On a hot summer night, a blue vehicle glided along a narrow road known as the Old Spanish Trail. In the space of a few seconds, the quiet was rent as the screech of twisting metal reverberated, and three of six passengers in the automobile met a violent death. One of them was named Jayne Mansfield.
Jayne Mansfield was born on April 19, 1933. Her name then was Vera Jayne Palmer. Her parents lived in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Her father Herbert, an attorney died when she was three years old. Her mother, Vera married Harry L. Peers and the family moved to Dallas, Texas.
She married Paul Mansfield on May 6, 1950 when she was 17. On November 8, she gave birth to their daughter Jayne Marie. The couple moved to Camp Gordon, Georgia while he trained in the Army Reserve.
This was the same years that Vera Mansfield (her name then) received an offer for a role in the B-movie, Prehistoric Women. In 1951, she went to Austin, Texas and worked as a nude model for art classes, and other jobs to earn a living.
Jayne separated from Paul in January 1955, that same year she modeled for Playboy. (In 1976, her daughter Jayne Marie was also featured in the magazine).
It was at this point that she caught the media’s attention, and broke into the film industry and Broadway.
Her similarity in looks and style to Marilyn Monroe who died in 1962, could not be denied.
In November, 1957, Jayne bought a Spanish-style mansion at 10100 Sunset Blvd. in Holmby Hills. Her next door neighbor was Tony Curtis who lived at Owlwood Estate. The bulk of the money to buy it came from an inheritance she received from her maternal grandfather Elmer Palmer.
The house dated back to 1929, when it was built as a honeymoon home for Rudee Vallee, which he never occupied. He put it up for sale in 1936.
In 1940, it was purchased by the Kanter family. Mr. Kanter was the head of the McDaniel Grocery Chain. In February 1958, an auction was held to sell the furnishings of the mansion where the family lived for 17 years.
The following month, Jayne bought the house. And it was after buying her dream home which at one time was featured in Life magazine that things seemed to go sideways for Jayne Mansfield.
That same year she bought the house, Jayne divorced Paul Mansfield after testifying that he "wanted to turn her into a kitchen slave". She then married Mr. Universe (1955) Miklos “Mickey” Hargitay.
When Jayne Mansfield moved in with Mickey Hargitay, the house was done over in pink from end to end, thus earning its name as the Pink Palace. There was a heart-shaped tub, and a heart-shaped swimming pool with 2-foot mosaic message “I Love You, Jaynie” inscribed at the bottom. Fans who toured by the estate would often be surprised when she would come out on the balcony and wave to them.
She also drove a pink jaguar to go with the theme of the house.
Soon incidents started to occur which presaged the ultimate tragedy that was visited upon Jayne Mansfield in June, 1967.
October 1958, Mickey Hartigay and a then pregnant Jayne had a minor accident with an MTA bus that collided with their convertible. The damage was only to the bumper and estimated to be only $25 to repair.
May, 1959, Mickey Hartigay made the papers again (probably due to being Jayne Mansfield's husband). The story reported how he was ordered to pay $300 per month to support his daughter Tina, 9, born to his first wife Mary. It also noted that a white Cadillac convertible owned by Hargitay was recovered in Firestone Park, several hours after it was reported stolen. Three occupants of the car were arrested, but one of them claimed a cousin whose name he couldn't remember obtained permission from Hargitay to use the automobile.
The white Caddy seemed to have a certain allure, because in August 1959, Baldwin McClinton, Jayne's butler was arrested for drunk driving while riding around in the car. The other person in the car, Charles Richardson, 25 was arrested on outstanding traffic warrants and driving without a license. Jayne and Mickey were out of town.
In October, 1960, the IRS placed on a tax lien on the property for unpaid taxes from 1957.
August, 1961, Purlmon Baldwin (probably the Baldwin McClinton arrested in 1959), 41, and Hattie Green, 51, butler and maid for Jayne Mansfield suffered serious head injuries when they were struck head on by a car driven by Elva Puckett, 65, whose car spun in a circle on the San Bernardino Freeway when the brakes locked. Mrs. Puckett died, and her husband William was seriously injured.
May 1962, Jayne called a press conference where 40 newsmen and photographers showed up at the Pink Palace, where she told them she was calling off a divorce suit against Mickey Hartigay. Apparently they had quarreled over her upcoming trip to Rome to film the movie, "Panic Button". However it was a short-lived reconciliation when in August she signed a separation agreement. By Christmas they were back together.
Strangely enough in the intervening months she'd announced she was going to marry Enrico Bomba an Italian film producer. She told reporters, "Then all of a sudden it occurred to me that I wanted to reconcile with Mickey." The truth was that once she found out Enrico faced a long and expensive legal battle to obtain a divorce Mickey seemed a safer bet.
March 1963, Mickey Hartigay faced a $40,000 battery suit from Jayne's hair stylist. He claimed that on February 21, Mickey pulled him out of "Miss Mansfield's auto and maliciously and wrongfully assaulted him". The car was parked in front of the stylist's apartment. Jayne was supposedly dropping him off after they had gone out for dinner. Mickey denied the incident.
Two months later the couple divorced in Chihuahua, Mexico. She was pregnant with their third child.
By August 1964, Jayne filed an injunction against Mickey. She wanted to restrain him from "annoying and molesting her and their daughter, and from entering their home to remove personal property." Jayne had given birth by then to their third child Mariska. Their two boys, Miklos and Zoltan stayed living with Jayne.
The following year she tied the knot with Matt Cimber (real name Thomas Vitale Ottaviano), and they had one child, Tony.
In February 1965, the Pink Palace was attached by the sheriff's department. Jayne and Matt Cimber were sued for $382,000 along with General Artists Corp. The suit involved breach of contract. The complaint stated that Jayne had agreed to star in a movie being filmed in Turkey. The project had been scheduled for June of 1964, and she never showed.
The Pink Palace for some reason denied Jayne marital bliss. By September 1966, her relationship with Cimber had soured and a judge ordered him to return their 11-month-old son to her. Her alcoholism and infidelities ended the relationship, and she claimed extreme cruelty in her divorce suit against him.
She then started to live with her divorce attorney Sam Brody. He was associated with attorney Melvin Belli during the Jack Ruby murder trial in Texas. There were rumors it was an abusive relationship.
During this time, Jayne crossed paths with Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey), a high school dropout who joined the circus when he was 16. More of a provocateur than an actual satanist, he denied all religions. He did however perform occult ceremonies to exult his hedonistic belief system, and get media attention.
He established the Church of Satan. Sammy Davis Jr. attended an orgy party, and eventually he was given the title of Warlock II. Anton gained international attention during this time.
Anton was smitten with Jayne, and invited her to be his high priestess. Whispers swirled that Jayne had sought him out with the hope the he could place a curse against her last husband, who she was embroiled in a bitter divorce with.
Personal woes were on the horizon for the starlet. The rumors she drank heavily persisted, as well as relying on diet pills to keep her thin and dropping LSD.
In October, the San Francsico Film Festival said she wasn't welcome.
November, 1966, was not a good month for Jayne. Sam Brody’s wife added her name to a divorce suit she filed in the courts in February alleging her husband had committed adultery with forty women. Was Jayne the 41st?
Then her son Zoltan was mauled by a supposedly tame lion at Jungleland Zoo. The lion had been allowed to run freely for some publicity pictures Jayne was posing for. Then it was chained because the handlers noticed it was acting peculiar. The boy had been playing close to the lion, when suddenly the animal bit the child in the neck and inflicted serious wounds. Two employees of the zoo pried open the lion's jaws and had to pull him off the boy. Five doctors, including two neurosurgeons worked three hours on the boy. They said he had a skull fracture, a punctured spleen and later contracted meningitis.
Despite the alleged bitter divorce proceedings between them, on June 8, 1967 Jayne was spotted at El Morocco with "ex-husband Matt Cimber" dressed with “very little to conceal”.
Jayne maintained her relationship with Anton LeVey, and in 1967 they participated in a photo op. There was debate as to whether Jayne and LaVey had an intimate relationship. In a 1992 interview, LaVey’s daughter claimed that Mansfield was a practicing Satanist and did indeed have an affair with her father.
On June 19, newspapers published a story that Jayne Mansfield's daughter was under police protection. The story detailed that Jayne Marie had walked into the West Los Angeles police station and said she'd "been beaten and whipped with a leather belt by a male friend of her mother". She displayed welts and bruises on her hips and mouth.
Samuel Brody, said police had no right take the girl to Juvenile Hall. He used the fact that a judge had just awarded custody of Tony (her 20-month old son with Matt Cimber) to Jayne in a custody dispute where he claimed she was an unfit mother.
Due to her Jayne Marie’s age, the judge kept details of the detention hearing secret. Jayne Mansfield claimed she'd been having disciplinary problems with her daughter. A grand-uncle from the Mansfield family was given temporary custody of the girl.
Later it was learned that Sam Brody was the one who administered the beating, and according to her daughter Jayne egged him on.
June 22, 1967, Sam Brody was involved in an auto accident where he ended up with a broken leg and bruised ribs. He was on his way to pick up Jayne for a hearing about Jayne Marie's custody.
On June 29, around 2:30 a.m., eighteen days after Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield were last photographed together Jayne, Sam Brody and Ronnie Harrison, their chauffeur were killed when the Buick Electra they traveled in rammed "the rear of a truck slowed by a cloud of mosquito fog across the highway". They were westbound on U.S. 90 the waterway connection between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchatrain. Three of her children Mariska, 3, Mickey, 8, and Zoltan, 6, were asleep in the back seat. They were injured and taken to the hospital. The driver of the truck was unhurt.
According to police reports the actress was decapitated. The group left Bilxoi around midnight and were 30 miles east of downtown New Orleans, traveling on a two-lane route known as the Old Spanish Trail. Later the cause of death for the three adults was listed as crushed skulls.
Within a few days there was a dispute over Jayne's body, and who would handle her funeral arrangements. A judge gave Mickey Hargitay and her mother custody of her remains based on his determination that Jayne was never legally divorced from Hargitay. He said their "Mexican divorce" was not valid. Cimber, Jayne's third husband was given court approval to administer her estate.
The newspapers compared Jayne's fate to other starlets who "didn't live happily ever after." They cited Marie (the Body) McDonald who died in 1965 from ”an acute drug intoxication", Linda Darnell died in a fire in 1965, Marilyn Monroe committed suicide in 1962, Carole Landis took an overdose of sleeping pills in 1948 and Carole Lombard who died in an airplane crash in 1942.
On July 3, Jayne was laid to rest close to her father in Fairview Cemetery located in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. Her paternal grandparents and great-grandparents were buried in the same cemetery. Of all her children the only one who attended Jayne’s funeral was Jayne Marie, the other four were under the age of ten.
Brody's estranged wife was named special administrator of his $185,000 estate. It was disclosed that on May 30, her dead husband had changed his will and named Jayne Mansfield as his sole beneficiary. By this act he disinherited his wife and two children, ages 3 and 9. The handwritten will was found in Jayne Mansfield's safe deposit box.
In the following days there was a squabble to be named administrator of Jayne's $800,000 estate.
On July 31, William Pigue and his wife were appointed Jayne Marie's guardians. He was Paul J. Mansfield uncle. It’s unknown why Paul, who remarried in 1957, was not given custody of his daughter.
Amid the turmoil following Jayne's death, those closest to her moved on and up. They each made efforts to cash in on her death.
In January 1968, Matt Cimber applied for a marriage license to marry a 23-year-old dress designer.
Her former road manager Gregg Tyler wrote a play about her life as he knew it. He was Matt's cousin.
In April 1968, Mickey Hargitay married airline stewardess Ellen Siano, 25, in a Catholic ceremony. Four hundred guests attended the nuptials.
Within less than a year after Jayne was killed both of her husbands had gone on to remarry, despite their claims they still loved her when she died. Both of them were intensely involved in lawsuits for damages in connection to her death.
Soon after the first year anniversary of the tragedy, Matt Cimber was running a bar called the Puss n' Boots. He was hit with a misdemeanor count of exhibiting obscene matter for showing continuous films of women writhing on a bed. A judge dismissed the charge. He also provided facilities for sketching and photographing models on the premises.
December 1967, the Pink Palace went on the market for $300K. The 28 bedroom, 11 bathroom home with its 2.5 acres sold in August 1968, but only for $180K to an unnamed buyer. Included were 264 items of furniture and wardrobe belonging to Jayne Mansfield. Jayne's paintings and jewelry were not included and were to be sold at a court-conducted auction. Later in the in the month, a jewelry firm had already made a bid of over $50,000 dollars for the items.
It was around this time rumors circulated that Jayne died due to a curse placed by Anton LeVey against Sam Brody, and also because of her involvement with satanic practices. Much of it was fed by LeVey himself, who claimed the accident came about due to rituals done against Jayne’s attorney. Whether it was true, or LeVey used it as an opportunity to grab the limelight is unknown.
Shortly after her death, a memorial service was held for Jayne at the Church of Satan. During the ritual, bulbs started to flare up. Many attributed it to the presence of Jayne’s spirit.
Another story recounts where Jayne’s personal maid would overheard her son Miklos speaking to someone when he was alone in his room. He told her, “I’ve been talking with mommy. She comes here a lot to visit me.”
An unverified story concerns the 18-year-old son of a banker who was the first owner of the Pink Palace after Jayne’s death. He’d found a pink Honda given to Jayne by the actor Nick Adams during a brief affair. Nick had been a close friend of James Dean who found his own fiery death in a vehicle in 1955. Nick Adams died shortly after Jayne in February 1968, under mysterious circumstances which was termed accidental suicide.
The teenager decided to take a spin in the car, and coming out the gates onto Sunset Boulevard he died in an accident with an oncoming car. The family moved the same day.
Then in the late 1960s, Ellen Naomi Cohen AKA Cass Elliot moved into the home. She’d given birth to her daughter Owen in April, 1967. She died from a heart attack in July 1974, in London. She was 32 years old.
Another unsubstantiated story was that another owner found a cache of Jayne’s clothing. She started to use them, dyed her hair light blonde and started to accumulate even more Mansfield memorabilia. One night she heard, what she assumed was Jayne telling her to “Get out, get out!”; which she did.
Another owner of the Pink Palace was Ringo Starr. His efforts at denuding the home of its pinkness didn’t seem to work since the color would seep in through the white shade it was painted over with.
Another story, again unsubstantiated, described where Rita Greenlin who lived there before Englebert said she would smell a woman's perfume. A scent not used by anyone living in the house.
In 1976, Engelbert Humperdinck bought the house for $233,500 sight unseen. According to him it was totally uncared for. Most of the pink was gone, but the famous heart-shaped pool was still there. He brought it back to its pink splendor and spent over $1 million dollars to restore it. He did remove the swimming pool’s message since too many helicopters would hover overhead to capture the well known connection to the blonde bombshell it’d been dedicated to.
Englebert met Jayne Mansfield years before so he recognized her when he saw her ghost. He said, “Once I saw a figure in a long, black dress in front of me. It was Jayne, but it wasn’t frightening, I was about to say ‘Hello, Jayne,’ when I realized she was dead. I didn’t say anything, and then she faded out.” He claimed to also smell her rose petal perfume inside the home.
In 1980, he had the house blessed by a priest and she was not seen again.
He put it on the market in December 1989 for $8 million. By 1992, he dropped the price to $7.2 mllion, then changed his mind and took it off the market.
In 1997 he offered the mansion on QVC. The price now was under $4 million.
After living there for 26 years he finally found buyers. He auctioned off the stained glass headboard, statuary and other Mansfield artifacts. Her sons were allowed to take a petrified wood fireplace installed by their father Mickey. Her daughter Mariska, took a copper hood used over the fireplace of the pool house. Her father had engraved it with “Jaynie — My love will flame for you forever — Mickey.”
Engelbert kept a statue of Christ that topped a miniature Arc de Triomphe that graced the gardens.
The new owners of the Pink Palace happened to be the then-owner of Owlwood Estate. According to Englebert they said their plans were to preserve it; instead they razed the house to enlarge Owlwood's already large lot in 2002.
In 2004, Englebert Humperdinck said in an interview, "I used to smell her perfume. People are going to think I'm crazy if you write this. All houses are haunted. There are certain people who can feel the spirits. It's sad that the house was flattened. Where will Jayne's ghost go now?"
Other stories that circulated but were never verified is the Pink Palace was plagued by bursting water pipes soon after Jayne’s death. Plumbers were scared off by moving objects, and a painter working in Jayne’s bedroom felt that someone was watching him, and once he felt a touch on his shoulder. Moaning was heard. Servants came and went after only a few days. Linda Mudrick, Jayne’s longtime companion quit stating, “I never want to go in that house again.” The source was supposed to be Jayne’s uneasy spirit worried that her children would not receive her inheritance since she died intestate.
May Mann, a columnist told of several visits from Jayne’s ghost while she worked on the star’s biography.
The blue Buick Electra involved in the deadly accident was acquired by Dearly Departed, Hollywood’s Death Museum. The smashed and rusted artifact had faded, brown streaks on the passenger door described as Mansfield’s blood. In 2021, the museum had permanently closed. Due to the nature of the accident that killed Jayne, the so-called “Mansfield Bar” was developed. It’s a bar that hangs from the rear of a tractor trailer used to catch a car’s hood before it slides underneath the truck.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer