Why am I so obsessed with the past? Why can I happily spend hour after hour pouring over obscure articles in newspaper archives or decaying magazines that are at least a half century old? Just ask Kendall, who has to listen to me recount long forgotten news events with same breathless excitement as a reporter announcing an important story from this morning.
Our glamorous friend Kerry recently had a dinner to mark her 50th birthday. Instead of place cards she had the clever idea to mark each person’s place with a magazine from the year of her birth. She matched each magazine to the person, which gave us all a window into how she sees us. Kerry’s mom is an actress who co-starred in one of the most popular sitcoms on the air in 1957 so she was mentioned in many of the magazines. At her place at the dinner was a copy of the 1957 Life magazine that heralded the arrival of Liza Todd, daughter of Elizabeth Taylor, who looked impossibly beautiful and made up for someone who just gave birth. (Kerry may not have made the cover of Life, but she was definitely a cuter baby.)
Kendall got a copy of “Modern Screen” that blared the headline “Doris Day’s Escape from Hell.” Perfect. The magazine also had Kim Novak declaring that “One Man Is Not Enough,” and an article about June Allyson’s private life with a minute-by-minute accounting of her day.
9:07: June looks in the mirror. The children have been awakened and shooed off the school, so June takes a solid two minutes to skip a powder puff across her nose.
9:09: First report of the day goes to Mrs. Edgar Bergen. June and Frances discuss life in general for twenty-seven minutes.
9:58: June explains to secretary that her first task is to straighten out the schedule. June just can't say no, she she and Dick are expected for dinner in four places!
We are treated to Debbie Reynolds’ guide to dealing with life’s difficulties: “When something awful happens to you, you can drive it into the ground if you want to, but if you laugh at it, it somehow no longer seems so terrible.” Debbie would get a chance to test this philosophy the following year when best friend Liz Taylor would run off with Debbie's husband, Eddie Fisher. There is an exposé by closeted actor Tony Perkins called “The Types of Girls I Can’t Stand”—“If you’re trapped with a clinging vine at a party, you can be deep in conversation with Cecil B. De Mille, and she’ll still tug at your arm—‘Tony, get me a sandwich,’ she’ll plead as though she had two broken arms and a sprained ankle.”
The battle of the century is on, kids! Will Pat the Subtle outlast Elvis the Obvious? Are the kids getting bored with Sex Spelled Out a-la-Presley? Are the cool kids gravitating toward the more muted amorous effusions of gentle Mr. Boone?
Turns out he would last much longer. Though the two men were the same age, Elvis has been dead for 30 years and Pat Boone is still going strong. We all know how Elvis deteriorated before he died, but when I ran into Pat Boone a few years ago in the steam room at my health club (where is my cell phone camera when I need it?), he looked shockingly young and fit. Elvis and Pat were both devout Christians but Pat seemed to tow the born-again line with more verve. When he made “April Love” in 1957, he refused to kiss Shirley Jones, his love interest in the film, because she was married in real life. Oh, Pat! Lovely Shirley is all over both magazines.
We asked Shirley Jones, bride of Jack Cassidy, and beautiful 20th star, to plan a shopping tour to help you buy new clothes. Buy Shirley’s selections and you’ll be the best dressed gal of 1958—even in Hollywood!
The still well dressed star is making an appearance tonight at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood following a screening of “Oklahoma.” Guess where I’ll be? My magazine also included an article asking “Does Jayne Mansfield Go Too Far?”
”That girl really overdoes the body bit,” the teenager said to her date as they came out of a showing of “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In order to avoid an argument on the subject of Body Bountiful Jayne Mansfield, the boy answered with a non-commital, “Well, men see Jayne differently than women do.”
The question of whether Natalie Wood is “naughty or nice” is pondered.
Sure Natalie likes to be kissed. She admits liking the velvet feel of a boy’s clean-shaven cheek and the smell of shaving lotion. But what girl doesn’t?
After dumping a series of guys, including Elvis, Natalie has started dating young heartthrob Bob Wagner.
Will Bob be IT? Only Natalie can tell, but if we know Miss Hearts-and-Flowers, she’ll have a new love by the time you read this. That’s Nat, and that’s why we and you are so crazy about her.
Joan Crawford writes a terrifying article called “What My Marriage Means to Me.”
Let’s face it, I have an inclination to dominate—oh, not that I want to. Some of the men I knew in the past never understood that deep down I never really wanted to rule the roost. I wanted to be all-woman. I feel that I have been a good mother, a successful one, and it is comforting to have Alfred’s support, his morale-building interest in the children and their problems.
Was every leading man in the late 50s secretly gay? Three articles in the magazine come close to outing several popular stars. “Tony, Be Yourself” showed a brooding Tony Perkins who just couldn’t fit into the Hollywood scene and had the subtitle, “His sincere well-wishers are deeply concerned about he Perkins lad.” An article about Montgomery Clift begged readers, “Let’s Quit Hazing Monty!” and described Clift’s “delicate artist’s nervous system.”—“If he wants to stay home and read a book instead of chasing around the women, we say more power to him!” Finally, Tab Hunter is profiled in an article called “Boy with a Dream.” “He is striving to be an actor. They insist he’s just a body-man, a sex-boat. But Tab’s bright dream refuses to die.”
I love the ads in these magazines. Many heralded the new 1958 cars, gigantic and beautiful gas-guzzlers with fins and fine leather upholstery. The ’58 Chevrolet was billed as “Almost too new to be true!”
Never, NEVER has a car been so wonderfully new in so many different ways! Here are radical departures in style, power, and ride…all wrapped up in the longest, lowest, widest Chevrolet that ever said, “C’mon, let’s get GOING!”
Cigarettes were the dominant product at the dawn of 1958, and looking at these magazines you get an idea of the huge loss the ban on these ads must have been to the advertising industry. They all show beautiful white couples enjoying intimate moments with their cigarettes. Many were still trying to promote the alleged “health” benefits of cigarettes and a new twist was to to emphasize how light and refreshing the non-filtered cigarettes were.
Don’t suffer from “Jean’s wretched periodic pain. It’s downright foolish to suffer in silence every month!”
“Does your smile say, KISS ME?”
And ads that really provide a time capsule look at another era: “Here’s What You Should Do About the Asiatic Flu: Take Bayer Aspirin!” “Get Your Polio Shots This Spring…and Play Safe This Summer!”
So welcome to 1958, kids! And ladies, please don’t forget…