forget fantasy island -- just feast your eyes on this playmate in paradise
Victoria Cooke loves the great outdoors. It is the only place she feels truly at peace. She's energetic, physical, sensuous, adventurous and extremely athletic and soon becomes restive when surrounded by four walls. "Let's go outside," she always seems to be saying. "It's nicer outside." But then, ever since her childhood, she has gravitated toward the wide-open spaces. Born in California, the daughter of a real-estate developer, Victoria (one does not call her Vickie) moved to Arizona at 17. After studying real estate and finance at the University of Arizona (and appearing in Playboy's Girls of the Pac 10, October 1978) she became restless and just picked up and moved to Hawaii. "I got tired of being in the desert," she says. "I had a desire to go to some faraway place, far from school and family and be independent." She'd never been to Hawaii before and found that her concept of the islands differed radically from the reality. "I had this romantic image that Hawaii was just a bunch of grass huts and deserted beaches," she recalls. "Boy, was I surprised flying into Honolulu Airport and seeing all those high-rises along the beach: But I decided to stay anyway -- mainly because I didn't have enough money to leave." The first week, with a paltry $100 left in her purse, she took a bus tour around the island of Oahu and did some exploring on her own. "It was so beautiful," she says, "and I felt a lot better about it." But money was running low, so she applied for jobs at hotels on Waikiki Beach, only to be turned away: She'd arrived during the off-season and nobody was hiring. Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since she eventually did get a job -- an outdoor one -- selling suntan lotion on the beach. "I became a beach bum," she says. "Eleven hours a day on the beach, in the sun, peddling lotions and surfboards." She prospered, mainly because, as she herself admits, "I've got the gift of gab and I'm excellent at selling things. Always have been." Figuring that she could sell anything, Victoria got her real estate license and soon started selling time-sharing condos. And she prospered at that, too. "I'd stop people in the hotels and say, 'Aloha, folks,' and we'd take it from there. I did quite well at it." In fact, she did so well that she had plenty of time to get involved in sports during the day. "I'd work till three o'clock, then jog three or four miles, then swim a few laps, then do a little wind surfing or sailing, then just collapse on the beach and watch the sunset." She became particularly adept at sailing 16-foot catamarans and crewed on the boat that won the 1979 Hawaii State Championships. But then, Victoria Cooke doesn't strike you as the sort of person who loses at anything. She has certainly won us over.
Photography by Mario Casilli