Posted on July 15, 2020
Paige’s photo appears in the January 1969 issue of Playboy magazine (it’s also the 15th anniversary issue) along with all 12 Playmates of 1968, a brief update accompanies each one.
The contestants are in the running for the soon-to-be-named Playmate of the Year 1969. The Playmate of the Year was a big deal. A higher status title than Playmate of the Month; more photos, more publicity, more money with a PMOY win.
The winner was Connie Kreski: a Michigan nursing school graduate, Playmate in January of 1968, quickly turned starlet owning a camera ready face. She appeared to look much younger than her 21 years. Which is why Anthony Newley cast her in his 1969 film “Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?”
Connie plays Mercy, Anthony is Heironymus and his wife Joan Collins plays his wife in the film named Polyester Poontang. It was pretty much a flop and skewered by the critics.
Connie Kreski had gone to London in the last 2 years and dated Hefner’s partner and close friend at Playboy: Victor Lownes. Lownes was head of the Playboy Club and casino in London during the Swinging Sixties.
Famously to 1960s social history readers, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate had their wedding reception at the London Playboy Club in 1968; Lownes, Hefner and Polanski were close friends.
Connie and Victor are seen together with many mourners at Sharon Tate’s funeral on film footage seen on youtube.
Victor Lownes is the person seen in a famous photo holding up a collapsing Roman Polanski at Sharon Tate’s funeral.
Connie has about 10 TV and film appearances after “Hieronymus.”
She appeared as a guest on the Merv Griffin and Joey Bishop talk shows.
She go-go danced on Laugh-In, was introduced on Playboy After Dark TV show by Hugh Hefner as “Connie Kreski, our Playmate of the Year.” Connie does not say one word the entire show.
She did have more lines on other episodes of the show, especially the ones from 1970, the last year of the program.
Kreski’s newspaper press indicates she was signed to a 7 -year contract with Universal Studios.
Universal signed an extraordinary number of models, beauty contest winners and starlets in the 1950s and 60s.
After a few years Connie’s contract with Universal was dropped which merited one sentence in a Hollywood gossip column.
Connie appeared on a memorable 1970 episode of Love American Style starring Kaye Ballard. Connie played a topless waitress.
Her last credit is the mini-series Aspen from 1976.
Connie had a high profile romance with actor James Caan in the early and mid-1970s. She was identified in Hollywood news articles as his “girlfriend” and “ex-Playmate.” They were together fresh off Caan’s star making turn in the Godfather; he was much in demand by directors and studios. And by beautiful young women as well, according to several interviews at the time.
It was determined that Connie Kreski died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 48 in 1995. Laennec’s is a cirrhosis most associated with alcohol abuse over time. (See cause of death below)
What happened in her life that caused it to end this way at the age of 45?
What happened to her friendships with Hefner and Polanski and that crowd? And James Caan?
Connie Kreski is rarely mentioned in any pop culture forum. I find that strange given the people that she was seen hanging out with.
Many of these people continue to generate attention and conversation. Some are still alive, many dead. Most recently, Connie’s ex and Playboy mansion regular and good friend of Hef, James Caan passed away on July 6, 2022. His death drew numerous accolades and a film festival is in the works.
Unusually, Caan lacks a dedicated biography. This will likely be forthcoming.
Caan hadn’t been asked about Connie since the 1970s.
is incorrectly identified on the internet. It usually says “blocked carotid artery” or “cancer.” I don’t know what cause of death is listed in “The Playmate Book,” for Connie’s entry, but I do know it does not say “Cirrhosis of the liver.”
Connie married Louis Edelman in New York in 1986 and they set up a marital home in Los Angeles/Beverly Hills.
I corresponded with Connie’s stepdaughter Barbara Cooper. She told me that Connie became pregnant and lost a baby boy (named Zachary) when she was 6 months along. This tragedy also occured in 1986.
Cooper also told me that after the devastating loss, Connie began an obsession with calorie counting and losing weight; she also abused alcohol.
It’s no wonder then, that she died so young; 10 years before her 12-years-older husband Louis.
Barbara told me how consistently kind and sweet Connie was to her daughters and to everybody.
She said that Connie never talked about Playboy, any of the Playmates, or her days in Hollywood.
More on Connie Kreski coming soon..…
Paige had some photo shoots published and distributed in 1970.
Ridgid Tool Company became famous for its’ 2-year calendars featuring images of bikini-clad models holding various tools made by Ridgid. I’m guessing Ridge sent these calendars every year to their tool purchasing clients.
Paige appears in the 69/70 edition, cover below.
Many more models, starlets and Playboy Playmates were unnamed models in these Ridgid Tool calendars over the decades. One did go on to great fame: Raquel Welch.
From 1964 until 2002, Peter and Alice photographed models for the Ridgid Tool Calendar (Ridge Tool Company). Some of the models who appeared in those calendars include Raquel Welch, Stephanie Drake, Kathy McCullen, Cindy Margolis, and several Playboy Playmates, including Renee Tenison, Nikki Schieler, Barbara Moore, Heidi Sorensen and Penny Baker.from Michael at glamourphotographers.yolasite.com
Category: 1960s, 1970s, LA Locations, Playboy, PMOM, Popular Culture Tagged: 1960s Playmates, 1969, 1970, 1970sLA, Alice Gowland, Anthony Newley, Cheesy, Connie Kreski, Connie Kreski cause of death, Constance Joanne Kornaki, Daily Mail December 2014, Elvis, Girlie Calendar, James Caan, James Caan Connie Kreski., Joey Bishop, Laugh In, London Playboy Club & Casino, Los Angeles History, Marilyn Cole, Mercy Montello, Mercy Rooney, Merv Griffin, Paige Young, Peter Gowland, Playboy After Dark, Playboy Calendar, Playboy magazine, Playboy Playmate, Playmate of the Year, Playmate of the Year 1969, PMOY, Reagan Wilson, Ridge Tool Company Ohio, Ridgid Calendar, Ridgid Tool Calendar, Roman Polanski, Scott Caan, Sharon Tate, Sheila Ryan, Starlet, TV shows, Universal Studio, Universal Studios, Victor Lownes, Vintage LA, Vintage Playboy Playmate
Posted on May 6, 2020
Frank LaRocca, brother of Diana’s grandfather and defacto father Ned, was a violinist and music director in Decatur, Illinois.
was a first cousin of Donna LaRocca, Diana/Paige’s mother.
Mildred and Donna lived next door to each other both in Peoria, Ill. and later in Sherman Oaks, Ca. in the 1950s. Mildred was also listed as living with Donna her cousin and her parents home in Los Feliz in the late 1930s. She is listed as a witness at the wedding of Donna to Robert M. Cotterell in 1940 in Los Angeles.
Early 1930s phone directories list a Frank LaRocca and wife Rose in Los Angeles. The couple reside at 2303 Gatewood.
Ned, his wife Virginia LaRocca and their 9-year-old daughter Donna, join Frank and Rose in Los Angeles by 1934. The family moved into a house located at 2234 Shoredale Ave. It’s located about two blocks away from Frank and Rose on Gatewood.
Ned and Virginia had performed their vaudeville acts in the Los Angeles area many times in the teens and 20s, so they had familiarity with the area.
The Shoredale and Gatewood houses were in a neighborhood very close to Elysian Park, the LA River and Riverside Drive, well before “the 5” freeway was built.
Brothers Frank and Ned LaRocca are listed as “music teachers” in the LA phone directory in the mid–1930s.
1937: According to his death certificate, Frank is admitted to Methodist Hospital with peritonitis/perforated duodena. After one week in the hospital, Frank dies, having contracted pneumonia two day previous.
Frank is buried in his home town of Peoria, Illinois.
His find-a-grave page includes an obituary from the Peoria newspaper. It states that brother Ned LaRocca lives in LA and is a harpist in a Hollywood radio orchestra.
The LAT obituary is below.
A sensational Streamline Moderne building was the new west coast headquarters of NBC radio and opened in 1938. Architect was John C. Austin. Austin was also architect of the Griffith Park Observatory along with Frederick M. Ashley.
*I’m attributing radiocityhollywood.com below for several clear historic descriptions and explanations.
The National Broadcasting Company originally used the phrase Radio City to describe their studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City. When NBC opened their new Hollywood studios at Sunset and Vine in 1938, they placed the words Radio City prominently on the front of their new building. However, the area between Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard on Vine Street became known as Radio City for tourists and locals alike who visited the many radio studios and radio themed cocktail lounges and businesses in the area.radiocityhollywood.com
Veteran performing artist Ned LaRocca found a steady paycheck at both NBC and CBS as seen on this document found on ancestry, dated 1942.
CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street from NBC, also opened in 1938.
The website radiocityhollywood.com describes vividly what must have been a fascinating “scene,”overflowing with human activity; all the types of people who had a requirement, a desire, or both, to be there, from the employees, their friend and families, tickets holders which includes tourists from near and far, big wigs in the industry, interns, janitorial staff. Professional Radio performers including musicians like Ned LaRocca.
This building is the new home to KNX Radio, where Ned LaRocca performed.
A block away, the Columbia Broadcasting System opened it’s new modern studios at Columbia Square. Across the street, on December 26, Earl Carroll opened his premier nightclub and restaurant, with the glamorous neon sign proclaiming, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”
The National Broadcasting Company, after moving from New York to San Francisco, opened its’ new Moderne studios at the intersection of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California.
The Hollywood Palladium opened two years later between NBC and CBS, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring band singer Frank Sinatra. Across Vine Street, on the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine, sat Music City and Capitol Records, operated by bothers Glenn and Clyde Wallich.radiocityhollywood.com
The radio industry in Los Angeles, and the world I imagine, was at its’ zenith from the late 30s through the 1940s. This era was short lived. Television would soon replace radio as the mass entertainment medium of choice. (1950s)
Film-noirish look at Sunset & Vine. found on the internet. NBC on the right. 1940s. Capitol Records on the left, before the iconic new location, the “Stack of Records” building, was built at 1750 Vine St. by Welton Becket and Assoc. (Opened in 1956)
The American Broadcasting Corporation set up shop a few doors north on Vine Street. Up the street was the Radio Room, Club Morocco, Mike Lyman’s and the famous Tom Breneman’s Breakfast in Hollywood restaurant. Even further up Vine, just before Hollywood Boulevard, Clara Bow operated her restaurant, the It Cafe. Across the street, south of the Boulevard, was the world famous Vine Street Brown Derby, more restaurants and bars, and at Selma Avenue, the RCA building. Further south, at the end of the block, at the intersection of Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard stood the radio flagship studio, NBC Radio City.
It was a glorious year, 1938, for Hollywood and for radio. And, while NBC called their new studios Radio City, the entire area became famous across America and around the world.Radio City Hollywood website.
Tom Breneman broadcast his popular show “Breakfast In Hollywood” from his restaurant on Vine off Sunset Blvd. I’ve listened to a few radio broadcasts and Breneman asks the audience members”where are you from?” It seems like the are a combination of locals and out of town visitors.
Ned LaRocca continued to work at NBC and CBS throughout the 1940s and made an important contact with Leith Stevens, conductor and composer.
1938 & 1941 LA phone directory, Joseph LaRocca is listed as a musician and living at 3834 Evans.
1939 listed on Evans as a CBS musician.
Donna LaRocca had yet another female cousin another. two years younger thBorn Mary Jane Harker two years after Donna, she had short lived famed in the 1940s.
.Jane Harker was the daughter of Josephine and George Truman Harker. I write more about them in Family History Part #1.
The information about Jane Harker that you see on websites like imdb is incorrect. I’m attempting to correct it.
I have a lot of material collected about Jane Harker if anyone would like to collaborate on this project contact me.
|Birth Year:||abt 1913|
|Age in 1930:||17|
|Relation to Head of House:||Daughter|
|Home in 1930:||Peoria, Peoria, Illinois, USA|
|Map of Home:||Peoria, Peoria, Illinois|
|Street Address:||Martin Street|
|Ward of City:||Pt of 6|
|Able to Read and Write:||Yes|
|Household MembersAgeRelationshipAnthony Marinello42HeadKathryn Marinello39WifeMildred Marinello17Daughter|
Category: 1940s, LA Locations, Popular Culture, Radio City, CBS, NBC Tagged: 1940s LA, Brown Derby, Columbia Square, Don Lee Mutual Broadcast System, Eleanor Parker, Errol Flynn, Hollywood Blvd., imdb, Jane Harker, John C. Austin, Joseph Ned LaRocca, KNX, LA architecture, LA History, LA Noir, Los Angeles History, Mary Jane Harker, Mildred Marinello, NBC\CBS, pin-up models, pinup photography, Radio City, Radio City Hollywood, Radio Room Bar, Radio Row, Radio Row LA, Radio Shows, radiocityhollywood.com, Raul Morena, RCA, Starlet, Sunset & Vine, Tom Breneman, Warner Bros.