Wednesday, May 19, 2010

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL APE IN THE WORLD 1972


Remember me mentioning not too long ago that I'd let you know in a future post the type of "scream queen" whom I thought would be worthy for the likes of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD? Well, this isn't it. Instead, while shlepping around the Arcane Archives I came across this cultural curiosity in order to show you to what depths the carnival hucksters called the media could stoop in using monsters (and sci-fi/fantasy characters, too) to exploit their wares.


The year was 1972. The place: Los Angeles, California. Cars were still high-octane gas-guzzling heaps of metal, Bob's Big Boy (a sort of kinder, gentler Fat Bastard) served up the best chili spaghetti and chocolate shakes around, Norm's advertised their $3.99 Porterhouse and T-Bone steak special dinners in full-page newspaper ads, and DuPar's had a blueberry cream cheese cake that could send The Cheese Cake Factory back to baking school. Out in the rest of the world, there would be the Watergate Hotel break-in, Jane Fonda would earn the nickname "Hanoi Jane" by her ill-conceived "tour" of North VietNam, and Disco (thank God) had yet to take hold on the mind set of coke sniffin' club-goers. It almost seemed as if Americans had settled into a mode of cultural mediocrity that some would agree we haven't shaken off since.



Despite all the usual Cold War and political hijinks that were going on at the time, it was the year that THE GODFATHER was released. So was CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Now, I will be the first to tell you that I am a big fan of POTA. But, when they killed off Taylor and (especially) Nova, and to some degree, even Brent in the first sequel, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, the series lost its toehold on a unique thematic premise. Not to say that the others had their merit, but the first two POTA movies are, in my calculation, screen classics.

Sometime after the release of COTPOTA, either somebody in 20th Century Fox's publicity department, or some other media genius who got the studio's blessing decided it would be a great idea to hold a "Most Beautiful Ape in the World" beauty contest. The winner would swing into a role in the next Ape's movie, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.

The event was held in Century City and hosted by Gary Owens. Owens, a perennial L.A. radio and media guy, was often seen in the popular TV show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. That ought to give you some idea of the general mood of the contest. The girls could model in either hot pants (yes, it was the 70's) or bikinis, but they'd all have to wear the same over-the-head ape mask. When the smoke cleared . . . or when the fur stopped flying . . . or, whatever the case, the contest came down to five girls. Contestant No. 2 was finally declared the winner. The name of the body with the face under the ape mask was Dominque Green. Apparently, she got her 15 minutes of fame, then disappeared into cinematic obscurity. The story was published in a POTA publicity tabloid titled, of all things, The San Simian Sentinel. A quick internet look-up revealed no extra information on her. If you try it yourself, I caution you to be aware that you will get some hits depicting more, shall I say, fleshly Dominque Greens. It seems as though the beautifully femine French name "Dominique" has been hi-jacked by the adult film industry.


I also gave brief thought to what the ACLU might think of this type of event were it conducted today, and maybe even PETA. Maybe there's even a "POTA", People for the Objective Treatment of Apes? After all, it's one thing to have a girl wear an ape mask, but eating the banana afterwards? Sheesh! Somehow, though, I have a hard time thinking that any of the girls were coerced against their will into running the cat, er . . . ape walk.

Well, there you have it. The saga of the world's first and the world's only "Most Beautiful Ape in the World" contest. So, what does this have to do with monster 'zines you ask? To tell you the truth, I don't have an answer for that, but I told you early on I wasn't sticking to a strict format here. Call it discussing a cultural artifact of monsterology, if you will. One of the things about blogs is that every reader gets to share in the digression. Anyway, I've left a clue for you on the answer to the question that I said I would answer that I haven't answered yet. And, in my opinion, who I've got in mind is hottern' the 100-degree plus temperature I've been fighting for two days. If you know what I'm talking about, then you're gettin' real warm, too. But that's for a later post.

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