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Jeanne Carmen interview part 2:

Jeanne Carmen

Jeanne Carmen interview continued...(Part 1 can be found here.)

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

Java's Bachelor Pad: Tell me about the brunette Jeanne Carmen and then the transformation to the blonde bombshell Jeanne Carmen.

JC: I was really, really dark-haired until I got to L.A. When I got to L.A. it just, I don't know, it just seemed that everyone was blonde. Oh, I know why I went blonde! Because every movie I made I had to do an accent. It was Spanish or whatever. But I had to do an accent and that wasn't easy for me. I would have to hire somebody to record my part then I would have to practice, practice, practice. I did it well. I did a few (movies). But it was ones of those things where I just wanted to go back to something that wasn't such hard work. That's when I went back to golf again.

BJ: In her first movie The Three Outlaws she was a Spanish senorita. I actually ran this film down because I had never seen any of these movies until I got out of college till I was in my mid-20’s because she didn't really didn't talk about her life. In a way it's kinda like Bettie Page. There's this short burst in the 50’s of thousands of photos and then, boom, it ended suddenly. So, I came out and tried to start finding all this stuff. It was really hard when I first started before the internet. I found her first movie, The Three Outlaws. It turned out it was an early version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which cracked me up. Alan Hale, Jr. was the Sundance Kid. So, just imagine the Skipper from Gilligan's Island as a lover and a fighter. But (Jeanne) did a great job, but you had to do your Spanish accent. And then (her) next movie War Drums she played an Indian. Then there was Untamed Youth where (she) played a fighter in that one.

Jeanne CarmenJC: (Regarding The Three Outlaws…) You see, I was so lackadaisical. They tell you three months from now on March the 4th be at such-and-such a place we're going to start the movie. I forgot. I didn't show up. My death scene never got filmed. Everybody died in this movie on my side. But people said what happened to the girl? What happened to Serelda. Well, Serelda didn't show up on the set that day so she doesn't get to die. I was not cut out for the movies, period.

JBP: Brandon, tell me about what you're doing on-line with the website and trying to collect everything Jeanne's done in her career.

BJ: Once I got out of college, I went to film school at USC. I thought there was so much material there that just sounded like a great movie to me. So, I started to try to run this stuff down...the movies, the pin-up photos...and since I've started, it's never ended. What I mean is every week I find new stuff. It's this evolving thing that keeps growing and growing. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff in my garage--old magazines, photos, film reels. I can't even park my car in it. 
So, here comes the internet and then I found this amazing opportunity to put it out there for people to enjoy because there's such an interest in this era. And it was such a great era and my mom, who I call Jeanne sometimes--If you look at her photos, the reason she and Bettie Page are so appealing to today's young people is the photos look modern. The outfits they were wearing were before their time. It's not like other stars from the 50’s like Doris Day or Debbie Reynolds--their photos look very dated. They don't look modern. Bettie Page and Jeanne wore outfits that look like something young rock stars would wear today. 

JC: I don't know where we got our clothes. I got clothes that were so modern. They would be laced up and I would take the middle part out. I was always going a little bit further than I should. 

JBP: There are some famous photos of you in a sheer gown against a window and the sun filtering through the window and there's not much left to the imagination after the sun gets through this little outfit of yours.

JC: That photographer was probably tricking me a little bit.

JBP: You didn't do a lot of risqué photo. 

JC: I didn't. No. I didn't. The one nude I have that's on the internet. (It's of me) golfing. That was made by a friend and I kept it until a few years ago. I never let that one loose until everybody was going undressed and then I finally let it go. It's such a perfect golfing shot. A little waistline and an interesting shot. Playboy wanted me to do (photos for them) and I said no, I'm not doing it. 

Jeanne CarmenBJ: In your early New York period, you ran into Irving Klaw and he tried to get you to pose. He did a couple of photo shoots with those shoes. Tell him about those shoes. 

JC: The heels were this high. You would have to sit down to put these shoes on. 

JBP: (I'm guessing) they were like 8-inch heels—fetish heels…

JC: They would have to get you up and lean you against something. That's the only way you could stand in these shoes. But something was always telling me you shouldn't be doing this. There was something about it. I don't know what it was. I always had that instinct so I think I did only one shoot (with Klaw)

JBP: Bettie Page always regretted the heavy bondage stuff. Basically, Klaw would not pay her for the regular photos until she did the bondage photos.

JC: That's probably what he would have tried to do with me, but I never let it get that far. I always had this instinct for things that were better for me and not to let people get out of hand with me.

BJ: That's one of the earliest photos I've found of her. It's from a magazine called Titter. And it says, “18-year-old Jeanne Carmen who's New York's latest model.” Those were those Irving Klaw photos with those shoes. 

JC: I have just had this amazing life. Amazing life.

BJ: In Bettie Page's book Life of a Pinup Legend. If you flip through that there's one shot in there at a beauty contest in New York. It's called See Magazine's Most Beautiful Girl In the World Contest. Bettie's one of the runners up and so is my mom. If you look at it, she's (Jeanne) got her zebra bikini on. So, Bettie and Jeanne were runners up. And the girl who won--turns out it was a fixed contest--is unknown today. Nobody remembers her.

JC: I had a marvelous picture showing all of us, all lined up in this contest. (Editor's note: you can view the photo here.) My brother was in the army. I sent it to him. He put it on his wall. When he left the army he didn't take it down. He left it there. So, we don't have a good photograph of it. 

BJ: There's definitely one from that contest of my mom and Bettie together, which I would love to find. That would be a great find. 

JC: It's a great line-up of girls.

BJ: And your very first film thing. Not your first movie. You did something in New York called Strip-O-Rama. Where you had just a little bit. It was in color. She's on the cover. Have you seen the Strip-O-Rama cover with five girls? (Jeanne's) the one with the beret, the hand on the hip and a cigarette like this showing attitude. 

JC: It's so funny. Almost everything I ever did I was holding a cigarette and I never smoked ever. 

JBP: It was just a prop.

JC: It was a prop! But I did it well!

Jeanne CarmenJBP: I want to get your opinion on the gals nowadays--these modern-day pin-up girls and what they’re doing. When I talk to the gals who did it in the 1950’s, I like to see what their perspective is fifty years on in comparing with what these girls are doing now. 

JC: It's really hard for me to come to a conclusion because (the modern girls) are great, but I feel they don't have what we had. I feel they don't have the seriousness. If you look into my eyes in all these photographs you see a feeling of somebody thinking about something. And the ones of today, their eyes are kind of blank. Their bodies are great, but their eyes are blank. You look at it and you'll see what I'm talking about. You look at my eyes and you'll see, and you're going to see with Bettie, that she had in her eyes great happiness--a great smile. And you see it in the eyes as well as in the mouth. You don't see that today. You don't see these girls who look really happy or really sexy or really serious and really thinking about sex or whatever we were thinking about. You were captivated by the eyes on the models back then. 

JBP: Is there any model nowadays that you can name that you like?

BJ: We just met up with our friend Dita (Von Teese) the other day. Dita is a great modern burlesque performer.

JC: Yeah. She's good. She's very good at what she does, but she's totally different. She's beautiful. She's gorgeous. And she does (modeling) well. She's done a great job creating her own persona. That's the secret to being remembered as a model. When you look at Bettie, you look at something that's unusual. There are thoughts in her head of tremendous happiness which she lost somewhere along the way. 

JBP: Looking back on everything, any regrets? Anything you would do differently? 

JC: Not one regret. Not one regret. Everything I've done I think I did at the right time. And it turned out great. Maybe a few marriages I could have done without. (Laughs) As for my career, it absolutely happened the way it was suppose to happen. And it's on going. I as happy as a pig in a pond.


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