I wrote this book for three reasons:
I wrote this book to show the dangers of using silicone injections so that no one else has to suffer injury or even death. If I can prevent one person from using these, I’ll feel that it was worth writing.
I wrote it to show how tragic Joi’s life was because of her vulnerability and fragile self-image and how it changed when she found someone who loved her for who she was, a gentle and sweet woman.
I wrote it to show the love that can exist between two human beings, regardless of sexual orientation. Joi loved men the majority of her life. She was “straight.” When we met, we connected as soulmates with a love that evolved into an all-encompassing committed relationship. This is not just a lesbian story. It is a love story.
Chapter 5 • Go-Go
I had told some of the girls at the Studio Club that I’d been trying to find work. One of them worked occasionally as a go-go dancer in a nightclub, but had plans one evening and wondered if I’d like to fill in for her. When I said that I didn’t have a costume, she offered to let me wear hers, a hot little red bikini covered with sequins. We wore the same size, which was really fortunate for me. I already had the white cowboy boots so my ensemble was complete. She gave me all the information I needed and I was ready to go-go.
It was 1969. Joi and I had spoken daily since the last day we shot Bigfoot. Our conversations were light and fun and revolved around when we would next get together. The moment I found out about my dancing gig, I called and asked her if she’d like to come and keep me company. She said that she’d love to and might bring her friend, Sid Caesar.
During our conversation, Joi told me that she and Stan were legally separated, but remained the best of friends. He reminded her of the dearest man in her life—her grampy, Ray Shupe, who had helped raise her. When Ray died a few years before, it left a terrible void in her life. Stan had been a good friend, was there when she needed him, but was a terrible husband. She said she’d explain more later and left it at that.
This helped to fill in the blanks. I started to understand her better and could tell she was hurting deeply. I hoped I might be able to help by being a good friend to her.
I was so excited that Joi would be coming to my big debut as a go-go dancer. I arrived at the nightclub and spoke to the manager, asking him to reserve a place at the base of the stage for Joi and her guest.
I was on an elevated platform in go-go style, dancing and swaying to the music when Joi walked in the room. She was dressed like a movie star, wearing her full-length blonde mink coat that matched the color of her hair. She was dazzling—and alone. She sat at my feet and watched my every move. I’ll never forget when “My Girl” by the Temptations started to play—our eyes met and I danced for her and only her.
After the set, I sat down at her table. She looked at me with a concerned expression and said, “You don’t belong here. C’mon.” She didn’t have to say another word. Still in costume, I smiled and followed her back to her place.
Joi was living in a lovely high-rise on La Cienega and Fountain in West Hollywood, just down the hill from Sunset Boulevard and the Playboy Club. She lived alone on the fourth floor in a spacious and elegantly decorated one-bedroom apartment with a nice den/TV room. A fireplace with electric logs was in the center of the living room, controlled by a switch on the wall, and she turned it on as we entered the room. The flames lit up the room, and her apartment became cozy and warm. She made us coffee and a salad, and, while we sat on the sofa chatting and eating, time passed so slowly it seemed we were in a time warp.
I had hoped for a moment like this … time alone with her in a setting exactly like this … and had fantasized many times how this might play out. I knew I would not do anything to jeopardize our friendship nor make any moves that would ruin something so wonderful in my life. She didn’t know I was attracted to women, and I had not said one word about it. I had decided I would keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, because I couldn’t bear to lose this magic or to have her think less of me. And since I had no way of knowing how she’d react if she knew, I would just have to love her from afar.
Chapter 6 • Falling in Love
We spent the evening talking as if we’d known each other for a hundred years. The more we spoke, the closer we sat to one another. She would reach out and touch my arm or gently brush her hand against my face. Her life had been filled with many men and brief affairs, and she expressed how sad and alone she had felt for too many years.
Joi had been involved with Sid Caesar for a while, and before him it was Frank Sinatra. She had really liked Frank, but said he was quite troubled. The time they spent together was interrupted by his sadness at the loss of one of his friends. He would cry, and his depression destroyed any intimacy they had. That was the end of their affair.
The relationship with Sid, who was married, was a dead-end street. She knew he was a temporary suitor and realized exactly what it was about—sex for him and a momentary end to loneliness for her.
She told me about the creeps and the scum in Hollywood—the producers and directors who demanded favors for work in a film. The casting couch was alive and well, and she was one of its beautiful victims. Talking about her experiences made her start to cry—she had been holding in the pain for too many years. I held her close and she sobbed for hours.
Time passed and she was finally comforted. She felt safe and, at this moment, she knew she was loved.
Finally, though no words were spoken, she took my hand and we lay down, side by side, in front of the fire. There was silence and peace between us when she slowly raised herself and, resting on her elbow, looked down at me with those beautiful green eyes. My heart started to pound and then, unexpectedly and with a passion I had never known, she kissed me!
Joi kissed me with an intensity that almost stopped my breath. She seemed as surprised as I was and told me she had never felt this way about a woman before. Her kisses were like lightning in a thunderstorm. She took me by the hand and led me to her room. Wanting nothing more than to make her happy, I took her in my arms. Thus began a night I had dreamed of from the first time I saw her.
The morning light awakened me, and at first I thought it must have all been a dream. But there, beside me, she lay. She was sleeping like an angel with our bodies just barely touching. She began to wake and, as her eyes slowly opened, she looked deeply into mine and smiled a smile that I’ll never forget.
The day passed as we kissed and cuddled and made love and laughed. By the end of it, we were both spent … physically and emotionally. It had been heaven on Earth, and two souls had merged into one. Looking back, I realize this was when we fell totally in love. That date, Feb. 17, 1969, became our official anniversary.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/JoiLansing.ABodyToDieFor. Below: Alexis Hunter, in a modern photo, with Jimmie Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Kate Porter.