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This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In 1966, Dickinson, then 35, was an up-and-coming actress who’d had a long-term relationship with Frank Sinatra (she played his wife in the original Ocean’s Eleven, a role reprised by Julia Roberts in the Soderbergh reboot); starred in Arthur Penn‘s The Chase as Marlon Brando‘s wife (THR‘s review said she “is very nice with what she has to do”); and had a daughter with composer Burt Bacharach. But when she graced Esquire‘s cover in a photo both scandalous and demure, her celebrity rose to new heights.
The iconic picture grew out of a photo session Dickinson had done with Frank Bez, whose portraits for the magazine included one of Andy Warhol dressed as Robin and The Velvet Underground’s Nico as Batman. (A photo he took of Johnny Cash is now on a U.S. stamp.) “My regular gig was shooting portraits for the studios,” says Bez. “I did one with Angie, and afterwards I said, ‘We ought to try doing a non-nude nude.’ She said she’d think about it and a few weeks later came back with this idea. We wanted it to be cautiously sexy.”
Bez, now 84, says the photo was “just a straight shot” with no manipulation. Dickinson went on to achieve non-gluteal fame with the 1970s NBC procedural Police Woman, a series reported to have caused a spike in applications by women to U.S. police departments. In an email to THR, the actress, now 83, says she’s glad the photo’s running: “You keep me young, at least for a few moments.”
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