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From the Stars and Stripes archives

Ann-Margret digs the military

FOUR YEARS AGO, a swinging coed from Northwestern University headed for Europe with a USO tour that supercharged audiences from Germany to Iceland.

Recently, the same girl paid a visit to Torrejon Air Base and proved that she has lost none of her charm by becoming Ann-Margret, the movie star.

"I've never forgotten those terrific audiences during the tour — I really dig this military," she confided.

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Her first stop at Torrejon was with the Reflex alert crews at their special building on the flight line. After autographing some of her albums and posing for pictures, she went out to explore a KC135 tanker.

"This is my first visit to a base like this," she explained to Col H.W. Hobbs, deputy commander of operations, who had the good fortune to assume the role of escort officer.

After poking about the tanker and chatting with the crew, the trim blonde paid a visit to the 497th Fighter Interceptor Sq which is packing up for return to the U.S. While trying on a "brain bucket," she came to the conclusion that the helmets would not do much for a girl's hairdo and went out to inspect F102s and F104s.

Upon peeking into the cockpit of the supersonic fighters, she observed, "There's sure not much room in there for the pilot, but I'd sit on his lap for a ride in one of these bombs."

Ann-Margret's love for barreling around Hollywood on her motorcycle is currently causing grey hair in the executive suite of her studio. "I've been having a ball, but it will only hit 72."

After saying her goodbyes at the fighter squadron, she was taken to the personal equipment building where the men on duty promptly elected her the girl they would most like to share their life rafts with. She was understandably leery about being fitted with a life jacket and even more dubious about pulling the inflation cords, but she is too much of a trouper to deny the audience a good laugh, so "Whooosh!"

The final stop of the afternoon was the AFRS station where she recorded an interview.

The story behind Ann-Margret is more interesting than most movie star biographies. Born in Sweden as Ann-Margret Olson, she went to the U.S. at the age of 5 with her parents. Her father is an electrician, and there were no previous connections with show business.

Although she had started singing even before going to the States, her repertoire consisted entirely of folk songs that were just so much Swedish in America. However, her father and mother scraped up enough money for singing and dancing lessons with the firm conviction that their little girl would some day be a star.

The years ahead were an epic struggle through the show business wars of amateur performances, radio shows and numerous contests of all types that are the proving ground for future stars.

After singing with a dance band at Northwestern and doing the USO tour, she headed west with a small combo for an engagement at Las Vegas. Upon arrival, they learned the deal was off, so they pushed on to Los Angeles and spent the next few weeks getting the brushoff from agents.

The break came with an engagement at Newport .Beach. They scored well enough to win bookings at Elko, Nev., and later Reno, where several big names in show business caught their act. The bass and drummer decided to return to school, but replacements were hired and the, determined band marched on to Las Vegas.

This proved to be the launching pad for Ann-Margret. George Burns saw her and asked her to join his act. This led to appearances with Jack Benny on a national TV show, and soon she was signed by 20th Century Fox.

During the past three years, she has knocked out six movies and is currently working on number seven in Madrid, "The Pleasure Seekers." Her most recent release is "Viva Las Vegas," which also stars Elvis Presley.

Ann-Margret isn't talking about her reported romance with the Valentino of the rock `n' roll set, but she admits, "He inspires me."

Just how much he inspires her may be indicated by the Time magazine review of the picture: "Ann-Margret gyrates with a stem to stern fury that makes Presley's pelvic r.p.m.s seem powered by a flashlight battery."

ALONG with her movie work, she is also making record albums with such titans of the music world as trumpeter Al Hirt. "I really don't know what I'd do without music ... just go over in the corner and wilt ... cha-cha-cha," she added.

She has two unreleased movies that give her a chance to break away from the singing and dancing bit to some degree. In "Bus Riley's Back in Town," she plays "a very bad girl — it's amazing what clothes and diamonds can do for a girl."

Then in "Kitten With a Whip" she gets what she calls her first dramatic role, a 17-year-old reform school inmate who stabs a matron and takes it on the lam with a man.

She now has film commitments to five different studios and is regarded as one of the hottest names in the business. As for the future, she says, "As long as they want me, I'll entertain them."
 

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