(SNN) Like so many clichés, it is actually true that for every happy, aint-show-bidness-grand success story, there are a few thousand unhappy endings in Hollywood. That’s because there is never a shortage of fresh-faced hopefuls wanting to parlay a socko performance in the River Drainage High School presentation of Oklahoma into a career as a movie star.
Of those who fail, the lucky ones survive the experience with their dignity and sanity intact. Some return home to Kansas, marry their high school honey and resume lives of quiet desperation. A few stick around Hollywood and live lives of noisy desperation. Some have early success, fade and don't know when to quit.
A recent TV Guide photo gallery of underdressed stars parading down various Hollywood red carpets reminded me of one spectacular example of a career gone weird. That would be an actress named Edy Williams.
Let me cut to the chase here and hope that the PC police are at a donut shop and not paying attention. See, there is no other way to put it—Edy’s biggest asset when she came to Hollywood was a really nice rack.
Perhaps you’ve seen Edy and her rack on the big screen. If you covered the red carpet arrivals at the Academy Awards in the 80’s and 90’s, you may have seen them up close and personal. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Edy is a little different from the typical wannabe hopeful. She’s actually been in pictures—in epics like I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew, Lady Lust and Hollywood Hot Tubs. Her CV even includes the classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a flick scrivened by the late, legendary film critic Roger Ebert.
Edy was born Edwina Beth Williams in Salt Lake City, and her early acting career-involved roles in non-exploitational fare. In fact she was poised at the edge of stardom for quite a while, but then in 1970 Edy married a legendary filmmaker named Russ Meyer. Russ Meyer was a pioneering soft-core master of, er, titillation.
Edy and Russ divorced in ’75, after her career had taken its turn into the world of erotica. Keep in mind erotica was not porn and would likely receive an “R” rating today.
Still, by 1980, Edy should have realized she’d missed the brass ring, gone back to Salt Lake and lived her life as a footnote. But that’s not Edy.
Her IMDb biography notes that post Meyer, Edy became “a notorious publicity hound who could make even Jayne Mansfield wince a bit.” Edy began to make “annual, eye-catching appearances at Cannes and at the Oscar awards, opting for jaw-dropping ‘bordello chic’ formal wear to get the flashbulbs popping,” IMDb observed.
“Bordello Chic” would be an understatement for one Academy Awards ceremony I covered in the mid 80’s. By then Edy had become a top media-popular sideshow. Well on the north side of Ingénue, Edy had nevertheless retained a more than serviceable figure.
Never nominated, Edy nevertheless figured she was entitled to make the look-at-me perp walk down the red carpet just like actual stars. She’d stop and smile at any media minicam with the shiny side pointed her way. Fellow publicity hog “Mr. Blackwell” helped matters by occasionally singling out her outfits for a “Worst-dressed” honor.
There was something else she did that stars did not. Edy would up the ante at red carpet events by giving most anyone who asked a flash of her superstructure. Who asked? Don’t ask. Many asked.
Cameramen, gregarious and inquisitive by nature, soon became widely aware of her talents and would either urge their reporter to stop her or just fire up the camera and hope for the best. Some claim Edy’s breasts made more appearances at the Academy Awards than Meryl Streep.
For the year in question, she topped even herself. There would be no need to ask her to flash anything. She arrived pre-flashed. Her "dress" was constructed of material thinner than the plot of a spaghetti western. Underwear? Where? Not there. In fact, nowhere to be seen.
The only thing between the camera lens and the Promised Land was a small puppy she'd chosen to bring to the event. I watched as she went down the line with her boy-toy escort and her puppy until she reached The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the awards were being held that year.
Two men in uniforms stopped her at the entrance and after a brief conversation, she left. I was relieved. You can not be nude at the Academy Awards—unless you're a streaker.
I doubted she cared much about seeing the show. It was publicity she was after. But much to my surprise, Edy returned to the start of the red carpet line for another pass by the media.
As a journalist, I decided it was my task to observe if her outfit had been upgraded and if she would now be permitted to enter the auditorium. I moved up to the velvet rope with my hand mike ready to go. It didn't take Edy long to head our way. Her seemingly casual glances and pirouettes down the red carpet hid her Doppler-like ability to hone in on anyone willing to talk to her.
She was almost upon me and I panicked at the realization I hadn't actually put my thought in the form of a question. There she was a few feet away, staring into my dilated pupils with her big brown… let’s say eyes.
What is wrong with me, I asked myself—not for the first time. This is supposed to be a dignified event. Don’t be part of the circus, I thought. I lowered my mike
An instant later she pivoted away, her Doppler pinging off other possibilities.
"What did you do that for?" my disappointed cameraman asked.
"Changed my mind. You didn’t get a shot?
"No. Your fat head was in the way," he said.
Of course I'm ashamed of myself. Back then I only thought of her as a cruel joke, not a sad reminder that so many don’t get what they want out of Hollywood.
On the Podcasts and talk shows, in the autobiographies, the Fanzines, and on the red carpet, the Successful Ones speak of that point in their lives when they were ready to chuck it all and head back home—and then the big break happened.
The stories you don't hear, because the tellers aren't famous enough to make anyone want to listen, are about those who stayed and never had their moment of sweet vindication.
Photo by Alan Light flickr photostream. Some rights reserved. Original image can be found here.
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