When she was 18 in 1949, Mamie Van Doren was crowned “Miss Eight Ball” by the Los Angeles Press Club, succeeding the previous year’s winner, an unknown named Marilyn Monroe. “I didn’t look like a normal woman — I was filling out in all the right places,” Mamie exclusively tells Closer. “I realized that I was probably meant to be a movie star.”
And that’s exactly what the vivacious, curvaceous blonde became, steaming up the screen in late ’50s films with provocative titles like Teacher’s Pet, High School Confidential! and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve. She didn’t mind playing the bad girl, either. Those roles “had a lot of pizzazz,” says Mamie, 89. “The married, Goody Two-Shoes girls didn’t go very far.”
Her movie career may have petered out by the end of the ’60s, but unlike fellow blond bombshells Marilyn and Jayne Mansfield, Mamie has enjoyed a long life — and she’s ready, willing and more than able to tell her story. “It surprises me that I’ve lived this long,” she says. “I’m grateful for every morning I wake up.”
Mamie’s been married five times. Her second husband, bandleader Ray Anthony, fathered her only child, Perry, in 1956. She eventually left Hollywood for Newport Beach, California, because “people were doing a lot of LSD and walking around naked on Sunset Boulevard,” she says. “I didn’t want my son to be around all that.” Yet “none of my marriages lasted long,” says Mamie, “except the one I’m in now.” She’s been wed to dentist-actor Thomas Dixon since 1979.
During her Hollywood heyday, Mamie fell for many famous men. Her favorite, she says, was Teacher’s Pet leading man Clark Gable. “He was the king of all kings!” Mamie gushes. “I shared his arms with Carole Lombard, Vivien Leigh and Jean Harlow — along with his lips and little mustache. That lives in my mind all the time.”
She has also fond memories of onetime beau Frank Sinatra. “Oh, he was cool — Frank got a lot of adverse publicity, but God, he did a lot of good things,” she says. “He raised money and performed for charities. Frank was a good soul, and I know he’s up in a good place right now.” They only broke up, she says, because “I always thought he was too old for me!”
Mamie also hit it off with The Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson. “He was down-to-earth — we got along very well because we were both Midwesterners,” says the actress, who was born in South Dakota and moved to LA when she was 11. “The only thing I didn’t like was that he was a heavy smoker.”
As for her tryst with Elvis Presley in Las Vegas, she shares, “that was a one-nighter.” But what a night it was!
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