In an assisted living facility in Beverly Hills, there lives a spry 92-year-old named Edith Tooker. Secreted away until the time is right is her memoir, Backless in Hollywood and Other Tales. It’s a document so incendiary that it could reframe Hollywood history — and to such a degree that it has been likened to “a mid-century Me Too”.
Spanning the bridge between then and now is the night of February 28, 1957, the 14th Golden Globes. Waiting in the wings to present the best supporting actor award to Earl Holliman was a head-turning ingenue in a town already full of them. The name she had adopted was Vikki Dougan, and she had a problem. The mink stole she was wearing over a pink satin backless dress had to be held in place by hand, meaning she wouldn’t be able to present the gong and shake Holliman’s paw. The quandary was that she was one mitt short and the shawl had been discarded. Had this been a movie scene, it would have fallen to the Ambassador Hotel floor in delicious slow motion, after which the camera would have panned south from a pair of tanned shoulder blades along a strong spine and come to rest exactly where the dress had done. Namely, a few tantalising centimetres above a bottom strategically alluded to.
Dougan’s — or Tooker’s — back was such a showstopper that Hollywood lore had her once being banned from another star’s preview party because her backless formal dresses were drawing too much attention. More Hollywood gossip even had notorious bombshells Jayne Mansfield and Zsa Zsa Gabor going from blonde to a shade of green at the thought of Dougan’s presence.
For a handful of glorious years, Dougan was one of the most famous women in Los Angeles and therefore the world. This despite a cinematic output that was as brief as it was scant.