Playing the Field page-turner #12

Alberto Vargas

One of the stories in Playing the Field that ended up on publisher Putnam's cutting room floor was about my work with the pinup artist Albert Vargas. When I was seventeen, Vargas ran an ad in the trade paper Variety looking for new models. Vargas was famous for his sexy Esquire pinups, which were adopted by G.I.s in WWII, and became so hot that the U.S. Post Office tried to revoke the magazine's permit to send them through the mail. I responded to the ad and Vargas selected me as one of his models. Unfortunately, the story only got a couple of paragraphs in Playing the Field, but there was an interesting backstory and sequel.

My parents raised their eyebrows when I suggested that I wanted to pose nude for Vargas, but with a little persuading, they finally consented. My mother went with me to the interview with the artist.

Vargas' wife, Anna Mae, met us at the door of their modest little house in Westwood. Inside, she introduced us to Alberto and we got acquainted over breakfast. Under Anna Mae's watchful eye and with my mother's permission, Alberto took some nude and semi-nude photographs of me, which he later used in some of his paintings. I was paid the handsome sum of $16.

Fast forward to 1980. I ran across some copies of Vargas' Esquire drawings and started wondering if he was still alive. This was long before Google, so I called Information and found his number. He answered the phone and we talked for a bit. His wife had died in 1974 and he took it very hard, but he told me he was still painting. He said he would like to do another painting of me and asked if I had a photograph I liked, or if I would even like to visit him to do a live sitting. I said I would like very much to do that. Life intervened one way and another, however, and I never got to see Alberto again.  He died in 1982 at the age of 86.

Sometime in the 1990s, there was a retrospective of Vargas' work at a gallery in L.A. and the curator invited me to attend. It was a joy to see all Vargas' work in one place and I know Alberto would have been proud.  For my part, I recognized how he took bits and pieces of me—breasts here, legs there, as I'm sure he did with all his models—and drew his idealized long-legged, perfect-breasted, perky-tushed Vargas girls, and I was proud to have been one.

Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition is available in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #11

Henry the K

Henry Kissenger was certainly one of the most interesting men I ever dated. Henry was my escort for a White House party in 1973 honoring German Chancellor Willie Brandt. Kissinger was a unique and sometimes romantic figure in American diplomacy back then, jetting back and forth to Paris as negotiations to end the Vietnam war ground along. Henry fancied himself a lady's man, saying to me that night, "The Russians believe I am a sex maniac. Every time I visit the Soviet Union they have two or three husky Russian girls waiting for me when I get off the plane."

Henry was charming that evening at the White House and when he invited me back to his Georgetown apartment, I said yes. Little did I know that Dr. Kissinger had a whole different kind of diplomacy in mind.

Read about me and Henry the K in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition, available in my store and on Amazon now.

Playing the Field page-turner #10

Bullet Bras, Bellybuttons, and Bare-assed

The 1950s, the heyday of the so-called Sex Symbols, was also a time of sexual repression, racial discrimination, and gender bias. It was the time of the American Sexual Paradox: girls were supposed to be to be pure and virginal, and at the same time, sexy and slutty. It was a constant battle for an actress who might be considered a sex symbol, whether her name was Marilyn or Mamie. 

Watchdog organizations like the Hays office were on the sets of every movie made at the studios, sitting in judgement of subject matter, scripts, and costumes. If they ruled that something violated their morality "production code," it was out. 

Among other things, they forbad showing too much cleavage. This gave birth to the Bullet Bra, with which we traded cleavage for size. I wore the Bullet Bra in Yankee Pasha, making my breasts more or less legal, but my Lilith harem girl costume was required to cover my bellybutton. Never mind that Jeff Chandler was shirtless in a number of scenes, bare chested and bare bellybuttoned.

In Girl's Town there was the infamous shower scene in which I sang Paul Anaka's song "Hey Mama." The producer, Al Zugsmith, went personally to Cardinal Spellman to get the movie approved by the Catholic Legion of Decency. I admit to being bare assed in the shower, but you could only see me from the shoulders up. Over Zuggy's protests, Spellman ordered the scene cut anyway.

"But, your Grace," Zuggy quipped, "even bad girls take showers." 

His Grace was not amused. 

When Zugsmith returned to California after seeing Spellman, he told me with a merry twinkle in his eye, "The Cardinal is not one of your biggest fans."

Here's the shower scene that so troubled the Cardinal.

You can read about how I had to be costumed for The Private Lives of Adam and Eve in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition, available in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #9

The Lesbian I Might Have Been

When you read the chapter in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition about Coco Chanel, remember that part of the story ended up on the cutting room floor. The original publisher of Playing the Field, G.P. Putnam's Sons, felt that my take on Coco and what almost happened between us was too salacious. Remember, this was 1987 and America was very uncomfortable with discussions of gay issues.

I had taken a break in Paris after filming The Lady was a Sheriff in Yugoslavia with German actor, Freddy Quinn. After I rested a few days, I went shopping for a dress to wear for the Aqua Velva commercial I was slated to film when I got back to New York. Of course, I went to the Chanel boutique. 

Madame Chanel herself supervised my dress fitting. Afterward we made small talk over tea in her private office, our knees brushing under the small table that held the tea service.  Though I tried to keep the conversation above the table, Madame made it clear that below the table was her concern.

"Must you leave for New York so soon?"

"Yes, I have my commercial to do."

In addition to the black dress, I had also ordered two of her trademark suits to be sent to me in L.A. 

Coco leaned forward and her pearls and gold chains clattered softly.  "I have taken the liberty of having one of the suits you ordered made up in a custom pink wool.  With your coloring," she kissed her fingertips expressively, "it will be stunning."

I left Coco's salon that day with my virtue intact.  The black dress was delivered to my hotel the next day. Inside the white box with the trademark CC logo a handwritten note was nestled in the tissue paper.

"Dearest Mamie, Wear these in good health always.  Love, C.C."  

Six weeks later the two suits arrived, accompanied by two matching scarves.  For the next year or so, I received clothes, shoes, and jewelry, always with a note from C.C.  Sadly, thanks to my inhibitions and Lutheran upbringing, I never responded.

Today my sense of adventure would not let me shy away from Coco's advances.  The attraction of a woman of her talent and charisma is as powerful today as it was that afternoon in Paris.  And perhaps my own power would have taught her a thing or two.

The Special Collector's Edition of Playing the Field is available in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #8

Here's Johnny!

Johnny Carson didn't invent the late-night talk show—that was done by another friend of mine, the late Steve Allen—but Johnny elevated it to an art form. On the first of my many appearances on the Tonight Show, Johnny leaned toward me during a commercial break and asked if I would like to have dinner with him. I said yes and it began a long relationship that was romantic and almost sexual, but always fun.

Today Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and a gaggle of un-funny wannabees like Conan O'Brian carry on the late night tradition.  But whatever they do on the air was inspired by the show that Johnny Carson fashioned over the years.

"What Johnny creates for the viewing audience is the perfect television companion, someone you can comfortably invite into your bedroom night after night just for laughs. He is part gee-whiz Midwesterner, part New York/Hollywood sophisticate. He is the boy next door who made it big. Johnny cuts across all social boundaries, and it has made him as famous as anyone in television history."

You can read about Johnny and me in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #7

Jeff Chandler

Almost no one remembers Jeff Chandler today, but in the 1950s he was one of Universal Studio's most bankable stars. Handsome and rugged-looking, Jeff was the perfect leading man for the sword-and-shield epics, swashbucklers, and westerns that Hollywood--and especially Universal--loved to make in those days.  

I co-starred opposite Jeff and Rhonda Fleming in Yankee Pasha, my second movie at Universal.  Jeff was one of the nicest people I met at Universal. He liked me for the role of Lilith, the chatty little harem girl in Yankee Pasha, and helped me get the role over some more established actresses.

You can see Lilith in action here.
One of the roles that helped make Jeff Chandler a star was the Apache Indian chief, Cochise.  He first played Cochise in Broken Arrow,  co-starring opposite Jimmy Stewart.  Universal kept cashing in on the Cochise franchise with Battle of Apache Pass, where Jeff played the warrior again. He appeared again, uncredited this time, when Universal made Taza, Son of Cochise, which starred Rock Hudson in the title role. Jeff at last put his foot down and refused to play more Indian roles, leaving Rock to fill the gap. (I saw Rock on the Uni lot late one afternoon in his Indian regalia during the filming of Taza and he was miserable.  I told him he made a gorgeous Indian, but he was wouldn't hear it.  "I've got bronze makeup in my ears and practically up my ass.  I'm sick of it!")

Jeff Chandler died tragically at the height of his career of complications from surgery, but in his day there was no one more of a natural for roles that called for action and a hunky, romantic lead.  

You will love reading about Jeff in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition in my store and Amazon

Playing the Field page-turner #6

The Billionaire and the Teenager

Of all the men in my life, Howard Hughes is the one that evokes the most curiosity. Today his eccentricities have become part of American folklore, but when he discovered me in the Miss Palm Springs beauty contest, Hughes was renowned as an aviation pioneer and a major movie producer.  In large measure, I owe my career in movies to the fact that this eccentric billionaire was an ardent pedophile.  Hughes loved girls who were very young and virginal. I was in my teens the first time we met, and he asked me if I was a virgin. I said, "Howard, you'll never know."

You can read the whole story in Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition, available in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #5

Being a mom

Most of these page turners are designed to make you smile while giving a little peek inside the pages of the new edition of Playing the Field.  This one, however, is centered on a more serious subject that didn't have a name in the mid-1950s, but is today commonly known as "single mom."  As a reader, you may not know what it's like to attend a movie premiere or drop acid with Steve McQueen, but many of you girls and some of you guys out there sure as hell know what it's like raising a child alone while trying to make a living. 

My son Perry greeting me when I returned from Italy.

In 1959 I had finished filming The Beautiful Legs of Sabrina in Italy and returned to L.A.  My divorce from Perry's father, bandleader Ray Anthony, was about to become final. With Perry asleep in his bedroom of my home overlooking Hollywood, I stood naked in the backyard in the pouring rain wondering what life would throw at me next.

"I was afraid. Like a long-captive bird, once out of the cage I was torn
between the safety behind the bars and the dangers outside of them. But I had
a son to raise, and a house to take care of. Thus I was faced in 1959 with the
fearful task of providing for us both entirely with my own earning power."

Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition is available in my store and on Amazon.

Perry today is still the light of my life. Here we're in our jammies on our way to the Playboy Mansion Midsummer Night's Dream slumber party.

Playing the Field page-turner #4

Wear your rubbers

For better or worse, my approach to sex has always been decidedly un-feminine. Sex for me was and is great recreation and I never hesitated to enjoy it when I could.  But even in the innocent pre-AIDS days of the 1950s and 1960s it was necessary to guard against the dangers of diseases and getting pregnant.  I armed myself by carrying my own rubbers.

In my naiveté, I sashayed into a drugstore one day and told the druggist I wanted to buy a gross of rubbers for my brother. He smirked at me from behind the counter and produced a cigar-size box of Trojans. "Is this how many you want? That's a gross--exactly one hundred forty-four."

I stared at them for a moment in embarrassment. "Just give me five."

Playing the Field, Special Collector's Edition is available in my store and on Amazon.

Playing the Field page-turner #3

Rock my crinolines

Somewhere in the cavernous Universal wardrobe department, there hangs the crinoline skirt that I wore to the Golden Globe Awards the night that Rock Hudson was my escort. I had only been Mamie Van Doren for about a week. The chances are that crinoline skirt still has Rock Hudson's DNA on it. 



OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID