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Renay, Liz 1926-2007 (Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins)

Renay, Liz 1926-2007 (Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins)


See index for CA sketch: Born April 14, 1926, in Chandler, AZ; died of gastric bleeding, January 22, 2007, in Las Vegas, NV. Actress, entertainer, painter, and author. Born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins, Renay was an actress with a colorful career that included mob involvement, roles in exploitation films and pornography, and titillating publicity stunts. The daughter of strict evangelical parents, she rebelled and moved to Las Vegas to pursue a career as a bra model and showgirl. She found work in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1950, working for a small film company. Already twice divorced (she would eventually divorce seven men in all) and with two children, she gained fame that year when Life magazine featured her in a photo spread. Winning a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest in 1955 helped lead to a job with the Ford modeling agency. She modeled in New York City and Washington, DC, until 1957, when she headed for Hollywood. Here Renay earned an income by working at a charm school; interestingly, she was also a contestant on the television game show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx, and won a thousand dollars by answering questions about geography. Renay became involved with the mob, however, as the girlfriend of Mickey Cohen. Cohen, a racketeer, was charged with tax evasion in 1959. When Renay refused to testify against him, she was given a three-year sentence for money laundering and sent to the low-security prison Terminal Island. Renay made good use of her time while in prison, however. She started a theater group and produced the Terminal Island Follies, worked on a memoir, and taught painting to the inmates. She was released after twenty-seven months for good behavior. Renay would later blame her prison time for ruining what she predicted would have been a career as one of Hollywood's brightest stars. She continued to pursue her art, winning awards in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas in the 1960s. The big-budget film career proved elusive, and she wound up in B-flicks, exploitation movies, and porno. She gained publicity in 1974 for running down Hollywood Boulevard in the nude. The stunt earned her an indecent exposure charge, but a jury of mostly men found her not guilty. Famous by the 1960s for being infamous, she appeared in such films as John Waters's Desperate Living (1977). Other movie credits include The Thrill Killers (1964), Blackenstein (1973), and, most recently, Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002). Renay also performed as a stripper, sometimes with her daughter Brenda, who later committed suicide in 1987. Renay related much of her controversial life in two memoirs: My Face for the World to See (1971) and My First 2,000 Men (1992). She was also the author of How to Attract Men (1966) and Staying Young (1982).



Renay, Liz, My Face for the World to See, Lyle Stuart, 1971.

Renay, Liz, My First 2,000 Men, Barricade Books (Fort Lee, NJ), 1992.


Chicago Tribune, January 28, 2007, Section 4, p. 6.

New York Times, January 29, 2007, p. A17.

Washington Post, January 26, 2007, p. B7.

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