Turning Over A New Life
california's chris cranston is forsaking a chance at movie stardom for hawaii's sun and sand
In the film Funny Girl, it was abundantly apparent that Florenz Ziegfeld's formula for the Follies -- in addition to an array of big-name stars -- included a queen-sized regiment of chorus girls to complement the song-and-dance offerings of Fanny Brice, et al. One of the stunning chorines in that movie was 24-year-old Chris Cranston, who herewith makes a repeat appearance in Playboy; she debuted in our September 1968 Girls of "Funny Girl" feature. Soon after that first full page exposure, she was signed as a regular on the Playboy After Dark TV show and her second career -- modeling -- began to take off meteorically in the Southern California area, where she was born and raised. Then came commercials and bit movie parts, plus an invitation to appear on a local Los Angeles TV talk show. It was in the course of that televised conversation that Chris learned of an upcoming U.S.O. troop-visiting tour of Vietnam. "What interested me particularly," she explains, "was that this wasn't the usual entertainers' whistle-stopping trip. Instead, the idea was to have us travel into isolated areas of the country, meet the guys stationed there and talk with them at length." For two and a half weeks, Chris and her group made helicopter forays into remote bases, where they entertained and chatted informally with GIs who were unaccustomed to any kind of friendly visitation. "Needless to say, they were delighted to see us." For Chris, however, the most indelible impressions of the journey resulted from her nonverbal but highly communicative exchanges with Vietnamese natives. "Through gestures, we were able to speak with one another quite easily. It was gratifying for me to be accepted by them. One old woman gave me a bracelet that signifies everlasting friendship, since it fits snugly and can't be removed. It's now one of my proudest possessions." Although her troupe was never actually fired upon, Chris does have one close call to relate. "After landing at a spot near Cao Lahn, we learned from the men that a helicopter trying to land just a few minutes before we arrived had been shot down. I'm really glad I didn't know that until we were on the ground." Wholly dovish in her opinions about the war when she signed up for the tour, Chris substantiated that assessment during her brief tour of duty. "I'm still against the war, but the troops I saw really helped the Vietnamese, who, consequently, loved the GIs." During her return trip to California, Chris landed in Hawaii for an R & R visit with former Los Angeles friends, who eloquently urged her to join them as a resident of the Islands. "But," she says, "my first impressions were negative. The parts I saw were quite commercialized." A recent return visit, at her friends' insistence, turned Chris around, however -- particularly when she was introduced to the uniquely bohemian life style of Honolulu's North Shore, a mélange of canvas tents and psychedelically painted vans occupied by growing numbers of young people, mostly mainland emigrants, who enjoy a continuous diet of sun, sea and tropical fruit. "Seeing the informality of everything over there made me realize what a silly rat-race existence I've been leading. The North Shore way of life isn't like a commune. Most of the people work in Honolulu. But it's communal in the sense that many of them share their possessions: clothing, food, practically anything. I just can't wait to get back there to stay. I talked it over with my folks and they approve of the idea. That's important to me because I value their opinions." Chris is now in the midst of liquidating her Stateside assets, since she feels they would only clutter the simple life she'll soon be adopting. "Besides," she reasons pragmatically, "with the money I can get for my things, plus the amount I've already saved, I can buy a van and not have to work for a while. I'll stay in Hawaii for as long as the cash holds out." We predict her stay will be a long one, for the best things that await Chris in her new life -- an idyllic environment and beachcombing camaraderie -- are unconditionally free.
Photography by Mario Casilli