O Lucky Girl!
small-town miss nancy cameron took a chance on the big city -- and it's worked out just fine, thank you
January Playmate Nancy Cameron isn't the introspective sort, but on the eve of her 20th birthday -- which just happens to coincide with ours -- we caught her in a reflective mood. "I've been thinking what would have happened if I hadn't gotten away from home." Home for Nancy was Arnold, Pennsylvania, a small town about 20 miles outside Pittsburgh. "I'd probably have gotten married -- to my very old-fashioned high school sweetheart -- and most likely have settled for a career as a dental assistant." Nancy makes a face. "And I'd never have gotten to meet Alice Cooper." We should explain that Miss January works for her boyfriend, Paul St. John, a rock-concert producer in Pittsburgh. Nancy books hotel reservations for incoming groups, ensures that rooms are supplied with ample provisions of food and drink and arranges press parties, limousine service and the like. "Somebody was throwing a party for Alice after the concert and Paul wanted me to go," says Nancy. 'But I told him I was tired and we argued about it. So I'm sitting home alone when the phone rings and there's a man on the other end of the line saying, 'Hello, Nancy. This is Alice.' And I hear Paul laughing on the line like it was some big joke. But Alice was really quite nice. He straightened everything out between us." Nancy pauses, then says, "Now, I don't mean to give the impression that I'm a close friend of every rock star who passes through Pittsburgh. I don't even like to show up at the concerts. But if I hadn't met Paul, I never would have had the opportunity to go in the first place." In fact, says Nancy, it was Paul who encouraged her to go to Pittsburgh. "I had been working as a dental assistant for several months -- in Arnold. That was a drag. I had been modeling, too, just for the sake of doing something different. I model two or three times a week; there's not a whole lot of that kind of work in Pittsburgh. Anyway, one day I was on a job at a shopping center, promoting a modeling agency; Paul passed by, and we met. Since then, I've done things I'd never thought I'd ever be doing, met people I'd never thought I'd meet, had experiences I'd never thought I'd have." At the time she took off for Pittsburgh, Nancy was just a few months out of high school. "I had been very popular," she recalls, "secretary of my junior and senior classes, drum majorette, principal's pet and all the rest. But I knew nothing of Rolls-Royces, rock stars, fine restaurants or big cities. The only time I'd ever gotten out of Arnold to any major new place was to Chicago, where I competed in a national gymnastic meet. [Nancy placed second in overall competition, which included turns on the uneven parallel bars, horse, rings and free exercise.] But then I had to go back to my job as a dental assistant. Eventually, when more modeling assignments started to come my way, I quit dentistry and worked nights as a receptionist at a country club. Which was OK, except with modeling during the day and working at night, my life consisted of not much more than work and sleep. That is, until Paul came along." Nancy hasn't abandoned her old life entirely, though. She still finds time for exercise with her sisters, who belong to Sokol, an Arnold gymnastic group. "I've been a gymnast my whole life, as have my parents and their parents before them. We're all Slovak, and it would be hard to find a people crazier than the Slovaks. Since my mother is an instructor and my sisters still compete, I guess we can match any family as gymnast fanatics." For the moment, however, Nancy says she can't foresee a time when her passion for the sport would evolve into anything serious enough to give her Olympic aspirations. "I'm OK on the uneven bars, especially when I put my mind to it. But I'm terribly inconsistent, and I freeze under pressure. During one meet a while ago, I was doing a required routine on the rings. Suddenly I caught the judge's eye and got so scared that I forgot an entire sequence. My mind went blank and by the time I came out of it, I was just hanging there improvising tricks I'd never done before."
When she's not working out, Nancy divides her hours about equally between modeling assignments and concert production work. "Frankly," she says, "I'd rather spend more of my time modeling, but I enjoy meeting the groups and helping them." All the same, if she were asked to trade her present life for the one that would have awaited her had she remained in Arnold, we're absolutely certain which one Nancy would choose. "But I've already made that choice," she says. "I'm here with you now, aren't I?" And how.
Photography by Dwight Hooker