold, to Hef. Serves him right.

These other shots are just two of several cell-painted examples of the “Golden Dreams” photoshoot damage control put out by the swarm of money-hungry publicists who always thronged around poor Marilyn — they wanted her to be slightly less tarnished by the shoot, but still profit from its popularity, so they had artists paint clothes on her and sold the reprints, allegedly autographed by Marilyn herself. (Side note: the first time she ever had to autograph something with her show business name, she asked the nearest studio guy how they wanted her to spell it. UGH. What the eff is wrong with people who see an orphan soul and suck it dry?!)

Just bad stuff and feelings all around with this entry of the December women, huh? And of course, RIP, although it scarcely seems possible: I’m not sure she will ever know peace, like, in any universe. Man. Why did I pick so many bummers for this project?? I’ll make it up to you another day. I promise!

Post-Holiday Pick-Up Day: Dinah Willis, Miss December 1965

December 26, 2009

Playboy’s Miss December 1965, the lovely and talented Dinah Willis, was a “Bewitched” fan (boo: that snooty stick-in-the-mud Sam can kiss my ass; Team “Jeannie” for-ev-errr), but I forgive her because she was a really interesting gal other than that.

Photographed by Pompeo Posar.

Miss Willis has devoted most of her off-hours this past fall to her increasing interest in the field of underwater photography. “I’ve always been kind of an amateur photo bug,” says Dinah, “So when my mom bought me a Yashica 35-millimeter camera for my birthday last August, and a skindiving friend of mine helped me build a waterproof plexiglass housing for it, I really wanted to learn all I could about underwater camera techniques.” (“Letter Perfect,” Playboy, December 1965.)

My husband got me hella photography shit for my Lomo Diana F+ camera for Christmas. Hella. Like all kinds of nifty gadgets and attachments. I don’t know what that’s about or how he remembered me talking about all that shit over a year ago, but I’m really grateful, although nervous because it adds extra pressure for my photos to not suck. I guess I should have bought him art supplies … I didn’t even think to. I’m a sucky, shoddy, estranged dick. Sorry, husbandoh.

“Nowadays, I spend most of my free weekends south of the border shooting stills in San Carlos Bay, or talking shop with all the other amateur shutterbugs who come there to dive.”

Dinah’s few stay-at-home evenings are spent brushing up on her painting (“I stick to watercolors most of the time, but I’ve dabbled in everything from oils to toothpick sculpture”), listening to her collection of country-and-western LPs (“Hank Williams is my ideal”) and cooking Mexican dinners (“Outside of tacos and enchiladas I’m a total washout on the domestic scene”).

Hank Williams and tacos? Kiddo, I’m yours. I will even tolerate your retarded fuckin’ pillow-dogs (she mentions that she breeds show mini-poodles; we can keep them around to feed to the Great Dane/Mastiff mix I will one day breed).

“With my father dead and my older brother, Keith, in the Army, I’m the only breadwinner in the family. Of course, my Playmate money will take care of any emergency, so all I have to do is earn enough to make ends meet for the next year or so. I’d like to travel a little before I settle down, anyway. There’s not much for a young girl to do in my home town except get married, have babies and watch television — and I hate television!”

Word. Television will rot your brain, y’all. I’ve always said that. Not like the internet, which cures baldness, tones muscle, kisses babies, and makes you smarter!

I was born in Texas* but grew up in Ruidoso and Eunice, New Mexico.

I have one older brother who is fighting in Vietnam.

Jackie Kennedy and Barry Goldwater. I don’t see how a woman can take such a loss and remain so brave. And he’s one of the most outstanding individualists of our time.

I sleep too late.

Between all of that, the tacos, the Bakersfield-sound-LP-fandom, and the photography, Ms. Willis and I are clearly hella getting married as soon as I build this sex-changing time machine, and if you scoff at my flawless plan you are totally not invited to the wedding.

*Heroes fans — she was born in Odessa, TX specifically.

Actually, a spin on the wiki reveals that Ms. Willis has been firmly spoken for since not long after this December pictorial was published: “Dinah married a musician signed to The Tokens B. T. Puppy label. Dinah has two daughters. One is a poet who works with the homeless in the Bowery, NYC; the other is a singer, song writer and a backup singer for Chubby Checker.” Not too shabby. I’ll let it go and leave the time machine blueprints for another day! This time…

Post-Holiday Pick-Up: Miss December 1959, Ellen Stratton

December 26, 2009

Photographed by William Graham, assisted by his wife. (Like the Gowlands, they were an artistic nude partnership. Very cool people, all of them.)

A girl can’t hold down a position as a legal secretary with a pleasing appearance and a head full of feathers, so our December Playmate Ellen Stratton is further proof, if proof be needed, that a girl can be bright and beautiful at the same time. Ellen has worked for a leading West Coast law office for the past 2 1/2 years, and confides that her secret ambition is to be a lady lawyer. (“Legal Tender,” Playboy, December 1959.)

A “lady lawyer?!” What will they think of next?

Actually and admirably, Ellen raised herself up from very hardscrabble roots and no early formal education whatsoever to become a legal secretary in a time when women were mainly fucking their way to that position, and she did it specifically so she could go to law school.

Ellen’s family worked as sharecroppers picking cotton. When she was 10, her parents decided that there was little opportunity in Mississippi and they moved to California, settling in the Los Angeles area. (Ellen has noted that at the time, Mississippi did not require children to attend school.) Her mother found work as an upholsterer.

After [entering and] graduating from high school, Ellen took a job as a legal secretary and took classes at Los Angeles City College.

Ellen now works in property management and owns rental properties in the Los Angeles area. (the wiki)

Her work with Playboy took her to Chicago, where she was a bunny at the Playboy Club and lived at the Playboy Mansion. While there, Ellen became acquainted with Shel Silverstein, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, Hugh Hefner.

How do Ellen’s lawyer bosses feel about her appearance in Playboy’s Playmate of the Month? They dig it. So, gentleman of the jury, we are prepared to testify that we’ve a serious case on Ellen Stratton and any objections will be promptly overruled as soon as you’ve considered Exhibit A, her full-color Playmate pose attached hereto.

Exhibit A was impressive enough to make Ms. Stratton the first-ever, brand-spanking new, inaugural titleholder of Playmate of the Year, which she used as a launchpad to get the modeling money to continue her career in law, real estate, and set aside a nest egg to raise her family. Today she is a grandmother in Los Angeles and has recently begun attending GlamourCon, likely to the delight of vintage cheesecake fans everywhere. (What kind of weirdos keep track of this stuff? one can only imagine how empty and pathetic their lives are.) You keep on keepin’ on, girl!

Hugh Hefner and Ellen Stratton, late 1998, in what looks to be a genuinely affectionate hug at the announcement of the PMOY for 1999 (Heather Kozar, formerly Miss January 1998).

I am here-and-there on the Hef-love but I fiercely heart this picture. Playboy made a huge difference in her life and enabled her to fulfill her dreams. She used the magazine instead of the common perception of the magazine using the playmates. Good on all parties invovled!

Post-Holiday Pick-Up: Miss December 1972, Mercy Rooney (yee haw)

December 26, 2009

Miss November 1972 was “Lenna,” whose cropped centerfold, as you may recall, is just about one of the most famous pictures in the graphics design world. So you’d think Miss December would have a tough act to follow, and she might pale in comparison, right?

Here to prove you wrong is the lovely and talented Mercy Rooney (aka Merci Montello, aka Mercy Mee), a B-movie actress and rodeo queen who at 22 had already roped and released Mickey Rooney, Jr., the oldest son of Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney.

Photographed by Alexas Urba.

“Most people think of rodeo as man conquering beast — men riding bulls, roping calves, that kind of thing. That’s not it at all. Rodeo is actually man conquering his own body, being able to control it and make it work the way he wants it to. The real pros are very disciplined people; with discipline comes skill, and that’s what makes the whole thing a treat for fans. Riding rodeo is a beautiful, graceful art when a person’s really good at it.” (“Mercy, Mercy!” Playboy, December 1972)

“I liked being right down there with the dirt kicked in the air, flying in your face, and the animals lunging so close that you have to jump for a fence to get out of their way.”

Asked about the reaction when she appeared on the scene, Mahan says, “I recollect hearing quite a few ‘Good God A’mightys!’ And one of my friends said to me, ‘We gotta get her out of here. I can’t concentrate on my horse.'”

When she isn’t distracting rodeo performers, Mercy lives a busy life in Los Angeles, following a schedule that divides time between Bunnying at the L.A. Club and returning to an acting career that she had pursued after high school, then capriciously dropped for a couple of years. “I’m back in acting school and working hard at it. I guess I quit before because I just had too many things going.”

One of those “things” she “had going” was a marriage to Mickey Rooney, Jr. I cannot for the life of me find out the dates on that (I do not feel like doing a public records search for the sake of one simple blog entry), but I know that by 1986 he had married his second wife, Laura, with whom he now travels the country as a born-again Christian preacher. He gives lectures on the dangers of “Life in the Fast Lane.”

That is one ride I am glad she was not down to take, or we would never have this nature-themed, awesome Playboy spread. God made us naked and Jesus preached tolerance, Mr. Rooney. Duh. These days, Ms. Montello/Mee/Rooney has faded in to almost total obscurity which my cursory search of the internet cannot seem to uncloud. If you have info, shoot it my way, cause I love me some crazy eyes!

Post-Holiday Pick-Up Day: Kata Kärkkäinen, Miss December 1988

December 26, 2009

She may look like an icy-hot Spy Who Came In From The Cold (I have mentioned before my Bond-based, niggling Eastern European fetish), but the lovely and talented Kata Kärkkäinen, Playboy’s Miss December 1988, was actually Finnish.

Photographed by Stephen Wayda and Byron Newman

Kata was a girls’ bowling champion in her native Finland before coming to America for her senior year of high school, where she was actually kicked off the bowling team. I have a feeling it was less to do with being a girl, as she insinuates, than it was to do with her other behaviors:

Kata joined an exchange program, jetted to remotest Rapid City and gave her high school classmates a crash course in Eurostyle. Stevens High School is still reeling. “They found me pretty wild,” Kata says of the teachers and schoolmates she bowled over at Stevens High. “I dressed punk. I dyed my hair blonde — or red and black — or wore it in a Mohawk. I wore wigs, and sometimes a tuxedo, to school.” (“Photo Finnish,” Playboy, December 1988)

Kata is a Scorpio who shares a bappy with the Cappy (October 27th – a BIRTHDAY OF CHAMPIONS!) and Napoleon. Auspicious company for a girl who used to go for the 80’s version of guyliner and striped sweater boys.

“I don’t go crazy over how many muscles a guy has or how hairy his chest is. I kind of like skinny, feminine guys. One of my boyfriends in Finland used to wear make-up. We’d go out and some people thought we were sisters. It was kind of embarrassing, but kind of interesting, too.” Don’t abandon hope, American guys: The more she sees of American chests, Kata says, the better she likes them.

I like the implication that American guys in this time were unilaterally buffed-out, tanned, models of masculinity who drove stateside women wild with their oozing sexuality, and we ladies went for that or we burned in hell. I’m not so sure that was the case. (*cough* Duckie.) But on the other hand, I’m all for bashing pretentious emo Eurotrash, so good on Playboy.

These days, Ms. Kärkkäinen is a novelist. You may visit her official site here, but be advised it is in Finnish. Her 1999 novel Minä ja Morrison was adapted into a film in 2001. The movie functions loosely as the second part of female director Leena-Kaisa “Lenska” Hellstedt’s (and friends’) Levottomat trilogy.

Kata Kärkkäinen has an IQ of at least 148 (sd 24) according to Cattell & Cattell Culture Fair IQ test (see Ilta-Sanomat, 5 Oct 2006). (the wiki)

Finally, when the centerfold is this hot, you’re damned tootin’ you put her on the cover, too. The girl can move some magazines, y’all!

Post-Holiday Pick-Up Day: Gloria Root, Miss December 1969

December 26, 2009

I feel like I may have got a little down here and there on that last gal, what with my none-too-pleased remarks alluding to what I consider to be her lamentable decades-long trail of desperation, so here’s one of those Playmates who makes me proud to be a Playboy defender.

Gloria Root, the lovely and talented Miss December 1969, is proof that beauty often does come with brains.

Photographed by Pompeo Posar

It is Gloria’s conviction that a major upheaval is both necessary and inevitable in the United States. “We’ve managed to narrow down all the freedoms we take pride in. We’ve created a political aristocracy that we didn’t want, and too many of us are hopelessly trapped in that tired old business of getting an ‘education’ and a job that doesn’t mean anything.” Gloria believes that American society today contains a “hard-core revolutionary middle” that bridges economic, racial and generational gaps — “not just a radical rabble, as the politicians would have us believe.”

“Individuals who have used hallucinogens or pot can experience life in more subtle ways and accept each other more readily than people who haven’t.” And unorthodox costumes, according to Gloria, serve to remind orthodox citizens “that there are other ways to live than what happens to be considered ‘normal’ here and now. If more people cared enough to expand their viewpoints by studying history or anthropology, they’d realize how many different life styles are natural and they’d be more tolerant. Young people aren’t pushing any particular life style — just the freedom to choose. And the youth revolution bridges all boundaries.” (“Revolutionary Discovery,” Playboy, December 1969.)

[Gloria] graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in fine arts and architecture. She then took a Master’s Degree in City Planning and a Master’s of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1980, she opened her own planning firm, Planning Analysis and Development, in San Francisco. She headed the firm until 1998, when she relocated to New York. While in New York, Root headed the strategic planning services division of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. She returned to San Francisco in 2002 to a job as a project manager for Auberge Resorts. She later took a senior position with RBF Consulting.

From 1990 to 1998, Root was a board member of San Francisco Urban Planning + Research Association, a public-policy think-tank promoting good government and sustainable urban planning. (the wiki)

Gloria died of cancer in January, 2006.

When not grappling with environmental and growth issues, Gloria was both an avid fan of professional football and an aficionado of the performing and cinematic arts. She was a world traveler, which contributed to her distinctive savoir faire. Long before it became fashionable, Gloria deserved to be called a “foodie” wowing her chums with her culinary delights. Dancer, skier, runner, Gloria was gifted with an exceptional physical grace. Of all her accomplishments, however, the power of Gloria’s mind was the most remarkable. Few possessed her ability to probe and debate current events with such intellectual horsepower and insight. When Gloria’s flame burned, it burned bright. (Obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

I think Gloria Root is a woman who was definitely quite a total package. Beauty, brains, compassion, “different-ness,” and drive. RIP.

Post-Holiday Pick-Up Day! : Miss December 1992, Barbara Moore

December 26, 2009

Thought I’d help you beat the weird post-holiday slump today (unless you are in Canadialand in which case you’re opening all your Boxing Day gifts and hoarking down the moose jerky and Molson’s today in front of a hockey game anyway, so you hosers wait and check it out tomorrow!) with some lovely and talented Miss Decembers of yore.

Unlike the NSFW November fiasco, I got no intention of doing every single Miss December ever: I have instead culled the herd to a manageable flock of interesting favorites. Enjoy!

Photographed by Stephen Wayda.

Besides having managed to keep quite a tenacious hold on the D-list spotlight of sorts (really it’s more like a kid shining a flashlight under their face at summer camp) over her career, the lovely and talented Barbara Moore, Miss December 1992, had quite the “electric” magnetism — she was struck by lightning three years before her Playboy appearance.

It was a rainy night in Nashville when the lights went out. Barbara Moore was walking down Acklen Avenue when it happened. Zap! A bolt of lightning whams down about 12 inches from her pretty ankles. Streetlights are blinking and so is she, tiptoeing down the avenue, thinking, “I almost didn’t live to turn twenty-two.”

Miss Moore was born in Spokane, Washington, which is where a lot of my cousins live. Those who abandoned Priest River, the small town we’re all from in the top of Idaho, and were drawn to the siren call of the sinful Big City — for shame! Spokane is the Sodom to Boise’s Gomorrah! (This probably means nothing to you, but trust me, it’s really funny. Would it help to add that neither Spokane nor Boise has over 210,000 people?)

Who else do you know who has worked a slime line? Barbara did, at a salmon cannery in Ketchikan, Alaska, where she gutted fish as they passed on a conveyer belt. She has been a flight attendant, a tournament polo player, a model and an actress who has made videos with Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Jr., and Reba McEntire that have aired nationally on TNN and CMT. Now she is Miss December — a woman you’re sure to love if you desire a little excitement. (“The Moore, the Merrier,” Playboy, December 1992.)

More excitement than working at a cannery in Ketchikan? The hell you say! God, sometimes I miss the Pacific Northwest. Then I go to the grocery, in the sun, in regular shoes with no galoshes, and there are no crazy people with carts of cans raving front-door-side that AIDS is the lord’s punishment for homosexshualls, and no relatives with missing teeth working the register and reminding me of the time I fell in the crick and my bra came undone (worst. hike. ever.). There is just sterile, spray-tanned, PTA propriety, with small smiles and simple “Merry Christmases.” Mmm. I like you, Cali. I will keep you.

Barbara Moore’s celebrity rose in 2004 when she began dating actor Lorenzo Lamas. Ironically, she had met Lamas through her friend and fellow Playmate Shauna Sand, who was married to Lamas at the time. They were scheduled to marry in July 2005, however the wedding was called off at the last moment, reportedly after Lamas discovered Moore in the company of a male stripper at her bachelorette party. (the wiki)

No way! Lorenzo Lamas, you are a man whose sound and sober judgment I would normally implicitly trust, but I must ask: are you sure?? Because Barbie just doesn’t seem like the type to promote nor enjoy nudity!

Well, that’s it for your first Post-Holiday Pick-Up entry. I’ll schedule a few more of these for later in the day, so stay tuned!