by Joseph Dougherty
Comfort and Joi
is part biography, part memoir. It's a refreshing blend of Hollywood history
and personal reflection. The "Joi" of the title is 1950's and 60's pin-up
and actress Joi Lansing.
one of the many blonde bombshells of the era, was seen in the background
of such famous films as Singing
in the Rain and Touch
of Evil. She didn't have any lines in these films, but boy
did she look great walking around in the background. She was also a regular
on television's "The Bob Cummings Show" ( aka "Love that Bob") and "The
Beverly Hillbillies." She was never as famous as fellow bombshells Marilyn
Monroe, Jayne Mansfield,
or Mamie Van Doren, but she did
influence the dreams and fantasies of a generation of men through her appearances
on both the big and small screen. One man who fell under her spell is the
narrator of Comfort and Joi. For the book, he secludes himself
for a weekend at a borrowed beach house on the California coast. With him,
he brings all of Lansing's movies. He spends the time watching
her movies in order, thinking about the changing nature of the movie going
experience, and reminisces about his own life.
Comfort and Joi
follows Lansing's life from here early days as a contract player for MGM
to the end of her career in the late 60's and early 70's when she was doing
B-grade films such as Hillbillys
in a Haunted House and Bigfoot. Throughout it
all, the book's narrator argues that Lansing always kept
to her solid work ethic of showing up, doing her work, and looking as good
as she could.
After spending the weekend
really thinking about Lansing's life and career, the narrator debates whether
it is better to be on the edge of a classic movie--something that will
live on forever--or better to be the center of your own forgettable movie.
What he comes up with seems to go against all the ego-centric thinking
this culture instills in people.
Through the narrator's
weekend experience, you get the feeling you've learned something not only
about Lansing but about the nature of being. Heady stuff,
granted, but the book never gets bogged down in the existential mire. It
is an entertaining read from cover to cover.
Hopefully, this book
will bring about a renewed interest and appreciation for one of the real
unsung beauties of her era!
(An interview with Joseph
Dougherty, author of Comfort and Joi,can be heard
on the March 2005 edition of WILL-Radio's features program Sidetrack.
to launch the Real Audio archive of the program. The feature is at the
end the show.)
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