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 Java's Bachelor Pad's exclusive one-on-one with a classic pin-up gal!

A chat with June Wilkinson

(conducted 3/9/04)
June Wilkinson

Java's Bachelor Pad: So, tell me what you're up to nowadays.

June Wilkinson: I'm a producer on the show "The Directors" which is on Encore. It is a show about a director's work. I have big names come on. I did Spielberg, Barbara Streisand. And Tom Hanks came on, obviously, for Spielberg. And it has been a very successful show and we're now in the, I think, third or fourth year and we got picked up for two more years on Encore, so that's good. And we won a lot of awards, which is nice too.

JBP: Do these people that you work with now know about what you did in the 1950's?

JW: Oh, absolutely. I don't think I can keep that a secret.

JBP: Well, not that you're keeping it a secret, but do they shake your hand and say, "oh, it's you."

JW: Oh, yes. I'm proud of what I do. Anybody who doesn't like it, I don't think they would be having a working relationship with me. You have to respect and approve of people to work well with them.

JBP: And that was a big part of your life.

JW: Oh, absolutely...and still is.

JBP: You started very young doing the men's magazines modeling.

JW: Well, I was a dancer (first). I dreamed of being a ballet dancer when I was very young. And I used to go to dancing school, the Sussex School of Dancing, every single day. Then I grew a little too tall. Now you have tall ladies, but in those days you had to be sort of under 5'4" for ballet. I don't know really why. I guess partners needed lighter ladies to lift up or whatever. So, my body grew and we thought I could be the lead dancer of the Windmill Theater. At the Windmill Theater they also had some nudity. Because I was a dancer they gave me the fan dance to do in which I was naked, but I had to make sure all the time I was dancing that I was totally covered (by the fans). And at the very last moment there was a flash of me stationary, naked. So, that was my first naked performance. You could be naked and not move, (those) were the rules. But if you moved, while you were naked they would close you down.

JBP: And how old were you when you were doing the fan dance?

JW: Fifteen.

JBP: See, that nowadays would get people in a lot of trouble.

JW: It was legal in England.

JBP: Oh, in England.

JW: Yes, it was legal. And if we're going to talk about American legality on that, you had to be eighteen. When I first came over here I was 17. I called up Hugh Hefner. Actually, a gentleman by the name of Jimmy McCullough was with me, and my mom. We called up Hugh Hefner and he said come on over and we took pictures. And even though my mother was there, I was only 17, so Heff held the pictures to my 18th birthday.

JBP: And then published them.

JW: Yes.

JBP: So, tell me about that transformation to becoming the pin-up gal that everyone knew and loved from those men's magazines.

JW: It wasn't a big deal to me. It wasn't really. I was under contract with Seven Arts and when Playboy came out they were not happy about that. And they (Seven Arts) had a big discussion on what they could do. Warren Cowen was the publicist for me at the time. They decided to make me the most publicized pin-up and nude in the world so they hired Russ Meyer to take pictures of me. Actually, the deal they made with Russ was if he took pictures he could sell them anyplace he wanted. Obviously, I had the right to the pictures too, but he had the rights to put them anyplace he wanted too. And that's what we did. Of course they got a lot of attention.

JBP: You were in one of his movies in an uncredited role, correct? The Immoral Mr. Teas.

JW: Absolutely. The reason I'm uncredited was because I was under contract with Seven Arts and obviously they didn't want me to be in a movie like Russ Meter's movie. So, Russ begged me and said I've got to have your breasts in my movies somewhere. He said I won't show your face and I won't give your credit. Please, I beg you to do it. So, for free and for fun one day I just did that one shot that shows my breasts where you can't see my face. And, of course, breasts are like fingerprints...no two are alike. Everyone knew they were my breasts immediately. 

JBP: Well, you were nicknamed "The Bosom." I mean, you were really known for that...So,, during this time when you were doing pin-up. You talked about working with Russ Meyer. What other photographers did you work with that you really enjoyed working with and of your photo sets, which ones, looking back now, do you think "oh, those are the best ones I did."?

June WilkinsonJW: Mary Ann Greenwood. I love her pictures. Russ is a bust man and could care less what my face looked like as long as the breasts look big and perky. That's all he cared about. I don't think even perky...just big. Mary Ann Greenwood loved the whole picture and she cared about lighting. Some of my prettiest face-shots were done by Mary Ann Greenwood whether they be a nude shot or clothed shot. She always cared about the face. As far a fun shooting, Earl Leaf was a lot of fun to shoot with. He always made me laugh and I will remember him forever because he's the one who taught me how to drive. And I got my license to drive a car because of him. George Hurrell...I liked his photographs. I don't think he gave my photographs the attention he gave a lot of other people because I think he sort of resented doing the girlie magazines.

JBP: There are some great features with you in these classic girlie magazines. I've posted a few of them on the website. They have titles like "The Bosom Buys A Bra" and "June Wilkinson Gets Ready For A Party." They are these big, kinda goofy pieces. Did you have fun with that too? Did you get into the whole spirit of that?

JW: Oh, Absolutely!

JBP: So nothing was terribly outrageous? Too Outrageous? Because there's another one where you're in a performance behind a Plexiglas thing and guys are shooting darts...

JW: Oh, well, I did that in England. That one was for real. After I left the Windmill Theater. I got a little mad at the Windmill because I was on my off-day and I wanted to do a show Bob Monkhouse wanted me to do. A skit with him. And they found out I was doing it and they said I couldn't do it and so I said well then I quit. And then they said, afterwards when they saw his show, it was fine and I could stay. And I said “No. No”...stubborn kid that I was...I said I'm outta here. So then I needed to make a living so I started doing cabaret in a lot of the nightclubs there. I was doing the fan dance, because that was easy and I had the dance down perfectly. I think I was also doing it at the Embassy Club, which was the swankiest...it would be like the Coconut Grove in New York City when that was popular. (The Embassy Club) didn't want me working for all the other clubs.  I would start an evening at one club and then go an hour later to another. I was doing about four different clubs ending up at the Embassy Club. Lou and Leslie Grade (the agents that booked the talent) found out what I made and offered me the same amount just to play the Embassy Club, which was good for me, of course. But we changed the act every once in a while. And then Davy Kay, who was a big comedian at the time, said why don't we do this fun thing. And it got so much attention. It was unbelievable.

JBP: Because that's the act you see reprinted in a lot of the magazines.

JW: I Know. It was such a silly thing. I couldn't believe all the shows I did there, that's the one that got in all the magazines.

June WilkinsonJBP: Well, you were a sweetheart with those men's magazines. They loved you.

JW: Well, thank you.

JBP: And we love you now not that we have rediscover these magazines. You're one of the stars of that whole world of girlie magazines. And you had a long career with those girlie magazines.

JW: Absolutely. The last one I actually posed for was Celebrity Sleuth. And that was in '97, I think it was. They were doing they top sexiest women of the world and they said, "we would like to add you in, but you have to take some nude pictures because we're not saying has been, we're saying now." They were working on my ego, obviously. And I said, well, I'm the token oldie, right? And they said, no no, we still think you're great. So, they sweet-talked me into doing it. And so that was a pretty long time (in magazines) if you consider from when I was 15 to when I was 57.

JBP:  You moved through the different eras (of girlie magazines.) You can see the styles change from the 1950's to the early 60's to the mid-60's. And you're there through it all. Did you notice those changes?

JW: Oh, sure. We have hairstyle changes. We have make-up changes. My very first pictures, when I was 15 and 16, and I have dark hair, and I still had dark hair at 17. So anytime with dark hair you know I was a teenager. But if you look at those pictures, because I wanted to look older and (look like) the vamp, I have very harsh make-up on. Dark, dark red lipstick. Heavy eye shadow. Heavy mascara. Whereas come the 60's, was more of the hippie look and the longer hair and the 70's we had the teased-up hair look. Remember how we use to tease it up really high? Masses of hair. And you were skinnier in those days too. They didn't like women as pump as they did in the 50's. If you look at Marilyn Monroe, her body is not a body for today's models who are very skinny, skinny, skinny. I don't think they would be that skinny if they didn't enhance the bosom. One thing about a real bosom, is when you lose weight, you lose weight in your breasts too. So, I think the fact that now they can be that thin and still retain a bosom...that's why you have thinner bodies today.

JBP: Well, you also saw that change not only in body-type, but in what magazines would allow. 

JW: Yes. When I first posed for Playboy there were no frontal pubic hair nudity. In fact, I don't think you'll see any frontal hair nudity with me. I did, in the Celebrity Sleuth, have a front shot in the swimming pool but the lower part of me is under about four inches of water. So it's diffused.

JBP: But you saw that change (in magazines) happening. How did you react to that?

JW: Well, I think there's a place for that, but I would rather see certain magazines do that and then others still have the pin-up. I think there was a freshness and a sweetness and an innocence about all those pictures and I think that would have been nice to keep that.

JBP: But I'm guessing that about the time things got much harder was about the time when you were about done with it.

JW: It was too harsh for me. I would not feel right taking a picture frontal nudity, spread-eagle, lower-down shot showing all the way up my vagina. Frankly, I would not be comfortable.

JBP: So at that point, you said that was about it?

JW: Well, I still take other kinds of pictures. But I do the pictures I want. I'm not going to be told what to do by a photographer who wants for me to do something I'm not comfortable with.

JBP: During the 60's you did a few movies. You did Macumba Love. Tell me a little about doing pictures like that. Because that was the big "see June in the water" (promotion).

JW: Well, that was because nudity was only in foreign pictures. And it wasn't in America. If you showed a married couple during that period they had to be in twin beds or they had to have one foot on the floor. I mean, I don't understand these rules but that was it. So, I had the shot where I was married in the movie and I'm frolicking with my husband Bill Wellman Jr. in the ocean and I jump up and my top falls off. That was it. I mean how innocent can you be. But it was only allowed in the European version, but I think what made the picture...there have been articles. I remember one big article that said, “My summer vacation with Macumba Love”. (The reviewer) went to go see Macumba Love every day of his summer vacation. And I think the reason for that was there was one moment where I lean out of a taxi and my breasts fill the whole screen and I think they had not been use to that in the movies before even though I had my clothes on.

June WilkinsonJBP: Well, it was the era of the tight sweaters. That was the number one accessory. That and Capri pants.

JW: Capri pants. Tight sweaters...and a bullet brassier. 

JBP: Now, it has been a couple of generations. You not only have the men who saw you the first time around, but you have basically their grandchildren...grandsons and such.

JW: I know. Isn't that fun when they write me. 

JBP: You have multiple generations who have been fans of yours. How do you feel about that?

JW: I'm flattered. I have never hid my age. Never in an article will you see a lie about my age. If it is, it isn't me lying. I just want to be the best that I can be at the age I am, whatever age that is...whatever time. What is growing old gracefully? I want to grow old with as much health, and vigor, and good looks and mental capacity that I can. And I want to be a sensual, sexual person to the day I die.

See also:
Femme Fatale--June Wilkinson
"June Wilkinson Goes to a Party"

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