God bless the beautiful Cynthia Myers who sadly passed away a week ago. Myers was well-known for her role in Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and for her memorable pictorial’s for Playboy magazine during the 1960s.
Born in Toledo, Ohio on September 12th 1950, Myers noticed her buxom figuring developing at thirteen. After a brief attempt at becoming a competitive equestrian, at fourteen Myers decided to turn her head to modelling. Myers career first started in 1965 with swimsuit modelling before Playboy eventually came calling a few years later. Photographed by Pompeo Posar (a noted Playboy staff photographer) in June 1968, Myers was seventeen and Hefner had to hold on to her pictures and publish them once she turned eighteen as per Playboy policy. A few extra photographs, and months, later and Cynthia appeared as the Playboy centrefold and playmate in the December issue (her pictorial titled ‘Wholly Toledo!’). Her spread and front cover have become iconic, Myers dressed up as a Christmas tree with presents at her feet. And, boy, does she look beautiful. Full of innocence with a little hint of knowing, Myers comes across as the most perfect girl-next-door you could ask to have under your Christmas tree. Incredibly photogenic, her natural beauty, and assets, are enviable and it’s easy to see why she became one of the most iconic Playmates of the 1960s. She was the most popular pin-up with American troops during the Vietnam War, her pictorial generating the most mail that Playboy had ever had up to that point in time. Myers made sure she wrote back to every Troop that had written to her. The centrefold itself even appears in the 1987 film Hamburger Hill. The pictures, however, caused an uproar in her home town. Raised in a close family and a pupil at a Catholic school, she was initially refused by Nuns to graduate with the rest of her class until they gave in following her high grades. Around the same time her feature was published, she left Toledo and was given an apartment at the Playboy Mansion where she also managed to get a job working at the Chicago Playboy Club.
Myers iconic Playboy cover for the December 1968 issue
Whilst working for Playboy Club, Hugh Hefner asked Myers to be in his television show Playboy After Dark which was being syndicated for a second season. Through the series, Cynthia was introduced to Burt Lancaster who offered her a role in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969). Memorable for being one of the marathon dancers, all her speaking parts were unfortunately cut from the picture. During filming she befriended fellow co-star Bruce Dern, with whom she undertook acting classes in a bid to learn the craft and be taken seriously. She has another entry listed on IMDB for an uncredited part in The Lost Continent which was shot the year before (1968). She will ultimately, however, be remembered most of all for her third feature, Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).
Myers (right) as Casey with Erica Gavin as lesbian lover Roxanne in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Personally chosen by director Meyer to star in the film, Cynthia Myers is one of the stand out’s in the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls cast. She plays the role of Casey, bassist in a rock and roll girl band called The Carrie Nations, who becomes disillusioned with the hedonistic lifestyle the group become involved in. After drunkenly sleeping with her manager, throwing him out and then finding she’s pregnant with his child, Casey confides in new friend Roxanne (co-star Erica Gavin, previously seen in Meyer’s Vixen!) who persuades her to have an abortion. The two then fall in love and become a couple. Myers scenes with Gavin are particularly special as the two clearly had chemistry and developed a good friendship that lasted right up until Myers sad passing. Undoubtedly two of the most naturally beautiful women to ever grace a Russ Meyer film, their relationship is played out charmingly and sensitively. Their sex scene in particular is incredibly tender and very real. Especially as Myers decided not to fake the orgasm because she didn’t know how to; ‘If you’re worried so much about pretending just don’t pretend. Just do it.‘.
Cynthia on the set of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with director Russ Meyer (left), co-star Dolly Reed and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (right)
After taking one of the leads in Russ Meyer’s feature, Cynthia would appear in two more films in supporting roles, both pictures being Westerns. First up was Devil’s Canyon, a Mormon production that unfortunately was never completed. Second was Molly and Lawless John (1972) in which Myers played the girlfriend of prisoner Sam Elliott, a man trying to escape John Anderson’s jail. This was to be Myers last acting role. She had at the time moved in with her Beyond the Valley of the Dolls co-star Michael Blodgett and put her career to one side whilst they were together. It was also around this time that Myers started modelling for the Cerwin-Vega corporation who specialised in stereo equipment. She was the face of the company and their ‘Miss Earthquake’ campaign when they developed the Sensurround system for the 1974 films Earthquake and The Towering Inferno.
Since the 1980s Myers has been a regular on the Glamourcon and Hollywood Collecter Show circuit. In 1994 it was revealed that one of the pictures from her original pictorial had been enclosed in the checklist for the Apollo 12 mission and was blasted into space in the pocket of astronaut Al Bean. The year 2000 saw her voted ‘tenth most popular Playmate of the Century’ by Playboy magazine. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was released on DVD in 2007 with an audio commentary that includes Myers alongside the rest of the main cast. She also appears in some extra features talking about her time and thoughts on the film and a lovely little featurette with Erica Gavin in which they talk about playing the roles of Casey and Roxanne. In 2009 she was chosen by Schlitz Brewing Company to be the face of their ‘Back to the Sixties formula’ campaign, the photograph used still as striking now as it was when first published forty years ago.
Cynthia Jeanette Myers was born in Toledo, Ohio on September 12th 1950. She died in Los Angeles, California on November 4th 2011, aged 61.