[sixties-l] Swingin' Chicks

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Jan 31 2001 - 00:09:44 EST

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    Swingin' Chicks


    Michelle Phillips and Mamie Van Doren talk about being decade-defining dames.

    By Stephen Lemons
    Jan. 29, 2001

    I confess, I had a hard-on for Patty Hearst. Damn it, I still do! Despite
    the complexities of her case and the harm done by her Symbionese Liberation
    Army captors back in the day, there's something about that footage of a
    gun-toting "Tania" storming the Sunset branch of the Hibernia Bank in San
    Francisco or the famous photo of her posed before the SLA flag that sums up
    the sexiness of '70s women and makes me horny as hell.
    The same goes for all the other bell-bottom-wearing babes of that era:
    Squeaky Fromme and Laraine Newman; Jodie Foster and Angela Davis; Stevie
    Nicks and Joan Didion; MacKenzie Phillips and Karen Allen; and so on.
    Though usually thin and out of shape (no one exercised back then, thank
    God), they all seemed so radical, intelligent and hip. Even to this day,
    I'm haunted by them. Today's women don't quite seem to live up to their
    legends. No doubt this is because the cultural ascendancy of those
    me-decade femmes intersected with my then nascent interest in the opposite
    My theory is that we're ruined by the sex objects we encounter once
    masturbation becomes our adolescent raison d'tre. Your babysitter, your
    parents' best friends or the folks on the tube night after night, that's
    who you lust after. Because of the sweater queens of the '50s, guys who
    grew up then are often, well, tit fiends. For me, it was the fleshy yet
    anorexic, coke-snortin' nymphomaniacs of the "Boogie Nights" decade who
    yanked my crank. But for Chris Strodder, author of the recent coffee-table
    compendium "Swinging Chicks of the '60s," it was those go-go-boots-wearin',
    candy-colored miniskirt-sportin' nymphs of the Age of Aquarius who left him
    pie-eyed with infatuation.
    "These were women who, it seemed to me, set some sort of standard and
    represented the times," says Strodder, 44, of the 101 '60s chicks
    chronicled in his tome. "There were a few with an edge like Grace Slick or
    Janis Joplin, but most were like Goldie Hawn spirited and fun, laughing and
    colorful, always
    expressing themselves with great haircuts and style. A teenybopper in an
    orange miniskirt, that's typical. Like the British model/actress Twiggy.
    You could just look at a picture of Twiggy and say, 'Wow, that's 1966!'"
    Born of his Swingin' Chicks Web site, which has garnered raves from Yahoo,
    USA Today and Details magazine and spotlights more than 170 female '60s
    stars, the book is a softcover, psychedelic catalog of '60s crme de la
    crme. From Julie Newmar and Mary Tyler Moore to Raquel Welch and Angie
    Dickinson, Strodder leaves no lava lamp unturned in his quest for the
    perfect women. There's Agent 99 of "Get Smart," aka Barbara Feldon; "Mod
    Squad" TV narc Peggy Lipton; Paul McCartney's one-time fiance, the pale,
    auburn-haired Jane Asher; busty bombshell Raquel Welch; and the ill-fated
    Sharon Tate and the striking, ever-classy Jacqueline Bisset.
    Strodder cuts a wide, and unfortunately PG-rated, swath through the
    decade's celluloid and cathode-ray selections of perky female sexuality.
    Fired by boyhood remembrances of Angela Cartwright, the tinfoil-covered
    teen astronaut Penny on "Lost in Space," Strodder compiled a bio of the
    erstwhile star, detailing her current incarnation as the proprietor of a
    Southern California gift shop, and e-mailed it to his friends. Soon, his
    pals were putting in requests for the likes of Petula Clark (singer of the
    1965 hit "Downtown"), Sue Lyon (the original movie Lolita) and Dawn Wells
    (Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island").
    The popularity of Strodder's bios soon demanded a Web site and, voilthe
    rest can be accessed with a mouse click.
    According to Strodder, the site, which launched in 1998, still gets more
    than 30,000 hits a day. Certainly its traffic helped convince his bosses at
    Cedco Publishing, where he still toils as the company webmaster, that a
    calendar and book would be the perfect way to cash in on Strodder's
    extracurricular activities. For Strodder, it meant a chance to dig deeper
    and interview the women who haven't passed away or become recluses.
    "The more I researched them, the more I came to admire them as pioneers,"
    says Strodder. "Now it's a lot more accepted for women to become writers or
    successful athletes, or go into politics. Back then, the women who did
    those things were often the first ones. They were leading a revolution and
    they knew it. For me, their stories transcended how attractive they were."
    It's a clich, but very true, that the 1960s changed everything for
    American women. The decade saw the rise of the birth control pill, first
    introduced in 1960; the antiwar and civil rights activism that engulfed the
    nation; the sexual revolution; the emerging women's movement and "war
    between the sexes." All of these factors gave women an unprecedented amount
    of freedom that, in turn, emboldened them to agitate for parity with men.
    Platinum celluloid goddess Mamie Van Doren began her career in the early
    '50s as a Vargas girl, Howard Hughes/RKO starlet and then busty man-eater
    in teen exploitation flicks like "High School Confidential" and "Teacher's
    Pet" (each released in 1958). For her, the '60s meant a major
    transformation, but one she embraced.
    "The '60s were definitely more fun than the '50s," she said during a recent
    phone interview. "It was like opening Pandora's box. The '50s were very
    conservative. There was so much censorship and no freedom of abortion or
    anything for women. I think women went wild once things started to open up.
    There are swinging chicks now, but a lot of them have no idea. They take a
    lot of that freedom we have today for granted."
    Van Doren was a "bad girl" in the '50s, constantly being harassed by the
    notorious Hays Office and the Legion of Decency. Mothers didn't allow their
    children to see her films, if they could help it, though that reputation
    often increased her box-office cachet. Once the '60s hit, Van Doren became
    just one of a variety of bad girls. But she didn't mind a bit. "I welcomed
    the change," she says. "And I swung right along with everyone else, burned
    my bra and really did become my own person."
    Van Doren was more of a '50s vamp than anything, but she successfully made
    the transition and to this day, through her erotic, nipple-print-selling
    Web site, carries on the tradition of the glamour queens. But the majority
    of Strodder's picks are more like Sally Field (circa "Gidget"), Tina Louise
    (another "Gilligan's Island" refugee) and Barbara Eden ("I Dream of
    Jeannie"). Looking back, they seem particularly unchallenging, cartoonish
    even. Strodder also includes two animated charactersJudy Jetson from "The
    Jetsons" and Veronica from "The Archie Show." It's somewhat telling that,
    for the most part, the cartoons blend right in with their live-action
    Strodder's choices get interesting for me when they presage an edgier vibe.
    Rockers Slick, Joplin and Tina Turner kick boo-tay like the guys, and their
    sexuality is aggressive, almost hostile. Warhol favorites Nico and Edie
    Sedgwick represent the darker, slightly satanic flip side of the decade.
    Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Gurley Brown seem downright chilly and cerebral
    juxtaposed with the rest of Strodder's litter. And Jane Fonda is impressive
    considering what she would transform herself into, though her '60s
    "Barbarella" phase seems silly in light of her '72 visit to North Vietnam
    or her Oscar-winning performance in "Klute."
    Even Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, pictured in Strodder's
    book wearing a slinky, Girl Scout get-up while strolling through Beverly
    Hills smoking a joint, exudes some of the attitude that, say, Hawn lacks.
    Not to dis Hawn, or any of the others. It's a matter of personal
    preference, of course. But when faced with the choice between the spunky,
    neon-pop divas of the '60s and the smoldering, dressed-down '70s sirens
    they evolved into (Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Carole King, Ann and Nancy
    Wilson of Heart and so on), I'll always choose the latter. Maybe it's their
    seriousness, their stridency or their unaffected beauty. To me at least,
    the women of the '70s fulfill the promise of those rebellious '60s chicks.
    "Who were the swinging chicks of the '70s?" Mama Michelle asks rhetorically
    when queried for this article. "I can't think of one right now, because the
    swinging stopped in the '70s. The '60s were in some ways a carefree time.
    Women were carefree about pregnancy and sex. It was the first time they
    were being sent off to college en masse, on their own, to be
    independent. The first time they were demonstrating against the war or
    buying protest music. The first time they felt enfranchised."
    Strodder's book is just a bagatelle, something to kill time with on a
    coffee break. But it does make you think about what's gone before. It made
    me realize how much I miss those radical '70s babes, many of whom started
    out in the late '60s, like Katharine Ross in "The Graduate," running off
    with the guys their parents hated, and living in opposition to what
    conformist society said was right. Being born in '67 to just such a woman,
    how could I not admire the lot of them?
    Strodder gets my point. "The '70s chicks became the recipients of the new
    liberation started in the '60s," he says. "In music you see this transition
    of the girls being the pretty vocalist in front, to becoming the rebellious
    vocalist in front, to becoming the writer of the songs, to becoming the
    whole rock band and doing everything. They were more relaxed and came into
    their own. But that all began in the '60s."

    Stephen Lemons is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. He contributes 
    regularly to the New Times L.A., Art Connoisseur, SOMA magazine and 

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