[IMG:L]As a bosomy, platinum blonde sex bomb with more photo ops filled with overflowing cleavage to her credit than actual screen roles, Jayne Mansfield was Hollywood’s reigning Queen of Self Promotion. And it was only fitting that she found herself a posh palace on Sunset Boulevard to rule from—in pink, her favorite color.
Mansfield burst on to the scene—and nearly out of countless bikinis and décolletage-baring gowns, much to the delight of the Tinseltown paparazzi who merrily snapped many of her staged wardrobe malfunctions—in the mid-1950s by taking the Marilyn Monroe template and taking to cartoonish extremes, cannily playing the buxom dumb blonde to the hilt. And while she found notoriety in a handful of her early films, including The Girl Can’t Help It, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and Kiss Them For Me—enough to win a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer—she fell out of favor with the studios with her endless publicity stunts, even as she filled headlines and gossip columns around the world.
In 1957 Mansfield purchased a 40-room sprawling Spanish colonial mansion in L.A.’s elite Holmby Hills neighborhood at the high-profile corner of Sunset Boulevard and Carolwood Drive, next door to her Rock Hunter co-star Tony Curtis. Originally built in 1929 as the honeymoon home of 30s actor-singer Rudee Vallee (he never moved in) it was madeover in the classic Mansfield mold of over-the-top femininity by her hard-bodied Hungarian husband, onetime Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay.
Hargitay used his construction know-how to outfit it with a complete pink paint job, cupids surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain spurting pink champagne, 13 sumptuous bathrooms including the master bath with a heart-shaped tub, mirrors everywhere, a stained glass headboard in the master bedroom, cages for her menagerie of exotic animals, a giant heart carved in her driveway, huge “J.M.” initials in the wrought iron gates and the famed heart-shaped swimming pool with the message “I Love You, Jaynie” at the bottom and a 12-foot, 200-bulb chandelier brought from Hargitay’s native country.
Ever the wily self-promoter, she furnished with over $150,000 of furniture provided free of charge after she wrote dozens of merchants offering them the opportunity to promote the fact that their wares were in her home. Jayne proclaimed it her “Pink Palace,” and it became such a landmark she would pop out on the balcony nearly every day to wave to the surprised fans who often toured by the estate, like a well-endowed monarch waving to her subjects.
[IMG:R]A decade later, Mansfield’s career was spiraling downward from her previous pinnacle: split from Hargitay and managed by Sam Brody, a shady ex-boy toy of her mother’s, the movie roles had dried up and she worked the nightclub circuit and, as always, the press. Perhaps trying to add a darker edge to her persona, Mansfield met and was photographed with the notorious Satanist Anton LeVey in 1966 (although raised Methodist, she had explored other religions, but no evidence exists to suggest she ever entertained a devotion to the devil). Legend has it that LeVey was insulted by Brody, and laid a death curse on his head—one that included Mansfield, who he reportedly warned to split from her manager/lover.
The notion of a black magic curse suddenly seemed less ludicrous when a number of bizarre calamities befell Mansfield in the following year: she and Brody totaled a sports car but walked away intact; her 5-year-old son was mauled by a lion at a publicity photo shoot; the theft of several of her precious diamonds; false accusations of an unpaid hotel bill; allegations of tax evasion by the I.R.S.; a terrifying mob scene in Rio de Janeiro in which overstimulated fans practically stripped her to the waist in their favor to touch the star; and her Brody being injured in a second car accident.
Just a week after Brody’s latest crash, tragedy struck Mansfield for the final time in June 1967 when the couple and three of Mansfield’s children were on the road from Biloxi, Mississippi, to New Orleans, Lousiana, after a nightclub gig and the Buick Electra they were driving smashed into a tractor-trailer that had slowed due to another truck spraying mosquito fogger. Mansfield and Brody were killed instantly (contrary to the persistent urban legend, she was not decapitated) but the children miraculously survived with minor injuries.
“As far as I’m concerned, the house died when Jayne died,” said Hargitay, who refused to return to the Pink Palace, which over the years would see a succession of owners and renters, many of whom discovered that it may not just have been the pervasive pink trappings that kept Mansfield’s spirit alive, and the darkness that enveloped her final days, in the home.
The 18-year-old son of the first new owners was reportedly killed in a freak accident when he discovered her pink car and took if for a spin on Sunset, prompting the owners to immediately move out. Singer Cass Elliott of the Mamas and Papas lived there in the 60s, and later died of a heart attack (not a ham sandwich, as the grim legend insists) in London. Another owner was rumored to discover a cachet of Mansfield’s clothing and found herself with a compulsion to wear them, altering the gowns to fit her, dying her hair platinum blonde and amassing a collection of Mansfield memorabilia—that is, until one dark evening when she heard a breathy, dosembodied female voice telling her to “Get out, get out,” which she quickly did.
[IMG:L]Ringo Starr was yet another owner who used the home to entertain when in Hollywood, and he decided to paint over the pink exterior with a more subdued shade of white, like the famous Beatles album. But for some unexplained reason, over time the original color scheme would seep back thought the white coat after several repaintings, as if her energy were willing her Palace back into the pink, before the new color finally took.
Finally, in 1976 British pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck, a fan of Mansfield’s who met the actress in London and was invited to visit her home just two weeks before her fatal collision, felt that fate wanted him to live there and bought the mansion sight unseen. Feeling it had lost much of its personality, he restored its exterior to its pink splendor (though he did remove the swimming pool’s message when too many helicopters hovered overhead). And with its rosy essence resurrected, so too was Mansfield’s, according to Humperdinck, who frequently smelled her familiar rose petal perfume in his home, and then believed he encountered the actress herself.
“Once I saw a figure in a long, black dress in front of me. It was Jayne, but it wasn’t frightening,” the singer once said. “I was about to say ‘Hello, Jayne,’ when I realized she was dead. I didn’t say anything, and then she faded out.” The singer peacefully co-existed with the sex siren’s spirit, until she eventually stopped visiting after the home was blessed by a priest in 1980.
After living happily in the home for 26 years, Humperdinck decided to downsize his lifestyle and sold the home in 2002 with the assurance that it would be preserved and restored to its glitzy, glorious self. But within weeks of the sale the new owners announced plans to demolish it entirely. Humperdinck auctioned off the stained glass headboard, statuary and other artifacts, keeping only a statue of Christ that topped a miniature model of the Arc de Triomphe that was built in the gardens, while a mystery fan swiped the home’s wrought-iron address right off the front gate.
Mansfield’s sons by Hargitay were allowed in the home to retrieve a petrified wood fireplace from the den of the house that was installed by their father. Her daughter took away copper hood over an indoor fireplace in the poolhouse that her father made for her mother, engraved with a poignant inscription “Jaynie — My love will flame for you forever — Mickey.”
[IMG:R]By the end of 2002, much to the outrage of Hollywood historians, the Pink Palace was gone, but its destruction could not eradicate Jayne Mansfield’s vivacious spirit, her love of Hollywood glamour or her aspirations to be taken seriously as an actress. Her lasting legacy lives on–particularly in the form of her daughter, who grew up to be the beautiful Emmy-winning actress Mariska Hargitay of television’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.