Jayne Mansfield: “Got A Pink Sofa You’d Like To Get Rid Of?”
WANTED TO BUY:
Got a pink sofa you’d like to get rid of?
Need it for our 60 by 40 living room. Also can use all kinds of chairs, tables, beds, pictures, curtains, shelves, rugs, etc.—the crazier and more colorful the better—for our 27-room, 11-bath house. Have love, nursery things, kids and each other. Need furnishings fast. Contact Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield, Hollywood.
They had no furniture—that’s what it said, right there in the papers. Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay were camping out in their Holmby Hills mansion, without so much as a bed.
Whose heart could fail to be touched? Brushing away a tear or two, Photoplay’s editors called a conference. “Let’s start a fund and ask for contributions. ‘Help make the Hargitays’ house a real home.’ How’s that for a slogan?”
“No, wait a minute. Probably Jayne and Mickey are too proud to take charity. Suppose we ask the readers whether they can each spare a piece of slightly used furniture—and let the kids have it for a couple of dollars? That old brass bed up in the attic, maybe. That wicker rocking chair down in the cellar. Why, if enough people pitch in, the Hargitays can have the place furnished in no time.”
“Fine! Now you go out and give Jayne and Mickey the good news.” On the way to Holmby Hills, I puzzled the cab driver by chuckling quietly. I was just imagining how Jayne would take this happy announcement. Her no-furniture gag looked like the topper to all her publicity stunts. The modest, retiring Mansfield had been flaunting pink cars, pink mink coats, pink champagne baths, pink-tinted poodles.
Or did she have a sense of humor? There must be an actual person behind the character built up by headlines, the flutter-brained blonde. Would she drop the pose if it was a pose? Well here was her house, whoever she was. Jayne later described the house as “Mediterranean modern with a dash of Spanish thrown in.” But there was more than a dash of early Hollywood in the imposing pile of stucco and tile.
The door was opened by a middle-aged women, who spoke a few words in some foreign language, smiled pleasantly and motioned me in through the empty foyer into what I supposed was the living room. And there she left me, alone in the wide open spaces. Sure enough—no furniture, except for a couple of stray chairs parked forlornly against the wall. The click of my heels echoed around the huge room as I started the journey across it. To judge by the sound of talking and hammering in the far reaches of the house, the other rooms must be as bare as this one.
“You Mrs. Hargitay?”
The booming voice startled me, and I turned to see a big man, mopping his forehead, in the doorway I had just come through. “Who, me?” I said.
“Yeah, you. I got the piano here, but I don’t think we can get it through the door.”
“Oh, I know you can if you really try,” a soft voice said from overhead. On one of the two balconies that overlooked the living room stood Jayne Mansfield, in black velvet slacks and a pinkish maternity jacket.
The piano mover gaped. “Sure, Mrs. Hargitay. Sure, we can do it.” Off he went.
Tossing me a friendly greeting, Jayne disappeared from the balcony and reappeared a few seconds later in the doorway. She flourished a hand gaily at the empty room. “You see the fix we’re in, and upstairs it’s just as bad. There isn’t even a bed for Mickey and me!”
“Yes, we heard that. So we thought—”
“But everything’s going to be all right, now that the piano’s here.”
Night-club singers have been known to lean against a piano or even sit on it. But to sleep on it? Jayne caught my bewilderment and laughed. “If the piano’s here, that means the rest of the furniture must be about ready.”
It still sounded a trifle phony. “I know the furniture from your old house wouldn’t fill this place, but couldn’t you have used it, just temporarily?”
The blond hair swirled gently as Jayne shook her head. “I sold the house furnished. The man who bought it insisted on that—especially the bed. He even wanted me to leave a lock of my hair tacked to the wall, she giggled. “So I asked Mickey’s permission, and he thought it was just as funny as I thought it was, and I did. Anyhow, we didn’t want to keep any of the furniture. We’re having everything new, everything custom-made.”
It was my turn to shake my head. “Jayne, you have just killed a great idea. And here we were feeling so sorry for you two.” I explained all about the big campaign to help furnish the Hargitays’ house.
“Ooh, but that’s terrific!” Jayne shrieked “I bet we’d have picked up some real gassers. I’m almost sorry we’ve already—No. I’m not sorry about anything that’s going to be in this house. We’ve thought about it and talked and planned for all these months.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I can just see it.” Slowly, she opened her eyes wide. “By Christmastime it’s all going to be perfect. And that’s important, because Christmas is special It will be my first as Mickey s wife. It will be our baby’s first.
“Christmas morning—I don’t care if it’s 110 degrees outside—we’ll have a fire going over there.” She was looking at the walk-in-size fireplace. “Jayne Marie and Mickey will be opening their presents. So will my mother and stepfather—they’re coming in from Dallas for the holidays. Over here we’ll have a big wreath.”
Jayne was standing beside the vast picture window that framed the downward-sloping lawn. Flanking it were two niches, with a stone statue in each. “At least, we had these statues to start out with Aren’t they beautiful? We bought them in Europe, after I’d finished making ‘The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.’ Imagine that—going abroad to make a western! The craziest things happen to me! So here we had these statues, and I thought—it would sort of go with—we’d have a lavender marble fountain put in, right near the window. Oh, come on—I’ve got to show you everything!”
Across the living room she went, past the scattered samples of wallpaper, color charts oi various paints, swatches of carpeting and drapery fabric, lengths of wood for paneling. Trotting after her. I found her enthusiasm catching.
“This,” Jayne announced, opening a door, “is going to be the ladies’ powder room—pink chairs, antique mirrors all around, with a pinkish cast. Am I glad that piano’s here! I really need it—I’ve had to use a compact to put on my makeup for ages.”
Must be a very unusual piano, I thought ‘You see,” Jayne chattered on, “none of the mirrors have been installed in the house yet, not even in the bathrooms.
“There’re ten bathrooms—or is it eleven? We keep counting them over, and it keeps coming out different. Anyhow, we’ve had to wait for the mirrors because we’re having special pink ones made. But the piano—all white and gold—has a gold antique mirror on the top. See?”
“Uh-huh.” Simple, I thought. Next time I want to powder my nose, I’ll go to a piano store and buy a Steinway.
Now here’s the men’s powder room. It’ll look like an old tavern when it’s finished—rippled ebony paneling and red leather on the walls. And here’s Mickey’s den—and here’s Mickey. Hi, darling.”
We’d reached the source of the hammering Supervised by Jayne’s husky husband, two men were working on the same type of paneling to be used in the room next door. “This is going to be my office, too,” Mickey said, “headquarters for Hargitay Health products.”
Mickey’s a real businessman,” Jayne said proudly as she pulled me along on the conducted tour. “And he used to be a carpenter, too, so everything’s got to be done just right. That’s one reason why we moved into the house as soon as we got back from Europe, without waiting for the furniture. We’ve had a whole new heating system put in, and an inter-com and a hi-fi system. Right here we’re going to have another statue from Europe with a leather-covered bench around it.”
I was back in the main foyer, but I had no time to stop and imagine the statue in place. Jayne was opening another door. “Here’s the dining room. In that corner there’ll be a big cupboard. Mickey’s building it himself. And we’ll have a marble-top table big enough for thirty or forty people. I hope we can have just mobs of our friends around during the holidays. Now upstairs!”
Considering her eight-month condition, Jayne seemed to be setting a pretty fast pace up the steps, but she sighed, “Right now I wish the elevator was in. We’re having a well cut through all three floors for it. That will have to go!” “That” was a heavy Spanish chandelier suspended in the center of the huge stairwell. “We’ve ordered the most beautiful new chandelier—all crystal—absolutely brilliant!”
Peering through the next doorway that Jayne led me to, I felt suddenly disillusioned. For there, in an otherwise empty room, was a large object that was unmistakably a bed—nice, comfortable one. too—neatly made-up. Had those newspaper stories been partly a publicity gag, after all?
A few seconds later, I was ashamed of my suspicions. “Jayne Marie’s room,” said Jayne Marie’s mother. “We couldn’t have her sleeping on a mattress on the floor, like Mickey and me. But this bed isn’t finished. It’s going to have a wide headboard, so Jayne Marie can spread out her collection of dolls. She has some new ones, that we bought in Europe. And she has some old ones, that were mine when I was a little girl.”
Standing in the doorway, Jayne tilted her head back against the doorjamb, her eyes dreaming into the past. “When I was her age—just past eight—I used to imagine living in a place like this—the way it’s going to look when it’s finished, I mean. I always thought of Hollywood as my real home, do you know that? Even years before I came here.”
Somehow, that confidence cast a new light on the fabulous house and all its wonders-to-be; the pink, fur-like covering for the bathroom walls; the limestone walls (genuine fossils embedded in them) and the white carpeting for the second non-business den, hideaway for Jayne and Mickey. Seen through the eyes of a day-dreaming child, it all looked wonderful, with a certain endearing innocence. Of course, I knew Jayne Mansfield was no eight-year-old now; she was the girl who had boldly courted the press, shrewdly played the dumb-blonde role to the hilt for publicity’s sake, tirelessly gone after the sort of life she wanted. But how fine to have kept that child’s eagerness through it all! Here was no “Fame is such a bore” or “Money means nothing” line. Here was refreshing, honest enjoyment.
Something warmer filled the house, too—tender affection. Jayne had crossed the room, and she was holding a floppy-eared, pink and red stuffed rabbit. “This is Jayne Marie’s favorite, so the room’s going to be done to match it. The whole thing’s going to be little-girlish, not sophisticated—the way Jayne Marie likes it, not the way I’d like it. After all, it’s her room. Now, there’s no use showing you the nursery, because it’s not even started. We don’t know whether the baby’s going to be Miklos—after Mickey—or Camille Yvonne. So we’re playing it safe, doing the nursery in pink, blue, lavender and yellow. That takes care of the future, too—we’d like at least five more children.”
We were idling down the stairs. The sound of hammering had stopped, and Jayne was walking lightly, cautioning me to do the same. “Little Jayne’s down in the kitchen. She’s home from school today with a cold, and she’s making lunch for Mickey. Everybody has to be terribly quiet when she’s creating a new dish, so it won’t fall. She had a terrible experience with her first try at a cake, and she hasn’t gotten over it yet.”
The kitchen, at least, was close to completion—fully electric, with all the equipment in shades of pink and turquoise. It was now the setting for one of the strangest, funniest, most touching scenes I’ve ever encountered. At the stove was little Jayne, fork in hand, looking very expert. Seated at the table, waiting patiently, were little Jayne’s stepfather and the lady who had met me at the door. She and Mickey were chatting in the same language I’d heard before, so I gathered it must be his native tongue. When we were introduced, I was told that she was half of a Hungarian couple hired to take charge of the housekeeping.
Announcing that luncheon was about to be served, Jayne Marie graciously invited me to join the family in a meal consisting of string bean, peas, carrots, spinach and broccoli.
“Little Jayne’s on a frozen-food kick this week,” big Jayne said as she tackled her mound of mountain greenery. “Guess today is vegetable day.”
Under Jayne Marie’s proud and watchful eye, everybody ate with convincing gusto, though I almost choked on a moundful of broccoli when I spotted a large, sinister, dark hole gaping in one of the walls. “What’s that?”
“It’s going to be an aquarium,” Jayne said, getting up to switch on a light inside the uninhabited cavern. “Pretty mad, huh? Mickey, what do you say we stock it with trout? Out of the aquarium into the frying pan—fishing on Sunset Boulevard!”
It wasn’t just the enthusiasm that was catching—it was the whole crazy, zingy, daffy routine. The sudden appearance of a workman greeted as “Archie” was hardly surprising; the problem he presented began to sound like part of a perfectly normal home-decorating job. “Hey Jayne, how about those champagne baths you’re always taking? I got an idea. Suppose I build a special cabinet right next to the tub, to keep the bottles in. You’ll have the stuff handy when you want it, and when you’re finished with ’em you can put ’em away there. That way, you won’t have any empties cluttering up the bath mat. Okay?”
He disappeared without waiting for an answer. When his words finally sank in, I asked the laughing Jayne, “Is he really going to do it?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him. Sometimes I think it’s all getting out of hand, but I guess having a house redecorated right around you is always kind of confusing.”
“Wonderful meal!” Mickey said, and we all joined in complimenting the cook. “Now, Jaynie,” he said, “how about those shelves in your room?”
“Oh yes!” The little girl jumped up, put her hand in her stepfather’s and trailed off after him. “I know just exactly where I want you to build them.”
Toying with the last of the vegetables, big Jayne looked after the two and listened to the receding chatter, the high-pitched young voice and the deep, Hungarian-accented voice. “It’s the best sound in this house,” she said. The voices blended into giggling and chuckling. “Whenever I hear them laughing like that, I want to stop whatever it is I’m doing and join them. But they should have their father-daughter times together, just the way little Jayne and I have our mother-daughter hours. Never can help wondering what the joke is, though.”
Reluctantly, I explained that the taxi I’d ordered for the return trip must be about due, and my hostess went along on the hike to the main foyer (to be lighted by that brilliant crystal chandelier) and to the front door. “I wish there was time to show you the whole place. The downstairs is a shambles. It was a big game room, but we’re doing it all over. There’ll be a small projection room, so we can show movies whenever we want to, and there’ll be sliding doors opening onto the garden. You know, we have two and a half acres, with woods and fish ponds and a darling miniature waterfall. Wonderful place for all our dogs and cats. And it’ll be wonderful for kids, too.”
Jayne sketched a circle on the outside of the front door after she’d opened it. “Right here, there’ll be the biggest Christmas wreath I can find. And in the spring, we’ll have a swimming pool put in—heart- shaped. I’m going to draw the shape myself. None of that professional stuff.”
My head whirling, I walked a few steps away, to get one more look at the whole house, the mansion originally built by Rudy Vallee back in the days when he was king of the crooners. Nice to know that it was a last refuge for gay, unabashed Hollywood glamour. But maybe I should have some solid statistics. “How many rooms, Jayne?”
“Why, I’ve never added them up. Do you count bathrooms?”
I asked a passing workman the same question, and he seemed equally puzzled. “I couldn’t honestly say, miss. I’ve been working here two weeks, and I run into something new every day. I hope it’s a long job, though.”
“Oh, nooo!” Jayne begged.
“I mean,” he grinned, “it’s gotten so I almost hate to go home nights. Every place else seems kinda dull after being around you people.”
Frankly pleased, Jayne grinned back at him. I found myself smiling, then heard the sound of a car approaching and turned to find my taxi.
“Come back around the holidays,” Jayne said. “You’ll want to see the baby. And you won’t recognize this place. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you—we’re having the whole outside painted pink!”
I waved through the window as the taxi started around the curve of the drive. Standing in the doorway, Jayne waved back, and I could almost see a slimmer figure, hand raised in welcome, silhouetted against the light streaming from a house full of guests—and furniture. Our help-the-Hargitays campaign had backfired; maybe my story had fizzled; but I’d met some nice people and had a wonderful time. I’d take Jayne up on that invitation. (Would there really be a cabinet for pink champagne in the bathroom?)
SEE JAYNE IN 20TH’S “THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1959