By John P. Walsh
Dane Arden was an international magazine model in the 1950s and 1960s. She was born Elsa Sørensen on March 25, 1934 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and, after she won the title of Miss Denmark as a teenager went with her family to live in Vancouver, Canada. Her debut in the September 1956 issue of Playboy magazine gave her much publicity and she went on to appear multiple times in that American men’s entertainment and lifestyle publication. Dane Arden also modeled for magazines such as the U.S. version of Australia’s Adam magazine. Elsa moved to Los Angeles, married twice, and died on April 18, 2013 at age 79 years following complications from a bicycle accident in Vero Beach, Florida.
In one of my favorite non-nude color photographs of Dane Arden—this from 1956, the time of her Playboy shoot—22-year-old Dane Arden expresses her beauty, physical dynamism and engaging personality as she poses as a carhop bringing fast food to people in their cars at drive-in restaurants. Working carhops first appeared in the early 1920’s along expanding and popular interstate roads and were mostly boys and men. But during and after World War II the role was increasingly performed by women. By the mid 1950’s abundant drive-ins had to compete for customers in fast-moving automobiles and so carhop uniforms were eye catching. Uniforms on busy roads would be often creatively thematic with military, airline, space age, and cheerleader uniforms predominating. In this photograph Dane Arden is an especially alluring carhop who wears a skimpy plaid-patterned matching fringed halter top and short shorts with fringed apron cut to size. Wearing the typical flat shoes and head gear worn by many female car hops at the time, Dane Arden proffers the perfect uniform to greet her customers with their cups of hot coffee.
This fifteen-minute color documentary was made at the legendary Keller’s Drive In in Dallas, Texas in the mid 1970’s. Their original location which opened in 1950 closed in 2000 and today the oldest restaurant in the chain is on Northwest Highway in Dallas. It opened in 1955. Two other Keller’s restaurants are on Garland Road and Harry Hines Boulevard. Keller’s Drive In remains a classic spot to enjoy a no-frills burger and ice cold beer. Founder Jack Keller —who once worked at Kirby’s Pig Stand which became the nation’s first drive-in restaurant empire—died in 2016 at 88 years old. This documentary is about carhops past and present (one waitress who started at Keller’s in 1965 still works there today) as well as the American Graffiti-style drive-in culture, all of which once filled America’s roads from coast to coast.
Dane Arden biography – Lentz III, Harris M., Obituaries in the Performing Arts, McFarland, 2013 and http://www.pulpinternational.com/pulp/entry/1960-photo-of-Danish-model-Elsa-Sorensen-aka-Dane-Arden.html (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017); women carhops – Koutsky, Kathryn Strand, Koutsky, Linda, and Ostman, Eleanor, Minnesota Eats Out: An Illustrated History, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003, p. 134; history of carhops – http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/last-day-for-texas-celebrated-drive-in-pig-stands (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017); Keller’s – http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/kellers/ published on March 18, 2015 and http://www.dallasobserver.com/restaurants/the-man-who-brought-us-one-of-dallas-greatest-burgers-has-died-8271874 (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017).
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