Claudia Jennings Pet Turner Pompeo Posar

Playmate and Actress Claudia Jennings

Claudia Jennings

1969 November Playmate Shoot

1969 November Playmate Shoot

If you were alive and watching TV or movies during the 70s, you probably recognize Claudia Jennings. Unfortunately, her story is one of a rise to fame in Hollywood, followed by an accidental death that cut her life and career too short.

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_Claudia with the Playboy Jet

She was born Mary Eileen Chesterton in Saint Paul Minnesota. Nicknamed “Mimi,” she moved to Evanston Illinois where she joined the famous Hull House Theater. Of course in those days the phrase “struggling actress” was as true as it was today, and she got a job as a receptionist at Playboy Magazine’s corporate offices in Chicago. At the urging of Playboy Photographer, Pompeo Posar, and the $5000 she’d get, she went for it. This shoot became the November 1969 Playmate shoot and is when she changed her name to avoid family embarrassment due to her nude shoots.

November 1969 Playmate Centerfold

Her bio for that month said: “There really is no business like show business – at least as far as 19-year-old Claudia Jennings is concerned. Since she made her stage debut at the age of ten, in a production of The King and I by a repertory group in her native Milwaukee, Claudia has performed in about two dozen musical comedies – occasionally as an ingĂ©nue, but more often in character roles: “Ironically enough, I usually get to play little-girl parts. But that’s just as well, since it forces me to really act.”

Currently ensconced in a bachelorette apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago — where she arrived several seasons ago to model fashions — the well-rounded thespian has been performing lately under the auspices of Hull House Theater: “I heard their productions were first-rate, so I went to see for myself — and before I knew what was happening, I had joined the company.”

Having made up her mind that she’d rather earn a living by emoting than by posing (“Modeling gets more tedious all the time”), Claudia feels it’s necessary for her, at this point in her career, to move to one coast or the other, for the Windy City’s theatrical opportunities are limited. “Every actress has her particular skills and drawbacks,” says Claudia. “It’s a show-business axiom that if you really want to overcome your limitations, you go to New York, but if you’re satisfied with your skills, then you’re ready for Hollywood. The reasoning is that with a stage play, you get to work with the same material over a longer period of time than you do with a film, so you have more of a chance to improve.”

Although Claudia’s celluloid experience has been held to one experimental short subject, she feels read to try for stardom via the Hollywood route, and is awaiting the results of a recent screen test. Not that she’s naive enough to expect a sudden windfall: “Rarely does anyone establish herself in this profession with one dramatic stroke. You have to keep chipping away at the industry.” Between shows, Claudia busies herself by counseling teenaged girls at a Chicago Y.W.C.A.; and when she wants distraction from social realities as well as from the theater, she picks up a bag of apples, throws in a book by Hemingway or Roth and hies herself to the lake shore: “You’ve got to sit down and relax sometimes, since the future will be unpredictable even if you work twenty-four hours a day.” True enough — but we feel secure in predicting a cinematically gratifying future for Claudia.

Claudia Jenning November 1969 Centerfold

She moved to Hollywood soon after to follow that dream. TIn 1970 her popularity in Playboy was enough to make her Playmate of the Year. She continued to be a popular Playboy model up until her death less then a decade later.

Miss November 1969 Centerfold

Sometime in 1970 she also started dating Bobby Hart, a prolific song writer and producer. Acting jobs started coming her way fast and furious. Highlights include spots on TV shows from Barnaby Jones to The Brady Bunch, to her starring role in the movie “Gator Bate.” Unfortunately with her break up in 1975 with Bobby Hart she turned to drugs. Her reputation suffered and she lost a lot of parts. She was still able to get parts, but lost out on a role for Charlie’s Angels in May 1979 to Shelley Hack.

After a short relationship with a Realtor from Beverly Hills, she quit drinking and drugs in the summer of 1979. By all accounts, she was successful. But on the morning of October 3, 1979 she fell asleep at the wheel of her car and collided with another vehicle. She died only a few minutes later at the age of 29. Initial news reports said she had been drinking, but toxicology reports cleared that up and ruled her death an accident.

Magazine Credits

1969 – Playboy, November Playmate
1970 – Playboy, June, Playmate of the Year.
1971 – Playboy, December
1972 – Playboy, February, German Edition
1972 – Playboy, December
1974 – Playboy, November, Cover Model
1974 – Playboy, November, Cover Model, German Edition
1974 – Playboy, December (photographed by Pet Turner)
1975 – Playboy, January, Italian edition
1975 – Playboy’s New Holiday Album #1
1977 – Playboy, October
1979 – Playboy, June
1979 – Playboy, September
1979 – Playboy, September, German edition, Cover Model
1979 – Playboy, December

1974 Cosmo Shoot
Above photo is from a shoot with Hugh Hefner for a 1974 Issue of Cosmo Magazine, right at the height of Claudia’s fame. She is in the upper left corner. The other models are Janice Pennington, Phyllis Coleman, Connie Kreski, Christine Maddox, and Cyndi Wood.

Acting Credits

1971 – Jud
1971 – The Love Machine
1971 – Ironside (TV Series)
1972 – Trampa Mortal
1972 – The Stepmother
1972 – The Unholy Rollers
1973 – Group Marriage
1973 – Barnaby Jones (TV Series)
1973 – 40 Caracts
1973 – The Brady Bunch (TV Series)
1974 – Willy & Scracth
1974 – The F.B.I. (TV Series)
1974 – The Single Girls
1974 – Truck Stop Women
1974 – ‘Gator Bait
1974 – Cannon (TV Series)
1975 – Movin’ On (TV Series)
1975 – Caribe (TV Series)
1976 – The Streets of San Francisco (TV Series)
1976 – The Man Who Fell to Earth
1976 – Sisters of Death
1976 – The Great Texas Dynamite Chase
1977 – Moonshine Country Express
1978 – Deathsport
1978 – Lucan (TV Series)
1979 – Fast Company
1979 – 240-Robert (TV Series)

"Masked Ball" Pictorial from the October 1977 Playboy

The “Masked Ball” from the October 1977 edition of Playboy. Claudia was “the seductress” in red. The other models Left to right are Miss January 1977, Susan Kiger (the Biker), Miss August 1977, Julia Lyndon (the Peacock), Miss August 1975, Lillian Muller (the submissive), Miss May, 1976, Patricia McClain (the Lion), Miss December 1976, Karen Hafter (the Lion Tamer), and
Miss December 1973, Christine Maddox (the Saran wrapped)

Masked Ball Photoshoot

Masked Ball Photoshoot

Masked Ball Photoshoot

Claudia Jennings


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