“If you get hip to this kind of trip, I think I’ll take that California trip.” And that is exactly what the Illinois girl, Dianne Chandler did. Later to be known as the Illini Eyeful this Oak Park girl was your typical 60s good girl turned playboy pinup. It was the classic, college-girl-looks-pretty-enough-to-photo-graph to Hugh Hefner pinup in a few short months. And all because the teenage Dianne enjoyed reading Playboy herself; not for the pictures mind you; but for all the great articles!!! So Dianne filled out a form and sent some shots and landed a job at the Chicago Playboy Club for the summer. A staff photographer talked her into some more girl-next-door poses and voila, the photo editor for Playboy was on the phone giving her the good news, “Dianne, you’re a Playmate.” Dianne Chandler was now officially playing her part in the wild and carefree 60s.
Today, some forty years later, Dianne is still involved with the business, attending shows, visiting the Playboy Mansion, and she still calls Hugh Hefner her friend as well as many of the people, from photographers to models, who have worked for this billion dollar company. Despite the often precarious nature of the pinup industry many people have made lifelong friendships working for the magazine and “Auntie” Dianne often helps young girls who are still finding their feet amongst all the glamour and tinsel.
Now Dianne has created a wonderful website http://www.diannechandler.com where she will publish stories from those wild sixties days telling of all the fun times and crazy moments and a place where fans can view her great pin up shots and buy autographed photos of one of the sexiest pin up models of the hippie era. I recently caught up with Dianne and we talked about those great days and here is a small but tasty slice of Dianne’s wilder days.
David: Can you tell us what your parents said when you announced your first nude photo spread?
Dianne: I had a distant relationship with my mother, who was a rabid Catholic. My parents had divorced when I was very young, and I have only 1 sibling, my younger sister, to whom I am totally devoted. She has 2 girls and I love them as if they were my own. The older, Brooke accompanied me to one of our Playboy autograph shows in Chicago and was approached by Playboy to take test shots for Playmate. She was just 18 at the time and a bit on the shy side, so she declined, much to my disappointment, as she is absolutely beautiful and would have made a gorgeous Playmate. Oh, and Mom and I have long since made up, but it was tough going for a few years there.
David: What was the worst bit of nonsense you got up to in the 60s? (That you can tell us about!!!)
Dianne: I was pretty wild and crazy in the 60's when I was in my twenties. I was fearless. When I look back now at some of the outrageous stunts I got away with, I wonder how I managed to survive. I spent 3 months in Cuernavaca, Mexico visiting a couple who were very good friends. It's a beautiful little town up in the mountains, about a 5 hour drive from Mexico City. The University of Mexico is there, with some awesome buildings hundreds of years old. It's by no means a tourist town, so I had to pick up some street Spanish quickly. Cerveza fria was one of my first phrases. We girls would drive an old pickup truck out into the countryside which was dotted with small ancient monument sites, now deserted. Once, we had to stop as a young boy dressed in the traditional sackcloth pants tied with a rope around his waist, sandals, a cotton shirt and a straw hat was herding sheep across what could be called a road on which we were driving. We noticed he was holding a baby sheep in each arm, and as all young girls will do, we wanted to pet them. The young man didn't speak English and eyed us suspiciously, but my friend spoke enough Spanish to reassure him, and he let us each hold one. Then he pointed to a large sheep hovering nearby and said "Una ora" (one hour), indicating that this was the momma sheep and the babies were only an hour old and could not yet keep up with the herd by walking. We were way, way out in the desert, and I could only wonder what this boy thought about, keeping on eye on a flock of sheep in the hot desert sun all day. After returning the babies, we got back in the truck and he turned back to his sheep. As we were leaving we spied a copy of a James Bond novel, in English, in his back pocket.
I ran around with a crowd of rambunctious hippie-types who all adored the out-of-doors as much as I did. Once a group of us got a campsite right on the ocean in the Florida Keys, in Bahia Honda State Park. We set up tents and even had the quintessential 60's vehicle, a VW van with the pop-up top where there was a little hammock and when the top was up you could lay up there on your tummy and just gaze at the sea. Or do other things. With the help of the available friendly herb, we swam in the ocean at night (how dumb was that?) and watched the stars, and smoked more herb and played loud enough rock music on our boom-box that we attracted the Ranger who thankfully drove up with his car lights on so we could hide our stash. As his flashlight played over our campsite, we apologized profusely for disturbing other campers, somebody pulled out a guitar and began to strum, and we assured him that we would make no more loud noises or use any improper language. We really squeaked out of that one....those Rangers have no sense of humor.
In the "free love" days, I had my share of freewheeling experiences.....being a Playboy Playmate ensured I had my pick of "gentlemen callers". All the crazy things we did, like having a big beer party on a boat, couples taking turns in the little bedroom at the front of the ship, all swimming in the nude at night, going to rock concerts in an altered state, the better to appreciate the likes of The Grateful Dead were all part of life. I would prefer not to commit my personal experiences to paper although I may, one day, write a book about these years and some of the people with whom I was involved.
Life was wild and free in the 60's and early 70's. Stephen Stills exhorted us to "Love the one you're with." There was no AIDS and the music was primarily psychedelic. It fostered a sense of freedom, creativity and curiosity. At times it seemed that everybody had reached the same blossoming of consciousness at the same time. The civil rights laws had finally passed, liberation for women was becoming a realization, but the war, the awful, needless, hated, unnecessary war which took so many of our brothers was present on TV, in the movies and heavily inspired much of the music of the day.
David: When and what was your very first autograph signing like?
Dianne: I was terrified. I was certain that in my high heels I would trip and fall over the camera cords snaking about the stage floor, that a huge zit would instantly pop up on my nose, or the person who was first in line would think there had been a mistake, and this plain-looking Midwestern girl could not possibly be the Playboy Playmate he had been expecting. Amazingly, everybody was wonderfully polite and friendly, and I sat there for almost nine hours signing away at a college, with only about a ten-minute pee break. My hand was so cramped at the end of the session I don't think I could have signed my name to a thousand-dollar check made out to myself!
David: What are the worst and best pick up lines men tried on you?
Dianne: well the worst line was, “I'm a close friend of Hugh Hefner, and he assured me you would go out with me.” The best line: “I hear (fill in the name of group or singer) is coming to town. Would you like to be my guest to see the concert?”
David: Can you tell us about the toughest or strangest photo shoot you ever did?
Dianne: This one's easy! In the 25th Anniversary Issue, Playboy did a parody of advertising called something like "Madcap Madison Avenue". They decided they wanted me to do the parody of "The Coppertone Girl". In case you're not familiar with this bit of Americana, a little girl of about three years of age is standing topless on a beach as she is really too young to need a full swimsuit. She has blond hair in pigtails with cute little blue bows, and she has her head turned towards the camera and her hand up to her mouth in dismay, as a small black Cocker Spaniel has the back of her swimsuit in his mouth as though he is pulling her back from the water, but as he pulls on the suit, he exposes most of her little butt, which is white as snow compared to the rest of her body which is a beautiful golden tan, courtesy of the product, Coppertone Suntan Lotion.
First of all, I'm not a blonde. Secondly, this was shot in the studio in Chicago in winter. I was not tan at all. This shot took almost a week to complete, as in those days we didn't have computers which could simply insert a dog. We had to get a kid's stuffed animal, but one that looked just like the one in the Coppertone ads. Then the set crew had to somehow adjust his head to just the right position. After bleaching my poor hair a brassy yellow, I was slathered in a dark colored pancake makeup from head to toe, except for my butt. This makeup had to be reapplied every day for probably four days, and each time I had to shower about 6 times to get the gook off of my body! The floor was covered with sand and a backdrop provided the sunny beach look. Every time I moved an inch somebody had to come by and sweep the sand back to perfection - no footprints! It was a most uncomfortable pose, but after all it came out wonderfully. Years later I requested a copy of it from Hef, and he sent me an 11 x 14 of it. You can see it on my website at www.diannechandler.com.
David: Do you have a funny story from working with Hugh Hefner?
Dianne: Yes, I will never live down the time I was visiting the Chicago Mansion on Sunday night, which was "movie night". I asked the butler for a coke, and wandered into the screening room when Hef spotted me and patted the seat on the couch next to him, asking me to sit in the front row next to him. I was nervous, of course. I was never the kind to "come on" to Hef. I always thought I was just a very lucky college kid who had gone to Hef's Alma Mater, University of Illinois, and worked one summer as a Bunny at the Chicago Playboy club. Since the September issue was to be about all the protests going on about the war, they decided to have a college girl as the Centerfold. I've always thought I was just lucky; in the right place at the right time. Hef always treated me in a very avuncular fashion, and there were plenty of big-boobed blondes always trying to cuddle up to him, so I just stayed in the background. On this evening, though, Hef invited me to sit next to him, and I felt very smug about it. just to my left was a long, expensive stereo cabinet with a glass top. Shortly into the movie, I set my glass of coca-cola on the glass stereo. I should mention that the glasses used at the Mansion were the same as those used at the Playboy club. They were kind of an elongated globe, with a smaller base and larger middle, tapering to a smaller opening again at the top, and all with the familiar "Femlin" logo in black. The shape made the glasses somewhat unstable, and in a little while I was completely involved in the movie and just raised my left hand to get my glass, which I bumped instead of getting a grip on, and it promptly spilled the entire coca-cola into Hef's stereo, which probably cost more than my VW bug. It was one of those moments when you just wish you could fall through the floor, never to be seen again. I was petrified, and began babbling to Hef "I'll pay for it, I'll work as a Bunny again, I'll borrow the money from the bank, um, um...." Hef just put his arm around my shoulders and said "It's OK, don't worry about it. Now, what were you drinking?" Of course, the house lights had to go up so the butler and waiter could mop up the stereo, so my embarrassment was clear to the whole group, including several girls who giggled and pointed, obviously enjoying my discomfort. I apologized to Hef again at the end of the evening, and he seemed to have forgotten the incident entirely and insisted I do so, too.
David: Have you ever had any problems with fans or autograph hunters?
Dianne: Really, just one. A guy I knew from college went into some sort of special forces in Vietnam, and when he returned he really pushed me to go out with him. He had become a cop, and actually began stalking me. Even worse, once he happened to spot my sister in her car, and "made her", as the detectives say on TV by using his authority to look up her car license plates to find out where she lived. He then began pressuring her for information on where to find me, and even went to far as to suggest that if she were stopped for a minor traffic violation, illegal substances could be found in her car, and who would the courts believe, he, a decorated war vet and cop, or her, a divorced sister of a woman who had posed for Playboy? She was so frightened, and I was so angry! However, I was dating an Italian guy who had been brought up in Brooklyn, and when I told him what was going on, he set up a meeting supposedly of the three of us, and then left the bar with the cop. After about 30 minutes of nursing my beer and biting my nails, he returned alone. I asked him what had happened, and he just said "Oh, don' worry 'bout nuttin'. We just had a little talk about kneecaps and my friends on the New York force, and I don't tink you'll hear from him again. And I never did.
David: Do you collect any autograph memorabilia yourself and if so what are some of your treasures?
Dianne: I was fortunate enough to land a job as the "PA" (personal assistant) to the CEO of the largest UK tourist organization to bring groups from the UK to Atlanta for the Centennial Olympics. By this time I had worked for over ten years for a major airline and also as a travel agent, so I had the credentials. Working the Olympics is just the most incredible experience in the world. I became a nut about collecting Olympic pins, and have quite a collection. I have learned to tell those which are turned out by the thousands and aren't worth anything, to the Team Pins and Sponsor Pins which can be worth a lot. I have a lot of fun trading pins with friends from all over the world. I love doing the more obscure pins, the ones harder to obtain. I don't think I have any Team pins from Barcelona, nor any sponsor pins. And my very favorite, most special pins are airline pins, but they must show not only the airline, but also the name and year of the Olympics they represent.
David: If any person in history could sign their photo for you, who would you ask and what would you have them say in their dedication?
Dianne: Probably Eleanor Roosevelt, of whom I am a great admirer. I would hope she would admonish me to continue my efforts to rid the US of the current administration, continue to work for the rights of women, and not get discouraged or feel I'm not smart enough to speak out.
I also think Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders kicks butt!
David: Who did you like hanging out most during your career and do you have any untold stories that you can tell us now.
Dianne: I loved hanging out with my Playmate sister, Patti Reynolds, Miss September 1965 as well as DeDe Lind and Lisa Baker. For years, the late Shel Silverstein was a very good friend and often times my companion when we both were required to attend fancy events which we'd have rather skipped, but we went together and always had a good time. I've always loved having friends all over the world and have spent a lot of time emailing people I probably know better than I do my dog, but who I've never met. Of all the celebs I've met over the years at Hef's parties, I think I most fondly recall Woody Allen, who is as funny in person as he was in his early films. I would adore having a few hours to spend alone with him in conversation. I think his comedy is brilliant. On a more recent note, last Spring I had the chance to meet Billy Idol at the Playboy Playmate of the Year Luncheon at the Beverly Hills Mansion, and let me tell you, I elbowed all those sweet young things out of the way to get a couple of snapshots of one of my big rock heroes, and he was just as nice as could be.
David: What are the things you like to do the most now?
Dianne: Travel, read, play with my cats & dog, take nature photography, mostly of birds, swim, eBay, correspond with friends via email, do a little writing.
David: Can you name your favourite all time model/actresses?
Dianne: Kathryn Hepburn, number 1 without a doubt. Meryl Streep is an exceptionally fine actress, too. Lauren Bacall, of course, and Maggie Smith. I also like Cher, Bette Midler and Annette Benning.
David: Ditto with your favourite actors?
Dianne: All of the Monty Python guys...I still miss Graham Chapman. Bogey. Spencer Tracy. Denzel Washington. Morgan Freeman. Kevin Spacey, John Cusak, Nicholas Cage, Billy Crystal, Robert Redford and DeNiro but only when he's doing comedy, not playing bad guys.
David: What question have you been waiting to be asked by a journo that you have never been asked?
Dianne: If I could go anywhere in the world for a month's free vacation, where would it be? Answer: New Zealand
David: Are there any stories from your life that best sums up you as a person?
Dianne: I suppose the many stories of all the animals I have rescued and fostered till I could find homes for them. They include a Canadian goose, a hummingbird, a few squirrels, rabbits, a mule, a snapping turtle, a few snakes, turtles, baby raccoon, several other species of birds, innumerable cats and dogs.
Thank you Miss Chandler.
Article (c) David Priol 2004
Photos (cP their various owners.