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Jeanne Carmen interview part 1:

Jeanne Carmen
     Jeanne Carmen has lead quite a life. She was a highly sought after pin-up model in the 1950's. Then she had a second career as a trick-shot golfer. And after that, a B-movie beauty. All along the way, she had crazy adventures with all sort of men (Eddie Cochran, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis just to name a few.) She was also a friend and confidant to Marilyn Monroe.
     Carmen has been the subject of a E! True Hollywood Story and can still be found at all the west coast happenings. She was a special guest at the first JBP Cocktails and Cheesecake Party in Vegas during the Viva Las Vegas weekend in 2006. During that weekend, JBP had a chance to sit down with Carmen and her son Brandon James. She talked about her upcoming book, movie, and how she got started as a model and trick-shot golfer. 

(Interview from April, 15 2006)
(transcribed from recorded audio and edited for clarity)

Java's Bachelor Pad: Tell me what you up to nowadays? Any projects?

Jeanne Carmen: At the moment I'm doing commercials now and then. My son (Brandon James) is finishing my book, which should be finished very, very soon. What are you calling it, Brandon?

Brandon James: Well, there are two different projects. There's a movie that we have based on Jeanne's life--all set in the 50's--just the two years during her golfing period, the pin-up period, and the Vegas period. That, I think, would make best movie because it's wild. It's action-filled. It's fun. It's a period piece so we're going to have the vintage cars. And that's a movie called Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie which is based on the Eddie Cochran song "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie” who (Jeanne) met and made a movie with him (titled) Untamed Youth. (Editor's note:  Jeanne cringes when people call her “Jean” assuming her name Jeanne is the French spelling for Jean. So for the movie, the title is going to be spelled “Jeannie” so there is no confusion.)

JC: Eddie and I just sort of hit it off. Why? I don't know. There were a lot of beautiful girls (on the set), but Eddie and I hit it off. We actually wound up dating. And I guess he recorded that song for me (“Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie”), which is really great. He pursued me for quite a while. Then I finally dropped it because he wasn't exactly my type but I did like him.

BJ: So, that's what we want the film to be called and we want to use that song and maybe have a new band to do a more rocked-out version of it. And that's the movie. Then there's a book that covers the whole life story—growing up in Arkansas in the South. That covers Marilyn (Monroe) and the Kennedy's (John and Bobby) and all the stuff. But the movie doesn't really cover Marilyn and the Kennedy's and all that…

Jeanne CarmenJC: But (the movie) does have a lot of gangsters. It has love. It has fights. It has chaos. It has romance. It's got just about anything that you would want in a movie. It's really cool.

JBP: I'm looking forward to it already.

JC: And it's got Frank Sinatra in there!

BJ: The book is called Jeanne Carmen My Wild Wild Life; As a New York Pin Up Queen, Trick Shot Golfer & Hollywood Actress  That's the book of Jeanne's life story. And the movie is just like you took a couple of chapters out of the book and turned it into a movie.

JBP: This book...you've actually been working on it for a while. Right?

JC: Yes. Yes we have. Brandon's getting a little lazy about it. (laughs)

BJ: Because of the stuff with the Kennedy's and all that stuff, there's a lot of pressure not to get it out. 

JC: The Kennedy's get pretty tough on you when you start writing stuff about them even if it's true. They're pretty powerful, but they're all going by the wayside so we're going to get this book out. The time is near.

BJ: In regards to that subject, there's a show coming up that's going to be a CBS 48-Hours Mystery. (Editor's note: The show has since aired.) Hopefully, they're going to break a lot of new ground and they should and the American people deserve to know what happened. They've tried to tell this story a lot of times. Something weird happens and it gets canceled. Hopefully, that won't happen this time.

JC: The best show that was made about this in the very beginning was canceled. It never saw the light of day. It was unfortunate because they had so much information that's never come out. (Editor's note:  ABC News 20/20 did an explosive investigative story on Marilyn and the Kennedy's back in the 1980’s based on the book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. The show was canceled before it aired causing Geraldo Rivera and a slew of staffers to resign in protest).

JBP: Let's get back to your life as a pin-up. I'm trying to remember the range of years you were a pin-up. It wasn't very long, was it?

Jeanne CarmenJC: No it wasn't. It was in the very early 50’s. I was 17 when I started the pin-up. Actually, I was 17 when I went into a Broadway show (Editor's note: It was a show called Burlesque). That was the first thing I ever did. 
     I was one of these lucky people that a door opened and I was on Broadway. A door opened and I was a pin-up. All this stuff happened. Everything that happened to me just happened to me. 
I met a guy in St. Louis while I was a waitress. He asked me if I ever come to New York call him. He was in a show there. He said, “I'm going to rehearsal. I'm doing a Broadway show with Burt Lahr.” (Editor's note: Burt Lahr played the Cowardly Lion from the film The Wizard of Oz). 
So, a couple of weeks later I decided to hitchhike to New York. (I met up with him again and) he took me to the theater. Burt took one look at me from the stage; walked down the aisle, and said, “Are you with the show?” I said, “No.” He said, “Do you want to be?” And I was going to say no and this guy says, “She would love to be!” Burt said, “Do you dance?” I was going to say no and this guy says, “She's great!” Well the guy who had to teach me to dance probably committed suicide. I mean I had two left feet...or more than that.
     But I got through that show. I got through another show with Burt called Two On The Aisle. All these people I met on the show said they were models. And they said I needed to be a model. I told them I didn't want to be a model and they said you gotta be a model. They introduced me to an agent and I started working right away and I became a top pin-up right off the bat. I mean I just worked every day of my life. I was just go, go, go. It was just made for me.

JBP: There's a lot of stuff out there in those vintage magazines of you. In vintage magazines a lot of gals who have their photos recycled. It would be the same set of photos in ten different magazines. That's also true in your case, but you have 50 different photos sets that appeared in a hundred different magazines.

JC: You're right. I had so many photographs because I was doing different things all the time. Then I came to L.A. and I started getting new photographers. They started doing different stuff. I started getting in different magazines. 

JBP: Tell us about getting into trick shot golfing?

Jeanne CarmenJC: While I was in New York, I was sitting (at the modeling agency) on a rainy day waiting for the rain to stop to get on the subway and go back to my apartment in Forest Hills. The phone rang and (the modeling agent) said I've got one girl. I'll send her up. She said, “Carmen, get your umbrella. You're going down the street. You're going to model for golf clothes.” 
     I got my umbrella. Walked down three blocks and went up some stairs. This guy was standing at the top of stairs. He said, “Whatever you do, you're hired. Whatever you want, you can have.” 
He asked me if I played golf and I said what? He said, “Just take this club. I'm going to tee up this ball and I want you to hit it.” I looked at the club. I was left-handed so I turned it upside down and hit my first trick shot. I hit it so hard it knocked down the drapes. This guy says, “What? You haven't done this before?” I go, “No.” 
     Then he wanted me to try it right handed. And I did the same thing--I knocked down the drapes. So, he asked me if I would come and practice for a while and I said well, if I have time I'd come in. And I went in. I started to like it. I went in every day. Jimmy Demerit came in. (Editor's note: Jimmy Demerit was the first pro golfer to win the Masters Tournament 3 times.) A lot of other really big pros came and said, “This girl is phenomenal!” 
     The next thing I know I was a professional trick shot golf artist--who hit a golf ball off someone's mouth 210 yards; on a flagpole that went 350 yards out. There wasn't anything I couldn't do with a ball. And I had another career. That ended most of the modeling. Now I'm off on the golfing. Although I got tired of that after a while, but not before I came to Vegas with Johnny Rosselli  the gangster and stayed a year fleecing all the old dudes that thought a girl didn't know what to do with a golf club. I made enough money to go back to L.A. at age 23. I bought a 12-unit apartment house, a home, and a Rolls Royce and said, “Thank you, old dudes.”
     Then I got into the movies and that was the worst thing I could have done. I didn't like the movies. I'm not the greatest actress that ever lived--although I can hold my own when to down to it. But I didn't like acting, so I went back to golf. Went back and forth. Now, I'm just doing commercials when I feel like it and having a great old time.

JBP: What part of your career were you the happiest at? You said the movies, you were not happy. Was the trick shot golf? Was it the modeling?

JC: I was tremendously happy at everything I did, other than the movies. I was tremendously happy with the modeling because I was just born to model. That's just it. I was born to model. I love the golf. I didn't like playing the golf course, but I loved the golf because I could do something no one else could do. And that was kind of exciting. I loved everything I ever did other than the movies. Movies are a big drag.

Read Part Two of the interview here!


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