Balboa Bay Bombshell
Photo by Julie StrainLike most gals of her generation, B-movie platinum bombshell Mamie Van Doren doesn't want me to spill her age. But I tell her it doesn't matter. I mean, even though she's old enough to be this Gen-Xer's mom, her bod's in such primo shape and her 34F fun bags in so rare a state of mammarian excellence that were she my female parental unit, incest might be at least one postpubescent fantasy I'd entertain. Her current spread in the nudie-pic gossip mag Celebrity Sleuth illustrates my point. There, the erstwhile starlet of such bygone sexploitation flicks as High School Confidential and Sex Kittens Go to College proudly bares her split peach right along with supermodels Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Amber Valletta.
"I walk around bare-assed all the time," Mamie confides to Celebrity Sleuth, in an article next to snaps of her checking out her nearly hairless love patch. "You see, I'm really kinda light on underwear."
Okay, okay. So she's Mrs. Robinson with a Mae West figure and a honeycombed hideout sweet enough to rival anything Marie Callendar's serves up daily. What of it? Southern California is littered with former celluloid sirens, beauty-pageant winners and Playboy centerfolds. Why is Mamie special? Why should we pay more attention to her website (at www.mamievandoren.com) than any of the countless other webzines that hawk the nostalgia of pinup beauties past?
It's the contradictions, the surprises.
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Though named for Mamie Eisenhower and herself a former fund-raiser for President Richard Nixon's CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President), she's one of the most sexually liberated women you'll ever meet. She carried condoms in her purse and played the casting couch like a fiddle in the dark ages before women's lib, the pill and legal abortions. And though she has for more than 30 years been at Newport Beach's Balboa Bay Club, the kind of place where old Nixon cronies and Watergate alums like to chill, she counts herself as a reluctant Democrat—mainly because of the Republicans' sorry record on women's issues.
"Most of my friends are conservatives," she confides, her pet cockatoos screeching in the spacious digs she shares with Thomas Dixon, her husband of more than 20 years. "And I'm pretty middle-of-the-road. Actually, it hurts me that I can't support the Republicans; I've always believed in a strong defense and whatnot. But, you see, I remember when back-alley abortions were commonplace. It was nothing to read in the paper about a woman dumped on the side of the road because of a botched abortion. And now we're going to have an attorney general who doesn't agree with most Americans on this issue? I find that very disturbing."
But once upon a time, Mamie was more simpatico with the party of Lincoln. Apparently, Tricky Dick adored Mamie and even kept a sexy glossy of her, which he liked to admire when he wasn't ordering wiretaps. Mamie attended state functions at the White House and toured Vietnam to support the troops there. She voted for Reagan and Pa Bush, and she probably knows more about both men than she could ever speak openly about. But she eventually went for Clinton because of abortion, women's rights and other issues.
It may seem odd that a woman so open about her dalliances with such men as Howard Hughes, Steve McQueen, Joe Namath, Warren Beatty, Jack Dempsey, Tony Curtis, Eddie Fisher, Johnny Carson, etc. would have been conservative enough in the past to ardently support the GOP. But back in the day, the Republican Party still had a moderate branch, and there was room for folks like Mamie. Plus, Mamie asserts, no one parties like a Republican. "They've got more money to spend," she laughs. "And they spend it. I've been to both Democratic and Republican parties, and let me tell you, the Republicans really go for it."
One of the more amusing "Bedtime Stories" offered on her site recounts the time Henry Kissinger put the moves on Mamie at a 1973 White House dinner for West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Seems Kissinger, Nixon's national security advisor and Gerald Ford's secretary of state, figured power was the ultimate aphrodisiac.
"I tell you, all the time Dick Nixon was talking to Willy Brandt, he was playing kneesies and getting closer! [Then New York] Governor [Nelson] Rockefeller's wife [Happy] was on the other side of him, and I thought, 'What's he doing with his other hand? Is Happy getting the same treatment, or what?' The whole thing was just so funny."
After dinner, Kissinger took Mamie on a private tour of the White House and let her sit in the president's chair behind his desk in the Oval Office. Then he asked if she wanted to go back to his place and see his collection of Chinese art. Mamie was game, and they ended up at Kissinger's Oscar Madison-like bachelor pad, where Mamie admired the antique vases while Kissinger took a call from the prez.
"In his bedroom were these piles and piles of dirty clothes," she recalls. "He apologized for the mess and said he'd been traveling. I believed him because his socks really stank. He obviously hadn't had time to change them. And he had denture breath, which is a real turnoff. But he was smart and funny. I might have dated him."
There's something very endearing about Mamie's lack of inhibition, her sense of humor and her earthiness. On her website, she posts a smorgasbord of nude photos of herself as well as a number of little video clips of her cavorting in her birthday suit. My favorite is the one in which she does a striptease on her star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame; it was shot so early in the morning that Mamie almost froze her tits off. Along with autographed photos, Mamie also hawks signed nipple prints. ("For the man who has everything," she says.)
But Mamie's "Bedtime Stories" outshine the best of her photos and memorabilia. The stories run the gamut from the hilarious and the sublime to the downright horrific, and a number are versions of those told in Mamie's 1987 tell-all memoir, Playing the Field. For instance, Mamie reveals the secret behind the bulge in Welsh superstud Tom Jones' polyester trousers: "He must sew it into his pants," she chuckles. "It was a HUGE disappointment." And she relates how macho man Burt Reynolds is really a Quick Draw McGraw: "I was too tipsy to remember my own advice about guys with the biggest hype being the guys who deliver the least." There are also sad, sweet remembrances of Marilyn Monroe and titillating tales of making out with Elvis in Las Vegas.
But the one that takes the cake is her story about being drugged and raped by Jack Webb of Dragnet. "Yep, I woke up with Joe Friday humping me," says Mamie matter-of-factly when queried about the incident. "He had me tied to a four-poster bed in his house. I was just 20 years old at the time and very naive. It was a very bad scene. Thing is I was willing to give in without him having to do that."
It was Mamie's second date with the steely eyed, crew-cut-sportin' TV fascist. After steaks and cocktails at a restaurant in the Valley, they went back to Webb's pad for more drinks and what Mamie assumed would be a fully consensual sexual encounter. However, according to Mamie, Webb slipped her a Mickey and went to work, strapping her down and banging her while she slipped in and out of consciousness. Then Webb dumped her off at her parents' house. She considered reporting him but wised up pretty quickly. Webb was basically Minister of Propaganda for the LAPD back then. It's not like anyone was going to put his ass in stir.
Fortunately, Mamie can laugh about it now. Webb's dead, and she's not. And she's had—and continues to have—a better sex life than he ever did, if we're to judge by his seduction techniques.
She's safe in OC, she says, and happy. "For me, Hollywood is a haunted town, full of ghosts and memories," she writes at the beginning of Playing the Field. "A lot of blond bombshells didn't make it. They died long before the wrinkles and lines they lived in fear of had a chance to appear on their beautiful faces. A number of them committed suicide. . . . But I couldn't join all those blondes who had taken that route. My will to live transcended Mamie Van Doren, movie star."
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