'Cream' rises again — What was it like to be the face of an era? Longview's Dolores Erickson gives us a glimpse

2005-07-31T00:00:00Z 'Cream' rises again — What was it like to be the face of an era? Longview's Dolores Erickson gives us a glimpseBy Tom Paulu Longview Daily News
July 31, 2005 12:00 am  • 

There was a time when Dolores Erickson didn't want to dip into the "Whipped Cream" period of her life.

Yes, the Longview woman's greatest fame came from posing on the cover of a 1965 Herb Alpert album, apparently garbed only in gobs of froth.

When her mid-life years found her here, far away from the movie sets of Hollywood and fashion runways of New York, the former model focused on poetry, painting and the pursuit of fine arts.

But "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" is still one of pop music's most memorable albums — many people say just as much because of Erickson's sultry pose as for Alpert's catchy trumpet instrumentals. She calls it "the world's most famous album cover."

Now that the album has been re-released for its 40th anniversary, reporters from around the country are calling and Erickson's name is waltzing about on the Web.

"I had a wonderful job," she said of her modeling days. "It was such a wonderful life that I couldn't bring myself to look back. But now that this album is getting so much attention, I've had to open the archives."

Erickson's history includes many more courses than "Whipped Cream." Asked her age, and she'll only say "the 60s meets the '60s."

Erickson, who also goes by the names Erickson-Huffhines, still looks striking, dressed for an interview in an elegant — and short-skirted — suit, and bedecked with big earrings, necklaces and rings.

She grew up in Seattle, the oldest of eight children. As a girl, she wanted to be an art teacher. But after appearing as a Seafair princess with future actresses Dorothy Provine and Dyan Cannon, she joined them on a trip to San Francisco, where Erickson became a model for Macy's.

Discovered through a newspaper ad, she was signed to Paramount Studios and was later traded to Warner Brothers. She had bit parts in such TV series as "77 Sunset Strip" and "Father Knows Best" and the 1961 movie "Love in a Goldfish Bowl."

She took an acting class with the Everly Brothers and met Marlon Brando. "At Paramount, I sat at lunch with John Wayne. I couldn't even talk."

She met Frank Sinatra and dated one of his cousins. "I was running around with some pretty good company," she said.

The movie studios "were grooming me to do bigger things," she said, but she acknowledged that she lacked the acting training to become a movie star. So Erickson starting hopping across the country between New York and LA in an equally competitive career: modeling.

"I got to be with the best agency in the world, the (Eileen) Ford Agency in New York. I look back and wonder how I did it."

She treasures a photo of herself modeling a gown that had belonged to 1940s starlet Hedy Lamarr, while renowned fashion designer Edith Head looks on.

Why did Erickson get chosen from among the 50 brunettes who would come to "cattle calls?"

"I was always kind of compared to Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, believe it or not," she said.

Which brings up another story: "I double-dated with Audrey Hepburn. She was just like you and me … nice."

She and several other models were chosen to illustrate the 1960 album "Wild is Love" by Nat King Cole. In what's a lost art, the album included pages of soft-focus scenes dripping with romance, including a wide-eyed Erickson holding a rose.

Seventeen other album covers followed. Erickson is pert in a yellow witch garb for Cy Coleman's "Piano Witchcraft." She's wrapped in a caftan on the cover of the Sandpipers' "Guantanamera," an album photo that was shot in the Virgin Islands.

A photo for a classical album she can't remember the name of is cropped strategically below her shoulders.

"We weren't into the sex thing," she insisted. "It was very innocent, really. It was just the cleavage," which for a haute couture fashion model was nothing new.

Erickson was friends with Alpert and Jerry Moss, cofounders of A&M Records. So she was a natural when photographer Jerry Whorf, who had shot the Nat King Cole album, got the assignment for "Whipped Cream." They had Erickson flown out from New York for the shoot in Whorf's Los Angeles studio.

"I thought, 'Just another job,' " Erickson recalled.

Whorf draped a sheet over her lower body (she was three months pregnant) and slathered her mostly with shaving cream. Actual whipped cream was used only on her head.

Erickson got about $1,500 for the day's work, typical of what she was earning in those days.

Whorf gave her the outtakes, in which the shaving cream had dripped to reveal a little too much flesh.

"My husband was very conservative. I tore one up. It was too much." She saved the other outtake, which she now sells for $50, autographed.

"Whipped Cream" sold more than half a million copies, was in the top 10 for 61 weeks and won four Grammy awards (though not for best album cover).

"Every time they had a new award, I was flown out to be with them," Erickson said. She last saw Alpert in the mid-1990s, when she attended an art show he had in Los Angeles.

After the 1965 album sensation, Erickson spent eight more years in New York, getting work in magazine fashion spreads for clothes and makeup. "I did a lot of Max Factor."

Though her fame gradually faded, she isn't bitter about missed opportunities.

"I just never made a career out of my ego. A lot of girls do, and of course, they're millionaires… and they're talented, of course."

In the mid 1970s, divorced from her first husband, Erickson opted for a major change of pace and moved to Longview to be close to a sister, Elaine Grambo, who has since died.

Erickson married local attorney Bob Huffhines Jr. (they've since divorced) and for a decade had The Wild Deer art gallery in downtown Kelso.

These days, she paints her vivid, Impressionist-style works in her duplex on Columbia Heights. Books about Matisse and Van Gogh lay about, amid the conch shells she collects.

Among Erickson's paintings is a recreation of the famous album cover called "Whipped but not Beaten."

She has recently traveled to gallery openings of her works in California and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Painting presents a new twist on her life-long challenge. "Being a model, you have to be creative. Being an actor, you have to be creative. Being an artist, you have to be creative. It's not easy. You have to be competitive constantly."

Interest in "Whipped Cream" started picking up again about five years ago, when the Seattle Times tracked her down for a story, she said. In 2002, she was asked to speak about the album at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle. About 2,000 admirers attended.

Currently, Erickson is one of 176 women featured on the Swinging Chicks of the '60s Web site.

She still knows how to tilt her head for a photographer, though she pleads, "Be kind. It isn't the old days. When you haven't done it for a while, it makes you nervous."

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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