Claudia Jennings “70’s Drive-In Angel”

The boys in tenth grade homeroom couldn’t help but notice her. It was 1966, and 16-year-old Mary Eileen Chesterton, known since childhood as Mimi, had transferred to Evanston Township High School. Striking, with her red hair, bottomless green eyes and chiseled features, she instantly became one of the half-dozen most beautiful girls in a class of more than one thousand kids.

Mimi had been uprooted before. She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on December 20, 1949, and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father, Gerard, worked in advertising but had been unemployed for a number of her school years. Once he secured a new job with Motorola in Chicago, Mimi and her sisters were pulled from school mid-semester as the family migrated south.

Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago, was a comfortable, Waspy, upper-middle class community of fewer than 80,000 residents. The eldest of three daughters, Mimi was both liberated and pressured to succeed. Her mother Joan, a teacher, placed a premium on education and, by all accounts, the Chesterton girls grew up in an intellectually advantaged atmosphere.

Artistic expression had always been encouraged in the Chesterton household too. Back in Milwaukee, Mimi’s mother enrolled her in acting classes at Marquette University when she was ten. The aspiring actress eventually recruited kids from the neighborhood, around her home on Farwell Avenue, to put on little plays in her garage and backyard. Later that year, she got her first taste of the footlights when she appeared in a local repertory production of The King and I.

In Evanston, Mimi was a shoo-in as one of her school’s cheerleading squad. By junior year, she gravitated to the drama department and auditioned for a production of Inherit the Wind. One of her classmates, Todd McCarthy now chief film critic for was student assistant director. ‘‘There being no part for her, she was relegated to the background as an extra,” he recounted, “and I believe she dropped out of the play before it was performed.”

McCarthy, who fancied himself a budding filmmaker, had been making short films almost every weekend. “I started wanting to make serious films instead of these one-reel comedies. So I came up with this kind of allegorical, symbolic, dramatic film to shoot and I wanted her to be in it. She agreed.”

McCarthy shot his masterpiece in August 1967. “What a catch for me to have her in that little film I did, because she just had that fantastic look and a magnetism. And for a stupid film of, basically, just a girl walking around for ten minutes, who better to have than that?”

By the start of senior year, despite his hunch (later confirmed) that “she was dating jocks from archrival New “Trier High School and ‘men’ from Northwestern University,” McCarthy asked Mimi out. To his relief, “She immediately said yes!” During one evening out, Mimi revealed that a friend had landed a job at the Chicago office of Playboy magazine, and had proposed that she model for some test shots. “I told her, ‘No way,’” said Mimi. “I wouldn’t do that.”

She garnered excellent grades in school, and earned the title of National Merit Scholar, but while her parents hoped she would attend a good university, Mimi devoted only a half-hearted interest, only bothering to submit applications to a couple of nondescript colleges. She had made up her mind: Mimi would forfeit a higher education to become an actress, and turn to modeling as both a means of sustenance and a platform toward her goal. To her parents, the notion of making it on one’s looks was the ultimate act of rebellion.

After graduating in 1968, the 18-year-old moved out of her parents’ place and into a bachelorette apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. She had some professional photos taken, with which she obtained a few regional modeling gigs, and joined the Hull House Theater company. After a couple of months, however, Mimi realized that neither her modeling nor her acting was doing much to get her noticed or pay the bills. To make matters worse, Chicago quickly became the center of the maelstrom surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention, culminating in a full-fledged riot on August 28th. Broadcast to nearly 60 million viewers, the riot sent shock waves throughout the nation, and Chicagoans saw first-hand that the times they were a changin’. On ‘Tuesday, September 3rd, Mimi was hired for a job at Playboy magazine’s office on North Michigan Avenue. “She was the receptionist on the tenth floor, where I worked,” recalled Thomas Staebler, the magazine’s current Art Director.

Mimi had barely received her first paycheck before a Playboy photographer, Pompeo Posar, took notice of her and asked her to test. Though secretly fearing that she might not be busty enough to qualify as a Playmate, she agreed. Only three weeks to the day after she started work at the office, Mimi nervously disrobed for her test shots.

The event was so much more clinical than she had envisioned. “How awkward,” she thought, as Posar began to click away. But he worked quickly and professionally, and it was over before she knew it. She impulsively covered her nakedness as Posar casually unloaded his camera and told her how well she had done. Dazed from the lights and the adrenaline, Mimi smiled, dressed and returned to her desk.

There was one other man who took notice of Michigan Avenue’s newest receptionist-one Hugh Marston Hefner: Playboy founder, direct descendant of Puritan patriarchs Wilham Bradford and John Winthrop, 42-year-old divorced father of two, icon to his generation and self-styled king of the cocktail nation. Even more than these things, Hef represented that most American of figures: the self-made man. Mimi was genuinely impressed by her boss particularly his sincerity, intelligence (a genius IQ of 152) and tender manner and he, in turn, took an immediate liking to the 18-year-old.

After looking over the proofs, the photo staff knew they had something; but Mimi, though perfectly proportioned, needed to lose weight to become a Playmate. With a $5,000 check in the offing, Mimi decided to go for it. She dropped ten pounds and agreed to step before Posar’s camera again in March, April and June of 1969.

Somewhere around her 19th birthday, Mimi felt the breeze of free love blow across Lake Michigan, and fell under the spell of her debonair employer. Hefner recalled, “She once gave me a kibitz, a long time afterward sometime in the ’70s and it kind of blew me away at the time. She said to me that I was the first man that she’d ever made love to. Whether that was just something said for effect I don’t know it was said in a very dear way and I expressed my astonishment at that because, certainly, I was not aware of it at the time.” Between all the possible constructions of her statement, one fact remains constant and irrefutable: Mimi was as drawn to sensitivity, passion and romance as she was to mature men of power.

And so it was that 19-year-old Mimi Chesterton became a Playmate. Her pictorial did not appear until November 1969, and when it did, Mimi had rechristened herself “Claudia Jennings” in order, she said, to spare her sisters any embarrassment that may be prompted by her centerfold layout. (Hefner’s take: “She had professional aspirations in acting. I assumed she changed her name for that reason.”) Her new moniker also served another purpose: Mimi had reinvented herself, and obliterated her roots, in one simple, almost vengeful maneuver.

The public response to her magazine appearance was enormous; far yielding to any sort of stigma, the titian-haired Jennings was destined to become the most perennially popular Playmate of the next decade. Perhaps more significantly, she had found acceptance as a member of the Playboy family. Another lifelong friend whom Jennings met at the Chicago office, Marilyn Grabowski (now Playboy’s West Coast Photo Editor), recalled, “She had a devil-may-care attitude. She was always looking forward to her next escapade. ..and I think she always wanted to be a star.”

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1969 – Playboy, November Playmate

THERE REALLY IS NO BUSINESS like show business at least as far as 19-year old Claudia Jennings is concerned. Since she made her stage debut at the age of ten, in a production of The King and I by a repertory group in her native Milwaukee, Claudia has performed in about two dozen musical comedies occasionally as an ingénue but more often in character roles: “Ironically enough, I usually get to play little girl parts. But that’s just as well, since it forces me to really act.” Currently ensconced in a bachelorette apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago where she arrived several seasons ago to model fashions the well-rounded thespian has been performing lately under the auspices of Hull House Theater: “I heard their productions were first rate, so I went to see for myself-and before I knew what was happening. I had joined the company.” Having made up her mind that she’d rather earn a living by emoting than by posing (“Modeling gets more tedious all the time’). Claudia say’s it’s necessary for her. at this point in her career, to move to one coast or the other for the Windy City’s theatrical opportunities are limited. “Every actress has her particular skills and drawbacks,” says Claudia. “It’s a show business axiom that if you really want to overcome pour limitations. You go to New York, but if you’re satisfied with our skills, then you’re ready for Hollywood The reasoning is that with a stage play, you get to work with the same material over a longer pen of time than you do with a film, so you have more of a chance to improve.” Although Claudia’s celluloid experience has been held to one experimental short subject, she feels ready to try for stardom via the Hollywood route, and is awaiting the results of a recent screen test. Not that she’s naive enough to expect a sudden windfall: “Rarely does anyone establish herself in this profession with one schematic stroke. You have to keep chipping away at the industry.” Between shows, Claudia busies herself by counseling teenage girls at a Chicago Y.W.C.A., and when she wants distraction from social realities as well as from the theater, she picks up a bag of apples, throws in a book by Hemingway or Roth and hikes herself to the lake shore: “You’ve got to sit down and relax sometimes, since the future will be unpredictable even if you work twenty four hours a day.” True enough but we feel secure in predicting a cinematically gratifying future for Claudia.

During the fall season when her pictorial was launched, she flew to Los Angeles to test the waters. Jennings ended up participating in a Bill Cosby comedy LP before signing on for a two-month torn’ of the South and Southwest in a repertory production of The Tender Trap. Upon her return to L.A., the Playmate was offered her first film role in an independent picture, with artistic pretensions, called JUD. The dreary story concerned a Vietnam vet’s difficulty in adjusting to life back in the U.S.A. As “Sunny,” a girl with whom the title character spends a night on the beach, Jennings was required to perform an awkward, topless love scene; it looks as if the crew had to get it on film fast or risk getting busted for shooting on a public beach.

Still, Hollywood was everything Jennings assumed it would be: stars, pimps, pushers, flower children, limousines, Manson murders, lots of parties. She knew she was ready for it. Jennings returned to Chicago, which suddenly looked more off-white and unlovely than ever, and withdrew her nest egg to finance a permanent move to Los Angeles. According to Playboy personnel files, she officially quit her job on December 17, 1969, three days before her 20th birthday.

Upon her official arrival in Tinseltown, Jennings joined three roommates in a big house on Gramercy Place in Hollywood. It wasn’t long before one roommate, Allison Granno, tried to set up the new girl in town with slim, handsome songwriter/musician Bobby Hart, who had previously dated one of her ex-roommates…

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With hopes of becoming a radio disc jockey, Hart had moved to L.A. from Phoenix on New Year’s Day 1958. After meeting Virginian Tommy Boyce, the two teens formed a band and began writing songs. In 1964, after moving to New York to join the Brill Building music scene, they composed their first Boyce & Hart smash, Jay and the Americans’ Come A Little Bit Closer. But with the British Invasion in full force, it soon be- came clear that the real ac- tion in American popular music was on the West Coast, coalescing in the hip clubs along the Strip. The duo returned to L.A. and later became famous for producing (and performing on) The Monkees’ first album, and composing the Monkees Theme, Last Train to Clarksville and others.

In January 1970, Granno reached Hart, who had just returned from Las Vegas, where he and Boyce had performed their final gig. “I got a call from Allison saying there was someone she wanted me to meet,” recalled Hart. “I was kind of burned out from Vegas, and I didn’t call her back for a while. Finally, at the end of January or so, I called her and she said, ‘Oh, she’s not here now, she’s shooting her Playmate of the Year layout.’ Then I realized I’d made a mistake by waiting .” Jennings later joked that once Hart heard she was 1970 Playmate of the Year, “the phone never stopped ringing” at her house. When Jennings re- turned two weeks later, she and Hart, who “had a big reputation as a swinger,” finally met.

Jennings later described their first date as “instantaneous impact.” The couple decided on dinner at Diamond Jim’s on Hollywood Boulevard. When it came time for dessert, Hart asked, “Why don’t we go to my house for a cup of tea?” They drove to his small, two bedroom house on Woodrow Wilson Drive, in the Hollywood Hills. A Hecate wind blew through the Hills that night. Jennings later recalled, “We finally put the teakettle on, and I guess the water just boiled away all night.”
Ten days lapsed until Jennings heard again from Hart, who invited her to a star-studded Jimmy Webb concert on Saturday night, February 21st. The Playmate had plans to leave for Europe with a girlfriend a few days later, so Hart had caught her just in time. “On that second date, she said she didn’t like casual relationships and she really wanted a commitment. I said ‘Whoa.’ I thought she was coming on a little strong. I said, ‘It’s got to be up to both of us,’ or something like that. We kind of left it like that, and she went off to Europe. When she came back, we got together again and, within a few months, she moved in with me.”

In March, before she had returned to the States, Jennings appeared on a TV “documentary” entitled, THE NUDITY THING, opposite an unlikely ensemble that included Elliott Gould and Otto Preminger. Jennings played peekaboo with the camera during her segment, which was shot con- currently with her Playmate of the Year photo sessions. Back from Europe, and still looking like a fish out of water, Jennings appeared on the final episode of Hugh Hefner’s PLAYBOY AFTER DARK TV series, where she and Connie Kreski, 1969 Playmate of the Year, were given little to do but stand behind Buddy Rich’s drum kit and look pretty. After the taping wrapped, they all joined Hef at a party in his 007-style penthouse pad on the Strip.

Hart had yet to come through with his commitment of monogamy, so Claudia accepted invitations to become the arm candy of such celebrities as Warren Beatty, Johnny Carson (then in the early stages of a lengthy divorce) and flamboyant financial impresario, Bernie Comfeld.

That spring, Jennings landed a role in an off Broadway revival of Dark of the Moon, opposite Marcia Wallace and Rue McClanahan. Famed (and feared) critic John Simon wrote, “[Jennings] is a completely lovely girl with something sensitive, vulnerable, perhaps even haunted in her eyes and around her mouth. She makes a spotlight light up as no wattage could do it. At all times, she makes you forget the dismalness of the play she is trapped in…”

After an exciting month in the Big Apple, Jennings journeyed back home to L.A., and soon checked into a hospital after suffering some seizures. “She had been taking these B12 shots in New York from a doctor, and I think that, probably, he had been putting some speed in it as well, which was kind of common in those days,” Hart reasoned. “She took on these very physically demanding roles, and she was much more frail than anybody ever knew.”

Willy & Scratch (1974)Jennings soon realized the hard truth; her Playboy credentials would get her only so far in the movies, so she signed with an aggressive agent, Michael Green- field, who also represented Linda Evans and Victoria Principal. Before long, Jennings went off to Florida to perform her first film lead in a three-week western called Willy & Scratch (1974), shot on an old standing set. Exploitation filmmaker Robert Emery wrote, produced, directed and edited the odd film, which involved a fight over stolen money. The central setting was a ghost town, wiped out by a plague. “As a person, Claudia was nothing like what you saw in Playboy,” recalled Emery. “She was very smart, she knew that she wanted a career and she was going to go after it. And she was willing to do these low-budget pictures to get herself seen. She was just a joke a minute. She never lost her temper, never got upset. We were filming a small movie under some adverse conditions, but she never complained.”

Upon returning to Hollywood, Jennings was quickly engaged by Jack Haley, Jr. for an appearance in THE LOVE MACHINE (1971), an adaptation of the Jacqueline Susann bestseller he was directing for Columbia. Jennings had a bit part as one of a parade of beauties bedded by a power hungry newscaster (played by John Phillip Law). “Claudia had been a personal friend of mine,” Haley revealed. “So I was doing this picture with a lot of beautiful girls in it and I said, ‘Claudia, let’s do it.’ You know, Claudia was a real live wire; she was great fun to be around. When she did THE LOVE MACHINE, it was like a lark for her… It was not a major career move in any sense of the word.”

Life’s finer fripperies sat well upon Jennings, and she looked back at her first year in Lotus Land with satisfaction: this was the fast life she had dreamed of. Unfortunately, the lifestyle of the day consisted of more than Sunday night Monopoly games with Hef and dips in the jacuzzi. With pharmaceuticals in abundant supply, she found the temptation too great and was lured into the thralldom of chemical bliss.

Following a minor role as the Stoner wife of a cheesy director in Howard Avedis’ thriller IMPULSION (which debuted two years later as The Stepmother (1972), Jennings felt proud to grace 16 pages of the November 1971 issue of New Woman, a “women’s lib” magazine. Through her calculated spin on her past (including references to her English degree from the University of Chicago and her job as a guide in the Playboy building), she offered some insight into her ambitions. “(Playboy) offered me $5,000 to do it and I needed the money. It got me to Hollywood where I just finished my first film! You may call that compromise but I used it to arrive exactly where I wanted. ..I’m working at acting on my terms. ..I’m in control.” Later in the piece she maintained, “It’s not my aim in life to pose nude or to be a sexual object; it was a concession I made. To me, it was simply a step. ..a rung in the ladder toward my ultimate goal. I’ve gone on to something else, I don’t need to do that again.”

The Stepmother (1972)

The Stepmother (1972) Summary: Returning home late one night from a business trip to Mexico, architect Frank Delgado finds the car of wealthy client Alan Richmond in his driveway. Suspecting that his wife Margo and Richmond are having an affair, Frank attacks Richmond when he steps outside and strangles him to death. Although stunned by his action, Frank drives Richmond’s body to the beach and, using a spade he brought from his home, buries the body in the sand. As he finishes the burial, Frank overhears a nearby, young, Latin couple’s argument escalate into a fight, but drives away without being seen. The next morning as the police receive a report of the discovery of two bodies at the beach, Frank and Margo are awakened by the arrival of Frank’s business partner Dick Hill, his wife Sonya and their friends, pornographic film director Goof and his wife Rita. Although reluctant, the tense Frank agrees to accompany the others to the beach house belonging to Richmond, for whom he and Dick are building another property.

Regarding her relationship with Hart, Jennings said, “He’s totally sympathetic to everything I feel. We’re completely committed to each other.” By admitting that the couple had no intention of marrying, Jennings cast herself as the archetypical New Woman: “I wish I could find one good reason for marrying but, so far. I’ve found only reasons for not marrying. That document isn’t going to make your relationship work if it isn’t a good one, so what’s the point? Even if I were going to have children, I wouldn’t marry. Naturally, I’d want to rear them with my man helping me, but a piece of paper won’t keep him with me if he doesn’t want to stay. The children wouldn’t suffer from having unmarried parents because I wouldn’t live in a community which would hurt them for it. I was reared as a Catholic in the Midwest, and I think that I was taught a lot of harmful things. I wish I could believe in life after death, though, because it’s such a nice thought. Reward for living a good life is so fair; I’d like to think it’s true, but I’m afraid I’m more of a realist than that.”

Hart remembered that “Claudia had not developed her spiritual side much and, although she didn’t resent that I was a searcher and that I was interested in Eastern religion, she didn’t want to know about it. She thought it was all bull.”

By the fall of 1971, although she was more often on film locations than at home, Jennings and Hart decided to look for a bigger house. In the spring of ’72, after moving twice, Jennings found a beautiful mini-mansion which had belonged to Gower Champion sitting back on a hill on Woodrow Wilson. The couple moved in on Memorial Day.

The same year, Jennings starred in Vernon Zimmerman’s roller derby classic, The Unholy Rollers (1972), which Roger Corman produced for American International. The picture a low budget option to Raquel Welch’s KANSAS CITY BOMBER constituted Jennings’ most important movie to date. On screen, Jennings offered the first glimpse of what would endear her to a generation of fans: the commanding personality, the beauty and grace, the all-American smile. But the scale of Jennings’ future celebrity was dwarfed by that of the film’s supervising editor: Martin Scorsese, fresh from directing BOXCAR BERTHA (’72) for Corman, needed cash prior to putting together his masterful MEAN STREETS (1973).

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The Unholy Rollers (1972) Summary: Karen wants more action out of life and quits her job at the cannery to become a skater in the roller derby. She encounters friction from the other skaters—especially Mickey, the current star of the team. Karen proves herself a feisty competitor but refuses to be a team player. As she skates her way to stardom, she incurs the wrath of jealous team members and the owner of the team.

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Todd McCarthy managed to catch up with Jennings on a summer ’72 trip to L.A. He recalled, “She talked very affectionately about Hefner, personally, and about the whole Playboy experience. She viewed it as a breakthrough for her.” Though McCarthy still called her Mimi, and she did not correct him, he noted that all her ‘post-Playboy friends referred to her as Claudia.

Jennings shot three more movies in 1972, beginning with Group Marriage (1973). The comedy, directed and co-written by Corman graduate Stephanie Rothman, chronicled a California menage-a-quatre that becomes a test case. Next, the actress netted her first “A” film role with Columbia’s 40 Carats (1973), opposite Liv Ullmann and Edward Albert. Director Milton Katselas recalled, “She wanted very much to be good and to satisfy. That seemed like a very important part of her. I remember after the scene, she asked me two or three times had she done well, and was this what I wanted. And that she was so pleased to have done it.”

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Group Marriage (1973) Summary: Chris (Aimée Eccles) is not getting along with boyfriend Sandor (Solomon Sturges) and has an affair with parole officer Dennis (Jeff Pomerantz). Dennis invites the couple to dinner with his ex-girlfriend Jan (Victoria Vetri). At a picnic on the beach, Jan meets lifeguard Phil (Zack Taylor), who later sleeps with Chris and moves in with the other five. Phil brings in a person, lawyer Elaine (Claudia Jennings). The “group marriage” of the six of them attracts media attention.

Jennings also starred in the first of two films for the husband/wife team of Ferd and Beverly Sebastian. A murder mystery set on an island retreat for couples suffering marital problems,

The Single Girls (1974) represented the very definition of exploitation fare. Still, the warmth of the Sebastian’s “little family operation” touched Jennings, and the couple became two of her closest friends.

The Single Girls (1974)

The Single Girls (1974) Summary: A group of men and women travel to a Caribbean resort to discover themselves sexually, but unfortunately one of them has also discovered that they like to murder people too.

The actress rounded out an incredibly busy year appearing as an imperiled sorority sister in director Joseph Mazzuca’s Sisters of Death (1976). Jennings was among the first actresses cast. “It was a very, very low budget picture,” recalled Mazzuca. “Besides being right for the part, Claudia’s [Playmate fame] was an added plus for the picture, commercially. We needed a name.” Jennings regarded the three week shoot, on location in a spooky mansion up near Santa Barbara, as a learning experience. Sure, the days were long, but at least she was able to drive home to see Hart on the weekends.

Sisters of Death (1976) Summary: During an all-girl secret society college initiation, one of the new members is killed playing Russian Roulette. Seven years later, the survivors are invited to a reunion at a lavish estate, which turns out to be owned by the crazed father of the girl who died.

The director remembered, “Before we shot the scene where the villain is looking through a vent in the wall and she was going through her undressing bit, to join the people at the pool, she said, ‘Am I going to have to. ..you know?’ and I said, ‘No, because we’re really going for a PG with this. Undo the bra with your back to us and then, as you start to take down your panties, we’ll cut.’ I could see the great relief on her face. That struck me.”

The film’s story was substandard even as stalker fare: five sorority members gather for a reunion, and each maintains a terrible secret from the past. Low on thrills and production value, the resulting PG-rated film had difficulty attracting a distributor and failed to net a significant release until August 1977.

Jennings’ private life had become busier too. When both of Hart’s children, who lived in Phoenix with his ex-wife, Becky, experienced trouble in school that year, the actress who missed her sisters more each day- saw this as a splendid opportunity. Jennings told Hart that the kids needed a change of environment and, in the fall, 11-year-old Bobby Jr. moved to Woodrow Wilson Drive.

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1970 – Playboy, June, Playmate of the Year

“With Claudia and Bobby, there was always a sense of family,” said Marilyn Grabowski. “There would be people over for the holidays. Claudia liked a lot of cacophony around her.” Jennings attracted actress Sally Kirkland, who compared the Woodrow Wilson house to an ashram. “Claudia took me in as if I was a long lost child,” related Kirkland. “She dressed me for auditions in her finest silks, invited me to all the Thanksgivings and Christmases and basically gave me my first L.A. home.”

“Claudia’s dad told me she was always bringing home stray animals,” added Hart. “She continued that and took it into the field of people later in her life. It seemed like there was always someone in the guest room who needed a place to stay for a while. I admired her for that, although it be- came a little strange from time to time having people around.”

“She knew everybody in town,” Marilyn Grabowski smiled. “She was very, very loyal to her friends. You wouldn’t see her for three months, and then she’d come bopping in to see you. There was no such thing to her as losing a friend. She collected them constantly.”

Her career clearly on a roll, Jennings spent four weeks of early 1973 in New Mexico filming Truck Stop Women (1974) for director Mark L. Lester. Jennings played “Rose,” the rebellious daughter of a truck stop cafe owner whose sidelines include hi-jacking and prostitution, often using Rose as bait. Adding to the film’s realism, Jennings and some of the other actors learned to drive trucks for the film. Savoring her new “tough” screen image, Jennings later loved to brag that she could “turn a mack truck on a dime.”

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Truck Stop Women (1974) Summary: A mother (Lieux Dressler) runs a brothel for truckers on the New Mexico highways and her stable includes her daughter (Claudia Jennings). The daughter is sick of her mother controlling things and begins working with some men from the “Eastern Mafia” who are attempting to take over their operation

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“When I finished the movie, there wasn’t enough sex in it according to the distributors,” Lester remembered. “They said, ‘Well, nothing ever happens the truck stop women are never naked and they never do anything sexy.’ So I shot a couple of extra days. That’s when I did the sex scene with Claudia.”

At the same time, the Sebastians began developing their next project, specifically with Jennings in mind. ‘Gator Bait (1973), an action film set in the swampland, linked the actress with “Desiree” a sexy but deadly bayou beauty who is an indelible component of Jennings’ screen legacy. “Claudia wanted to do it because she wanted to do a show that she didn’t have to talk a lot in,” Ferd laughed. “She just wanted to be this animal and run around.”

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Gator Bait (1973) Summary: The film follows a barefoot poacher named Desiree Thibodeau who lives deep in the swampland. Ben Bracken and Deputy Billy Boy find Desiree trapping alligators and chase her, looking to exact sexual favors. Desiree outsmarts the two men. During the chase, however, Billy Boy accidentally shoots Ben. Billy Boy tells his father, Sheriff Joe Bob Thomas, that Desiree was the shooter. Sheriff Thomas and his son join a search party who is also looking for Desiree and attack her family. Desiree exacts her revenge against the attackers.

That spring, Jennings and the Sebastians drove down to Caddo Lake, Texas, just across the border from Shreveport, Louisiana, in the Sebastians’ motor home. Once principal photography was completed, an exhausted Jennings headed home to recover. A few weeks later, Jennings told reporter James Bacon that she never planned on becoming a star of low-budget movies; “I would have much sooner started out with the Sarah Miles’ part in RYAN’S DAUGHTER but I wanted to work most of all and get experience. And I got plenty of it.

“I could have been doing one day bits in big movies but I wouldn’t have been learning my trade. In the low-budget movies, I am the star. I work every day and I learn something new every day. I feel now that I am ready to make the jump to the big movies. I have served my apprenticeship.”

Jennings also made light of the peculiar benefits of cost-constrictive film-making. “In Truck Stop Women,” she explained, “I even learned how to drive those big 16-speed diesel trucks. That alone gives me something to fall back on.” As for GATOR BAIT, she joked, “On this picture I learned how to pick up an armadillo and swing it. So far, I can’t see where this will ever come in handy. I also had a few encounters with alligators. No future in that.” With determination, the actress vowed, “I’m through with the low budget pictures unless the script and director knock me out.”

Anxious to expand her range, the actress studied acting with Jeff Corey. Soon thereafter, Jennings accepted the role of “Rusty” in a road company production of LENNY. The show played San Francisco in June and July. According to Sally Kirkland, Mrs. (Honey) Bruce hugged Jennings and lauded her with, “Thank God, it was you.”

Adios, Johnny Bravo

The former Playmate did a guest shot on the wholesome BRADY BUNCH series in 1973. The episode, titled “Adios, Johnny Bravo,” guest-starred Jennings as a seductive agent who promises to make Greg a star provided he change his name to Johnny Bravo. The episode aired in September, and served to finally demonstrate that Jennings could project beyond her typecasting as a sexpot. Offered the opportunity, Jennings excelled as a smart, strong and sophisticated woman. It was all the more frustrating that, despite her proven television viability, roles in B-movies still comprised the bulk of her auditions.

By early 1974, Jennings was cast with Harvey Keitel in an episode of “The F.B.I.” Deadly Ambition (TV Episode 1974) series. Planning to pose for Playboy again, she translated a new pictorial into a professional asset. But, according to Hart, two other factors prevailed: “They had a lot of money to offer and, if she didn’t let them shoot new shots, they would use the old stuff, which they had plenty of.” Jennings negotiated her personal selection of five top glamour photographers to shoot her. Playboy agreed.

In her agent’s opinion, however, “Relying on Playboy, from a career standpoint, is ridiculous. An audience responds to what it sees on the screen. They respond to charisma and good technical skills. What Claudia had was a terrific amount of charisma, she was very sexy, but her biggest problem was she looked a little hard-edged…There wasn’t [the appearance] of a well-rounded individual and somebody you would want to hook up to. People don’t realize how much of one’s persona comes out on screen.” Following the release of GATOR BAIT, although Jennings was largely absent from the big screen for nearly two years, her career seemed to be on the upswing. True to her vow, Jennings was holding out for better films. Meanwhile, she did guest shots on TV shows {e.g. CANNON), graced Playboy’s November ’74 cover, and returned the following issue with a pictorial.

In Bruce Williamson’s article accompanying her December “Claudia Observed” layout, Jennings shrewdly tried to cast off the image of a B-movie bombshell who occasionally pops up in bigger films, merely wrinkling her nose at the mention of GROUP MARRIAGE, 40 CARATS and THE LOVE MACHINE.

Williamson noticed a gold and diamond bracelet on Jennings’ wrist during their interview which spelled out B-I-T-C-H. “That’s what I always play in the movies,” she explained. “Though it’s the opposite of what I am really, I’m cast as a spitfire-bad girl types I suppose because being submissive is completely alien to me. There aren’t many good female roles in films nowadays, so I figure I’ll come into my own when I’m about 30. At this point, I can’t play kids or hippies, and I sure as hell can’t play the wronged wife because you wouldn’t believe a man cheats on me.”

Another quote, used by Williamson to close the piece on a similar note of “self assurance,” actually reflected much more closely the bravado of painful insecurity: “I’m not like Cicely Tyson, who claims she’s never done a thing professionally she can’t be proud of. Well, I have. I’ve done everything the hard way, made a lot of money. Obviously I’m bright. I’m also educated, I’m wealthy, I’m photogenic and a damn good actress.” In the end, Williamson hinted that he had caught on. The contradiction between Jennings’ tough posturing, and the child-like innocence she displayed showing off the wind-up bathtub toys she had purchased at F.A.O. Schwarz, prompted him to conclude Jennings was “a girl who is whatever she chooses to be…”

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1974 – Playboy, December

Jennings began 1975 on a high note: her new manager, Jim Hyde (son of Marilyn Monroe’s long-time agent Johnny Hyde), got her optioned by Warner Brothers Television to star as Wonder Woman on a new TV pilot. Warner screen-tested her on February 11th, but the role and subsequent TV series eventually went to Lynda Carter. Jennings did, however, land a guest shot on the short-lived ABC series CARIBE, followed by a stints on NBC’s MOVIN’ ON and CBS’ THE MAN HUNTER.

That same year, Jennings came to the aid of her friend Sally Kirkland after Kirkland’s home burned down, leaving the actress with literally nothing but the suit on her back. Jennings took Kirkland into her own walk-in closets and said, “Take anything you want.” Kirkland was stunned: “You can’t be serious anything?” “Anything,” Jennings nodded.

Jennings spent part of July in New Mexico filming a small role in THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), a sci-fi allegory starring David Bowie. When the film premiered, Jennings was disappointed to find that all that remained of her role was a brief, uncredited topless bit opposite Bernie Casey.

The year 1975 also found her relationship with Hart starting to flicker. A distance grew between them, and the final straw came when Hart told her that he and Tommy Boyce planned to reunite with former Monkees Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones for a “remember when” tour. When Hart revealed his schedule, “it blew Claudia’s mind that I had to work during Christmas. She wasn’t willing to accept that.” While Hart could be forgiving, Jennings now 25 and restless was willing to draw a line in the sand. Hart nodded his head, making like he understood, knowing in his heart the curtain had not fallen. The couple made a financial settlement and Jennings purchased a condominium on Larrabee Street in West Hollywood, which she later traded in for a “fix-er-up” house on Yucca Lane in the Hollywood Hills.

Michael Greenfield observed, “Claudia had a great guy in Bobby Hart. He couldn’t have been more supportive; he let her do her own thing. He was a terrific person and, if anything, he was too good for her. Claudia was a bit self-destructive. She always had a wild streak in her, and I think she was a lot wilder than Bobby ever realized or wanted to admit.”

It was a difficult time for Jennings. Her frustration with her career only increased as she indulged in the Hollywood party scene. For a time, she holed up with David Bowie in a Century City condo for a brief relationship that was more drug-based than romantic. Following a guest appearance on THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, Jennings’ belated return to film work-in early 1976 began with an audition for the lead in The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976).

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The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976) Summary: Busting out of prison, Candy Morgan (Claudia Jennings) gets out of her jumpsuit and robs a small Texas bank, with lighted sticks of dynamite. She is assisted by bank teller Ellie-Jo Turner (Jocelyn Jones), who has just been fired for persistent lateness and “total lack of character.” Later, Candy picks up Ellie-Jo hitchhiking. The two tightly outfitted women decide to team-up and become a modern-day “Bonnie and Clyde” (or “Bonnie and Bonnie”). They meet Sim (Johnny Crawford) robbing a convenience store, and take him hostage. Knowing good gigs when he sees them, he makes the dynamite duo a threesome.

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“She was a favorite of Roger Corman’s,” recalled Michael Pressman, who made his directorial debut with the film. Pressman found Jennings “a very complicated lady, [who] appeared to be in a lot of emotional turmoil. I knew she had problems, and I could tell that she had all these defenses and she was going through a lot personally but, basically, she was up for the fun of making a movie.”

Halfway into production, Jennings injured herself when she ran into a wall during the filming of a minor exit scene. Recalled Pressman, “She was taken to the hospital and there was some internal bleeding; it was a mess. It was no major stunt. She was running in the interior of a bank and tripped or something.” Jennings insisted on finishing her scene as best she could before the ambulance arrived.

Production was shut down for two weeks before the insurance company approved the film’s completion. When Jennings returned to the set, barely recovered from her injury, she relied on supplemental drugs to get through the remainder of the shoot. She had also lost ten pounds during her hospital stay.

Crawford remembered, “She was acting like she was not in complete possession of her faculties. We were doing one scene where we jump into a car and take off after a bank robbery, and she was driving. She scared both me and [co-star] Jocelyn Jones the way she was driving. It was very erratic and reckless, even after the end of the scene.”

Roger Corman placed Todd McCarthy in charge of advertising and publicity for the film, and dispatched him to the set to take some photos. McCarthy was unnerved by his old friend’s prima donna demeanor. “On the one hand she could be nice, but there was definitely a veneer there. ..She did her job but I didn’t feel like she was extending herself or that she was willing to extend herself a little bit more because we had known each other before.”

According to McCarthy, Jennings showed up late, complained about her brief costume, and insisted upon an early departure. “We kissed goodbye somewhat icily,” he recalled, “and, although she later called me warmly to apologize, I never saw her again,”

Jocelyn Jones said, “I don’t know about her personal life that much but I know that, somewhere around that period, it seemed to me that she was taking a turn. And I think she missed home. She talked about how much I reminded her of her sister… I think she missed the simpler life, so to speak, and yet she was drawn to a very faster lane. I think that the picture may have been a turning point for her in going in some direction that I never followed. I didn’t really keep up with her after the film.” Similarly, following production, Pressman’s communication with the actress was minimal. “I must say that [pauses]. ..she seemed a little bit like an accident waiting to happen.”

“Claudia was a very lovely lady,” said Jones, “and had she maybe hooked up with a different kind of group of people, had she chosen to fly with another group, she might have developed up and done other kinds of acting. It’s not an uncommon story. There were drugs involved, she was running on drugs, and that was very common in the seventies. That was such a lost time, productively and creatively.”

After sometime off, and a brief reunion with Bobby Hart, a much healthier Jennings took a supporting role in Moonshine County Express (1977), which would also be distributed by New World. The movie concerned the clash between a murdered moonshiner’s three daughters and the local syndicate boss (William Conrad). In a straight dramatic role at long last!

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Moonshine County Express (1977) Summary: When a hillbilly moonshiner is murdered by a powerful sleazy competitor, his three armed to the teeth daughters take over the family business and swear vengeance.

Jennings portrayed the middle sister, with lead Susan Howard (DALLAS) cast as the eldest and Maureen McCormick (THE BRADY BUNCH) as the youngest. The film was produced by long-time Corman associate Ed Carlin and directed by Gus ‘Trikonis, who had recently shot THE STUDENT BODY (1975) for Carlin, The latter film’s cinematographer, Gary Graver— a handsome, blonde-haired native of Portland, Oregon was rehired for MOONSHINE. Graver had come to L.A. in the early 1960s to be an actor. He learned to shoot movies after joining the Navy, where he found himself in the Combat Camera Group. After his tour, he shot pictures for exploitation filmmakers, including Al Adamson, before calling up Orson Welles out of the blue. Welles took the young cameraman on, and by the time he showed up for work on MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS. Graver had spent six years working with the great director. Partly as a consequence of Welles’ demanding schedules, he had recently weathered his second divorce.

Graver immediately fell for Jennings. “We were on location [Nevada City, California] in a great hotel. That’s where Claudia and I started going together. [Co-star] Albert Salmi didn’t like his room, so Claudia and I moved in. She was a great girl, a really ‘un-movie star’ kind of person. Honest. If I’d say something, she’d say, ‘Oh, come on Graver, cut the shit,’ or something. A real regular girl.”

Although Hart came to visit her on the set, Jennings remained with Graver and, after the production wrapped, the couple moved into a remodeled green- house in Beverly Hills. But after several months, Jennings was on the skids again. “She had become very lazy, and her weight was changing a lot,” recalled Graver. “She was in with a bad crowd. That’s when I left. We just sort of drifted apart, romantically.” Following the split, Jennings moved in with Maureen McCormick.

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1977 – Playboy, October

In 1977, Jennings started to date Las Vegas rodeo cowboy, Dean Shendal. A Sands Casino pit boss turned interest-holder in Caesar’s Palace, Shendall had many friends in the entertainment industry, a circle in which he was renowned for both his hospitality and the highest quality coke on hand. “Claudia would give you the shirt off her back,” he remembered. “She was a sweet girl. ..extremely beautiful, inside and out. She liked to come up to my ranch and ride. She liked to do everything every red-blooded American girl did, and she liked to do a few other things besides.

Back at New World Pictures, director Allan Arkush was still toiling in the trailer department when his boss, Roger Corman, announced his next project; a quasi-sequel to DEATH RACE 2000 (1975). Arkush recalled, “He offered it to everybody and nobody wanted to do it, because it was really half-baked and DEATH RACE 2000 was a really good movie. He hired this guy to do it, Nick Niciphor. Nick, had never worked for Roger before, and I think he had a limited experience directing.”

Deathsport (1978) Summary: “A thousand years from tomorrow”, after the Neutron Wars, the world is divided into a barbaric collection of city states, surrounded by wastelands where only mutant cannibals and independent warriors, known as Range Guides, can live. The city state of Helix is planning war on another, Tritan. Hoping to prove the superiority of their newest weapons, the Death Machines (laser-equipped dirt bikes), they create a new pastime – Deathsport.

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The death penalty has been replaced by Deathsport, where criminals battle each other to the death in return for gaining their freedom. Lord Zirpola is using the Death Machines against some Range Guides that he managed to capture. One of the Guides, Kaz Oshay, forges a bond with a female Guide, Deneer, and vows to escape with her and find her child, who was taken by mutant cannibals before her capture.After enduring torture and facing his mother’s killer, Ankar Moor, Oshay and Deneer are forced onto the Deathsport motocross field, which is mined with explosives. They easily defeat the other riders and escape from Helix with two other prisoners, Dr. Karl and his son Marcus. During the escape, though, the doctor is killed.Eventually, they rescue Deneer’s child from the mutant cannibals, and battle the other Death Machine riders who followed them. Finally safe, Deneer delivers Marcus to Tritan, while Oshay faces Ankar Moor in “honorable” combat, using Whistlers (swords that make a sound like music). After a bloody battle, Oshay decapitates Ankar Moor, thus becoming the greatest Range Guide alive. The film ends with him and Deneer riding their horses off into the sunset.

Gary Graver was hired to lens the picture, and he successfully lobbied Corman, Niciphor and star David Carradine to hire Jennings for the female lead because, he later admitted, “I wanted to get back together with her. I was offered a job to shoot HARPER VALLEY P.T.A., and I didn’t take it I pretended I was too tired and I’d been working too much because of Claudia.”

“Nick didn’t have a good time of it,” said Arkush. “He didn’t shoot the action scenes, he had problems with screen direction. ..It was a frustrating experience for him, and he didn’t get along with the actors on top of it.” Graver recalled that “Nick Niciphor was just paranoid and crazy and nervous and everything. We all tried to help him, really. He couldn’t hack it. Some people shouldn’t be on film sets. He was mean to Claudia.”

Carradine chronicled the troubled production in Psychotronic Video magazine; recalling that after one take of a motorcycle scene, “Nick got into an argument with Claudia. I remember him sort of screaming, ‘They told me you could ride a bike!’” Later, Carradine found the entire set in an uproar. “I asked what the whole thing was about and got this story; Nick had pulled Claudia off the bike, thrown her to the ground and jumped on her. The key grip pulled Nick off of her. She ran in tears to the trailer.” According to Carradine, Jennings later said, “‘Oh, the hell with it,’ and went back to work. Claudia was a trouper.” Corman fired Niciphor from Deathsport (1978), and hired Arkush to “go out and shoot for a couple of days, get some motorcycle action and re-cut this thing so it makes sense.”

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DEATHSPORT was actually written and directed by Nicholas Niciphor, who abandoned the picture after principal photography. Nick was a very talented and crazy guy. As a director, he was erratic and unknowing. At one point he physically attacked Claudia Jennings. I loved Claudia, as did everyone, and I beat up Nick for his pains; Jesse Vint would have done it if I hadn’t The picture, which was brilliantly written, was unable to overcome the madness of the shoot. The whole idea of a paranoiac shell- shocked veteran directing a picture which incidentally contained a record number of incendiary explosions was probably ill- conceived in the first place; but, Roger loves to take chances on young talent The story about how Richard Lynch got his burns I got from Richard himself. I believe it, because Richard is a very sincere person; I don’t think he’s capable of lying. This does not rule out the possibility that drugs were involved. – David Carridine (Psychotronic Video #7)

  The first thing I want to make ‘perfectly clear’, is that I DID NOT ATTACK CLAUDIA JENNINGS, or anyone else for that matter! And, the second thing I want to make ‘perfectly clear’ is that David Carradine DID NOT ‘BEAT ME UP’.

 This is the ‘Death Sport’ debacle as I lived it: Sometime in Spring 1977 1 was working with Joe Roth (now president of 20th Century Fox) writing ‘OUR WINNING SEASON’ for him at AIP. Joe liked me and my work, and I knew I wanted to direct. I’d just finished U.S.C. Cinema School, M.F.A. ‘74, and had a few good student films to show. He took a film of mine, ‘Shadows Of Death’, a Samurai/Ghost 16mm film done in Japanese to his agent, Harry Ufland, to see. Ufland, who managed Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro and a host of other big talent, saw my films, called me into his office, and while I was standing there eating humble pie, called Roger Corman and on the phone got me the DS writing/directing job. I went directly from Harry’s office to Roger Corman ’s and began meetings that day to write the script from a story they basically already had. They were in a tremendous rush on this project.

 Roger was in a panic for the script because he had been delayed getting 3 drafts of the project done by Charles B. Griffith which for reasons of his own he felt he couldn’t use. David Carradine was attached to the DS project as (I believe) the 5th of a five picture deal Roger had him lied to under contract. ‘Death Sport’ was supposed to be the ‘sequel’ to DEATHRACE 2000, but done on motorcycles. David was just then completing work on Ingmar Bergman’s SERPENT’S EGG, as star of that film. David, Roger told me, was very reluctant to be involved in DS, because he now viewed himself, in light of that as yet unreleased film as another ‘international boxoffice bonanza’ like ‘Steve McQueen’. Doing a cheapie Sci-fi movie for Roger just wasn’t what Carradine had in mind anymore. And, certainly not for the pay Roger had him under contract for. So, I was told by Roger, the project was a ‘problematical one’. We couldn’t in fact be sure David would do the movie. But, if he did, we’d only have him for the bare minimum 21 days to shoot the film. Counting back from the day I was informed of this, I had less than 2 weeks to write and pre-produce the film!

 As I sat down to bang out the script, Roger set his people in rapid motion to cast the picture. Claudia Jennings was his choice. I had no idea who she was. In fact, not only had I never seen a film of Claudia’s, I HAD NEVER SEEN A FILM OF DAVID’S OR ROGER CORMAN’S either at that point! These were the days before VCRs. If you missed a film at the local theatre, you were out of luck. Getting a special screening from Roger to view DEATHRACE 2000 even was out of the question. Too costly. So, I had utterly no idea whom I was dealing with or what in fact was expected of me.

 A little of my own background might be called for here. I was bom in New York to a Norwegian refugee at the tail end of WWII. She gave me up for adoption and I was taken in by the Niciphor family in 1948. Not many years later, my father, N. M. Niciphor, who was Austrian, took his family with him back to Germany where he worked as an engineer tangential to the Marshal Plan building oil refineries. In short, I grew up in Germany and Switzerland at a time before Europe had television. I didn’t sec my first film on the silver screen until 1959! I didn’t own a television upon which I might have seen Carradine in his KUNG FU series until after DS! So, when I did go to the movies in those days, I went to Kurosawa films, or films by David Lean. I never went to see ‘B’ movies. I didn’t even know what a ‘B’ movie was.

 The day before DS was to begin principal photography, Roger sent me with a copy of the script to see David at Carradine ‘s home north of Malibu. Before I left Roger’s office, Roger cautioned me that Carradine didn’t like the script, and I should be as tactful as possible. After all, we still weren’t sure Carradine would be honoring the contract. If I said something to offend him, David might use that to refuse to do the film.

 I arrived at Carradine ‘s home as ordered that morning. It was built on a hillside overlooking the Pacific, so you actually entered on the 2nd floor where the living room was. David was dressed in undershorts and busy twirling a martial arts device for exercise. I do not know the name of the device, but it consists of several solid bars of hardwood connected at their ends together by chain links. By holding the central bar, David could manipulate the 2 outer bars such that they would rotate very rapidly. As I took a seat on the couch, he stood across the room from me, and while he began to criticize the script, he approached me. The closer he came, the closer came the twirling bars, until he stopped when he had both tangential bars to the central one twirling as fast as he could get them to go, as close as he could get them to my ears. The purpose of this was clearly to intimidate me, and he succeeded. When I appeared suitably ill at ease, he backed off, without ever having stopped in his overall criticism of the script. At that point, his dog entered from an adjacent room and shit a humongous pile onto the beige carpet a few meters from where I was sitting.

 The dog was a female Newfoundland Retriver. It was black, and it was VERY LARGE ! You can imagine, if you will, what 150 lbs. (?) of animal can produce in the way of ‘waste’. Well, David was suddenly furious at the dog. He dropped the martial arts device, grabbed the dog suddenly by the base of its tail and the scruff of the neck, rubbed its nose in the pile of shit, then HOISTED THE DOG WITH A ‘CURL’ UP TO HIS CHEST, DARTED ACROSS THE LIVINGROOM TO AN ADJACENT BALCONY WITH IT, AND THREW IT OVER THE RAILING OUT INTO THE BACK YARD!

 Well, after that, frankly, I don’t recall how the meeting went. I just politely took my leave as quickly as I could, and drove back to my humble apartment to do the rewrites he’d specified as quickly as as could. I spoke to my agent about my meeting with Carradine and he laughed. His feeling was, David had just been trying to impress me with who was really going to be running the show should DS ever in fact get to the shooting stage. The film began. I was in Heaven. Years of poverty, years of hardship in the Army, all the doing without to get through film school at U.S.C. were all paying off! Then I finally was directing my first feature film! That feeling went to Hell on the 3rd day of shooting. The script was too ambitious; the shooting schedule too tight, and (though I didn’t find out until a week later) the crew and the cast were largely sodden with drugs. Since I don’t use drugs, and never have, I just didn’t know what to look out for. That is, except for David. He was blatantly obvious about his drug use. He and his crew friends, who will go unnamed for obvious reasons here, would smoke hashish and marijuana openly on the set. Whether we were setting up a shot, whether it was lunch, or dinner, or whatever, if they wanted to smoke dope, they did so. Of course, I called Roger’s office about it, but I was told (not by Roger) that he was too busy to deal with such ‘minor’ problems’. Roger was already angry with me about falling behind on the shooting schedule; he didn’t want to hear ‘why* I was having trouble. He just wanted me to get on with the job, or else would replace me (and this is just 3 days into the shoot) with Alan Arkush.

 I continued to try and do my job. Delay after delay by the crew and cast kept causing the film to fall farther and farther behind the shooting schedule. I was having a particularly hard time with Claudia Jennings. In the mornings she was hyper. But, by noon she had a perpetual ‘runny nose’ and was no good for closeups. Often, her dialogue was slurred. And, I didn’t have a clue what her problem was! Finally, one of the crew who was friendly to me and understood just what trouble I was in with Roger over the shooting schedule, told me the truth. Claudia had a serious cocaine problem.

 Not only that, but to ameliorate her drug problem, she was also drinking nearly a 5th of vodka a day! Armed with this information, I went to her dressing room, a Winnebago camper, and confronted her directly. She didn’t even bat an eye! Yes, she admitted, ‘I do cocaine.*. But, she refused to believe it was inhibiting her performance. When I told her how I felt about drugs, and how it would be ruinous to her career if her ‘problem’ became public knowledge, she actually LAUGHED IN MY FACE! Then, she said,

 ‘OK, I agreed to this’, and immediately telephoned Roger’s office, demanding to speak to him. Roger got on the phone, and I told him exactly what the problems I was having on the schedule were caused by. I pleaded with him to come to the set and speak with David personally about drug usage. I told Roger that if I could get David to stop doing drugs, I could get Claudia to stop as well, and, maybe we’d get our film back on track. After all, we only had David for 21 days, I reminded him. “after that, David flies to Israel to to do CIRCLE OF IRON for Sandy Howard. We either get this in the can, now, or forever hold our peace!” Reluctantly, Roger did agree to come to the set and have a chat with David.

 In fact, Roger sent his administrative assistant, 4 ft 10 inch ‘Miss Singer’ , to speak to David on his behalf. The results were catastrophic!. David flew into a violent rage, karate-kicked the set walls, the sliding glass doors into the warehouse where we were shooting, and then, dashed away in his Winnebago. And, there Carradine stayed. Hours went by, but he refused to return to the set. I called Roger again, and pleaded with him again to come help save his movie. After all, it was his money ! Roger had already pre-sold the film all over the world, based upon a slick ad campaign that took advantage of DEATHRACE 2000 ’s success. All we had to do was deliver a completed film, and he had a built in profit. But, without David, there would be no film.

 The picture required Claudia Jennings to ride a motorcycle off-road. The bikes had been given phoney fairings for a Sci-Fi look, and they were VERY NOSE-HEAVY. They were hard to ride, even for an experienced rider, which Claudia was not. In any case, Claudia had no stunt double she wished to use; she always wanted to do her own stuntwork. I think that might have been a matter of personal pride. Whatever…On this day she was to ride her motorcycle past the camera at a high rate of speed. The dirt road was badly rutted, and as we shot the first take she came towards me and the 2nd camera crew VERY UNSTEADILY! I saw her having trouble and I yelled at her to ‘STOP! ’ She did. When I got close enough to smell her breath, I told her to get off the motorcycle! I said I would replace her with a ‘double’! She refused to get off the bike. She was drunk, she was ‘coked’ to the gills and she was headstrong. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, DAVID CARRADINE WASN’T THERE !. If he had been, I could have used his help to persuade Claudia at this point, BUT, DAVID WASN’T ON THE SET! HE WASN’T EVEN A MILE AWAY! THE ONLY 2 MEN, BESIDES THE SECOND UNIT CAMERA OPERATOR, WHO WERE THERE WERE THE 2 STUNT MEN WHO HAD BEEN RIDING WITH CLAUDIA, ATTEMPTING TO STEADY HER. EVEN HER BOYFRIEND, ‘GARY GRAVER’ WASN’T THERE. So, this is what did happen next.

 I took hold of Claudia by both hands, and I did in fact try to physically remove her from the bike. But, I did so FOR HER OWN SAFETY! After all, as absurd as the title had become by then, I was still the director of this farcical movie! If I had allowed her to continue, and she had killed herself, then WHAT …??! So, mad as I certainly was that her drug trip was ruining my movie, it was for her safety that I did in fact attempt to force her off that motorcycle. Jesse Vint wasn’t there, Gary Graver wasn’t there, David Carradine wasn’t there. The two stunt men did finally come rushing over. While one big man held the bike, the other man helped Claudia off, and she ended the ‘scene’ amidst a rage of tears and ‘invective’. So much for my ‘attack on Claudia’ Now, for David’s (heavily implied) ‘chivalrous’ response when he claims to have ‘beaten me up’.

 Later that afternoon, in the presence of approximately 60 crew and cast, I directed David and Gaudia in another motorcycle ride-by. This time Claudia was ‘doubled’. We did (guessing) 4 takes. David kept having trouble steering the nose-heavy bike around a tight bend. Finally, we got the shot, and I turned and said, ‘OK, let’s move to the next setup!* I was walking to the far end of a grassy field for that shot, when I heard David yell, ‘NICK!!!’ I turned to watch him tearing off part of his costume as he was RUNNING FOR ME! in 1977 I weighed 139 lbs., and I weigh that today. I do not know fuck-all about martial arts, nor have I any interest in learning. When I saw Carradine charging me, I turned tail and beat a hasty retreat! David chased me to a gully, but by the time he comeered me there, I was already surrounded by THE VERY SAME TWO STUNT MEN WHO HAD BEEN WITH ME WHEN I ‘ASSAULTED’ CLAUDIA. And, they wouldn’t let David near me.

 David accused me LOUDLY of not caring about the film anymore. He never mentioned Claudia. He said I should take the shot again, and so, since he was obviously so adamant, I agreed. That seemed to end it But, as I moved to return to the old location, back across the field, David tackled me from behind! Yes, indeed, David did in fact knock me to the ground where we did in fact roll around a bit, but he never hit me. In a matter of a few seconds, the two giant stunt men grabbed him, and unceremoniously hauled him off me. I subsequently beat a faster retreat to my friend’s car, and was driven off the location site. As we were driving away, David ran after the car, and managed to throw himself bodily across the hood where he proceed to smash the windshield of my friend’s BMW with his gloved fist. Still, I was lucky, the windshield held fast even though shattered, and we managed to escape back into L.A. where I immediately was taken to Harry Uflarid’s office for serious ‘consultation’ about what to do about David and the film*.

 Suffice it to say, Harry’s advice was to finish the film and try and make the best of the experience, bad as it was. He phoned Roger for me, and while I was present, they discussed how I could continue without having fear of David attacking me again. A deal was worked out by which the two gigantic stunt men would protect me, and so, reluctantly, I returned to become the smash success everybody at the time thought for sure it would be. After all, ‘ nobodies ’ like me do not publicly challenge ‘stars’ like David. I’m not rich, and I certainly couldn’t have hired the ‘weight’ he could. So, I went back to work. And, then, David Carradine broke my nose.

 It happened on a Wednesday, just three days before we were to end principal photography. I was looking through the lens of Gary Graver’s camera on set while Carradine and a stunt man were practicing a fake fight. To put it mildly, there was still a huge amount of tension on the set because of the drugs, David’s attack on me, and the fact that we were way behind the shooting schedule. So, I will never be sure whether or not, when I took my eye off that lens, and David hit me a karate fist in the right eye socket at the bridge of my nose, crushing the septum and breaking the bone under my eye, it was ‘purposeful’ or just an accident. In any case, I was suddenly in a lot of pain.

 The associate producer took me to Queen Of Angels hospital where I was having my nose packed with wads and wads of cotton to stop the heavy bleeding when Roger Corman called. In no uncertain terms Roger told me that since we would be losing David in 3 days for the contractual obligation Carradine had in Israel with Sandy Howard, I would either have to leave the hospital and return to the set then and there, or be replaced as director by Alan Arkush.

 Needless to say, after years of poverty, The Army, U.S.C. film school and more, I didn’t want that to happen. So, broken nose and all, dizzy as I was and sore as hell, god afraid of Carradine as I was, I returned to the set where I continued to work almost without stop for the next 72 hours. I completed principal photography late that Friday night. The next morning one of the film’s PA’s picked me up at my apartment and drove me to a Beverly Hills surgeon who immediately operated on me to repair my nose. It took 3 hours. Workman’s compensation paid for it I had to wear a plaster cast on my face for the next six weeks until it healed. The surgeon said it would take at least one more operation to repair all the damage. I never went back.

 Some weeks later, Carradine returned to L.A. from Israel. Roger called me and asked me back for some re-shoots with David to finish the film. At first, I thought I could manage this. But, the closer the date came to actual filming, when I’d have to actually face David again, the more nervous I became. Finally, I decided to let Alan Arkush finish the film, and I wrote Roger a polite letter explaining my decision and thanking him for my ‘big break’. At the time, I actually meant what I was saying. That was the end of DEATHSPORT for me.

 In David Carradine ’s article rebutting Tom Rainone’s, he insinuates rather directly that it was because I suffered ‘shell shock’ from a Viet Nam experience that I couldn’t handle the pressure of making DEATHSPORT. In particular he mentions that many ‘explosions’ in the film that may have shaken me. That is untrue and absurd. First off, Alan Arkush directed ALL the explosion sequences; I was long gone by the time they were filmed. And, secondly, where does Carradine get the right to deride me for my experiences in war? After all, Carradine is an ‘ACTOR’ who plays tough. But, what war has he been in? Some famous actors have indeed faced combat. Men like Glenn Ford, a Marine Colonel in Viet Nam, and Jimmy Stewart who flew bombing raids over Nazi Germany. But what did David Carradine ever do? I mean, besides besotting his intelligence with a cornucopia of drugs, what the hell else ‘brave’ has he ever done? I don’t doubt that he can kick my ass on a bad day with his karate stuff, but where does that give him a right to slander my service to this country? Or, what that service cost me? Shame on you David.

 I don’t direct movies anymore. DEATHSPORT was my one and only shot. But, once in a while, I do write one like FATAL CHARM, done, but not yet released by MCEG last year. Still, I NEVER visit the set. I’m told by producer friends that DEATHSPORT was just one of the earliest casualties of the ‘Hollywood drug wars’ that raged through the sets of many dozens of more prestigious pictures throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s. Well, I really don’t know about that, I only know what I personally experienced, and that’s what you just read. Thanks for letting me set the record straight. – Nick Niciphor Response (Psychotronic Video #9)

“She was pretty accessible as a person,” recalled Arkush. “She was best friends at the time with Maureen McCormick.  I think they both liked the Hollywood nightlife at that time. And I think that Claudia was also, like a lot of people at that time, doing quite a bit of coke. I remember at times she was definitely a little ‘glazed over’ on the set. By that time, she had sort of had it with DEATHSPORT.”

Graver, who earlier had been eager to rekindle his romance with the star, sadly realized that Jennings was “all messed up” during production; it was over for them. In the middle of the DEATHSPORT fiasco, and perhaps because of it, Jennings signed with the Rush/Flaherty Agency. She soon managed to snag a guest shot on LUCAN, an ABC series. The actress launched a romantic liaison with Dr. Jack Garfield, “dentist to the stars,” following his split with actress Jillian Kesner. Jennings raved about “Dr. Jack” to all her girlfriends, prompting several to change dentists in hopes of, as one recalled, getting their “uppers pulled and lowers filled.” At some point, Garfield and Jennings were engaged.

Jennings spent part of October 1978 in Greece working on a shoot with Garfield in tow. Marilyn Grabowski was also along for the trip and recalled that Jennings developed a crush on the photographer. “She always had some drama going on with a man.”

Renegade Canadian director David Cronenberg cast the thespian in FAST COMPANY, a dragstrip racing film based upon the life of champion driver Lonnie Johnson. Jennings played “Sammy,” the long distance lover of a racer (William Smith) who has fallen out with his oil company sponsor. Shooting in Canada, Jennings couldn’t wait to get back to L.A.

Following her return to Hollywood in late 1978, Hart observed that “Claudia was skin and bones. She got into a circle of people that made cocaine readily available in large quantities. She didn’t handle it. It was a sad time. I saw her rather frequently, but there’s nothing you can do for anybody who’s kind of out of control. So that part was sad.” After her relationship with Garfield fell apart, Jennings began dating businessman Jim Randall, who had split from his wife, actress Marisa Berenson.

The following spring, Jennings spoke again with Bruce Williamson, who had traveled west to write the story which would accompany her latest Playboy layout. Aiming for a gentler image, the actress revealed many of her true feelings as she reflected on her decade in Hollywood: “I see what’s become of people who started out exactly when I did, and it’s frightening. There are so many things to divert your energies. You can stay high all the time, party every night; there are a thousand traps…”

Jennings was thrilled to be up for the role of Kate Jackson’s replacement on the CHARLIE’S ANGELS TV series. Following a very positive meeting with Aaron Spelling, she screen-tested on Wednesday, May 9th (along with a young unknown named Michelle Pfeiffer, who borrowed Jennings’ shoes for her scene). Jennings knew she was very close to snatching the part. Over the next week she was “on tenterhooks,” as the hands on the clock moved with cruel precision. When she finally received an answer from Spelling on the 15th, she was shocked to have lost the role to Charli model Shelley Hack. It suddenly seemed as though the moon had come howling through the roof of her world.

In June, Jennings suddenly moved in with wealthy real estate broker/ party-thrower Stan Herman at his Malibu home off the Pacific Coast Highway. Her personal and career confidence spiraled lower as her relationship with Herman grew more tempestuous; both were strong-willed personalities, and they fought often. Herman, a powerful and possessive man, became furious when he learned that Jennings had a new pictorial in the upcoming September issue of Playboy. “It was a control thing,” explained Jacqui Cohen. “What had attracted him to her was that she was a Playmate. All the things that attract men at one point are the things they want to change later, right?”

Their falling out came to a head at Hugh Hefner’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Party on August 9th, where all the women traditionally dressed in lingerie. Herman stood by, seething, as the attendees congratulated Jennings on her new pictorial, which had just hit the stands. Eventually, the couple argued; Jennings left the party and spent the night at Jacqui Cohen’s L.A. house. Sharmagne, a model, recalled, “We stayed up all night and that’s when she realized that it was over with Stan.”

Jennings moved back to her home on Laurel Canyon, leaving many of her belongings at the beach house. However, the relationship remained on again/off again over the coming months, and she continued to bounce between her place, Herman’s and the Sebastians’ boat down in Marina del Rey, where the breezes blew kinder. She also spent more time than ever concentrating on her career. Jennings hoped to nail an “A” project before turning 30.

In September, she hired Fred Stout, Jr. the brother of one of her neighbors, to do some long-needed remodeling work at her house. Jennings had become friendly with Stout, and invited him to stay in one of the spare rooms while he worked on the place.

FAST COMPANY (1979)

FAST COMPANY (1979) had debuted in the U.S. to zero success, and Jennings was more anxious than ever to change her on-screen image. Desperate to get something “good” going, she finally withdrew herself from the party scene.

Jennings was through blaming men, blaming her parents, blaming snob producers, blaming the coke. She had always craved celebrity and powerful men, and she never asked herself why. She didn’t know herself at all. The actress was so accustomed to others giving her everything, she never learned what she needed.

She thought she had created something original, this Claudia Jennings. But Claudia was just the same old Mimi bowed down in fealty to Hollywood. She had learned its esperanto and recast herself as a cliche, a walking male fantasy. She had squandered herself. She felt sick to her stomach.

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1979 – Playboy 

Marilyn Grabowski remembered that in 1979, “Claudia was really studying and taking acting seriously. It seems to me that she was ready to turn a new chapter in her life.” Step one was a clean break with Herman.

October 2, 1979; Claudia Jennings could hear the wind pour over Laurel Canyon as she paced the floor of her Hollywood Hills home on Yucca Lane. She looked at the clock. Though it was late in the evening, she was too anxious to sleep. It had been ten years since her first appearance in Playboy magazine; she spent half of the decade carving a niche as Hollywood’s Queen of the B’s, and the other half trying to dethrone herself of that film sovereignty. Her troubles of the moment were a combination of career doubts and the unraveling of her relationship with wealthy Beverly Hills realtor Stan Herman.

Early the next morning, after having been up most of the night, she called a friend, Jacqui Cohen, in Vancouver. Jennings and Stan had broken up; and this time, she insisted, it was for good. Jennings was depressed and pretty much at wit’s end. It was a story Cohen had heard before. When Cohen inquired what she was going to do. Jennings announced step one: “I’ve got to go to Stan’s and get my stuff.” Jennings hung up, pulled a sweat-shirt over her tank top and, at around 8:15 a.m., climbed into her little white 1978 Volkswagen convertible and roared out of the Hills, down Laurel Canyon, sped west on Sunset Boulevard and then up the Pacific Coast Highway.

The sun had barely risen over the Santa Monica Mountains as Jennings drove up the Pacific Coast Highway the morning of October 3rd. Not having slept, she elected to keep her windows rolled down. “I will not be drawn into a confrontation with Stan,” she repeated silently as she rubbed her eyes. She’s just gather her things and leave.

Her long, strawberry blonde hair danced in the wind that quiet Wednesday morning, as the pile of 8×10 head shots blew around on the floor behind her. In the calm, there was time to think. She was two and a half months from her 30th birthday. Where was she headed? She felt very tired.  She was alone.

At 8:58 a.m., as Jennings approached the intersection of Topanga Canyon Blvd., she felt sleepy; her car drifted across two left-turn lanes, and, defenselessly, in- to the path of an oncoming pickup truck. She opened her eyes in time to see the vehicle barreling toward her, and was frozen by a rush of nauseating terror. The VW’s left front end was demolished on impact and the force of the crash spun the car around. She did not die instantly.

Todd McCarthy was on duty at Variety when word of Jennings’ death came over the newswire. Stunned, he sat down and re-wrote the ac- count as an obituary, working quickly before “the weirdness and grimness” of the situation could overtake him.

The telephone rang in Bobby Hart’s home early that afternoon. It was Hugh Hefner’s secretary. She had some terrible news about Jennings, and Hef had said to call him first. Hart felt something rise up inside him he had never known to exist. The voice on the other end of the line then suggested they leave it to him to contact Jennings’ family. The Chestertons asked Hart to make the funeral arrangements; he offered the grounds of the home he had shared with their daughter for the memorial service.

The following day, The Los Angeles Times reported the tragedy. Jennings had died at 9:15 as paramedics attempted to remove her from the wreck, while the truck’s driver, 19-year-old Craig Bennell, suffered only minor injuries. Never reported, however, were the results of the medical examiner’s investigation, which had been unable to detect any trace of alcohol or barbiturates in Jennings’ blood.

Marilyn Grabowski remembered “being enraged when she died. I hadn’t had that reaction with anyone else before. I remember going out at night and just screaming. Claudia left an indelible impression on me. I never knew anyone who didn’t like her, and I never knew any man who could resist her.”

“We always referred to that last summer as ‘The Summer of ’79,’” said Sharmagne. “In everyone’s heart, it was the last year that we were children.”

Jennings’ memorial service was attended by over 300 mourners. “Stan Her- man showed up briefly,” Hart recalled, but after tolerating a few minutes of piercing glances, he left. Sally Kirkland officiated over part of the service, where many of Jennings’ loved ones shared their reminiscences before her ashes were scattered at sea by The Neptune Society.

Hart agreed to serve as administrator of Jennings’ estate, and petitioned the court to that effect on October 9th. He also received a call from Fred Stout, Jr. “He wanted to know how he was going to get paid for the work he had done,” Hart remembered. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get paid out of the estate.”’ Hart never heard from Stout again. During the same time that Stout split-up with Jennings, all of her high-end audio gear disappeared from her house.

The Chestertons shunned all publicity following their daughter’s death, and even hired an attorney to keep away the ghouls. As a consequence of their silence, poor news reporting and Jennings’ reputation, the accident was widely understood to have been drug-related. It was a sad irony.

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Todd McCarthy composed a moving personal tribute to the woman he knew for twelve years in Film Comment. Reflecting upon her decade long sojourn in the Promised Land, he wrote of the similarities to a Harold Robbins novel. He concluded that for Mimi Chesterton, “there probably was no other path” than the lonely one way road from Evanston.

The years have not eased the grief of Jennings’ family. Her mother, still understandably disconsolate, politely refused to be interviewed for this story. For her, Mimi’s “terrible” association with Playboy the catalyst for the L.A. odyssey outweighs the significance of her offspring’s film legacy. Clearly, in the opinion of the Chestertons, the road to Hollywood was the road to ruin for Mirai, and a waste of her talent and intellect.

Bobby Hart remained in that house on Woodrow Wilson. He married in the 1980s. But he could still feel her. In the breezes which breathed through the darkening trees outside his windows, he could hear. It whispered of that Hecate wind of all those Februarys ago. In the closet, up in the attic, was where he kept it. A box. Her head shots and modeling photos, that copy of New Woman that had made her so proud. Right beside his Boyce and Hart clippings. God, they were so young. She was gone now. He could still see her smile, though. She was cute, that one. He had waited for her.

Do not look for Mimi Chesterton on a windswept stretch of coastal road, or even in the innocent green eyes of a 19-year-old Playboy Playmate named Claudia. I have seen the eyes of those who loved her and I have found her there. If you dare not gaze so deeply, then look hard at the celluloid remnants of another era, and dream.

Remembrance by actress Sally Kirkland (Los Angeles Times Oct. 1979)

TO CLAUDIA JENNINGS: MEMORIES OF A DARE-ANGEL BY SALLY KIRKLAND

The author is an actress, poet and critic. I remember while acting in an Off Broadway play in New York in 1969 reading a review written by the infamous John Simon about a girl named Claudia Jennings. The play was “Dark of the Moon”: “She is a completely lovely girl, with something sensitive, vulnerable, perhaps even haunted in her eyes and around her mouth. She makes a spotlight light up as no wattage could do it. At all times, she makes you forget the dismalness of the play she is trapped in, and such a shot in the arm can set an unfabulous invalid like our theater dancing.”

She couldn’t have been more than 19, had apparently graduated to a straight-A honor student from Evanston High in Illinois (top cheerleader and all), and from Mimi Chesterton already had changed her name to Claudia Jennings (to not embarrass her younger sisters) to do the centerfold of Playboy magazine. She spent four months Off Broadway, flew to L.A., met and moved in with songwriter-record producer Bobby Hart in Gower Champion’s old house on Woodrow Wilson Drive and took off again to do the road company of “Lenny.”

While hugging her after the show in San Francisco, Mrs. Lenny (Honey) Bruce told her, “Thank God it was you.” Her performance from those who saw it had been “stunningly good.” In 1970 she was picked Playmate of the Year and began a film career that ultimately pegged her “Queen of the B’s.” She began a string of starring roles for Roger Corman and somewhere in that period between 1972 and 1973, I met her.

Our relationship began when she convinced me to come over and “teach everybody yoga.” I was just out from New York and even though I had had a year of plays involving “nudity,” I was resistant and suspicious of any girl who would do a Hefner centerfold. She was only one of the most devastatingly beautiful women I ever met and at first I tried to be jealous. Here she was starring in films (B though they be), Playmate of the Year, living with a gorgeous, talented man, sharing his mini-mansion and making money hand over foot herself. But it was impossible to be jealous of Claudia because she would love you too much.

She took me in as if I was a long lost child. She dressed me for auditions in her finest silks, took me out to dinners with her and Bobby Hart, invited me to all the Thanksgivings and Christmases at their house and basically gave me my first L.A. home. She was my patron angel.

When a lot of my N.Y. Actors Studio friends started “making it” a la Al Pacino and Bobby De Niro she gave me her and Bobby’s house to celebrate their “success” and “L.A. arrival” and provided what became for me a social sanctuary for all my displaced N.Y. actor and musician friends.

When my own house burned down in 1975 and I lost all my possessions except for the suit on my back, she took me into her walk-in closets and said, “Take anything you want.” I said, “You can’t be serious, anything?” She said, “Anything.” I’m still wearing her dresses and silk suits.

She and Bobby created something or an ashram with the house they shared for the six years they were together. They had a special synergy together. Their love spilled over to hundreds of people. Judging from the day of the memorial service at Bobby’s house, Claudia affected many people. All of her “strays” from myself and actress Marcia Wallace to the 13-year-old ex-groupie and the grocery boy fired the same day he met Claudia and the 20 or so others who stood up and cried unabashedly as they shared her unconditional generosity and love and the other 300 (mostly industry) who cried and laughed and cried along with those of us speaking,

No character she ever played could be as colorful as she was herself. Every time I talked to her she had just jetted back from Europe where she had had dinner with Brigitte Bardot or been photographed by the five most important photographers of beautiful women or she was recovering from professional roller-skating for “Unholy Rollers,” learning how to drive 18-wheeler trucks in “Truck Stop Woman,” driving speedboats through the swamps of the bayou in “Gaitor Bait,” having accidents on a motorcycle in “Deathsport,” then going off to sell some condos and to buy Ava Gardner’s old house to remodel it and sell it and do some art directing and styling with Marilyn Grabowski on the side.

Her mother, Joan Chesterton told me, “We as a family feel that we have lost a part of our self. The daring part. The part that loved the center of the stage. We feel like we have lost the ‘color’ in our lives. She made everything so vivid around her.”

Just before Claudia died, she had lost out to Shelley Hack in what was purported to have been a brilliant screen test to replace Kate Jackson in “Charlie’s Angels” and was up for starring roles in four films: Steven Spielberg’s “Used Cars,” Bob Rafelson’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” Irwin Yablan’s “Fade to Black” and Jeff Bloom’s “Blood Beach.” And she died Oct. 3 at age 29 in a car wreck on the Pacific Coast Highway.

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Femme Fatales v09 n02
Los Angeles Times Oct. 1979
Psychotronic Video #9
Psychotronic Video #7

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