I spotted this photo online & wondered if it could be true — in 1945, did Hollywood celebs such as Ann Miller play strip poker for charity?
I dug through the archives to find out — and sure enough, they did!
From the Shamokin News Dispatch, April 6, 1945, Screen Chats: They Strip For Charity, by Erskine Johnson:
Hollywood’s first strip poker party, or rather the first one to which press photographers were invited, was a shivering success, we can report today. We haven’t seen so much bare skin since Sally Rand dropped her fans in our lap one night at the San Diego Exposition.
Four Hollywood starlets and Dancer Renee De Marco were divested of practically everything, including their dignity, before one of them, in nothing but shorts, a bra and a hat, blushingly pleaded, “Say when,” and Press Agent Russell Birdwell announced, “That’s all, boys.”
The participants, acquiring goose pimples in the late afternoon sun, gathered up their clothing and agreed that when a more fantastic press agent stunt is dreamed up, Mr. Birdwell will dream it up.
“Renee De Marco, America’s most famed dancer,” the telegraphed invitation read, “will be hostess at a strip poker party in the back yard of her Beverly Hills home, the slogan for which is ‘Take Off Your Clothes for the United Nations Clothing Collection.’
“Toni Seven, Ann Miller, Evelyn Ankers and Nina Foch, Hollywood’s youngest, prettiest and lushest screen stars,” the telegram continued, “will participate.”
Mss De Marco’s Beverly Hills “home” was the Birdwell mansion.
“I loaned it to her for the afternoon,” he explained. “Anything to please the clients.”
Fifteen drooling cameramen focused their cameras as the strip poker game began at a table on Birdwell’s lawn. Mr. Birdwell beamed. He was getting some nice space for his clients, such as this column, and helping the war effort at the same time for “this worth-while get-together,” as his telegram said.
The Girls Oblige
The shedding continued as the photographers shot away, with the ladies repeating the process of removing a skirt or blouse, at Birdwell’s direction, when someone was slow in focusing.
“Take off that slip again,” one of the photographers said to Miss De Marco. Miss De Marco obliged.
“It’s the most dignified Minsky troupe in the country,” Birdwell said, adding, “and the highest paid.”
The article was complete with a photo similar to that which started my hunt – which I believe ought to be credited to Peter Stackpole.
Actress Toni 7 (left) whose straight lost to a flush held by Ann Miller (right) in a strip poker game, pays off. The gambling game, however, was of a philanthropic nature to advance the cause of the United National Clothing drive. Three other movie stars participating in the game donated all lost clothing to the drive, which seeks old garments for war refugees.
I was also able to hunt down this additional photo of the group as well.