Biography courtesy and copyright of Michele.
I can remember when piles of leaves were made to dive into, and warm sidewalks were for laying on to watch ants and other insects go about their daily business. Trees were for climbing, and cliffs and canyons were for exploring. My thirst for knowledge and adventure, along with an unquenchable curiosity about practically everything would eventually become my life's definition… and my joy as well as my occasional downfall.
I was an "only child" for my first four years. My father was a graduate student at Cal-Tech and my mother stayed home with me, teaching me how to read and write by the time I was two and a half. I wanted so much to go to school just like my older cousins, so my mother set up a make-believe school for me and my dolls until I was old enough to start kindergarten.. She also enrolled me in the Tournament Park Play Group where I was able to mingle with other children my age, and she allowed me to attend the Meglin Kiddies dance studio for tap lessons. My first public appearance was on stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium when I was almost four with an enormous group of other kiddies in a baby chorus line.
My first sibling, Michael, was born when I was almost four; Nicholas came along a couple of years later; and Greg arrived when I was eight. My father graduated Cal-Tech with a PhD in Nuclear Physics around the time Michael arrived. We moved to Santa Monica and then on to Pacific Palisades when I was five. I discovered around the time I was eight that it was possible to travel from one side of our block to the other without ever touching the ground, if one utilized fences, trees, roofs, patio tables and wood piles. I became so adept at riding a pogo stick that I could hop completely around the block without falling off, and I made curtains for my soap box racer on which my Dad reluctantly built a roof for me. I also brought home wounded baby birds and other creatures and tried to make them well again, sometimes with success.
School was my home..... my special place. My teachers were all fascinating people who knew everything possible and I was going to learn it all from them. In 3rd grade, we studied the planets and the solar system. I went to the library and read everything I could. I even made a model solar system out of fruit (we ate the earth, so we had to eat Mercury and Venus, too, eventually demolishing my project). One day, the teacher was talking to the class about the planets and I raised my hand to answer a question. The next thing I knew, she asked me to give a presentation to the class the following day. I did.... and the kids actually listened to me and I loved doing it. Shortly thereafter, the teachers skipped me to fourth grade. I really missed my friends a lot.
The rest of elementary school and junior high through eighth grade was fairly unremarkable. My 7th grade science fair project won me an honorable mention (I did a complete layout and report on Cystic Fibrosis of the Pancreas). I got excellent grades, had braces on my teeth, and one of the older boys on the school bus teased me every day, without fail, for being flat-chested. We went to Evanston, Illinois that summer because my Dad had a contract at Argonne National Labs. I came back into ninth grade and it was unnecessary for that boy to ever tease me again. Maybe it was the water in Lake Michigan. My body surfing hobby came to an abrupt end, and boys started asking me to dances at school.
Most of the boys were still shorter than I was until I got into high school. My grades dropped and I struggled with finding out "who" I was for the next couple of years. I loved math and science, I hated sports, and I had more attention than I knew how to handle, especially after getting the braces off my teeth. I transferred to another high school and the problem was solved. My grades went up; my drama teacher, Dr. Evans, was both enthusiastic and full of encouragement. I auditioned for and was accepted at 16 into the exclusive Desilu Workshop, a place for budding actors, directors and such to learn about the business. My classmates were, among others, Steve Franken (best known as Chatsworth Osborne Jr in the "Dobie Gillis" series), Kim Darby (formerly known as Derby Zerby), and Roger Heldfond who went on to become one of Hollywood's best known agents at Wormser, Heldfond & Joseph.
The Working Girl
I graduated mid-term at the age of seventeen.... barely. My classmates who were eighteen started working at Douglas Aircraft Co. but they wouldn't even consider me until I turned eighteen. I worked for the phone company as a long distance operator for three months until the nightmares of the switchboards and long, fabric covered cords would overwhelm me. I worked for a bank in Brentwood for a while on a giant Burroughs bookkeeping machine. I worked for Sears & Roebuck in Collections for several months doing skip-tracing, took a medical leave to have my tonsils removed and repainted all my bedroom furniture to keep from getting bored, and then... ta daaaa... I was old enough to work for Douglas.
The Bunny Accident
After working at Douglas for a couple of years where I held a government issued Secret Clearance, my girlfriend Betty Lou asked me if I'd do her a favor. She had an interview for a job and she didn't want to go alone. In hushed tones, she told me it was for a Playboy Bunny. I was only 20 and honestly didn't know too much about the Playboy Clubs or Bunnies, other than the girls were beautiful and certainly Betty Lou was one of the most beautiful blondes I'd ever seen. Of course, I agreed to accompany her. She drove us to the club and we rode up the elevator to the 10th floor.
A tiny, beautiful brunette with huge eyes emerged from the double doors and identified herself as Joni Mattis, Mr. Hefner's assistant. I sat quietly while she spoke to Betty Lou privately and then they came back out to the reception area. Joni chatted with me a while and then asked if Betty Lou would mind going downstairs and donning a bunny costume so she could take a Polaroid and send it to Chicago. Betty Lou asked me if I would please go with her as she was too embarrassed to parade about all by herself. Joni encouraged me, so I said "Sure...of course", and I put on a mint green suit and ears and Joni took my picture, too. I filled out some paper work along the lines of agreeing that the picture was the property of Playboy, yada yada yada, and went home.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Joni. I had been hired. "Uh......... and Betty Lou?", I asked? She was not hired. Oh geez.... and sure enough, there went a perfectly good friendship. I was only 20 and I was told I would have to go to either Jamaica or New Orleans to work. That seemed a long way from home so I asked very nicely if I could delay my start date until I became twenty-one, which was several months away. It was okayed by the powers-that-were, and I scheduled my vacation from Douglas Aircraft to begin on my 21st birthday, the same day I started as Bumper Pool Bunny in the Hollywood Playboy Club. I figured that I could see if I liked it and decide later if I wanted to quit my perfectly good job with Douglas.
The first two weeks went by so fast I didn't have a lot of time to think seriously about Douglas. My vacation was almost over and I still hadn't given them notice, nor was I sure I wanted to. Thinking that my hours at Douglas were from 8:00AM to 4:42PM (don't ask, because I still don't understand the forty-two minutes), and my Pool Bunny schedule ran from 6:00PM to 12 or 1:00AM. If I planned things right, I could do both. It was a challenge, and after two weeks I was a bit ragged and frazzled. I hadn't counted on the promotional appearances and little extras like fittings, and finally I made the only possible choice. I was making four times what I was making at Douglas by working for Playboy, plus I had time to spend with my daughter who was still under a year old. I was a single mom and determined to provide the best of everything for my little girl, Melissa.
Bunny Ilse's aunt from Colombia (or was it Venezuela?) made a special room for my daughter in her house, and she babysat for me when I worked from about 5:00PM until 10:00AM the next morning. Then I would pick Lissa up and we'd go to the park, go shopping, or visit with friends. I was usually scheduled to work 3 or 4 shifts during the week, and was placed "on call" a couple of additional days. Rarely did my job interfere with my mothering, except one time.
Bunny Geri and I were called at the last minute to fill in for a couple of models who bailed out on the luncheon fashion show. There were no babysitters to be found and time was running out. There was a large pantry on the second floor where the showrooms were and we thought it would be easy to take the kids with us and put them in there where we changed. Her son, Scott, was about five and Melissa was about 15 months. The busboys and the room directors were put on alert that the kids were in the pantry and the show went off without a hitch.... well, almost. There was a brief moment in time when my daughter became a bit impatient seeing Mom dash in and out of the pantry and she started to whimper. Scott did his best to pacify her with funny faces, but he was running out of tricks. A piece of zwieback eventually did the deed, but the stress of the possibility of ruining the Playboy experience for the customers was a bit more than we wanted to deal with again.
I burned out in the latter part of 1966, working more with Joni on administrative jobs than I did on the floor. We conducted a couple of Bunny Hunts and sorted through volumes of photos and letters from Bunny hopefuls all over the country. However, a Bunny in an office didn't really fit into the Bunny Mother's schedule, and I was tired and unchallenged. We parted on friendly terms.
The After Years
I tried modeling for a designer on Melrose, sang in a group of girls called "The Collection", typed scripts part time for Chuck Barris productions, worked at Squire for Men (the toupee place) in accounting, and eventually went back into defense work at SDC in Santa Monica. I became fascinated with computer programming and subsequently left with a group of SDC executives who started their own company. I was later offered a job by an executive I met on the elevator who was CFO with a conglomerate, and I also worked part-time for an attorney to make extra money.
Ahhh... yes. The Attorney. I immediately fell in love with the legal profession. It fascinated me... I was intrigued by the fact that there was a law and an exception to every law. The intricacies and the possibilities and the way the game was played became part of my soul. I was happily working for a law firm in Pacific Palisades when I ran into my beautiful, blonde Prince Charming and instantly fell in love. Neither one of us wanted to be married at the time we met, but within six weeks we were. We eloped to Las Vegas, and then married again two and a half months later in St. Paul the Apostle in Westwood. Five years later, we had another daughter, Colleen, and built a Legal Support Business that became the second largest in Orange County by 1985. We were married for twenty years, and when we parted ways we both kept in the same business - he in Orange County, and me in Riverside County. We still stay in contact and exchange work on a professional basis even today. Our daughter, Colleen, married a man who has the same business, whose parents have the same business in Texas and whose brother has the same business in Los Angeles. Once it's in your blood, it's hard to imagine doing anything else, at least in our family.
I'm happily single and live with three lovebirds. My sweet little Rosie, my roommate, foot warmer, and the love of my life, passed on over on 11/18/05. I've written her story so that I won't forget all the joy she gave to so many people, especially me. Rosie was half-Yorkie half-Chihuahua and had been with me for almost fifteen years. On November 25, 2005 I met and fell in love with Mary-Margaret O'Brien (Mary-Margaret's Diary), and I know sweet Rose would approve. My daughters and I are close and keep in regular contact with each other. Melissa is married and lives in the mid-west with her husband and three boys, Randy, Cade and Carter. Her step-daughter lives in Southern California. Colleen lives just over the hill from me as the crow flies, but about an hour drive away. She and her husband have twins (Cailin & Clancy) who are in the third grade now. We talk on the phone several times a week and get together as often as possible. Colleen enjoys being my "date" for our ex-Bunny reunions.
My work is my joy and my passion. I look forward to each and every day. My clients come to me by referral generally (sometimes through the yellow pages) and I've been around long enough that I don't mind turning away someone with an "attitude". I wake up smiling and go to sleep the same way. My memories are happy ones, and I am not the least bit hesitant to open another door and follow a path into the unknown. As I mentioned in the beginning, my curiosity is both my joy and my downfall. I'm only sorry that I have a one way ticket in this life, because there is so much I want to learn, and so much I want to do. The puzzle pieces are coming together, but they're not all there yet.
I'm finding new adventures to go on, reuniting with my old friends and making new ones. The "After the Hutch" celebrations in April 2004 and August 2006 were amazing and totally energizing. Getting older is SOOOOO much easier when your friends do it with you. In my personal life, I turned 60 in 2004 and went to Ireland to celebrate. I went to London in 2005 and took my daughter, Melissa, with me to celebrate her 40th year. In March 2006, I took my 10-year old grandson, Cade, to Hawaii, and took my daughter, Colleen, to Munich in 2007. My business continues to grow, and we've added "licensed Investigations" to our list of services offered. I am so very fortunate to have an amazing team of people working with me, allowing me the flexibility to take time off and chase those proverbial rainbows. Ah, yes... life is good!
Just remember - life is temporary at best. What you leave behind that really matters are the memories people have of you. If nothing else, I want the fact that I have lived to matter in a positive way, and know that the world is a better place for future generations because I have been here.