colleen corby, the first superstar model (and my cousin)

FOR CHRISTMAS OF 1966, I remember being taken by my Father to visit a relative’s house. It was probably during December, as we often made the rounds of seeing great Aunts and distant cousins during Christmas season. At one stop, I was introduced to my second or third cousin, Molly. I remember her as, um, reserved. And so darn pretty as to make me wish I wasn’t so darned, you know, reserved. I was perhaps 15, she perhaps 16.

I was my usually awkward self with girls—any girl but especially pretty girls. I remember nothing else.

Later I found out that her big sister Colleen was one of the most famous models in the world. This was news to me: as a ‘guy’ I knew lots about baseball and comic books and science fiction novels but nothing about the world of fashion and the silly magazines that girls read.

 

CorbyMolly

Cousin Molly in 1966, approximately the time that I met her.

As my group of Umphreds were not close to the Corbys, I was never shown any photos of Colleen so I really didn’t know what she looked like. The only model I knew of before Twiggy (and her excessive skinniness and too-short hair) was Donna Loren, and then only because she also made records and movies and so popped up in the pop music magazines of the mid-’60s.

To make my point: I was so underwhelmed by modeldom that Janet, my girlfriend of more than two years during high school, never knew that I had a model for a cousin. It was only that the Internet made so much previously obscure information so readily available that I caught onto the beauty and the success of my cuz.

 

CorbyMolly_Teen_0666

Cousin Molly in the May 1966 issue of Teen, meaning she was already successful when I met her when we were both teenagers.

So the story of my meeting an about-to-be famous model and her already famous sister in 1966 came up recently in conversation with a friend and I thought, “Why don’t I do a pictorially based piece on Colleen? It sure would be different for my regular readers. In fact, it might inspire both of them to write a comment to the site!”

So here it is: my brief intro to Colleen Corby. The photos I selected were a combination of those I thought representational of Colleen’s career, those I thought representational of the Mod and Swinging Sixties, and those I found particularly lovely.

The images are arranged in rough chronological order, but I paid attention to layout and design so that this page is visually interesting.


Corby_ad_Ingenue_0365

This photo was taken in 1964 as Colleen was about to take over the world of teen fashion. It is iconic: she is pretty, perky, and pixieish, traits that would be her signature to many fans, especially young girls who followed her in Seventeen and other magazines. This was a full-page ad for Cover Girl make-up in the April 1965 issue of Ingenue.


Corby_Ingenue_0465

She looks years (and many life-experiences) older on the cover of the April 1965 issue of Ingenue. This is one of my favorites photos, possibly because it reminds me of Natalie Wood, on whom I had a HUGE crush in the ’60s.

 
 

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Corby_Teen_0865

These are the July and August 1965 editions of Teen magazine featuring the 17-year-old wundermodel. I frankly don’t remember Teen but since it was a chick ‘zine, I probably did no more than glance at it once or twice. The only thing noted on either cover that would have interested me would have been the piece on the Beatles’ second movie.


Corby_Seventeen_0567

Corby_Seventeen_0568

This would not be a complete article if Colleen’s lengthy and mutually profitable association with Seventeen magazine was not acknowledged. Above are the May 1967 and the May 1868 issues.


Corby_500f

Corby_500C

The two photos, taken in the second half of the decade, are both quintessentially Sixties. The look that Colleen has here—especially the hair and make-up—seems to predict the look of Linda Ronstadt and Natalie Wood of the early ’70s.


Corby_500e

Colleen and Molly in a scene that would be drowned out prior to publication by the PC Police of the 21st century. But if emulating Native American culture isn’t a part of the Sixties, then neither is Op Art and Dayglo!


Corby_airplane_600

Two-page spread from the February 1969 issue of Seventeen. Sitting: Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and unknown model. Standing: Colleen Corby, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden, Marty Balin, Jack Casady, and unknown model. I think this would have been a more interesting image had the three models been long, dark-haired Gracie lookalikes.

The final two images below, along with the header at the top of this page, are black and white and yet capture her loveliness better than most of the full-color photos.


Corby_b&w_closeup

Corby_b&w_cycle copy

Finally, two things need to be addressed: first, when I brought the topic of visiting the Corbys forty years before to my Father’s attention (about ten years ago), he assured me that it had never happened! I assured him that the only way that I could have known about Colleen’s sister prior to the Internet was through this having occurred. In hindsight, it is possible that I did visit relatives who were not Corbys but was accompanied by my grandparents and who were also being visited by Molly and her parents.

So, Cousin Molly, if you are reading this and it rings any bells, please add a comment below assuring me that this memory is so or that I need to be on the alert for early onset Alzheimers.

PS1: My best friend throughout these years was Donald Corby, formerly of Edwardsville, Pennsylvania, now holed up somewhere in the legendary lost continent of Oregon. Alas, there is no known familial ties.

PS2: I got through writing all of the above about the Sixties with no political references!

PS3: Special thanks to Carl Gendvil for catching a HUGE boner of mine here through my posting of the images from this site on my Pinterest site . . .



 

9 thoughts on “colleen corby, the first superstar model (and my cousin)

  1. Neal, I really enjoyed this. Your articles are wonderful when they don’t devolve into tiresome political screeds. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. MZW

      Thanks! Ah but the politics would appear neither tiresome nor screedish if you merely let loose your embrace of the Dark Side and allowed yourself to bask in the warmth of the All Seeing Eye of the Wholly Grommett . . .

      NU

  2. That is some beautiful time-travel…in more ways than one.

    Still trying to get my head around the Airplane posing for Seventeen…in 1969. It’s great…just not how I pictured the Age somehow!

  3. JR

    Well, the Airplane were never as “underground” or “countercultural” as the Dead or Quicksilver and there really weren’t a lot of avenues for broad-based exposure then. Once you made it with the Crawdaddy/Rolling Stone crowd, where was there to go?

    And just as there were a lot of bungholes in the “alternative” scene, there were a lot of groovy people in the established media.

    Remember, Gracie was from a well-off family, good college, arty, a wannabe filmmaker, a former part-time model. Alas, all undone by LSD . . .

    Times have changed. Up against the mall, motherf*ckers!

    NU

  4. I too remember a visit to a house in Wilkes Barre where there were photos around picturing a young, good looking girl who we were told was our cousin who was a very successful model

    That visit was and still is the only time I was given a connection to my bloodline and Colleen …..so I have to agree with you that it really happened to us.

  5. Needless to say, Charlie is my brother. He is one of two owners of a company that produces Mia Bella Hand Poured Gourmet Soy Candles (https://www.scent-team.com/).

    He is not always so brief as the comment above would lead you to believe:

    http://tuneinunlockattain.com/2011/03/07/february-28-2011-%E2%80%93-an-interview-with-charlie-umphred-of-scent-sations-%E2%80%93-master-key-coaching-teleseminars-32/

  6. Hi Neal,

    I just thought I would let you know that I have a website devoted to your beautiful cousin, Colleen. If you want to check it out, it’s colleencorby.net. I have pics from pretty much her entire career (a remarkably long 20+ years). I was a big fan of Colleen when I was a kid. I discovered her in the Sears and Penney’s catalogs of the Seventies. (I was too young in the Sixties to even know she existed, and I only found out her name about 10 or 15 years ago.)

    1. CARL

      Just returned from colleencorby.net and I have to say that is a lovely tribute indeed to very lovely lady.

      If I could reproduce photos here in the Comments section I would use the one of Colleen at the beach from the April 1969 issue of Seventeen magazine (http://colleencorby.net/colleen1969/seventeen1969/fashion1seventeen-apr1969.html).

      She is perfection!

      Thanks for turning me on to your site!

      NEAL

      PS: I also liked the typewriter ad from ’65 (http://colleencorby.net/colleen1965/magazines1965/olympiatypewriter-ingenuedec1965.html)

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