Written By: Bill Syken
Back in the 1950s, a woman wearing only a pajama top as she spoke seductively to her TV viewers was too much for people to handle.
In 1954 Gloria Pall, a former Las Vegas showgirl, originated a character called Voluptua. The so-called “Living Goddess of Love” hosted a late night show devoted to romance movies on KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The show was a counterpart to a similar late-night program built that station had built around horror movies and hosted by a character named Vampira.
LIFE’s story on Voluptua was headlined, “Love on a Late Night: Hostess Sheds Her Clothes to Hold Audience.” Here’s how the magazine described her act in its issue of Jan. 31, 1955:
Volupta starts by urging each man in her audience to get out of his shoes, loosen his tie and be her very good friend. Between segments of moist celluloid love Voluptua…does some disrobing of her own. By mid-program she is down to a negligee. Then after reading her sonnets and paying tribute to famed lovers, she slips into a nightgown, climbs into bed, throws a kiss at her men and calls it a night.
The images from LIFE staff photographer George Silk captured the come-hither quality of the program. including showing Voluptua changing her costume on camera, behind a screen. One photo shows the words on Voluptua’s teleprompter, seemingly from the beginning of the broadcast: “…dashed home because I knew you’d be here at nine-thirty. But now I feel all good and warm. You and I are together at last. And we will be always…”
This was racy stuff in a time when married couples on TV were shown as sleeping in separate beds. Certain outraged viewers called the character Corruptua and pushed for Voluptua to be banished from the airwaves. And they got their way. “Just seven weeks after it first aired, amid mounting pressure from religious and PTA groups and lackluster commercial sponsorship, the station abruptly canceled the show,” the Los Angeles Times recounted in an obituary of Pall after her death in 2013.
After Voluptua died, Pall carried on. The actress, born Gloria Pallatz, had grown up in Brooklyn and headed west after winning a Miss Flatbush contest. Her screen career consisted mostly of small, often uncredited roles in movies and television, though she did appear in nine episodes of the TV series Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe. Her brief and uncredited appearance as “Striptease Woman” in the movie Jailhouse Rock resulted in a memorable still in which her legs framed the face of the movie’s star, Elvis Presley.
In the early 1960s Pall moved on from acting and worked as a real estate agent. When she died she was remembered as a pioneer. “She was quite openly in touch with her sexuality, and that was an incredibly dangerous thing to do,” author R.H. Greene, who had recorded a radio piece on Pall, told the Los Angeles Times. “We don’t have too many stories for that time that illustrate that, and Gloria’s does.”