The standards of what makes a sex symbol change constantly, and a few get left in the dust after their time of admiration passes. This was the case for forgotten bombshell Joi Lansing.
The buxom blonde cultivated a career in the television, film, and music industries. She was referred to as the Marilyn Monroe of television and enjoyed frequent appearances in the 1950s and 60s. One of her most notable roles was Gladys Flatt in The Beverly Hillbillies.
Joi’s life changed in the 1970s. Blonde bombshells were no longer in style.
Joi’s love life was also was married 4 times before beginning an alleged love affair with Alexis Hunter.
Tragedy struck in 1972 when cancer took Joi’s life. Alexis wrote a memoir-style book about their time together and hopes it will encourage others to appreciate the star’s life and legacy.
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Her Life and Career
Joi Lansing was born on April 6th, 1928. She began as a simple girl raised in a Mormon household but always had dreams of fame.
Joi Lansing moved to Los Angeles with her mother and stepfather when she was only 14. She signed a modeling deal with MGM, finished high school on the studio lot, and earned numerous small film roles as a teenager.
An even larger, more important deal came later. Joi met a writer for the Bob Cummings Show, also known as Love That Bob, while attending UCLA. He hired her to play Shirley Swanson. She held the role from 1963-1968 and was featured in 125 episodes.
Joi’s most famous role was Gladys Flatt in The Beverly HIllbillies. It was another long-running television show that helped launch her to stardom.
Over the course of her career, Joi Lansing amassed an impressive list of roles ranging from small appearances in serious films to bit parts in B-movies. She earned roles in over 40 films and 100 episodes of scripted television series. Her movie appearances included The Brave One, Hole in the Head, Who Was That Lady, Marriage on the Rocks, Klondike, and more.
Joi also had a lovely singing voice and earned parts in several musicals. She played Hat Girl in the 1948 musical Easter Parade and Miss November in the 1952 musical Singin’ In The Rain.
One of Joi’s most serious roles was in Orson Welles’ film Touch of Evil. She appeared in the opening tracking shot and had one line; “I keep hearing this ticking noise inside my head!” The scene became famous in part because of Joi’s excellent acting.
Joi worked with Orson Wells again on The Fountain of Youth, a project that was intended to be a TV pilot but never got sold. Despite this, it found success in another format later on. It was featured in a 1958 episode of Colgate Theatre and won a Peabody award.
During her career, Joi developed a reputation as a sex symbol and became a major pinup figure. Fans from all over the world put her face on their lockers, bedrooms, and wherever they would fit. She was especially popular among the armed forces and entertained American servicemen on tour with Bob Hope.
Joi also had minor success as a singer. She made records while working as a nightclub singer in the early 1960s.
Despite her reputation and a long list of credits, Joi didn’t get every role she wanted. Lucile Ball noticed her excellent comedic timing and wanted to sign her to a contract, but her husband and manager at the time talked her out of it.
Joi’s career spanned decades, and she now has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Despite her many roles and impressive legacy, she isn’t as well-known as other sex symbols of her era.
Joi Lansing’s last role was in the 1970 film Bigfoot. It wasn’t a successful final project but allowed her to continue the work she loved.
That same year, Joi underwent her first surgery. The doctors attempted to remove breast and ovarian tumors.
The procedure worked well at first, and Joi defied the odds by being able to leave the hospital. The disease unfortunately returned 2 years later and lead to her eventual death.
The last 6 months of Joi’s life were the most difficult because her pain became more visible than ever.. Her husband couldn’t stand seeing her so sick, and her mother struggled with it as well.
Joi Lansing died on August 7th, 1972 at the age of 44 while staying at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She is survived by her husband and business manager Stan Todd. They had no children together.
Resisting the Sex Symbol Label
Joi Lansing was once voted by members of the armed forces as the pinup model they most wanted a poster of in their locker. She enjoyed the recognition but wanted to be taken seriously as an actress.
Joi felt that being categorized as nothing more than a glamour girl was “a mixed blessing” and “very limiting.”
The qualities of what makes a sex symbol change constantly, and blonde glamour girls began to go out of style in the late 1960s. The 3 M’s, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Mamie Van Doren, all either died or found their career in a downward spiral during that decade.
Marilyn Monroe died from a barbiturate overdose in 1962. Jayne Mansfield died in 1967 in a car crash. Mamie Van Doren’s career began to go downhill during this time.
All these women, including Joi Lansing, began to be replaced by other figures such as Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, and Raquel Welch in the 1970s.
Joi allegedly began silicone injections in the mid-1960s to increase her already impressive bustline. When asked about it in public, she credited weightlifting for the change.
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Her Love Life
Joi Lansing was known for her beauty, and it afforded her the luxury of flirting with almost every big name in Hollywood. She was linked with Mickey Rooney, George Raft, Frank Sinatra, and more.
Joi wasn’t lucky in love, and most of her attempts to settle down didn’t last long. She was married 4 times over the course of her lifetime.
She got married for the first time when she was only 17. Her next marriage was to a Columbia sales manager named Jerry Saffron. Both relationships ended in less than a year.
Joi’s next marriage to Lance Fuller was somewhat more successful. It lasted a year and a half before ending in divorce.
Her final marriage was to investment broker and eventual manager Lance Fuller. Allegations arose that it was a marriage of convenience because both parties had same-sex inclinations.
Joi met Alexis Hunter, who went by Nancy at the time, on the set of the 1970 low-budget horror film Bigfoot. She was playing one of the monkeys and never expected such a glamorous woman to walk onto the set.
Alexis said that Joi never let fame or her sex symbol status make her egotistical and was “just like anybody else you would ever meet.” The two women became fast friends and alleged lovers.
The film Bigfoot was a major flop, so Alexis started working as a go-go dancer at a local nightclub. After coming to one of her performances, Joi invested her to her house where they listened to music and shared a tender kiss.
Alexis also says that she came into Joi’s life at a time when she wanted an “all-encompassing love” and wanted a softer, safer experience than a man could offer.
Alexis decided that the pair should claim to be sisters in public. Any hint of homosexuality in the 1960s could have ruined both of their careers in the 1960s. They were both blond and green eyes, adding to the credibility of the ruse. They also avoided appearing at events together.
“Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For”
Keeping a relationship secret for years is difficult, but it was a necessary evil for Joi Lansing and Alexis Hunter. The Hayes Code, a rigid set of standards regulating what could and couldn’t be shown on film, wasn’t repealed until 1968. Speaking out would have been social suicide for both of them.
Once societal norms began to change, Alexis Hunter decided to reveal her relationship with Joi. She released a book entitled Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For in 2015.
Alexis dedicated the book to Leslie Todd, Joi’s stepdaughter. She claims that she inspired the story and confided in her that the two women were lovers.
The book gives intimate details about the experiences they shared. It explains their first kiss, explains how Joi died in her lover’s arms at the hospital, and more.
The rest of Joi’s family supports the book and the information it contains. Her first cousin John Shupe supports the book and claims that he found “no incorrect information” within it.
Alexis has retired from acting and modeling. She hopes her book will provide a new perspective on Joi’s life years later after she’s been seemingly forgotten.
Joi Lansing was an early sex symbol with an impressive filmography. She entered almost every niche of the entertainment industry and kept going after the blonde bombshell fell out of style. She struggled with love but allegedly found a partner in Alexis Hunter. Do you believe Alexis Hunter’s claims about her relationship with Joi Lansing? Let us know in the comments below, and like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more on the lives and legacies of film and television stars you may have forgotten about.