The Real Jessica Rabbit

By

20th Sep, 2013

What I remember most about Jessica Rabbit is how she was always wearing that provocative red dress, cut oh so inappropriately low at the back, even just to run around town. Meet the real-life Jessica Rabbit, Miss Vikki Dougan, the 1950s ‘It girl’ who inspired the iconic cartoon sex bomb…

Photographs by Ralph Crane for LIFE Magazine

While actress Veronica Lake is typically assumed to be the muse behind Jessica Rabbit, it was the lesser-known and near-forgotten Vicki Dougan along with her notorious derrrière that really put Jessica on the map. Pin-up girl turned (struggling) actress, Vicki earned herself the nickname, “The Back” in 1950s Hollywood for so often wearing her outrageously provocative backless dresses.

An article that appeared in the Oakland Tribune in 1957 sheds some light on how her career as “The Back” got started thanks to a Hollywood publicist, Milton Weiss…

His first move was to have three expensive dresses made for her — without backs. He then titled his client “The Back” and had her appear at previews and parties in her plunging creations. Soon local photographers zeroed in on Miss Dougan’s bare spinal column, and gagsters began originating such cracks as, “Vikki Dougan makes the best exits in town.”

Finally Vikki was banned from someone else’s preview party because her backless formal was drawing too much attention. The incident received proper press coverage. Today Vikkie — born Edith Tooker in Brooklyn — is riding toward fame on the strength of her clothes, what there is of them. It’s a trend, all right.

Dougan then made a real impression when she  first appeared in a 1957 issue of Playboy. Here she is posing for the magazine (and above).. 

America had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Vikki and her backside however, and she was often mocked in gossip columns. By 1959, Dougan and her derrière had pretty much disappeared from the Hollywood scene, unable to find work. The daring pin-up girl was forgotten along with so many other names trying to make it in showbiz, until Disney/Touchstone made a little film in 1998 called Who Framed Roger Rabbit? While Dougan received very little recognition as a Jessica Rabbit muse, her trademark style and sex appeal became iconic.

Much like Vikki, whose image was ‘created’ for her by a Hollywood publicist, Jessica Rabbit’s most memorable quote in the 1988 film hints at their connection: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

(The money shot)

Photographs by Ralph Crane for Life Magazine (more here)

Photographs by Ralph Crane for LIFE Magazine, more here. 

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