For collectors of vintage ephemera, the June 1959 issue of WILDCAT ADVENTURES is notable for several reasons.
In addition to having a cover painting by the great Basil Gogos, who is best known for his colorful monster magazine cover art, and an abridged version of William Burroughs’ first novel JUNKIE, there’s another retro treasure inside: a “cheesecake” photo spread featuring actress and pinup photo model Shirley Kilpatrick.
The photos show her in bathing suits and other modestly-revealing outfits in beach settings, which led the editors to give the spread the title “SHAPE ASHORE.”
If you Google Shirley Kilpatrick, you’ll find that she had some pretty cool pop culture connections and credits. But you won’t learn about those in the text the WILDCAT ADVENTURES editors wrote for Shirley’s photo spread.
Like many of the short blurbs written for photos of pinup models in men’s magazines, most of that text is totally made up. It claims Shirley recently came to the United States from Ireland, “but she loves learning new things and is fast becoming as American as anyone.”
In fact, as documented by the Internet Movie Database and elsewhere, Shirley was born in the USA as Shirley Jean Kilpatrick on November 16, 1932.
Two things in the photo spread text that are close to the realm of reality are that she was “much in demand as a model” and wanted to be an actress.
From about 1954 to 1965 photos of Shirley appeared in dozens of popular men’s bachelor mags and men’s adventure magazines, including: ARGOSY, BATTLE CRY, BOLD, CAPER, CHICKS AND CHUCKLES, GALA, GENT, FIGURE QUARTERLY, FROLIC, HIGH, HI-LIFE, MALE LIFE, MALE POINT OF VIEW, MAN’S ADVENTURE, MAN’S CONQUEST, MAN’S LIFE, MERMAID, MODERN MAN, PICTURE SCOPE, RUGGED MEN, SCAMP, STARE and TEMPO.
In some of those photos she has dark hair. In others she is blonde. In WILDCAT ADVENTURES, June 1959, she has dark hair (described as red) and is given a full three-page spread. But perhaps the coolest thing about Shirley, which gives her cult cachet, is that she played the “She-Monster” in the cult horror/science fiction film THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER (1957).
THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER is a totally gonzo film that mixes two initially unrelated plot lines and characters. One involves the kidnapping of a rich heiress by some third-rate, lowlife gangsters. The other involves an alien (Shirley) who crash lands on Earth, wearing a form-fitting, glittery Spandex suit that shows off her ample curves. Shirley’s other “alien” attributes are her eyebrows, which outdo those of STAR TREK’s Spock character — and the fact that she is so radioactive she kills anyone she touches.
THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER is one of the many classic science fiction and horror flicks released by American International Pictures (AIP). If you watch it, you may notice that it has the feel of an Ed Wood film like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. That’s not a coincidence.
The director, Ronald V. Ashcroft, was a friend of Ed Wood. He also served as assistant director and sound man on some of Wood’s films. And, Ashcroft’s use of an announcer voiceover and recycled footage, along with the weird plot and dialogue in THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER, are all very Woodesque.
Like many AIP films, THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER was promoted with a poster that was, artistically, better than the movie. The painting and design were done by artist Albert Kallis, a protégé of the even better known artist Reynold Brown, who created the iconic posters for THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN (1958) and many other cult sci-fi and horror films.
The model Kallis used for the She Monster was not Shirley Kilpatrick. It was another, highly-popular glamour girl from the ‘50s and ‘60s, Madeline Castle. Kallis used a nude photograph of Castle for reference that’s a real stunner.
THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER is one of three movies Shirley Kilpatrick appeared in. She had a small, uncredited role in the 1954 Western SILVER LODE. Five years later, she played a striptease performer in the film THE GENE KRUPA STORY, which starred Sal Mineo as Krupa.
Shirley had some relevant experience for her KRUPA role. In the mid-1950s, in addition to modeling for pinup photos, she worked a stripper in California strip clubs under the stage name “Celeste Kirk.”
One night, Columbia Pictures producer Phil Waxman caught her act and signed her to play the stripteaser in the KRUPA film.
Shirley also appeared in at one those short films that were sold through ads you see in the back of men’s magazines. It’s titled SECRETS OF A PARIS MODEL and is now available a video collection of old stripper and burlesque films called SUNSET STRIP, VOLUME 1: VINTAGE STRIPTEASE & BURLESQUE SHORTS, 1926-1956.
There’s a rumor floating around on cult movie websites suggesting that Shirley Kilpatrick was also the actress Shirley Stoler, who had a starring role in the psycho couple film THE HONEYMOON KILLERS, smaller roles in a couple dozen other films, and played Mrs. Steve in the PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE TV series. In a word, that rumor is false.
But there is one other interesting pop culture dot connected to Shirley Kilpatrick. In 1956, she was crowned “Miss Bay Beach” and promoted by George Bruce, a then famous Van Nuys salon-gym operator. Among other things, he had her pose for publicity shots sitting on the shoulder of famed muscleman and fitness trainer Jack LaLanne.
To see some more lost pop culture treasures buried in the first issue of WILDCAT ADVENTURES, see the post on my Men’s Adventure Magazines blog at this link. In the meantime, let us pay our last respects to the poor She Monster who, alas, did not make it back to her home planet…