all wrapped up in auto racing, playmate phyllis coleman has turned a pit crew into a thing of beauty
"I take the attitude that he's more likely to be killed driving on the freeway than on a race track with professional drivers," says Phyllis Coleman of David Cormany, her man and her boss, a promising young driver on the Trans-American racing circuit. For many years she studied for a ballet career, but when Cormany bought one of actor James Garner's Corvettes and decided to try for the pro circuit, 23-year-old Phyllis took over the publicity for his team. She didn't realize she was getting into what turned out to be a round-the-clock routine, but her love of the sport -- and her fondness for Cormany -- makes it rewarding. "David and I match up on and off the track," says Phyllis, who lived in New York and Illinois before settling in California. For several days before a race, she must help him prepare mentally for the competition. "He can't have a normal relationship with anybody during this period," she says. "Little things upset him and he's very cold." On the day of the race, she acts as track hostess, escorting the team's sponsors if they attend the race. "You try to project a good image for their product, but you're just part of the package. It's strictly business." Some of that business is pretty far out: One church-group sponsor painted "Win with Jesus" on Cormany's car. ("It just may have helped," Phyllis says.) She also has to keep watch on her preoccupied driver. "I have to make sure he eats. He even forgets that." After checking him out, she dons still other hats -- writing notes, taking pictures, keeping up with how the other competitive teams are doing and maintaining liaison between Cormany and the chief stewards of the event -- and between chores she bites her nails. After the race come more publicity tasks: first, shooting candids of the grime-covered car and driver, then, after Phyllis gives Cormany a rubdown, some more formal shots with pit crew and sponsors. Later she begins her hardest job: helping her guy wind down. "It relaxes him to talk about the race, so I rap with him for hours." Lately, Phyllis has been thinking about going into racing herself. "I'm not sure I could handle the pressure, but I think I've got as good a chance as the next woman." Any volunteers for a man Friday?
Photography by Bill Figge, Mel Figge, Ed DeLong