Bettie Page, Maria Stinger, Irving Klaw, Dave Friedman, Linda Lovelace, Carol Connors, and Hugh Hefner!
©2022 By Legs McNeil
In 2001 I interviewed the delightful Bunny Yeager at the Lowe’s Miami Beach Hotel for The Other Hollywood, my narrative oral history of the porn film industry, and found her to be charming and forthright and underappreciated. Bunny had a fascinating life and really was one of the main liberators who helped launch America’s sexual revolution in the 1960s. At the time, my ex-friend, film director Mary Harron, was in pre-production for her movie The Notorious Bettie Page, and since Bunny was struggling, I thought it would be a great idea to have Bunny replicate her famous Bettie Page photos with the film’s star, Gretchen Moll, for the film’s promotional purposes. Great idea, right?
So I called Mary Harron and ran the idea by the idea by her, as Bunny listened in, but Mary was underwhelmed. She said she would think about it—then never got back to me. Alas, I wasn’t able to help Bunny out, but when she passed away on May 25, 2014, at age 85, she lived long enough to see her work come back into vogue and was thrilled that her photos were being showcased in galleries in Miami, New York, and L.A.
A film about Bunny Yeager by Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, is scheduled for fall 2022 release, and with the acquisition of Bunny’s photos by Grapefruit Moon Gallery of Minneapolis and New York, and in honor of Women’s History Month, March 2022, I present the uncensored narrative oral history of the legendary Bunny Yeager—and I hope you enjoy it!
Bunny Yeager: I was in high school when I moved to Florida from Pennsylvania. I was unhappy because I was very settled in with all my friends in high school, and I had a boyfriend and I didn’t wanna go anywhere, as much as I loved Florida. My parents and I came here the year before, to visit friends, and our friends talked us into staying, and moving down, so my mom and dad sold their house just like that, and we moved to Florida.
And I just became a different person in Florida, you know?
First of all, I took a modeling course. I didn’t just start modeling; I had to do publicity work before I could get real jobs. So the first few times that I posed, I posed for the city of Miami Beach and the city of Miami; for the International News Service and Associated Press, and they put blurbs in the papers: “Pretty girl bathing on the beach having a good time.”
So that’s what I did, and I found out that I would become very popular if I did something different each time. They were looking for an excuse to put my picture in, and if there was a holiday was coming up, I would make a little outfit. I’d make a different bathing suit, and that’s how I became in demand, because nobody else had bathing suits like I had!
I was making bikinis before there were bikinis!
All the other girls had these one-piece suits, you know, and I made mine briefer and briefer because the photographers encouraged me to do so, ha, ha, ha!
They said to me, “Oh, there’s too much material on that on, here, let’s turn this down a little bit here… Let’s cut this off here….”
Dave Friedman [Exploitation Filmmaker]: Back in the 1950s, there were thousands of young girls and guys that lived up north, and come winter time, they’d do anything in the world to get out of that weather. They’d come down to Miami and become waiters, waitresses, whatever—anything to make enough money to spend the winter in Florida.
Bunny Yeager: I was a high-fashion model. I posed in furs and expensive clothing and did runway work. And if you did that, you weren’t supposed to do bathing suit modeling. I don’t know why? But I liked bathing suit modeling, ha, ha! I wanted to get up there and do that.
So I was kind of a maverick at the agency. I went out and got my own work. I did what I wanted to do and the agency didn’t like it, but I said, “Well, as long as you get paid the fee, what do you care what I do?”
I used to work for Roy Pinney, who was a New York photographer. He’s the one that really got me going, because every year he’d come down to do stock photos and daily living type-photos, like he’d have me be the woman pushing on a grocery cart or holding a baby; Roy used me for that. And then at the end of what he had to do, he would say, “Let’s go out and shoot some cheesecake. You know, you got some bathing suits.” Then Roy would shoot some pictures of me like that. Roy put me on the cover of U.S. Camera magazine sitting on a rock right out where the Fontainebleau Hotel is now.
When I was shooting with Roy, he said, “What are you doing these days? Anything new?” And I said, “Oh, I’m going to photography school.”
He said, “You are? You’re gonna be a photographer?”
I said, “No, no, no. I just wanna learn more about it, you know, maybe make some prints for myself for my modeling, I don’t wanna be a photographer. No way.”
Roy said, “But that’s a good angle. I’d love to do a human-interest story on you. I’ll bet we could get it placed in one of magazines!”
I said, “Well, that’s lying, I’m not a photographer. I’m just taking this course for the fun of it.”
And he said, “That’s alright. You’re still actually doing it, that’s what counts.”
So I let him take pictures of me at my sewing machine making bikinis and then fitting them on the girls, and then going out and shooting them, and we got it in the American Weekly magazine, which was like Parade; it’s a supplement to the Sunday newspapers across the country. And they did a big spread on it. And then U.S. Camera picked it up, and they did it.
They’re the ones that put the headline on it, “The World’s Prettiest Photographer,” which was great, because most photographers are not very pretty.
Bill Kelly [FBI agent]: I was in love with Bunny Yeager. Bunny was probably the United States’ most prominent female nude photographer. She was based here in Miami—and she was the best-looking thing on two legs you ever saw!
Bunny Yeager: I made the transition from being a model to a photographer—I guess it starts when you’re posing for a photographer, and he does his own developing, and you become very curious about what goes on after the picture’s taken. So I would try to go back with the photographer when he developed the pictures so that I could see how it was done, and maybe get a few copies for myself, because I needed them for my portfolio.
I was quite fortunate; one of the first photographers I posed for was Ardean Miller, and he was into color photography when most photographers were only shooting black and white. And he did his own color developing. And Ardean was so funny—he’d say, “Now we have to be very careful here that we don’t get any light in the darkroom, and we’re gonna do this and do that….”
Then Ardean turned on this big bright light in the middle of developing the film, and said, “Oh, we ruined the pictures! Why did I turn that light on?”
Chuck Traynor [Linda Lovelace’s husband and manager]: Was Bunny Yeager good-looking? Well, you know, to a 16-year-old, anybody with long blonde hair and big boobs is good-looking, ha, ha, ha. That was enough for me!
Bunny Yeager: After U.S. Camera printed, “The World’s Prettiest Photographer,” all of a sudden I started getting phone calls from agents and people all over the place, and they wanted to see my photographs, and of course I didn’t have very many, but I thought, “Well, gee, this sounds good…”
I was still going to the photography school, and actually, the first picture that I shot on an assignment for class was a picture of the blonde model Maria Stinger, who became known as “Miami’s Marilyn Monroe.”
I had met Maria because she had been modeling, and I was modeling, and I said to her, “Would you like to pose with some cheetahs? Some live animals?”
And Maria said, “Oh, I love animals. Yes, I’d love to do that!”
I said, “You’re not afraid?” Because I was wondering whether it was dangerous or not.
I had heard about this place in Boca Raton called Africa, U.S.A., so I said, “Let’s go up there. I’ll make you a little leopard bikini, and we’ll take some pictures.”
It was a weekend photo assignment. We had to shoot something in color because nobody was shooting color at that time. The school was teaching black and white and the color photos were sort of thrown in as an afterthought, because now they were going to teach us how to shoot color. So we had to go and buy color film and and shoot anything we wanted to, and I had a professional model, Maria Stinger, and I had her pose in a bikini with these two live cheetahs.
Chuck Traynor: One of the first jobs I got after I married my first wife was driving a dump truck for the Three Bays Improvement Company, who were digging the Kendal Canal.
And while I was working there, I found out that along the Kendal Canal lived Maria Stinger, one of the first nude centerfolds. Well, for some reason I thought—like most guys—that if a chick poses nude for a magazine, she must run around her yard nude too.
So I used to climb this crane to look over the top of the trees to see into Maria’s yard. I did that every chance I got—but I never saw her.
Bunny Yeager: I didn’t know anything about wild animals, but I knew that cheetahs could be dangerous; they had a trainer there, and they seemed pretty calm, but you never know.
Africa, U.S.A., was on a big compound with no cages or anything, and the cheetahs ran free, but for us they were on a chain, and the trainer said, “Just don’t let go of the chain, because if they get loose, there’s no stopping them. They’re the fastest animal in the world!”
The trainer also said if I lost those animals, “You would be in trouble!”
So we both had to keep a hold of the chain, ha, ha, ha!
Anyway, the instructor critiqued my color photos of Maria Stinger with the cheetahs at Africa, U.S.A., and he said, “You know, this is pretty good, maybe you should try to sell them and send them into a magazine or something…”
I said, “Are you kidding?”
And he said, “No, no, I’m serious.”
So I did, and it sold for a cover right away.
Chuck Traynor: I used to drive by Maria Stinger’s house all the time and one day I stopped in front of her house and there’s this woman there unpacking some stuff, and I said to her, “I always wanted to meet Maria Stinger.”
And this lady looks at me and says, “Why?”
I said, “Well, because I’m a fan and I always wanted to meet her…”
She said, “You ever want to be in a movie with her?”
I said, “Sure, I’ll be in a movie with her!”
She said, “Well, my name is Bunny Yeager and we’re going to be doing a movie and if you want to be in it, I’ll get her to use you…”
Bunny Yeager: Chuck Traynor said that? I don’t think so. Maybe he would’ve liked it that way…
Chuck Traynor: I was 16 or 17 years old, 16 or 17, and I’d go on shoots with Bunny and help her and we became friends. So I got in the movies, that was when they did volleyball, a lotta volleyball in the “nudie cuties.” I squatted down with my back to the camera and they wasted a roll of film cause my balls were showing.
Bunny Yeager: I always liked Chuck; he was an old country boy, laid-back type, easy to get along with, quick to laugh, you know? I didn’t see him as a mean person. Chuck always brought girls over, and the first one was his wife, Cindy, he brought her over. I liked Cindy a lot. She was a wonderful girl with a beautiful body. They lived out in the country, down in Homestead.
And every now and then, Chuck would bring somebody by; he had a good eye for beauty.
So I knew if Chuck called me and said, “I have a pretty girl for you to shoot,” I knew she would be pretty. Not everybody has that taste.
But the first thing I always asked the girl when she came over was, “Do you have somebody that tells you what to do? Do you have to listen to a boyfriend? Does he tell you whether you can do this or not?” And if the girl said, “Yes,” I said to her, “Bring him here, we have to have a talk.”
I found that boyfriends were only interested in the money angle. And if they couldn’t make Playboy, they weren’t interested in posing for me.
Bill Kelly: I’ve been in Bunny’s house a couple of times, and the entire house, every piece of furniture, was covered in photo negatives, everywhere, just spread out all over the place.
Bunny Yeager: Irving Klaw, the fetish photographer, came to Florida to shoot some girls, and he said, “Do you know any girls that would like to pose for me?”
I said, “I don’t know, I’ll ask them…”
I knew Irving paid well, and the girls didn’t have to do any nudity. In fact, he would insist that they wear two or three bras and three or four pairs of pants, you know, so nothing would show through. He didn’t wanna have any problem with censorship. It was kinda funny; all the girls laughed about that.
And Irving brought all that stuff with him, lots of garter belts and lots of bras. He brought a cardboard box of the shoes. He had them in every size, because you couldn’t buy them. You can buy them now, but you couldn’t then.
I didn’t know about S&M photography, but I remember seeing Irving’s little ads in the back of men’s magazines or camera magazines, and he would have a picture of a girl in high heels and lingerie and stockings. Nothing nude. He never did nudes. But I didn’t know who he was, or what that was.
Later, after I started working with Bettie Page, the famous pinup model, she told me that guys would write to Irving and say, “Would you have your models pose this way or do this or do that?” He was influenced by men who wanted to see certain things. And he knew he could sell to those people, so he was listening to his customers.
I don’t know if Bettie was aware that she was doing S&M. I don’t know whether Bettie was just overlooking everything and taking the money and saying, “This is harmless, I don’t mind doing it.” I know that Irving treated her well, but Bettie wasn’t into S&M personally.
Bettie Page: I was 34 years old when I left New York and quit modeling… I thought they had had enough pictures of me. Then I went to Florida, and just before New Year’s Eve…
Bunny Yeager: Right after I shot Maria Stinger, I met Bettie Page; she came down to Florida and registered with an agency, and they gave her my name and she called me and we met and we started shooting immediately. Bettie Page was a lot of fun to work with. At first, I just didn’t know what to shoot on her, so I just shot what I felt like shooting. You know, cute little shots.
Bettie had a couple of bikinis that she had made and I found that very interesting because I’d never run into anybody that made bathing suits like I did. And Bettie did. She made them for herself. But of course, I made some for her too. I actually designed the leopard bikini she wears in the Africa, U.S.A. pictures. I could’ve sewn it for her, but I would’ve had to spend a lot of hours with her with the sewing machine and fitting and everything.
So Bettie says, “Oh, I can do that. Here, give me the material. I’ll take it home and sew it.” And I thought, “Whoa, I’m off easy here. I don’t have to do anything!”
Bettie Page: …I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was just myself.
Bunny Yeager: When I first saw Bettie in the nude, I was pleasantly surprised; she looked great. She walked into the room on tippy-toes, like she was wearing high heels, which made her look taller and more natural at the same time. The first thing I noticed was that when she was nude, she did not seem naked. I had never seen anyone with an allover tan and she looked like the perfect doll or mannequin. Bettie was a true nudist and maintained her glorious golden olive color by sunning herself every day. She would lie on the banks of the Miami River. Maybe it was her tan, or maybe it was her attitude—she seemed completely at ease.
Bettie Page: I preferred outdoors. I was very happy cavorting in the woods or on the beach in the nude. In the studio I did not feel as comfortable.
Bunny Yeager: I like to shoot outdoors too, but after a while I thought, “Well, I’ve done everything outdoors, but maybe I should shoot something indoors in a studio? Maybe I should do something for a calendar?”
Not that I knew where to find a calendar company, but there were calendars around that had cute little pinup shots, So I made this little Santa hat for Bettie with the fluffy fur around it, and I had her posing on her knees in front of this white artificial Christmas tree, putting the last ornament on the tree.
And we shot that on four-by-five color transparency film, which is what I had been led to believe—that calendars and magazines wouldn’t accept anything less than that. You couldn’t even sell a two-and-a-quarter color photo, and 35 millimeter was out—completely amateurish. If you wanted to sell to magazines, you had to shoot on four-by-five film, and that’s expensive.
So I shot this Bettie Page picture, and my whole intent of shooting it was to try to sell it to a calendar company, but since I didn’t know of any calendar company, I happened to run across this Playboy magazine. Either somebody told me about it or I saw it on the newsstand. And I thought, “Gee, they run pictures of pretty girls. Maybe they’d like this? I think I’ll send it to them. Try that out first…”
Which I did. And I got a call from Hugh Hefner and he said, “Oh, we’re looking at these pictures you sent us and we, we like them pretty much and we think we would like to use one of them.” And so we made a deal and that’s how I got my first centerfold girl.
Hugh Hefner [Feb. 27, 1955, letter to Bunny Yeager]: Dear Bunny, Thanks for the contacts and information. The story is shaping up very well. Will you please rush me an 8×10 glossy on this beach shot of Bettie as quickly as possible. All best, Hugh M. Hefner. Editor.
Bunny Yeager: I didn’t know who Hugh Hefner was, because he was nobody.
You see, Hefner was a college student who’d just started this Playboy magazine, and he was telling me all his dreams and thoughts about the magazine, what he wanted to do with it, and we had many, many long conversations on the phone, and we became very good friends. I liked him a lot.
Bill Kelly: Bunny was a friend of Hugh Hefner, and she told me herself—I don’t know whether it’s true or not—but she said the word “Bunny,” in the Bunny from Playboy, was based on her. Now whether that’s fictitious or not, I don’t know.
Bunny Yeager: My favorite model to shoot with was Bettie Page; she was the best, because she and I had a meeting of the minds while we were working. I’d tell her to do something—I would tell her what I wanted, an expression, or I’d show her how I wanted her to pose—and she would do exactly what I was thinking of. We were just shooting fast, very fast. I shot a lot of pictures of her in a short time.
But I had no idea the troubles she was having. Bettie never confided in me.
Bettie had a bad life—she was arrested, she was in a mental institution for nine years. She did all sorts of bad things. No wonder she was out of touch with people. She was confined away.
And years later, when I talked to her about doing her life story, she probably thought I knew she was arrested, and I was trying to cash in. I had no idea. I just wanted to do a nice pinup girl story, you know?
I wanted to do a book about her, using my pictures, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what she was going through. And she wouldn’t do it. And I’ve always thought, “Oh gee, I’m so harmless. I wasn’t gonna say anything bad about her!” I would never say anything bad, and I didn’t know anything bad. Then, later on, I read The Bettie Page Confidential or The Real Bettie Page, and I was just shocked.
But Bettie Page and I only worked together for a year, 1954, and then she was gone, she just disappeared—and I was too busy making my movies to keep in touch.
Dave Friedman: Bunny Yeager and I go back to my movie, Daughter of the Sun, through a good friend of mine in Chicago, Wally Zeeman, the assistant photo editor at Playboy, who was a very tortured soul, a very devout Catholic, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and seeing all of this sex going on—whoa, you know?
At any rate, Hershel Gordon Lewis and I were gonna go down to Miami to make a nudist camp picture. And Wally Zeman gave me Bunny Yeager’s phone number. Well, we got down to Miami and I called Bunny and she said, “How’d you get this number?” And I said, “Well, through a mutual friend of ours, Wally Zeeman.”
Bunny said, “Oh, you know Wally?”
I said, “Yeah, we’re very good friends in Chicago.”
She said, “Oh yeah, well, he gives me assignments, so you’re okay then.”
She went on to say, “I get all these creeps that are down here who want to make a nudist camp movie—and I can’t stand ’em!”
I said, “This is Dave Friedman and Hershel Gordon Lewis and we’re not creeps!”
Bunny said, “Oh, I’ve heard of you fellas. Okay, what can I do for you?”
I said, “Well, we need some girls…”
She says, “Okay, how many do you need, and where do they go?”
So Bunny sends over half a dozen nice-looking women and we went to these nudist camps, and they were about as erotic as walking through the cold-storage room of Swift and Company in Chicago. You got these poor tired old dames with their breasts hanging down below their navels, and these old guys walking around. So you gotta hire some good-looking models to appear to be the nudists.
Bunny Yeager: Dave Friedman wanted to make a movie in a nudist camp, so I helped him and I got him girls for that. I was always out there looking for girls, because at that time I had a rivalry going with Russ Meyer. We were both selling pinups to the same magazines. And Russ always had the big-busted girls—bigger than anybody. And I just thought, “Where does he find them?” They’re not easy to find. It’s always hard to find girls.
Then Russ started making some of these cute little nudie movies—and then everybody was—there were quite a few movies like that at the drive-in theaters.
They weren’t objectionable films in any way. They were just cute, cute films; yeah, “Nudie Cuties.”
John Waters: You really had to use your imagination with the nudie cuties, because naked people hidden by pogo sticks are not exactly erotic.
Bunny Yeager: When we get into the 1960s, we get more nude and more nude and I can’t sell my bikini shots anymore! Nobody wants to buy my beautiful bikini shots! So I stopped shooting bikini shots almost entirely, and my husband and I talked about it and he said, “I think we could make a low-budget movie….”
So we took every dollar we had—10 thousand dollars—and we made a movie.
We did everything ourselves, built the sets and the costumes, and we only had two locations, because my husband said, “The only way to make any money, if you don’t have any money, is don’t have a lot of locations! Don’t go here, and go there trying to dress it up. Just do part here and part of it there.”
The name of our movie was Room 11, because half of the movie took place in the lobby where the people check in to this motel, and the other half upstairs in Room 11.
There were different types of people that came to rent the room. And we had—I don’t know how many couples… and in our film, Room 11 belonged to the desk clerk. He had this room—he could sleep in it if he wanted to, or he could rent it out when he wasn’t sleeping in it. So he would rent it to these strange people during the day. That’s the whole idea.
Dave Friedman: One of the nudist camps Hershel and I went to was Miss Zelda’s, and she was this Creature from the Black Lagoon telling us, “Well you boys will have to take off your clothes to even come in here….”
We said, “Oh, okay,” so Hershel and I stripped down. Neither of us, by the way, are exhibitionists, and we have to lunch with the nudists and they’re eating Franco-American spaghetti! And Miss Zelda’s breasts were in the spaghetti!
I said, “Hershel, enough of this.”
Well, we found a Spartan’s Club, a glorified strip club, and this owner was like, “Oh, well, what do you think you guys wanna do? We’ve even got a little orgy room back there…”
We said, “We don’t have to take our clothes off?”
The owner said, “No, just give me a couple hundred bucks and you have the room and you know, I can get you some broads in there.”
The owner was one of those guys who talked out of the side of his mouth, and I said to Hershel, “Oh boy, this is just the kinda place we need to do business in!” Ha, ha, ha!
Photo of Bettie Page by Bunny Yeager. Copyright 1954 by Bunny Yeager
Bunny Yeager: We knew that if we paid the “actors” to do something on the first day they might not show up the second day, and then you’d be lost, you have no movie. So we shot Room 11 in two days.
Dave Friedman: After a while, nothing could be more boring than a nudie cutie, not only for the audience, but particularly for the filmmakers. So Hershel and I came up with the idea of the “Roughie,” just to get away from the nudist camp and the nudist colony, with the girls having every excuse to take their clothes off. Hershel and I were kicking ideas around, and I said, “Let’s make a black-and-white movie. Let’s go back to black and white, make it look real grainy, and have scratches on the negative and everything else. And we’ll concentrate more on the violence than on the sex.” So there’s not that much nudity, but a lotta violence. Scum of the Earth was our first and was basically the story of a gang of photographers.
Bunny Yeager: Chuck Traynor brought Linda Lovelace by early on, only her last name wasn’t Lovelace yet. And the trouble with Linda was, when he brought her by, she’s flat-chested, and I can’t sell a flat-chested girl. Not that there’s anything wrong with small bosoms, but commercially they didn’t sell. And I’m always thinking, “What can I sell?”
So I told Chuck, “I can’t sell this girl. I can’t sell her…”
We were doing another film, Sextet, it was like six little stories all in one, and Chuck asked, “Can’t you use her in the film?”
I said, “Well, we’ve got everybody that we need, maybe we could throw her in as an extra.”
And that’s what we did. We threw her in as an extra, and had I known what she was doing after that, I would’ve cashed in on it, of course.
In Sextet, everybody’s just kind of rolling around and making out, and we didn’t get involved with anything that was worse than that. They’re so tame!
You have to look fast to catch Linda. She’s sitting on some guy’s lap on the couch—it’s like a party scene, and there’s guys and girls. She’s not doin’ anything, maybe kissing a guy. You wouldn’t know it was her. I mean, I know it’s her, but she’s not featured. She’s the most flat-chested girl in the movie. I only used her because of Chuck.
That’s another thing about Linda; she had a scar—it came all the way down the middle of her chest, and she wore beads around her neck and they hung down and covered that. But I didn’t wanna bring that up. I really didn’t wanna tell that. I couldn’t believe that she could star in Deep Throat, and be flat and have that scar. I didn’t know how they could do it.
Dave Friedman: Even though nudie cuties killed off burlesque—and killed off girlie shows at carnivals—the nudie-cutie films were the answer to the showman’s prayer. Because he no longer had to worry about live talent, which was always a problem.
Now, of course, instead of the voyeurs staring at some tired old burlesque broad up there, live, on stage, they were suddenly looking at gorgeous young, blonde, tan California girls, in all their pristine glory, with their beautiful breasts and their pert little nipples, and their dimpled little behinds—in Technicolor—on screens 40 feet wide and 25 feet high.
Where would you go?
Bunny Yeager: We never lost money on our movies.
Dave Friedman: An L.A. Vice Squad cop told me one time, “If we see pubic hair, then we know it’s pornographic. We know that’s a sign that it’s porno. That gives us an excuse to pick up the print.” Today you look at major studio movies and there’s enough pubic hair to stuff a mattress.
My business was always the old carnival tease, “Boy, we didn’t see it this week, but we’re gonna see it next week!”
With hardcore, you lift the curtain, and you’re already in the third act. The dénouement is the same as the first act. I mean what else are you gonna do?
Bunny Yeager: We stopped making our movies because all the distributors were calling and saying, “Make it more sexy!” We liked making our movies, and I didn’t see anything wrong with nudity— cute, funny little things, but I guess there was a certain morality that we didn’t want to cross.
Pornography is a whole different bag. There’s a reason for it, and there’s probably a place for it, and I mean, everybody’s got a right to do what they wanna do. But I had no reason to get into that world. I didn’t need it. I didn’t wanna be making it. In stills or movies.
Bill Kelly: Bunny never made the hard-core stuff. She used to talk to me—halfway. She would never implicate anybody. I tried to get her to do more for me, but she was reluctant, and I don’t blame her. She wasn’t into the porn thing.
Bunny Yeager: I knew there was something going on when they came down here to shoot that stupid porn movie, Deep Throat, in 1971. I think somebody from that film wanted me to get them some girls, but when they told me what they had to do, I said, “Absolutely not! I can’t, I don’t know anyone like that, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to do that!”
And I thought, “They must be crazy!”
Dave Friedman: When Deep Throat was released, it was just another picture. It didn’t become a phenomenon until Mayor Lindsay ordered its arrest in New York and The New York Times and Time Magazine picked up on it. Suddenly a new word was in the American lexicon—“Porno chic”—and Linda Lovelace was being interviewed by Johnny Carson, and everybody in the country had to go see this thing. If that hadn’t happened, it would have been just another bad movie that came and went.
Bunny Yeager: I found out they had been shooting somewhere in Miami, some of the scenes, and I went to see it, but I didn’t know any of the other people in it, except this blonde girl, Carol… something.… I shot her. I think she was in one of our movies. She had long, blonde hair. I think that’s why I knew her. Can’t think of her name. Was it Carol? Yes, Carol Kyzer was her real name. She used Carol Conners in the movies. I can visualize her sitting on this guy’s lap…
Chuck Traynor: Carol Connors, she had great boobs. I remember her from Deep Throat. I remember that well. I always knew her on and off, but never really good, you know. We said, “hello” or “goodbye,” but I never really became friends with her or anything.
Bunny Yeager: Carol was married to some body builder, or had a body builder boyfriend, on the beach. I can’t remember his name, but he used to come into my studio with her, and he had full control of her. I could never really get to work with Carol because he was always hanging on her, and always trying to get the best deal for her, and my little thing with my little photography jobs didn’t pay a lotta money, you know, for this cheesecake stuff.
Chuck Traynor: Carol was married to a weight-lifter guy; he was a nice guy. But I didn’t hang out with them, we never partied or got into screwing each other, cause when you’re working on a lot low-budget film, you can’t afford to have anybody fall in love and get mad at each other on the set because you can’t replace ’em.
Bill Kelly: Bunny married a Dade County police detective named Bud Irwin.
Chuck Traynor: When I found out Bunny’s husband was a detective, I was a little standoffish, ha, ha, ha!
Bill Kelly: And one day in 1977, Bud came out of the house, got in a car, and blew his brains out in the driveway.
Bunny Yeager: He killed himself.
Chuck Traynor: Bunny’s husband was an ex-Miami Beach cop, and she got up one morning and went out the front door and looked his car was in the driveway she walked out and he was lying in the front seat with a bullet in his head. He was mixed up in a lotta bullshit, you know? And I guess he’d offended somebody and they shot him.
Bunny called me when Bud got shot and wanted to know whether I could shed some light on it, you know? She wanted me to see what I could find out about it, and I asked around a lil’ bit, and mostly found out that the best thing to do was not to find out. It wasn’t a suicide.
Bunny Yeager: I loved Bud being a police officer. I loved him in a uniform.
I met him when I found out there was a club for tall people called the Miami Tip-Toppers. The women had to be 5-foot-10 or over, and the men had to be at least 6- foot-2 or over, and I joined the club. Apparently, Bud came on the night that I happened to be there; I didn’t wanna go that night. I had washed my hair, and my date, this guy, said, “Oh, just throw a scarf on, we’ll go down, they’re our friends. They won’t care. You look fine.”
So my hair was wet. I had a scarf on, and I didn’t look very good at all. I walk into this party—I come in the front door to this living room, making my entrance—and I look across the room and there’s this great-looking guy sitting cross-legged on the floor looking at a publicity scrapbook of the Tip Toppers Club, seeing what the club members had done.
He had the scrapbook open to a picture of me, where I had just won this beauty contest. I saw my picture. I saw what he was looking at.
We saw each other, and our eyes met, and it was like some enchanted evening—across a crowded room—that’s how it happened.
Our eyes just met like that, but my date took me over to the couch to sit down.
He was gonna go make me a drink.
In the meantime, this good-looking guy got right over to me, while the other guy was in the kitchen making a drink, and somehow, we made a connection, because we just hit it off.
And somehow, Bud got my phone number before the other guy got back, and then he left me so that nobody knew anything, and after that, I saw him every night until we got married.
We married for about a year.
When I made the transition from model to shooting girls, it wasn’t a problem have all these beautiful women coming by all the time. No problems at all, because I tried to keep him out of my photography life.
He would help me to a certain extent, but I said, “If you start picking up the camera and shooting, people are gonna say you’re the photographer and I’m just hangin’ around. If you start shooting, they’ll consider me your assistant!”
I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted this to be my individual life.
And then Bud became a uniformed police officer, he was with the Dade County Sheriff’s Department and they had two police cars, only two police cars! One was north of 79th Street, and the other one was south of 79th Street, all the way down to Homestead.
So they had one car patrolling out in the tomato fields, with no street signs, and he had to learn where Farmer Brown lived, in case he called and needed help. He had to know where everybody was, so it was quite interesting.
Later on, Bud became detective sergeant, and he worked plainclothes a lot. He got out of the uniform, but it was more money and a promotion and everything.
Actually, I worried more about him when he was in uniform, because sometimes he’d have to change his clothes at the station, he’d get blood all over them– somebody got shot and he’d have to hold their guts in and get ‘em to the hospital, things like that.
Miami was a pretty wild town in those days.
Bud met Meyer Lansky. He had lunch with him a couple of times. I don’t know where, but his beat was up there in Miami Beach. The Strip, they called it. All those hotels.
And he hung around over there, and he would try to find out what was going on with the mob by talking to people like Meyer Lansky. Bud said Meyer Lansky was just an ordinary guy.
Yeah, sure, ha, ha! But he didn’t tell me everything, you know?
Bunny Yeager died on May 25, 2014, at age 85.
FBI agent Bill Kelly died on October 11, 2008 at age 82.
Dave Friedman died in Anniston, Alabama, on February 14, 2011, at the age of 87.
Chuck Traynor died at the age of 64 of a heart attack in Chatsworth, California, on July 22, 2002, three months after Linda Lovelace.
Bunny Yeager, Dave Friedman, Bill Kelly, Chuck Traynor and John Waters interviewed by Legs McNeil. Copyright 2022 by Legs McNeil.
Bunny Yeager Entry Number 10 from Bettie Page: Queen of Curves by Petra Mason and Bunny Yeager. Copyright 2014 by Bunny Yeager. Click Here To Order Book
Bettie Page Entries Number Seven, Nine, and 11– from “Bunny Yeager Interviews Bettie Page,” Interview magazine, July 1993. Copyright 1993 by Interview magazine.
INTRODUCTION TO MY COURSE:
ZEN AND THE ART OF THE NARRATIVE ORAL HISTORY
©2021-2022 by Legs McNeil (Based on the techniques developed by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain)
Too long has the Oral History format been thought of as the bastard child of literature; assumed to be a “cut and paste” job for hack writers looking to make an easy buck. In other words, the bottom of the prose barrel. But when the art of the narrative oral history is mastered, it can transform the written spoken word by primary subjects—people who were in the room when the event occurred—into actually experiencing the event being described, with all the human emotion, even more so than the traditional omnipotent narrator.