Vera Francis As The “Indian Girl” In The Prodigal

For those of you who love Vera Francis, here’s another vintage photograph of the nearly forgotten & neglected African-American actress.

From the 1950s, this photo features Francis in what is called “a Southeast Asian view” of costuming.

vera francis vintage MDM publicity film photo

Publicity from MGM’s 1955 film The Prodigal, in which Vera played an “Indian Girl.”

Measures 10″ x 8,” on a single weight glossy paper stock.

For sale here.

Topless Women Light Up The Dark Days Of Home Decor Advertising (Or Vintage Shady Lamp Sales)

Bunny Yeager, who passed away at the end of last month, did a lot of pinup photography work. Some of it more legendary than others. For example, posing a topless model with various lamps and lighting, presumably for an advertising calendar. (Those were the days, my friend.)

Bunny Yeager photos for The Seymour Lighting Company

According to the seller of this first generation gelatin silver contact sheet:

vintage 1950s to early 60s taken by Bunny Yeager for The Seymour Lighting Company in Miami Florida. A strange time as we have a collection of these stills from a folio directly from the photographer – the majority of models were topless which really makes this atomic age lighting commission pop as it were…

Sometimes in this field real life is stranger than fiction and this contact sheet is pretty rich, our model in this pose was presumably posed by Yeager for an advertising pin-up calendar.

Related: Bunny’s Bombshells, an exhibition of Bunny Yeager works, will be on exhibit at Sin City Gallery in Las Vegas until July 20, 2014.

All images via Grapefruitmoongallery.

topless selling lights

topless vintage yeager pinup photos

vintage shady lamp sales

vintage topless advertising

Of Hard Hats In Hard Times

Normally, we see the pin-up version of women working in WWII. Like this image of dancers at London’s Windmill Theatre practicing their routine while wearing gas masks and hard-hats with their costumes. (January, 1940.) Or we find articles focusing more on the figures of women, in service or not.

hard hats and gas masks

But hard hats were more than de rigueur for cute images of women on the homefront during those war years. In fact, there were many promotional campaigns advising women on how to dress for their new world of physical labor and factory work. This one didn’t emphasize hard hats; but clearly the focus is safely, not being fashionable.

dressing right for safety women in wwii

Here’s another image from the Henry J. Kaiser Pictorial Collection showing female employes working at the Richmond Shipyard wearing their hardhats.

women in had hats working at richmond shiphard number two

Here’s another bit of history:

Mrs. Arlene Corbin (right), time checker in a Richmond, California shipyard brings two-and-a-half-year-old Arlene to a nursery school every morning before going home to sleep. Mrs. Corbin works on the midnight to 7:30 a.m. shift and relies upon the school to keep her daughter busy and happy during the day.


If you collect actual historical objects of women from WWII, check out this vintage wartime fiberglass safety hat.

vintage wwii hat owned by woman worker at Kaiser steele

The hardhat belonged to a female employee who worked for Kaiser Steel in Fontana, CA during 1942-45. It may be more difficult to appear beautiful in a hardhat (even Rosie the Riveter’s bandana is pretty rockin’), but hard hats were the realities in hard times like war. And hats like this are a part of women’s history that shouldn’t be shunned for the pretty pinup version.

Is Wearing Vintage Fashions Feminist? (Or, Sign Of The Times 1948)

At my vintage living blog, Things Your Grandmother Knew, I’ve written about the tendency to romanticize the past, but I recently read two blog posts discussing vintage fashion in terms of “the vintage girl being the new feminist” and thought it was time to discuss the subject from a more feminist angle…

At Style High Club, Lena Weber writes:

I don’t quite know how it happened or when but far too many women around me seem to want to look like a porn actress these days. Or why else would they wax off their pubes, slather themselves in Fakebake and state Page Three Girl in their career goals? There is something about the passivity of this particular idea of femininity – there to be stared at, cum onto – that I find deeply infuriating. It’s just sad that we’re all meant to look like little plastic sex dolls – fake eyelashes, fake hair, fake tan, fake boobs.

To my relief (no really, it is!) there is a great big social group of women out there who don’t buy into this image – the vintage girls. Although the vintage scene is splintered into smaller subfractions of particular decades, musical styles, dances and activities, the one thing all these vintage-loving women have in common is their embrace of an altogether different femininity, one that’s individual, one that harks back to a time when glamour was exotic and empowering.

At Retro Chick, Gemma Seager responds with something I was eager to point out:

It’s easy to say that this isn’t new, 1950s Pin Ups weren’t exactly sold on their educational qualifications, and the idea of a woman whose goal was to marry a rich man and live happily ever after is hardly a new concept either. That’s why we had the “bra burning” feminists of the 60s and 70s. They stood up for the rights of women to be whatever they wanted to be.

But then Seager heads right down Weber’s path:

In the last 2 decades the internet has seen a progressive pornification of culture till it seems that women now feel that they can’t assert their own sexual independence, that they have no choice but to buy into this porn star, brainless ideal of female beauty and passive sexuality. They are modern day Stepford Wives, emotionally passive and sexually compliant. Brainwashed by television, magazines and the internet into thinking they can’t make emotional demands and that sexual liberation means always wanting to have sex.

Maybe it’s because I am (I’m pretty sure) at least a decade older than these women, or maybe it’s because I am a history nut who gets obsessed with research, but I’m thinking that these two women (and the majority of those who have commented at their sites) are missing something quite important from all of this. And that something is context.

If we look at “today” and compare it to the past, yes, women’s fashions seem to be much more skimpy. [Until, at least, you notice how a New Look wiggle dress is as fitted as any spandex dress — and realize that beneath that vintage wiggle dress or pencil skirt there’s a whole lot of foundation garments making sure the female figure is as hourglass, smooth, and popping (eye-popping and fabric-testing), and as it can be. More on that later.]

no panty lines pencil skirt

Every generation has declared the next one will be the ruin of fashion, morals, and even civilization. In fact, every decade and fashion trend has resulted in criticism — often for the wearer too. Hemlines went up and dared to show ankles — so women could dare to ride bikes! That may seem antiquated to us now, so let’s look at the styles and decades that most vintage fashionistas wear, such as New Look and Mod.

When New Look fashions hit the market, they were not applauded. In Popularizing Haute Couture: Acceptance and Resistance to the New Look in the Post-1945 United States (Americanist: Warsaw Journal for the Study of the United States; October 2007, Vol. 24, p143), Sylwia Kuzma writes:

The New Look promoted a vision of femininity, epitomized in a full-bosom-and-curvaceously-hipped hourglass figure, dressed in lace, fur, and diamonds. Despite the patronage of large New York and San Francisco department stores, it’s reception by the American public was far from unanimous fascination and acceptance.

Some found the look too decadent to be seemly. Some were incensed that Dior’s New Look would require them to be padded. Others found the below-the-knee hemlines frumpy. (Images from a 1948 magazine via.)

1948 new look fashion complaints

1948 new look fashion complaints-2

A decade later, when the first babydoll nighties and dresses hit the scene, many found them obscene.

The point is, with every hemline, waistline, and neckline movement tongues go a-waggin’.

Today, Bettie Page is held up as a prime example of a cheeky risque pinup to be emulated and adored. She is such an icon for vintage fashion lovers, that many stores, designers, brands, websites, and events use the name Bettie to garner attention. But she’s The Notorious Bettie Page for a reason — her pinup photos were the subject of censorship and she herself was a target of a US Senate pornography investigation. The adoration of Bettie Page as “cute” and “classy” raises the ire of many, including sex workers — many of whom already feel shunned by feminism. To many, this co-opting of Page for “good girls” is a theft they won’t stand for.

Which brings us to the matter of vintage glamour being “exotic and empowering”…

Those are the very words many use to describe their sex work and to defend a sex positive or even “pornified” culture. In many ways, today’s sex workers and pornified pop culture icons control their bodies far more than the women of decades ago. The 1950’s woman put on an exaggerated-hourglass Dior dress to lure in Mr. Right for marriage. Once she “caught” her man, she put on a golden wiggle dress to serve cocktails to her husband’s boss; a pretty little prop in her husband’s life. When The Little Woman needed to be medicated in order to endure her life, her doctor talked to her husband-daddy, so he could make the decisions for her — as if she were a child. Does that seem glamorous, exotic, or empowering?

Wearing vintage fashions may be moving the hemlines, waistlines, and necklines back in time, but does that move women forward towards equality?

Yes, fashion sends messages about who we are — at least at that moment. But, ultimately, what defines a person is their actions. And if we start labeling and denigrating people for what they are wearing, then we are on a very slippery slope . This is especially true for women because of that whole “what she’s wearing is asking for rape” thing. Not to mention that whole “what does a feminist look like” argument that no body wins.

Our bodies belong to ourselves. We’ll dress them ourselves, to please ourselves, and we’ll be the kind of person we wish to be.

Bettie Page & Other Paper Pinup Fantasies

There obviously some errors in the text — the misspelling of Bettie Page as “Betty Page” and frankly, I am completely lost in the description of this paper doll for playboys…

Vintage Bettie Page Paper Doll by Lou Magila 1954

However, this post is not about the text or even the fact that you almost expect one of the options to be a smooth Barbie-doll-esque image to make Bettie go bottomless; it’s about the art of Lou Magila.

Jim Linderman of Vintage Sleaze doesn’t like this artist — or at least the guys’ works. But I have to vehemently disagree.

As a woman, I often find the most real thing about a man’s fantasy is the image of a pinup or media babe inserted into some sketchy scenario. Like the pornos with the world’s luckiest pizza delivery dudes, the scene isn’t as important as just getting to the babe.

Yes, a lot of attention is being brought to the fact that the women in the photos do not even look like the women who posed for them; but the only thing faker than the photoshoped objects of desire are the scenes and situations in which men place the perfected images of women. Is there anything wrong with that? No; they are fantasies after all. (Expecting them to be real is another matter entirely, and one at the very definition of “sanity”.)

So what’s wrong with cartoons, illustrations, comics that capture that luscious and ludicrous point of view? There’s something rather charming about the obviously juvenile approach to just sticking the woman into the simple bare lines. It makes me feel like the artist was aware of how simplistic fantasies are. I don’t know Magila; maybe he was self aware, maybe not. But like a lot of art, you just look at it and get impressions. My impression is that this artist was aware.

Did Magila rip-off other artists? Maybe he or the publisher paid for the rights; maybe not. Maybe, like the altered artists, digital artists, bloggers,etc. of today, artist and publisher alike just figured if they had their hands on something that meant it was in the public domain. Or perhaps they felt that there were enough changes to defend Maglia’s work as derivative. So far, the answers to those intellectual property rights are as unclear as the artist’s level of awareness of the simplicity of male fantasies.

I hope Linderman continues to suss things out.

From Bloomers to G-Strings: A History of Burlesque Underwear

As a burlesque performer or even an enthusiast you may have seen the old photos of Bettie Page in the “Guide for Strip-Teasers.” It was published in 1953 as a guide to show how much a stripper could reveal depending on what US. State she was in. Burlesque has changed a lot since 1953, most especially the underwear! Let’s take a journey through the ages from the beginnings of burlesque onwards, as a whole, to see how the last few layers of a showgirls costume have changed.
See on

Looking Back At Vikki “The Back” Dougan (A Biography)

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”.

dougan signature cleft

In Persistent Pop (July 21, 1974), John Russel writes of how inspirational images of Vikki Dougan were to English pop artists:

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.”

Her images were not only collected by English pop artists, but even inspired works, such as Richard Hamilton’s $he (1958-61).

$he 1958-61 by Richard Hamilton 1922-2011

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”.

1948 vikkie vikki dougan cutex ad

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.

1949 vikki dougan skater comic ad for camels cigs

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.


Vikki Dougan Gleason Girls photo by Lisa Larsen 1953

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).

life october 26 1953 dougan cover

LIFE Oct 26 1953 vikki dougan mother

LIFE July 28 1952 wigs

wigs page 2

March 29, 1954, Dorothy Kilgallen mentions Vikki Dougan in her column:

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.

Flexees girdle lingerie ad 1955 Vikki Dougan

George Shearing Quintet Velvet Carpet  Capitol T720 dougan 1956

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.)

vikki dougan the great man promo feb 1957

March 29, 1957, Erskine Johnson‘s Hollywood Today column is titled Vikki Dougan Reverses Trend And Backs Into Film Career:

vikki dougan corpus christi times march 29 1957

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.

lee belser on vikki dougan in anderson herald bulletin 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.

dougan in nugget april 1957

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.

However, Dougan’s back does make a splash, landing her tail in the June 1957 (Vol. 4, Issue 6) of Playboy.

vikki dougan in playboy by sam baker

vikki dougan playboy june 1957 article

dougan wirephoto pictorial in playboy

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.)

The Playboy feature was followed-up quickly by a pictorial in Esquire (August 1957).

vikkie dougan in esquire 1957

Around this time The Limeliters would record a song by Cal Grigsby (pseudonym for Malvina Reynolds and Lou Gottlieb) entitled Vikki Dougan, in which they sing of Vikki’s “callipygian cleft” and beg her to “turn your back on me”.

These photographs (undated, circa 1950s) taken by Life staff photographer Ralph Crane capture America’s love-hate with Vikki Dougan & her notorious backside.

disapproving of the back dougan life mag


vikki dougan life

ralph for life the back

Vikki the back Dougan vintage vikkie dougan in sheer black nightie Ralph Crane photo for Life vikkie dougan black nightie Ralph Crane photo vikki dougan black back

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.

hollywood queens of tomorrow deb ball october 12 1957

Ten days later, Vikki Backs In, Helps Maxie Promote Ice Cream Breakfast (by George Flowers, Independent-Press-Telegram, October 20, 1957).

vikki dougan backs in independent press telegram oct 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.

The November 1957 issue of Modern Man carries photos of Dougan (by David Sutton).

Vikki Dougan Photo by David Sutton  Modern Man November 1957

December 22, 1957, Dougan uses giant scissors for the ribbon-cutting opening of a Safeway Market in Tarzana.

vikki dougan opens grocery store van nuys valley news dec 22 1957

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.

dougan Adam vol 2 no 12 1958

vikki dougan wet in lingerie

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.

dougan carroll column may 23 1959

Despite roles in three other films (The Tunnel of Love, The Rebel Set, and Here Come the Jets), Vikki’s career clearly wasn’t moving forward enough. (As if the helpful offers from Jordan didn’t tell you that!)

Doris Day retrieving husband Richard Widmark from Vikki Dougan tunnel of love

The backslide was noticed.

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.

remember vikki dougan ogdon standard examiner oct 25 1959

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.”

backward dougan career independent press nov 15 1959

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.

miss pasadena indendent dougan judge may 27 1959

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.

ring proposal toe dougan

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.)

pacific stars and stripes sep 16 1960 vikki dougan peter gunn

san antonio light oct 23 1960 dougan gunn

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.

november 20 1961 vikki dougan twister

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.”

Earl Wilson’s December 1, 1961, column mentions that Vikki Dougan has “posed in a nightie on the subway for the cover of Subways Are For Sleeping.” (A Percy Faith LP.)

dougan subways are for sleeping

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!)

Vikki appears once again in Playboy; this time the December 1962 issue, in “Playboy’s Other Girlfriends”. (She would also reappear in the January 1989 issue in “Women Of The Fifties”.)

dougan playboy december 1962

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.

dougan the back nude in january 1964 cavalier

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.

Pinups: What Lies Beneath

I should be finishing up my draft of a biography of a rel life pinup, but Silent Porn Star has me obsessed with vintage plaster nudes. You know I love and collect pinups, right? (Most recently evident in my inclusion in Pin-Up Queens: Three Female Artists Who Shaped the American Dream Girl at Collectors Weekly.) Including the more risque ones. So why not the 3-D sculpture variety? (Not to mention, I already have a rather serious large vintage chalkware collection these could slide right into.)

vintage chalkware nude with fringe

[Because I have that other very in-depth, heavily researched article to wrap-up, this is going to have to be a short — though heavily image laden — post.]

A quick search online reveals more vintage plaster or chalk nudes than I could have imagined.

There are the most expected Grecian and classical knock-off pieces, to be sure; and the cheap circus and carnival types, with crude or less-polished looks too.

vintage nude naked nymph carnival chalkware

But among them — and pricier by far, are more the art nude and pinup varieties.

Vintage Chalkware Nude Pin-Up Lady Figure 1940’s

Vintage Chalkware Pinup Girl Nude Statue Figurine Blonde Pin-Up Bathing Beauty

Vintage CHALK Nude Figurine

vintage chalkware pinup nude

Vintage Nude Lady Chalkware 8 inch Figurine

Vintage Nude Cowgirl wall hanging sitting side saddle chalk plaster

vintage hawaiian nude pinup chalkware statue

Some of them appear to have been handpainted — by the consumer. (Something you can still do today.) But others were clearly sold as final works.

In Dan Goodsell‘s collection, “‘Nudist Scamps’ statuettes; charming, well-posed girls who resembled Fred Moore’s famous pinups in 3-D. These are attributed to a Verdan Lolayne of Hollywood, California. Later called(or acquired by)’Rick’s Figurines’.”

1943 Chalkware Nude woman Rick's Figurines Army Military Draft Tease redhead

draft tease rick's figurines vintage chalkware collectible

According to a past auction listing at WorthPoint, one of these vintage figurines had a paper tag on the bottom that reads “created by d bensinger hollywood california 1945 manufactured by rick’s figurines.”

Paper labels, rather than embossed or impressed markings on the plaster itself, may be more than partly to blame for us not knowing who designed and/ or manufactured these pieces.

Some of the pieces are, however, marked. This vintage “Hawaiian” nude chalk ashtray is marked “Plastic Arts” and is signed “Gillette” with “The Best Lei In Hawaii” on the base.


What separates all these vintage pieces from the coveted pieces currently under obsession from the above is what also the most alluring about them. The vintage plaster or chalkware figurines have little fabric skirts or loincloths which may come on as modest cover-up, but which really reveal the most about human nature. Most men refer to their dolls as “action figures” and these pieces are no different. No, we’re not talking sex dolls here; but they certainly offer more erotic masturbatory appeal than the others. For before you even know what lies beneath, even when you assume it will be the usual and disappointing smooth generic V, you just have to do more than just look at these figurines — you have to brush the fringe aside with your finger tip and get a look. Surprise, these vintage pieces show the genitalia!

vintage chalkware genitalia beneath fringe skirt

Oddly enough, for vintage pieces depicting “exotic” or “sepia” female beauties, the pubic mounds are sans hair.

Aren’t you just dying to flip the grass skirt made of string aside on this vintage piece by what appears to be Ferguson Studios?

Vintage 1940's Chalkware Nude Hula Girl Hawaiian Figurine Rat Rod Hawaiana Surf

ferguson studio

Not all of the pieces with “skirts” or “clothing” were as explicit. This vintage “hula girl” simply has the “smooth V”. However, she is a much more crude piece in terms of all-over quality, including the skirt.

vintage carnival chalkware nude hula dancer with skirt

Vintage Chalkware Nude Statue

I’m not sure if the lace skirting on vintage plaster wall piece is original, or what it hides…

lace skirting vintage chalkware

Ditto this marked piece from Canon Art Statuary U.S.A.

Vintage 1950 Chalk ware Nude Hula Girl 16 inch Tall CANON ART STATUARY

This piece, in an Art Deco style, is less risque, but she has a real string bow.


Quick collectors’ notes:

* Most all appear to hail from the 1940s and 1950s.

* Size range appears to be between 7 and 17 inches.

* The more pinup style pieces and art nude poses range in price from $30 to $60; the more beautiful and fine the piece, it may even reach $100. The more explicit pieces are range from $100 – $200.

If anyone can add more the story of these vintage smut collectibles, please do let Silent Porn Star or I know!

Vintage Seabees Art By John Horvath

Vintage Seabees art, which looks like the precursor to zines and altered paper arts and appears to be the paper version of trench art from someone in the Construction Battalion (CB) of the United States Navy.

The seller of these three works, Lynnstudios, says they are snapshot photos from the 1940s, measuring approximately 3 x 4 1/2 inches with “crudely cut borders”.

As you can see the artwork is copyrighted by John A Horvath, with a “GM” — perhaps for Gunners Mate? Not sure what the 1/6 is… Or if that is even what it is.

All I could find was this info at Worthpoint mentioning Horvath and what appears to be some of his belongings:

WW II US Navy Seabees lrg lot patch – photos etc.

Purchased from the Estate of a former SEABEE who served in WW II in the Pacific. This is a Seabees large lot which includes an original Seabees patch – has some age soil – see descriptive photos. There is a special 10 photo cards lot included which show the life of Seabees – history of the Seabees, stories, anecdotes, poems and jokes along with some cheesecake, etc copywright 1943 – John Horvath. This 10 photo card lot is VERY unusual with each card beautifully designed. Included is a photo of the 6 th Spec, N.C.B with their motto. There are approx. 20 other photos showing life in the Pacific and some at home– very interesting and unique. Most photos taken from family photo albums of former SEABEE who served in WW II in the Pacific. Most photos are snap shot size, there are also some pictures which appear to be of the Pacific islands natives and villages.

Any info on Horvath, his art, or even more art like this would be greatly appreciated!

For Sexists Sans Secretaries

For men who, unlike the Mad Men, didn’t have their own private secretaries to humiliate and fondle, there was Ellen the Eye Opener:

Yes, sir! When there’s a job to be done, a service to perform, or a need to be met, we’re ready for action. And when it’s time for a smile, we like to erase those frown lines with something on the light side, for all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

So… meet Ellen, the Eye Opener, a girl who’ll appeal to your “mail” instincts… as she opens your mail, let her serve to remind you of us. Treat her nice… she’s a swell gal.

From the seller’s description:

[A] Gil Elvgren designed plastic letter opener entitled “Here’s an Eye Opener” produced by Brown & Bigelow between 1958-1960, including the original sleeve on card stock. This fun 3D letter opener, with a flat back,is done in “accurate” curvy detail, and is in very fine condition, as pictured, and measures 8.5″ x 2.5″ at it’s widest point. The folding sleeve which creatively ‘undresses’ Ellen our pin-up model measures 8.5″ x 7.25 opened, is in excellent shape with no tears or visible toning.

The medallion she is holding above her head would have had the name of an individual business – in this case from “Mannequin Service Company – Saint Paul MN” – used as customer giveaways.

All images via Grapefruit Moon Gallery.

Spin The Wheel, Land On Vera Francis

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a vintage roulette wheel of pinups?

The seller (Grapefruit Moon Gallery), says this in the item’s description (links added by me):

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.

But who was Vera Francis?

In the Encyclopedia of African American Business: Volume 2, K-Z, Vera is a single line entry, listed among the “pioneer models” which drove the development of the Barbara Watson Charm and Model School. In Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975, she’s merely a “Los Angeles model” quoted along with a few other models quelling the fears of middle-class magazine readers, of the non-white variety, that “the image of models as reckless party girls with loose morals was much exaggerated.” Vera’s comment was “I always keep a regular job, it’s one sure way of staying out of trouble.”

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.

Oakland Tribune, July 13, 1937, Vera was mentioned as an NBC staff actress to take on the roll of Molly Pitcher on the Professor Puzzlewit program.

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).

Sepia, December 1954: Vera Francis on the cover and the subject of a feature story.

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.

No details were offered. But, according to Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, “America’s Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine”, “Vera Francis, a black actress, was paid for a story on her affair with socially prominent John Jacob Astor.” (I believe it was this John Jacob Astor — a family with enough scandal that whatever info Vera sold is a footnote too small for me to bother researching. At least right now.)

Jet, January 2 1958: Words fail, so I quote:

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.

But by September 1962, in Negro Digest (Black World), people were wondering where Vera Francis was.

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.

Additional image/info: In June of 2011, Bonhams auctioned off a lot of Vera Francis archives for $915.

Misogyny & Mini-Bowling Alleys

This vintage matchbook was from the Curtiss Tavern, “on Hi-Way 57 at Plymouth, Wisconsin,” Carl Senglaub, Proprietor. If features a cute little pinup, “The High-Way,” on the front cover. (Which also prompts me to make a pun about “My way or the high-way.” But I’ll try to resist!)

On the inside, there’s a promotion for the bar’s sandwiches and miniature bowling alleys — as well as a joke about women:

God made man and rested –
God made earth and rested –
Then God made woman –
Since then, no one has rested.

Make Up For Breasts?

No offense to Mr. Vargas, but I think he misunderstood the task… This vintage ad was for “Twin Make Up,” not makeup for “the twins.”

The original artwork by Alberto Vargas goes up for sale at Heritage Auctions on September 30, 2011.

ALBERTO VARGAS (American, 1896-1982)
New Jergens Twin Make-Up, advertisement poster, 1943
Mixed media on board
18 x 14 in.
Signed upper left

Marjorie Hellen: “Identification Girl” The Ultimate Objectification Or Not?

Featured on the cover of People Today, September 22, 1954, was “Marjorie Hellen… TV’s Golden Girl.”

Her story begins on page 55, filed under “People In TV,” Hellen’s story is titled She’s ‘Compatible’ Marjorie Hellen Is Strawberry Blond Trade-Mark on Color TV.

If that’s not intriguing enough, check out the caption under the photo: “Marjorie And Her Rival Black-And-White Test Pattern (rear)”.

From the article:

Millions of NBC-TV viewers are getting slightly frustrated whenever the smiling image of lovely Marjorie Hellen flashes on their black-and-white screens with her quiet announcement: “The following program…will be broadcast in color …” The reason: Around 10,000 TV sets in the U.S., costing between $495 and $1,100, are showing the same girl as she appears on PEOPLE TODAY’S cover–gray-eyed, strawberry blond.

Marjorie, who doubles as a live test pattern for sensitive color cameras, is the “identification girl” for NBC Color TV, which has scheduled 39 90-minute “spectaculars” for its compatible system (the shows can also be received in black-and-white) during 1954-1955.

The article credits “an attack of anemia” for Hellen getting the gig — not specifically for her coloring (though only her doctor knows for sure), but for her availability:

It kept her from going to school, made her available when Claude Traverse, manager of NBC’s color unit, selected her from photos as having the “ideal flesh tone” for lining up color cameras.

Hellen may be more familiar to you as Leslie Parrish; she changed her name in 1959.

The Original Garter Girl’s Estate Shows Something More Shocking Than Lingerie

When I spotted this post at Slip of a Girl’s lingerie blog, I thought I had remembered something about the former burlesque star, “The Original Garter Girl,” Lynne O’Neill

Sadly, it was that she’d passed away recently; her estate sale was held October 9, 2010, in Hempstead.

Along with the dearth of personal items from O’Neill’s estate, a lot of memorabilia is up for sale at eBay — but none more fascinating to me than this collection of several thousand of letters listed by Jeff’s Paintings Books Music Stuff.

The seller’s description is as follows (yes, they wrote in all caps, etc.):




Dear Santa, if I could have but one wish this year…

It’s unlikely that I shall receive a windfall to equal the sum requested ($399.95 or “best offer) — or that if I should, that my husband would let me “invest” the tidy sum in such ephemera (though if you cared to give me the funds, or purchase the collection for me, it could be our little secret!), but I certainly covet it.

The idea of reading such intimate letters based on risque celebrity — from the Every Man to The Ultimate Woman — is so delicious I dare not ponder it any longer lest I click and buy it and end up with no way to pay rent.

*heavy sigh*

But aside from whining about my lack of discretionary income, aside even from waxing on about the insightful poetry of male psyche left in such an archive, I mention this for other reasons.

As a collector and a dealer (for yes, I deal in and sell collectibles as well as hunt, buy, research and write about them), I find something else fascinating about this auction listing; from the first part of the listing:



Sellers of collectibles and dealers of antiques often find themselves in the place of rationalizing or even defending their actions — including pricing items for sale.

It’s a sad reality based on people’s ignorance and, yes, selfishness; they feel that dealers are somehow taking advantage of the folks they buy from and the folks they sell too. Never mind that dealers must be knowledgable enough to invest in what they buy and must wait for what they hope will be a return worthy of that investment — plus whatever other fees accrue while waiting for that sale. It’s not easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey.

Further proof of dealer defensiveness lies in the Q & A published at the auction listing:

Q: Dear Jbg and the estate, I have 41 years experience buying at and conducting estate sales in the Hempstead area.The people who ran Elaine/ Lynne sale are very nice people, with expertise in about 33% of the items they sell. These are priced correctly. The others are triple and one third of what the correct wholesaleish/ liquidation selling price should be. This puts them in the top echelon of tag sale services. Most of which are completely incompetent and clueless. Believe it or not these are the most successful ones as hordes of people will come days ahead and wait to take advantage of their stupidity. JBR Oct-12-10 A: I think they ran a great sale, with fair prices. I’ve read what I’ve written several times, and don’t think its negative. Its just my observation that people aren’t going to get things super cheap on ebay, because they were priced correctly at the sale. That’s a good thing. The tag sale people work for the estate, not for the buyers. I’m certain that they maximized the estate’s dollar. Others either would have priced to high , and not sold a thing or priced to low, and given it away. Q: That statement you made about the Estate of Lynne O ‘Neill is not completely true the Estate hired a 15 year experience antique and collectible specialist and the Estate is now meeting and will examine what transpired. So i highly suggest you Edit your statement about the estate sale Do you have a receipt for what you paid for to prove you paid alot in comparison the what you are selling your item for? Sincerely the Estate Oct-12-10 A: I think my statement is intended to mean that the Estate did not give things away, which is to the credit of the folks who ran the sale. Most folks would have sold the calendars and signs for a few bucks a piece to get rid of them, and then they’d be flooding ebay at $5 a piece. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Not sure what the panties sold for, but unless the folks running the sale failed to comprehend what they were (and that seems unlikely) they weren’t a dollar item. Sincerely, the customer.

I find it rather unprofessional that the eBay seller would feel the need to explain how the collectibles market works; even if under the guise of education (the interested collector will be more interested in provenance and price than an economics lesson), and odder still that the estate company would misread the auction listing so badly (of course, perhaps we’re reading an edited version?). But the fact remains, dealer are so harassed and worried about their reputations, they are willing to air more dirty laundry than the panties worn by a former pinup queen.

I just wish there was a way to use all of this to my advantage; rather anything to end up with this collection of vintage burlesque ephemera.

Pinups Perverting With Pink Plush

This is Jayne Mansfield, surrounded by her pink plushies; but lots of babes of yesteryear posed with stuffed animals and little girl gear (yes, I now are a “tumbl tard”).

I have really mixed feelings about sex kittens taking their “adorable youth” and “cutesy girl” status past shy coy smiles while wearing babydoll lingerie and dresses and move right on into props which promote themselves as children or as having a somewhat diminished emotional &/or intellectual status; then it’s pushing pedophilia and issues of consent. And both creep me out.