In which G.M. Norton takes a look back at ‘The Back’.
Here at Norton of Morton HQ, I like to do things a little differently. Now we’ve reached a new year, rather than look back over the last 12 months, I’d like to look at an actual ‘back’ – namely, a back belonging to my latest Smouldering Siren, 1950s model and aspiring actress, Vikki Dougan.
There’s been something of a hiatus since I last enlisted a lovely lady into my pantheon of Smouldering Sirens so I’m glad to see it return, starting with Vikki.In order to make a name for herself, Vikki Dougan caused quite a commotion during the 1950s for wearing daring backless dresses to various Hollywood soirees. The plunging frocks gained so much news attention for the starlet that she was quickly nicknamed ‘The Back’. Apparently, such was the furore over her controversial spinal column that she was even asked to leave one particular party by the host. Given that people commented that she made ‘the best exits in town’, that rumpus was most likely a publicity stunt as well.
So, who was Vikki Dougan? Well, here’s her backstory (apols, I couldn’t resist).Vikki Dougan’s real name was Edith Tooker. Goodness knows why she didn’t stick with her original name but there you go. Born in New York in 1929 to parents Wilber and Mary (nee Dougan) Tooker, she began modelling at an early age. Aged 16, she won a modelling contest but was later disqualified for being underage.
Dougan became a successful model advertising cosmetics and cigarettes, while she attempted to carve out a career as an actress. Soon after the birth of her daughter Debbie in 1950, her husband reportedly walked out on her, with divorce granted in 1952.
The following year, the ambitious Dougan became famous overnight when a rather clever publicist chap had the inspired idea for her to wear outrageously low-cut backless dresses to Hollywood parties. With her backbone exposed from stem to stern, photographers were smitten, drawing attention away from the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, who were perhaps more known for their plunging necklines.It certainly brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “I’ll be glad to see the back of you.”
Dougan’s daring bare back made headlines, shocking 'respectable' Hollywood society.It interests me to wonder how much of a sensation such brazen back display caused. I still remember the hoo-ha that Liz Hurley’s safety-pin dress caused at the premiere of the 1994 film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. In a parallel to the plucky Dougan, Hurley was a relatively unknown actress at the time. That all changed after squeezing herself into her stationery-inspired little black dress – like Dougan, Hurley was pictured in every newspaper and everybody instantly knew her name, taking attention away from her boyfriend and the film’s leading man, Mr Hugh Grant.
Unfortunately, Vikki Dougan didn’t manage to achieve the same level of fame and fortune that Liz Hurley enjoyed.That’s not to say that Dougan didn’t have an impact of course. She graced the cover of 1953’s Life Magazine, had small roles in around ten films and was even immortalised in a 1961 song by The Limelighters, with the reference ‘turn your back on me’. Dougan also got rather chummy with a certain Frank Sinatra.
It has been reported elsewhere that Miss Dougan’s curvaceous coccyx inspired every man’s favourite animated infatuation, the one-and-only Jessica Rabbit. I must say that I think this is highly unlikely but if it helps to raise awareness of ‘The Back’, then who am I to argue?
While you’re here, why don’t you cast your eye some of my other Smouldering Sirens? Namely Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Dita Von Teese, Bettie Page and Diana Rigg.Toodle-pip!
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’