The three blonde bombshells of the 50s, the 3M’s were Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Mamie van Doren.
But in addition, there were a few others like knock-out Joi Lansing, an actress and singer also known for her blonde hair and voluptuous figure. Lansing had roles on hit TV shows of the day like Perry Mason, I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. She often played the sexy gal who turns heads just by walking into a room.
In addition to her looks, she was also a smart, kind person, who was also bisexual.
In 1969, the 40-year old Lansing made a big impression on a 20-year old aspiring actress named Alexis Hunter another blonde beauty. Lansing recalled at the time on the set of Bigfoot (1970)…
“Here I am in this monkey suit for such a low-budget stinker of a film. They were gluing hair on my face, spray-painting me and applying these fake teeth. It was just awful.
And in walks in this unbelievably beautiful human being…”
The admiration was apparently mutual. The sex symbol and the newbie starlet became best pals and then lovers.
Lansing was married at the time to her agent Stan Todd, but the marriage was platonic at that point. Alexis and Joi’s relationship would only last three years, until Lansing’s untimely death from breast cancer. Because of the views of same-sex love at the time, the two women had to keep their intimate partnership very discreet. Hunter assumed the role of Joi’s little sister, and her new public persona was Rachel Lansing.
Alexis Hunter wrote a book in 2016 book, Joi Lansing: A Body To Die For, which tells the story of the last few years of her life with Joi. It chronicles the final years of her life, when she was struggling with substance abuse and cancer.
Hunter is an artist now and lives in Palm Springs, determined to keep the memory of Joi Lansing alive. She spoke to Jed Ryan of Lavender After Dark when the book came out 5 years ago. Here are some excerpts,
“[Joi] wasn’t affected by her beauty and her celebrity. She was always so kind to everyone, not the least bit impressed with herself. She was very humble.
The glamour of those days was so filled with excitement. There’s one time I’ll never forget: when Elvis invited us to go back stage and meet him, Priscilla, and Della Reese. We were there for about half an hour, and he was so charming and gorgeous! I’ll never forget the kiss he gave me when it was time for us to leave.
Joi and I were very cautious with our relationship, so we didn’t socialize with many people.
But living in the Palm Springs area is a mecca for many of the stars of that time. I am still in touch with Mamie Van Doren, Ruta Lee, and Kaye Ballard… all of whom had known or worked with Joi.
I hope that by sharing my story, people will understand that the love between same-sex couples can be as loving and kind as heterosexual relationships.
I am so grateful that many straight readers have been moved by my book. Even one man told me that his relationship with his gay daughter had been healed after reading about my life with Joi. He understood that love is love….gender doesn’t matter. It made all the difference between them.
Joi Lansing died of breast cancer in 1972 at 44.