Curtis Howe Springer was a self-proclaimed medical doctor and Methodist minister, though he was licensed for neither.
A popular radio evangelist, Curtis Springer eventually “created” space in California’s Mojave Desert dubbing his settlement, the “spa,” and the ensuing miracle cure products “Zzyzx” (pronounced, according to his products, “zi-zix”) as a gimmick to ensure that the brand would be “the last word” in health.
He called himself “the last of the old-time medicine men”- the American Medical Association called him “the King of Quacks” in 1969.
A few years later, he & his cult-like followers would be called out for squatting – swapping Federal lands for government prison.
For posterity, B-Plus was a “scientific blend” of “delicious basic foods in a dry or dehydrated form.” Which, according to the can’s wrapper was “the bulk equivalent of 1,000 Ten Grain tablets.” This is important, because the Springers believed “certain values” were “lost in the compression of tablets.”
Can features a number of graphics, including images of Curtis & his second wife, Helen, and the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort.
This old advertising tin of medical quackery stands approximately 5 1/2 inches tall, 4 inches in diameter.
A “Helen Springer Product, Basic Food Products, Baker, California.”
It takes me a while to get around to reading all the magazines laying around our house. Not just the vintage ones, but the new ones that keep arriving. Normally I wouldn’t be so keen to mention the belated reading of a story that’s already made the rounds on the Internet at the end of last year, but this one struck me.
I remember being in high school when Natalie’s body was found on November 29, 1981. I knew little of Natalie then. I had only recently discovered her in a TV viewing of Westside Story, and, like most everyone, had fallen in love with her as Maria. In my state of youth, however, I did not quite consider her “old” at the age of 43 — perhaps because she was still the vivacious Maria in my mind. Even then I was not a celeb-hound and did not read the myriad of publications making money off her death, and so I was not bombarded with other images of an older Natalie Wood.
All of this makes me slightly odd, I’m sure.
But I do remember being not only sad at her death, but feeling a certain mistrust, a certain suspicion of an accidental drowning.
It was rather a haunting feeling. Something that’s stuck with me all these years and had me reading the article in Newsweek. But never enough to prompt me to turn detective or anything; plus, my detective skills fall into the research category and as the death was ruled accidental, my skills wouldn’t turn up anything new really…
So, reading this article was rather like hearing about Natalie Wood’s death for the first time. This time, having seen more of her films than Westside Story, I knew more about the woman, the actress. But the details in this article were news to me.
For example, I never knew that Christopher Walken had been on that boat that fateful night. Not that I knew who Walken was back then. (I’ve never said I was cool — either as a child or now.) And it was sort of odd to imagine them, Wood and Walken, as contemporaries.
It was also odd to imagine Robert Wagner as he’s depicted in this article… He was one of the Harts in Hart To Hart, and he and Stefanie Powers both had seemed tragic for their losses. A more mature me realizes that all these things can be true, can be motive; but they need not be either.
I really have no ideas on the accident Vs. murder angle. Either is just as plausible.
And I agree intellectually with the points of tragedy and age brought up by Nancy Collins in her recent article.
But what strikes me most of all about all of this is the fact that celebrity and death continue to equal profit in publishing.
This means that Collins, the writer, and I, the paying consumer who reads (and continues to write herself), are perpetuating the tragedies involved, aren’t we?
What is it about beauty, glamour, talent, death, and tragedy that captures humans so? When they are combined, they create some sort of alchemy that’s nearly impossible to deny.
The lives, loves, and losses of these famous people are exaggerated versions of things in our own lives, and the drama does more than intrigue — it creates a shared sense of nostalgia in which we can each experience our own sorrows and joys in a more distant way which may be disconnected from our own pain but also connects us to one another.
For these reasons, stories are powerful, popular and even positive. But when one takes them too far, when one forgets that Natalie was a real person and so her death was real to her and all who love(d) her, and pursues the subject with a fascination which removes the dignity from the souls involved, we are perverse. And this includes the media which banks on such attentions.
So no, I won’t seek to consume all media coverage of the newly re-opened Natalie Wood case; I won’t set any newsfeeds or searches, scan tabloids at the grocery store, etc. But when these stories appear in the publications and news shows I am already reading and watching, I likely will continue to watch… With a sense of respectful guilt to monitor my level of fascination.
In 1885, W. Duke & Sons inserted “sexy” trading cards of actresses in their packages of Duke’s Cigarettes. This act is said to have led to Duke’s becoming the leading cigarette brand by 1890. Widely heralded as the birth of sex in advertising, i,e. the use of images of women in ads without any connection to the product being sold, these trade cards have led to many a scholastic “sex sells” advertising paper.
While the photographs of actresses seem rather tame to us today, the photographs on the trading cards were considered “lascivious” by some. Complaints even led to James Buchanan “Buck” Duke being advised, via letter, by his father Washington Duke to cease use of such images “as an inducement to purchase” — for fear the immoral “mode of advertising will be used and greatly streghten [sic, “strengthen”] the arguments against cigarettes in the legislative halls of the States.”
Did the use of lascivious ladies on the tobacco trading cards help to make Duke the most popular cigarette brand?
But not entirely for the reasons one thinks.
It would be folly to overlook the other factors involved in Duke’s success. Such as Buck Duke’s ingenious idea to use a small cardboard insert, printed with a series of themed images (ranging from life tips and birds, to flags and Civil War heroes) along with the brand name. These cards were a completely new way of advertising tobacco and cigarettes, and they stiffened both the boxes and cigarette sales. Then too, Duke was the only large tobacco manufacturer to take a chance on the imperfect Bonsack machine – which, once perfected, cut the cost of cigarette manufacturing in half. And there’s also the fact that tycoon Buck Duke merged the five largest tobacco companies in America to form the American Tobacco Company in 1890. But even that doesn’t give the full picture.
To get a clearer picture, one has to look at the times in fuller context.
By the 1890s, use of female celebrities was already a powerful marketing gimmick. It began by using the more “mature” theatre actresses, those in their 30s and 40s, as spokespersons. Some, such as Julia Marlow, even had products made in their names.
But as opera and motion pictures were deemed more legitimate, younger famous performers were also used to sell — and to sell to women. For in fact, female celebrities were not only beautiful, and so used to motivate everyday men and women to purchase, but everyday women themselves were used to legitimize and make palatable such “unsavory” enterprises as the nickelodeon and motion pictures themselves. (No small surprise then, that women would become the biggest draws in entertainment.) In placing women on trading cards and other advertising pieces, women were also used to make the whole notion of smoking acceptable and even desirable in two ways.
The first, likely, was the use of the iconic American Girl imagery to made smoking — especially the brands using the images — not only the popular thing to do, but the acceptable thing to do. As Bergeret wrote in Vanity Fair (April, 1915):
She [the American Girl] incarnates the spirit of her nation; she is the living ideal, the only adornment of a country that, without her would be a veritable cave of Alberic, a black and smokey dollar-forge. It is true, too, that the United States owe her all they possess of art, of good breeding, of humanity… she is the standard-bearer of American ideas and products over all Europe.
And, in 1889, in Jonathon and His Continent: Rambles Through American Society, Max O’Rell would describe the American Girl as follows:
No matter how much of a butterfly she may be, she never loses sight of the future. She does not say, as she sits musing on marriage: “What kind of man shall I suit?” but “What kind of man shall I choose.”
Showing American Girls, however attractive, was less about sex than it was about being appropriate, being the upstanding sort that would marry and carry on in the best American way.
The second path was all about selling directly to women themselves. While not completely culturally acceptable, women were using tobacco and smoking at this time — and even earlier. Corporations no doubt sought to court females directly as consumers for their tobacco products, using female celebrities as they had been with other products for women.
None of this precludes a primal male reaction to the sight of a beautiful woman; lascivious or not, men will be, well, men. And too often women are too quick to call them on it. However, to see all advertisements, tobacco or otherwise, at this time or now, as purely sexual is to underestimate the importance of just how the female form figures into shifts in culture — and, indeed, the historical purchase power of women themselves.
For example, this 1871 packaging for Pearl cigarettes is often called “the earliest known use of sex in advertising.” But isn’t it at least equally possible it was just using the already classic beauty of the Venus de Milo? “Lascivious” is in the mind of the viewer. Or collector.
All I know about this vintage photo is what the seller notes:
a vintage & original 1963 gelatin silver publicity photograph promoting “The Obscene Couch” featuring “Lovely Karen.” Karen is lovely indeed as she shows off her curvaceous beach body and wild, mod blonde hair. This film was also known as “The Oblong Couch” and was eventually released under the title “Saucy Aussie.” An exciting film artifact and interesting in the fact that all publicity images advertised Lovely Karen yet she appears nowhere in the credits of the film. Starring role went to Sheree Steiner and the production company went on to make a few other sexploitation films such as “Wild Hippie Orgy.”
Measures 8″ x 10″ with margins on a glossy, single weight paper stock.
Some people think that the only premiums that came in boxes were in cereal boxes for kids. Sure, there were those coupon books and other early loyalty programs designed to bring people back to certain department stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and other shops. But when it comes to actual free things inside boxes, most people think of the toys and surprises inside cereal boxes designed to make the kiddies beg mom and dad for the stuff. But there were other premiums, including those in products for adults. And primarily these offers were specifically aimed at those adults in charge of most household purchasing: the American housewife.
Perhaps nowhere was this push for premiums more used than in the area of laundry detergents and soaps.
Those of us who are at least 40 years old may vividly recall these premiums and brands — not coincidentally because of the soap operas, which were, at their very essence, dramas created for housewives to watch and therefore pushed soaps and cleaning products; hence the name soap operas.
Lever Brothers, makers of Breeze laundry soap, partnered with Cannon towels for a luxury co-branded premium giveaway, eventually offering three sizes of towels.
(This stuff is apparently so nostalgic, that someone just paid $39.99 for an old unopened box of Breeze with the towel still inside.)
My mom watched the CBS soap operas, as did her mother before her. As a result, our family was loyal to the family of Proctor & Gamble products. Proctor & Gamble put towels into their boxes of Bonus laundry detergent — as this fabulous musical commercial from 1960s illustrates. Note the gender split — and how the little woman’s knowledge (and sexual necktie manipulation) wins out.
Later, P&G would graduate from towels to putting glasses and china dishes with a wheat pattern (some even with gold trim) in boxes of Duz, the “does everything” laundry detergent. Incidentally, those wheat dishes were once clogging thrift shop shelves, but now, nostalgia coupled with the fascination with Mid-Century Modern, these dishes are making a comeback.
However, when it comes laundry detergent premiums, I don’t think many things are so firmly entrenched in our collective minds as Dolly Parton pitching boxes of soap with towels in them in the 1970s. While there is some debate as to whether the brand of detergent was Breeze or Duz (it was, in fact, Breeze; and we pray again to the YouTube Gods that someone can upload such a commercial!), almost everyone recalls the ads. Especially the kitsch factor.
I remember seeing you on “The Porter Wagoner Show,” pulling out giant towels from boxes of Breeze detergent.
It was actually a bath towel — we used to have to do our own commercials on those shows, and they were so corny. But I still have some of those towels that I’ve kept through the years. Those were the days — “And you can only get them in boxes of Breeze!” And honestly, with that towel inside, there probably wasn’t more than half a box of Breeze. But people didn’t care because they were getting something free.
Corny or not, to this day, when I see a small hand towel covered in gold roses, “zeenyas!”, or other yellow flowers I instantly think of Dolly Parton. Its not just Dolly’s love of yellow roses, but those 70s yellow florals that stick in my mind. And that’s not all. Whenever I am at someone’s house and they have a similar looking towel out for use, I am convinced my hands smell like vintage detergent too. Come to think of it, that may be why I don’t like those wheat patterned dishes either.
Most of us know of, if have not seen, the naked and hairy Burt Reynolds centerfold in Cosmo. (It was the 70’s equivalent of a sex tape in terms of exploding a celebs popularity.) But have you seen this puzzle featuring a pants-less Reynolds? Published about the same time as the issue of Cosmopolitan, circa 1972, one can enjoy Reynolds nearly unwrapped — just wearing a football jersey. No manscaping, that’s for sure.
Holy crap! Yesterday, I published an article about journalist Edward R. Murrow; and just now I published one about fashion designer Sophie Gimbel. In looking for images for that last article, I found this: a photo of Edward R. Murrow with Sophie Gimbel! I love, love, love this sort of circular serendipity of context! (That’s Sophie’s husband, Adam Gimbel, on the stairs; photo circa 1955.)
When Alyssa Milano was on The Late Late Show last December, she told Craig Ferguson (and all of us watching), that her grandfather said there were two types of people: those who think farts are funny, and those who don’t. Clearly Milano does, because she spent quite a bit of time farting around with Ferguson.
Whether or not Milano’s grandfather was right about there being just those two groups of people in the world, it’s clear that Mozart was a man into fart humor. Yes, that Mozart.
The proof of poof-amusement comes from (at least) one of 12 letters Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his female cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart. These letters, written between 1777 and 1781, are included in Robert Spaethling’s book. And they contain passages which Lapham’s Quarterly calls “alliterative and obscene”. It is in this letter that we find Wolfgang going well-past a love of all things musical into TMI territory. In fact, this might be the first reference to a shart — it’s certainly the earliest I’ve ever read.
You write further, indeed you let it all out, you expose yourself, you let yourself be heard, you give me notice, you declare yourself, you indicate to me, you bring me the news, you announce onto me, you state in broad daylight, you demand, you desire, you wish, you want, you like, you command that I, too, should could send you my portrait. Eh bien, I shall mail fail it for sure. Oui, by the love of my skin, I shit on your nose, so it runs down your chin.I now wish you a good night, shit in your bed with all your might, sleep with peace on your mind, and try to kiss your own behind; I now go off to never-never land and sleep as much as I can stand. Tomorrow we’ll speak freak sensubly with each other. Things I must you tell a lot of, believe it you hardly can, but hear tomorrow it already will you, be well in the meantime. Oh my ass burns like fire! What on earth is the meaning of this!—maybe muck wants to come out? Yes, yes, muck, I know you, see you, taste you—and—what’s this—is it possible? Ye Gods!—Oh ear of mine, are you deceiving me?
Now I must relate to you a sad story that happened just this minute. As I’m in the middle of my best writing, I hear a noise in the street. I stop writing—get up, go to the window— and—the noise is gone—I sit down again, start writing once more—I have barely written ten words when I hear the noise again—I rise—but as I rise, I can still hear something but very faint—it smells like something burning—wherever I go it stinks, when I look out the window, the smell goes away, when I turn my head back to the room, the smell comes back—finally my mama says to me: I bet you let one go?—I don’t think so, Mama. Yes, yes, I’m quite certain. I put it to the test, stick my finger in my ass, then put it to my nose, and—ecce provatum est! Mama was right!
Clearly not all classical musicians are as, errm, stuffy as you might think.
I was thrilled to see that Martha Plimpton wore her scarlet letter when she was on Craig Ferguson last week (23 January, 2014).
Not only did Plimpton talk about her organization, A Is For, but she spoke about the recent fundraiser too. The event was called A Night of a Thousand Vaginas — no, not this Night Of A Thousand Vaginas. Though it’s pretty clear that too many Americans are as afraid of vaginas as the parody suggests; or at least, as Plimpton said, uncomfortable with the word.
The bad news is that others came & demonstrated at the event, saying, “Sadly this was done in the name of ‘comedy.'” Normally I wouldn’t give these folks any attention or press, but it’s always educational to see what the other side is up to — and some of the comments are fascinating. Apparently we are to watch for a conversation also recorded that night between the evangelical Chaplain Bill and Sarah “the Blasphemer” Silverman, because Chaplain Bill sent that video to “a wonderful Christian based media organization” who may or may not opt to share it. I would like to see that myself — unedited, of course.
On this date, November 6th, in 1967 a baby girl was born; just 21 years later, on July 18, 1989, she would be murdered.
The woman was Rebecca Schaeffer, an actress most famous for her role as Pam Dawber’s sister Patti Russell in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam. For some of you youngsters, this might be before your time. (Perhaps all you know of Schaeffer is that she was the inspiration for the 2002 Jake Gyllenhaal film Moonlight Mile; the film is said to be loosely inspired by writer/director Brad Silberling, who was dating Rebecca Schaeffer at the time of her death.) But I remember distinctly being a young 24 year old woman and being shaken by the news of her death. Her age being so close — even younger than my own — pierced my youthful resistance to mortality; but what was worse was the way Schaeffer died.
Schaeffer was murdered by a stalker, a man who considered himself a fan — until God instructed him otherwise. This man-fan named Robert Bardo had adored Schaeffer’s youthful innocence, but disliked her new work as an actress when a small roll in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills put her in bed with a male character. “If she was a whore, God was going to appoint me to punish her,” Bardo said. His mission now was to “stop Schaeffer from forsaking her innocent childlike image for that of an adult fornicating screen whore.” Or at least that’s the story he would later tell after he stalked Schaeffer at her home, was rebuffed, and retaliated by shooting her to death.
Whatever motivated Schaeffer’s murderer, the fact is that her murder finally motivated the public to care about stalking. As is unfortunately the case in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it took the death of a celebrity like Schaeffer to generate awareness and concern. Such concern over Schaeffer’s death would even lead to protective legislation.
The majority of stalking, of course, occurs in the regular (non-celeb) world — and in the context of domestic violence or other situations involving everyday people the victims know. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) most recent fact sheet (August, 2012), the majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, with 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims of stalking are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. When it comes to femicide:
* 76% of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner.
* 67% had been physically abused by their intimate partner
* 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder
* 79% of abused femicide victims reported being stalked during the same period that they were abused.
* 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers
Now all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government recognize stalking as a crime; however well, or not well, police and other officials may respond, strides have been made.
Yet there is another huge unresolved issue that is brought to light with the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer: Rebecca was murdered with an illegally purchased handgun, but gun control has only gotten worse here in the USA — and by that I mean less gun control.
Since Rebecca Schaeffer’s death in 1989, her mother, Danna Schaeffer, has remained consistent in her concern, saying, “I’m angry at the system that allows things like this to happen, that allows a deranged person to get his hands on a deadly weapon.” Since then, Danna Schaeffer has lobbied and fought for sane gun control. In 1991, she went door-to-door at the Capitol lobbying for a ban on assault weapons and an end to the old gun show loophole on criminal background checks. She co-founded Oregonians Against Gun Violence (OAGV). And she continues to speak out today. But despite her actions and the actions of many, politicians still refuse to take necessary action to protect innocent Americans. What more we need? Why wasn’t Sandy Hook enough? Why has public demand for gun control waned? Do we need a celebrity massacre to make us give a damn?
Today, on the anniversary of Rebecca Schaeffer’s birth, let’s not only remember her, but do something. Contact your legislators and let them know that you demand stricter gun control laws. Now Is The Time.
Collecting vintage smut, as I do, I know who Vikki Dougan is; but I’ve been surprised a number of times by both the lack of recognition this iconic beauty has and the lack of information about her. So, ever obsessed as usual, I set out to correct the situation.
Vikki Dougan: you may not recognize her from the front, but you likely recognize her backside — hence her nickname, “The Back”.
A particular prominence was assigned, for instance, to ads which featured a young actress named Vikki Dougan. In memoirs of the period, individual ads featuring Miss Dougan are traced from house to house in ways that recall the hunt for a respectable provenance which plays so large a part in the authentication of Old Master paintings. Of an Esquire photograph of Miss Dougan, Richard Hamilton remembers: “I first saw it decorating a wall in [Alison and Peter] Smithson’s home. I gained my own copy from a student’s pinboard in the interior-design department of the Royal College of Art. Lawrence Alloway gave me the data on her; the photograph had impressed him sufficiently to make him regard it as a file-worthy document. It turned up again recently as one of a group of pin-ups in a painting by Peter Phillips.”
This biography attempts to fill in some of the blanks about Vikki Dougan.
Before she earned the notorious nickname (and a plethora of puns), Vikki Dougan was born Edith Tooker in New York in 1929, to her parents Wilber and Mary (nee Dougan) Tooker. Legend says that in 1946, at the age of 16, she becomes both a Miss Rheingold finalist (but is disqualified for being underage) and the wife of a William Symons, the owner of a local photo studio.
Vikki’s big break came in 1948, when she (as Vikki Stappers Dougan) won the eighth annual New York Skate Queen competition. In promoting the ninth annual event, the following was mentioned in Billboard (April 2, 1949):
The purpose of the event, a joint promotion of Empire and The New York Journal-American, is to select an ideal girl roller skater and glorify her for a year. Judging will be based on charm, beauty and personality, with no points whatsoever for skating skill. Contestants must only appear on skates. …Professional skaters models and actresses are banned.
(Vikki, as Queen, and finalists followed up in 1949 by heading the “first ever” fashion show, sponsored by the Roller Skating Institute of America (RISA), in which they modeled “30 attractive rink costumes, loaned for he occasion by the Lence Company,” according to Billboard, March 1949.)
Winning the 1948 skating title would launch Vikki’s pretty face and figure into work as a model — and into gossip Walter Winchell‘s gossip columns, linked to DJ Art Ford. Note that in this 1948 “Look Pink” ad for cosmetic company Cutex, she is even credited — but as Vikkie Dougan, “New York model and prize-winning skater”.
In 1949, Vikki Dougan the “’48 Beauty Queen of Figure Skating” is featured in a comic-strip-style ad for Camels cigarettes, meeting Betty Lytle, one of America’s top-ranking women’s roller skaters. (Skates would be sold with Lytle’s name.) This appears to be the last mention of Vikki Dougan the skater; probably to great relief of Lytle, Dougan, and everyone else.
All this attention unsettles her husband, Bill Symons. At some point after their daughter Debbie is born in 1950, he is said to have walked-out on their marriage. Dougan gets a divorce in Mexico and (per Winchell’s column in February of 1952) Vikki establishes residency in Florida while working as a cover girl at Ciro’s, in Miami Beach. Also about this time, she is signed to agent Louis Shurr.
In the October 26, 1953, issue of Life, Dougan appears not only on the cover, but in the feature article Careers Aplenty: Vikki Dougan models, acts, designs, mothers. In this article, Vikki is listed as 21 years old and is accompanied in the photographs by her three year old daughter, Debbie. The Life article lists Vikki as having started in modeling at age 13 (as Deirdre Tooker), studied at Betty Cashman studio, and appeared weekly in Jackie Gleason’s TV show — along with the clothes designing, mothering, etc. Life also mentions that Vikki “once caused a stir in fashion circles by using wigs to change her appearance and help her get more modeling jobs” — something also featured in Life (July 28, 1952).
Vikkie Dougan, the pretty blond model who made such a hit with Frank Sinatra in Florida recently returned to New York to discover that thieves had cleaned out her apartment. They took her dresses, jewelry, mink coat… and black wig!
May 28, 1954, there are the gossip reports that Vikki, “the young model, who made the cover of Life recently” had posed as Miss General Electric earlier that day.
Dougan continues to model (including the 1955 Flexees lingerie ad and on the cover of the George Shearing Quintet’s Velvet Carpet LP), be seen on Gleason’s show — and be mentioned in the gossip columns. In 1956, it was rumored that Gordie Hormel asked her to marry him. She appears as a show girl in Back From Eternity. On April 27, 1956, Winchell On Broadyway reports that Vikki Dugan, “the ‘Away We Go’ gal with the Jackie Gleason show”, signed with MGM. Or did she? On December 21, 1956, Dorothy Kilgallen reports that Dougan “is the first girl to be signed to a Batjac (John Wayne) contract since Anita Ekberg was given her big opportunity.”
In January of 1957, there are reports that Dougan has a role in The Great Man. (She would play Marcia, the new receptionist.)
March 29, 1957, Erskine Johnson‘s Hollywood Today column is titled Vikki Dougan Reverses Trend And Backs Into Film Career:
February 13, 1957, Hedda Hopper reveals that she, Louells Parons, and Hub Keavy are to “pick Miss 8 Ball of 1957. The choice has narrowed to Venita Steenson, Carolyn Jones, Vikki Dougan, Kipp Hamilton, and Adrienne Alison, all beauties. But we’ve go to decide on one, O, dear.” Vikki Is New Ca-rear Girl In Hollywood, by Lee Belser, is so full of puns that they couldn’t publish this on April Fool’s Day and instead published it on April 2, 1957.
Through this time, Vikki “The Back” Dougan makes the rounds in men’s mags, including pictorials in the April 1957 issue of Nugget.
May 7, 1957: Hollywood gossip columnist Harrison Carroll reports that Vikki has been made queen of the California Chiropractic Association’s “Perfect Posture Week.”
In Clothes Make The Act — And The Actor (Oakland Tribune, May 19, 1957), Lloyd Shearer writes a piece that seems to be tailor made for getting The Back out of negative press. In his article, Shearer begins by discussing this “new trend in show business” whereby talent draws on fashion and “practically any female “name” can earn “5,000 a week and up if her attire clicks with the press.” The piece appropriately finishes with Vikki Dougan & her dresses, stating that it was Milton Weiss (Hollywood publicist who’d worked with Anita Ekberg) who was, umm, behind Dougan’s look.
His first move was to have three expensive dresses made for her — without backs. He then titled his client “The Back” and had her appear at previews and parties in her plunging creations. Soon local photographers zeroed in on Miss Dougan’s bare spinal column, and gagsters began originating such cracks as, “Vikki Dougan makes the best exits in town.”
Finally Vikki was banned from someone else’s preview party because her backless formal was drawing too much attention. The incident received proper press coverage. Today Vikkie — born Edith Tooker in Brooklyn — is riding toward fame on the strength of her clothes, what there is of them. It’s a trend, all right.
You might not want to put too much stock in that story tho; it changes, as you’ll soon see.
As noted in that issue of Playboy, the photo that really started it all was a wirephoto which came from Dougan’s appearance at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 1957 awards banquet. On July 10th of that year (some Old Guard Hollywood retaliation, perhaps?) Mike Connolly reported in his column, “New Hollywood game called True Or False: Guessing whether Vikkie Dougan got her idea for backless dresses from watching and old Marlon Brando movie…” (In reference to Sophia Loren in A Countess from Hong Kong.)
These photographs (undated, circa 1950s) taken by Life staff photographer Ralph Crane capture America’s love-hate with Vikki Dougan & her notorious backside.
In October of that year, press for Hollywood Queens Of Tomorrow, including an AP photo — in which Vikki is not shown from the back:
Fifteen young actresses for whom stardom is predicted wait to go on stage in Hollywood Friday at the fifth annual Deb Star Ball, sponsored by the Hollywood Make-up and Hair Stylists. Several thousand movie people were in the audience at the Palladium. Left to right: Joan Blackman, Peggy Connolly, Patricia Craig, Vikki Ddougan, Dolores Hart, Diane Jergens, Barbara Lang, Ruta Lee, Jana Lund, Carol Lynley, Erin O’Brien, Joan Tabor, Joyce Taylor, Rebecca Welles and Gloria Winters.
Ten days later, Vikki Backs In, Helps Maxie Promote Ice Cream Breakfast (by George Flowers, Independent-Press-Telegram, October 20, 1957).
On the 21st of that month, Vikki the starlet appears at the annual Publicists’ Association Ballyhoo Ball. This is the famed party where Greta Thyssen had a cheetah on a leash, Joan Bradshaw brought a lion, and Errol Flynn and Maura FitzGibbons were arrested on drunk charges; Vikki “Lady Godiva” Dougan was on an artificial horse.
December 22, 1957, Dougan uses giant scissors for the ribbon-cutting opening of a Safeway Market in Tarzana.
In 1958, Dougan attempts to change her image. It is noted; but still does not please. On March 24, 1958, Harrison Carroll accuses Dougan of wearing “a shapeless sack (looked like a nightgown) over a satin sheath.” On March 27, 1958, Vikki Dougan was reported to be at the Oscar Award Ceremonies — but still not pleasing anyone:
A bizarre note was added by eager starlet Vikki Dougan, who arrived in gaudy makeup and flapper costume.
Poor Vikki can’t win!
In his June 2, 1958, column, Earl Wilson asked Vikki “about the alleged practice of Hollywood gals calling guys for dates.”
“No, but suppose you’re going with an actor and you say after a premiere, ‘I’d like to go to Mocambo’ and he says, ‘But I can’t afford it.’ So you say, ‘I don’t want to embarrass you but couldn’t we go it I paid the bills?'”
It happened to her, she said, “and strangely enough, if men accept it, they resent it.” Vikki said she may be a sexbomb in the papers but she’s had three dates in a year. “The men you go with want to get married,” she added. “The trouble is, they never say when.”
Meanwhile, photos of her continue to circulate in the various men’s mags.
May 23, 1959, Harrison Carroll uncovers Dougan professional and relationship news.
If she listened to Lili St. Cyr‘s estranged husband, Ted Jordan, actress Vikki Dougan soon will be displaying even more epidermis than in those backless gowns that used to make Hollywood night clubbers gasp.
Jordan, who just started to date Vikki, tells me she would be great in a genteel strip act.
“She reminds me so much of Lili,” he says. “They have the same nose and mouth, the same beautifully arched back. Vikki is not quite as tall as Lili, but, otherwise, their measurements are about the same.
“And I heard Vikki sing. She’d really do great in night club work. I know the ropes and I could help her.”
I checked with Vikki. She’s not convinced, but she’s listening.
In October of 1959, “Remember Vikki Dougan?” is the headline. Not only has she fallen out of the press, but apparently work of any kind. She, and her nine year-old daughter, have been living off a $40 weekly unemployment check for the past eight months.
A similar article runs in November of that year, in which Dougan says the reason she wore a backless dress in the first place was to avoid posing “in bikinis and other cheesecake.”
The ever-helpful Erskine Johnson’s got Dougan’s back again at the tail-end of January of 1960, allowing the actress to spin more tales about her notorious backside.
February 22, 1960, Vikki Dougan (misspelled “Vicki Dougan” in the photo caption) is one of the judges for the Miss Pasadena Contest.
But then crickets chirp and Dougan disappears until August 28, 1960. Then photos of Vikki and former Texas Christian football player tuned actor, Jim Sweeney, appear over the AP and are widely picked up — primarily because he places the diamond engagement ring (along with a friendship ring) on the toe of her left foot. Days later, on September 3rd, she (as Edythe A. Tooker) marries James R. Sweeney; he’s 25, she’s 24.
The Pacific Stars & Stripes reports that “Vikki Apparently Needs No Direction” on the set of Peter Gunn (The Candidate episode). (September 16, 1960; photo of Dougan with caption about her appearance on Peter Gunn from San Antonio Light, October 23, 1960.)
Dougan appears in episodes of Michael Shayne (Murder Is a Fine Art) and Sea Hunt (Amigo) in March of 1961. But it’s rather silent, again, until November 20, 1961, when promo photos and pun-y lines about Dougan doing the twist at New York’s Peppermint Lounge appear.
On November 26, 1961, Walter Winchel reports that Vikki had “told chums she will sue Leo Guild for including her in his soon-due book Hollywood Screwballs which mentions Oscar Levant, Bing Crosby, F. Sinatra, and Jayne Mansfield, who aren’t suing.”
September 9, 1962, columnist Connolly quips, “Vikki Dougan, who used to pose in backless gowns, is slamming out a slim volume of verses to be titled “Purple Mud.” Vikki tells me it will be a backless book.” (If anyone show me a copy — or even prove it wasn’t just a joke, please do!)
January 18, 1963 Vikki appears in Los Angeles court to divorce Sweeney, claiming he deserted her after going through her $10,000 savings. The divorce is granted and she accepts a $1 per month alimony.
On June 3, 1963, Earl Wilson reports that Vikki plans to open up a Hollywood barbershop for men.
“Remember Vikki Dougan, Hollywood’s gift to the world of backless dresses? She just signed for a feature role in Hootenanny at MGM,” reports Connolly on July 22, 1963. (She did appear in 1963’s Hootenanny Hoot.) But that didn’t pay the bills; August 11, 1963, Wilson says, “Backless Vikki Dougan now works for a cosmetic company.”
In its January 1964 issue, Cavalier runs a “The Back Is Back” pictorial which features 12 nude photos of Vikki Dougan. Dougan initiates a lawsuit against publisher Fawcett, stating that she posed nude for photos for Playboy, but later backed-out, and they did not have her permission to publish them.
There are a few scattered gossip “spottings,” but nothing much of note until February 22, 1967, when Harrison Carroll reports:
Despite the fact that she took along four wigs, my scouts spotted actress Vikki Dougan at a Houston prizefight with famed attorney Melvin Belli. And they looked just as affectionate as they did recently at Scandia. Can’t blame Melvin. Vikki is a beauty. Understand the two also were in Chicago together and visited Hugh Hefner.
Also in 1967, she would appear in Hotel. And there were reports Dougan, along Sugar Ray Robinson, was part of the cast of Tony Randall & Mickey Rooney’s Las Vegas rendition of The Odd Couple at Casear’s Palace.
In November of 1969, the Fawcett/Cavalier lawsuit is settled out of court. Vikki says the magazine paid her $75,000 to settle; Fawcett Publications, Inc., says it didn’t pay that much.
March 21, 1974, Earl Wilson’s It Happened Last Night column focused on “Shutterbug Respect” and mentions that Vikki Dougan (still haunted by her notorious back-side views) “has joined the profession.” (The profession of photographers, that is.)
And after that, Vikki Dougan seems lost — save for those who fell in love with her image. Along with inspiring pop art, Vikki and her sexy back would be the inspiration for Jessica Rabbit.
Here’s a 2009 interview with Dougan, in which she dishes about Jessica Rabbit and Sinatra:
I’d love to know more, so, if you know something — if you know Vikki! — please do share.
As one of the leading American feminists since the early 1960s Gloria Steinem has had a long, varied and controversial career as a writer and political activist that has seen her employed as an ‘undercover’ Playboy bunny, lobby as a pro-abortion…
This is kind of fun: in the most recent installment of Hysterical Literature, Margaret Cho keeps breaking out in squirming giggles and laughter as she orgasms — and eventually drops her Kindle — while reading aloud at the table…
Anita Ekberg stopped in her tacks, obeying the “Don’t Pass Me By” sign taped to a full-length poster of herself wearing a two-piece leopard print swimsuit. I’m not sure how she managed to obey the ‘Happy Father’s Day’ sign, but I’ll give Ekberg the benefit of my doubt.
If we do a survey on what men find attractive in women, we’re betting top of their list involves a great sense of humor. The Telegraph supports this claim by stating in an article that “men ranked a sense of humour as the highest priority, with a fun-loving nature third and playfulness fifth, while putting physical attractiveness only ninth”. Well, isn’t that surprising. Appearances ranked way below the list. Yes, comediennes hold all the aces nowadays, especially in the advent of great comedy programs on TV. Comedy is no longer male-dominated territory. What’s more, comediennes are not necessarily unattractive with their looks. They no longer have buckteeth or long faces just so they could be funny. Women in comedy are now attractive and sexy, their qualities heightened by the fact that they make us all laugh.
We’ve gathered our top three favorite comediennes, who are not only funny as hell, but are also very beautiful and sexy in their own rights. Here they are:
1. Penny (The Big Bang Theory, played by Kaley Cuoco) – She may not be part of the geeky club, but do not strike her off as someone stupid. What she lacked in intellectual advancement she makes up for with wit and heart that we can’t help but adore her all the same. She never surprised us more when she managed to beat Sheldon in the video game Halo 3. Of course, her style is more in the league of online gaming at sites such as http://da.partypoker.com/. Not because she looks like she belongs with the Vegas showgirls, but her adventurous side makes her more likely to play Texas Hold ‘em and Omaha Hi-Lo than battle games. Besides, she can play these games with Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Wolowitz by challenging them on online tournaments. The gang might be geniuses, but with great bluffing skills Penny can ace the card game. Aside from the challenge, players get the chance to compete in international poker events like the World Poker Tour, something not offered by your regular RPG.
2. Gloria Pritchett (Modern Family, played by Sofia Vergara) – One look, and you’ll definitely peg her as just one gorgeous package without substance. And you couldn’t be more wrong. She may look like she came right off the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine, but this hot momma is a strong, independent and ruthless woman. She’s someone who’ll protect her family no matter what. She stands out as having a thick Latino accent, and when she mispronounces common English words we just can’t stop laughing. Still, we can definitely learn from Gloria how to say what’s on our mind, despite odds not being in our favor.
3. Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother, played by Cobie Smulders) – Where else can you find a wingman, news anchor, and former child pop star rolled into one? She’s so hot she’s got two leading men, Ted and Barney, all over her (although of course we know now who she ended up with). Her most endearing quality is being one of the boys, which is why she totally gets men. Whether she’s just chilling out in MacLaren’s pub or delivering the morning news, she’ll totally get your attention just by being herself. She’s tough, frank and funny; what more can we ask for?
I often wonder about Brooke Shields, especially when I see Pretty Baby. It’s been a few years now since I’ve watched it last, but when I saw this image, I started thinking about the movie and the actress again.
Most people wonder about young Brooke for her notorious advertising gigs, and for the film Blue Lagoon (NWS), but it’s Pretty Baby which makes my head spin. That’s why I’ve watched the movie several times. The are multiple layers of uneasiness and creep that I know I must work out for myself, so I continue to watch it. (This posting likely ensures a viewing sooner rather than later.)
In the film, a 12-year-old Brooke Shields plays Violet, the 12-year-old daughter of a prostitute working in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans, in 1917. It would be an interesting and uncomfortable story by itself, but unlike a book, film requires more than your mind — characters are brought to life by actors. As noted in the post about Blue Lagoon (above), a lot of watching a film is about what we bring to it. I didn’t see the film when it came out in 1978 (yet I often wonder what my 14-year-old self would have thought about it); I was both an adult and a mom. And as a mom — who knows that Brooke is a mom — I can’t help but wonder about the actress herself. What was it like to be a child and pretend such a role? When a kid plays in a horror movie, I have those thoughts too; but then kids know scary monsters under the bed. I’m no prude, and I don’t think sex is worse than violence, but Pretty Baby is/was different. Its sophistication is what makes it a great film. But is such sophistication suitable for children — viewers or actors? …Was young Brooke aware that her position as a child actress was a lot like the role she played? How does Brooke the mother feel — would she allow, encourage, or discourage one of her children from playing such a role?
Brooke’s written books, but her autobiography was written before she was a parent, and I doubt the postpartum depression book mentions any of this… I’d love to get my hands on a copy of her 1987 senior thesis, The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, Pretty Baby and Lacombe Lucien; but that too was ages ago. Has age and motherhood changed how she views these experiences?
Sometimes history is thought of as it is taught: In separate chunks. But history passes, weaves, and certainly is attached and connected to time — the time behind it, the time before it, and simultaneously to persons and events which, even in attempts to understand and reclaim, we have neatly severed into subjects and categories.
History and culture isn’t simply a matter of dates or compartmentalized periods. The subject of context isn’t merely one for writers, bloggers or content curationists, i.e. photo or image with research or text story, properly credited, for real readers. Context is even more than the object, person, or event in cultural context of what came before it, what came after it. Context must include what and who are contemporaries.
For example, do you think of opera legend Marian Anderson and artist Frida Kahlo as contemporaries? As friends even? Most probably do not.
For in our (admirable) attempts to reclaim lost stories of Black Women and Hispanic Women (groups who have felt marginalized from Feminism and Women’s Studies), separate stories emerge. Separate stories may narrow focus, provide an ease for our brains (which many falsely claim are over-stimulated and bombarded with information; information overload is a myth) tasked with absorbing information, but so many separate stories not only lead to false notions of separate lives issues (which fosters a sense of competition, risks alienation, and further divides what is Us), but removes the full complex beauty of cultural context.
Oxford University historian Dr. Cliff Davies, in his discussion of the myth of the Tudor era, describes this compartmentalization of history as “seductive” and helping “to create the idea of a separate historical period, different from what came before and after.” I say this seduction also includes the temptation to remove the context of contemporaries. And that it ought to be avoided. Even in an age of working to create filtered focus.
Even when you have multiple blogs, collections, and curated topics — each with its own focus, there is likely to be some overlap between them. If you are aware of and include context with your collections, there will be, ought to be, some repeated content and objects across collections. Even those with the most dedicated focus.
I consider this to be not redundant overlap but more connections, yet another layer to your stories. Practically speaking from a marketing approach, it is another way to find more readers too.
The fragrance, I-kid-you-not, goes on sale in Macy’s stores April Fool’s Day (April 1, 2012). But it’s available online now for those with US mailing addresses.
The music for the perfume ad is a remix of Madonna’s latest single, Girl Gone Wild, which is the second single off MDNA. Girl Gone Wild has already enjoyed some notoriety, nearly costing the material girl in court (NWS).
Bruce Willis is one of the most successful and popular actors in the world. He is a man of many sides – versatile and authentic. Together with LR, the Hollywood star has now developed his first own perfume. In doing so, a fragrance has been created that merges his personality, expressiveness and character.
The perfume of Bruce Willis – a breath of immortality
Smart Guys live forever – just like Bruce Willis.
Straight down the line, masculine and unconventional.
The fragrance of action heroes: strong sandalwood and spicy
pepper mixed together with earthy vetiver and revitalising
grapefruit. Bruce Willis’ first fragrance – now a legend.
Fragrance: woody – green – elegant
Bruce Willis’ fragrance is available as:
Eau de Parfum
Perfumed Deo Spray
Perfumed Hair & Body Shampoo
I’m not too keen on the ad. It brings to mind more the smell of charbroiled meats than anything else — and that’s not the hunger I have or ought to have when Willis is around…
But multiple angles of that sardonic Willis smirk are much appreciated — as is the Bruno vibe.
How did I finally find out about this? Willis has just launched Lovingly, a fragrance for women, “Inspired by my lovely wife Emma.” (I can only imagine how this all makes Demi feel…)
It is a very personal story of a world star who was inspired by his wife Emma Heming-Willis to bestow a fragrance. As a sign of his love Lovingly was developed. A fragrance so full of passion just like this unique declaration of love. With a bouquet of white blossoms and a hint of fresh citrus fruits this scent encases a lustful aura of charm and love. Sandalwood and musk lend a warm and romantic feel. This is true love!
Fragrance: flowery – green – elegant
Lovingly by Bruce Willis is available as:
Eau de Parfums
Perfumed Shower Gel
Perfumed Body Lotion
Perfumed Deo Spray
ITEM: You are bidding on a very rare vintage pin up photograph of African American 1955 Hollywood sensation, and later boulevard of broken dreams archetype Vera Francis and a number of other showgirls as a proverbial roulette wheel where every spin is a winner. Measures 8″ x 10″
We are happy to be offering examples from the archives of Vera Francis, who was called a Hollywood Tragedy after being blacklisted from the screen for allegedly selling stories to the scandalous tabloid Confidential, about the inappropriate behavior of her often white co-stars and superiors. But the real tragedy of her career is that despite appearing in movies throughout the early 50s and being splashed upon magazine covers (Jet and Ebony notably) for her breakthrough role in “The President’s Lady” a story about the interracial affairs of American president Andrew Jackson, her name isn’t even featured in imdb for many of her known parts. The combination of her outspoken role in civil rights (Lena Horne was her oft mentioned hero), her “loose talk” and the scarcity of roles for black actresses in the 1950s meant that she disappeared quickly from the scene. However, she retained a lot of her allure in African American theater communities, performing in touring productions throughout the 1950s and 1960s and appearing in cabarets and as a model and pitch woman.
I was intrigued…
According to the San Mateo Times (September 30, 1954), the photo isn’t a true movie still, but promotional photo for MGM’s film, The Prodigal, sent out on the AP.
Researchers working on “The Prodigal” discovered that beautiful girls were the stakes in a gambling game popular in ancient Damascus of about 70 B.C., and so this wheel of feminine fortune was incorporated in the movie now being made at M-G-M. The girls will wear Damascus costumes in the movie, but for this photo the studio dressed the beauties in modern swim suits. The girls, all from Southern California and all making their movie debuts are: (1) Nancy Chudacoff, (2) Alice Arzaumanian, (3) Jolene Burkin, (4) Bobbie White, (Barbara White, (6) Aen-Ling Chow, (7) Marion Ross, (8) Patrizia Magurao, (9) Marjory May, (10) Vera Francis, (11) Jeanette Miller, and (12) Sheela Fenton.
What were Vera’s “regular” jobs? According to the September 25, 1952 issue of Jet magazine, which contains a profile of the young starlet, “Curvaceous Vera Francis, a Hollywood nurse and model, is the comely girl who will steal the affections of Susan Hayward’s husband in the forthcoming 20th Century-Fox film, The President’s Wife the life story of Mrs. Andrew Jackson. Best known for her magazine photo stints, Miss Francis is a Boston-born beauty who worked as a dental assistant and later a nurse for Jeanne Crain‘s children before getting a movie break.”
But sadly, there’s not much more known about Vera — despite the fact that, at least since 1952, Vera Francis was a staple on the covers (and pages between) of Jet, Hue, Sepia and other magazines for persons of color.
So, you know me, I obsessively set about researching Vera Francis, trying to create a biography…
However, I can’t honestly call this a biography; it’s more of a Vera Francs timeline at this point as most of what little (too little) I found is centered on gossip and one-line bits of info. However, given that Vera was a starlet, one can’t entirely ignore the gossip; that’s the only way one really finds more photos. In the Jet pages especially, you’ll see that Vera’s “loose talk” was probably based on some pretty hot action — along with movie talk and other gigs, there was plenty of gossip to rival the starlet’s “staying out of trouble.” Clearly, Vera was out and about, making the scene, hoping to make it in Hollywood.
[If you take these images to post elsewhere, please credit me with a link — I spent more hours than you want to know researching, scanning, cropping, editing this!]
The Vera Francis Timeline
The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica, April 11, 1935, Vera and Beryl Berth were arrested by Detective Hutchinson on a charge of selling ganja.
The Daily Gleaner, June 1, 1935, Vera Francis was “fined five pounds or two months hard labor for a breach of the Dangerous Drugs Law, to wit, selling ganja.” (No mention of Beryl.)
The Daily Gleaner, July 27, 1936, Miss Vera Francis is mentioned in a recital and is listed as being from Boston, U.S.A.
Jet, September 25, 1952: Announcing Vera’s role in the interracial romance film The President’s Lady.
Jet, October 16, 1952: Featured in “Why Brownskin Girls Get The Best Movie Roles.”
Jet, September 25, 1952: In press about The President’s Lady, a studio spokesman says, “When Lena Horne retires, Vera Francis will take her place.”
Jet, February 19, 1953: Photo caption reads:
Rock-A-Bye Baby: Midget liquor salesman Frankie Dee proved a real attention-getter when he turned up at New York City’s Beaux Arts ball in diaper attire. Actress-model Vera Francis and actor Jimmy Edwards made it a family threesome by obliging “baby” Frankie with his bottle.
Jet, April 16, 1953: when returning to Hollywood, “received offers as high as $100 for her address book that contains names of New York’s bachelors.” (Foreshadowing of the Confidential scandal?)
Jet, August 27, 1953: A guest at a birthday party for Lucky Millinger — Millinder is fed cake by “hi-de-ho” bandleader Cab Calloway while Francis and others look on.
Jet, September 10, 1953: Vera Francis crowns Betty Elaine Parks “Miss America” in an Elks Beauty Contest in Atlanta.
Jet, Sepembert 17, 1953: The actress is featured in the article “Why Hollywood Won’t Glamorize Negro Girls.”
Jet, October 8, 1953: Talking About “Exotic Vera Francis who does public relations work for a national cosmetics account. She was assigned to demonstrate the beauty products in an Atlanta five and ten, but when the store managers, who had asked for her, discovered that the movie starlet’s features were brown, they quickly called off the deal.”
Jet, November 26, 1953: “Movie actress Vera Francis lost her job as assistant to disc jockey Jack Walker. He fired her for not having ‘humility’.”
Jet, May 6, 1954: At the Shalimar Cafe party for disc jockey Tommy Smalls “Joe Louis is fed by Delores Parker, Vera Francis.”
Jet, May 13, 1954: Caption for the photo reads Elephant Girl: Turning out for the spring arrival of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus in New York, film actress Vera Francis and comedian Nipsey Russell visit with a friendly elephant named Ruth. Vera climbed aboard but Russell played it safe on the ground.
Jet, April 22, 1954: The actress has “midgets” Frankie Dee and Pee Wee Marquette fighting over her.
Jet, June 17, 1954: Caption for the photo reads “Cotillion Capers: A guest at the Cotillion Club’s annual deb ball in Detriot’s Graystone Ballroom, movie star Vera Francis gets an affectionate lift by admiring club members. Curvacious Vera recently embarked on a new career as a calypso-style song and dance entertainer.”
Jet, June 24, 1954: Poses for amateur photographers.
Jet, July 22, 1954: Sheesh — “Mose Thompson, the Detroit financier, who invited movie starlet Vera Francis to town for a little light balling only to have her snatched from his fingertips by dapper cigar huckster Sterling Hogan.”
Jet, Augus 19, 1954: Vera Francis and Juanita Moore, signed to portray women inmates in Columbia’s Women’s Prison.
Hue, August, 1954: Vera Francis photographed at the Surf Club “Puckered Up for Kissing”.
Jet, September 2, 1954: Said to play role of a jungle girl in the next series of Tarzan pictures.
Jet, September 30, 1954: Said she signs for a feature role as one of 12 international beauties in MGM’s Biblical movie, The Prodigal to play a “maid of India.” (The roulette wheel that started all my obsessive hunting.)
Jet, December 2, 1954: “Now that she has had several minor roles in Hollywood films, shapely actress-model Vera Francis has changed her stage name to Vieja.”
Jet, December 16, 1954: A note that the “model-actress” to appear in Kiss Me Deadly (a Mickey Spillane feature) and Universal-International’s Tracey (starring Anne Baxter and Rock Hudson — near as I can tell, eventually titled One Desire).
Jet, May 12, 1955: “Showgirl” Vera Francis adjusts Sammy Davis Jr.’s Windsor knot at the Harlem YMCA’s salute to Sammy.
The Gleaner, March 17, 1955: “Vera steals the show” in Kitty Kingston’s Personal Mention column. Vera is said here to be “of Indian as well as Jamaican origin” which “thrilled” party guests, especially “the ten Government employees of Pakistan on UNESCO Fellowship.” Here Vera’s new professional name, “Veijah” is mentioned and stated as meaning “victory.” The films Vera is to be gearing up for are listed as The Ten Commandments, Kismet, The White Witch of Rose Hall, and The Jungle Drums, to be filmed in Tunisia for Italian Films.
Also in that paper, an ad for Vera Francis appearing in person on the Carib Stage. (Note that Vera Francis is listed as “Jamaica’s Very Own” despite the paper saying in 1936 that she was from Boston.)
Jet, September 8, 1955: Francis “the movie bit player,” underwent a hernia operation at Cedars hospital, LA.
Jet, October 6, 1955: A note that Vera is rehearsing for a road company tour of the play Seven Year Itch. “She’ll wiggle her hips in the role that move actress Marilyn Monroe made famous.”
Lima News, August 24, 1957: In coverage of the Confidential libel scandal, Vera was named as paid informant regarding John Jacob Astor and Edward G. Robinson.
Ex-actress Vera Francis writes pals from the West Indies that she’s been secretly wed to a white employee of the New York Central Railroad she met at Billy Graham’s recent revival meeting.
Jet, May 15, 1958: “Former actress-model Vera Francis has turned “producer” in Jamaica, BWI. She presented her husband, George Handiwerk Jr., with a bouncing seven-pound, three-ounce daughter.”
The Gleaner, August 24, 1958: Mentions that Mrs. Vera Handwerk (the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Carby) is slated for the leading role in Calypso, to be filmed in Jamaica.
Jet, June 18, 1959: Vera “now Mrs. George Handwerk Jr. is four months again on her motherhood career, leaving behind in Kingston, Jamaica, her German husband to mind the first-born which she visits her sister.”
Jet, August 27, 1959: Vera Francis divorced “her white husband, George Handwerk,” married on September 8, 1957. They had a daughter, Francena, and Vera was pregnant with a second child.
Jet, January 14, 1960: “Pretty actress Vera (Francis) Handwerk gave birth to an eight-and-one-half pound girl, Janna, her second, in Jamaica, Britsh West Indies.” Here’s the photo that accompanied the news bit.
The Gleaner, November 26, 1961: Vera is listed as the hostess who also M.C’eed a fashion show at Babs Boutique.
The Gleaner, October 3, 1964: Vera is listed at the Bunny Mother for the Jamaican edition of the Playboy Bunnies.
Pontiac Daily Leader, February 12, 1969: She is mentioned as the “former Vera Francis” — now the Mrs. in Mr. and Mrs. Harlan Robertson. The couple, along with son Randy, were in Odell visiting Vera’s father, Perry Francis. No mention of the daughters.
Nowhere do I find any proof of Vera’s “outspoken role in civil rights”, though clearly she lived her life as a woman who resisted labels and limits — in terms of color and gender.
My dad had a thing for Suzanne. He also had a lusty crush on Susan Anton. We used to tease him maybe variations on “Sue” was his real “thing.” *wink*
As a young girl, and then a young woman, those two women were so disparate… And neither resembled my mother.
…Well, maybe my mother was a bustier Pleshette, with a more dulcet voice.
But anyway, my point is, my daddy taught me early on that men can be attracted, simultaneously, to many things about women — that there wasn’t necessarily a “type,” either for one man or mankind. That’s the sort of thing a woman needs to know. And it doesn’t hurt to know that such crushes or affections do nothing to demean or diminish the loving and lusty committed relationship one’s in, either.
I was reminded, again, just how important dads are to girls when hubby and I helped dad run his booths selling antiques at Cedarburg Maxwell Street Days this past weekend. Dad’s sort of got a carnival-barker-meets-stand-up-comic style to his manning of his booths. (Another thing I’ve picked up from Dad!) One woman, drawn in by Dad’s quick wit, was instantly charmed — not only by my dad, but by my relationship with him.
“It’s clear you love your dad,” she said. Tears formed in her eyes — and mine — when she said, “I lost my dad 26 years ago… Dads are so important in their daughters’ lives…”
Damn right they are.
So here’s to you, Dad. Enjoy Ms. Pleshette. Thanks for being you.
“Well, you know, I’d read some books about her and I found her story interesting. She was a very confrontational person.”
Selfish, maybe. “That’s not what I got from the books I read. Actually, I did from two of the biographies I read about her, but there was one, ‘Shadowland’, the best one, written by this PI from Seattle who researched it for years, and I didn’t get that impression from that one. She was obviously a difficult person, and got more and more difficult as the years went on, as people started to fuck with her more and more.
“I mean, she was institutionalised numerous times and, in the place in Washington where she ended up, the custodians had people lining up all the way through the halls, waiting to rape her. She’d been beaten up and brutally raped for years, every day. She didn’t even have clothes most of the time.
“Courtney especially could relate to Frances Farmer. I made the comparison between the two. When I was reading the book, I realised that this could very well happen to Courtney if things kept going on. There’s only so much a person can take, you know?
“I’ve been told by doctors and psychiatrists that public humiliation is one of the most extreme and hardest things to heal yourself from. It’s as bad as being brutally raped, or witnessing one of your parents murdered in front of your eyes or something like that. It just goes on and on, it grinds into you and it’s so personal.
“And the Frances Farmer thing was a massive conspiracy involving the bourgeois and powerful people in Seattle, especially this one judge who still lives in Seattle to this day. He led this crusade to so humiliate her that she would go insane. In the beginning, she was hospitalised – totally against her will – and she wasn’t even crazy. She got picked up on a drunk driving charge and got committed you know. It was a very scary time to be confrontational.”
Though nothing could excuse what was done to her, even the most reverent accounts of Farmer’s life don’t attempt to deny that she was on extremely difficult person, that her much-vaunted independence often amounted to a ruthless self-interest that left her indifferent to the suffering she caused. So she was no martyr.
But Farmer – beautiful, arrogant, creative, destructive and destroyed –does appear impossibly glamorous, especially from the safe distance of a few decades.
Is that what drew you to her?
“No. No, not at all”
The song, especially if Geffen have the good sense to release it as a single, may succeed in glamorising her.
How would you feel about that?
“I’d feel bad about that. I just simply wanted to remind people of tragedies like that. It’s very real and it can happen. People can be driven insane, they can be given lobotomies and be committed and be put in jails for no reason. I mean, from being this glamorous, talented, well-respected movie star, she ended up being given a lobotomy and working in a Four Seasons restaurant.
“And she hated the Hollywood scene, too, and was very vocal about it, so those people were involved in the conspiracy, too. I just wanted to remind people that it happened and it has happened forever.”
Most of your songs are, in one way or another, about suffering. A popular liberal notion is that suffering ennobles. Do you think there’s any truth to that?
“It can, it can. I think a small amount of suffering is healthy. It makes your character stronger.”
Do you think you’ve suffered on a large or small scale?
“What do you think I think?”
“I’ve suffered on a large scale but most of the attacks haven’t been on me, they’ve been on someone I’m totally in love with, my best fucking friend is being completely fucking crucified every two months, if not more. I read a negative article about her every two months.”
Why read it? Why torture yourself?
“A lot of the time I can’t escape it because Courtney gets faxes of articles from the publicist all the time. But also it’s a form of protection. It enables you to remember … and to make sure you never deal with those people again. And another reason we like to read it is that we can learn from the criticism, too. If I never read any of the interviews I did, I’d never be able to say ‘Jeez, that was a pretty stupid thing to say. I’d better try to clear that up.’”
I was first introduced to Frances Farmer — and subsequently fell in love with both her and Jessica Lange — in Frances (1982).
It’s not that I refuse to accept fact or Kauffman’s research; quite the contrary. I find all the representations and misrepresentations as detrimental to Farmer as the life she did lead. Mental health, especially then, was not kind, no matter what the ignorant intention. The media has only become worse. Her life as a creative, passionate woman was painful, co-opted.
Gawd I love Roseanne. There are about one million reasons to; here’s one more.
A very special quote from a very special article, And I Should Know, Barr had published at NYMag:
Based on Two and a Half Men’s success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. Charlie Sheen was the world’s most famous john, and a sitcom was written around him. That just says it all. Doing tons of drugs, smacking prostitutes around, holding a knife up to the head of your wife—sure, that sounds like a dream come true for so many guys out there, but that doesn’t make it right! People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the “culture.”
After seeing one episode of Two and a Half Men, I (no prude, mind you) was aghast that this subject matter was on during the first hour of prime-time, a slot usually reserved for family programming. Even if I didn’t have children, or it aired later at night, I wouldn’t have watched it because I don’t enjoy misogynistic television.
I also eschewed the show because I dislike Sheen. I knew the allegations about Sheen and his abusive behavior were true. Even before I experienced domestic violence in my first marriage. And I have no problems not backing an abuser, no problem refusing to add my consumer clout to a celebrity brand — especially when they refuse to get help, continually mock their victims, and act entitled to their “right” to control and harm others.
And I don’t understand why more people don’t do this, don’t refuse to line the pockets of violent losers who hurt people.
I don’t know what Sheen’s entire problem is; and I really don’t care because he has a wealth of resources and people to support him in his hour lifetime of need. But even if it’s only due in part to the “culture” Roseanne refers to, we all end up paying for it; so why perpetuate it?
I missed seeing Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, The Patriots, walk away from Bill O’Reilly, The Pinhead, on The View; but thanks to the Internet, I can watch it over and over again. Looking forward to watching Joy on the late rerun of her show tonight to hear what she has to say about this:
Welcome to Peterotica on tape! I’m Betty White reading The Hot Chick Who Was Italian, or maybe Some Kind of Spanish by Peter Griffin. Chapter One: “Oh God you should have seen this one hot chick. She was totally Italian. Or maybe some kind of Spanish….
But I digress.
As you all know, Betty White was on Saturday Night Live this weekend. The show drew the biggest ratings since November 2008, pulling in somewhere between 12 million and 13 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen estimates, some of whom said the show was too blue — but what the heck did they think Betty White was going to do? She’s been risqué, the queen of delivering double entendres, for decades! And it’s one reason we all love her.
I was especially heartened to see the huge number of former SNL female comedians who returned to perform with Betty. I choose to believe that upon hearing that Betty White was scheduled each & every one of them called and asked to be on the show too. I have no proof of this — and don’t contradict me; I prefer to enjoy such thoughts.
If you missed SNL this past Saturday, you can get yourself on over to NBC.com to watch the entire episode — as well as three sketches which were cut from the show due to time. My favorite of the cut sketches is the “Debbie Downer does a suburban lingerie party.”
The ladies of The View were not immune to the irony of having a show about infertility one day after the show with Nadya Suleman aka the Octomom. In their Hot Topics discussion (always my favorite part of the show), Whoopi noted it and there was brief discussion on why Suleman arouses so much heated debate.
At first I was surprised when Hasselbeck defended Suleman — I expected her to be a hard-line republican on the welfare business at the expense of fetal life, even though that fetal life was a medical “opt in” not a manual one — and by a single mother yet. And I was more than a bit surprised by Whoopi as well. I wasn’t surprised at her talk of responsibility in having so many kid so much as what was missing from the conversation.
See, what bothers me the most about all the Octomom haters is the lack of compassion and tolerance. Not just for the buckets of crazy that motivate having so many children, but for outrage expressed at her while folks like the Duggars (of 101 Christian Pups & Counting) continue to skate — even past Jon & Kate Plus 8 before the marital drama. I vented about all this before, but here it is again:
Before watching the Dateline interview of Nadya Suleman, my only interest in this story was the passing thought of, “Will this family replace Jon & Kate Plus 8??” I honestly had no idea of the squawking & hostility towards this mother of six who just gave birth to octuplets. In fact, I was surprised to hear of it — and that’s what drew me towards the show.
(Personally, I’d like to lay a large part of this concerned indignation from our nation on the bitterly infertile; but even the fertile seem to be pissed off. So it’s larger than that… Hit a larger American nerve.)
What I saw was an articulate young woman who managed to keep her own anger at bay, who seemed understanding and forgiving of people who do not accept her decision, and was composed yet passionate as she tactfully mentioned her beliefs about the sanctity of life. But it was her earliest statements, regarding other large families, which seemed to lie at the root of all of the hullabaloo.
When two parent families give birth to &/or adopt other children, people seem to respect them. We’re fascinated, yes; we’ve got television shows, both series and ‘specials’, dedicated to such large & extraordinary families. But we treat them with respect in those shows.
However, few seem to respect this woman. As they said on Chelsea Lately, single, unemployed moms who aren’t entrenched in their community church aren’t cute. Funny? Sure. But too true; and that’s what’s not funny. As were the comments Chelsea Handler made tonight (Tuesday, February 10th) about a new mom having a French tip manicure — seeing those nails near such paper-fragile premature baby skin made me whine and wince. And yes, there are some questions about where the money for manicures and whatever is going on with mom’s new lips… But would these statements be made with such heat about other new moms?
Would we trust the judgment of children? When her older children are questioned on Dateline, they mention ‘squishy’ (aka crowded living space) and crying babies. Those may be true things, and even un-coached or non-parroted statements they heard from adults; but are children known for their unselfishness? Not all children welcome additional siblings period. Does that mean parents or persons considering becoming parents take the advice or sentiments of their children to heart and not increase their family’s size because their children complained?
I’m no pro-lifer, but as the mother of special needs children are the plethora of haters (& Dateline) actually saying that it is irresponsible for a family to increase in size because they have special needs children? And sure, special needs kids come with extra bills — but I don’t see anyone worried about me and my family struggling to care for my special needs kids… Where’s the concern for us?
I’m not saying I think Ms. Suleman has all answers or answers that I’d like to hear when it comes to caring for her children; but then, see, that’s the point: This is not my family, these are not my questions to answer, I am not the judge. I’m not a Christian, but I think that’s supposed to be the Christian way; to leave the judging to God.
This is not to say that I, or anyone, shouldn’t care about the welfare of this family, these 14 children — but then most of the people worried are freaking out about the word ‘welfare’ so maybe I shouldn’t use that word…
We currently have no test or licensing practices for parenthood; even adoption has few rules if one has enough money. And don’t let money fool you either; money doesn’t free any family from neglect and abuse — which is what most everyone is talking about in defense of their questioning this woman’s right to a large family.
But it seems to me, too much emphasis is this woman’s single status. It seems to be the bottom line of all the upset reminding me of the old fuss about Murhpy Brown having a baby; a big moral debate about choosing to be a single mom.
Have a two-parent family who keeps popping out children because they don’t believe in birth control, and few take them to task for their lack of common sense, even when they live on the government dole, or in a house that is ‘squishy’. Extra points if they evoke God a lot. And when they have specific religious or church affiliations, no one dares to really berate them because they have religious protections & a coven of church brothers and sisters.
You want examples? Fine. Those annoying Duggars (of 17 and Counting) take their kids to a “wild life refuge” and allow/encourage their kids to feed animals pasty white bread from their mouths, run & chase animals despite the “do not chase the animals” signs — and when asked, bozo dad Duggar says he wasn’t worried about his kids. Apparently God will protect his kids from his own stupidity. Plus they do all sorts of impractical and stunting things to their kids in the name of religion — so we aren’t supposed to judge. Even my beloved Kate of Jon & Kate Plus 8 totes & promotes her faith.
Most egregiously of all, the Murphy family, headed by John and Jeanette Murphy, who, already the parents of four, opened up their home — aka privately adopted — 23 children with Down Syndrome and were the subject of Our 27 Kids. If you want to talk about what’s fair to the children you already have, where’s the outrage that they placed upon their young biological children (two who existed before they began adopting, and two born after) the burdens of special needs siblings? It’s not just the daily grind either — it’s for the lifetime of those children they’ve adopted. As a mom who has had to deal with the safety of one child’s future — aka legal guardianship — in light of other children’s needs, I can’t imagine saddling children with 23 such responsibilities.
But we don’t talk about these issues. Or their economic dole. The Murphy’s admit they too take food stamps, like Ms. Suleman; Jon & Kate likely don’t need them due to their TV deal, their church, etc.; and I bet the Duggars took food stamps & more — at least before the TV deal — and their children, ill-prepared for the real world, are destined to return to such public assistance in the future. But we don’t talk about them because these are two parent families who evoke the name of God & their idea of His vision of morality when speaking of their large families. In the case of the Gosselins & the Murphys, their marital status is a tacit approval of God for most of the gossip-mongering public so ready to judge Suleman.
I guess Suleman should get all kooky with an old time religion and marry a man; preferably the man who biologically fathered her kids — the man her mother claims offered to married her. Then would everyone just shut up about her — or at least just talk about the blessings and realities of raising so many tiny babies? Judging isn’t going to diaper and feed those eight babies. Or her six other children. Nor is is going to help a new mom with her stress. It’s just empty finger pointing.
Well, it’s not completely empty finger pointing… Every finger pointed at Suleman has three more fingers pointed back the the finger pointer. And maybe those people should start there, looking at what makes them so judgmental.
Whew. I’m glad to have that all off my chest. Again.
But back to The View.
(Not that this whole discussion wasn’t about The View; it was. Like I said, Hot Topics is my favorite part of the show, primarily because it’s just like how women talk. But it’s time to leave the Octomom alone and move along.)
The short version, for those too lazy to click the above link and watch, it that Giuliana stated that her doctor advised her to gain 5 to 10 pounds to assist conception — and Giuliana resisted.
Now I get that her career is to be a thin woman-child waif on the red carpet etc., and that such a gig requires her to be thin, plus lose an extra 10 for the camera. But her reluctance seemed to have exposed a resentment that she should have to do such a thing in order to have a baby — as opposed to the more sane response that her career ideal weight would be so low that it would interfere with her basic biology.
Giuliana and Bill are both to be admired for sharing their intimate problems for, as they state, the ability to remove the taboo from fertility issues. So I don’t want to sound too harsh or kick folks when they are already down. But…
Giuliana’s statements regarding her earlier career-formed impressions that as a 20-something watching 40-somethings having babies had led her astray, given her the wrong impression about how much time she and her biological clock really had. So perhaps it’s time for Giuliana to see that she too is sending unfortunate messages to women.
By resisting those baby-needed 10 pounds, by emotionally fearing the horrid industry standard of “fat” rather than be horrified by just what those standards do to her and other women who aim to be so slim, she is not only receiving the wrong message, but sending it too.
She would do herself and those who view and idolize her better by accepting the literal baby fat and making a stink about the fictitious and unhealthy standards.
As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.