Playing the Field page turner #16

Playing the Field in the Reagan Era

When Playing the Field was originally published in 1987 the country was in the depths of the Era of Reagan. Conservatism seemed like a jolly joke back then, with the Great Communicator cracking witticisms at press conferences. Of course, behind the scenes the Sainted Ronnie was carving out huge tax breaks for the rich and laying the groundwork for the financial debacle of the 21st century, while ignoring the AIDS epidemic as it raged unchecked through America.

(I’ve written about my distaste for Reagan a number of times over the years. One of these days I’ll republish on this blog a piece I did for Hustler about a congressional halfwit who was lobbying to put the Gipper’s face on the fifty dollar bill.)

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As the publication of the book approached, since I was still–unbelievably–a Republican, the conservative owner of USA Today took a shine to me and began mentioning Playing the Field in its pages. At the same time, Star magazine out bid the National Enquirer for the rights to publish a chapter prior to the book’s debut. The Star edition sold out in record time and was a great boost for book sales. But almost as helpful was the fact that the Enquirer was pissed about losing the bidding war and wouldn’t stop talking about the book either.

The new Special Collector’s Edition of Playing the Field is available now in my store and on Amazon.

By the way, if you are in the L.A. area, or will be here on the 4th of April, remember that I will be at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica for a book signing, screenings of Untamed Youth and High School Confidential, and a Q & A. See you there!

Playing the Field page turner #15

Anna Nicole and the celebrity recycle bin

I was interested to read recently about the opera of Anna Nicole Smith’s life set to debut in New York this September. Originally produced in London at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the show will play for a couple of weeks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s opera house. As a commentary on how quickly popular culture recycles celebrities once they have died, it’s a phenomenon worth noticing. Anna Nicole joins Marilyn, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Tupac Shakur in the group of deceased celebrities whose recycled personas continue to generate income for someone. Hopefully, Anna’s will earn money for the beautiful daughter she left behind.
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Photo by David Keeler

I wrote in Playing the Field about a group of glamor girls who died before their 50th birthday. Sadly, that list needs to be updated. I’ve been working on that in my new book that will be out near the end of the year.

The Special Collector’s Edition of Playing the Field is available now in my store and on Amazon.

Changing plans

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This week I’ve had to make changes in my schedule because of some unforeseen personal conflicts. Sadly, I have had to postpone my book & photo signing at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, 6644 Hollywood Blvd, in Hollywood on Wednesday, March 20. I sincerely apologize to everyone for missing you. We will reschedule the signing, hopefully for late in April. As soon as the date is decided, Jeff at Larry Edmunds and I will give you plenty of notification.

I have also postponed my book & photo signing in Palm Springs at Just Fabulous Bookstore, 515 N Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, which was scheduled for Saturday, March 23. Again, my deepest apologies. This signing has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 11, the day before Mother’s Day. So save that date and come say hello!

I am deeply disappointed to have to reschedule these two events, but I look forward to seeing all of you on the new dates. My thanks to Jeff at Larry Edmunds, Stephen at Just Fabulous, and all of you for your understanding.

The good news is the Aero Theater screening and book signing scheduled for April 4th IS STILL ON! High School Confidential and Untamed Youth will be shown , there will be a Q & A, and I will be signing books and photographs. The Aero is located at 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 260-1528. I understand the tickets are going fast, so don’t delay. See you there!

And I will still be appearing at the Collector’s Show at the Westin LAX hotel in L.A. the weekend of April 20th & 21st. I’m anticipating seeing all of you there too!

Finally, if you are anywhere else in the world and can’t attend these fun events, you can get Playing the Field, Special Collector’s Edition in my store and on Amazon.
Mxo

Playing the Field page turner #14

Let’s Do the Time Warp

One of the interesting things about longevity if you are a so-called celebrity is that you are seldom the one who hears the clock ticking. Everyone else goes out of their way to watch the hands, and never hesitates to remind you when they click to the next number. (Oddly, they nearly always get my age wrong and make me older than I am. I can’t deny it because they’ll only say I’m lying about my age.)

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I was once told by a studio executive—a man, of course—that I would be lucky if I had ten years in the limelight. Then, presumably, one would marry, raise a family, and quietly fade away. I never did that. I have spent the last six decades reinventing Mamie. From the vantage point of today, it looks like a long road, even though it feels like a walk around the block.

Share the journey in Playing the Field, Special Collector’s Edition in my store and on Amazon. —Mxo

Playing the Field page turner #13

Vietnam

For many of you the Vietnam war seems like ancient history. A conflict that ended nearly 40 years ago is as remote for most Americas as the The Wars of the Roses. For others, like me, the war in Vietnam is as immediate as last night’s nightmare.

Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors of war. By the time I left Vietnam, the things I had seen and heard left me changed forever. My tour was independent of the USO and took me, my conductor, and musicians to fire stations and remote bases from the Mecong Delta in the south to the Demilitarized Zone in the north. We played in places where no one else would go—places where the Viet Cong listened to me sing from the bush outside the fire station’s perimeter.
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I hear from Vietnam vets all the time who saw my show. It is gratifying to know that I made a small difference for them. Moreover, their kind words remind me of the huge difference they have made for me. We share the nightmares of the war and the memories of the ones who did not return.

You can read about my Vietnam sojurn in Playing the Field, Special Collector’s Edition, available in my store and on Amazon. You can also read my fragmented Vietnam diary in Apocalypse Then on my website.

Playing the Field page turner #12

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Alberto Vargas

One of the stories in Playing the Field that ended up on publisher Putnam’s cutting room floor was about my work with the pinup artist Albert Vargas. When I was seventeen, Vargas ran an ad in the trade paper Variety looking for new models. Vargas was famous for his sexy Esquire pinups, which were so hot that the U.S. Post Office tried to revoke the magazine’s permit to send them through the mail. I responded to the ad and Vargas selected me as one of his models. Unfortunately, the story only got a couple of paragraphs in Playing the Field, but there was an interesting backstory and sequel.

My parents raised their eyebrows when I suggested that I wanted to pose nude for Vargas, but with a little persuading, they finally consented. My mother went with me to the interview with the artist.

Vargas’ wife, Anna Mae, met us at the door of their modest little house in Westwood. Inside, she introduced us to Alberto and we got acquainted over breakfast. Under Anna Mae’s watchful eye and with my mother’s permission, Alberto took some nude and semi-nude photographs of me, which he later used in some of his paintings. I was paid the handsome sum of $16.

Fast forward to 1980. I ran across some copies of Vargas’ Esquire drawings and started wondering if he was still alive. This was long before Google, so I called Information and found his number. He answered the phone and we talked for a bit. His wife had died in 1974 and he took it very hard, but he told me he was still painting. He said he would like to do another painting of me and asked if I had a photograph I liked, or if I would even like to visit him to do a live sitting. I said I would like very much to do that. Life intervened one way and another, however, and I never got to see Alberto again. He died in 1982 at the age of 86.

Sometime in the 1990s, there was a retrospective of Vargas’ work at a gallery in L.A. and the curator invited me to attend. It was a joy to see all Vargas’ work in one place and I know Alberto would have been proud. For my part, I recognized how he took bits and pieces of me–breasts here, legs there, as I’m sure he did with all his models–and drew his idealized long-legged, perfect-breasted, perky-tushed Vargas girls, and I was proud to have been one.

Playing the Field, Special Collector’s Edition is available in my store and on Amazon.

Previous posts in Inside/Out are available in the archive.