Posted on September 16th, 2016 by:

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By Sgt. Al Hine

YANK Staff Writer

Candy Jones was just back from a USO tour of the Pacific when I saw her, and with rare originality I said to her, “How are you?” She said, “Fine.”

Well, maybe she was telling the truth, and anyway who am I to be calling a beautiful model like Miss Jones a liar, but if she was feeling fine, she must have been pressing the old will power to its limit. The fact is that Candy had one of those Pacific trips that GIs usually are thinking about when they say, “Why doesn’t anyone ever print how lousy things are?”

She took off from the West Coast in November of 1944 and got back, a couple of months after the rest of the troupe she started out with, in August 1945. In this comparatively short time, she managed to get involved in two minor earthquakes, to lose the top of her dress on stage, and to spend a month in GI hospitals on Leyte and Morotai and in sick bay on the U.S.S C.H. Muir, the troop ship she came home on.


Candy strikes a strictly non-glamour pose aboard the carrier Essex of Leyte.

Candy’s time on sick call was not goldbricking but the result of one of those nice little Pacific gadgets which medics diagnose as “fever of undetermined origin” and treat like malaria, coupled with a nasty case of eczema. A dame columnist in New York, shortly after Candy’s return, printed as an item that the showgirl-model was suffering from “jungle rot.” Possibly this made the eczema sound more romantic to the columnist, but eczema it was.

Candy threw off the fever in pretty good shape. “It only had me scared once, when I thought my hair was all going to fall out,” she said, “but after I lost a little, it stopped falling and everything was all right.”

The eczema left large areas of pale white on Candy’s otherwise sunburned chassis and this is possibly what caught the columnist’s eye. It caught other eyes, too, namely the eyes of the photographers for whom Candy makes a living posing.

“I won’t be able to pose for any color work till I begin to get even again.” She said. “Make-up will patch me up enough for black-and-white work.”

By the time all this information had come out, I was ready to ask Candy if she still stuck by her original statement that she felt fine. She said she did.

“It was a good trip,” she said, “and the GIs we met were wonderful. They gave us a swell hand everywhere, except sometimes in the hospitals. I don’t see why I shouldn’t say that about the hospitals either. It’s the truth. Lots of the guys who had been wounded were bitter and you couldn’t blame them. They’d look at you when you came in with a sort of ‘Well, who the hell do you think you are?’ look. Why not admit it?

“We played regular shows nights and hospitals during the day. After the regular shows, we’d get a chance to gab with the GIs and stuff. There was an almost even balance between officers and GIs among the people we got a chance to know. There were some places where the officers tried to monopolize you and others where you could pretty much do what you wanted.”

“How about the earthquakes?” I asked.

“One was at Leyte,” she said. “I was in bed when it happened and I almost fell out, but not quite. The other was at Finschhafen, our first stop after Hollandia. It was funnier, because it was the first time I ever experienced an earthquake. “And I was in the johnny when it happened.

“I was in the johnny and there was this crash and things started shifting around. For a minute or two I thought I had ‘jungle fungle.’ I pulled myself together and ran out and found it was only an earthquake.”

Candy’s itinerary ran from Brisbane to Leyte, hitting most of the whistle stops on the way. The gang she was with was called “Cover Girls Abroad” and consisted of seven girls and six guys. One girl got sick and had to go home and one of the guys turned out to be allergic to air travel and also shipped back. But the rest of the troupe carried on. The original destination of the unit was such a dead secret that Candy guessed wrong. She was sure she was headed for the ETO and when she arrived at the dock, complete with woollies she was a little flabbergasted to find that she was bound for the slightly more sunny Pacific.

“Somebody got a surprise poking around that dock where we left from,” she says. “When I found out where we were going I got rid of some of my luggage. Women’s winter woollies. Somebody must have been very surprised.”

The Cover Girls and their male accompanists played over 30 different installations with settings that varied from stages whipped out of nothing to fancy deals like the Jungle Bowl in Hollandia. The troupe did vaudeville-type stuff—juggling, acrobatics, songs and blackout skits. It was in one of the latter, a wedding number framed in a big fake Esquire cover that Candy lost the top of her dress.

“When the frame went down,” she explained, “it hooked on the top of the dress and just took it with it. I went through the number, sweetly holding up the shreds of camouflage. After that time, we did the number in a reworked model of the same dress, the only strapless wedding dress I’ve ever seen.”

Candy herself, in spite of eczema and FUO, earthquake and ripped wedding dresses, is still most relaxing on the eyes. She is a tall girl, out-door-model type, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

She stands 5 feet 10 inches in her socks and when she wears the 4-inch heels she bought in Tacloban—the shoes have miniature nipa huts on them—she towers over the average guy. She towers so attractively, however, that the average guy can put up with it.

She started out on her career in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where she was born and christened Jessie Wilcox. Jessie Wilcox she continued to be when her family moved to Atlantic City a few years later. She didn’t distinguish herself in any particular way until 1941, when she became Miss Atlantic City, an honor she is today a little shy of recalling.

“Then I got a call from a model agency in New York,” she remembers. “It was the big agency and they sent me a telegram: How would I like to work for them? Report immediately. I reported immediately and they acted as if they’d never heard of me. I didn’t like that, so I looked around New York. Harry Conover noticed me while I was looking around and gave me a job at his agency. Along with the job, he gave me a new name, Candy Jones. I’ve been using it ever since.”

The name Candy Jones stuck in people’s memoires, and the face and figure that went with it stuck, too, and soon the late Jessie Wilcox was a top-flight model. She got on magazine covers, and Winchell told whom she happened to be crazy about at any particular moment and vice versa. She stepped from modeling into a show-girl job in the 1943-1944 musical, “Mexican Hayride.” She went along with the name Candy, playing it up by having her monogram printed in peppermint-stick letters on her stationary and matchbooks and so on.

She went from “Hayride” into the Pacific tour and, now that she’s back, she’s doing another showgirl chore in the new musical called “Polonaise.”

“It’s more than a showgirl, really,” she says. “I speak a few lines this time.”

Just as our interview was winding up, I thought of one more question I wanted to ask Candy: How had she liked spending Christmas overseas?

“Well, it wouldn’t have been bad, really,” she said, “if I hadn’t gone and tried to be so smart.

“You see, I was staying with the 334th General Hospital in Hollandia. Christmas Eve had been rough. We had carol singing and whipped up a bit of the spirit of the season and then they brought in some casualties. Somehow, it seemed worse than ever—no matter how many wounded men you might have seen—to see them on Christmas Eve.

“But Christmas Day started out well. The guys in the mess were buzzing around with their preparations for a real Christmas dinner—turkey and everything. It sounded wonderful. I could hardly wait till evening. In fact, I didn’t.

“A friend asked me to go to the officer’s club for dinner at noon and thinking happily that I’d be able to wolf down two Christmas feasts, I accepted.

“The officers’-club lunch was corned-beef hash; they weren’t having their dinner till evening. But I could dream of dinner at the hospital.

“I went back to the 334th in plenty of time, believe me. When I got back everyone was sitting around, stuffed and cheery. They’d had their dinner at noon.

“I couldn’t go back to the club because there was a rule that no transient guest could eat more than one meal there a day.  I had a Spam Christmas dinner that evening at the hospital mess.”

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