There's a little old lady living in North Hollywood who's got great genes. She's 86 years old and everybody calls her Ma Vern. If Playboy had been around 60 years ago, chances are Ma Vern would have been one of our Playmates. As it is, we've had to settle for two of her granddaughters. Elaine Morton was the June 1970 Playmate. The girl you see here is her cousin, Karen Elaine Morton. And if it weren't for Ma Vern, she wouldn't have become a Playmate.
It seems that Karen and Ma Vern were shopping at a local supermarket when they ran into Caryn Weiss, photo coordinator of Oui magazine, in the produce section. Caryn, who knows a good prospect when she sees one, invited Karen point-blank to test for Playmate -- thereby setting herself up for a $1000 finder's fee, which will buy a lot of lettuce in anybody's produce section. Karen hesitated. A few days later, Ma Vern was on her case. "Have you called Playboy yet?" Later, when Karen brought home the first takes, Ma Vern looked at the pictures with approval. "Don't show those to your boyfriend. He'll get a hard-on." Karen protested, "Please, Ma Vern, you'll embarrass me." Yes, that's still possible. When we talked with Karen, we got the impression that she was one of the last romantics. One tends to picture her in Victorian lace, quiet settings, alone. On any given day, chances are you will find her alone or with her close friend Liz in one of the many movie theaters in North Hollywood. She has seen Play Misty for Me eight times. ("I had a childhood crush on Clint Eastwood. I've seen The Gauntlet twice already. Isn't Sondra Locke spectacular?") She has seen Sleeper three times, Annie Hall six times. ("The one person in the world I'd like to meet is Woody Allen. Will you please mention that?" Certainly.) She will sit through anything that moves, but she has a special fondness for French films and English romances: foggy countrysides, muted colors, unparalleled beauty. Her private dream is to live in a movie setting -- a stone castle or even a cottage in the south of France. At this point in the conversation, Karen hesitates, then asks, "Have I mentioned all of my favorite movies?" She checks a mental list: Silver Streak. Harold and Maude. Star Wars. Swept Away . . . . The Turning Point. Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The Goodbye Girl. The interviewer concludes that Karen likes movies. "I never really realized that I liked them that much. Actually, I like music as much as I like movies. That comes from living in North Hollywood. It's something to do to keep from dying of boredom. I got turned on to music through the free jazz concerts at the Pilgrimage Theater. That led to two years of jazz dancing in high school. I'll listen to anything except the Ramones. Three-chord rock doesn't do much for me." The talk moves on: to her friends, her family. "Elaine used to baby-sit for me. If you think we're good-looking, you should see her daughter. She's the real Playmate in the family." Like we said, Ma Vern has great genes.
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