Thursday, 31 March 2011

March Venus: Henriette Allais

We tried very hard to find a winning centrefold this month who wasn't Henriette Allais, as we had featured her so extensively here but we just couldn't find a better shot than Richard Fegley's marvellous concoction above.

Dolores Del Monte from March 1954

So, moving swiftly on, especially as it is the last day of the month and we are determined to keep our entries in the appropriate month this year, we will submit our number two choice, Dolores Del Monte from March 1954.  At this stage Playboy was buying in its Playmate pictures from the John Baumgarth Calendar Company of Melrose Park, Illinois.  This led to the odd situation where Dolores  became a Playmate of the Month without her actually knowing it. It wasn't until 1979 that Del Monte realized that she had been a Playmate when her son saw his mother's centerfold while leafing through the 25th anniversary issue of Playboy! Finding out that your mother had been a Playboy Playmate must have been a bit of a shocker!  Although it is a photograph it almost looks like a contemporary pin-up painting but we like it because it is atypical with Miss Del Monte's perched elegantly on the edge of whatever it is you call that piece of furniture.  Tellingly, unlike the vast majority of Playmates to follow, she is not looking at the camera so is caught in aquiet reverie of her own.

At this point neither the name of the Playmate nor the photographer were revealed in the magazine and it wasn't until the January 1956 issue, which reviewed the first two dozen Playmates, that her name was given.  It is from that article that I found the only other photograph I could discover of her as, in those days, the Playmates just featured in the one centrefold picture.  It wasn't until December 1954 that Terri Ryan had an accompanying pictorial about her being photographed for the centrefold.  Then in June 1955 Eve Meyer, photographed by her husband, Russ, had aditional shots included again but this didn't becme a regular feature until September 1955.

Tonya Crews for March 1961

Our next choice comes from the early sixties and the contrast between her outdoor photograph and Miss Del Monte's studio bound production couldn't be greater.  This photograph by Mario Casilli (1931-2002) is one of the great centrefold photgraphs of the sixties.  Posed above a soft, sundrenched backdrop and caught in the middle of the act of removing a striking striped shirt from her 37-22-36 body, the picture has a dynamic sense of movement missing from most of the usually very static centrefold poses.  Starting at the bright terrace your eye follows her legs up to that marvellous postererior (Tonya was a dancer and it shows) and then the curve of her back to that faintly knowing expression on her face.  "You've caught me stripping off and I don't care!" it says.

Tonya was the first Playmate with Native American heritage.  She was part Choctaw and had spent time living on a Hopi reservation in Arizona when she was younger.  Sadly, she was killed in a car crash five years later in July 1966, at the age of twenty eight.

Fran Gerard for March 1967

Another sixties Playmate next, in the almost impossible shape of Fran Gerard, in another shot by Mario Casilli.  There is much that appeals here from the sheer, pink babydoll to the glasses that make her look like a librarian gone bad.  it is however those thrusting torpedo-like breasts that captivate.  Even in a magazine as breast obsessed as Playboy, Fran's are something special.  Triple P is not a bust man but Fran could make us stray from the path with little difficulty.

Fran was the first centrefold to be shown in glasses and one optician wrote in to the magazine offering her free contact lenses.  In fact, some people reckoned that the glasses were just plain glass and she didn't wear prescription glasses at all. However, we would like to think that maybe they replaced her real ones for those during the shoot to avoid any distorsions in those lovely eyes.

Fran was born Frances Anna Camuglia in Staten Island in March 1948 so would have still been eighteen when her pictorial appeared in February (for March) 1967.  She attended Granada Hills High School near Los Angeles and was married before she graduated.  She described herself as an astrologers assistant in her pictorial and it is likely that the astrologer in question  was her husband, who was 37 years old when they married (she was just eighteen).  Whatever, the marriage only lasted seven months although she married again in 1970.  Tragically, she died in 1985 at the age of just 37 from causes unknown, her death not becoming well known until decades later.

Kathy MacDonald for March 1969

Our final example of a trio of sixties specimens is Kathy MacDonald.  This is a clever and subtle picture with the various creases in the bedclothes all drawing your eye in towards Kathy's pale body, which contrasts nicely with the yellow bedclothes..  The newspaper dates from April 1968 demonstrating the length of time (nearly a year) from Playmate shoot to appearance in the magazine itself.

Kathy trained to be a nurse but then decided to become a stewardess.  It was her mother who spotted an advertisement looking for Bunnies for the Baltimore Playboy club, the day before her airline interview, and she was hired right away.  Indeed, the photographer, David Chan, whose first centrefold shoot this was, remembers being introduced to her parents.  He was nervous but they were fine about it!  Kathy went back to her original career choice and became a nurse.

Deborah Driggs for March 1990

Our final choice for March is from over twenty years after the previous entry and is the statuesque (5'6" and 34-23-34) Deborah Driggs.  Her strikingly blue eyes are brought nicely out by her top but otherwise it is a very restricted colour palette of black and tan.  Ms Driggs body, photographed by Richard Fegley, is neatly curled on a chair and her long legs are highlighted by those enticing hold-up stockings.  Triple P has always had a thing for black, laceptop hold-ups, ever since his Italian friend I used to wear them in Rome.  Indeed, only last week we had S padding about our room in Hanoi wearing black hold ups and nothing else, except for her Audemars Piguet watch.

Driggs was very active for Playboy after her Playmate appearance and, indeed appeared on the cover of the magazine the following month.  She appeared in a number of Playboy videos and Newsstand Specials and appeared in a handful of films.  Whilst taking acting classes she met Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Mitch Gaylord and they were married for ten years.  More recently she was the co-author of a book called Hot Pink: The Girls' Guide to Primping, Passion, and Pubic Fashion about how to tidy up and look after your pubic region (!).

So, that is it for March and, indeed, every other month as this is the last of our twelve monthly reviews of Playmate centrefolds.  We have to re-iterate that these pieces have only looked at the quality of the centrefold photographs not the quality of the girls themselves, which would give us a completgely different list.  Wait!  We're having an idea for what to do over the next 12 months!

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