An Incredible Interview With Jayne Mansfields On:
How do you ask two people who used to be married to each other but are now divorced how come they’re living together again—without benefit of marriage license? And how do you ask Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay equally impertinent and intimate questions? Well, you pay up your insurance policy; make sure the table between you and the former Mr. Universe is wide enough so tie can’t reach over and grab you; then pray Jayne doesn’t hold you (which, of course, would be nice under other circumstances) while Mickey tears you apart like he rips a Phonebook cross-wise. Then you take a deep breath and you fire away!
And just as you get out the first word of the first question, Jayne excuses herself to have her hair done for the next show at Atlantic City’s 500 Club, or something. You’re temporarily alone with Mickey—without Jayne’s softening, restraining presence. And this is the way the interview goes:
QUESTION: How come you and Jayne are living together after she divorced you?
MICKEY: That divorce she got in Mexico—she found out that because of legal technicalities it didn’t go through. At least her lawyer thinks it didn’t. You better ask her about that yourself.
QUESTION: How did you feel about Jayne’s taking that divorce action?
MICKEY: If your wife wants to divorce you, there’s no way you can hold her if she doesn’t want to be.
QUESTION: How did you get back together again?
MICKEY: We’d signed for a night-club engagement before she went to Mexico and filed for divorce, so we had to go through with the contract. We met at the club four weeks ago, learned about the divorce not going through, and since then we’ve been back together. Our three kids are here, too.
QUESTION: But she did try to divorce you—how do you feel about that?
MICKEY: I have no hard feelings. I don’t degrade her for what happened in the past. I’m convinced that deep down she didn’t really want to divorce me.
QUESTION: How did you learn you two were no longer man and wife?
MICKEY: From the radio, half-an-hour before she was back in L.A. from Mexico. I went home and said to myself. “That’s that.” I never thought she’d do it. Especially when I loved her so much. When I married her. I wanted her to be the girl I lived with the rest of my life. This was just a misunderstanding between us. No real bitterness. I love Jaynie as a girl, not a movie star. They don’t make girls like her these days. Sure she has plenty of fire, drive and ambition, but she’s also very good with kids.
QUESTION: And you think your relationship—let’s call it marriage—is okay now?
MICKEY: I’m sure it will hold up from here on. The amazing thing about Jayne is that she is spontaneous and innocent, despite all. Let me tell you what she did when we were working at the Marmar Club in Columbus, Ohio. Between shows we’d take a breather in back of the club. We’d step out to a space between the club and a large newspaper building. And each time, the complete night shift of the paper—hundreds of guys—would lean out of the windows, yell down at us and cheer.
The night before we closed, Jaynie said to me, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to put on a bikini and go out and really greet those guys. They can’t come to the show, so the show will go to them.”
That’s what she did. Put on a bikini and climbed in back of my convertible. We drove slowly around that big building, with the top of the car down, and the guys whistled and yelled their lungs out and almost fell down on us. There was such a commotion, the police came. But when Jayne explained to them that she was just giving the boys a show for free, the cops phoned back to the precinct house that it wasn’t a riot, just Jayne Mansfield! And then the squad car followed us slowly around the block. Later the officers asked Jayne for her autograph.
QUESTION: But do you think it was “innocent” and “spontaneous” when she posed for those nude pictures that appeared in Playboy?
MICKEY: Would you like your wife to get out there and take her clothes off? I didn’t like it. Not at all. I said to her. “Everybody knows you’re the sex symbol, that you have a great body. It’s not necessary to pose like that at this stage of your career.”
But then I questioned myself. “They’re beautiful photos,” I said. “Any other husband would be proud to have his wife look as she does. I’d rather see these than pictures of murders. Am I ashamed of these pictures? No. Embarrassed? No. They’re beautiful. Beautiful.” That’s what I finally said to myself.
But if the layout had been submitted to me for my okay—I must admit I’d have torn them up.
QUESTION: Were you present when the photos were taken?
QUESTION: Anything further on those famous photographs?
MICKEY: Only that in some parts of the United States the Jayne Mansfield issue of Playboy is now selling for $100 a copy.
QUESTION: What if your church would frown upon Jayne for posing for such shots? Or upon your off-again-on-again-now-you’re-married-now-you’re-not relationship? What then?
MICKEY: I was brought up as a Catholic and consider myself a Catholic, but I have some beliefs of my own. My God is in and with me. He will understand and forgive and go along with the situation. As long as I live up to the Ten Commandments and do unto others what I hope they’ll do unto me, God will approve. And I’ll be happy, too.
QUESTION: But suppose the law decides you and Jayne aren’t married and the church decides you can’t marry again?
MICKEY: It would make no difference to me. My priests are no closer to God than I am. I know my God and my situation better than others do. I may not carry a cross in my hand, I may not fall on my knees in church, but still I’m a Catholic.
QUESTION: But how about Nelson Sardelli—the man who was in Mexico with Jayne when she got her divorce? The man who told everybody he was going to marry her?
MICKEY: He meant no more to her than her hairdresser. (He motions to the dressing room where, indeed, Jayne is having her hair done.) He wanted his picture to be printed with hers in the paper. He was pushing, he made sure to say to her, “I love you, I’m going to marry you,” when reporters were around.
QUESTION: Why did Jayne divorce you?
MICKEY: Jaynie is the kind of person who needs a person next to her who will help carry her through her career, whether she agrees with him or not. (He then gave a long, involved example of how he’d helped her five years ago when she was all set to sign with a Las Vegas night club for $7,500 a week and he held out for nearly four times as much and a lot of extras. She accused him of trying to ruin her career, but he stuck to his guns and got her everything he wanted her to have.) Psychologically, maybe she resented my efforts for her. She likes my support, but she also likes to make up her own mind. Maybe, in a crazy way, my trying to help her spoiled our happiness. Then, too, I guess she began to take me for granted.
QUESTION: Doesn’t it hurt, playing second-fiddle to a star?
MICKEY: I could have been a movie star, too, but I never wanted to be. U-I offered me a seven-year contract back in 1956, after I’d won the “Mr. Universe” contest and was a leading man in Mae West’s show at a thousand a week. But I turned it down. There’s no contest between Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay.
QUESTION: How does it feel to be called “Mr. Mansfield”?
MICKEY: I laugh it off. Heck, I used to sign autographs “Arthur Miller.” I know who I am, I don’t need to push in front of her.
QUESTION: But didn’t your own career fold up after Jayne divorced you?
MICKEY: After our separation and apparent divorce, I still had my TV show. I could have continued on the air for years. “Mr. Universe” had the number-one rating of all television shows in Los Angeles. For that matter, I could go on the air in a completely different type of show. And I still manufacture exercise equipment.
QUESTION: But what do you want to do?
MICKEY: I love to build things. To play with real estate. I’m building seven homes right now.
QUESTION: How did your kids feel about the divorce?
MICKEY: I don’t think the kids were aware of the separation. (This differs sharply with what columnist Dorothy Manners wrote when, during a previous breakup she spoke of the “broken heart” of the then eleven-year-old Jane Marie, Jayne’s child by a previous marriage. “The day he moved out of the house,” Miss Manners reported, “the child wept bitterly. She clung to her stepfather and dissolved in tears, saying, ‘You’ll always be my daddy, Mickey.’ ” And during a still earlier separation, Jane Marie had somehow got through to Louella Parsons when the columnist was ill in the hospital and had begged, “Please let us come down to see you. Please talk some sense to my mother.”)
QUESTION: How do you think your children react when they hear about or see the nude photos Jayne posed for?
MICKEY: Kids of today are broadminded. They see their mother in the nude more than anyone else, so what difference can it make?
At this point Jayne returns with a sparkling new hair-do and Mickey tackles a vitamin-filled health salad.
QUESTION: Is it true that you have been taking instructions from a Monsignor in Los Angeles and that you will soon convert to Catholicism?
JAYNE: Yes. I feel as a Catholic feels right now.
QUESTION: What caused you to turn to Catholicism?
JAYNE: It happened when I got lost in the Bahamas. That’s when people laughed at me because they thought it was a publicity stunt. Well, the absolute truth is I almost lost my life. And I really prayed—for the first time in years. I thought of my parents, my three kids, my life. And f knew I needed something more. I wantedsomething more.
QUESTION: And Catholicism is the answer?
JAYNE: For me, yes. You know. I’m in Europe about six months of the year. There I go to mass every Sunday and to church every day of the week, even if it’s just kneeling on the steps. Here I always slip out to church between shows.
QUESTION: But those nude Playboy pictures—how do you square them with your new-found religion?
JAYNE: They were distributed without my consent, approval or agreement. They were taken by a staff photographer on the set of a movie. They were supposed to have been screened by the publicity man. (For the record: Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy, disagrees with Jayne and says, “The pictures were arranged with her and her agent before the motion picture began. . . . The pictures were taken by our own people . . . with her full consent and cooperation.”)
QUESTION: Has your religion brought you closer to your family?
JAYNE: I’ve always been close. To Jane, who’s twelve, and Miklos, who’s four, and Zoltan, who’s two. I’m also mad about our ten dogs and eight cats and our mynah bird and our fish. And, of course, about Mickey. I can’t seem to go anywhere without my children. If you bring a child into the world, you’re the child’s mother, not a nurse. In my last twenty pictures, there was only one when I didn’t have my children with me. I’m soon to make a new picture in Greece, and they’ll go with me.
QUESTION: Are you or are you not still married to Mickey?
JAYNE: It’s an interesting situation. My lawyer is questioning the validity of the divorce. Something about the papers not having been filed correctly. Mickey and I kind of hope they’re not valid.
QUESTION: Then what led you to divorce him?
JAYNE: Our personalities are different. I am easy-going, I avoid arguments, I can’t stand unpleasantness or discord. Mickey is wonderful, devoted, a good husband, but he is a Hungarian! He flares up and boils over. Also, he’s very strict with the children. I’m soft with them. Yes, it started with the kids. Although people do say they’re the best behaved kids they’ve ever seen.
QUESTION: But weren’t there other men? Bomba before the divorce and Sardelli afterwards?
JAYNE: It’s funny about me and men. Once I start something with a man, I can’t just stop it and get rid of him. Every man I’ve been with remains very much in love with me long after I’ve lost interest. If I want to break it off. if I insist it’s over, they hang on. I hate it. It’s not pleasant.
QUESTION: I don’t quite understand.
JAYNE: I’m not jealous. I’ve never been. I’m faithful but I want my freedom.
QUESTION: I still don’t understand. There seems to be a contradiction in what you’re saying. Isn’t there?
JAYNE: I don’t know if I understand, either. Let me put it another way. My life is difficult—little sleep, always in front of the public. I’m a goldfish. The way to beat it is to divorce my public self from who I am. To laugh at the performing me. Jayne Mansfield, the big star, is funny to me.
QUESTION: But what does this have to do with Bomba and Sardelli and your divorce from Mickey?
JAYNE: I guess I’m answering that the roundabout way. I have high standards, definite principles and I’m extremely religious. And my being a mother is completely different, in another world, from my being a sex symbol.
Like when I was invited to speak at Ohio State before some big brains, marriage counsellors, psychologists—guys like that. They gave me some hi-falutin’ topic—The Outlook For American Education As Compared To The Outlook For European Education—and expected me to give them kicks. Well, I held their attention in a question-and-answer free-for-all for more than half an hour. At the end they applauded. And told me I’d taught them something.
QUESTION: About Sardelli and Bomba?
JAYNE: I’m a very warm person. I adore Italian people. Sardelli had heart. He had soul. And Bomba—I was going to marry Bomba. I seriously took up Catholicism then. He was forty-one, elegant, mature, with impeccable manners and taste. However, my conversion gave me an entire new outlook on life. In December, Bomba came to see me in New York. But suddenly I thought of Mickey and the children—and I knew my place was with them. That was the end of that.
QUESTION: So in a sense it might be said that your conversion to Catholicism saved your marriage?
JAYNE: Yes, although I did try to divorce Mickey. And it was religion that brought me to Sardelli. He’s a fine person, a religious person. Once he was going to be a priest. He may become one yet. He said to me, “If you leave me. I’ll enter the priesthood.”
QUESTION: But wasn’t he with you when you divorced Mickey, and weren’t you going to marry him?
JAYNE: I never said I was going to marry him. Never.
QUESTION: In what other ways has religion changed your life?
JAYNE: It governs my life. It guides my thinking and acting. It’s something very nice. I like it. It gives me peace. With my crazy hours, most churches are closed when I’m up and around. But if I can just kneel on the steps and hold Someone’s hand, His hand, things have a way of working out.
QUESTION: But doesn’t this give you an excuse to act any way you want at other times—knowing that when you go to church you’ll be forgiven?
JAYNE: Absolutely not. I don’t say, “Now I’m holy, therefore I can sin.” No. I’m religious because I need it.
QUESTION: But how do you fit your views into the kind of life that being Jayne Mansfield forces you to lead?
JAYNE: A woman should be all things. I’m a mother first, and a good mother. Then I’m an actress. And finally a sex symbol. Each is divorced from the other.
QUESTION: But to get back to those Playboy pictures. . . .
JAYNE: As far as physical attributes and sex are concerned, one can’t help it if one is given by nature and by God a certain physical stature and being. And I don’t want to change mine. Besides, those pictures were sneaked to Playboy. I knew they were being taken, but I was told they were only for foreign consumption. Europeans have a much more adult outlook on nudity than Americans.
QUESTION: Were you paid for the photos?
JAYNE: Not a cent. I’ve had a $20,000 offer for four years from Playboy to pose in the nude, and I’ve always turned it down. (On a previous occasion, Jayne asserted that she’d refused the offer “because nudity just doesn’t mix with motherhood. . . . I’m the mother of three children and hope to be the mother of seven more. It would rub me the wrong way if someone told my little boy, 7 saw a picture of your mother naked.’ ” Mickey, who was present, snorted. “They know what’s there, anyway!”)
QUESTION: How has your divorce affected your children?
MICKEY: I’ll answer that. I don’t think divorce upsets young kids. Children are strange. As long as they’re fed, dressed and allowed to play, that’s all they worry about. Divorce is the worse thing that can happen to a man and his wife. But even worse than that is staying together for the children’s sake.
I think my father would have suffered the most at the news—if he’d heard about it. My dad and mom loved Jaynie. My brothers, thank God, kept it from my dad, and he died thinking we were happily married.
But to get back to your question: I feel the worse thing that can happen to kids is to see their parents unhappy. I do my kids a favor—if I can’t get along with my wife—to get a divorce.
One of our troubles is that Jayne and I wanted a large family. Quickly, we had Miki, then Zoltan, then too much time went by without another baby. If she’d been pregnant, there’d be no divorce. She adores kids—she wants three, four, five. seven, ten babies. And I knew she wanted lots of kids when I married her.
That reminds me. Do you know that we go back every year to the Wayfarer’s Chapel in Santa Monica where we were married in 1958? On January thirteenth. We go at the same hour to the same priest and use the same candles for the same ceremony. That Reverend Knox—maybe he’s still saving those candles for us.
QUESTION: You said “every year”—did you go this year?
MICKEY (sadly). No.
QUESTION: Will you go next year?
MICKEY: I guess I better ask Jayne a question. “Jaynie, will you marry me?”
JAYNE: (blushes—no kidding!—and then her eyes soften incredibly and almost brim with tears; then she catches herself, realizing she’s not alone with Mickey, that this is an interview, and that she must be Jayne. Mansfield) . I need another drink.
—BY JIM HOFFMAN
Jayne’s in “Dog Eat Dog.” Famous Players.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1963