Janet Pilgrim was only working at Playboy’s corporate office when she got the chance to start her career as a model. She was transformed from an office pen pusher to a playboy model by Hugh Hefner.
Janet Pilgrim had huge success working as a model and Hugh Hefner, her boss at Playboy also witness a massive growth in his business as well. She was said to be one of Hefner’s most iconic Playmates ever.
Who is Janet Pilgrim?
The Playmate and model was born to Gedeminis Karalus and Hulda Wittekind on June 13 1934 in Wheaton, Illinois. Her birth name was Charlaine Edith Karalus. She was raised together with her siblings Carol, Marilyn, George, and Donald.
Was she ever married?
Pilgrim decided to start a family after she has worked as a Playmate for some time. She eventually settled down with Alan Whitelaw. The couple settled in Connecticut where they raised their two daughters: Linda (Kerry) Smith and Lisa (Gary) Wehner.
The Playmate had five grandchildren: Zachary Smith, Rachel Smith, Jennifer Wehner, and Samantha Wehner. The Wheaton Illinois native’s husband died at the age of 74 in 2002.
Here are 7 other facts about her
1. Janet Pilgrim slept on the floor as a child
According to reports, the iconic Playmate was born and raised in a poor family. Her family had so little to survive on that she and her siblings had to sleep on the floor. Pilgrim and her four siblings were raised by her mother because her father was not around.
She as grew older, she became more ambitious and had plans of becoming a businesswoman.
2. She was renamed Janet Pilgrim by Hugh Hefner
At the age of 21, Pilgrim went to seek a job at Playboy’s Chicago office. She got the job and started working with Hugh Hefner in the subscription department.
In 1955, after she secured her first job at Playboy, she was promoted to the level of subscription manager.
She was soon noticed by Hefner who thought she was wasted behind the scenes. He soon offered her another promotion against the advice of others in the Playboy office.
Janet was shifted from playboy’s office to its cover in 1955. In July of that year, she agreed to pose for Playboy with the condition that her name is changed.
Hefner chose her a new name and also provided a new address graph to her subscription office as well. According to reports, her boss chose that name probably because of its puritanical connotations.
The decision later became the beginning of great things for both Janet and Hefner. After readers responded well to her appearance as Miss July, more letters were sent to the office seeking more of her works.
She agreed to appear twice in December 1955 and October 1956. She was later listed on the Playboy’s masthead’s head of the reader’s services department for almost 10 years.
Janet Pilgrim became so popular that at a point, Hefner offered a personal phone call with her as part of a lifelong subscription scheme.
The model was said to be the prototype of the girl-next-door model and the first-ever playboy playmate who made Hefner a fortune. Janet Pilgrim refused so many jobs offers from other agencies and continued working for Playboy for almost a decade.
Despite the fortune, Playboy had, Janet Pilgrim’s daughter claimed her mother did not benefit from any of it.
3. The July 1955 Issue was named the second most iconic cover
The July 1955 issue that featured Janet Pilgrim was declared Playboy’s second most iconic cover by Elle. The first was Marilyn Monroe’s first appearance in the magazine in December 1953.
The issue was iconic because before then, Hugh Hefner would just use pictures from nude calendars rather than having original shots.
4. The Wheaton Illinois native became a nurse at the age of 46
After she got married and settled in Connecticut, Pilgrim went to college and was trained as a nurse. She worked with the elderly and also those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
5. The iconic playmate and model died at the age of 82
The American model spent her final days with her family. She enjoyed time with her grandchildren while she was scrapbooking, and playing blackjack at Mohegan Sun. She was said to be active in her church as well.
Janet Pilgrim died at the age of 82 on May 1 2017 at Brightview Assisted Living in Norwalk.