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Beyond wholesome: When Doris Day was an unlikely sex symbol

UPDATED: Mon., May 13, 2019, 6:04 p.m.

In this April 15, 1955 file photo, American actress and singer Doris Day holds a bouquet of roses at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France after flying in from London. Day, whose wholesome screen presence stood for a time of innocence in '60s films, has died. She was 97. (AP)
In this April 15, 1955 file photo, American actress and singer Doris Day holds a bouquet of roses at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France after flying in from London. Day, whose wholesome screen presence stood for a time of innocence in '60s films, has died. She was 97. (AP)

For some men of a certain age, the sad news that Doris Day had died rekindled conflicted memories.

You see, for those of us who first felt certain stirrings at about the time when we originally saw a bunch of Doris Day movies on TV, that thing about her relentlessly wholesome image was, well, laughable.

Because the way Doris and her decidedly feminine form made us feel was anything but chaste.

OK, if the thought of pubescent American boys longing to commit all manner of sins with the lovely Miss Day is too much for you to take, you may be excused. Feel free to move on. But I’m telling you. It happened.

All right, perhaps I should just speak for myself.

The truth is, I didn’t lust after Doris Day forever. Soon enough, my attention turned elsewhere. Though eventually I would come to admire her animal rights work and loyalty to former co-star Rock Hudson.

But for a short while, just about the time of the dawning that there was more to life than baseball cards, she cast a certain spell.

Maybe it was partly because she played those repressed Sweet Polly Purebred roles. Somehow that made her seem theoretically attainable. Whereas curious 12-year-old boys instinctively realized more overtly sexy actresses were quite literally out of reach.

There’s no need to graphically detail these time-honored longings. My generation didn’t invent them.

Let’s just say some of us knew what we wanted, though it seemed certain we would have to wait an impossibly long time.

Still, for some of us, the idea that Doris Day represented a bland, white bread version of womanhood seemed amusing. Because she was, in fact, quite hot.

Doris Day was so milk-and-honey attractive one wondered if her appeal needed to be addressed when it came time to go to Confession.

Now that discovery had first been made by males significantly older than myself, back when she was a big-band singer and film actress at a time “Before she was a virgin,” as one wag put it.

I suspect all straight men remember beguiling movie stars they first encountered at about the time the smell of girls’ hair got interesting. I could provide you with a personalized list.

And I suppose a nonthreatening persona such as Doris Day might seem to be an unlikely sex symbol. But perhaps it was exactly because she did play those silly, peppy characters that boys felt at liberty to entertain ridiculous fantasies about her.

Was that wrong? You can decide for yourself.

But if you believe “wholesome” was an inherent turn-off, well, you haven’t much imagination.

Thank you

To all the readers who made sure I saw stories about the Mongolian couple who died after eating raw marmot meat.

I suppose there’s a lesson there. In any case, you know what they say about karma.

Earthshaking memories

I guess it’s this way with any sort of regional milestone. The years go by. And the ranks of those who remember thin out.

The anniversary of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption is Saturday. Yes, there are still plenty of locals who were around to don face masks and sweep ash. But fewer every year.

Eventually, I suppose, there will just be those who imagine that they remember.

For instance, I never went to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. I was 7 and my family lived in Ohio. But I still have some 1962 postage stamps featuring the Space Needle. A member of my father’s B-52 crew brought them back to the Midwest from his vacation.

In time though, when I’m addled by age, I might imagine having been to that fair. “Oh yeah, I seem to remember seeing Elvis there when he was filming a movie.”

End note

The old apple tree in our tiny backyard is blossoming just outside my office window.

The white petals won’t last long. They never do. Many already have done their floating, falling impression of springtime snow.

So here’s my question. How can I attract bees to come service this lone fruit tree?

Signage, of course. But the wording would have to be just right.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

“Free Pollen: Step right this way.”

“Official Washington apple tree – have at it.”

“Come for the nectar, stay for the … on second thought, feel free to go ahead and finish making your rounds.”

“Honey fixin’s: Around back.”

“Fruit Tree Diner: Open all night.”

Columnist Paul Turner can be contacted at srpaulturner@gmail.com.


 
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