Mentioning the name Princess Livingston might not ring any bells amongst you. If I said she was an actress in some of Russ Meyer’s films, you’d probably scratch your head and try to remember which memorable busty beaut of a woman she was and which films she starred in. Most of you would still be guessing if I gave you the clue that she was a red-head. Now, if I were to tell you that she was actually the toothless old woman, most memorable for dancing at Z-Man’s party in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, most of you will know instantly who mean. Once seen, Princess Livingston is not easily forgotten, so I set out to try to find out as much as I could on her for Meyer Month.
As it would seem, there isn’t a lot of information floating around out there about her which is a bit of a shame. She was born in New York in 1900 and according to actor John Furlong, in Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Meyer Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, was running a motel in Hollywood. No one seems to know if she had any acting experience but it obviously didn’t bother Meyer who appears to have cast her for her noted look and strong sense of humour. There are no reports on how these two met (one can only imagine…) but Livingston’s first cameo in Meyer’s filmography came in the 1962 release Wild Gals of the Naked West. Credited rather aptly as the ‘Scary Woman in Saloon’, Livingston cackles and winks her way through the brief scenes she is intercut into. Every town has them (where I live, we had ‘Jesus Man’), and Meyer made sure as hell his fictional Western contained a weird older character that everyone knew of and never forgot.
Princess reappeared in 1963 when Meyer directed his short Heavenly Bodies! and then again two years later with a more prominent role in the 1965 release Mudhoney. I say prominent, she still cackles through most of her ten minute screen time but at least in this instance her character gets a proper name, Maggie Marie, and a role relative to the plot, the proprietress of a neighbourhood brothel. Without a doubt, Livingston adds some dark humour to the depression set morality tale, working her look like she’s the female equivalent of Marty Feldman. Furlong, who starred alongside her in this feature, recalled an incident one day on set where ‘She was sitting on the porch and her skirt was kind of up. Sitting there with no underpants on! Russ took one look at her undercarriage and muttered, ‘It’s hairier than a blacksmith’s apron!”. I will be delighted with myself if I’m pulling stunts like that when I’m that old.
After one appearance on television and in the 1970 film Pufnstuf, Meyer would give her one last cameo in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This is where most of you will remember her from, dancing madly at Z-Man’s party with an Indian hippy and decked out with red-almost orange hair and an orange shirt. She doesn’t say a lot but has a few fantastic lines, exclaiming ‘I think it’s better after the change!’, something about that line and her makes you think that she wasn’t she acting that one… Next up is ‘It wasn’t very long but it was four inches thick!‘ and some very intent listening whilst porn star Ashley St. Ives rants on about her latest picture. This is the type of Grandma I want to be when I grow up. Finally the immortal ‘I’d like to strap you on sometime’ is uttered and that is Princess Livingston. 1972 saw an uncredited part in Unholy Rollers and she passed away in LA four years later.
It’s such a pity that nothing more is known about her, even if it’s just how she met Meyer or even got into acting. Needless to say, in the world of Meyer she will never be forgotten. I only hope she’s represented if they do film a biopic on the director, I’d love to see who would be cast as her. Obviously it would only be in the background but it would have to be memorable enough. Time to start brainstorming Hollywood…