Monique van Vooren, Actress, Warhol Associate, and Socialite, Dead at 92
Monique van Vooren, the Belgian-born beauty whose acting résumé was as eclectic as her New York nightlife persona, died Saturday of cancer at her NYC home, her son confirmed to THR. She was 92.
Saucily dubbed "the Belgian Bulge" (a crass moniker she deemed "horrific"), she arrived in the U.S. more than 70 years ago. She made her film debut in "Tomorrow Is Too Late" (1950), and gave one of her most substantial, and most camp, performances in "Tarzan and the She-Devil" (1953) as a voluptuous ivory poacher opposite Lex Barker as Tarzan.
She also appeared in the French film "Ça va barder" (1955) and was shown off to great advantage in the title credits of "Ten Thousand Bedrooms" (1957), starring Dean Martin.
Her other big-screen appearances were bit parts in films that included "Gigi" (1958), "Fearless Frank" (1967), "Ash Wednesday" (1973), the Andy Warhol-produced "Flesh for Frankenstein" (1973) opposite Joe Dallesandro, "Wall Street" (1987), and "Greystone Park" (2012).
Though she rarely appeared on TV except on game shows, she did log two Broadway roles, first in "John Murray's Almanac" (1953-1954) among a cast that included Harry Belafonte and Tina Louise, and later in "Man on the Moon" (1975), a musical by John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas that closed two days after its opening night.
"We did fine — until we were reviewed," she told interviewer Skip E. Lowe in 1986 for his cable-access show. "The public liked it very much."
In 1983, she pleaded guilty to lying to a federal grand jury investigating her theft of some $18,000 in Social Security payments from her late mother's account, but agreed to repay the amount in a plea deal. Her lawyer was the notorious Roy Cohn, who was an unlikely member of Manhattan's glitterati.
That same year, capitalizing on her extensive social contacts, she enjoyed a burst of attention as the writer of the sensational novel "Night Sanctuary." Though she identified most strongly as a writer, her only other published book was a cookbook, "The Happy Cooker" (1978).
Van Vooren also sang, cutting an album in 1958 whose title reflected her glamorous image: "Mink in HiFi." She performed a cabaret act at various times in her career, into her early 70s. In 1964, her singing led to perhaps her most famous contribution to popular culture. While introducing child performer Ronnie Walken from the stage in 1964, she told him, "You know, I don't really like 'Ronnie.' I think you are more 'Christopher.' Do you mind if I call you Christopher?" Walken replied, "Call me anything you like, just don't call me late for lunch."
Van Vooren was married "three or four times" by her own reckoning, including to TV producer and country-western manager Gerard Purcell from 1958 until his death in 2002.
A true New York character, she once said her reasons for adoring Manhattan, "where all the action is," included, "I like to go out, I like to be invited, I like to have friends, I like to walk, I like to lick windows like sorbet."
Van Vooren is survived by her son, actor Eric Purcell, and her granddaughter, Christina.