TRIBUTE TO MARY HUGHES
Remembering the late Mary Hughes on her birthday. A sexy statuesque blonde in the tradition of Brigitte Bardot, she was the perpetual Sixties beach bunny and stood out from all the other girls on the beach due to her eye-popping proportions—standing 5-foot-9 and measuring 36-22-36. Most of the other gals on the sand could turn as many heads, as she.
Mary Hughes was raised in Southern California and attended University High School. A true California beach girl, the tanned beauty with the long white-blonde hair would drive the surfers of Malibu crazy every time she laid foot on the sand. It was there where she was discovered by director William Asher. Needing more beach girls to populate the background of Muscle Beach Party (1964), the sequel to the previous year’s Beach Party, Mary Hughes was literally whisked off the sands of Malibu by Asher and brought to the attention of AIP. Though she had nothing more to do in the movie than to look good in a bikini, nobody did it as sexily as Mary.
She quickly followed this with appearances in Bikini Beach (1964) and Pajama Party (1964). The latter featured a beach volleyball game and though one of the players was the sexy Susan Hart male viewers couldn’t take their eyes off of the stunning Hughes just standing on the right watching the antics. AIP signed the lissome sexpot to a contract sending her on public relation tours around the country to promote the beach films. Despite the fact that she rarely uttered a line of dialog, she became one of AIP’s most popular starlets.
In Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) she has an amusing bit during the film’s opening song as she smashes an ice cream cone into the face of surfer boy Mike Nader (“Right blanket, wrong miss,” sing Frankie and Annette) before she fades into the background. Ski Party (1965) gave Hughes billing on its poster ads but she does not appear in any of the ski scenes filmed in Sun Valley.
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) features an entertaining segment with Hughes (actually speaking a line), Patti Chandler, Marianne Gaba, and the other beach girls who through song try to persuade adman Mickey Rooney that they had what it takes to be “the girl next door” in his motorcycle ad campaign. When they cavort and sing, “We’re the chicks who know all the tricks—hey, what about us?” you could not help but agree.
In Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), Hughes played Robot No. 6 programmed by Vincent Price as the evil Dr. Goldfoot to marry then kill a wealthy surgeon in Denmark. The last of the AIP beach movies, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), features Hughes wearing an unflattering thick red headband throughout the movie but her hot body is prominently on display as she dances and shakes poolside.
Hughes next put on some clothes for her final two movies at AIP. In Fireball 500 (1966), she was one of the many fawning fans of racecar driver Fabian. The gals trail him wherever he goes and where his name on the butt of their shorts. In another AIP racecar movie, Thunder Alley (1967) starring Fabian and Annette Funicello, Hughes pops up dancing at the local club where the drivers hang out and unwind. In between, she was cast as one of the Slaymates in the Matt Helm spy spoof, Murderers’ Row (1966). Though draped in widow’s weeds, Hughes is easily recognizable from the other girls due to her golden flaxen-hair. Later she is seen scantily clad as Miss September as she and the other Slaymates surround Martin’s enormous bath tub.
Hughes final film was the swinging London-set musical Double Trouble (1967) starring Elvis Presley where she was hired as a Watusi dancer. Hughes then became part of that hip late sixties music scene and had romances with Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Roger Daltrey. While a member of The Yardbirds, Beck composed the song “Psycho Daisies” to prove his devotion to Hughes.
Hughes last professional show business gig was as one of the four “Operation Entertainment Girls” along with Sivi Aberg, Thordis Brandt, and Eileen O’Neill on the 1968 TV variety series Operation: Entertainment who performed each week with guest stars entertaining the troops around the U.S. and the world.
She sadly passed away from Cancer in 2007, shortly after reuniting with beach girls Salli Sachse, Patti Chandler, and Linda Opie for a special Vanity Fair photo tribute to the beach party movies.