I write a little column called “Looking Back” for my hometown Chamber of Commerce in Lebanon, Oregon. I’m always looking for an angle to write a few words and show a photo or two about the history of my hometown. I was looking under “Famous People who were born in Lebanon” and she came up. It was a little long for my purposes but I found this little story to be one of the most moving things I’ve read in years.
When I was in the 7th grade, Jo Collins (real name Janet Canoy) was named “Playmate of the Year” by Playboy Magazine. Word quickly spread about this through the teenage boy world, and one of my friends showed me his older brother’s copy of the issue she was featured in. The fact that she was a local both made her seem both more familiar and exotic. Rumors had it that she’d come back to visit the local high school, and it seemed like a big deal to a 7th grade boy. I remember watching “How to stuff a Wild Bikini” just to spot her bit part in the movie.
I sort of hazily remember that she did a tour of Vietnam to visit troops in Hospitals, and this seemed like a cool thing to do. Years later I remember someone telling me she was in the inspiration for the “Playmate of the Year” in the Movie Apocalypse now. Then I came upon this story: A Beauty for Bravo Company. Beautifully written by Rex Bowman, I found it moved me to tears at the end.
So reading the story of her actual visit to an Army Hospital to visit with injured soldiers revealed a side I’d never suspected. She not only visited with the troops, she read to them, helped them write letters home and talked with them at length. But, I don’t want to spoil the story. It IS long, and in two parts, and goes into some detail about military life in the war, and one man’s efforts to make life a little better for his fellow soldiers. But, It’s well worth reading to the end. For me, finding out, after 50 years, that the subject of so many adolescent fantasies was much more than just a pretty face—— made the world seem like a brighter, more hopeful place. Please click on the link below and enjoy………