Picks and Pans Review: Playing the Field

updated 12/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Mamie Van Doren, with Art Aveilhe

As a torrid tart in such '50s flicks as Vice Raid and Girls Town, Mamie Van Doren wasn't much of an actress. Instead she found stardom of sorts as a flashy glamour goddess. With her platinum do and her bullet bra, Mamie was a bosomy bombshell who, with Jayne Mansfield, tried to rival Marilyn Monroe for steamy seductiveness. In these glossy reminiscences Mamie wisely downplays her film career. (What can you really say about Sex Kittens Go to College—except thank you.) Instead she does what she always has done best: titillate. Many of her anecdotes center on the famous men who have wanted to win her. Some failed, like Warren Beatty, who phoned to say he was sunbathing nude then tried to seduce her by bragging of his sexual prowess. According to Mamie, Johnny Carson paid a visit to her hotel room following her appearance on The Tonight Show and came on with a "You don't have to worry. I've had a vasectomy." She also reveals that Henry Kissinger, who played footsie with her at a White House dinner, later took her on a tour of his town house, only to watch her flee from his boudoir after one whiff of his dirty socks. Others, like Joe Namath, succeeded. As did Steve McQueen, with whom she dropped acid in the '60s. (She says the two had sex while tripping out on Jean Harlow's old bed.) This autobiography is at its best when the tidbits are truly trashy because, let's face it, that's Mamie's appeal. There is nothing really ennobling here, but for those fixated on '50s movie queens and lore, there is some fun. And when Mamie recounts her last meetings with Marilyn (who was tipsy, broken and dining alone) and Jayne (who was inebriated and cooing to the Chihuahua she kept inside her ample décolletage), she achieves something more. Mamie turns the tawdry into something touching. (Putnam, $18.95)

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