Posts Tagged ‘thrilla in manila’

Spring Fever!: Inaugural Edition feat. Gwen Wong, Miss April 1967

April 13, 2010

I’ve fallen down completely on the job of keeping up the journal, mainly because I’ve got so many dogs in the fire that I don’t know where to begin to express my feelings about them. Besides being an outlet for emotions, this so-called thought experiment was supposed to be a project that would force me to write something every day, and I have not been doing so. I’ve let feeling Ways About Things totally overwhelm me and paralyze my writing. That changes today.

The one thing that can always get some creative and otherwise positive juices flowing for me is writing about the Playmates, so welcome to Spring Fever! They say April is the cruellest month, but I am going to do my best to make it the kindest every ding-dong day. Starting ……. now.

Venus in argyle.


Photographed by Mario Casilli and Gene Trindl.

This adorable cardigan and knee-socks sporting model is Miss April 1967, the lovely and talented Gwen Wong. I think her photoshoot was really a great one.

Just well-lit, and done so with a striking ambience, not with a lot of artificial lighting, with makeup and styling that is kicky but not overly fetishistic, just a very fun and natural shoot — and, most admirably to my mind, I think it is delightfully and matter-of-factly progressive given the time and place (Cold War America at the end of the Korean War, heightening of the conflict in Vietnam, pitch of the Red Scare, a time when there was still a lot of “otherization” of the unfamiliar, etc) in which it appeared. I wish I could say the same for the text which accompanied the shoot, but overall it is not so bad that Edward Said is calling out hits or anything.

The credit of first Asian-American Playmate of the Month is sometimes erroneously given to Gwen Wong. While Ms. Wong has many awesome merits of her own, she is not, in fact, the first Asian-American gatefold model.

That honor belongs to Margaret “China (rhymes with Tina)” Lee, who was Miss August 1964 and performs the memorable striptease which runs over the credits for Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. As further old school and timeless comedy cred goes, China was married to the great Mort Sahl from 1967 to 1991. She also dated Robert Plant.


I think this is as “typical” as the photoshoot got. That’s pretty cool in my book, all appropriate due given to the temporal setting.

But enough about Ms. Lee. I should give her her own entry one of these days, and we’ll cover that then. Don’t let me forget. Back to Gwen Wong, who justly deserves the attention.


Born in Manila during the latter part of World War Two … Miss Wong is, in fact, a startlingly beautiful blend of six nationalities: Chinese, Scottish, Spanish, Australian, Filipino and Irish.

(“Spice From the Orient,”
(groan) Playboy, April 1967.)

As you can see, Ms. Wong lists Filipino among the handful of her ethnic identities and it’s clearly stated she was born in Manila, which dramatically undermines the claim to the title of first Filpino-American Playmate made by Playboy in the lovely and talented PR (Miss November 1988, name removed at model’s request)’s write up some twenty-one years later.

If you followed NSFW November, you may remember [model’s name removed at request] as the lovely lady whose entire entry I accidentally spent describing the Thrilla in Manila fight (aka Frazier-Ali III) instead of talking a single bit about the naked girl in the pictures around the text.

I promised then, after I was done gushing about the greatest boxing match in history, that I would try and mention the other another day. That day is now and once again, this is probably not how she’d have hoped that to go — citing someone else as the real titleholder of her one noteworthy (at that time) characteristic. Sorry, kiddo, but who can deny the awesomeness of Ms. Wong?

So when I’m done with this entry on completely radical Gwen, I’ll try and work up some brief copy on the other’s bummer choices in dudes with which I can totally emapthize to appear later in the week because it turns out she’s all kinds of a quite interesting in a glass-ceiling-busting, con-man-choosing kind of way (we ladies must trailblaze). Yet again, most likely not the way anyone would’ve like to be immortalized in google’s search returns, but what can you do!


An expert cook, Miss April is equally adept at whipping up wor shew opp, scungilli or boeuf Bourguignonne. “Cooking has almost become a mania with me,” she says. “I collect cookbooks the same way people collect LPs.” Before becoming a Bunny, Gwen studied painting and ceramics at California’s El Camino Junior College. (Ibid.)


“Frankly,” she says, “most modern art confuses me, although I wouldn’t classify myself as a traditionalist. I try not to be swayed by other people’s opinions when visiting a gallery, but that’s not always easy. I like to think if a canvas is good I’ll know it — because, well, I’ll feel it.” (Ibid.)

So true.

Special K and I were at her Humboldt orientation this weekend and it happened to be the Arts! Arcata night on Friday, so while she was attending a mixer for incoming freshmen, I slipped from the campus downtown to the Arts! events so as not to be That Guy hanging around outside waiting for the kid they are chaperoning and embarassing the crap out of said kid.

The work being shown at various galleries and makeshift exhibitions inside boutiques and bars was a real mix of media as far as form, but the content and thrust of the work was generally what I think can be termed “modern” art. Some of what I saw really resonated with me, while there was other work to which I felt zero connection. But I don’t think subjectivity alone can explain why some people buy certain modern art.

I’d like to think that everyone who buys a piece buys it because they love it, but I doubt that’s so. I think there is a combination of snobbery and peer pressure, too, from other collectors and from people in the business. I hope to never buy something because I’m told it’s cool. So what I’m saying is, I understand where Ms. Wong is coming from with her statement.


Miss Wong is also a jazznik and prefers the singing of Morgana King and Ella Fitzgerald among at least a score of recording artists she admires. (Ibid.)

“Jazznik.” That is somehow quaint. Besides being a textbook great in jazz history, Mo King would also go on to feature in the Godfather movies as Carmella Corleone, second wife of Don Vito Corleone and mother to Fredo, Connie, and Michael (and I guess kind of, you know, a foster mom or whatever to Tom Hagen), positively double-cementing her perpetual place in my heart. Well-called, Ms. Wong!

According to the wiki, Ms. Wong is an artist these days. She specializes in body-casting. The wiki entry on her calls it that, but I’m more familiar with the term Lifecasting. Body casting makes me think of, like, broken hips and stuff. Bad scene.

Anyway, this has been your inaugural edition of Spring Fever! and I hope you enjoyed it.

NSFW November: Miss November 1988

November 24, 2009

The lovely and talented Miss November 1988, was reported in her interview to be the first Filipino model to appear in Playboy.

“I am an ethnic jumble,” says [name]. … “My parents had their Filipino friends — my Mom was always cooking this smelly fish — but I grew up like a white suburban kid. I played lacrosse, basketball and tennis. (“Thrilla from Manila,” Playboy, November 1988)


They called her article, “Thrilla From Manila,” but actually she grew up in Havertown, Pennsylvania. In case you don’t get the title (which makes you absolutely no son of mine), it is a reference to the third and final fight between heavyweight boxers Cassius “Muhammad Ali” Clay and Joe Frazier for the title of Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, which took place in the Philippines on October 2, 1975.

The fight finally brought to a conclusion a bitter rivalry that had been going since 1971, that for my money is one of the best stories in the history of sports (where is its movie, Hollywood???). This one’s got it all, guys: draft-dodging, personal jealousies, the backdrop of major historical events, the freaking President getting involved, even. And through it all, two very different but very contentious personalities, Frazier and Ali, duking it out verbally and physically, in the press and in pre-fights. In the Thrilla in Manila, they went fourteen grueling, brutal rounds, both fighting to the point of almost total physical exhaustion before boxing official Eddie Futch declared Ali the victor (he said at the time it was to spare Frazier’s life, although really either could have gone).

Frazier protested stopping the fight, shouting “I want him boss,” and trying to get Futch to change his mind.

Futch simply replied, “It’s all over. No one will forget what you did here today”, and signaled to the referee to end the bout. Ali was therefore declared the victor.

He would later claim that this was the closest to dying he had ever been, and also stated, “Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.”

In a brief post-fight interview with one of the commentators, Ali announced, “He is the greatest fighter of all times, next to me.” (the wiki)

Do you even understand how major all of that is? Boxing is not as violent as you think, and it’s not always just big fat guys hugging (I always say, “Get a room or start punching”), not when you have two men in the ring as skilled as Frazier and the Greatest. Though you seldom see it at the heavyweight level, you see it more often with middle and welter (not bantam as much cause they’re so quick it’s like the cockfight from which their category’s name comes), it’s a graceful and carefully plotted series of moves, like a bloody ballet, it’s like … like art. It’s a dance. And you have these two combatants who are so equally matched that they are like hell-soul-mates, made to fight each other. That’s just, it’s just — like… god… oh, man, I honestly get misty just thinking about that event. That is some great motherfucking sports right there. I wish I had been born to see it firsthand, but I’ve watched clips of it on ESPN classic. (Boy, I miss having that) Le sigh.

\

As an epilogue, this story gets even better, in my opinion, because dig this: In June of 2001, guess who met for a grudge match on the Thrilla in Manila fight? Their freaking daughters. The fight was re-enacted, sort of, in New York by Laila “She Bee Stingin'” Ali and Jackie “Sister Smoke” Frazier-Lyde in what the press called Ali/Frazier IV. Laila, sixteen years younger than Jackie and with a little more training under her belt, took it in eight. But I love that both of them went for it! What a great story.

Finally, dig the Jessica Rabbit cover! God bless ya, Roger Rabbit and all of 1988. And to Miss November 1988, about whom this entry is not even at all remotely concerned, sorry. It’s not your fault that I think boxing is more interesting than whatever your little turn-ons and ambitions were. I feel kind of badly now. How about this? I will try to make it up to you another day, I swar to gar. You will get more attention from me later. Unless I forget.