HONOURABLE MENTION – June Mack
Unbelievably I can’t find any record of June Mack’s measurements anywhere but it’s safe to say that her enhanced boobs were some of the most unforgettable in all of Russ Meyer’s films. Known for playing Junkyard Sal in Beneath The Valley of the Ultravixens, Mack was murdered shortly after filming finished taking a bullet for a friend.
HONOURABLE MENTION – Alaina Capri
With a 42E bustline, Capri just misses the top ten by making number eleven. She famously had a misunderstanding with the director and refused to work with him again after he showed much more of her flesh on the big screen then he alluded he would.
#10 – JUNE WILKINSON – 43E
Naturally busty Wilkinson was shot numerous times by Meyer in the 1950s with many of his photographs gracing the front covers of pin up magazines. Meyer called Wilkinson and asked her to be in his first feature The Immoral Mr. Teas and she accepted, appearing uncredited in a brief cameo in which only her breasts appear.
#9 – TEMPEST STORM – 44E
Tempest Storm’s naturally conical breasts instantly captivated a young Meyer who took numerous pictorials of the star in the 50s. This eventually led to Meyer shooting her in his first foray into filmmaking, French Peep Show.
#8 – CYNTHIA MYERS – 39F
One of the best known Playboy playmates of the 1960s, it comes as no surprise that Russ had his eye on Cynthia long before he cast her as Casey in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. During her modelling career she featured on the now infamous front cover of Playboy’s December 1968 issue where she was dressed as a Christmas tree.
#7 – LORNA MAITLAND – 42F
Lorna Maitland wasn’t the original choice for the lead role in Meyer’s gothic picture Lorna. In fact, Meyer fired the actress originally cast for having too small a bust after he saw photographs of Lorna on the first day of shooting. Maitland was promptly hired.
#6 – USCHI DIGARD – 44F
Naturally busty Digard found her large boobs attracted a lot of attention and subsequently starred in numerous exploitation films before moving into porn.
#5 – CANDY SAMPLES – 46F
A prolific pornography star of the 70s and 80s, Samples had cameos in both Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens.
#4 – KITTEN NATIVIDAD – 34G
Meyer’s paramour for a long time, Natividad first had implant surgery when she was 21 to aid her Go-Go dancing career. Sadly for Kitten, she had a double mastectomy in 1999 after developing breast cancer. It transpired that the silicone used in her implants was of industrial grade and she has since has corrective surgery.
#3 – ANNE MARIE – 67 inch bustline
Whilst her exact measurements elude me, there’s no denying that Ann Marie’s eye-popping 67 inch bust is a sight for sore eyes, made all the more impressive by her minuscule waist.
#2 – DARLENE GREY – 36H
Arguably the most voluptuous girl to have ever appeared in one of Meyer’s films (and yes, they are natural), British Darlene Grey also has the distinction of being rejected by Playboy for being, er… Too big.
#1 – PANDORA PEAKS – 42J
The older Meyer got, the bigger in size his breast fetish got culminating in his last film and leading lady, Pandora Peaks.
I recieved a few emails and messages regarding the short post I did on director Russ Meyer’s early career as a glamour photographer and decided to put up this short post showcasing a few of his photographs. I have only attached pictures on here that I have actually been able to verify that Meyer took. If you search online the internet chucks a whole lot of beautiful images at you but a lot of them are wrongly credited to Meyer. These are just a few and I suggest anyone interested in sourcing any other images look for/physically buy any old mens/girlie magazines that he either contributed to or shot the front cover for, pick up his autobiography A Clean Breast which has a stack of gorgeous stills he took over the years or pick up The Glamour Camera of Russ Meyer which is all about his photography. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these beauties. They just don’t make them like this anymore…
Marguerite Empey pictorial, Playboy, February 1956
June Wilkinson photographed by Russ Meyer, Caper magazine, May 1959
Eve in Red Lingerie by Russ Meyer, 1959
Edy Williams pictorial shot by Meyer, Playboy, March 1973
Gold Lamp and Lorna, Russ Meyer, 1964
Sabrina (Norma Sykes) pictorial photographed by Russ, Cabaret magazine, August 1957
Eve Meyer as photographed by Russ, Frolic magazine, June 1954
Eve Meyer photographed for Playboy, June 1955
Yvette Vickers pictorial, Playboy, June 1959
Eve Meyer photographed by Russ, c. 1950s
June Wilkinson photographed by Russ, Adam magazine, 1950s
Eve Meyer pictorial, Playboy, June 1955
Lorna Maitland photographed by Meyer, Fling magazine, May 1965
Diane Webber pictorial, shot by Russ Meyer for Globe Photos Inc., 1956
Writer Jimmy McDonough is a big deal in the world of Russ Meyer. This is the man who wrote Meyer’s biography, a feat that probably wouldn’t have happened when it did if Meyer hadn’t have been unwell. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer is an illuminating portrait of the director with some great stories from all of those who were nearest and dearest to him. The book has been a bible for me since it’s release and I’m very grateful to Jimmy for taking some time out to answer some questions and talk about the great man. To say that this is a personal life-greatest-moment for me is an understatement and my sincerest thanks go out to the guy. His latest biography, Tragic Country Queen, on Tammy Wynette is out now and previous biographies include Neil Young and Andy Milligan. The film rights to Big Bosoms were bought last year and a biopic is currently in the works with director David O. Russell linked to the project.
How did you first become aware of Russ Meyer and his career?
What was the first thing of his that you saw and what were your first impressions of it?
It was in the back of my mind for years. I had worked in the exploitation business for that other RM exploitation king on the opposite coast–Radley Metzger–and knew the lay of the land. My first published book was on Andy Milligan, who was the grimy, gritty low-down opposite of Meyer in every way. I wanted to go to the glossy end of the exploitation spectrum, say a few more things and get the fuck out. Plus I knew the book would be a million laughs.
Was it something that you’d always had in mind after discovering Meyer?
I am attracted to people who are helpless in the face of an obsession. I can relate. Obsessions drove Meyer. And in the end they did him in. For better or worse, I see certain things in the same way as RM. Not everything, thank Christ, but…certain things. My wife Natalia could be a Meyer star. All the right curves…long, flaming red hair…the same bad attitude. She could hold her own with any of the Faster, Pussycat gang, believe me.
I specialize in difficult characters. Look at my books. Gavin is the Howard Hughes of the Meyer women, and the most psychedelic. She’s impossible to pin down on anything, even going to the Quickie Mart. But once gotten Erica was fantastic. She even flashed her cans at me, albeit in a brassiere. That chick should write a book–she’s been a lot of weird and wondrous places. Alaina was nervous about talking after all these years. She didn’t want to be laughed at. I hope I did her justice. Capri’s tops in my book.
Do you think (without sounding incredibly cruel) that his illness worked in your favor at the time of compiling research?
I had no idea what kind of shape RM was in when I started the research. I thought about chucking it once I knew the extent of the situation. His friends encouraged me to plow ahead, though, which was inspiring. But I have to say if RM had been in cognizant of my project there is no doubt in my mind that after my third question he would’ve punched me in the nose and unleashed the lawyers. Believe me, I would’ve loved to have picked that strange brain but Meyer wasn’t an introspective guy. I think he would’ve find my approach to be an assault on the fantasy. Needless to say I don’t see it that way. The women are what interested me, anyway. They hadn’t talked all that much. RM had ample opportunity to tell his story and spent three self-published volumes doing so–A Clean Breast. What an achievement–over a thousand pages and nary an insight to be found. Fantastic photos, though.
On ‘A Clean Breast’, do you think (if he’d completed it) his original idea of doing an autobiographical film would have been somewhat more insightful?
The bit of The Breast of Russ Meyer floating around is just fantastic. That was the last Meyer project of any interest, in my opinion. Insightful? I don’t know if Meyer was capable.
Did his illness or seeing him ill change your view or opinion on him in any way?
I felt for RM. Again, in the end his obsessions were his undoing. He’d become a feeble mark begging for mammary salvation, a pathetic john who’d empty his wallet to snuggle up to any big tit. Curiously it was a position not all that far from the weak males he’d mocked in his films. And then Meyer lost his mind–literally. The details are in the book, and it really is like something out of one of his mid-period films. His old screenwriter John Moran couldn’t have penned a more sordid tale.
Do you have a favourite/s Meyer girl and did your opinion of her change after you met her (if you did)?
Tura and I really hit it off. I mean really hit it off. Had circumstances been different…Kitten was absolutely fantastic. I nearly proposed to her after six questions. Unfortunately I was already married at the time. Hanging out with Erica Gavin was a mind-bender. They were all great and it was a thrill of a lifetime meeting them. Is there a grifter in the bunch? This is the world of Russ Meyer, what do you think?
What do you think it is about them that have made them so endearing amongst Meyer/film/sexploitation/cult film fans?
Their spirit. Dare I say they seem almost pure and innocent these days.
Do you think that that’s part of the charm of Meyer’s work, that by today’s standards of explicitness there’s a great deal of innocence in some of his portrayal’s of sexuality and some of his characters themselves?
Yes. The humor, which doesn’t always work, is another big part. Sex can be such a heavy, oppressive topic. Meyer lets you laugh at it.
Did any of them disappoint you in any way in reality?
No. If anything they were even more impressive. Life hasn’t been easy for them and they’re not easy dames to live with. Forget the physical attributes, these women vibrate with an energy that could charge 1000 Teslas. There’s a blinding light behind the eyes. Never a dull moment!
What do you think it is about Meyer himself that has kept the girls so loyal and proud of their work and association with him?
However much an asshole Meyer could be, he immortalized these women. How flattering is that? Last time I checked nobody’s building me a shrine.
There are a number of instances documented where he has fallen out with his actresses or treated them badly at some point. Is there anyone you think he was particularly harsher on?
Oh, I don’t know, everybody got the short end of the stick sooner or later. Meyer’s right-hand man George Costello was banished forever when Meyer discovered he’d been consoling Erica Gavin behind his back during the making of Vixen. During the shoot RM had a secret stash of Treesweet orange juice and Costello was brazen enough to filch one can and slip it to Gavin behind the boss’s back. RM took this as a great betrayal and never spoke to Costello again. Meyer made little plaques commemorating each film. And what was on the Vixen plaque? A can of Treesweet orange juice. A symbol of Costello’s treasonous behavior.
Did any girl surprise you in any way in reality?
Tura was ultra-right wing, which didn’t exactly surprise me, but it did crack me up. Very patriotic, loved Reagan and Bush, torture and kill the terrorists, etc. She was very loyal, very sweet and had a way of getting to you. She signed her letters “Always” and she meant it. Tura was just too big for the movies. Too bad.
Out of all the girls featured in his films, who you do think is or are the most memorable/most typically Meyer/most overrated or underrated? Are there any that you think he should have worked with more or less?
I just wish there was more of all of ’em. More Tura, more Lorna, more Uschi, more Kitten, more Alaina, more, more, more…I’m not a big Edy Williams fan but she certainly clawed out her place in the Meyer oeuvre. RM wasn’t interested in helping his stars build a career. He was always lusting after next year’s Cadillac. I really, really wish Eve had done more film work. And I wished somebody had properly interviewed her. What a dame.
I’m sure some will consider this heresy, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls isn’t my favorite, either. I admire the achievement but it’s a little too chilly, a little too arch for me. Give me Mondo Topless/Common Law Cabin/Faster, Pussycat…
RM’s last couple of films are just an embarrassment. His taste was of course vulgar, but exuberantly so. At the end it turned grotesque, tired, creepy. The women seem factory-made, joyless. You feel embarrassed for the guy, cringe at his pathetic fetish. This wasn’t the case previously, at least not for me. He made it all seem fun. And funny.
At what point do you think his career really peaked?
In 1968 Vixen made a pile of dough, so much so that a desperate 20th Century Fox came knocking on Meyer’s door to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. A Hollywood studio INVITED an exploitation filmmaker into the kingdom and let him run amok. Unheard of! The joke was definitely on them for once. And the moolah was in the Bank of Meyer! Fantastic.
Mentioning Eve Meyer, how important do you think she was in relation to Meyer’s early career? She seems to have played a big part on the finacial side of business, helping Russ out on a few occassions…
From what his friends told me, Eve really understood Russ. And could stand up to him. Eve was a very sharp dame and a fantastic businesswoman–she distributed his films. I think RM’s life can be split into BE and AE. Russ seemed increasingly rudderless After Eve. But nobody was going to tell RM what to do. Look where it got him. Heaven. And hell. Had he been a little more humble…but who wants a humble Meyer anyway? His life was like his movies. Absolutely nuts from beginning to end.
Women are the obvious topic to discuss when it comes to Meyer but he also had a lot of male friends and actors around him from his service during WW2 and the films he made. Which of them stand out as being the most memorable and loyal towards him?
Undoubtedly the most loyal was Anthony James Ryan AKA The Handyman. He helped create the movies, appeared in them, and cleaned up many a Meyer mess. He was loyal until the end. He knew how crazy Russ but was loyal until the end. A hell of a guy, Ryan. I loved visiting his dusty old photography store to shoot the shit. Little bits of Meyeribilia were everywhere, like shots of Kitten Natividad appearing in a local parade. I’d rather have a colonoscopy than attend such an event, but a parade with Kitten. Now that’s exciting. I hope she threw candy to the kids from the back of the Caddy.
How much of an impact do you feel Meyer had on cinema in terms of depicting sex and sexuality on screen?
He kicked down the door and did it with panache and wit. However crude and bizarre the point of view may be, RM was there first. He fought many an expensive battle in court defending his films. Everybody who came after benefited from his ballsy and brazen approach. To what end, one may ask. Nowadays anything goes and how dull is that?
As an independent filmmaker, do you think he is successful in what he did?
Are you kidding me?!? The guy saw his demented fantasies come to life on the silver screen, had incredible broads throwing themselves at his feet and he made a shitload of dough–the kind of loot that allows you to tell the world to take a fucking hike. He circled the globe attending tributes to himself. And outside of the films for 20th Century Fox RM owned everything he created and controlled how it was presented down to the minute details. He got away with everything, answered to nobody. I don’t know about you but I’d trade places in a second.
The bulk of sexploitation is really tedious unwatchable crap. Dave Friedman was a hell of a guy, but his posters and trailers were far better than most of actual movies. And that’s in keeping with the exploitation con. Moviemaking was no laughing matter to Meyer. He gave it his all. Experiencing Meyer’s work is akin to listening to Little Richard belt out “Keep A-Knockin’.” A runaway train–you either get on board or get the hell out of the way!
RM nearly killed himself getting shots as a combat photographer in WWII; he nearly killed his cast and crew making these films. Nobody told me making these films was fun. Raven De La Croix tore up her feet running like a maniac barefoot and naked through the woods. You think Meyer cared? Naaah. RM demanded take after take. He just wanted it to look good. So somebody dies, so what? Filmmaking is war!
My one wish is that Meyer would’ve made a 3D movie. But the medium wasn’t technically ready for somebody like Meyer. Could you imagine if he were still around? Scorsese made Hugo. Meyer could’ve done Huge-O.
Do you think the content of his films has stopped him from being celebrated or his achievements in independent filmmaking from being recognised at all?
Not really. Love him or hate him, Meyer was recognized as his own genre. Sure he was vilified by the conservative and the humorless, but RM demanded and got different consideration than most smut peddlers. Meyer was also lucky–powerful critics like Roger Ebert (it must be said, a fellow tit man) championed him in the mainstream press. And being hilarious and endlessly quotable made RM great copy and earned him endless ink. He was great at playing all the angles and knew controversy only enhanced box office. He’s been fully absorbed into our culture–these days you can buy Faster Pussycat t-shirts and lunch boxes at the mall. Unfortunately the films themselves have become harder and harder to show theatrically or buy in a store and that, I think, has been the worst thing for his longevity. Nobody’s really promoting or taking care of his work, except for draining the last easy dollar to be made. Go look at the website for RM Films. Is it still 1982?
Is there anything about him personally and professionally that you think he isn’t but should be remembered for?
I just think he should be remembered, period. Everybody agrees that the estate has missed the boat. No Blu-Rays containing state-of-the-art transfers of his films? Meyer would’ve been on top of that from the get-go. Rumors that the negatives are rotting away? It’s a disgrace. I think RM would be appalled at the state of his archive. This is a guy who turned his own home into a museum to himself–where are all his treasures? Why can’t the world experience them? There should be a Russ Meyer Museum. How great would that be? You think people wouldn’t visit, write about it, put it on TV?
It does seem a real shame that for someone who embraced the VHS market so early on, his films haven’t been transferred to BD yet. Who is in charge of his estate? I know that Arrow had some difficulties when they released his films on DVD which seem to be the best and most definitive way of getting hold of them.
Meyer’s secretary and contractor joined forces to become the, ahem, finely-tuned machine that runs the empire. Everything I have to say about the estate is in the book, specifically the “Janice and the Handyman” chapter. I’d rather not give them any more attention, they’re a bit internet-excitable when it comes to me.
In regards to his house, the descriptions of it in the book are incredible. What was it like being in that environment where Meyer is literally coming at you from all directions?
Haven’t seen any of these and don’t feel compelled to catch up. That whole referencing-films-past has become a little cliche, don’t you think? The TV set on in the background showing Kiss of Death? You’ve seen a few movies, we get it. Go teach a class. If I need a jolt of Meyer I just turn on Mondo Topless for ten minutes. What’s that line from The In Crowd–“The original is still the greatest.”
What do you think his honest opinions on male/female sexuality were?
As Jane Hower–one his last paramours–told me RM was “very straightforward–hug, kiss, touch put it in.” There’s a picture in the book of Meyer’s spartan bedroom that says it all. Box of Kleenex on the nightstand, no-frills bed…It might as well be army barracks. Sex to Meyer was like backing up a Mack truck, dumping a load and heading straight back to headquarters to hang out with the fellas. A very old-fashioned guy. To him oral sex was a commie plot. Just the word “sexuality” would’ve been met with derision from RM. He couldn’t have cared less about anybody’s needs except his own. “Making love”? “Sensuality”? That was for sissies, Yes-Dear men. Meyer approached sex the way he tore into a steak: not a lot of finesse and blood dripping off the knife.
How do you think Meyer will be remembered in 50 years time? What do you think people will see as his legacy by that point?
He was a complete original. How many filmmakers are? Not many, if you ask me. A minute or two of Meyer and you know you’ve fallen through a hole in the universe. A little more interesting than another Spike Lee retrospective or the complete oeuvre of Jonathan Demme.
Lastly, I don’t know whether you can or can’t talk about the film? Not in terms of where it is in production or who is being considered for casting but your view on it. Did you ever think that this would be an opportunity that would happen to you and how deserving do you think Meyer is of a film biopic?
I can tell you that the actress attached to play Eve Meyer was my first choice–she’s a dead ringer for Eve and can convey the mountain of moxie required. Some very talented people are connected to the project. But it’s Hollywood. I’ve been through this before. Of course I wish them the best. How will they recreate those women, anyway? CGI, or your dread porn cyborg types? I hope not. These were one-of-a kind women. Hard cups to fill.
Who would have thought that the advent of modern-day pornography, the exploitation of the female form and the first instance of really using women in film as sexual objects would arise from a little live-action cartoon-esque sex picture called The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959)? Before the release of director Russ Meyer’s first feature, extensive nudity in film was only seen in underground pornography (which had to be covertly produced and distributed, usually illegally) or in naturist pictures, where nudity was allowed under the guise of naturist films being documentaries on nudist camps and, therefore, somewhat legitimately educational. Meyer broke boundaries by making Mr. Teas the first film since early Pre-Code sound pictures to feature nudity without the pretext of naturism. Arguably the first popular and successful film of its kind, it went on to start the short-lived nudie-cutie genre and kick-started the sexploitation genre which Meyer would dominate throughout the 1960s.
The Immoral Mr. Teas is an incredibly simple picture. Mr. Teas (played by Meyer’s combat buddy Bill Teas, an alcoholic who was drunk for most of the shoot) is your average American Joe living life in suburbia. Practically ignored by everyone, Teas delivers false teeth as a job and spends most of his time eyeing up the women around town. After having an injection of painkillers for a tooth extraction, Teas starts seeing women everywhere topless, even when the injection has worn off. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Padding out the rest of the cast are a bevy of beautiful ladies; a mixture of pin-up models and burlesque dancers that both Meyer and producer Pete DeCenzie knew and a few bought in from elsewhere. The cherry on top of the casting ice cream is the gorgeous model June Wilkinson whom Meyer knew from his photographic career. Don’t remember seeing her name in the credits? That’s because she gave Meyer an uncredited cameo… Of her breasts only.
Unsurprisingly, Meyer had difficulties when trying to distribute the film upon its completion (ten years later he would encounter more legal problems when trying to distribute Vixen!). Simply put, there had never been a film like Mr. Teas before and theatre owners were scared to show it. When the film eventually had its premiere in San Diego in 1959 it was shut down by the police only twenty minutes in. Rumour has it that DeCenzie hadn’t paid the local authorities the necessary bribe and it would be a year before him and Meyer would get the print back.
Meyer needn’t have worried at the time. The Immoral Mr. Teas was hugely successful. Re-opening in Seattle in 1960, the film played for nine months. It ran for three years in Los Angeles. Made on a budget of $24,000, the film made between an estimated $1 and $3 million. Fourteen years after it was first released, it was still making money through theatrical bookings despite more explicit films being shown in cinemas and a far greater increase in sexuality and nudity being depicted in western cinema. The picture itself spawned over 150 imitations.
Watching it now, Mr. Teas feels very innocent, almost to the point of wondering what all the fuss was about. But for 1959, Meyer was teetering on the edge of what was considered legal to show in theatres. Even filming on Kodak Eastman stock was potentially a problem for production as Kodak could refuse to develop the negatives if they deemed the content obscene in any way. Its slight innocence aside, the film is all about the art of the tease and tease it certainly does. The picture is only sixty-two minutes long and the audience has to wait a full twenty-eight minutes before seeing any hint of the nude female form. Drawing from his photographic career, Meyer successfully keeps the tease up (excuse the pun) and going for the whole feature’s duration, each woman staying attractively untouched, poised on the moment of perfection until the very end. The isn’t just a film about Mr. Teas’s naughty daydreams, they also belong to the audience and the relationship between the female models and the viewers is held throughout by the distinct lack of physical contact between Teas and any of the women. In fact he seems almost terrified of what they might do to him, at one point jumping into a river to escape being near a topless sunbather.
What’s so telling about The Immoral Mr. Teas is the number of Meyer hallmarks that are abundant in it, foreshadowing future films and sequences from his later career. It’s opening montage of cars, nature and cities would be an effect used again and again (no doubt an influence from his early career doing industrial films), most notably in Mondo Topless (1966) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), whilst the innuendo filled and often irrelevant narration used crops up in at least another five of his features. What is incredibly obvious in Mr. Teas and didn’t change at all throughout the rest of his career is Meyer’s natural ability to make any woman look beautiful through his lens. A talented photographer for over a decade before moving into film, Mr. Teas has often been described as a’year’s subscription to Playboy’, a moving image version of a themed photo shoot.
The only sad irony about The Immoral Mr. Teas is that the world it helped to create, Meyer found himself no longer a part of by the mid 1970s. Whilst the film birthed the beginnings of the adult film industry and helped to unleash sexual freedom on the big screen, Meyer found himself left on the sidelines when his lack of interest in including hardcore shots and the sex act itself meant that his films became overshadowed by pictures likeDeep Throat(1972). Still, I bet he never thought that a quaint little film about a man in a straw hat would be the catalyst to begin it all…