Thursday, August 7, 2008
How to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombshells
This is a copy of an Orlando Sentinel column that I wrote in February 2007, shortly after Anna Nicole's death, about smart bombshells who upend the stereotypical image of the gorgeous dumb girl. I love them and I love this piece - I'm putting it up because it goes with the review of Pamela Anderson's new show which is the post above this one. Enjoy!
Even in a skimpy outfit, you can have a head on your shoulders
Published February 23, 2007
When Anna Nicole died, the rush to turn her into a cautionary tale was so fast it actually blew my hair a little. Glamorous and sad, sexy and doomed, the inevitable comparisons were made to Monroe and Mansfield. Fair enough: They were all juicy blondes who died too young.
But I think there's a vague odor of something else there, an undercurrent of our Puritan heritage that wants to be very certain that if you're sexy and you flaunt it, are proud of it, you're going to meet a horrible end.
That's not fair, and it's definitely not true.
Life is not a horror movie, where only virgins live to overact another day. I was raised with '70s feminism and traditional thinking, which both suggested that if you liked tight clothes and red lipstick, you were a twit or a tramp, and only shallow people put tons of emphasis on their looks. Then I grew up and realized that liberation is simply about making your own choices. It is entirely possible to care for both Shakespeare and stilettos. The only shallow thing is thinking you have to be limited (except by other people's limited thinking).
So to cleanse the palate of this attitude that sexiness must end badly, here are some sirens who aren't remembered as tragic figures. These aren't women whose careers I followed, but whom I admired, remembered or just now rediscovered and Web-searched, though I know there are many more. Buckle up: serious curves ahead.
Charo. Alternately Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza or just The Cuchi-Cuchi Girl, she learned to play the guitar in a convent, studied with Andres Segovia and has made an incredible career out of seeming as if she can't speak English very well. Actually, she's fluent in four languages and is still looking great at 65.
Brigitte Bardot. "Rated to be one of the most sexually active people on the face of the earth," according to celebritywonder .com, Bardot, 72, has been so successful at switching gears that her name is now more synonymous with animal-rights activism instead of her animal magnetism. She's still controversial, but not just as a siren anymore.
Sophia Loren. An Oscar-winning actress, author of several books, Loren has worked on behalf of various charities, still acts and still wows the world at 72. She was married for 50 years to producer Carlo Ponti until his death in January.
Betty Grable. She defined " pinup girl," was the highest paid female star in the U.S. in 1947 and enjoyed a 44-year career. Grable, 57, died from lung cancer in 1973 and left an estate in debt -- a sad end but not the morality-tale type, unless the moral is "Yeah, you might want to quit smoking."
Tina Turner. She of the legendary legs is still doing movies and TV appearances at the age of 67 and, long after ditching her bad marriage, has become the dignified definition of "survivor."
Jill St. John. A legendary beauty with an IQ of 162, this Bond girl, who is now 66, is purported to have had a fling with Henry Kissinger. In the '80s, she veered off the acting path to write cookbooks and become a food columnist but still does occasional parts (i.e., the yada-yada episode on Seinfeld) and is married to Robert Wagner (a k a No. 2 in the Austin Powers movies).
Barbi Benton. She's was Hef's girlfriend but the sexiest girl-next-door ever was never made Playmate of the Month. Benton, 57, did, however, have an interesting career in country music and eventually dropped the Hollywood thing to become an interior decorator, not a statistic.
Raquel Welch. Even as a cavewoman (One Million Years B.C., 1966) or a transgendered sexual revolutionary in one of the (famously) worst movies ever made (Myra Breckinridge, 1970) she was impossibly gorgeous and a talented actress. And at 66, she still is. Extra points for having married a man who is 15 years younger than herself (so says imdb.com, where most of this stuff came from).
Pam Grier. A '70s action-film star with measurements of 38-22-36, Grier was diagnosed with cancer in 1988 and given 18 months to live. She battled it out, and at 57, she is still stunning and still working (The L Word, 2007).
Cassandra Peterson. "My name's Elvira but you can call me tonight." The person who should probably get the credit for the trend of adults wanting to wear sexy costumes on Halloween, Peterson, 57, is still out there looking hauntingly good.
That's not a bad Top Ten, and actually I think Jayne Mansfield belongs on the list, too. Toward the end her career flagged, true, but Mansfield -- a k a Mariska Hargitay's mom -- died in a car accident, not from self-destruction.
So yes, while there is a lot of tragedy among screen sirens and sex symbols (and Britney seems determined to be one of the disasters -- baldness is the only way anyone could see her as an egghead at this point), there's also a lot of success, happiness and life-goes-on. It's not just what's in the skimpy outfit that matters, it's what's in the heart and head, which is true of anyone in any job. Astronauts can self-destruct just like starlets, many of whom have stellar careers that aren't sealed with a tsk.
Posted by Wiggle Room at 6:15 PM