Tags: Gloria Dawn, Nude Modeling, Sam Wu
Some modelling experiences stayed clear in my memory. Others were blurred – a short scene or two retained, nothing more. I remember the early ones well: the sessions with Peter Gowland, described here; my first assignment with Ron Vogel, when we shot the cover for Carnival in his studio, followed by a series of outdoor photos in Malibu.
My memories for these two experiences were constantly refreshed whenever I viewed the B&W prints Gowland and Vogel gave to me or the two magazines – Cavalier and Carnival – that published the pictures taken during these sessions. These 1962 prints and magazines were keepsakes, stored and occasionally revisited.
Scenes that occur at the beginning of a sequence, such as my experiences with Gowland and Vogel, are likely to be retained. Also, those that are retrieved and reviewed, and those that are unique, are seldom forgotten. Another factor associated with the long-term recall of events is emotional arousal. Some people say they best remember happy occasions; I am more likely to retain clear memories of unpleasant experiences.
That is why I have always remembered my session with Sam Wu, even though I didn’t see the photos he took for 45 years.
The session occurred in early August 1962. Until July, I had modelled on Sundays and worked as a secretary during the week. Then I quit my job and moved into the Hollywood Studio Club, hoping to become a full-time model.
Prior to this change, my agent, Bill, had always phoned to arrange a new assignment; I never took the initiative to search for new jobs. A week after moving into the Studio Club, having not heard from him, I phoned to prod him. Two months had passed since my last modelling session.
“I’m settled,” I told him. “I’m available to work on weekdays now, not just on Sundays.”
“I’ll get back to you,” Bill replied.
Four days later, he phoned.
“Go to see Sam Wu tomorrow morning at ten,” he said. “He wants to look you over.” Bill gave me Sam’s address, which was only a few blocks away.
After hanging up, I wondered why I needed to be looked over. When I started modelling – yes. Both Peter Gowland and my agent wanted to take test photos. After that, I never again had to audition for a job.
I’d never heard of Sam Wu. In retrospect, I can see how naïve I was about the business. I didn’t know the important photographers nor anything about the magazine market; I simply relied on Bill to find me jobs.
The next morning, I walked five blocks to Sam Wu’s studio on Sunset Boulevard. I paid little attention to my hair or makeup, using, as always, only eye liner, eyebrow pencil, and light lipstick. If my wavy blonde hair got tousled by the breeze and my eye liner smeared a bit while strolling under the August sun, it mattered little to me; I was a proven commodity, an experienced figure model.
But I was impressed upon arriving at Sam’s studio. In the windows were pictures of dozens of magazine covers – True Story, True Romance, True Confessions and similar women’s romance magazines. All featured faces of beautiful young women.
After entering and introducing myself, I asked, “Did you take the photos of those covers?”
“Yes,” Sam replied.
I thought but didn’t say, I would love to be a cover girl. Instead I asked, “How much do you pay a magazine cover model?”
“Girls come to me. They walk in off the street and work for free.”
Sam turned away from the cover display and examined my portfolio pictures. He never asked me if I would be interested in posing for a cover, although I wanted him to. I’m not pretty enough, I thought. I’m cute. I’ve got a good figure. And that’s why I get modelling work. But I’m not a cover girl beauty.
After inspecting my photos, Sam looked carefully at me.
“Tomorrow morning,” he said. “I’ll pick you up at nine. Fifty dollars.”
I left, happy that I had a job.
The next morning, the ride alongside Sam was long and tedious. Generally, photographers drove to a spot near their studio. Generally, photographers tried to get me to relax because a relaxed model was a more flexible one. Once at ease, I would talk and talk – and talk. No one who knew me considered me shy, but I was an introvert who needed someone to break the ice. Ron Vogel put me at ease immediately, as did my Studio Club roommate, Adrianne. Nothing more was needed than a few words of encouragement to calm my apprehensions.
Sam Wu offered no such encouragement. He remained silent and, therefore, so did I. Sam drove for over an hour. Finally we entered a hilly area where I saw a sign by the roadside – Angeles National Forest. Immediately I became wary. In 1962, the laws against public nudity were strict and I would be arrested if found nude or semi-nude in a public place. On my first shoot with Ron Vogel, he was taking photos in Malibu on a deserted beach in front of a private residence. Ron wanted some topless photos and so he kept watch on a small group of people in the distance. When it became obvious they were not going to leave, he gave up on the idea of topless beach photos and shot his nudes in the back yard of the private residence.
The Angeles National Forest would offer no private secluded area. I hoped Sam knew where he was going.
He didn’t appear to. Twice he slowed the car, peered down a ravine, then moved on. He was obviously looking for a place he must have scouted earlier but was not exactly certain where to turn off. Finally, we stopped. He parked the car and we walked down a narrow path with our gear. He carried his camera equipment, a blanket, and a bulky coat and pants; I carried a bag containing my usual modelling accessories – black bikini panties, black front-opening bra, open-toed gold shoes, tight blue sweater, low cut blouse, and white shorts.
My modelling apparel was not needed because once we reached our destination, Sam wanted me to completely disrobe. The clothes I was wearing were placed on the blanket, along with the bulky jacket and pants. In bare feet, I tread cautiously on ground that was mostly sand and rocks with a few tufts of grass. Although sunlight filtered through the trees, it was cool in that gorge. A long branch had broken from a tree, stretching over a sandy basin. Maybe during the rainy season a stream ran through there, but now it was dry.
Sam asked me to stand in the sand holding that branch while he took photos from behind a camera secured to a tripod. After shooting a few, he walked up to me, moved a leaf on the branch and lightly brushed my breast at the same time. I shivered. The photographer was not supposed to touch the model. That was the rule. Sam’s movement was so quick – he immediately returned to his camera – that I wasn’t certain whether this was deliberate. Had he meant to touch my breast?
Then we heard voices. Hikers. I quickly dressed in the thick jacket and saggy pants that Sam had carried.
The hikers passed close by but we didn’t see them and they didn’t see us. We must have been close to a hiking trail, although the sandy gorge was not directly on the path.
When their voices could no longer be heard, I again undressed and once more approached the branch. This time, Sam wanted me to put my leg over it. How do you straddle a prickly branch when you are naked? Carefully. I stretched my leg alongside it, not completely mounting the branch, and tried to look sexy while being poked by twigs. Sam took a few more photos.
Then we heard more voices. Another group of hikers. Quickly I put on the jacket and pants. Again we didn’t see the hikers and they didn’t see us, but from the sound of their voices, this group came closer. I didn’t want to remove the pants and jacket. I shivered and said I was cold. It wasn’t really that cold, just a bit cool, but I was frightened of being discovered nude in a public place. Sam took a few photos of me balancing on the branch while wearing the jacket and pants. A few more with the jacket open to show my breasts. Then we heard voices from a third set of hikers. Sam gave up trying to film in the gorge. We gathered our belongings and returned to the car.
Sam drove further down the road, looking for a place to shoot. He stopped when he saw, some distance from the road, a shady tree near a mound of large boulders. After walking to what was a relatively secluded area, he again laid down his blanket, had me disrobe, and started taking photos. He had taken very few, when he walked up to me and moved my arm, softly brushing my breast with the back of his hand. I tensed up. Shortly after he returned to his camera, I said I felt ill under that hot, early afternoon sun. I trembled and shivered and put on Sam’s bulky jacket.
A car drove slowly down the road. We watched, but it didn’t stop. Still, this was the last straw for Sam. We packed up and took the long drive home.
We arrived at Sam’s studio around three in the afternoon. I just wanted to sign a model release and get paid but Sam wanted to take more photos. Normally a session ended around four. So Sam improvised with items he had in his studio and took a few photos of a very sullen, uptight model. I didn’t smile, didn’t stand on my tip-toes, didn’t attempt to look sexy. Finally, Sam finished and wrote my cheque. I left the building without glancing back.
I never mentioned the episode to my agent because I was uncertain whether Sam had meant to touch my breasts. If he had groped them, I would have been indignantly angry. But he moved so quickly, touched so lightly, that I couldn’t be sure.
A week later, my agent drove me and two other girls to Palm Springs to take part in a bikini contest. That evening in our motel room before the contest, the three of us bonded, telling each other stories. One girl, Paula Angelos, had modelled for many of the same photographers that I had, including Sam Wu. When I mentioned that he had touched me, she said that he had touched her also, but she thought that was because he was Oriental and Orientals liked to feel things. Paula was sweet but naïve.
He touched her and he touched me, I thought. He’s a pervert. I was glad I had disrupted his planned modelling session.
I didn’t see any of Sam’s pictures until 2007, when I found a centerfold layout in a 1963 issue of Nugget. Three-quarters of the double page displayed a colour photo of me with my leg stretched alongside the branch. The photo was nicely composed and I was standing on my toes so I was still trying at that point, but my expression wasn’t sexy and my hair was disheveled. In the top corner of the double page layout was a small colour picture – me standing behind the branch looking perplexed. The rest of the layout contained B&W photos of me wearing the bulky jacket and pants, one where I was fully clothed while straddling the branch, two others where I was posed behind the branch with my breasts slightly exposed.
A while later, I discovered a full-page B&W photo published in Figure Annual, and again I’m leaning on the branch. My poise and relatively neat hair suggest that this was one of the first shots Sam took – an attractive picture that is a harbinger of what might have been had he not upset me.
Since then, I’ve seen a small colour photo of me with the branch published in Gent and a colour photo taken in Sam’s studio that was part of an erotic playing card collection. One fan sent me a B&W photo that appeared in a photography book Sam published; I’m sitting on a blanket, shaded by a tree, eyes glaring.
Sam must have made enough money to cover his expenses for that day but he probably didn’t make a profit.
Tags: Gloria Dawn
Someone is trying to sell the centerfold from a PIX magazine on eBay, which is being marketed as a photo of “Gloria Dawn.” They can do this legitimately, as long as they sell the actual centerfold — just like anyone can legitimately sell the magazine itself. However, I just purchased the entire magazine — it’s not that hard to find. Initially, I bid on one and lost the magazine to someone who got it for $17. The second time it came up, I got it for $25. I was going to surprise you by posting some of the photos here. It’s another set of the photos of three girls on a boat cruise by Ron Vogel (all photos in black and white) that was first published in Topper.
I’ve been busy lately. I’m taking a writing course and it is keeping me so busy that I haven’t had time to post anything. Anyway, here is a very rough copy of the centerfold. I’ll post a better copy in Gloria Dawn Photos when I have time (probably not until after the course ends in the middle of December).
Too bad this eBay seller, styxiejones, had to mess up my surprise for you. He/she is probably going to try to sell several of the fold-out pages from the magazine individually, for the same price it costs to purchase the entire magazine.
Tags: Elmer Batters, Gloria Dawn
George (known as “Teogan” to former My Archives members) recently discovered this picture on eBay, informed me and I won the auction. It is unique because, to the best of my knowledge, it is the only published colour photo of my dark blond hair. Elmer Batters took it — read “Nude in Black and Blonde” if you don’t remember the episode. The fact that my hair ends are nicely flipped tells me that he took it early in our session; my ultra-fine hair drooped quickly. All the other photos I’ve seen from that session are in black and white. Five other photos appear in the Champagne magazine feature (entitled “Nude in Black Gloves”), but this full-page picture is the only one in colour. Maybe after taking this photo, Batters decided that colour film wasn’t suitable for the lighting setup. (He liked to work with natural light, even when indoors.)
The photo does not appear to have been touched up in any way. Even my appendix scar, which is often air brushed out in nude photos, is visible. I did find my lips disconcerting; they appear garish and odd shaped. It’s not the bright red colour; photographers often asked me to wear bright red lipstick, even when I had light blond hair. It’s the shape. After zooming in on them using Photoshop, I realized that the makeup artist had drawn them larger than normal, and my normal lips are full enough, thank you very much. It’s as if she was not used to working with full-lipped models (and actresses) and drew her pencil lines beyond the natural ridges, making them appear bizarre. Below, on the left, is a close up of my lips are they appear in the photo; on the right is my attempt to draw my lips their proper shape using Photoshop. (My Photoshop skills are not perfect, so this is only an approximate rendering of how my lips should have appeared.)
In black and white photos, the garish red disappears amongst the ridges of my natural lip line as seen below. But in that colour movie, which was never completed, I must have looked tawdry. Probably one reason the movie was never completed.
The black and white photos in the Champagne feature are full-length and more flattering than the colour photo. As per the “Donna Cole” set (see: http://gloriadawn.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/donna-cole-picture/), I am wearing black nylons, black gloves and a teeny black bikini bottom. In the Champagne pictures, taken before filming began, I look more refreshed. Also, Batters took pains to make my breasts more attractive. He didn’t always focus 100% on legs, you know. Eventually, I’ll post the complete set on gloriadawn.wordpress.com. But don’t look for them to appear soon. I have lots of other things to do first.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Phil Jacobson
The only thing Adam 1964 forgot to mention was that I had also appeared in Adam thirteen months earlier (Dec 1962). These were some of my favorite photos, taken by Phil Jacobson. I wonder why Adam 1964 (Jan 1964) failed to mention that I was in the earlier feature?
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Keith Bernard
I just got a new Adam magazine with new “Susan Norman” photos of me, taken by Keith Bernard. I was surprised to find that the blurb accompanying the photo layout was TRUE. He got my measurements correct (well maybe cut one inch off the hips) — but mostly correct, whereas most of the blurbs are way off. He also correctly identified my birthplace (Canada) and where I was currently living (Hollywood). But most of all, he got the fact that I was planning to go to Africa correct. The only thing I found odd was that when I modeled for Keith, in early June 1963, I was planning to go to Kenya, but I’m sure that I never mentioned Tanganyika, because I never even thought of going there until I re-connected with an African I’d met two years earlier; I didn’t reconnect with him until August 1963. Keith may have kept accurate notes, but he couldn’t have known about Tanganyika. My agent didn’t know where I’d gone. Only a couple of close friends at the Hollywood Studio Club knew. So Keith must have found out that I’d left for Tanganyika from one of them. Anyway, here is the page (full-page B&W photograph) censored.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, My Archives, Shannon Moeser
The My Archives Vintage Porn internet site has vanished. In mid-October 2012, its picture gallery disappeared but regular members continued to visit by linking directly to discussion forums. These forums, and other components such as the chatbox and private message system, remained intact. At first we were told the gallery was backed up and would return online after a programmer updated the operating system. But as time progressed, the gallery remained inaccessible and other structures stopped working. When only the chatbox and discussion forums still functioned, I frantically started copying posts from my 36-page discussion thread. Among the more than 800 posts to this thread were several thoughtful exchanges that I didn’t want to lose. Another member told me how to quickly back up the entire thread; three days later, the website crashed.
My Archives lasted less than eight years.
How long should internet material endure? Should it last as long as print material? Will digital forms of communication replace printed matter?
A while ago, I decided to re-read a Ruth Rendell book of short stories that I first read in 1982. It was not in my local library system, so I tried Amazon. An anthology, consisting of her four published books of short stories, was issued in 1987 with several reprints. Amazon’s third-party dealers were selling used copies. For $6.50 (which included postage), I purchased a 1991 edition of Rendell’s Collected Short Stories in excellent condition, pages just slightly tinged yellow. With careful handling, it will last another 30 years. Ruth Rendell is now 83 years old but her writing will last long after her death.
I wonder if Tony T thought his comments would last at least a few years after he died. Tony T was the moral centre of the My Archives discussion forums. Many visitors to the website ignored the discussion forums; they only were interested in looking at “dirty” pictures. But a loyal group took part in the forum exchanges, where members analyzed and debated various aspects of the porn industry and model anatomy. Whenever a discussion became contentious – and several did – Tony T would weigh in with a balanced comment. Even when there was no controversy, Tony often posted comments that encouraged reflection on a topic. He joined the community in 2005 when the site contained only photos taken prior to 1980. About a month before the gallery disappeared, Tony wrote his final post, stating that his cancer treatment had not succeeded and he was moving to a hospice. We don’t know if Tony has died, or whether his family tried to notify us only to find that they couldn’t enter the site using its entrance link. Before My Archives vanished, one member was copying what he considered the most important discussion forums. I don’t know how to access these copies. All I have to remember Tony are a few private messages and his comments on my discussion thread.
Photos posted to My Archives were submitted by members – mostly scans of pictures found in vintage porn magazines. Images from books that had lasted 40 to 60 years, as well as some 90-year-old postcards. Print material endures!
Volunteers vetted the posts and ensured they were placed in correct folders. The domain name was owned by “Tiger.” He paid for the server space – a major expense given the huge number of posts each day, especially after the cut-off date was changed to 1989 in 2006 and to 1999 three years later. The few advertisements, all for pay-for-view porn sites, were supposed to cover expenses. They probably didn’t cover these costs, particularly when a major overhaul of the operating system was needed.
One reason expenses overran revenues was internet thievery. Images posted on My Archives could be copied and pasted to another site. I didn’t realize this at first, and by the time I discovered it, my pictures were published on numerous tumblr sites. Tumblr is a network for sharing internet photos. A visitor would capture an image from My Archives and post it on his/her tumblr site; others would “reblog” the original post until it circulated around the network. My modelling name was usually included with the image (that’s how I acquired more fans); however My Archives was never identified as the original source, so it never received “value” from this circulation of its images.
Had I known my photos were going to be passed around the internet, I never would have put the private ones on My Archives. These were pictures I owned that were not scanned from magazines. Initially I hoped to sell some of these private shots as autographed pictures, but now anyone can copy them without my permission.
Within its own realm, tumblr is relatively innocuous. Unfortunately, these images are captured by other internet users who place them on commercial websites. I’ve found my photos on sites selling hair products and espousing political views I don’t agree with.
Other porn sites also contained photos copied from My Archives. For example, one member found a photo of me on Vintage Stockings. Although this image had originally appeared in a magazine and conceivably could have been scanned directly from that magazine, I knew that this one was captured from my post on My Archives; unique changes I had made to the magazine image were present also in the Vintage Stockings version. Management at Vintage Stockings relies on posts by its members and members can “pass off” images taken from other websites as their own scans.
Similarly, some My Archives members posted images from other internet sources on My Archives. The photo below was posted in the “Gloria Dawn” folder of the gallery by a member who did not know where he initially obtained it. Since then, I have been trying to locate the original source. I know it is a Ron Vogel shot and it looks like it appeared in a magazine – but not in any magazine I own. (If anyone knows its original source, please let me know.)
When it comes to stealing images, the worst perpetrators are eBay sellers. About two years ago, other My Archives members informed me that eBay dealers were selling prints of photos I first posted on My Archives. Because these photos contained my image, I was able to have the auctions stopped. However, eBay will not halt auctions unless I find the offending photos and fill out a complicated form. Finding the stolen images among the thousands published on eBay each day is the problem, and I must rely on friends to inform me about them. In one year, I had photos removed from those listed by slipboy, fleamarketkings, your-usa-seller, ultrararefinds, arieteii and massrappc. I started writing my name and “My Archives” on each new image I posted. This didn’t stop the thieves. Below, on top, is a private photo I just had removed from a listing by t50fox. Beneath it is the original I posted. You can see that t50fox simply cropped the image to remove its source (and then had to compensate by cutting off the top and bottom portions of the photo to fit it onto 8 x 10 photo paper).
I sent a message to t50 fox asking:
Did you copy this image off an internet post?
I don’t recall the original source of the photo. As a hobby, I have collected photos from many sources (scans, originals, downloads, etc.) for many years.
My photos are of little consequence to eBay thieves because I was a 1960s model, just one of the horde of unknown 60s vintage models (unknown at least until I joined My Archives). For every print of my image they attempt to sell, they list 30 different photos of Bettie Page and 10 of Joyce Gibson. Many of these images were initially published on My Archives. In their eBay listings, print sellers use words to suggest that they are selling prints of original photos they posses; to mislead buyers, they use phrases like “reprinted from my personal collection,” “60s vintage print,” or “original print.” What they really sell are copies of images downloaded from the internet.
People who originally posted these images cannot get the auctions stopped because eBay has no mechanism to allow for removal of pictures stolen from other internet sites. (I can get my personal images removed because the sellers do not have my permission to advertise and sell pictures of me.) As one former My Archives member wrote to me:
I can recognize my work most of the time and most of these jerks refer to their items as part of “their private collections.” I knew my Bettie photos would show up elsewhere but I still get cranky when I see my stuff pop up unattributed. When a dirty little scumbag appropriates a Bettie that I paid $200 for and then spent a gazillion hours reconstituting and refining, I can’t stifle my rage. EBay won’t answer my complaints and it doesn’t give you a proper way to report thieves.
EBay makes money from these thieves, but given the millions of legitimate auctions that take place each day, I wonder whey they facilitate felonious behaviour to earn a few thousand dollars a year.
The internet is still evolving and many who initially flocked to publish material have discovered that ideas and images are easily stolen. Many sites will disappear during the next few years; their stories and pictures will vanish. Newspapers have already found that it was not a good idea to provide information free of charge. Porn sites that once offered free access are now charging their customers. At present, I post my images on www.gloriadawn.wordpress at a low dpi and small size so clear prints cannot be produced from them. They still can be shared by tumblr members using small-sized viewing devices, but if the effort and cost of maintaining my website becomes too onerous, and no one wants to purchase autographed photos, this site too will come down.
In an email to me, Tony T wrote:
Like you my main interest lies in the true vintage and retro periods, although I also like the early days of photography, the 1860s onwards – I think the ladies of the 1900s/1920s like the Ziegfeld beauties are something else.
My own feelings about the site have been gradually changing since they allowed firstly the 80s some years back when I voiced an opinion that it was the thin end of the wedge, then the 90s. This latter has resulted in a takeover of modern posts that can be found on any porn site.
When I visited MA yesterday there were five pages of new posts since my previous visit the day before. Four of the pages were 1990s videos. In the gallery updates there were again five pages of which the major proportion was either 1990s models or silicone enhanced 1980s ones. There were two sets of pictures from Harrison Marks Kamera magazine and a couple of other pictures that were of interest – so I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies.
All this from a site that started out to archive vintage and retro material before it was lost in the mists of time!
Like Tony, I feel that the site lost its original mandate once 1990s material was added.
My Archives is dead. The list of model indices for the 1950s and 1960s – a massive undertaking – is no longer available. It served as a wonderful resource for identifying models. Many vintage models who had been identified and allotted folders will return to being “unknown.” No other porn site provided this service for the vast number of women who graced figure magazines printed in the 1960s. (The Spiderpool group is still attempting to identify a select group of models who worked during the 1950s.)
I miss the back-and-forth interactions with others who appreciated the classic porn era, interactions that provided information about the industry that I wasn’t aware of, even though I worked in it. Now I still post stories about my experiences on my two wordpress blogs, but this format does not allow for back-and-forth discussions.
Perhaps it was inevitable that My Archives would die given the unhampered capturing of its images, the lack of protection from theft. I am seriously wondering if I should continue to maintain the gloriadawn blog, or whether I should just write my stories and self-publish a few copies of a book to give to family and friends. At least print endures.
Tags: Elmer Batters, Gloria Dawn, Nude Modeling, Shannon Moeser
It’s 1963 in Los Angeles and I’m twenty-two and restless, bored by office work and trying to revive my career as a figure model. Pictures of me as a blonde have appeared in a dozen men’s magazines, so my hair is now black. Change the hair colour, change the name and readers will think it’s a new girl. That’s what people in the business believe.
My agent books me with new photographers and between sessions I work at one- and two-day office positions for a temp agency. When not on a job, I share stories with other girls living at the Hollywood Studio Club. We’re all young and employed – or trying to find employment – in the entertainment industry. A few of my friends seek stardom, but most, like me, are just looking for a bit of glamour, some excitement. Figure modelling is not a long-term career. My future, I believe, lies in finding the right man, but since my “great romance” disintegrated eight months earlier, no special man has turned up.
Black hair may be hindering my quest for a new relationship. In my case, it appears true that “blondes have more fun.” But as a brunette, I’m getting more bookings.
In mid-June, Bill, my agent, phones to arrange a modelling session with Elmer Batters. I met Batters once, in Bill’s office, and vaguely remember seeing the two men hunched over my photographs. A matched pair, I thought, two middle-aged jowly men, with forgettable faces, thick waists and thinning hair.
The next morning, Batters parks in front of the Studio Club and I slip into the passenger seat clasping the leather hatbox that stores my modelling accessories: black bikini panties; black garter belt; black bra; sheer pink baby-doll peignoir; tight blue slacks; blue sweater with buttons opening down the front; open-toed gold shoes with two-inch heels; and a makeup kit containing eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencils, and several shades of lipstick.
I’m wearing white bikini panties, a white garter belt and an armour-like white bra designed to support large breasts. Its clasps are unfastened; when they are hooked, the bra’s straps pull tight, leaving deep red grooves in my shoulders. So I’m wearing a dress over a loosely swinging bra. My long-sleeved, flowing shirtwaist dress is white with a green leaf pattern; it’s office apparel, not a modelling accessory.
Elmer Batters drives east towards the San Fernando Valley and then beyond into the desert. He says little. Most photographers attempt to put me at ease by conversing prior to a shoot.
We ride for an hour until we reach a desolate road, finally stopping at a derelict movie set. Not much remains except scruffy wooden planks and crumbling plaster buildings. Beside this deteriorating structure is a railway track leading nowhere. A gurgling stream runs nearby; no other sound permeates the silence.
From the back seat of his car, Batters pulls out black nylon stockings with seams that he asks me to exchange for my pale seamless ones. He also hands me a pair of black stiletto shoes. But he doesn’t want me to remove my dress, just my bra. He shoots pictures of me in the dress, top buttons open, with my breasts revealed but still supported, making them appear full and firm. I pose on a concrete ledge dangling my legs over the creek, leaning against the front of his car, sitting on a faded wooden sidewalk and standing in front of a tattered screen. Finally, he asks me to remove the dress. Now I’m wearing only white panties, white garter belt, black nylons and black stilettos. With no support, my breasts droop.
Behind the buildings is a rusty dump truck, its front wheels propped on blocks. I’m beside the truck. Click. My foot rests on the high step below the cab. Snap. After Batters covers the tattered seat with a towel, I sit sideways. Clack. I’m inside the cab, curled in the grungy passenger seat, my feet resting on the dashboard. Whirr. Was it only a week ago that I was lounging seductively on a red brocade sofa?
I rely on photographers to tell me how to pose my body; I control the tilt of my head and facial expressions. But sometimes Batters shoots photos before I’m ready – so there’s no seductive smile, no sparkle in my eyes. And he doesn’t seem to care about my sagging breasts.
After I climb down from the cab, he leads me to the railway track where I totter on one rail wearing the stilettos. No longer worried about my looks, I concentrate on keeping upright. My feet are sore. I’m wobbling. The shoes must go! Returning to the car, I remove the hated footwear and change into my low-heeled pumps. Batters sighs. Then he guides me to a cluttered room with a low ceiling and slight mouldy odour. I straddle a rusty bathtub in my stocking feet, balancing on tip-toe. A dirty mattress covers much of the floor. Batters rolls up his towel to make a pillow and I lie on this mattress, but my body is stiff and I don’t smile or look towards the camera.
Batters snaps his photos quickly. Then we leave that stuffy cellar and head for the car. While he stores his cameras and tripod in the back seat, I fold my dress, carefully pack it in my case and then slip on my pants and sweater. Despite being parked in the shade, the auto is hot. Batters opens all four doors. When shooting in the crisp desert air, a gentle breeze cooled my semi-naked body. Now sweat runs down my forehead. Batters rummages through his back seat, finds two Coke bottles and flips off the caps. Although the pop is warm, I sip mine gratefully.
I start a conversation and Batters responds. We talk about the weather and then I introduce the topic of models and their looks. My ideal is the Playboy image – the glamorous, full-bosomed beauty.
Batters presses his lips tight. He says, “Men don’t want to look at fake women.”
“They aren’t fake,” I respond. “Men like to look at pretty girls.”
“No, they don’t. They want to look at the type of girls they see every day. Ordinary girls … naked. Girls they know they can get.”
He twists to the back seat, gropes around, and pulls out a magazine. Flipping it open, he shows me a page. “Look,” he says, “She is my most popular model because she doesn’t look special. She looks like someone a man can date.”
I glance through his photos. The model is average-looking, but she does things with her mouth that remind me of oral sex. When I point this out to Batters, he doesn’t respond, but instead tosses the magazine into the back seat and starts the car.
We stop at a bungalow in the San Fernando Valley. Most of my modelling stints occur in houses – places belonging to friends of the photographer – but previously these have been upscale homes, tastefully decorated. This is a shabby one-bedroom cottage with cracks at the bottom of the door. Its furniture appears to have come from a thrift shop: pink sheers covering the front-room windows, a matted sheepskin rug in front of an old tan sofa; a starburst clock above the fireplace mantel; a lime-green lamp; and, in the bedroom, purple curtains matching a purple bedspread.
I smell no whisper of perfume, no whiff of food. The place feels unoccupied – another forlorn setting, different from the desert but emitting the same sense of loneliness.
Before shooting begins, I hurry into the bathroom, splash water on my face, dab it dry, reapply my lipstick and touch up my eyebrows. I attempt to fluff my hair but my bangs stick to my forehead. In the desert, my hair had a soft wave; it flattened in that hot car. No hope for the bangs; backcombing gives the top some lift. Batters may not want me to look pretty – but I do.
I emerge from the bathroom wearing black underwear and embodying a new resolve. When he seems about to shoot, I lower my eyelids and don’t raise them until I’m ready. Dipping my chin, forming a half-smile, I look into the camera lens; this is my technique for simulating sexual desire in my photos. I hold my chest high and my shoulders back, raise my arms whenever possible, and thus make my breasts curve upward and appear fuller. Batters takes photos of me sprawling on the bed, stretching over the sofa, and sitting, cross-legged, in front of the fireplace. In only a few shots am I totally nude; in most, I’m wearing black panties, garter belt and nylons – and sometimes my open-toed gold shoes.
A lot of the time, Batters’ head is bowed while he views me through cameras. When he looks up, he doesn’t meet my eyes. Is he shy? He seldom speaks, simply waves an arm to direct my movements.
Finally we finish and he drives me back to the Studio Club; I have just enough time to clean up before walking downstairs to join friends for dinner.
That night in bed, I cannot stop thinking about Batters’ comment. He takes pictures of “ordinary girls.” In person, I do look ordinary as a brunette. In photographs, it’s different. The contrast between dark hair and my pale complexion can appear dramatic. That’s why some photographers place me in lavish settings: kneeling by an electric blue wall, reclining on a red brocade sofa, or huddling among lush green foliage. But I have large eyes, a stubby upturned nose and rosebud lips – childlike features, not dramatic ones. In person, with dark hair, I do not look striking. Men never fawned over me before I became a blonde.
Photographs be damned. I hate vivid colours. With fair hair, pale makeup and subdued clothes, I feel at ease; men notice me. I want to be blonde again.
The next day, I purchase hair supplies. To save money, I’ll do it myself. I’ve watched hairdressers bleach my hair for five years. How difficult can it be?
I have orange hair. Bright. Orange. Hair.
Around my scalp is a one-inch halo of pale yellow hair. The rest, the part previously dyed black, is now orange. I mix another package of bleach, cover the orange for an hour, then wash it out. My hair is a slightly lighter, even brighter, orange.
I wear a wig to dinner and consult with girls at several tables.
“You should go to Clairol,” one suggests. “They’ll know what to do.”
Unknown to me – and most other people – Clairol maintains a private salon in Hollywood where new products are tested. The girls chosen as models receive free hair services.
The next day, at Clairol’s beauty parlour, a colour expert examines my hair. She says, “You should have used a colour stripping process before you tried to bleach dyed hair.”
I’ve never heard of their colour stripping product. It isn’t sold in regular stores with their bleaches and toners. If I’d gone to a hairdresser…
The colour expert applies the stripping solution, waits an hour and washes it out. My hair is a slightly dimmer orange. “There’s no way to get the dye out now,” the expert says. “We’ll have to use a toner to mask it.”
Miraculously, she finds one, a dark blonde toner that turns my hair golden. A stylist trims the frizzled ends and I leave the salon with an appointment in two weeks. I will be their training model for “what to do when disaster strikes.”
I visit my agent to show him my new look. He takes four head shots, examines the prints and says they appear fine. He doesn’t have another photo session lined up but says, “There’s a big job coming soon. A soft core movie. It’s going to be another Immoral Mr. Teas.”
I know that Mr. Teas was a surprise hit featuring bare breasts and humour. However, Bill’s contacts in the entertainment industry are limited to photographers; he processes their colour film. A year earlier he couldn’t arrange trade show employment for me. Now he thinks he can get me a movie part?
I visit the temp office and they have a two-day job with a talent agency, one that evolves into a two-week position. My first day there, Martin, an entertainment lawyer, drops by, notices me and asks me out. Maybe I don’t have model bookings but I’m having fun, as Martin escorts me to restaurants and nightclubs. I’m blonde again. My social life has revived.
A month later, Bill calls. The movie job has come through. A four-day booking. One hundred dollars a day, double my usual rate. Fantastic!
Later, I reflect. How did I get this job without an audition? Topless girls in a soft core movie don’t need to act but they must look alluring on the screen. How a model moves in front of the camera is just as important as breast size.
Two days later, I drive to the studio, a warehouse in the San Fernando Valley. A makeup artist applies foundation to my face and neck (but not my body), and then skillfully highlights my lips and eyes. She is followed by a hair stylist who backcombs my weakened hair to give it volume. I join two other girls. We’re all clad in skimpy black satin underpants and black nylons (with seams) that have tight elastic bands to keep them from falling down (so no garter belts). I’m wearing my gold shoes with the two-inch heels. The three of us are standing outside the makeup room, awkwardly staring at walls, because there has been a delay in shooting our scene; the crew and movie camera are in another section of the warehouse, filming an episode that was supposed to be completed yesterday. Shivering in the cool hall, I drape my blue sweater around my shoulders and clutch the top.
A familiar face appears. Elmer Batters. He catches my eye, holds up his right hand and crooks his finger to indicate “come here.” He leads me to a room containing two large beds and begins taking photos, this time working with me, watching my eyes, waiting until I’m ready. He is the film’s still photographer. I know now how I got this gig.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Shannon Moeser
These “Gloria Dawn” photos were shot by Ron Vogel with the intention of becoming cover photos but were never published.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Shannon Moeser
These are some of my favorite “Gloria Dawn” face photos. Several of them have been cropped from larger photos:
The above photo is one that was never published. It was taken by Ron Vogel in May 1962. Here my eyes and hair colour are correct, whereas in many published photos, my eyes are brown and my hair is whiter than it really was.
Another photo that was never published. It was taken by my agent, Bill Margate, in January 1962. It was never intended to be published, but formed part of my portfolio shown to photographers. This was the first photo in which I showed my teeth when I smiled; before viewing this, I had always smiled with a closed mouth.
This one was taken by Michael LeRoy in May 1963. Again, that big smile. Again, never published.
Here I’m more pensive. This photo was also taken by Ron Vogel — this time in February 1962 — and although this particular version was never published, a similar photo was published in Bachelor’s Best in 1964.
Another photo by Ron Vogel, with a flirting look. Again a photo that was never published. Taken in May 1962.
A nice photo of my face taken by Donald Klumpp and published in the December 1963 issue of Escapade. Klumpp took several good pictures of me but only published one set (in Escapade). See also: http://pinupmemories.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/gloria-dawn-aka-shannon-m/ for an excellent copy of Klumpp’s Escapade centerfold taken at the same time as the above picture.
A colour photo by Michael LeRoy that was published in Monsieur magazine. LeRoy took only a few colour photos during his shoot.
This photo by Elmer Batters was taken in June 1963. It was published in Nylon Jungle, v1 n6 (1963). Again, that flirty look.
Another photo by Elmer Batters, this time taken when I had dark blond hair. It was published in Late Show and I was called “Leslie Southern” by the magazine.
Here is another unpublished photo by Michael LeRoy, taken in May 1963. This one is somewhere between a flirt and a smile.
Ron Vogel published several pictures of me laughing. He was the only photographer who was able to capture me while in the midst of a laugh. This one was was taken in February 1962 and published in Sir, 1966. Unfortunately the magazine’s print quality was poor, and so this is not a high-quality photo. But it is a good laugh.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Mario Cassilli, Shannon Moeser
My agent phones right after breakfast.
“Mario Cassilli wants to use you,” he says. “I told him you’d be there at 10:30.”
Great, I think. Maybe I’ll appear in Playboy.
A quick brush of my teeth, light touch of lipstick, thin stroke of eyeliner, and I’m off. Cassilli’s studio is a ten-minute drive through congested Hollywood streets. A one-story, white building with a rear parking lot, its front façade has no door or windows, no sign indicating the nature of its business. But the back door – the entrance – displays Playboy’s famous rabbit-head logo.
Cassilli has a pleasant face and a bushy moustache. When he sees me, his smile disappears. “I need a blond,” he says. My agent failed to mention that I had dyed my hair black.
After a pause, Cassilli says, “We’ll rent you a wig.” He tells me exactly where to drive – a Max Factor boutique specializing in wigs – and gives me a voucher for a one-day rental.
An hour later, I’m sitting on a chair in the back of the store. The woman takes one look at me and says, “You have a very small head.” She doesn’t need to measure; she has fitted thousands of models and actors.
She moves to a storeroom and returns ten minutes later. “Right now, I have only one that will fit you.” After she adjusts it, I examine myself in several mirrors. My hair is now light blond, four inches long, with a soft wave. Exactly right. It looks natural. When I brush my hand across the top, it feels coarse. My own hair has fine strands and flattens easily; the thick strands on this wig will remain bouncy.
“I’ll take it,” I say, giving her the voucher. She reminds me that the wig must be returned within 24 hours.
By 12:30, I’m back in Cassilli’s studio. He likes the wig.
In a small, black leather case, I carry my modelling accessories: black bikini panties, white bikini panties, a front-opening black bra, black garter belt, white garter belt, extra pair of nylons, and gold, open-toed, high heels. A makeup kit contains bright pink lipstick, bright red lipstick, pale coral lipstick, eyeliner, black eyebrow pencil, brown eyebrow pencil, and mascara.
For makeup, Cassilli wants me to use coral lipstick, brown eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, and mascara. For clothes, he requires only my black bikini panties and gold shoes. He provides the other props – a gunfighter belt and quick-draw holster, plus gun. I tie the holster’s drop-loop around my leg and point the gun at the camera. It reminds me of playing cowboys and Indians as a child.
After Cassilli takes several photos, I remove the gunfighter outfit and he arranges his lights and camera tripod for a close-up. He instructs me to hold my right arm across my upper chest and my left arm at a 90-degree angle. He spends time getting me to hold my arms and hands exactly right.
I’m worried. Cassilli viewed my body a year ago. Since then, I’ve lost five pounds. My legs are slimmer, my bum less prominent, but my breasts have lost some fullness, and consequently have a more pronounced droop. I know how to hold my body to hide this defect but the pose Cassilli wants, with arms pushed forward, emphasizes my less-than-perfect bosom. As Cassilli tells me to move my arm “a bit lower” or “a bit to the right,” I feel uneasy, even though I’m smiling.
We finish by four and Cassilli hands me a $50 cheque. I’m too shy to ask where or when these photos will appear, but see that the cheque has been issued by Playboy.
I have time to return the wig but instead drive home to the Hollywood Studio Club. At dinner that evening, everyone admires the wig. Next morning, I buy it. The store applies the rental fee towards the purchase price, although the $150 is still high on my budget.
For the next year, I search through each month’s Playboy but I don’t see the photos. Rejected, I think, because of my flabby boobs.
A year ago, I finally saw these pictures. They were published in the September 1964 Topper. Cassilli must have sold rejects to Topper. I almost didn’t recognize myself in the wig. Although it looked like real hair and not a wig, it was fuller than my natural hair, and this fullness altered my head shape. In the gunfighter scene, I appear between the legs of another gunfighter – a parody of Gunsmoke. In the close-up scene, boxes of beer were drawn between my arms. Cassilli had placed my right arm across the top of my chest, which hid the fact that my breasts drooped. But although my mouth formed a toothy smile, my eyes looked sad. I forgot that emotions felt by a model show on the photo being taken. The photographer didn’t screw up; the model did.