I was never a baby boomer household name, but Madonna, Rihanna, and the Pussycat Dolls were all imitating me.
I was one of the earliest Playboy Playmates. Hugh Hefner called me “an iconic figure in pop culture.” Not bad for a little Nashville country girl who graduated college to be a grade school teacher.
Like everyone, I really wanted to be an actress but ended up where I started—a model for “risque” pictures. At first, at so-called “camera clubs.” I was uninhibited and charismatic. Soon, I was splashed all over men’s magazines. No Playboy, yet. You couldn’t pick up Wink, Titter, or Eyeful without getting an eyeful of me. I was leading a sexual revolution before there was one.
Short movies were my speciality – “stag” films – for a select clientele, mainly by mail order. This was still the old days. The themes were wild – including bondage – without full nudity or explicit sexual content.
I appeared in a few Hollywood few movies but my claim to fame was as a pin-up model. Move over Betty Grable. I was “Miss Pinup Girl of the World” in 1955.
Eventually, I became a born-again Christian before it was a celebrity fad, and changed my life. I settled back in Nashville and worked full time for Billy Graham.
My personal life didn’t go as well. I was married and divorced a few times and finally had a nervous breakdown, which led to a revolving door “institutional” existence.
Robin Leach interviewed me by phone on his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. My segment should have been called Lifestyles of the Broke and Forgotten. Well, I was half-right. There had been a revival of my popularity recently. I had no idea. I tried to cash in on it and got a little. I allowed an official biography.
In my only television interview, I had my face and most of my body body blacked out. I wanted my fans to remember me as I was.
I died recently at 85. That’s a lot of years for a crazy, bad girl.
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Today in Baby Boomer History
1994: Emmys: Fraiser is the Best Comedy. Picket Fences wins Best Drama.
1986: Dow Jones Industrial Avg suffers biggest 1-day decline ever, plummeting 86.61 points to 1,792.89.
1985: Pete Rose gets career hit 4,192, eclipsing Ty Cobb’s record.
1967: Carol Burnett Show debuts.
1962: Drummer Ringo Starr replaces Pete Best of the Beatles.
1954: First Miss America TV broadcast.