When the film Vixen! hit theaters in 1968, it scandalized a nation.
Telling the story of the oversexed Vixen (played by the volcanic Erica Gavin) who sexually manipulates everyone she meets, the film layered taboo on top of taboo, including lesbianism, incest, and racism. The result was a triple whammy: a breakthrough success for director Russ Meyer, the first film to be given an ‘X’ rating for sex scenes, and record box receipts.
Media coverage of ‘Vixen!’ was frenzied, and everyone involved was interviewed, profiled, and photographed.
Everyone… except for one person: Vincene Wallace, the supporting female lead. She disappeared even before the film was released, leaving Russ Meyer apoplectic and a large number of curious and disappointed fans.
In the fifty-five years since then, Vincene has remained silent about ‘Vixen!’, about her life, and about her disappearance.
The interviews that accompanied your photos in magazines in the 1960s have all sorts of information about your background, such as the suggestion that your family migrated from Vancouver, Canada to Northern California…
No, that’s bullshit. Those interviews were largely fiction [laughs].
My family migrated to California from Texas. My dad was born in Arkansas; mom in Oklahoma. But that’s not where they met. They got together in Seattle, WA because dad was in the Army there during the war years.
My mother had already been married to someone else and had two sons with him. Her first husband was in the military and got sent to Seattle, so mom followed him. Then he abandoned her, so she was stuck with the two little boys.
Shortly after, she met my dad, who already had five kids from his first wife in Texas, and they got married in El Paso. And from there, they went to live in Southern California.
So when you were born you already had seven step-siblings…?
Yes – and then they had me and my baby brother as well. So that makes nine kids in total.
Did you get along with them?
My dad’s five were all older than me. They stayed in Texas with their mom when we moved to California. Most of them were pretty red-necked and bigoted. Not my kind of people.
Where were you born?
I was born in Hemet, California in the San Jacinto Valley, a couple of hours east of Los Angeles; south of San Bernardino. My parents settled there.
Who was living in your home when you were born?
I just had my two half-brothers from my mom, and later my one baby brother. I grew up in a house full of boys. I was a tomboy.
In another article from the 1960s, it says “Vincene likes the outdoors. She rides horses, she surfs, she does water skiing, and she plays golf.” Is any of that true?
[laughter] Well, I tried water skiing once. The family would go out to Colorado River where we had a ski boat. And I tried to learn how to snow ski, but I never got really good at it [laughs]. As for riding horses… well, yeah. I rode a horse or two [laughter]. Mainly on church outings though.
Was it a happy childhood?
Life with mom was pretty happy. But the dad part of it was horrible.
What was the problem with him?
He was… he was a typical Texan [laughter]. A loudmouth, braggart, lots of yelling, verbal abuse.
There was sexual abuse too.
Was that of you?
Yeah. And also with his two daughters from the first wife.
So… that was no fun.
Was your mom aware that there was abuse going on?
I told her on several occasions, and sometimes she left him. But she always came back.
How did you father treat your mother?
He didn’t want her to work, so she was a stay-at-home mom with four kids. He damaged her confidence so bad that she didn’t feel she had any skills. He told her, “You’re just a dumb broad. You don’t know nothing.” Somehow, she just stayed with him, but her life was unfulfilled.
He wouldn’t let her handle finances either. He wasn’t good with money. And we ended up losing a house because of that. They came and took the carpet off the floor and repo-ed multiple cars from us too.
So, all in all, it was just a bed of roses [laughter].
So your mom never successfully left him?
Like I said, she left many times, but she never took me and my brother.
Then finally she said she was leaving for good and that time, she took me and my little brother with her. She’d planned it for months, saving up money, stockpiling things she could escape with. And she got a boyfriend who helped her.
I was 15 at the time. I’d already excommunicated my father from my mind and my life. By that time, he’d stopped trying to fool around with me. Probably ’cause he was afraid I’d get pregnant.
I was so glad we left him. I was in heaven.
Her new boyfriend put us in an apartment, bought my mom a car, and took care of her. And two months later, after talking to her family and friends, they all convinced her to move back to her abusive husband.
That was the worst day of my life.
So you all moved back under his roof again?
What were you like as a teenager?
I wish I’d have had more self-confidence because I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem. The was the result of living with my dad. But I was a straight A student, and never not got into trouble at school – unlike my older brothers. I was a good girl. Just lacking confidence. I regret that I didn’t have the strength to stand up to him. I could’ve gone to live with my two older brothers who were married and had young kids. But I just didn’t have the wherewithal back then. So I stayed.
You were young though. Fifteen is still young.
What did your father do for a living?
He only had an eighth-grade education, and then spent a short time in the military.
He got a job as an electrician with McDonnell Douglas Aircraft which became Boeing, doing the cockpit instrumentation. They wanted him to go back to school to advance his career, but that hurt his pride because he said he knew more than those guys that he was working for. Eventually he left Boeing, and started working for himself as a contractor.
That’s when he lost everything. Like I say, he wasn’t good with the finances.
Where did you live during this time?
All over… we lived in Paramount, we lived in Norwalk… we lived in Buena Park until he lost that house. But then they moved to the Anaheim apartments, and that’s where I lived until I moved out.
What did you like doing when you were a teenager?
I liked performing. In eighth grade, I tried out for a little skit, and I got voted for the lead by the class.
In the ninth grade, I took drama and played the lead in ‘The Importance of being Ernest’ [chuckle]. I enjoyed that, and I probably should’ve pursued more drama in high school.
Didn’t you also dance from a young age?
I loved to dance. I was enrolled in a dance class once, but after my baby brother was born my parents had to cut back.
That’s the one good thing I can say about my dad. He was a great dancer. He and mom took evening dance classes and they’d learn the Boogie-Woogie, Texas Swing, Waltzes, Foxtrot and Cha-Cha. And I’d pick it up by watching them. I got his dancing genes.
I also took baton lessons and marched in the parade in Buena Park. In high school, I got on the drill team, and that was the biggest thrill of my life.
I marched, I danced, I escaped.
Did you date?
I only had one boyfriend and one really good girlfriend in high school. I didn’t have many friends. Perhaps because of the damage that my father did.
My one boyfriend was a true boyfriend. We went steady for a couple of years. He was one year older, Hispanic, which my dad didn’t like, of course [laughter] and real short. My dad was 6’2″ and he didn’t like short men. And my boyfriend was only 5’6”.
What happened to that boyfriend?
In my senior year, he got in trouble with the law trying to steal some tires. When I saw him do that, it was the last straw, and so I just said, “Adios.”
Were you close to your mom because you were both suffering in a similar way?
Yeah, she and I were best friends. I could talk to her about anything. She was understanding and sympathetic with what I had to deal with. But she had her own problems.
Why do you think she had so much difficulty in leaving your father?
It was a different era. It was the ’50s and she was worried about the shame.
Plus she didn’t think she could survive without him. Eventually she started working at McDonnell Douglas which helped to make sure the bills were paid. But she still didn’t have the confidence to leave until my baby brother graduated from high school.
The minute he graduated, she just disappeared. She took her stuff and moved into a single wide in a mobile park. Never looked back.
She went on to have many boyfriends, and parlayed that single wide mobile to a double wide, then a house, then a duplex, and finally a six-plex with a landlord unit above the garage. She retired from Douglas because she was making better money on her rentals!
And then she got my dad’s social security when he died, ’cause she’d been married to him for 20 years.
Who says life doesn’t have happy endings?
Did you graduate high school?
Oh yes, I graduated with honors.
What did you do next?
I always enjoyed doing hair. My dream then was to be a hairdresser to the movie stars.
I had big hair. In the morning, I’d spend an hour doing my hair before going across the pool patio to my best friend’s house, where I’d do her hair and then her mother’s hair. Then I’d come back and do my mom’s hair. And all of this… before I went to school in the morning!
So naturally, I won a scholarship to the Orange County Beauty School.
Were you still living at home?
Yes, I wasn’t happy living there, but I made sure I was rarely home.
I had a part-time job as a car hop at nights. It was at the original Carl’s restaurant in Buellton, CA. It was a fully-fledged restaurant with car hop service in the back. I did the outdoor stuff taking the drinks and food to all the cars [laughter].
You were busy…
Yes, and I was getting a little burned out.
Then I met this man named Samuel Wallace, who went by the name ‘Wally.’ Wally came to the carhop one day. He’d transferred out to Los Angeles from New York with a record company, and he’d opened a record store along the walkway in Santa Monica.
I liked him. He was 12 years older than me. Into music, mainly jazz, classical, and the rock and folk that was popular in the 1960s. He taught me a lot and introduced me to a lot of great music.
And he was funny too. His banter would just keep me laughing. He could have been a comedian. We clicked instantly.
How did your relationship progress?
We decided to live together, which back in the ’60s was still unusual. It embarrassed my mom. She wasn’t happy about me living with a hippie in Venice and dropping out of my beauty school. But I couldn’t live in Venice and drive all that distance back to Orange County five days a week. I didn’t have a reliable vehicle.
So you were a real beauty school dropout?
Yeah. I had 1,000 hours, but you needed 1,600 to graduate back then. So I never went back.
I worked as a waitress in Venice instead. Venice was great: back then it was just a normal beach with people roller-skating up and down, and an outdoor gym area for the muscle men.
And Wally worked at the record store?
No – the music store fired him! And being the hippie that he was, he didn’t want a corporate job. So I had to be the main provider.
One day he saw an ad in the Free Press for modeling. That was for a man named Stan Grossman.
I went and met with Stan. Stan said he knew all of the photographers in town. He said he’d introduce me to them, and he’d also teach me a few of the moves that models in nude and girlie magazines use to look their best. In return, I’d do a modeling session for him.
So I signed up.
Would Stan shoot in a studio or outside?
No, Stan just did a studio setting.
What other photographers did he introduce you to?
My favorite one was Ralph Hampton.
Nippy Phillips was another. I loved him. Oh, my God. Nippy was a sweetheart of a person. I enjoyed just working with him.
Did you work for any amateur photographers?
Yes, Ralph introduced me to a gentleman named Jack Laydon. Jack was from Chicago; he’d come out to California once a year and Ralph would introduce him to models. Jack’s photography was strictly amateur for competitions.
Jack won many contests – and he won a lot of them with my photographs. Jack would take me out to the Red Rock Canyon, and we’d do shots on the open rocks where I’d get naked and sun-burnt [laughter].
I presume you did your own makeup and hair for these shoots?
Oh yeah, for all of them!
Did you have any bad experiences with photographers?
There was one guy, he was huge, and he was known as Mr. Five by Five.
He’d take you to an apartment or a home to do a shoot. Then he’d tell you to get in the shower, and he’d take pictures while we’re showering and drying off. And then he’d hand you some baby oil, and he asked if he could rub it in [laughter]. At this point, he’d suggest that you lay down on the bed where he would put the baby oil on your backside. Then he’d pull out a vibrator. And that’s when I said, “Woah! I think that’s enough! I’m outta here.”
He was all apologetic, and said, “Oh, okay. I’ll put it away. Let’s just finish, and we’ll be done soon.”
He did that with all the models! So we warned the other girls ahead of time: “When he starts talking about the shower and the baby oil, you know what’s coming!”
Maybe some of the girls made a little extra money on the side. I don’t know. I didn’t wanna know.
Did you shoot for nudist camp magazines?
Yes, those were the only magazines where you could be totally nude.
There was one photographer who did a lot of shoots for the nudist magazines. This man took Wally and I to a nudist camp where we posed for a shoot. That was down in San Diego.
Did you ever pass by a news-stand and see yourself on the cover of any of the magazines?
No. Back then in California they had to be concealed in a brown paper wrapper. They couldn’t show the covers on the news-stands. I never knew what magazines my pictures were sold to so I never saw them.
How much would you get for modeling?
Usually it was $100 for a day… which was for six to eight hours work. Much more than a waitress earned back then.
But then Wally and I decided to start a modeling agency of our own, called Living Arts.
How would that work?
I would drive down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards in my beat up ‘52 Chevy pickup. And I would pick up female hitchhikers!
For modeling jobs?
To talk them into modeling. And I got some of the best modeling girls ever. Like Antoinette Maynard. She was gorgeous. I met her by picking her up on the Boulevard and just asking her to be a model. She hadn’t done anything before I picked her up. Her mother was a professional ballerina and Antoinette studied ballet too, which is why she had such graceful moves for the photographers.
Ralph Hampton raved about her. He said, “I sold every single slide of her. I’ve never had a shoot where I sold every single slide!”
He told me about one shoot where she went just crazy with a water hose out in the garden. She just kept playing, and he just kept clicking [laughter].
Did you have many girls on your books?
Did your agency make money?
Yeah, we got a 10% finder’s fee for each booking. And people were honest in those days too. There was one guy who would use some of our girls, and he would use them again and again. After the first time, he wouldn’t call us, but he’d still send us our commission. We didn’t even know that he’d used the girls more than once, but he just automatically sent us our commission each time.
Did that mean that you didn’t need to do as much modeling yourself, ’cause you were finding girls for jobs…
Oh no, I still modeled too, because I got paid a $100 a day [chuckle].
I seemed to be popular – at least until I became over-exposed and appeared everywhere. Maybe it was my red hair. I was a true redhead. I have Scottish/English heritage. I got the freckles to prove it too!
What was Wally doing for work?
He ran our agency basically. His nephew lived with us and he helped at the agency too.
Did you have any problem posing nude? Because nude photographs in magazines were quite new then.
Nah, I’d gotten used to it because our Venice household was a hippie household, very free-form. Nobody needed to dress up. Wally and I lived with his brother, his brother’s wife, this nephew, two men…
Who did you hang out with socially?
Stan Grossman introduced us to William Rotsler. Rotsler was a writer, photographer, filmmaker – very prolific on the scene in L.A. in the late 1960s. We hung out with him and his roommate/photography partner, Paul Turner, and Paul’s wife Dorothy, and some of the models like Antoinette Maynard. We were all tight for a while.
Wally and I would go and visit Rotsler’s backyard in Laurel Canyon on Hollyridge Drive. That was also a free for all [laughter]. Nobody wore anything. We swam in the swimming pool, sunbathed, listened to music, and smoked pot – all nude. I remember the mailman coming to deliver the mail, and he had to walk through the yard past all this craziness. He was just used to it.
Years later, I ran into Paul’s wife Dorothy again while I was working in Alaska in a topless bar. She was in there with her boyfriend and she called me over. She was living up there with her new boyfriend.
3. Movies… and Dancing
When did you start dancing?
You couldn’t do topless dancing in California until you were 21 – which was strange because I could be naked in magazines at the age of 18, but I couldn’t even buy them till I was 21. So the dancing only started after I hit 21. Well, actually I was 20, but don’t tell anyone.
And you also started appearing in films after you’d been a model for a while.
It was Bill who introduced me to all the filmmakers. I was the lead in A Sweet Sickness (1968). The was one of the first.
After a while you hear about the films and the auditions through the grapevine. I enjoyed the acting. I wasn’t very good at it, but I enjoyed it [chuckle].
Vincene, in the newspaper ad for Ecstasies of Women (1969)
Which of your films stand out during this period?
It’s strange. There’s very few of them I remember ’cause you didn’t ever get told what they’re gonna name it.
I remember A Taste of Hot Lead (1969) which was one of Rotsler’s films. It was busted later for being obscene in Texas.
Years ago, I used to watch Sesame Street religiously every day. And I remember that Sesame Street once got banned in Alabama ‘cause of the interracial connection – so me and Sesame Street were both in good company.
You were in a couple of costume sex films, ‘The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet’ (1969) and Pinocchio (1971). Do you remember them?
Yes, I was in supporting roles. I was always the bridesmaid, and never the bride! Dyanne Thorne was the Fairy Godmother. She was hilarious. She was so good.
My nephew was in Romeo and Juliet too. He’s in the scene falling backwards off the balcony. In that scene a little bit of his penis shows as he goes over the back of the railing – which wasn’t allowed.
And you enjoyed making the films?
Of course! Basically those films were a chance to hang out with friends – many from my modeling career. People like Antoinette Maynard.
Antoinette was the first person I ever had a threesome with. Off camera, I should add! [laughs]. It was me, her and Mitch Evans. Mitch was Rita Hayworth’s nephew and he was Rotsler’s partner. He and Rotsler made all those great sets on these films. Mitch and Antoinette hooked up for a while, and I had a threesome with them.
Were you ever asked to make any hardcore loops in the late 1960s?
The film industry was just simulated sex scenes then. But they’d started making little beaver loops – short 8mm films with explicit sex. I did a few by myself on a bed, nude, acting sexy and rolling around rubbing myself.
That’s as far as I got.
Did you ever go see any of your movies when they came out in the theaters?
I just made them and forgot about them. To this day, I’ve never seen any of them…
How did you get the part in ‘Vixen!’?
Wally had been an art student in high school, so he was used to drawing pictures of nude models. He said he’d also sketched pictures from Russ Meyer photos. So when I found that Russ lived in Hollywood, I made an appointment to meet him.
I went to his house and asked to model for him. He said, “I’m not doing still photography anymore. I’m only doing movies. But I do have a movie coming up. Would you like to audition?”
I said, “Sure.”
Had you ever seen any of his movies before you met him?
I’d never seen any of his movies. I had no idea how famous he was.
Do you remember the audition process?
He just had me read for him. Well, and he had me get naked for him too [laughter]. And then we went swimming in his pool together.
When we came out, he said, “I’m gonna give you the part, but not as the Vixen. I want you to be Janet King.”
Once again, I was bridesmaid but never the bride [laughs].
What was he like? How would you describe him as a person?
Oh, [laughter] He was gruff. Rugged and manly. [laughter] He’d like to have been more manly but he wasn’t.
What do you remember about the shoot?
Russ was adamant about his cast members not hooking up. That was a golden rule.
So when he found out that his right-hand man, George Costello, was having a relationship with Erica Gavin, he wasn’t happy. George had been working with Russ for many years, but Russ fired him. I don’t think he ever let George back in.
Where was ‘Vixen!’ shot’?
Guerneville, California, in Humboldt County where all the pot was grown. [laughter]
How did you get there? Did you fly there?
I flew to San Francisco. Then I had to catch a bus to Guerneville. And George Costello came and picked me up and took me to wherever the offsite location was. It was very rural. Erica Gavin and I both got poison oak rash during the shoot.
What were the living arrangements?
We stayed in the cabin which featured in the movie. It was a two-bedroom cottage. They just moved the furniture around for the shoot. In fact, the bed where I slept at night was the bed used for all the sex scenes. Erica had a private bedroom because she was the star. I didn’t care. I wasn’t jealous of her. She was very sweet. She brought some hash and shared it with me. We went into her bedroom, shut the door, and smoked it together.
And the guys all slept in a camper outside. Except for Russ and George: they slept in the other bedroom in the cottage.
Was there much of a crew?
Hardly anyone. Before the shoot, Russ Meyer sent me to Max Factor [laughter]. They did my makeup, and I watched and learned everything they did. And then they gave me all the makeup that I used in the movie.
I also bought my own wardrobe for the movie, even though I didn’t have any budget to spend [laughter].
Was Russ happy with your performance?
Well… I thought I did a lousy job. I didn’t emote well enough. I was pretty one-tone, I thought [laughter].
The one part that made Russ frustrated was when I had to act drunk. I’m supposed to get up off the bed in a drunken stupor. The problem was that I’d never been drunk in my life at that point. I didn’t even drink. Never even been tipsy. All I’d ever done was smoke pot and maybe have a strawberry daiquiri once. So I didn’t know how to play drunk. And Russ was frustrated, and he was remonstrating. He finally just gave up and took whatever he could. Maybe I should’ve said, “Hey, get me drunk and I’ll do a better job.”
But I also really pleased him on another occasion. It was when I’m trying to make it with my husband, and I was all pouty and pissy. And I turned towards the camera with tears in my eyes, and then Russ lost it. He said there was lint on the lens, and they missed the shot. He got so pissed at the camera crew. He chewed them up, and then asked me, “Do you think you can recreate that? You were so good!”
I said, “I can try” [laughter]. And I did it again. I cried real tears. So he was super happy about that.
I guess I could cry on cue, but I couldn’t play drunk. Go figure…
How about your legendary love scene with Erica?
The scene with Erica was scandalous because it was so hot. It was between two women, and people weren’t used to seeing that! Everyone was up in arms. But remember the movie ‘The Fox’ (1967) that had just come out? That’s where Russ Meyer came up with the name ‘Vixen!’ ‘The Fox’ had a semi-bisexual relationship between the two women… but we did a lot more than they did.
How did you feel about the scene?
To be honest, I actually found it much more enjoyable than a love scene with man. Men were men, rough and rugged, not sensual. The women were soft, gentle, and more erotic. I just enjoyed it.
Erica and I did some practicing before it got to where Russ was satisfied. And she was unique in that scene. I don’t know if it was all acting or if it was that she was actually finding it a turn-on. It’s just a feeling I got. I really don’t know ‘cause I didn’t know her that well.
Let’s just say if she was acting… it was really good acting.
5. Vincene – After Vixen!
What happened after ‘Vixen!’ was released?
By then, I’d got out. I left L.A. I moved to Orlando, Florida with Wally.
The timing was surprising because you were expected to take part in all the ‘Vixen!’ publicity hoopla.
I know… ‘Vixen!’ was about to come out and I hit the road. I pissed off Russ ’cause I wasn’t there for any of the previews or interviews or anything. He didn’t even know I’d left town or where I went. I was so bad.
There was all this excitement around the release of the movie, but I wasn’t there to help promote it.
Why did you get out of Los Angeles?
Just too much hustle and bustle.
Why did you go to Orlando?
Our original destination was not Orlando. We just stopped there to see some of his family and we stayed for a few years.
What did you do there?
I danced. In Orlando, you only had to be 18 to dance topless. So I started dancing at a place called Club Juana. Back then, the clubs were top notch. There was a live band, dance floor, full bar, half a dozen go-go dancers, one star dancer stripper, and a comic.
Did it pay well?
No! There would be two shows a night, and the dancers like me would dance for eight hours, off and on, and only get paid a buck and a quarter per hour [laughter].
I watched the star stripper do two shows a night – and she was getting $400 a week. So I thought, I can do that.
I started talking to the strippers to find out what they did, how they did it, and where they did it. And one of them told me to get an agent down in Miami. So I went down there and I told him, “I wanna be a stripper.”
I didn’t even mention my Vixen credit. I guess I should have, but it didn’t occur to me.
He booked me into a burlesque theater in North Miami Beach. It was four shows a day, seven days a week, and I only had one outfit – which was my wedding gown, which was pink. And a lace cape that I had made by a friend for the wedding. That was my first strip gown!
And this time, you earned good money?
Yeah. It started out at $200 a week, which was much more than I was making as a go-go dancer. And once they saw that I had the goods… [laughter], I got more.
I could dance and I liked dancing, so it was great.
Six months later, I got to go back to Club Juana… but this time as the star. That felt good. I was glad to see some of my old friends and to be able to stay closer to home. And get paid good money at last!
How long did you strip down in Miami?
Just for a couple of weeks. By 1971, the agent booked me all over the South and Southeast. His territory for bookings stretched across Alabama, Georgia, Myrtle Beach, and all over Florida. That was his domain. But then I wanted to go North, so he farmed me out to an agent that covered the Northeast. Places like Philly and New York.
I traveled all over the place with my act.
Did Wally travel with you?
Yes. He was sort of my manager. He could have done a better job too, but… oh well.
What was that life like? Was it tough going from place to place all the time?
Oh no, it was very enjoyable. I could live out of a suitcase forever. I loved traveling, going to new towns, trying new food, meeting new people.
I did that for years.
What was your name on the road when they billed you?
‘Vincene Rose: The Long-Stemmed All-American Rose.’ That was my name.
Cradduck had been my maiden name. Wallace was my married name. And now I was Vincene Rose.
Can you describe your stage act?
I dressed in kind of shabby chic with long pearls. I had a good body and it’s all mine. From time to time, I got accused of having silicone, and I said, “Honey, that’s the best compliment you can give me, ’cause these are God-made. Everything is real.”
One of the first songs I ever danced to was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the whole 17 minutes of it. I appealed to all the hippies in the crowd [laughter].
I noticed that ads for your stripping act started billing you as the star of ‘Vixen!’.
Yes, I did let the clubs know that I had been in the movie. For example, they played ‘Vixen!’ in Macon, Georgia, where it ran nine showings a day for a year, seven days a week. I remember working in a beautiful club there: normally I went to a club for a few days, but now they booked me for two weeks because of the success of the movie. And after I’d get off stage to leave, customers would line up for my autograph.
Same thing in Chicago. My agent called me and said that a theater in Chicago had been showing ‘Vixen!’ for over a year. Non-stop. They wanted me to travel there for an in-person appearance, not even to strip. Just talk to the audience, answer questions, and sign autographs in the front lobby. I got paid very well for that.
When I was there, I was invited to the Playboy Mansion, and got to meet Hugh Hefner and Barbie, and people like Shel Silverstein. Barbie was a sweetheart. She was sweet and gentle, and always looked gorgeous. That was a great experience, but I never heard from Hugh again after that. Maybe I wasn’t his type. Once again, always the bridesmaid, never the bride…
Did you ever get recognized after ‘Vixen!’ came out?
Yes! I ended up in New Orleans one day, and Wally and I were wandering through town. I was all natural, no makeup. And some guy comes up to me and says, “I won’t tell anybody. But I know who you are! You’re Janis Joplin, aren’t you?”
I thought that was so funny.
Did you have a favorite place to dance?
So many. Macon, GA was great. They had a nice hotel with a restaurant in the basement called the Cellar, and a cocktail lounge called The Cave. When I appeared at The Cave, they advertised me with a poem in the local paper:
“The critics have foreseen
that Vixen Vincene
must not be unseen.
So come see what they rave:
It’s happening at The Cave.”
Didn’t you have an encounter with a preacher in Macon?
Yes! The Bourbon Street Minister, Bob Harrington. He came from New Orleans, and he went around the nightclubs and the strip joints. He was having a tent revival in Macon when I was appearing there. So he came on and introduced me – and presented me with his album between acts.
So he wasn’t protesting against you for stripping?
Not at all. He just was a minister who did his preaching in the clubs.
I also worked in Toledo for Rose LaRose, the burlesque queen from the 1940s, who was reported to have made $2,500 a week as stripper in her heyday. Her club was the Esquire Theater. She arranged for a showing of one of my movies ‘A Taste of Hot Lead’ (1969) to promote my appearance.
Rose wanted me to wear her gown. It was a beautiful gown but heavy and old-fashioned. I said, “I’ll wear whatever you like: you’re paying me!” When I did a spin on the stage, the gown was so heavy that it kept going and I almost fell over.
The Esquire was a burlesque theater, and all the other girls were bi or gay. They took me to a gay club in between shows and we had a lot of fun. One night they did my makeup and used me a thick black eyeliner and big black eyebrows like you’d never seen! It was very dykey looking [laughs].
How long were you on the road stripping?
Two or three years.
After a while, Wally and I decided to make a base in Seattle. His brother and family had moved up to Seattle, and they loved it, and we were looking to settle down someplace. So we went to Seattle. I took work as a waitress at the Go-Go Club. I was a featured attraction, but I also had a different act that I called my amateur show.
What was that?
People love when they think a stripper isn’t a professional, that she’s just an amateur. I picked up on that. So I did an act where I wore a short, black bob wig – and I pretended to be an amateur.
The announcer would say, “Sadly our star can’t make it tonight. She’s got health issues. But we do have a local girl who says she’d love to be a stripper and wants to entertain you. Would you encourage her up on stage?”
I used the name, ‘Peggy Schaeffer’, and I would get up and pretend to be an amateur stripper. The audience went wild. They loved thinking that it was somebody that wasn’t a professional. And then after two-thirds through my act, they’d start to recognize me because of my body. So then I ripped off the wig, let my hair down. Surprise, surprise!
When I moved to Seattle, there was only one burlesque theater at the time and that was owned by a mobster, the ‘Godfather of Seattle’, Frank Colacurcio. He was a big name.
I told him about my amateur act. He liked the idea so much that he started an amateur night at all his clubs. In reality, he had dancers from his other clubs come in and pretend to be amateurs. Every Tuesday night was amateur night around his clubs. That was a big success. I pretended to be his amateur many times [giggles].
Did you get to know Frank?
Not that well – but he did involve me in a court case once. He got me and another dancer to sue and challenge a Seattle ordinance. We had to say that by not being able to dance topless, the city code was repressing us in what amounted to sexual discrimination.
It was me and another dancer Lynn Bailey – who actually was a transexual: her stage name was Celeste. She started out as a male, but she had female boobs and the downstairs equipment of a male. She worked for Frank Colacurcio as a dancer. A lot of people didn’t even know that she was a male.
Anyway, Frank said he was fighting for his right to have topless dancers. He supported the whole lawsuit, and paid for all of it.
We eventually won, and so we did get to go topless. And, oh my God… Frank’s clubs were just slammed!
Meanwhile how was your relationship with Wally?
Well… we got divorced. A year after we settled in Seattle.
Why did you get divorced from Wally?
It was in ’73, ’74. We had just grown apart. We’d became different people. He’d taught me a lot, but then I became a person that he wasn’t too fond of.
I said, “This is who I am now. I’m not going backwards. You taught me all this stuff. But I am not changing back. I am who I am now.”
I guess I became more confident, powerful, independent, and stronger. He just wanted someone he could take care of. Someone who needed him all the time. Men need that sometimes. But I wasn’t that person anymore.
So we split up.
Did you stay in Seattle after the divorce?
No, I went back to Los Angeles and made another movie! I made something called The Young Secretaries (1974) with Colleen Brennan and Roxanne Brewer. Part of it was shot at the Classic Cat strip club on their stage.
What was it like to return to making films?
The business had changed since the softcore movies I had made in the late 1960s. Now hardcore was commonplace, and the atmosphere was less fun. So that was the last movie I ever did.
I went to worked in Ali Baba’s Restaurant and Lounge on Sunset Strip in Hollywood. I was a cocktail waitress, then a bartender. I also danced at a club on Pico Boulevard in the Hollywood area.
Where did you live in Los Angeles?
I’d had no other place to go, so I stayed with Rotsler again. He was about to leave on a road trip around all the country’s national parks before attending a Science Fiction Writer’s Convention in Toronto where he was the guest of honor. He said if I modeled for him in the parks, he’d pay all my expenses to go with him.
I had nothing better to do – so we went on the road it for seven weeks seeing the parks, taking photosets of me, and going to the convention.
Unfortunately, when we were coming back through Philadelphia, our van got broken into. All the film and our photographs and our clothes and the camera equipment… all gone. It was so sad, there was so much good footage in there.
We went back to New York to buy new cameras and clothing. And then went back to some of the parks to try and recapture what we’d lost.
What did you do after the trip?
When we got back to Los Angeles, I got my own place. Rotsler and I dated for a while, but I wasn’t fully committed. I’d date him but I was also dating others. I wasn’t as in love with him as he was with me. It hurt him: he said it was like I was cutting his tail off a little bit at a time. So I just stopped seeing him because I didn’t want to hurt him… I stopped cutting off his little tail [laughter].
He was quite the ladies’ man anyway. He liked his freedom. But for some reason… he became rather attached to me.
Did you stay in touch with him after that? Or was it difficult to be friends?
No. I did not. Los Angeles didn’t have much left for me. It was a rat race. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. The softcore films and the nude layouts were a thing of the past, so I decided to move back to Seattle.
What did you do there?
I went back to the Go-Go Club where I’d been a waitress, and they gave me a job as a bartender. I bartended there and a couple of other places in Seattle, but for whatever reasons they ended up shutting down.
Then I worked as a bar manager in Eastgate, WA at a restaurant called El Toro, not far from Lake Sammamish State Park.
One day, this guy called Ted showed up in my restaurant, and he stayed there until one at one o’clock in the morning after everyone else in the bar had gone home. He was tall, lean, dark haired, and he drove a beat-up Volkswagen that I saw in the parking lot.
It was just him and me. This guy got weirder and weirder as the night went on. And there was nobody else in the restaurant. I was the closing bartender.
In what way was he weird?
He told me, “My dad’s in the CIA and I know facts that I can’t tell you because if I told you, they’d kill both of us” [laughter].
The next night he was back, and he was just as strange. And he came back the following night too.
When the cocktail waitress left for the night, I told the bar manager that we should follow her home to make sure she got back safely. And sure enough, as soon as she pulled out of the restaurant parking lot, Ted pulled out. We followed them. It was 2:30am in the morning, and it was high speed, running red lights, everything, just us following him following her.
The next day, my boss went up to Ted and told him he wasn’t welcome at the club. He should leave. And that was the last we heard of him….
Until one day, I turned on the TV and saw that a serial killer named Ted Bundy had been arrested near the restaurant. That was the same guy. Scary.
Yikes. What did you decide to do after working at the club?
I decided I wanted to be a stripper and go back on the road again. That was in 1977.
This time by yourself?
Yes! I went back on the road all by myself [chuckle]. I traveled all across the United States. Just me and my Rand McNally Atlas to navigate around. I could go anywhere [chuckle].
And then I had a CB put in my car ’cause CB’s were popular back then, and that gave me a way to contact someone if I had an emergency. That CB was my lifeline, ’cause nowadays you have a cell phone.
What was your CB handle?
‘Wild Irish.’ [laughter] A friend of mine gave me that nickname a long time ago. So I said, “Well, that’s my handle. ‘Wild Irish.’”
What car did you travel in?
At first, I had a little Mazda that I bought in L.A., and then I bought a beautiful Thunderbird Diamond Jubilee [chuckle]. I painted a rose on the side – which was my signature. [chuckle].
I was Vincene Rose!
Did roses form a part of your act?
Yes, I’d take a couple of dozen roses on stage. And then I’d take a single rose, I’d get naughty with it on the floor [chuckle]. I’d do whatever was legal. Just rubbing it all over and putting it in my mouth. Doing whatever I could do with that rose [chuckle]. And then I would kiss it and throw it out to the audience.
Or if I was in a place where I could actually reach somebody, then I’d pick who I was gonna give that rose to. Sometimes I made a good pick [laughter].
Were there different community standards in different locations that you had to know about?
Oh, so many. Every state, every city, had different rules and regulations. In some of them, you had to wear a thong, which was a little bit bigger than a G-string. A thong had a full strip down the middle and wide straps on the side. And then I had to wear pasties. In some places, I could wear a G-string and pasties, whereas in others, I could go totally nude.
I remember working in Boston, in the red-light district area called the Combat Zone. It was so rough and tough that the military weren’t even allowed to visit there. I was the headline act at a place called the Two O’Clock club where you had to wear a G-string and pasties by law. It was illegal to go nude. But the owner told me and the other dancers that he wanted us to go nude.
I said, “I can’t break the law. I can go without pasties because I have pasties that look like nipples, and I could prove it in a court of law that I had them on. But I can’t take off my G-string and defend that in a court of law. You don’t pay me enough money, and I’m not coming back to go to court.”
Straight away, I got demoted from being the headliner to being put at the back of the line with the rest of the girls. I just kept my distance and did my thing. The boss still had to pay me the same amount of money and I didn’t have to go nude. I had a two-week contract but at the end of the first week, the owner canceled my contract. My agent booked me in another club across town called the Teddy Bear Club, which had the sweetest girls.
You must have had your own fans who turned out to see you…
Oh yes. One of the things that I would do in my act is I would cup my hand and I would slap my bare ass. I’d do it in such a way that it didn’t hurt, but it would make a loud noise. And then I just wince a little bit [laughs]. Oh my God. Did the guys like that…
My favorite saying is, “Men’s imagination is my best asset – and I play with it.” In fact, I take it out and I play with their fantasies, their imaginations. To just get them drooling.
What music did you dance to in the late 1970s?
My opening number was Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” That was one of my best dances. I wore a black and red satin cap, lace sleeves, red sequins all over, garter belt, black stockings, and black heels [chuckle].
During your travels, did you ever re-connect with Russ Meyer?
Just one encounter.
I was dancing in Vegas at the Paradise Club. I was just one of the girls, not the main attraction or anything. Suddenly everybody said that Russ Meyer was in the club. So I went out and saw that he was there with his girlfriend, Kitten Natividad. Kitten got up to do her act onstage. She had this big plexiglass bowl with soapy water in it. And she got into that little soapy bowl and had a little playtime in the water. Flashing everywhere. The men just ate it up.
Afterwards I went up to him and I said, “Hello, Russ. Remember me?”
He brushed me off and just walked away.
It was okay [laughter].
You were a single woman on your own traveling around in the car. Did you have any bad experiences on the road?
I had mostly good experiences. I met nice people. I was invited to their homes.
I had one bad encounter in the wonderful city of Miles City, Montana. Population 9,000 [laughter]. There were only two clubs that had topless dancers or strippers. And they had to shut down at 2am. After I finished my act, I got into my car to drive back to my hotel room. I always parked my car somewhere out of sight because it was very identifiable. That’s when I had the Thunderbird, with Washington plates. As I drove back, I noticed someone following me. I took a right and he took a right. I took another right, and he took another right. I end up going down a dirt road, even though I wasn’t that far out of town. And then he started closing in me. So I spun around, sped back downtown, and found a cop. They escorted me back to my room.
That was a close shave.
How long did you stay out on the road?
I did a few more years.
And then I had a bad car accident. Destroyed my Thunderbird. I’d just got it paid off and I didn’t have insurance ’cause… well, I was poor [laughter].
How bad were your injuries?
I had a broken collarbone. And bumps and bruises. I had a concussion and a gash in my head with a few stitches. I spent time in hospital, but after the concussion, my memory was just shot for the longest time.
That was the early ‘80s. It was time to retire from touring.
How did you support yourself after that?
I came back to Seattle and danced in the go-go clubs for a while.
I got a boyfriend who worked at one of the clubs, but he turned abusive. I had to get away from him. And that meant the end of my dancing. I had to hide from him for a while because he started stalking me.
I ended up working at a restaurant, El Torito, in Seattle. I went by my last name, Rose, and hoped he wouldn’t find me. Eventually I found out he died, and I didn’t have to hide anymore.
What have you done since then?
I stayed in the restaurant’s business and did some bartending. And then that’s when I met my second husband.
Eventually I went back to college and finally got my Associate in Arts degree in Business. That allowed me to find work went for a corporation, Amatech Aerospace, as a purchasing officer.
I started going to real estate school. My husband encouraged me and supported me, and so I ended up working in real estate.
Were you happy doing that?
Yes – it was good.
In fact, when I was at Century 21, they had their annual convention with a special guest speaker. I looked at the stage and thought, “Oh my god. It’s Bob Harrington, the minister in strip clubs who I’d met in Macon, Georgia [laughs].
Oh, it’s been interesting going over my life and all my little funny situations. Thank you so much for showing an interest.