Hugh Hefner has a lot to answer for. And I don’t mean the rapid growth in silicone sales; the latter is firmly down to all males. My specific grudge with Mr Hefner was that he nicknamed the wonderful, June Wilkinson, The Bosom. And despite the fact that her measurements may lay claim to being the eighth wonder of the world, they do not represent the true nature or style of one of the world’s most beautiful women. Born in the same year as Raquel Welch, Katherine Ross, Nancy Sinatra, Jill St John, Anna Karina and Elke Sommer in what was obviously a bumper year for beauty, June possesses a charm than runs so much deeper than this trite nickname. However, Hugh Hefner knows beauty and he knew enough to feature June in Playboy some nine times.
This English-born lady has been working ever since first appearing in pantomime at The Hippodrome at the tender age of 12. Escorted by her mum, June was already working conventions and nightclubs in cities like New York and Chicago by her seventeenth birthday. Although June could put on a show that would have the men swooning in their seats she was still too young to legally enjoy the clubs in which she worked. However, after her work was done, she could rock on to the many parties which unfolded during the wee small hours. And, because she was never a drinker or smoker, June found she really enjoyed the nightlife, the celebrities and would love to dance the night away. This sophisticated party girl was already experiencing the wild side when most girls were still finishing high school and dating pimply-faced youths.
While June was in Chicago with her mum to do a show, she saw one of the new Playboy magazines and told her agent, Jimmy McCullough that she could do the kind of shots that were causing such a sensation at that time. So Jimmy and June made a call to Hugh Hefner. He said he’d heard of June and that he would love to do a shoot with her. Little did June know that her first shoot would be finished by the next morning, and that she would spend most of the night looking very sexy wearing little more than Hugh’s pyjama top and a youthful smile! Later, June would turn up on Hugh’s TV show, Playboy Penthouse where she became a little tipsy after enjoying some champagne off screen. Jokingly, she balanced two champagne glasses on her chest. That moment is now a memorable photo eagerly sought by collectors everywhere.
The following year, at the tender age of eighteen, June made her first film in Thunder in the Sun, supporting Susan Hayward and Jeff Chandler after being contracted by Seven Arts. In June’s next film, only her awesome breasts made a (literally) unsupported role, in Russ Meyer’s debut sexcapade, The Immoral Mr Teas. No doubt Russ shared Hugh’s high opinion of June, and millions of men still happily agree.
While a picturesque 44-23-36 figure might open a lot of doors, it takes real talent to keep these doors open for 45 years. For anyone who hasn’t seen one of June’s eighteen films, hundreds of magazine covers (spanning 40 years) or as Evilina in Batman then you may have seen June acting on the stage or singing in some smoky nightclub with Spike Jones, or even attending one of her fitness centres in Canada. These days the girl who once trained to be a ballerina is now involved in producing a successful TV show, attending memorabilia shows like Chiller, or spending her evenings hosting delightful dinner parties. On a balmy Californian Sunday morning you might find June enjoying a Mimosa with her brunch before stretching out with a good movie at the Playboy Mansion.
And this classy lady, whose signed photos sell by the hundreds, still looks (and sounds) as wonderful as ever. And if you want to learn more about June you can find her photos and history at her great website at: http://members.tripod.com/junewilkinson0/ I recently had the good fortune to chat with this lovely English Rose and here is a little of what June had to say:
June: The cursive “J” I use when I sign June I picked up from an actor when I was doing pantomime as a teenager. I saw the actor signing someone’s autograph and I said to myself, “that’s the “J” for me” and I have used it ever since…
David: I read in an article published in the late 50s that said you really do like a party?
June: Yes, I do enjoy a good party. I rarely drink, but I love the chance to mix, and observe people, and have a good time. My first Hugh Hefner party at the Playboy Mansion really stands out. I was still only 18 and felt so glamorous with everyone dressed so elegantly and happily dancing to Ray Antony’s Big Band. The ambience was so incredible like something out of a fairytale.
David: Have you found that being “The Bosom” makes life difficult for you? And what was the worst pick up line a man tried on you?
June: I haven’t had too many problems. Obviously an intelligent man who really wants to impress me will talk to my face, only the jerks will look at my breasts while talking to me. This was more true back in the 60s but these days with so many women having cosmetic surgery such problems are rare. I once remember a man saying, “Do you have a quarter because my mom told me to call when I fell in love!”
David: Well, I bet he’s still single and happily listening to Mama! How about your funniest story from a film set?
June: While I was making, The Candidate with Ted Knight and Mamie van Doren, Ted and I had a nude scene. Ted would later be a regular on the Mary Tyler Moore show and had never done a nude scene in his life and was very nervous about it. So we had a talk about it the day before and he said, “what if I get aroused in front of all those people. It will be so embarrassing.” So I bet him a hundred dollars that he wouldn't. The day of the shoot first his wife showed up to watch the scene and there was about fifty people there and I was lying on the bed naked and he was lying on top of me and he said, “you’re right, I owe you a hundred dollars this is the most unsexual moment I’ve ever had and if my life depended on it I still couldn’t get an erection.”
David: You also have a funny story involving your daughter Brahna.
June: I was doing a show in Calgary with Avery Schreiber. My daughter was doing a Nativity play at the local school and we went to see her. She was playing the little cow that provides milk for the baby Jesus when she unfortunately fell and the baby went flying off the four-foot high stage. Well Avery just burst into absolute hysterics and I was soon laughing with him. Brahna was devastated, but Avery explained to her later that he had been dying of boredom and she was the best things that happened to the whole show. I think she may have gotten over it by now.
David: What do you think has been your best work?
June: The best movie was in Spanish and was called La Rabia Por Dentro. While my best plays were on Broadway starring in Pajama Tops, and also Any Wednesday with Elaine Stritch and Tom Poston. The latter was great fun and I use to have a running bet with Elaine that whoever got the most applause didn’t have to pay for dinner that night. It was totally unfair because Elaine had the less well-written part and technically I should have stolen the show every night. But we sure had a lot of fun together and I paid for an awful lot of dinners over the years. I also appeared in Pajama Tops for the better part of 40 years so it also holds some very special memories for me.
On the subject of The Immoral Mr. Teas, I was under contract to Seven Arts, and they had hired Russ Meyer to take shots of me. Because I was under contract, I could not be in Meyer's movies. But he begged me to be able to use my breasts -- promising not to show my face. As a favour to him, I did the one shot in the movie where you can only see my breasts in a window. As soon as the movie came, it seemed like everybody knew it was me!
David: Have you seen many forgeries of your signature? And even though you don’t collect autographs yourself, who in history would you most like to have sign for you and say in the dedication?
June: I have seen a few forgeries and they have been pretty poor ones, but I suppose I have been lucky. People have also illegally used copyrighted photos over the years. I would probably ask Jesus to sign for me and simply say, “See you in heaven.”
David: So what does the future hold for you?
June: Who knows...finally meeting world's greatest lover, making some million dollar deals, and hopefully discovering the fountain of youth...well I can dream can't I!!!
David: Well you’ve already discovered the latter, but how about naming some of your favourite movies and actors?
June: Mystic River and Seabiscuit vie for my favourite films of 2003, but my all time favourite films are the Shawshank Redemption and The Producers. Tim Robbins and Gene Hackman are my favourites. I admire actors who can create characters seamlessly and with the minimum of fuss.
David: Well thank you for these moments with us Miss June and I have no doubt we will be seeing your wonderfully sexy signed photos for many years to come.
June: Well, I love my fans and when I go to shows in places like Houston, Chicago and Brooklyn, I am always thrilled to meet my fans and sign photos for them. And anyone who wants to write to me care of my website, or who would like to belong to my fan club is most welcome. You know a girl can never have too many admirers!