Every night and most every day in the technicolor life of a man named Jack Hanson it rains dream girls. They pour down from the heaven of Beverly Hills with those exquisite faces, luscious figures and that long, serious hair the color of ravens or oranges or sunlight. They are actresses and starlets, dancers and models, heiresses and conveniences, and Jack Hanson relishes them all—every slinking, shiny, unimpoverished one. He sees them in the evenings, either Twiggy-eyed or smoldering, at his brutally private club, The Daisy. He sees them in the afternoons in his sportswear shop, Jax, buying the hip-slim pants that have made him wealthy. He sees them at the tennis matches and softball games he organizes to round out what he considers to be the perfect existence. And he studiously, sincerely and ever so southern-Californialy asks, "Can you imagine a world without beautiful women—or tennis?"
Well, a lot of guys operating drill presses in factories probably can, but Jack Hanson is not of their world. He is not, really, of any world except the one he keeps creating for himself and the beautiful people. It is an amazing world of leisure, recreation, elegance, pleasure and status. And Hanson has become so vital to it that a young lady named Nancy Sinatra Jr. said recently, "The most important men in America are my father, Hugh Hefner and Jack Hanson."
That is pretty tough company for Hanson, who is not that well known yet in the New Morality Belt, but as of two or three lawn parties ago—one of them for Super Squirt, or Twiggy—he was holding his own. He was still drawing envious stares in his 1934 Rolls-Royce with its coachwork by J. Whitney Gurney ("They say that's very impressive," he says), wearing sneakers, a sweat shirt and a baseball cap, and honking along in five different, genteel tones toward his massive white home in Beverly Hills where Pola Negri used to live.
Every rich man has his freak-out. There are golf nuts, boat, ski and car addicts, spa fiends, travel buffs, social squirrels and those who simply do nothing more than plop gin cards down on country club tables and talk about settin' pipe on a drill site. Jack Hanson is amused at them all because they are wrong. He is a beauty freak. And he is convinced beyond a shadow of Jill St. John that he is more turned-on with the times than the rest of the world, and therefore more alive. He seems to know and feel secure in the thought that southern California will ultimately nip Red China at the finish line of the World Conquest Derby. And thus he will still be a force, allowing only the fun people into The Daisy, from which they will rule.
July 9, 1967
He may be right. He hasn't been wrong yet. Years ago, when he was playing shortstop for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League on a team that included Lou Novikoff, Eddie Waitkus and Eddie Mayo—"The best team in baseball at the time," he says—he used to wonder why women weren't more attractive. They didn't dress right, he decided. This was in the early 1940s, when women looked either like Joan Crawford with broad shoulders out to here, or like Charlie Chaplin with baggy slacks. So as the trains and buses carried the Angels around the league, to Sacramento, Oakland and San Diego, Hanson sat and sketched what they ought to look like. "I got a few suspicious glances from some of the players," he says. But he sketched on in those presplendor days, convinced that he would one day make a lasting contribution to the world: glorification of the female bottom.
Hanson's simple idea was that women should display their figures better, if for no other reason than to please him. "Jax clothes are actually the result of the fact that I like to look at cute broads," he says. "Most everybody likes that, don't they? I just thought if I could make some snug-fitting pants, the women would love it."
Women love it, all right. So much so that Hanson's empire of exclusive shops reaches far out from his flagship of fannies in Beverly Hills to New York, Palm Beach, Southampton, San Francisco and Chicago, each one vibrating with a group of groovy salesgirls who can look haughty or hip, mini or mod, depending on the clientele.
The clientele of Hanson's shops is varied, of course, although it would seem to be weighted slightly in the direction of the two-yacht housewife. At the top there is a sort of Murderers' Row of purchasing power that includes Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlene Dietrich. One of his best customers in the early days was Marilyn Monroe, who was also a close friend of Jack and his wife, Sally, now the chief designer of Jax.
"If any one person made us, it was Marilyn," says Hanson. "She wore our things constantly, everywhere, and was always in the shop. We designed a lot of things especially with her in mind, like those low-cut knit dresses."
If Hanson showed Marilyn Monroe how to dress, she showed him the in-most way to have dinner in Beverly Hills—in the kitchen at La Scala. Near his shop and his home, La Scala is the Arc de Triomphe of Hollywood restaurants. On almost any balmy night one may glance around in La Scala at the intimate booths and see the likes of Paul Newman, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Natalie Wood and an awful lot of young ladies who look like the Dodge Rebellion girl—and most likely are. But back in the kitchen, ah ha, getting special attention from the manager, Manuel Tortoza, will be Jack and Sally.
Hanson got from the Los Angeles Angels to the kitchen at La Scala in only a little longer than it takes to play a doubleheader: a few years. With the money he made playing baseball, he opened a small shop on Balboa Island stocked with pants he had designed and that some kind ladies in the county had sewed for him. Unable to afford advertising, he began to con some of the better-built girls around town into becoming live shopwindow models. Well, you know California girls. They'll show off for you. They wore the pants in the window, and the crowds came. The crowds also started to buy—and Jack Hanson was on his way to immortality.
One of the girls who hung around the windows most often was Sally. Like Hanson, she had come out of Hollywood High, but a few years later, and she also thought she knew something about clothes; at least, she knew what she liked to wear. She liked to wear Jax pants, and she convinced Hanson that she could design them better than he. He hired her, and they built the business together. After seven years they got married. Sally is still the designer, but Hanson takes a hard look at every new item to make sure it is jazzy enough.
What the Hansons did to women's sportswear would undoubtedly have been done by somebody else sooner or later. But Hanson did it first, and thousands of affluent women will argue that he still does it best. The first revolutionary thing he did was move the zipper from the side to the back. Snugness began there. Next, to make the pants even tighter, he eliminated pockets; in a pair of Hanson pants there is no room to put anything in pockets, anyway. And, finally, he made the pants legs trim without making them skintight—they are lined and in consequence hold a crease and do not wrinkle around the backs of the knees.
While these simple innovations streamlined Hanson past everyone else in the industry, they do not suffice to explain the true secret of Jax pants, to explain why women marvel continuously over the fact that they seem to fit better than anyone else's. The basis of that secret is revealed very simply by Hanson.
"The fact is, we only sell to curvy broads."
Hanson's styles are designed for and made to the precise form of the niftiest size 8s and 10s and, to a lesser degree, size 12s.
"We don't try to do a volume business," he says, "so our sizes can be less general. A size 10 in most stores has to be able to fit a variety of size 10s. Our 10 is for the perfect 10."
Hanson deplores the idea of making special pants for the less-than-elegant figure, but he will. One supposes it will usually be for some princess or duchess who will pay a David Webb jewel for it, agree to have it delivered in the dead of night and promise to wear it only in front of a group of happy banana smokers on Sardinia.
"Even today, the only advertising we have is a turned-on broad walking down the street in a pair of pants," he says.
Neither Jack nor Sally frets much over the business anymore. Sally, a perfect size 10, creates the pants on herself with muslin and a mirror. She remembers when it dawned on her that they were, ahem, rich. "There was this sweater line that we wanted to carry, and they turned us down. All of a sudden we thought: Who needs it? We didn't, as a matter of fact," she says. For Jack the realization came in an altogether different way.
The phone rang at the Beverly Hills shop one afternoon, and Jack answered.
"Jack," said the voice. "Frank."
Hanson didn't have to ask Frank who, although he had never met Sinatra.
"I want you to do me a favor," Sinatra said. "Dean's got a daughter who ought to have a job to give her something to do. Why don't you let her help out in your store?"
Hanson didn't have to ask Dean who, although he had never met Martin.
"Great idea," said Hanson promptly.
Since that time the Beverly Hills shop has had a number of interesting salesgirls, namely Frank Sinatra's daughters, Nancy and Tina, and Dean Martin's three daughters, Deana, Gail and Claudia.
The shop is perfectly located for all of the fun people. It is right on the corner of Wilshire and Bedford, two blocks from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which has that drugstore with the $500 hairbrush for sale, half a block from Hamburger Hamlet, which curiously specializes in lobster bisque, about six blocks from the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which specializes in television executives, five blocks from La Scala, four blocks from The Daisy and a short order of scrambled eggs and lox from Nate-n-Al's Delicatessen.
Hanson patrols the neighborhood, bouncing on foot much of the time, tanned and trim for 48 years, smiling and casual, alert and energetic, eager for his days to be highlighted by hip conversations, such as the following between two screenwriters at Nate-n-Al's.
"Say, aren't you Jack Palance, the actor?" asked one.
"I used to be. I'm Cary Grant now," said the other.
"No, not after the first. I don't want to pay the bills."
"Uh, Laurence Harvey is open. And, I think, Steve McQueen."
Says Hanson, "This is the greatest place in the world. It's really fun. I'd never leave it, except that Sally likes to travel. She likes to get to Europe once a year, and New York, for some reason, though I can't imagine why anybody would ever want to be in New York, or go there."
The place that Hanson likes to be more than anywhere else is his huge neo-southern-style house on North Beverly Drive, the one with the all-white hitching post by the curb. The house is quite a place to be. It is an old Hollywood treasure, reflecting everything that was, and to Jack Hanson it symbolizes the success of Jax. He believes that he stole it for $200,000, paying cash, as he does for almost everything. He owes no one. All of the stores are paid for, including the brownstone on New York's 57th Street and the West Los Angeles factory where the clothes are made and a lot of other real estate.
As enchanted with the movie business as the next man who went to USC, Hanson—who is becoming a producer—glories in the big house and its grounds, in the fact that Pola Negri, the silent-film queen, once lived in it, that Hal Roach, the studio boss, followed her, and that now, perhaps as Mickey Mantle came after Joe DiMaggio in the Yankee outfield, it is Jack Hanson's turn.
Inside, the house is decorated with startling good taste for an ex-shortstop. There are antique desks, chairs, tables and cabinets. There is a cozy library with bookshelves and real books. There is a formal living room, used mainly on such occasions as the spring party for Twiggy (an evening that attracted Hollywood's nobility, an explosion of flashbulbs and the police), which has a ceiling high enough for a pop fly. There is a coppery kitchen with a gas stove the size of a caboose. Among Hanson's possessions the stove ranks up there with the '34 Rolls. Downstairs there is a basement game room complete with pull-down movie screen, a collection of Meissen china, a bar, sofas and some Steve McQueens and John Dereks and other fun-world decorations like occasional Linda Evanses and Susan St. Jameses.
The overwhelming splendor is outside. Beyond a courtyard flanked by guest cottages is the large swimming pool. It is surrounded by white statues and has a mosaic of a squid designed into the bottom, one that might have attacked Rudolph Valentino in bygone days. To one side of the pool is a formal garden leading lazily to an arbor underneath which sits the dollhouse that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in The Last Tycoon. Past all of this is a sort of mini country club, which consists of another guest cottage, shower room and lighted tennis court.
One recent evening as Hanson was entertaining a normal Thursday group—Steve and Neile McQueen, John Derek and Linda Evans, Rako the Parisian model and a visiting New Yorker who felt the scene lacked a touch of air pollution—he flicked on the lights and surveyed the magnificence of his backyard.
"Can't you just imagine the parties that used to go on here?" he asked.
You sure could. You could also imagine the parties that might go on there now, or should. Put in a few dozen Barbara Parkinses, maybe, pipe out the old stereo, and hello from Hollywood, guys.
Steve McQueen said, "It's groovy, Jack, but where do you go to relax?"
McQueen is one of Hollywood's notable hermits. He did turn out for Twiggy later on, and he was out this night, but normally he appears only to race his motorcycle on Sundays. He explained that every man had to make his own scene. He hides in his home in Brentwood, and it used to be easier than it is now.
"Yeah, man," he said. "Jim Garner moved in next door and brought the heat."
Jack Hanson entertains as much by day as he does by night. A whole society of tennis worshipers are accustomed to dropping by, racket in hand, thirst in mouth, hunger in stomach. Hanson, a good player himself, quickly organizes things. Instant tournaments. One is likely to discover all sorts of pairs on the court from the Panchos, Gonzalez and Segura, to the Newmans, Paul and Joanne, who used to be next-door neighbors.
Court feuds will develop, and challenge matches will stretch out over a period of days, even weeks, the stakes increasing from $10 a corner to $100. When they end, others start. Spectators will change from a cluster of Samantha Eggars to another of Sonnys and Chers. And it all continues, with Sally hauling out an unending supply of baked hams, meat loaves and beverages.
When the daily tennis games are over and everyone has sped away in his or her Rolls, Bentley, Excalibur, Mercedes or Ferrari, the Hansons take a nap and then head for The Daisy. Got to be at The Daisy. That's where it all happens. After 191 years, 10 wars, a couple of depressions and the birth of the blues, the whole U.S. has wound up trying to get into The Daisy.
In 1963 Jack Hanson bought the property on Rodeo Drive where the original Romanoff's had stood and built his discotheque. He did so without the intention of making money, really, but only because he wanted a place to go at night. All of the good Hollywood spots had either folded or "slipped," places like Ciro's, Mocambo, the Crescendo. "There wasn't a meeting place anymore," he says. "A place where the alive people who can contribute something could get together."
There is now, of course. The Daisy swings so much that Hanson's membership fees have gone from $250 to $1,000, and there are still hundreds of people who think they have something to "contribute" and want in. Hordes of celebrities from the entertainment and sports fields are members, but hordes are not, and Hanson has taken great delight in refusing entrance to several who have tried to talk their way in. A lot of visitors do manage to talk their way in, but usually it is with a proper introduction from a Dean Martin or a Leo Durocher, or with dream girls on their arms.
The Daisy, on any given night, is a noisy, frenzied circus of the most gorgeous women imaginable, with Jack Hanson holding court at a boss table in the center of it all. It is a place where this great montage of thigh-high miniskirts and glued-on Jax pants are doing the skate, the dog, the stroll, the swim, the jerk, the bomp, the monkey, the fish, the duck, the hiker, the Watusi, the gun, the slop, the slip, the sway, the sally and the joint. Like all good Beverly Hills children, Daisy dancers never even sweat.
If one can remove one's eyes from the dance floor, there are other treats. Doing an Irish coffee at the bar will be a Peter Falk or a Tony Curtis. Shooting 8-ball in another room will be a Richard Conte or an Omar Sharif, properly galleried. Scattered around the tables in the main room, the noise room, will be the Zsa Zsas, the Joan Cohns, the Oleg Cassinis, the David Hemmingses, the Ryan O'Neals and 17 different varieties of textured-hosed teen-agers, each fully capable of saying, "Well, hi," and making it sound like, "Where's the acid?"
Compared to The Daisy, all other discotheques are slums. And, sitting there one night, a good actor named Norman Alden gazed at the dance floor, swirling with Hanson's scented, glowing human decor, and put it all in perspective with a joke.
"Oh, this crazy tinsel town with its popcorn machine for a heart. It's all alabaster and sham," he said. "Think of all those young girls, going from casting office to casting office, willing to sell their souls for a part. I can't tell you how happy I am to be a part of it."
If there is anything that delights Jack Hanson as much as being in his New World rumble at The Daisy it is the weekly Softball game he has arranged between a couple of power-loaded outfits called Raskin's Raiders and—big surprise—The Daisy.
Every Sunday they meet, engaging in a best-of-seven series', at a tiny residential playground called Barrington Field in nearby Brentwood. The diamond sits hard by a hospital—which some spectators think is prophetic—and the games are catered voluntarily by good old Manuel Tortoza from La Scala, who brings ice cream, coffee, cold drinks and popcorn. When a clutch series ends, the losers throw a party, and the following Sunday a new series begins.
When someone once suggested that Raskin's Raiders perhaps seek a different opponent for a change after they had just won a series, Producer Jimmy Harris (Paths of Glory, Lolita, The Bedford Incident), a Raider mainstay in center field, said, "What? And not get to see Tony Curtis try to pitch?"
The lineups are frequently as amusing as the games. The Raiders, who are named for Jimmy Raskin, a lumber broker and friend of Harris', has a fairly set team. The show-biz types include Harris, Actor Norm Alden at first, Actor Mike Dante at short, Actor Richard Lapore in right, Writer Bob Kaufman catching, Producer Dave (Fireman) Wolper pitching and Pancho Gonzalez at third. No one knows exactly what Jerry Bakalrian does except play left field. But the second baseman, Dr. Steve Zaks, is noted for two things. He once dated Sue Lyon, whom Harris discovered, and each year at an elaborate awards banquet he wins a prize for Unconscious Hostility, having persisted in parking his 1961 Chevrolet between two Rolls-Royces.
Jack Hanson's lineup has two noteworthy weaknesses, but everyone agrees they are lovable. One is Left Fielder Jean Leon, who owns La Scala, a wiry little man best remembered for his first game, when he showed up with five different gloves, not knowing what position he would play—or how to play it. The other is the pitcher, Aaron Spelling, a cheerleader at SMU during Doak Walker's day, who can't pitch terribly well but keeps box scores and statistics. Spelling is a TV producer now, in partnership with Danny Thomas, one who turns out shows faster than he gives up singles, and this means no one rides him too severely.
The rest of Hanson's team is flexible, and all sorts of celebrities get to play, a few of whom are Anthony Franciosa, Peter Falk, Bobby Darin, Mark Goddard, Michael Callan, Ryan O'Neal, Peter Stone and Tom Stern, who is better known at present as Samantha Eggar's husband. Samantha often leads The Daisy cheering section, and is joined by Anne Francis, Suzanne Pleshette and Nancy Sinatra. The closest that one team ever came to sabotaging the other was when Jimmy Harris, who used to date Nancy Sinatra, advised her not to make a recording titled These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. "That's the kind of intuition they're up against," says Harris.
The games proceed smoothly enough, and are generally won by such scores as 19-3, 28-27, 12-10. Every now and then, however, a special Sunday comes along, like the one when the television crews showed up to make some shots for local viewing. The players were very excited. Most of them had been in front of cameras all of their lives but not, of course, as athletes. Jack Hanson made certain a larger number of dream girls named Annette and Jocelyn were on hand, and his whole stable of players in their freshly laundered red-and-white shirts with The Daisy inscribed on them.
As the first inning was about to begin, the Raiders were all swinging their bats with a venom, and, out on the mound, Aaron Spelling, the producer, was taking serious windups and delivering his rainbow pitches. The girls on the sidelines were posing casually on the lawn, all in Jax pants, their serious hair billowing just right. The cameras were in position. Just then Jack Hanson saw something wrong, and went to the mound.
What he did was, he yanked Aaron Spelling before the game even started and put in Tony Curtis to pitch. Better for the show, he said.
Only Jack Hanson could have subbed an actor for a producer. Only he, only now, and only in his beautiful world. Can anybody in southern California imagine a world without Jack Hanson?