Last December I had the pleasure of meeting sisters Miriam and Victoria, who I found out had quite the amazing treasure in their family. Their mother, Vilma, had been a camera girl at the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria, as well as at other hot spots in old LA, including Chinatown and The Pike. Not only was she a camera girl, she was a colorful character, with a very active dating life, which she chronicled religiously in her diary. Growing up, Miriam and Victoria knew of their mother’s past, and even read portions of her diary, but it wasn’t until her recent passing and the re-opening of Clifton’s Cafeteria did they really begin to understand what a piece of history their mother’s diary and photographs were.
Vilma was no ordinary camera girl. She was gorgeous, never in want of a date, and came up with a very creative way to sell more photographs. She would go up to either single men, or groups of just men and ask “Would you like to take a picture with a pretty girl?” becoming the star of the customer’s photos, and she soon became the best camera girl at Clifton’s, sometimes making her quota just two hours into an eight hour shift! Her salacious and hilarious diary is now in the process of being shared with the masses by Miriam and Victoria, with their blog, Vilma the Unconquerable, a title she gave herself after quite the date. After I met these ladies I quickly spent an entire day reading the backlog of posts, and fell head over heels for this tough gal who took no nonsense from many men! Plus, her “uniform” for Clifton’s was downright adorable! It featured a peasant style top, paired with either a peasant skirt, or tropical print skirt and lei (depending on if the woman was working the Brookdale or Pacific Seas location), and then a leather corset style belt, which also acted as holster of sorts to carry around slips and extra film.
With permission, I created this collage from photos Miriam and Victoria have posted on their blog, their mother, Vilma, is in the middle. When I found out Miriam and Vilma were giving a presentation on their mother and the history of the Clifton’s Camera Girls, I decided to apply the notion of “Disneybounding” to my outfit and created a look inspired by the Clifton’s Camera Girls. As you might already know, I have quite the collection of peasant tops and flowing skirts, and not all that long ago I bought a corset style belt, although one with some extra trim on it.
Miriam and Victoria’s presentation consisted of photographs of their mother, and vintage images of Clifton’s, as well as the photo folders that customers received their photos in from the various locations their mother both worked at and dined at with her various dates. They shared their mother’s stories, including reading excerpts from her diary, which proved to be insightful and amusing! So I highly recommend reading the blog! Vilma eventually met the true love of her life while doing what she did best, asking a man if he picture taken with a pretty girl, who responded with “Only if that ‘pretty girl’ is you.” They later got married and had the two lovely women who gave this presentation, Miriam and Victoria.
It was a true joy to meet Miriam and Victoria, and look forward to where this unique journey of sharing their mother’s unique addition to Los Angeles history takes them.
You can read Vilma’s diary entries on the blog Vilma the Unconquerable, as well as follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also still visit Clifton’s Brookdale when you’re in LA! Visit their website here, and check our pictures from our first visit here, and when they opened their Pacific Seas inspired bar, located on an upper floor, here.