Walk on the Wild Side
presiding over her private menagerie, miss july has learned never to cry wolf
Leisa Sheridan is trying to tell her life story, but there's a problem -- and he's making a lot of noise. Montana, a six-month-old Moluccan cockatoo named for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, paces the perch in his cage, broadcasting discontent and sounding like a child crying for his mom. The white bird is the newest member of a pampered menagerie in Leisa's large three-bedroom apartment in the San Fernando Valley. "I bottle-fed him when he was a baby," she says, taking him out of his birdcage and settling back on the couch with him. Montana tucks his beak under her chin and wiggles his way into the nest of golden curls that falls below Leisa's shoulders. She strokes his feathers and in a moment he is perfectly still. "Now he's happy," she says. "He's asleep." Leisa's collection also includes a parakeet named Dewey, a cat named Melrose and a year-old pup named Bear, who's one part shepherd, three parts wolf. Bear hangs out by the backyard pool, giving Leisa, for whom tanning is a vocation, the kind of privacy not even a cinder-block fence and thick shrubbery can provide. He's the big guy (opposite) keeping strangers at bay. "Nobody messes with me when I'm with Bear," says Leisa. For a girl who grew up in the safety of Carmel, California, a hundred pounds of wolf dog is a comfort in greater Los Angeles. Leisa knows her looks cause a stir: Witness the spring day she and a Playboy photo crew were taking pictures on a trendy street in West Hollywood. Out from restaurants and boutiques swarmed men of all ages brandishing calling cards, begging to buy her dinner, promising small parts in movies. The memory makes her laugh. "A lot of the people you meet in L.A. are so full of it. They flatter you and tell you all the things they're going to do for you. When people act like that, I become introverted. I do a lot of listening until I know what someone's about." Lately, Leisa has heard encouraging words from the photographers and stylists who worked with her on the pictures on these pages. Although she considered becoming a model when she moved to Los Angeles four years ago, she never actively pursued the career until the day she stopped by our Sunset Boulevard studio to pose for test pictures. Chosen from among thousands of Playmate wanna-bes, Miss July admits she was nervous at the start of her photo shoot. "Being an amateur, I was a little intimidated," she says. "I don't have a problem with nudity, but at the beginning I sat there thinking, The crew should be naked, too! You get past that, though. Everyone was so patient and understanding. This experience has given me a lot of confidence."
For the moment, Leisa plans to "wait and see where this is going to take me. I know my foot's in the door to something. I just don't know what that something is yet." She can entertain herself for days on end at home with her animals. When that gets old, she piles the lot of them into her Range Rover, drops them at the vet and takes off for the beach or a patch of desert. In the past few years she has jet-skied in Las Vegas, Palm Springs and on Lake Havasu, Arizona. She has sunned and bodysurfed in Jamaica, the Bahamas and Hawaii. That's five trips to Hawaii, but who's counting? "Travel is my passion," she says. "I love spontaneity. The best thing a man can say to me is, 'Hey, want to go to Jamaica tonight?' All I need is an hour and I'm gone."
Photography by Arny Freytag, Stephen Wayda