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.
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Lou Rawls, Shannon Moeser
I glance up, turn my head and stare out the window. But the shadowy figure has disappeared.
It can’t be him.
A translucent curtain hides me from passers-by and reduces them to moving shadows. The man walks beyond my office door so I relax and resume reading. A knock. The door creaks open. Lou. Holding a bouquet of red roses.
“For my sweet baby on Valentine’s Day.”
What is he doing? He knows that Inglewood is a white-only enclave.
“You’re hidden away. Almost couldn’t find you. But I had to bring my sweetheart a gift on Valentine’s Day.”
I’ve never received a Valentine present. I’ve never received flowers.
I walk to the front of my desk and Lou hands the bouquet to me. I press my face into the blooms, inhale slowly.
“So this is where you work,” Lou says, looking around.
I normally sit behind an L-shaped secretary’s desk, with the typing arm facing the window and the main section between me and the entrance. A bank of file cabinets stands between my work area and two unused desks. Once this district sales office had four employees. Now only my boss and I remain.
Opposite my work area is an open door leading into my boss’s office. Lou looks through it.
For just a second his smile falters.
“I thought your boss was back in town.”
“He is, but he’s out for the day. These are beautiful roses.”
Lou looks directly into my eyes and smiles.
“Nothing’s too good for my baby. A dozen of the best. Man they cost me.”
No, they cost me. I lent Lou $200 yesterday. But he promised to marry me. I had him sign an I.O.U. stating that he’ll marry me or pay back the total $350 I’ve loaned him.
I gesture towards a chair in front of an unused desk. “Why don’t you sit down. I’ve finished typing my boss’s letters and don’t have any more work.”
“I have to go. Just came to give my baby a Valentine. I’m getting ready to go on the road again. I won’t see you for awhile.”
“But you just got back four weeks ago. Can’t you get more jobs around L.A.?”
“It’s the life, baby. Always on the road. You stay sweet and good while I’m away.”
I nestle my head against his chest. He gives me a hug and kisses my forehead. Then he’s gone.
Why did he come to my office? Did he think he’d get me in trouble? He doesn’t understand my relationship with my boss. We talk about everything. Steve knows about my inter-racial dating, and although he doesn’t approve, he accepts it as an interesting quirk. We’re so far away from the head office that my private life doesn’t affect the job. And the job is all Steve is concerned about.
Such beautiful roses. Why do I doubt Lou’s motives? I’m his special girlfriend. The one he took to the “invitation only” pre-release of “The Hustler.” The one he took to meet his record producer. I’m pretty. And Lou likes blonds.
He will marry me, eventually.
Tags: girlie magazines, Gloria Dawn, Shannon Moeser
Magazine cover appearances:
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Shannon Moeser
For my first modeling assignment, with Peter Gowland for Cavalier, I used my real name at the time – Gloria Moeser – and that is the name Cavalier used as well. I did this because:
- I was naive and thought all models used their real names;
- Neither Alice nor Peter Gowland suggested I adopt a special modeling name; and
- I thought this would be my one and only magazine appearance
When I acquired an agent, he asked me if I wanted to continue to use my real name. I thought about it for a minute. I wasn’t ashamed of my nude modeling and didn’t want to hide my identity. On the other hand, I didn’t want strangers phoning me – I was in the telephone book. So I decided to adopt the name “Gloria Dawn.” These were my first two names. People who knew me would still know it was me but strangers wouldn’t be able to locate me using a phone book. As a blond, I always signed model release forms with my real name and added the stipulation “to be called Gloria Dawn.”
The Model Release Form
In those innocent days of the 1960s, the model release form was the only contract a model signed. It gave the photographer the right to sell pictures of her taken on a specific date. Any stipulations placed by the model on this sale (such as the name to be used) were thus legally binding.
I have checked through all the magazines that feature me as a blond. The majority of them call me “Gloria Dawn.” In a couple – Topper, September 1962 and Flirt (date unknown), I am simply called “Gloria,” and a few don’t name me at all – Bachelor’s Best, Sir, Adam Bedside Reader, Figure Annual, Figure Quarterly, and Peter Gowland Photographs the Figure.
However, Sassy (v1, n3, no date), called me “Irma.” I am sure that it was not Ron Vogel, the photographer, who changed my modeling name but the magazine editor. Sassy went kaput after this issue. Also, in Madcap, (v1, n3, 1963), a Parliament Magazine, I was called “Annette Carey.” These Madcap photos were taken by Jim Sullivan and were part of a series with a painter that initially appeared in Rogue, October 1962. In Rogue I am called “Gloria Dawn.” Again, I believe it was not the photographer who changed my name but the magazine editor. These two magazine publications broke the written contract.
My modeling names started going wild after I dyed my hair black. During my first brunette session, with Bill Crespinel, I was more concerned with getting paid than with the name used, so my stipulation was that I be paid $50 before any pictures could be published. I don’t believe I stipulated a modeling name. Crespinel called me “Mary Hayes” in a layout he sold to Jaguar (November 1965) and “Ginger” in a layout sold to Frenchy (v1, n3, 1963). No name was attached to a large series of pictures sold to Romper (v1, n1, 1964).
Then I modeled for Keith Bernard. Keith came up with the name “Susan Norman” for me and stuck to this name during the several years that he sold my pictures. In only one case – a small picture in Ace (July 1968) – was a different name used for a Keith Bernard photo – “Brenda Barr.” I’m sure this also was a magazine editor’s decision.
Then I modeled for Mario Casilli in the blond wig. No name was attached to the pictures of me in this wig.
About this time, having returned to my agent, I decided I wanted to return to my “Gloria Dawn” modeling name. Unfortunately the next photographer my agent found for me was Elmer Batters, who worked exclusively for Parliament Magazines. Parliament was the one company that ignored the model release contract. Thus far, photo layouts from that one-day modeling session with Batters have been found under the name “Sandra Lobo,” “Corinne Curry,” “Dallas Blair,” “Dorothy Eden,” “Gail Gavin,” and “The Mystery Stripper.” A couple of weeks ago, a new one was found – “Antoinette Desiles.” Parliament printed almost every photo Batters shot that day – bad pictures as well as good ones. There could be more out there under new, and sometime incredible, names.
After my session with Batters, I bleached my hair back to blond. It came out dark blond. I never had a magazine photo session with this dark blond hair but I did take part in a soft-porn movie. Two still photographers worked on this movie set. I knew them both – Elmer Batters and Jim Sullivan. The still photographs were supposed to be used for lighting purposes and possibly publicity stills. In fact, the movie was never completed but some of these still photographs appeared in magazines. The Batters’ photos again appeared in Parliament magazines. The name “Leslie Southern” was used in one layout (Late Show, v2, n2, 1964) and in two layouts I appeared as “Donna Cole” (Tip Top, 1964; Thigh High, 1967). Jim Sullivan took photos of the party scene (with me in a blond wig) and either called me “Gloria” or didn’t use any name for me.
The oddest occurrence of being misnamed was in The Big Book of Legs (2008), edited by Dian Hanson. A full page picture of me was labeled “Susan Norman” but it was not a picture by Keith Bernard. Bernard was the only photographer who ever used the name “Susan Norman” in any magazine. I talked to Dian Hanson. The photo was supplied by Yesterday’s Girls, a company that bought all the photos from the American Art Agency which published Parliament Magazines. When they were trying to identify me, the owner of Yesterday’s Girls came up with “Susan Norman,” probably because he had seen pictures of me with black hair in “respectable” magazines where I was called “Susan Norman.”
I wish that the name “Gloria Dawn” had been used for me in all magazines. Not only would that make it easier to find my photos but also it would have increased my visibility as a model, especially as some of the pictures, such as the Donna Cole set, have become collectors’ items.