Sunday, 29 November 2009

Chronicles of the Chihuahua: Mansfield to Hilton

So you thought - as I did - that the fashion for teensy, tiny, skeletal dogs with oversized ears was a new one? Sorry, Jayne Mansfield and others were already toting their own “adorable” jewellery pets from as early as 1967, as I mentioned on my Twitter page earlier today.

It seems that our twenty-first century fashionista, Paris Hilton, had a forerunner in 1950s American actress Jayne Mansfield (here pictured in one of Jane Bown's legendary black and white portraits, touting a delightful chihuahua). Set in the Marilyn Monroe-mould, her looks were often the main source of attention, an impression she surely capitalised on, singing songs like "Too Hot to Handle", and posing for Playboy spreads. She said of her cleavage, "it helped me a lot to get where I am". The feminist-forward lyrics of "I Enjoy Being a Girl" are also particularly endearing:

"I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
that I walk with a sweet and girly gait,
with my hips kind of swivelly and swirly,
I adore being dressed in something frilly,
when my date comes to get me at my place,
out I go with my John, or Joe, or Billy,
Like a filly who is ready for the race!"

Titled "Man, oh man, oh Mansfield!" in the media, she repeatedly capitalised on the fame brought to her by accidentally-on purpose exposing her nipples at public functions, stunts which earned monumental press attention, if not serious roles.

Mansfield's IMDB page ( poses a stirling defence of her intelligence, and this unfortunate inability to get credible roles, but in light of her publicity-seeking behaviour, and the sort of songs she indulged in, this isn't exactly surprising. She wasn't exactly striking one in the eye in defence of the mental faculty of women across the globe.

Mansfield appears to be a canny model for - supposedly self-released - sex-tape star Paris Hilton, whose own "clever" brand of inanity was recently revealed in the so-called documentary, Fearne and... Paris, as an insidious, calculated act. Incredibly, after this ITV show we were meant to warm to Paris's undeniable falseness, and believe that really, she's just doing good business. To admire her as a cunning businesswoman is like admiring Jordan for her ability to find a great ghostwriter. Unnecessary, and more than a little ludicrous.

Aside from assuming her ridiculous love of chihuahuas, let's hope Paris doesn't go too far in her efforts to follow in the footsteps of Hollywood starlet Mansfield, who met an untimely death in a motoring accident in 1967, along with two of her four treasured pets. Oh no, not Paris. She's far too canny for that.

FYI, check out Jane Bown’s black and white portrait exhibition "100 Portraits", which is currently at Northumbria University, after opening at King's Place, London in October, and her glossy new book Exposures, a collection of her photography work for the Observer spanning over sixty years, recently went on sale. Deluxe coffee table book for Christmas, anyone?