Monroe was the first Centerfold for Playboy Magazine. She appeared in the opening issue, December 1953. Three months later in 1954, a Spokane beauty was the centerfold for the March Playboy issue in that first year of Playboy’s publication.
Dolores Del Monte grew up in Hillyard and graduated from John R. Rogers High School. She was part of a second-generation Italian family. Her father, Julius Spatafore, worked for Diamond Match Company and her mother, Jean, was a housewife. Dolores inherited the dark beauty of her mother and the sparkling performance personality of her father. She loved singing, music, dancing, the movies and entertaining people. She wanted to be an actress. She joined the Drama Club at Rogers to further that goal.
Dolores pleaded with her parents to let her move to Hollywood after graduation from high school in 1950. Dolores knew that was where a small-town actress could get her break into movies. Her parents allowed her to go to Hollywood with the condition that they would drive her to California and require that she stay under the watchful eyes of her mother’s aunt and uncle who lived in Los Angeles.
In L.A., Dolores was continually asked by the studios to create a portfolio that included stylish photos. She began a modeling career to support herself while trying to find her way in Hollywood.
In Los Angeles, Dolores worked as a model for a Hollywood photographer named Bruno Bernard who specialized in figure modeling. Dolores was Spokane raised, a bit naive and too shy to admit she did not know that figure modeling meant posing nude at times. However, she was pleased when figure modeling paid her $50 per hour, which was a fortune to a young woman in the 1950s. Bernard sold his nude photos to Baumgarth Calendar Company in Illinois. Later, Dolores went to work for Zoe Mozert, a famous artist who sold her pinups to Brown & Bigalow Calendar Company. Dolores began to use the last name “Del Monte.” A well-known famous name was useful in Hollywood.
Dolores landed some small parts in TV shows and a movie. Finally, in 1952, Dolores gave up on modeling and her hopes for an acting career. She returned to Spokane and married her Rogers High School sweetheart, Roy Card. The married couple moved to California. Dolores and Roy soon welcomed the births of her three children, Greg, Steve and Lisa.
Dolores said that in late 1953, while she was pregnant with Greg, a letter arrived asking for her permission to publish a photo of her in Playboy Magazine.
Playboy was a startup men’s magazine. Dolores had no idea of the nature of this new magazine, but she believed the photo was a pin-up of her wearing a leopard print bathing suit. She never saw the magazine. The photo turned out to be a slightly nude pinup titled “Radiant Beauty” that Bruno Bernard had sold to the Baumgarth Calendar Company. Hugh Hefner purchased the calendar photo of Dolores for the centerfold in the March 1954 issue of his freshly hatched Playboy Magazine.
Playboy did not shoot their own centerfold photos during the first year of the magazine. Hefner purchased the centerfolds from third parties. Marilyn Monroe’s and Dolores Del Monte’s centerfold pictures had been taken a few years before the photos appeared in the magazine.
In fact, Dolores was pregnant with her son Greg when the March 1954 Playboy was issued. Dolores had no idea that she was the Centerfold in the March issue or that the Centerfold was one of the nude calendar photos she had posed for a few years prior.
Dolores went with her husband to the Philippines and Thailand in the mid 1960s. Roy worked on U.S. Defense projects. When Dolores returned from Southeast Asia in 1969, she went to work for the Crescent Department Store in Spokane. She demonstrated scarves and scarf clips. She set sales records and was promoted to a supervisory position, touring through Western Canada, working to promote the fashion industry.
In early 1974, after she and Roy divorced, Dolores was hired by the U.S. Department of Commerce to be a Senior Guide Supervisor at EXPO 74 in Spokane. She supervised 47 guides and others who worked at the U.S. Pavilion. Her duties involved administration, but she also helped EXPO 74 guides with grooming techniques and safety training. She later transferred to the U.S. Commissioner’s Office escorting dignitaries, celebrities, and politicians.
Dolores met and married her second husband, Al Mack, in 1977. They moved from Spokane to Oregon.
In 1979 her son Steve, who was a college student in New Jersey, was thumbing through the Playboy 25th Anniversary Issue which showed all the playmates in a mini-centerfold style. Steve recognized his mother’s name in the magazine as one of the early Playmates. He remembered his mother had mentioned that she used the pseudonym “Dolores Del Monte” while working as a model looking for acting work in Hollywood. Steve called Dolores and said, “Mom, I have some news about your past.”
Dolores Del Monte was embarrassed and proud at the same time when she got the news from her son. In an interview, she said models today “show too much.”
In 1985, her husband died. Dolores moved back to Southern California. Her son’s discovery reignited an interest and love for public relations activities and Dolores began hosting celebrity tennis tournaments and acting as director of activities for singles sailing clubs in California.
Dolores connected up again with the Playboy Empire after all those years. She was invited to PLAYMATES OF THE YEAR reunions attended by several other early centerfold women. She also attended a few L.A. GLAMOURCONS which would “overwhelm Los Angles with photographers and beautiful models.” The “Senior Centerfolds” were a hit at the GLAMOURCONS. Dolores was featured in national magazines, too.
Today, Dolores is 88 years old and spends her time in sunny California where it all began … if you don’t count Spokane. Dolores Del Monte counts Spokane.