Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jane Palmer in Pennsylvania on April 19,
1933. She was the only child of Herbert and Vera Palmer. When Jayne was
just three years old, her father died of a heart attack. Vera remarried in
1939 to a man named Harry Peers and they then moved to his home in Dallas,
where Jayne would spent the rest of her formative years. While growing up
in Texas, Jayne discovered movie fan-zines. She had made up her mind that
she was going to be famous and her walls became plastered with glamour
shots of the stars she aspired to be among.
In 1950, just after Jayne had turned 17, she married a high school boyfriend named Paul Mansfield and by the end of the year the couple had a daughter, Jayne Marie. In the next few years, Jayne juggled the tasks of work, school, motherhood, and acting classes. During most of this time Paul was away in Korea serving the army. In early 1954, Paul returned and took Jayne and their daughter to California to fulfil a promise he made to her that he'd give her a chance to persue her dreams in Hollywood. Jayne's all-consuming desire to become a moviestar soon proved to be too much for Paul and the couple split by the end of the year.
Soon afterward, Jayne filmed her first movie and aquired a man named Jim Byron as her press agent. Together they derrived some of the wildest publicity stunts of that era, all of which Jayne was more than willing to carry out. However, it was the incident where she emerged from a pool topless, (at a press junket for Jane Russell's movie, Underwater), that Jayne Mansfield made herself a household name. Major movie studios clamoured for her and she soon signed a contract with Warner Brothers in February of 1955.
In mid 1956, while attending Mae West's show in the Latin Quarter, Jayne's gaze focused upon Mickey Hargitay. He was a muscleman in Mae's show who also held the 1955 title of "Mr Universe". Rumor has it that, when asked what she wanted for dinner, she replied along the lines of, " I'll have the steak and that man on the right." Two years later, in January of 1958, Jayne and Mickey were married in a lavish ceremony in Palos Verdes. It was during her years with Mickey that she bought her dreamhouse on Sunset Boulevard. The mansion would thereafter be known as the Pink Palace. Beyond its gates, Jayne lived the life she dreamed of as a little girl in Texas. It's features included a pink mink living room, gold mosaic heart-shaped bathtub and a beautifully re-landscaped backyard thanks to Mickey's labors. This included her now famous heart-shaped pool with it's fountains and underwater music. Among other things, she got herself a pink Jaguar and took twice-weekly baths in pink champagne. Mickey also bought her a pink '57 Cadillac as a gift after the birth of their first child, Miklos (Mickey Jr.), in 1958. Jayne would have two more children by Mickey; Zoltan in 1960 and Mariska in 1964. But their marriage was not always from the pages of a fairy tale, and it ended in 1963.
By the fall of 1964, Jayne had remarried to her then-manager, Matt Cimber and she gave birth to his son, Anthony, the following year. That marriage was short-lived and by mid 1966 they were divorced. It was her divorce lawyer, Sam Brody, that Jayne was next aquainted with. Their relationship was a stormy one in which alcohol and abuse were not uncommon.
It was not only her personal life that was faltering, it was her professional life as well, and Jayne was taking any opportunities for work that she could. Mamie Van Doren (with whom Jayne starred in 1966's Las Vegas Hillbillys) called Jayne in June of 1967 and asked her if she would fill in for her at a club in Mississippi because she could not fit it into her schedule. Jayne obliged and headed off with Brody and three of her children, to do the shows at Gus Steven's Supper Club in Biloxi. On the sixth night of the engagement, after the evening's last show, Jayne left for New Orleans where she had scheduled a TV appearance the next morning. Sam Brody and her three children were with her as well as Ronnie Harrison, the driver hired from Gus Steven's to take them to New Orleans. While en route, the car was suddenly engulfed in a thick cloud of mosquito pestide. This made it impossible to see the 18 wheeler that had slowed ahead of them and their vehicle plowed under it's trailer. Being asleep in the backseat proved fortunate for the three children, as they survived the accident. But the three frontseat occupants, including Jayne Mansfield, were not so fortunate and they lost their lives.
Jayne's funeral was held in Pen Argyl, Pensylvania. Along with her family and friends, the service drew a throng of respectful fans. Jayne was a legend in her own time - and her death, although tragic, only seems to solidify that status today. A genuine zest for stardom and lust for life such as Jayne's is rarely, if ever, seen in Hollywood these days, and it is sorely missed.
some suggestions if you'd like a more elaborate account of Jayne's life
"Va Va Voom!"
by Steve Sullivan
"Va Va Voom!"
by Steve Sullivan