A Style of Her Own
haute couture mannequin connie mason has a flair and a form for fashion
Viewing the curious world of haute couture, disgruntled males have long suspected that fashion's feudal lords require their standard-bearers to be spindle-shanked, slab-chested, hollow-cheeked creatures who collectively possess all the earthly sensuality of a soda straw. Like most sweeping generalizations, this one has its exceptions -- and if there are, admittedly, a depressing number of lean and hungry lookalikes in dress circles, it is also true that a few couture mannequins do exist who are as eye-catching and artistically assembled as the gowns they wear.
Such an exceptional one is Connie Mason, an all-girl fashion model from Chicago who is our decorative June Playmate. In addition to being an admirable answer to the bizarre misses of Harper's Bazaar, Connie is also an energetic, gregarious sort who obviously enjoys both her work and her life. "The way I see it," she says, "modeling is a near-perfect job for me. I love fine clothes -- wearing gowns I couldn't possibly afford gives me a wonderfully regal feeling. This, I suppose, is a holdover from my childhood when I used to dress up in my mother's clothes. Of course, modeling is not always a gay, mad glamor routine -- there's a lot of hard work mixed in, as well as some boredom -- waiting around in a tiny dressing room can be a king-size drag. But, with the possible exception of Cary Grant's latest leading lady, I wouldn't trade places with anyone."
Capsuling her career, Connie notes, "I was born 21 years ago in Washington, D.C., went to high school in Silver Spring, Maryland, and attended Stratford (Junior) College in Danville, Virginia. I have an older sister, married, and a younger brother, unmarried, who is a whiz at horseback riding and is always winning all kinds of jumping prizes. For a year-and-a-half after I finished school I managed the cosmetic department at Woodward & Lothrop, a department store in Bethesda, Maryland. Then friends persuaded me to give modeling a whirl. I did."
The whirl led to quick acceptance by the dress-parade set and a number of choice assignments, including a stint last summer in New York wearing the colors of Oleg Cassini ("He's the best -- it was quite a challenge working for him, and I loved every minute of it"), and her current Windy City employment.
Though she still feels the life of a successful high-fashion model is made to order for her, Connie was recently exposed to show business for the first time -- and found it catching. While visiting her family -- her dad is the president of a seawall-and-piling construction company in Hollywood, Florida -- she was spotted by movie talent scouts for an outfit modestly dubbed Box Office Spectaculars, Inc., who promptly signed her to play the heroine of a Florida-filmed, gore-splattered quickie entitled "The Blood Feast," which will be released this month. "It's all about sacrificing beautiful young virgins to Egyptian deities," says Connie. "You know, a typical, everyday kind of story. I'm rather proud of the fact that at the end of the show I'm still healthy, while every other girl is either dead or horribly mutilated. I don't imagine we'll win any Academy Awards, but it was fun taking time off to do it and I'd love to act in more films if I get the chance. I want to try everything. I'd hate to grow old, and look back and say to myself, 'Now, why didn't you at least give that a try?' It would be a horrible feeling, not having attempted something that might have been fun."
Now back modeling in Chicago, Connie shares a North Side apartment with roommate Rosemarie Yaiser and a pampered French poodle, and is chief cook, bottle washer and conversationalist of the household. "Talking," she says, "has always been one of my favorite hobbies." A random sampling of the Masonic code: "I'm not an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love to read, especially autobiographies and collections of love letters. I just finished that book of Woodrow Wilson's love letters and it really flipped me. He looks so stolid, you know. Basically, I'm an outgoing person -- I adore people and am happy whenever I'm in a group. I think of myself as an optimist -- I like movies with happy endings, Italian foods and wines, romantic poetry, upbeat ballads. My taste in men tends toward guys with aggressive minds, but I can't take phonies. The worst feeling in the world for me is falling out of love. The best, of course, is falling in. My biggest fault is that I get too enthusiastic about what I'm doing and am sloppy about little details. I'm a good cook, though. And I'm the only girl I know who owns 600 jazz records. My favorite is Joe Williams. My biggest ambition at the moment is to be successful enough as a model to make myself happy and to be able to settle down in a place where there's lots of sunshine and palm trees and water and eligible bachelors. I don't get to meet too many single men in my line of work -- but I always enjoy it whenever there are males in the salon where I'm modeling. The women are all fascinated by my clothes -- but I know the men, at least, are looking at me. I've never found that to be an uncomfortable feeling."
For the nonce, all frocks forgotten, curvilinear Connie stretches out on her bed and our gatefold, proving herself in the process a likely nominee for any design-conscious connoisseur's Best Undressed List.
Photography by Pompeo Posar