An Interview with Playboy Playmate Victoria Vetri
by Joe Vannicola Ï
In 1983, I interviewed actress/Playboy model Victoria Vetri for Bill George's book Eroticism in the Fantasy Cinema. It was the second interview I had ever done up to that point. The big deal for me was that I was actually speaking to a Playboy Playmate; the dream of every red-blooded American male who ever perused an issue of Playboy.
Tory, as she preferred to be called because she didn't like the name Vicki, was charming, engaging and generous with her time. My tape recorder had malfunctioned and she very kindly agreed to do the interview over again the next evening. During our second interview, Tory asked if she could change her answer to a question I had asked concerning Roman Polanski, who directed her in Rosemary's Baby. Her original answer was, "I'm just glad he's out of the country," in reference to the statutory rape case during which he fled the country to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. She changed her comment to, "I think he is a very creative director."
Prior to interviewing Tory, she told me an amusing story concerning the making of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. When it came time to do the scene where she comes out of the water with a fish in her mouth, the director, Val Guest, had Tory put an actual dead fish in her mouth. To add insult to injury, the director did a number of takes, as Tory emerged from the water with the dead fish clenched between her teeth. Ever the trouper, Tory did the retakes without complaining. As you can see, being an actress isn't all glitz, glamour and adulation.
I felt a sense of sadness as I read on the various news websites the details concerning Tory's trial (in 2011) for shooting her husband of 25 years, Bruce Rathgeb, because she felt he had been cheating on her. Luckily he survived, but Tory was sentenced to nine years in jail for attempted murder. The story received cursory attention but not much more than that. After all, 44 years has elapsed since her appearance in the magazine and Tory hasn't acted in films or on TV for almost the same amount of time. To the jaundiced public, it was a mildly interesting story concerning the downfall of a former Playboy Playmate to be read about and forgotten in a day or two. Such is the attention span of John and Joan Q Public.
JV: Was Rosemary's Baby your first feature film?
VV:Rosemary's Baby was my first feature. I got it because Mia Farrow refused to test with the actors. She didn't want to be bothered doing that menial stuff, so Roman Polanski said, "By the way, how do you look in dark hair and can you look Italian?" I said, "Well, I am Italian." He said, "I'd like you to play the part of Terry Fionoffrio, Angela." I said, "Okay," and I played the part under Angela Dorian, my fictitious name. On the set one day he said, "Angela, we cannot use the Anna-Maria Alberghetti name. Can you think of an Italian name?" I said, "How 'bout Victoria Vetri?" He said, "That's fantastic! What an imagination!" I said, "That's my real name." He said, "My God, why are you using that name of a sunken ship, The Andrea Doria? I think Victoria Vetri has more of a– ah, what the hell, it's Italian."
JV: Was Playboy magazine responsible for you getting the part in Rosemary's Baby?
VV: No. Playboy really had nothing to do with me being in the film one way or another. Because by the time Playboy came out, I had already done the part. Because they mention that in my credits. I had 26 TV shows, all lead parts, under my belt, plus Rosemary's Baby, plus movies for TV. But they somehow made it sound like they discovered me. Which upset me at the time.
JV: Do you think that Playboy in any way helped your career in a positive direction?
VV: I think at one point in my career, it hindered it. I could have been a serious actress and all of the sudden it was like I was a thing, I was a commodity, I was a Bunny, I was a Playmate, and I played nothing but hookers. The types of roles that I went up for were not serious parts. I mean, I'm not saying that you can't play a serious hooker. Look at what Jane Fonda did in Klute. It's changed a lot. I was one of the first actresses to do Playboy. Then Claudia Jennings did it after me. I was very close to her and felt great remorse when I lost her in a car accident. I had to entertain that night. I had to sing with a rock group and I couldn't go on stage when I found that out. We had to give people their money back. Claudia and I did a film together called Group Marriage. She was a superb actress who was coming into her own and she was a loyal friend. A very creative lady. And I think she was one of the best friends I ever had. The only person I got close to through Playboy and it was a big loss.
JV: From what you told before this interview, I guess you're one of the few people actually born and raised in California?
VV: Very few. I mean, when I used to bartend between acting jobs I say, "I'll give a free drink to any native Californian who can prove they're a native." And I was the only one in the bar.
JV: How did you get the part in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth?
VV: Hammer (Hammer Films, the English studio that produced a number of horror classics from the 1950s through the 1970s) located me through my agent. They had just done a film with Rachel Welch called One Million Years BC. They'd seen me in some film, some magazine, it wasn't Playboy, and they said, "Let's do a test on her." I was obligated to Warner Brothers at the time and Francis Ford Coppola did a test of me running through the backs of the lot with a tiger bikini on panting and grunting, flaring my nostrils. Then we did another thing with me singing in front of a sky background with my guitar. They sent the test to London and Aida Young, the executive producer said, "Send her over." It was shot in the Canary Islands and at Shepperton Studios. It was about six months work. It took a year and a half for the film to come out. By the time I got to the Bahamas to see the film they couldn't show it, because the colour matching was all wrong. So it took two years for the film to come out. It won an award for best special effects.
JV: Did you find it hard reacting to imaginary dinosaurs?
VV: Yes, but I got used to it. I have a great imagination. After a while, they gave me a focal point. They'd say, "Look up here," at this guy on a ladder and I would pretend like I saw this imaginary thing. I could see some rushes where they were putting in animation.
JV: In a book titled Hammer House of Horror, there are stills from When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth which show you in the nude. Where these stills from scenes that were deleted from the version shown here domestically?
VV: No. These were publicity shots. Because once Playboy found out they were in the Canary Islands doing a film and I was scantily clad, they sent a photographer over there. They said, "We'll pay you X amount of dollars to do stills because this would be good for our article 'Sex in the Cinema.'" I said, "Ok." Two weeks after we were there, the director (Val Guest) left his wife. He was sleeping with the script supervisor. It was like you could have made a movie within a movie. Everybody was screwing around. People were skinny dipping, drinking sangria instead of tea at four in the afternoon, getting drunk on their asses and it was like party time. Three or four in the morning they'd say, "You have to be up at six for a sunrise shoot? Let's stay up all night!" The sad part was when we came back to England and there the wives are, they've gotten letters from their husbands that have fallen in love on location saying, "It's over. It was getting old anyway." Here's the wife pouting and holding the child in hand as he gets off the airplane. The director, Val Guest, comes off the plane arm in arm with the script supervisor who he fell in love with and ended up marrying, by the way. So it was like a little mini soap opera. Because you throw these people together and the English are wild and crazy once you get them in a loose environment. But to watch them drop their façade of properness and say, "Ah, I'm free." Of course, having a California girl around didn't help because I was the first one to drop a loincloth. And all the girls between shots were getting a tan. After a while it didn't faze anybody. When you're all sitting around half naked it doesn't matter. That was quote "a family." I'm still getting letters from a lot of people I worked with on that movie. When the film came to an end they were crying, "Oh, I don't want you to go back to America. Stay in touch." That's the closest I've ever come to a family situation working with a film company.
JV: I was surprised when you told me that Invasion of the Bee Girls was made by Warner Brothers. I always thought it was the product of an independent company.
VV: I think an independent company got a hold of it. But Saul Weintraub, who worked for Warner, wanted me to fulfill my obligation since I couldn't do Enter the Dragon. Now, I'm thinking about this carefully because my agent who handled this is now retired. Warner and Hammer did When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth together. This was a Warner Brothers and independent production and I think they finally released it to the independent company. And from what you told me, someone else has bought it now and released it under another title. But my paycheque said Warners on it.
JV: For television and videotape the title Invasion of the Bee Girls is still used. But it was re-released as Graveyard Tramps.
VV: (laughs) Graveyard Tramps! Oh my God! I liked the shooting title The Honey Factor. It sounded more sci-fi.
JV: I didn't see Invasion of the Bee Girls when it was first released, but saw it at a drive-in under the new title and thought it was a fun film.
VV: I think it's kind of fun. I mean, it's so ridiculous it's funny. I had fun making it. Unless something really spectacular comes up in my career to make me do another horror movie, I have to be honest, I don't want to end up being a horror queen in films. I'd like to branch off. I'm trying to get a rock group together and get a video out, pursue my singing and maybe do some serious acting. I'm not saying that one cannot do serious acting in horror films. I saw a short today on cable. It was about Tobe Hooper who did The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, now he's done Poltergeist. When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out, people thought that without even showing too much, it was the most terrifying film ever and then he got money behind Poltergeist. But I for one do not go out of my way to see horror movies. If Friday the 13th is on cable, I will turn it on. But I won't go pay $5.50 to see it at a theatre. The one I loved, I saw it three times, is Alien
When the Enterprise is assigned to observe Earth's history in 1968, suddenly it intercepts a transporter beam which originates at least a thousand light-years from Earth, bringing aboard a humanoid alien 'agent Gary Seven' holding a black cat called Isis, who warns them to step back and let him go to accomplish his mission to save Earth; initially phaser-struck down, he manages to beam himself away, actually on a mission to prevent a nuclear rocket being launched at McKinley base because earth is socio-politically not ready for its technological progress. He assumes a classified identity to override a powerful computer, and mistakes the wrong girl, Miss Lincoln, for another agent; the computer reports both other agents he seeks are deceased in an accident. Meanwhile Kirk and Spock beam down to investigate if the alien isn't hostile, realizing the risk of changing their own past. When they get on his trail, the girl sees Spock's ears, calls the police and Seven gets away; they must ... Written by KGF Vissers
Plot Keywords:male ensign|human|computer|rocket|cat| See All (185) »
Genres:Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
Certificate:TV-PG| See all certifications »
Parents Guide:Add content advisory for parents »
Official Sites:Official site
Release Date:29 March 1968 (USA) See more »
Filming Locations:Paramount Studios - 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USASee more »
Production Co:Paramount Television, Norway CorporationSee more »
Show more on IMDbPro »
Aspect Ratio:1.33 : 1 See full technical specs »
Did You Know?
TriviaGary Seven's "servo" is used in this episode in ways not unlike Doctor Who's "sonic screwdriver", which had been 'invented' for the now-famous BBC series just a couple of years earlier. Whether this is coincidence or the writers had some awareness of Doctor Who's now-iconic tool is unknown. See more »
GoofsWhen Kirk addresses the crew over the ship's intercom, the first reaction shot among the crew shows Mr. Leslie, wearing a gold officer's tunic, walking through the corridor with Lieutenant Brent. However, the second reaction shot of the same speech shows him in Engineering, wearing a red jumpsuit. See more »
Captain James T. Kirk: Captain's log. Using the light speed breakaway factor, the Enterprise has moved back through time to the 20th century. We are now in extended orbit around Earth, using our ship's deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission - historical research. We are monitoring Earth communications to find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year... 1968.
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