Midnight, ‘Midday’ and Jayne Mansfield

This isn’t a review of “Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It,” a new biography that I recommend.

This is about me. What I think of when I think of Jayne Mansfield.

In May 2021, I saw the ARC of the book by Eve Golden was available through Edelweiss+. I downloaded it and went directly to Chapter 28, the chapter about the actress’ death in a car accident on June 29, 1967.

Here’s the Wikipedia account of the crash:

“Mansfield was in Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club. After two appearances on the evening of June 28, Mansfield, Sam Brody (her attorney and companion), their driver Ronnie Harrison (age 20), and three of her children – Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska – left Biloxi after midnight in a 1966 Buick Electra 225. Their destination was New Orleans, where Mansfield was to appear on WDSU’s Midday Show the next day. At about 2:25 a.m. on June 29, on U.S. Highway 90, 1 mile west of the Rigolets Bridge, the Buick crashed at high speed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed behind a truck spraying mosquito fogger. The semi-trailer was shrouded by insecticide fog. The three adults in the front seat died instantly. The children, asleep in the rear seat, survived with minor injuries.”

I’m very familiar with Biloxi, Gus Stevens, New Orleans, WDSU, “Midday,” Highway 90 and the Rigolets. Well, Gus Stevens, not so much.

I grew up in a house on Venetian Gardens in Gulfport off Highway 90, a half-mile west of the Biloxi line. Gus Stevens was on 90 less than five miles from our house.

Highway 90, also known as the Beach Road, was our way to get to New Orleans before Interstate 10. You can still go that way if there is I-10 gridlock to avoid. It’s about 90 miles from Gulfport to New Orleans.

You can drive west on Highway 90 and take a turn in Hancock County onto Old Highway 90, also known as the Back Way. Up next: Louisiana, St. Tammany, the Rigolets, Orleans, Lake Catherine Island and New Orleans.

Here are iPhone four photos I took in the Rigolets area around 5:15 pm on Jan. 11, 2016:

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The fatal wreck was on Lake Catherine Island, and I’ve always thought there should be a memorial at the scene to memorialize the people who were killed. Jayne Mansfield was 34 years old.

I was 15 years old on June 29, 1967, and was weeks away from starting my sophomore year at a Biloxi Catholic high school.

I couldn’t put Chapter 28 down because of all the details I never knew, but I question one detail presented as fact.

Jayne Mansfield was going to New Orleans for a TV appearance and not for a radio show.

The story goes that she was to be on “Midday,” a popular live local TV show on WDSU whose studio was in the French Quarter, and I was a fan of the show. I might have watched the show on June 29, 1967, might being the keyword, because I don’t remember. I suppose Jayne Mansfield might have also been scheduled for a WDSU Radio show with Al Shea, but I remember that Al Shea was also a “Midday” regular.

Chapter 28 begins with Jayne Mansfield writing a check to buy a Rolls-Royce after she arrived in Biloxi in late June for Gus Stevens shows scheduled to run through July 4. A check to buy a Rolls in Biloxi in 1967!?!? Fascinating!!!

Three paragraphs later, I was also intrigued to see the name of a man I worked with at The Daily Herald starting in 1972. Billy Ray Quave was his name, and he was at Gus Stevens to write a story about one of Jayne Mansfield’s two shows on June 28, 1967.

I read the ARC of the bio weeks in advance of the publishing date, June 29, 2021, and tried to contact the University of Kentucky Press, the publisher, and the writer about perhaps making a “Midday” correction (TV and not radio).

It’s July 9, 2021, and I’m still waiting to hear from the publisher and the writer, but I’m happy to have received the ARC and I hope to see the print edition of “Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It,” perhaps just to see Billy Ray Quave’s name again.

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