by James Bacon
I was in on the birth of the most publicity-minded of all Hollywood personalities - the late Jayne Mansfield. I was even responsible for getting her started.
I was sitting all alone at my desk in the AP office on a day before Christmas in the early fifties. All of a sudden, I felt a warm kiss on the back of my neck. It felt strange in the all-male newsroom.
Looking up, I gazed on a beautiful young blonde, twenty-one at most, with the most beautiful pair of breasts I had ever seen. They were falling out of her low-cut dress. Then she bent over and gave me a warm kiss on the lips. I kept my eyes open because I couldn't take them off those gorgeous breasts.
"Here's a present from Jim Byron," she said, and wiggled out the door.
Byron was an old friend, the press agent for Ciro's nightclub on the Sunset Strip. I called him immediately and asked who in thehell that girl was.
"Would you believe," said Jim,"this girl walked in my office off the Strip and said she was a coed at UCLA and wanted to be a movie star. I had your present on my desk so I told her to deliver it to you and I'd get your reaction. What can I do with her?"
I had on my desk at the time an airplane ticket to Silver Springs, Florida, where RKO was about to premiere a new Jane Russell movie called UNDERWATER. I couldn't make the trip and told Byron I would call Nat James at RKO and also Howard Hughes, who owned the studio and who was a great tit man.
If they agreed, Jayne could take my seat on the flight. I called Howard first. He was much easier to get on the phone in those days. After I described Jayne, he agreed on the spot.
As a matter of formality, I called Nat, the publicity man in charge of the junket, and told him what Hughes had said.
Jayne was on the flight. The other girls who went along were Debbie Reynolds, Mala Powers, and Lori Nelson, all beautiful but none with the assets that Jayne had.
Jane Russell, the star of the picture, was delayed a few days in New York. She couldn't have cared less for cheesecake shots at this stage of her career.
So, for the photographers, Jayne had a wide-open field and she handled it like O.J. Simpson. She wore a bikini that was twenty years ahead of its time and when all the photographers were focused, a strap conveniently broke. And before long, the magazines and newspapers were filled with pictures of Jayne Mansfield, a new international star who had yet to be even interviewed for a movie. Unfortunately for Jayne, that heady debut caused her to eventually ridicule herself out of the business.
I first noticed this happening at the famous reception for Sophia Loren when the glamorous Italian star made her first visit to this country. Sophia, full-bosomed, presented a threat to Jayne. Naturally, the photographers all wanted to get shots of the sexy Italian import. This infuriated Jayne, who acted as one possessed.
Every time the photographers shot the seated Sophia at her table at Romanoff's, Jayne would rush over and lean over her with her big breasts almost drooping on Sophia's shoulder. It resulted in one of the most remarkable pictures ever taken, with Sophia peering down into Jayne's hugh mammaries.
Toward the end of her tragic life, Jayne could get little work but opening supermarkets and shopping centers. But she was no dummy; her fee was never less than $5,000 a shot.
I was very fond of Jayne because, basically, she was a lovable girl. Often I would try to advise her but she would never listen.
She had a talent to make it big even without publicity, but you could never make her believe it. Only thing I ever talked her out of was when she decorated her big honeymoon mansion on Sunset Boulevard. She wanted everything heart-shaped - the bed, the bathtubs, lighting fixtures, even the toilet seats.
I told her the toilet seats wouldn't work.
"Why?" she pouted.
"Because you haven't got a heart-shaped ass," I said.
All the toilet seats remained oval.