From the Trenches: Pin-Up Girl


While my avocation may be film, especially classic cinema offerings, my vocation is education. That doesn’t mean I have to renounce my sensibilities for popular culture rooted in a time before I was born just to effectively reach out to that posse of inner-city teens under my tutelage. True story: I actually once convinced a fetching young senior girl to adopt the following slogan for her campaign for Prom Queen: She’s Cool, She’s Keen, Vote Julia for Queen! And SHE WON! So there, hipsters, with your jive talkin’ ways.

However, I don’t fool myself.  Other than the few retro chicks with Bette Paige complexes who pop up occasionally (they exist, my friends, they exist), I know that most of my references fly…nay, soar, like an elderly but still robust eagle…over the hair gel-encrusted heads of my charges.  But still I persevere.

Yes, yes…I know this blog is about movies.  Hold on, I’m getting there.  A few years back, I taught a motley bunch of juniors in an 11th-grade English class held in a computer lab.  Kids love those computers, have you heard?  From time to time, when I could no longer bear yet another lesson about thesis statements or supporting details, I would throw an Internet scavenger hunt at them.  The class would be divided into two teams and given about twenty questions with visual clues, all of which they raced to answer using resources found on the web.

Stuff like “What’s the longest street in Los Angeles?” (Sepulveda Boulevard) and “Who was the first U.S. President to have a Christmas tree in the White House?” (Benjamin Harrison).

As I said, the class worked in teams, and each team had a leader whose job it was to divvy up the research tasks so his or her team could win the day…and the requisite chocolate bars that came with victory.

On one of these tournaments, I presented the teams with the following query:

This actress and musical star was the number one pin-up girl of the World War II era, and her legs were insured for a million dollars.  What was her name?

Naturally, the famous Betty Grable photo that graces the top of this post was the picture clue.

And they were off in a mad dash for bragging rights and a sugar high.  Team leaders were barking out orders to their underlings.  That’s when I heard the following command belted out from Vincent, who was, up until that point, my star pupil:

“Ernie!  ERNIE!!!  Find out who the fat-ass girl is!”

Fat-ass girl?  Vincent!  Really?  Fat-ass girl?

Ah, for the 1940s…when a woman could eat the occasional sandwich and still be an object of sexual desire.

In the interest of full disclosure, Vincent did pass my class…with an A or a B, I think.  His essays were just that good.  Since then, I haven’t heard a thing about him…although I assume he’s mourning the fact that Calista Flockhart is soon to be out of circulation.  Don’t despair, Vinnie…  The Olsen twins are still available.

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