Posted on August 21, 2020
Nick Lees, a writer for the Edmonton Journal, wrote the following article in 1981.
Nick Lees returned to his job at the Edmonton Journal 7 years after he was fired for leaving on his unscheduled vacation with Paige.
Is Nick the reason Paige missed her contracted appearance at the winter sports show? Did she make up this“sudden illness” excuse?
The part in Lees’ article about Paige Young being from Sacramento and a dental assistant, I don’t buy it. There is too much proof that she was born and lived in Los Angeles her entire life. Plus, I don’t see her going through the rigors of dental school and the “9-5 doldrums.” Paige may have told this fib to Lees or he remembers incorrectly.
Lees had a long career at the newspaper as a popular columnist.
The text at right is from an article about Lees, written by journalist Michael Hingston. The article appeared in Canadian Avenue magazine sometime in the early 2000s.
I thank Edmonton writer Michael Hingston for sending me this portion of his notes that were not included in his published story.
Lees’ opinion of Paige seems to have softened over the years. He sounds more resentful in 1981.
Lees specifies the Colorado Rockies as the mountains he and Paige escaped to (Vale above actually spelled Vail) rather than the Canadian Rockies as he says in 1981.
Nick doesn’t indicate any knowledge of Paige’s suicide in 1974, either in his 1981 column or his more recent interview with Michael Hingston.
I have been unable to get in touch with Nick Lees.
He was in the hospital a few years ago per a facebook post.
Below is an entry from a website of the late Bob Sanders who blogged about his lengthy and diverse career.
He has some fascinating stories about Hugh Hefner and working for Playboy as well as TV Guide. He was hired to help promote Hefner’s new TV Show “Playboy After Dark” which led him to meet Paige Young in the late 1960s. Sanders was a regular American working man with a family.
I never learned her real name, but Paige Young, Playboy magazine’s “Miss November” of 1968, was absolutely perfect for a rather challenging assignment: Creating interest in a mediocre TV series.
“Playboy After Dark,” was a follow-up to “Playboy’s Penthouse” which also starred Hugh Hefner, pipe in hand. In both the original and the reincarnation, an elevator whisked viewers to a penthouse where host Hefner, his free arm wrapped around his then current squeeze as we called them, feigned surprise at another drop-in, finally announcing who was in the house to perform. It was pretty awkward stuff.
I met Paige late in January, 1969. That was three months after her appearance in the magazine; an illness had prevented what would have been a timely trip to Chicago. Page was in town to collect $10,000 then awarded Playmates who now receive $25,000 with $100,000 going to the Playmate of the Year. They got to stay a week or so at the Playboy Mansion, attend parties, make personal appearances and meet Hefner, a cultural summit for most. One of my contributions to the process was to interview each of them to determine if they could be of promotional help. Among a year’s monthly winners, you could count on two being particularly good or outstanding. Paige was one of the latter and who could forget either her center-fold or the woman in person? Peter Gowland did the photography in Los Angeles posing a prone Paige, back scratcher in hand. The flashing brown eyes did no harm to the overall effect.
It was a few months before I met Paige that Hefner’s reclusive lifestyle began undergoing a change. The not-so-poor-man’s Howard Hughes had come out of his shell swearing off the uppers and downers that enabled him to stay awake editing his magazine three days at a time. Not only had Hefner hit the streets to observe police outrage during the 1968 Democratic National Convention but he would soon return to the TV trough with “Playboy After Dark” scheduled for Screen Gems release.
Owned by Columbia Pictures, the first major studio to learn to live with the new medium through the creation of a subsidiary, Screen Gems not surprisingly realized the series was a tough sell. They backed off midway through production refusing to promote the show for an additional good reason. Screen Gems had a huge backlog of product including a boatload of Perry Masons–271 to be exact. Up to that point, my involvement was little more than choosing pictures from contact sheets provided by a Hollywood photographer. I soon learned Hefner had little use for black and white photography, perhaps because Playmates’ skin tones looked much more ravishing in color. It was as though black and white was O.K. for Citizen Kane and little more in Hefner’s opinion. I began to bootleg photography; pictures I used to promote the firm’s Lake Geneva resort via newspapers were actually shot by a Chicago Tribune snapper assigned to a narrowly focused feature about the hotel. I paid him $100 after his gig to shoot what I needed: pictures that went beyond architectural renderings ordered by my predecessor. I was never questioned by my management about the photos I used because it was assumed the pics were transferred from color to black and white. Had I gone that route, the shots would have lost about 20% of their sharpness.
Corporate expenses will always be a subject of much conjecture. During what turned out to be 40 years spending other people’s money, I was questioned but once. That was while working for TV Guide in St. Louis, my first gig for the magazine. The year was 1955, eight months after we opened; the office manager, a hopeful sort, had determined we should send parents of newborn children copies of the magazine. Names and addresses of the parents were gleaned from pages of local newspapers and the copy, set in five point agate type, required a magnifying glass to determine accuracy. It was regional manager Arthur Shulman who asked me what the hell was I doing spending $1.99 of TV Guide’s money in such strange fashion?
Playboy was far and away the least concerned of my employers about spending money. Hefner made it clear that he wanted things done in the best possible manner. It was terrific working for a firm striving for promotion efforts done, as Hefner suggested,” first class.” I never took advantage of the situation there or anywhere else.
That early contact sheet assignment for “Playboy After Dark” involved work by an independent photographer, a rather strange determination considering the number of excellent snappers on the payroll. Admittedly, they were rather specialized.
It was while looking at pictures of the fifth show that I found the best shots–maybe ever–of Hefner. All of them found him next to one of the show’s chickie poos. Soon my hunch was verified. Barbie Benton, then a theater major at UCLA–had become a regular on the show eventually attaining status as Hef’s significant love of eight years. I ordered a dozen of one picture of the adoring couple I had cropped from a group shot.
On a trip to Los Angeles, promotion director Nelson Futch and I learned at a meeting called by Screen Gems that its management had determined a preference for releasing “Perry Mason” starring Raymond Burr, then successful in keeping quiet his homosexuality, over the ultimately virile Hefner. It was regarded as a savage blow and Futch, unperturbed, turned the project over to me immediately following the meeting. That was when I thought of Paige Young.
A couple of months passed during which I worked my ass off concentrating on the show. One day Futch and I got a hurry up call to meet with Hefner at The Mansion. Oh, yes. Bring the promotion work. After waiting four hours during which Futch put the Benton/Hefner photo on top the pile of my creativity, we finally entered his office. Our meeting followed one between Hef and his editor-in-chief A.C. Spectorsky–the man who, among many things, coined the word “exurbanites.” Moments later, Hefner spotted the photo, held it up to the light and did a series of gyrations reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s examination of the world in The Great Dictator.
“Where did you get this?” he asked–a pretty dumb question under the circumstances unless a UCLA photo-journalist had grabbed a shot of the Bunny King attired in a silly Edwardian suit while visiting one of Barbie’s acting classes.
“The fifth show,” I replied.
“Can I have one?” he asked in very boyish fashion as if I were the editor of the high school yearbook and he, infatuated by a photo of his best girl.
“Would you like six? I can get you at least five more.” That was it. He never looked at any of the rest of my promotional efforts. Apparently, he had decided the Hef/Barbie choice was sufficient. The picture became paramount in the print promotion of the show.
The series played in something like 21 markets with the stations located north and south from Minneapolis to Miami and east to west from New York to Los Angeles. Among them were two Lafayettes–Indiana and Louisiana–plus other locations across the fruited plain and Canada where the program was seen in Montreal. The series had but one show worth viewing; it starred Sammy Davis, Jr., Anthony Newley, Jerry Lewis and Peter Lawford, the latter of unique adroitness: dressing up a set.
Hefner’s published comments on the series and his host role give pause: “It’s better than the ‘Johnny Carson Show’ or the ‘Joey Bishop Show’ and I do a better job hosting than Ed Sullivan does.”
KTLA, the then Gene Autry-owned independent channel , bought the series and we scheduled a party for what was then called the Playboy Building at 8560 Sunset Boulevard. Built in the early 1960s, it had a parking lot to the west set beneath 10 stories of reinforced concrete. It is now part of the Sunset Millennium Project–three buildings totaling approximately 300,000 square feet of office space.
Back then, my attention was captivated by a huge windowless area of the building’s west façade. Recalling all the “Playboy After Dark” color photos taken on the set, I wondered if we could project pictures on the wall in a rotating series of six or so with enticing copy to promote the show. I found a Swedish company with equipment about the size of a small TV set which we secured at the entrance to the parking lot.
My idea had unusual origins. Years before, comedian Red Skelton had a neighbor in Palm Springs he didn’t like or so the story went. The guy, a moralistic type, had a white stucco home with a large wall visible to the street. In reaction to the neighbor’s latest outrage, Skelton began showing adult movies on the fellow’s home.
In the fall of 1969, eastbound Sunset Blvd. motorists were confronted by color photos of scantily clad young ladies in addition to 30-ft pipe-clutching Hefs and bug cute Barbies.
We had a minor “Playboy After Dark” promotion problem which never surfaced. Paige Young had not appeared in the series having turned down a request. Thoughtful and intelligent, she had other things to do, notably painting. Horses were a subject dear to her as I learned during time out on the north side of Phoenix where many Arabian thoroughbred farms used to exist.
Paige was a total delight. One time she flew to Minneapolis where I met her at the airport before we moved on to newspaper, magazine and broadcast interviews. After a couple of days, we flew to Miami for more of the same. Phoenix was particularly productive offering a good example of the Playboy mystique. Shortly after our arrival, I learned a local PR representative hired by us had not set up any interviews. I made five phone calls to the TV stations then located in the area and placed Paige on each channel for interviews–mostly on news programs. It may have been a very slow news day, but getting that kind of attention on such short notice with little going for us except the Playboy mystique was absolutely amazing; the series was about to be carried on one of those five stations. The trick was to set up the interviews along different lines emphasizing such things as the magazine and Paige’s appearance in it, her life and travels, and what Hugh Hefner was really like.
During my Playboy Enterprises days there was a story, probably apocryphal, told about Hefner by Victor Lownes who was, in my opinion, a promotional genius responsible for a lot of the magazine’s (and later the clubs’) success. Lownes had introduced a young woman to Hefner, referring to him as “a living legend.” The couple wandered off to a nearby bedroom where, scant minutes later, the woman emerged commenting to Lownes: “And you call that a living legend?” Hey, nobody bats 1.000.
It was no secret Lownes had been run out of Chicago after dallying with a teenage TV star. Adding to the speed of his departure was her being the daughter of a high profile newspaper columnist. Lownes settled in London where he established the London Playboy Club, then gained a gambling permit. It wasn’t long before he had created a lifestyle many thought at least the equivalent of Hefner’s; included was Stocks, an impressive manor house. While Benny Dunn was dressing up Hefner’ Chicago Gold Coast home with people from the entertainment world, Lownes was attracting a much broader spectrum of notables.
Things went nicely for Lownes. Treated as a company hero as Playboy Enterprises peaked during my years there, his short returns to Chicago were largely joyous occasions although Lownes could be a jerk. Circulation of the magazine hit 6,000,000, the hotels were showing promise, and the clubs were doing well thanks to Victor’s London gambling license. Suddenly, in 1981, England’s gaming commission yanked the permit. Some Arabs, among the club’s highest rollers, had been given markers by Lownes and the license was pulled. To this day, Lownes denies the charges. No question the timing was dreadful. Hefner was in the midst of what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to get a gambling permit for Atlantic City and the London catastrophe played a major role. An earlier New York City liquor license obtained under questionable circumstances was another.
The relationship between old friends Hefner and Lownes cooled. The latter eventually left the organization and wrote a tough but largely accurate book about his former pal and a public company having difficulty adjusting to a world enormously changed since Hefner planned the magazine in his kitchen nearly 30 years before. The magazine business was undergoing upheavals of its own. Penthouse, inspired by Hefner but tawdry by comparison, offered full frontal nudity and Playboy met the challenge. Marilyn Cole, who later married Lownes, was the first Playmate to be so photographed.
While my association with Paige Young remained purely professional, I’m sure a lot of people in the home office and air travelers thought otherwise. The airport scenes were rather wondrous. Paige wore big floppy hats in a great variety of singular colors. We arranged our airport meets so that scheduled arrivals in those halcyon days of dependability were very close. I could spot her hat from impressive distances and she could do the same with me although I never wore a floppy hat. The last half of our promotion tour found us running toward each other in airports and embracing in corny displays suggesting to many that we were something we weren’t.
So many memories remain including a rainy night in New Orleans during which we ran barefoot through the French Quarter (she was a physical fitness nut) and were later entertained by the Playboy Club’s musical director, Al Belletto, one of the few non-Dixie musicians in town. A Stan Kenton discovery, Belletto introduced us to such people as Al Hirt, Pete Fountain and Eddie Miller, the Fred Astaire of tenor saxophonists. When I met Miller, I made the observation and he said: “I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.”
West Bank Guide May 1969.
Paige and I lost track of each other and I attempted to find her on the internet some five years ago. I wish I hadn’t. She had committed suicide at age 30, six years after we stopped promoting Hefner’s TV show.
I can’t recall a single clue that might have suggested such a splendid blithe spirit was capable of such a decision.
A woman contacted me by e-mail about 4 years ago and said she was the daughter of the late Bob Sanders.
She told me that when the Daily Mail article was published, she was relieved that her father was not alive to learn that Paige’s method of suicide was a gunshot to head, not an overdose of drugs. She said learning that would have greatly upset him.
Bob’s daughter also wrote that she thinks despite what her father wrote in his blog post, there many have been a fling of sorts between Bob and Paige.
Because of the Nick Lees story, I don’t think Bob Sanders travelled with Paige to Edmonton, she was likely travelling on her own at this point.
If you read the chapter on 1969–there are several articles that mention Bob Sanders, not by name but by profession, as Paige’s “handler,” “assistant,” even “flack.”
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Category: 1960s, 1970s, LA Locations, Playboy, PMOM Tagged: 1960sPlayboy, 1969, Avenue Magazine, Bob Sanders, Edmonton Canada, Edmonton Journal, Hugh Hefner, Michael Hingston, Nick Lees, Paige Young, Peter Gowland, Playboy Clubs, Playboy History, Playboy Playmate, TVGuide, Victor Lownes, Vintage Playboy Playmate
Posted on July 15, 2020
Paige’s photo appears in the January 1969 issue of Playboy magazine. It’s also the 15th anniversary issue of the massively successful magazine and empire. The issue shows 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 obviously, it meant more photos, more publicity and more money.
The winner was born Constance Kornacki in Wyandotte, Michigan. She grew up in a strict Polish Catholic family.
She became a Michigan nursing school student and then a Playmate as Connie Kreski in January of 1968. Around the same time she moved to London and met singer/songwriter Anthony Newley.
Connie appeared to look much younger than her 21 years. This 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 met another powerful man in London and began dating him: 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.
Detroit Press Nov. 17, 1969 BetteLou Petersen celebrity column.
Well known to those who have read some 1960s social history, 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 several 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.
April 6, 1969. Long Beach Press Telegraph
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 PAD, mostly the ones from 1970, the last year of the program.
The People, London. Aug. 23, 1970
Kreski’s newspaper press indicates she was signed to a contract with Universal Studios.
Valley Times Mar. 25, 1969
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.
Detroit Free Press April 27, 1969
Connie appeared on a memorable 1970 episode of Love American Style starring Kaye Ballard, Connie plays 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 got 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.
Playboy Mansion regular James Caan speaks about girlfriend Connie Kreski in NY Daily News Oct. 8, 1972
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.
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 Hefner, 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.” Connie’s entry in The Playmate Book, mentions her death in Beverly Hills, 1995, but doesn’t state a cause. I have included closeups of her death certificate.
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 told me that after the loss, Connie began an obsession with calorie counting and losing weight and that she also abused alcohol.
It’s no wonder 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……
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