Morena Corwin, in Chicago to finish her Playmate shoot, was wearing faded blue jeans and a black leather motorcycle jacket over a skintight black ribbed sweater when we met her for coffee. As we strolled along Chicago's Magnificent Mile, a window display at the upscale Henri Bendel's department store caught her eye. "Can we stop in for just a quick look?" Morena asked. Yes, we promised - but later, after some conversation. Over cappuccino at the Third Coast, an artsy cafe, we learned that she'd been born in Seoul to a Korean mother and an American serviceman father. When she was just a year old, her family moved to tiny Fowlerville, Michigan. As the only Asian in grammar school there, she felt ostracized for looking so different. Her parents divorced and, when Morena was 12, her mother decamped with her four children to Orlando, Florida. Morena had to grow up quickly. "It was a pretty hard life when we first got to Florida," Morena recalled. "Mom worked, so I'd come home from school and make dinner for my younger brother and sister and then read 'Pippi Longstocking' out loud to put them to sleep." Orlando did have its advantages. "Being around other Asians - and members of other cultures in general - made me feel less like an outsider. I even started to think, Hey, maybe I'm not so goofy-looking." Coffee finished, Morena steered us straight back to Bendel's - and its lingerie department. Prompted by a display of silk lace teddies, we inquired what Miss September slept in. "Well, I certainly wouldn't wear that to bed," she answered, laughing. "Not if I wanted to get any sleep." Morena then offered up the information that, as undergarments go, she prefers garters and stockings to pantyhose. "It's something that an old boyfriend suggested," she said, "and now I think they just feel better." She met the boyfriend while working as a hostess in a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida - her current home town. "But he was too bossy," she reported. "He's ancient history." We moved on to haute couture. As Morena turned this way and that, studying her reflection in the mirror, we asked what she thought was most attractive about herself. "Being Asian with full lips, definitely," Morena said. "I'm really proud of my heritage now. My great-great-grandfather was an emperor in Korea - there's even a statue of him in the province of Kangangwon-do. That's where my mother grew up." We moved on to Oak Street's boutiques. At Ultimo, as she flipped through racks of pricey clothes, Morena insisted that she's not interested in a wealthy celebrity as her boyfriend. "I wouldn't want somebody like Jack Nicholson, who went through girls like dominoes." Meeting Jack Nicholson may not be so farfetched. We learned over dinner -- we'd worked up an appetite after five hours of shopping, zero purchases - that Morena had just finished her first acting job: a small part in "Weekend at Bernie's II." We asked where she saw herself in, say, three years. "Living in California, driving a convertible and making movies." And, we'd hasten to bet, shopping on Rodeo Drive.
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