During the 1980s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, led by Susan “Siouxsie” Ballion, had 15 top 40 singles in the UK, where they formed. In the US, they had 15 fewer hits.
That changed in 1991, thanks to a song about a popular Hollywood actress of the 1950s who died in a car accident in 1967.
Vera Palmer, under her screen name Jayne Mansfield, won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in 1957, beating out Natalie Wood. That was the year she appeared in the film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, based on the Broadway show in which she also starred. She also starred in the hit film The Girl Can’t Help It, which featured appearances from Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
Her career took a turn after these hits, perhaps due to a public backlash against her over-exposure, perhaps due to a decline in popularity of the “blonde bombshell” look, and/or perhaps due to her frequent pregnancies keeping her from accepting roles she was offered.
She did continue to work, however – in films, on television, on stage, and on records. Following a nightclub performance in Biloxi, Mississippi on June 28, 1967, Mansfield was en route to New Orleans where she was scheduled to be part of a radio show the following day. Her car collided with a tractor-trailer, and Mansfield, as well as her boyfriend and the car’s driver, were killed instantly.
The car accident is referenced in the fourth verse of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Kiss Them for Me,” named after Mansfield’s 1957 film in which she co-starred with Cary Grant.
“Kiss Them for Me” peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, nine positions higher than its UK peak. It also went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and hit #8 on the Billboard Dance chart.
Today the woman born Susan Ballion turns 59 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with her ode to the late Jayne Mansfield.