Jayne Mansfield – Supreme Sex Symbol &… My Mom’s Flawed Friend
Famed gossip columnist Nancy Bacon (aka, my mom) published her mesmerizing memoir Legends and Lipstick last month – in it, she shares countless never-before-told and super-scintillating stories about the stars she knew intimately. There’s detailed dishing on Paul Newman, Rod Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Robert F. Kennedy, Jay Sebring, and Jayne Mansfield to name only a few.
Thanks to new TV shows like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon and The Feud, there’s been a resurgence of morbid curiosity about Old Hollywood. “I think it’s human nature to romanticize anything that’s past in memory,” TV creator Ryan Murphy said at a press conference when asked about our fixation on tarnished Tinsel Town. I certainly remember reading Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon more than once as a young teen… the tales spared no detail whether it was sex, drugs, or death.
Though there’s tarnish there is no denying the glamour, and for a time there was no one more glitzy than blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield. Here’s an excerpt from Legends and Lipstick, which describes the diva’s digs:
“By the late fifties, Jayne was the movie star she had always dreamed of being. Movie stars had to have the proper setting so she purchased a large, rambling, three-acre estate in Beverly Hills, painted it pink, and put Mickey to work refurbishing it in a style befitting a celluloid queen. I visited Jayne and Mickey’s pink palace many times and was always a little in awe of it. It was certainly most grand, if a bit nouveau riche, with ankle-deep white carpets, velvet furnishings, crystal chandeliers dripping icily from every room in the house. Her bathroom was done in mirrored gold tile and held a sunken, heart-shaped bathtub; the floors and walls were carpeted with thick, pink plush and the faucets were twenty-four carat gold. Her bedroom was pink and white with a gigantic, specially made, heart-shaped bed, and a small alcove off to the side (which she called her ‘balling room’) that had a wall-to-wall mattress, and the whole affair, bed, walls, and ceiling were covered in thick, lush pink carpet.” (Note to Millennials, from the 20th century: “Balling” means “having sex”)
Back then, no one saw the stars looking anything less than perfect. “This is maybe the greatest distinction between classic Hollywood stars and the celebrities of today: We never saw Joan Crawford, makeup-free, on her way to grab a flat white. ‘Stars — They’re Just Like Us’ wouldn’t have been an appropriate phrase for this era,” writes Hollywood Historian Christina Marie Newland in her review of another new book, Styling the Stars, for Racked.com. “Audrey Hepburn, with her miles of legs and giant doe eyes, was not ‘just like us’ in the slightest. In spite of fan mag confessionals complete with home recipes, those manicured and perfectly lit creatures belonged to another world entirely. Their radiance and charisma set them apart, and no one wanted to see them taking out the trash.”
Jayne Mansfield in test shots.
Photo: Styling the Stars:
Lost Treasures from the Twentieth-Century Fox Archive
Legends and Lipstick is the new Hollywood Babylon, as my mom pulls back the curtain to reveal the dark side these shining stars hid so well. (However, she does it without malice and with the incredible insight only possible from someone who was actually there.)