Was Vikki 'The Back' Dougan The Jessica Rabbit Of The '50s?

By | June 11, 2019

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Left: Vikki Dougan at Ciro's in Los Angeles, California, in 1957. Right: Animation cel of Jessica Rabbit. Source: Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Tumblr.

Claims to fame are hard to come by -- but if you've got a back like Vikki Dougan's, you make the most of it. Today, she is mainly remembered for her revealing outfits, and for recent speculation that she inspired the look of Jessica Rabbit from the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Jessica Rabbit's backless frocks do bear a resemblance to Vikki "The Back" Dougan's -- whether Roger Rabbit director Robert Zemeckis and his designers had her in mind is less clear.

Dougan may be a footnote to the grand story of big stars, but her story is an interesting one. She was a relatively well known model -- imagine the many quasi-celebrity babes who've graced the cover of magazines like Maxim, or hosted niche TV shows on basic cable networks. Dougan is said to have dated Frank Sinatra, and a folk group wrote and recorded a song about her. She wasn't a nobody -- and her influence on fashion lives on even if her name is seldom heard.

The Early Years

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Left: Dougan on the cover of 'Life' magazine. Center and right: Dougan in undated modeling photos. Sources: eBay, Pinterest, eBay

Dougan was born in Brooklyn in 1929 as Edith Tooker, and she began modeling at 11. When she was just 16, she married William Symons, the owner of a photo studio, with whom she had a daughter.  In 1948, she had her big break, becoming the New York Skate Queen Champion. For the contest, skaters were judged not on their roller skating but on charm and beauty. As the “Queen,” she was launched into the spotlight, and two years later, her first marriage ended in divorce.