Tina's fascination with Monroe isn't your ordinary fanzine stuff (though she does confess that her apartment walls are papered with the likenesses of the screen legend). "It goes further than that," she says. "I'd give anything to carry out what Marilyn started doing - to have that image, that vulnerability, that magic that made men fall all over her. Marilyn and I may not have had similar lives, but I do have the same dream she had, the same driven desire to succeed."
Both the dream and the drive began bubbling to the surface about five years ago, when Tina left her native Dayton, Ohio, to attend college at St. Edward's University, a Catholic school in Austin, Texas. She'd selected St. Ed's mainly for its solid theater program, but to her surprise, Tina took to the Texas capital like a lost cowgirl gone home - especially its heart-pumping nightlife on downtown's Sixth Street, a boulevard crammed with a variety of rock clubs. "Imagine suddenly having all these places to go," she remembers, "without having a mother there to tell you when to be home. I was in heaven!" Her first taste of stardom came when Tina was cast in a university production of "Bus Stop." A theater-arts major who'd never actually been in a play before, Tina landed the part of Cherie, coincidentally the same role portrayed by Marilyn Monroe in the movie version. "Getting cast as Cherie was the biggest thing for me, but it also caused some problems. Here I was, a sophomore, and I beat out the seniors for the big part. A lot of those other girls were piissed!" Despite a successful stage debut, life in the spotlight came to a brief halt that summer when Tina moved to Manhattan to work as a flight attendant for a major airline - temporarily. "The job itself isn't as glamorous as people think. In reality, it was an overrated, underpaid job that gave me some serious jet lag. I was back in school by the following fall." That was fortunate for us, because that's how we met Tina. "When I heard that Playboy was going to conduct a search for "Girls of the Southwest Conference" (October 1988), I enrolled in courses at the University of Texas so I'd be eligible. I didn't tell anyone about it so I wouldn't be embarrassed if I didn't make it." But of course, Tina did make it, her magazine appearance impressing not only the Texas locals ("I was actually recognized on Sixth Street") but, more importantly, Playboy photo editors, who flew Tina to Chicago for a test shoot. That photo session yielded more than anyone had bargained for: an appearance in the magazine's "Great 35th Anniversary Playmate Hunt" (January 1989) and the feature you see before you.
So, for the time being, Tina's coasting and thanking her lucky stars. "I don't want to be somewhere down the line saying, 'I shoulda, coulda, woulda.'" she admits. "When I look back on my life, I'm going to know that I did what I wanted to do: I wanted to live in New York and I did. I wanted to be a stewardess and I was. My junior high friend and I fantasized about being Playboy Playmates and going to the Mansion, and all that has happened to me. More people should try to live their dreams." Marilyn mighta liked that.
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