Elise Cash was a young girl of 12 when Dorothy moved into the Clarkson residence of Doctor Steve Cushner. Elise lived just across the street and wasted no time in introducing herself to this tall, beautiful girl. She and Dorothy became good friends and enjoyed many activities together. Dorothy warmed to Elise who perhaps helped fill the void that being so far from her little sister Louise had caused. About a year after Dorothy's death Elise and her family moved to North Carolina. Elise is very beautiful and had a brief stint as a model. But being also very intellectually gifted she decided it was wiser to bank on smarts rather than looks and attended the university of North Carolina where she studied biology. It was here that she met her husband to be. She was married in her senior year and the two have been happily together for twelve years. She has one son. Elise's occupation is in neuroscience where as a Histologist she studies brain dysfunction, mental retardation, Alzheimer's and other dysfunctions of this sort. Elise is also a professional horseback rider, who teaches riding lessons as well as trains horses to ride and show them. She specializes in jumping, and does a lot of competing in that field. She and her husband have a house in the country, a wonderful setting, with a bunch of dogs, a cat, and have several horses. Her son is now in the 6th grade and he shares her good looks and brains. Is was not easy for Elise to come forward with her interview because it involved bringing up old and painful memories. Yet Elise understood that the "real" Dorothy deserves that this chapter in her life be told. Please enjoy this incredible interview with a very brave and insightful lady.
Elise in her modeling days
DSW: When was the first time you ever met Dorothy and where was that and how old were you at the time?
ELISE: I met Dorothy right when she was moving into our neighborhood. I will never forget the first time I saw her, the memory has stayed imprinted on my memory. She went roller skating by, on the opposite side of the street from my house. I was with my sister and brother playing, and we all stopped and our jaws must have dropped to the ground. I was probably close to 12 years old, and at that age you just don't notice beautiful women, especially since I am a female! She was just so ethereal, she looked like she had just stepped off a movie screen into our neighborhood! She was wearing a shiny Spandex body suit that was black on one side and silver on the other. An outfit like that couldn't be worn by just anyone!! She had the German Shepherd with her that belonged to the doctor that she and Paul lived with. He was a big goofy dog and I loved playing with him, and Dorothy was such an animal lover, she rarely went out of the house without taking him with her. He had a concrete run that went around the side of the house and he didn't get to go out much. I stopped Dorothy and introduced myself to her, I was not a shy kid and I just had to ask her who she was! I knew she must be someone famous, as beautiful as she was! She told me she was a model, and I told her I was interested in modeling and had done some shots locally in L.A., as had my little sister. She and I chatted for a long time and I went and changed into my skates and went around the block with her. That started a friendship between us, she had a sister that was my age (and a similar name) and she missed her and I reminded her of home I think. I can only think of a few things from my childhood that I remember as vividly as meeting her the first time!!
DSW: So you lived across the street from the Clarkson residence where Dr. Steven Cushner lived?
ELISE: Clarkson was directly intersected with Kelton Ave. which was where I lived. Dorothy's house was the only house on that road before you got to Kelton. We were the second house on the left on Kelton, so we could pretty much see her house from my front yard. I think that Dr. Cushner lived there for a while before Dorothy and Paul moved in, I don't recall exactly. I didn't meet Dr. Cushner until after they had moved in. He was a very friendly, quiet man, and he wasn't around very much. I used to feed the dog for them when they were all out of town, and also took care of Dorothy's pet rat, Baby. Yep, she had a big fat white rat named Baby. It was really sweet (for a rat) and she used to hold it and play with it for hours! I don't know what happened to it, the day she was murdered it wasn't in the house. I specifically asked the police if I could take it home with me and they said there was nothing in the house except for a cage. I've always wondered what happened to that rat!
DSW: I have always heard little rumors that Dorothy loved animals and that they in turn loved her. Almost a kind of magical attraction. Do you remember anything like this?
ELISE: I certainly do remember that about her, so know now that it wasn't a rumor but truth! Dorothy loved animals, she and I immediately had a bond in that aspect. I ride horses professionally, and as a kid I was horse crazy. I used to go every weekend to Malibu and take horseback riding lessons, and Dorothy always wanted to go. We would make plans to go ride and *every* time Paul wouldn't let her go for one reason or another. She especially loved horses and we would talk about them constantly. Dorothy always had an animal with her it seemed like, and they certainly loved her. The German Shepherd that Dr. Cushner owned adored her, and then her rat of course... it was more like a puppy than a rat! It used to lick her on the face, and it would sit on her shoulder and not move while she walked around the house. Dorothy had a sort of inner beauty that attracted everyone and everything! I mean when have you ever heard of a rodent actually being a loving pet! The fact she could turn a rat into a likeable pet like Baby was what really struck me as special.
DSW: It is rumored that while she was living at the Clarkson address she was given a Shih Tzu puppy as a present. It was supposedly the same dog that appears with her in the Playmate of the Year pictorial. It is also written that one day it was found dead while she was out of town with suspicions that Paul had poisoned it. Did you ever see this puppy or know what happened to it?
ELISE: I had heard that rumor too, but in all honesty, I never saw a puppy and she never told me anything about it. I find that very strange that I did not know about it since she and I always talked about animals. You would think that I of all people would have known about it since I fed their animals for them when they would go away, which they did quite often. If she had the puppy, it would not have been for more than a week or so I think, otherwise I would have known about it. I think its a possibility that if she were given a puppy and it died (and I think we know *how* it died if someone besides Paul gave it to her), she might not have told me, and that would make the most sense. I don't think she would have wanted to share something painful like that and have to try to explain it to me.
DSW: During the time you knew Dorothy and grew in friendship with her what were some of the types of things you would do together? How did you guys have fun?
ELISE: Dorothy and I would skate around our neighborhood for fun and exercise on a regular basis, sometimes every day. We would sometimes skate down to the store and grab a snack, or skate to a local store that sold Jordache jeans and she and I would lust over all the clothes we wanted! We would take the doctor's dog for walks, or take my dog for walks (not together, mine was too small and he wanted to play too rough with her!), and sometimes jog, but we both preferred skating.
A good portion of the time time we spent together was at her house, playing with her pet rat Baby, or looking at her pictures, or she would look at mine. I loved looking in her "PG-13" portfolio and she would have me help her pick out pictures from her photo shoots and things like that. She would give me beauty advice and put makeup on me, fun girl stuff like that. We would hang out and talk and she would tell me all about her family and especially her sister, and how much she missed home.
We had always planned to go horse back riding, or go to the beach, or the skating arena, but we were never allowed to go because of Paul's jealousy. He never let her drive anywhere without him, and even though she was just with me it still threatened him. So we never got to go anywhere together outside of the neighborhood.
DSW: I've always wondered if Dorothy was a spiritual person. When you guys talked did she ever mention her beliefs about God or the meaning of life? I know you were only 12 but did she ever seem to express a desire to know what it all means?
ELISE: I think that your question is quite intuitive for someone who did not even know Dorothy! Every Wednesday night my parents would have a Bible study for young married couples at our house, and it really seemed to intrigue Dorothy. My parents often invited her and Paul to join them but they never came. Dorothy was indeed a spiritual woman, and had been raised the same way I had been, with very high standards and morals. I know that people judged her for posing in Playboy, and as a matter of fact once my parents found out she was a Playmate they had forbidden me to visit with her any more. But for some reason they slacked off of that and allowed me to spend time with her again. I do not remember why they had changed their minds, they were vey much against the type of modeling she did. But I think my parents also saw that she was truly a good person, and she spoke to them some about spiritual matters. She wanted to attend church regularly but that was yet another thing that Paul got in the way of, and she never made it to church with us. I will share this one peice of information that I know for sure about her, although it is extremely personal, I think that its very important. I asked Dorothy if she was "saved" and she said she was, and that she knew she was going to heaven. I believe she had a personal relationship with Jesus and believed in him. But I also felt that Paul pulled her away from that as much as possible, because Dorothy seemed ashamed (to me anyway) that she had posed nude. So I think that because Paul took over her life the way he did, and then actaully took her away from us all, he directly affected her spiritual relationship with God as well. This is all my personal opinion about this, but it is based on what we talked about every week while my parents held bible study in our house! They wanted the kids to stay quiet or play outside while they taught, so I would always go hang out with Dorothy during that time, and there was never a week that went by that she didn't wish she could have joined in as well.
DSW: Thank you for that. I've always had a feeling that Dorothy was a spiritual person though no mention of that has ever appeared in any book or special on her. It is comforting to know that Dorothy is at peace. Now on a darker side, please tell me how you first met Paul and what that was like?
ELISE: I first met Paul when Dorothy had invited me to come over and see her pet rat. She seemed extremely nervous to have me there at the house, almost like she wasn't allowed to have guests over. He was nice to me but very guarded and seemed like he was hiding something from me. I remember him being very suspicious about me wanting to see Dorothy's portfolio, and first he told her that she was not allowed to show anyone her pictures (this was before she had become really famous). When Dorothy explained that I wanted to be a model and that maybe they could help me, he chimed in then, trying to pretend like he was some sort of an agent or something. And of course he took all the credit for all of Dorothy's success. He let me see the pictures then, and he let her give me some of her photos too. He laughed at my embarrassment when I saw some of her "less clothed" pictures, although I didn't see her nude shots at that time. Its hard to describe Paul, because he had many facets. He could be very sweet and caring, and I remember examples of that. I remember that I had hit my head and cut it in their garage and he was very caring and held ice on my head. BUT, after he took care of me and made sure I was okay, then he yelled at Dorothy for 15 minutes about why she shouldn't have anyone over, that my parents could sue him for me getting hurt over there, and he was just awful to her. I didn't go back over there for a long time after that because I was afraid of him. She called me to invite me to skate with her and she would come to my house for a while after that because she knew I was afraid to go back over there. He had a weird, twisted sense of humor, he liked to embarass me, and it would make her very mad because it always had sexual overtones and she was protective of me. I don't remember him being very nice to her, he was very much like a father figure to her, bossy and demanding, and controlling everything she did. Even as a kid I didn't understand what she saw in him. He could be charming in his own cheesy way I guess, he could make a girl feel special and beautiful. I stayed away from him as much as possible since he made me so nervous. He used to invite me to come in and hang out with him when Dorothy wasn't there, and I never did go in. That was probably a very smart thing in retrospect, knowing what kind of person he really was.
DSW: Did Dorothy ever talk to you about her feelings for Paul? Did she ever express any regret in her choice of him as a partner?
ELISE: No, in all honesty I don't recall her ever saying anything about her actual feelings for him, or anything about why she had married him. I distinctly remember having the impression however, and it must have been from something she said, that the marriage was because she was going to be moving in with him and her parents didn't approve of her living with him without being married. I have no proof of that, its just what I remember. What she did say about him was that she owed her success to him and that he had made her a star. That is the only thing positive I ever recall her saying about him. Mostly she made excuses about his poor behavior, why he was always rude or mean, or so posessive. She would always say it was because he didn't want her to get "taken advantage of". What a joke, like that wasn't exactly what he did! I do think she loved him in a way, but she was very afraid of him, and she felt sorry for him too.
DSW: Tell me about Dorothy's view on love. Did she ever talk about love, what it is to be in love and the value and importance of love? Did she ever mention love as an ideal that one should attempt to obtain to? I know you were much younger than her but what do you remember about this topic in general and her feelings towards it?
ELISE: Talking about love in her life was not easy for her, I'm assuming because Paul was so abusive. Mostly she wanted to know what was going on with me! Well, I remember her giving me advice on my young teenage crush Mike that went to my school. I was pretty shy about boys and I asked her constantly what I should do to get him to like me! She never ever talked about Paul and her being in love, so she never gave me advice in the context of her own marriage. In retrospect, that makes me realize how lonely she was. She told me to always be myself and not be fake, because in the end people would see through that. She told me that it was the most important thing that people like you for you! She also gave me beauty tips, gave me tips on how to dress, and tips on how to act around boys, not to be too flirty or to come off as easy, or icy. Once again, just be myself, be easy to approach and talk to, just like she was. That is who she was and I think her advice stuck with me. She was always "giddy" when we talked about boys, she loved asking me about the little teenie-bopper parties I went to and what I did. She seemed to really idealize love, I bet that she felt that way when she first met Paul and he made her feel so special and pretty. That fun, can't -wait-to-see-him-again kind of love. But I don't think she had that kind of love for him any more, not while I knew her anyway. Maybe at first when they initially moved to LA, he did seem much more loving and caring towards her at that time when they moved in. However he became more and more possessive and mean as they lived in LA, and it pushed her away from him and made it impossible to love him. I think Dorothy was a total romantic that deserved a perfect man that would have taken care of her BUT in the same respect, one that would have given her freedom as well. She was such a caged bird with Paul. I don't remember her being very affectionate towards him, but instead was subservient. I'm sure that made him feel very powerful, but what he didn't realize was that his treatment of her was what made her leave. It's a comfort to me that she is in heaven, in the arms of the Lord, getting the unconditional love that she craved so deeply.
DSW: How did you first find out that Dorothy was a Playboy model and what were your feelings when you discovered that? Also did this discovery effect your relationship with Dorothy in any way?
ELISE: I remember finding out from a little boy that hung out with us in the neighborhood that Dorothy was a "nudie" model. I recall being quite upset, not so much at her, but at the connotation and context in which it was presented to me. I never told anyone, because I knew if my parents found out I would not be allowed to visit with her any longer. She finally told me herself, in her sweet soft way that she always did things, and I guess the way she did it made me feel like it was okay. She told me that she understood if I didn't want to be around her any more because she thought I might think less of her, but I told her that it did not affect my feelings about her at all. But boy did the bomb drop when my folks found out, it was the night that they had a big party at Dorothy's house when she was announced as the Playmate of the Year. They sat me down and told me that what they did not want me to go over to her house any more because they thought what she was doing was wrong. They said they liked her as a person, but they did not want me around that kind of atmosphere. I was so very upset, I cried and cried. But somehow I ended up still doing things with her, so they must have slackened up on the rules because she and I still did things together after that. I don't think it marred my image of her much at all. It certainly made me think through some things, but I never thought negatively about her. However, I distinctly remember her telling me that it was not what she had *intended* for her modeling career. I will never forget that, and I don't care what anyone says, she may not have done it against her will, but it was not what she necessarily wanted for herself. She was a shy and sensitive woman, who cared about herself. I do remember her speaking very fondly of Hugh Hefner and said that I would have really liked him. Of course my career never took that path since I moved from LA shortly after her death.