Irish McCalla

Irish McCalla


Irish McCalla
Film: East side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Born Nellie Elizabeth McCalla on Dec. 25, 1929 in Pawnee City, NE
Died Feb. 1, 2002 in Tucson, AZ

Irish McCalla was a voluptuous actress best remembered for bringing the comic book Tarzan-like heroine "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle" to television in the 1950s.

At 5-foot-9 1/2, McCalla was so tall her studio had trouble finding adequate look-alike female stunt doubles. So she did her own vine-swinging and tree-climbing with her pet chimp, Chim. That is, until she miscalculated one approaching tree as she clung to her swinging vine and crashed into it, smashing a knee. After that, the producers hired male stunt men, dressed in leopard skin and wearing blond wigs.

McCalla moved on her own to Santa Monica when she was 17. Her first job was in an aircraft assembly factory making 80 cents a day.

Always an athletic tomboy, McCalla gravitated quickly to skin-diving and inevitably was spotted by a photographer who asked if she would pose for pictures as Miss Navy Day.

Next came modeling—and the attention of painter Alberto Vargas, king of the pinups, who captured her as a Vargas Girl. Born on Christmas Day, she posed nude for the December page in a Vargas calendar.

McCalla liked to joke that Nassour Studios discovered her and cast her as Sheena after finding her tossing a spear on Malibu Beach. Actually, it was another photographer who got her the job when the preferred candidate, Anita Ekberg, failed to show up for work.

McCalla made painting her official profession after a bout with cancer in 1970. She painted Western scenes in oil and converted many canvases to limited-edition plates and prints.

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