|Hollywoodland||Feb 8 2021|
They should have taken a bigger boat.
Today in 1962 Jayne Mansfield, while vacationing in the balmy Bahama Islands, failed to turn up for several evening appointments after having gone water skiing with her husband Mickey Hargitay and press agent Jack Drury. All three were feared lost at sea when the seventeen-foot motorboat they had rented was found adrift and capsized. At sundown the craft was towed to Nassau and the world waited for news. None came that night. The next morning's search for Mansfield and her companions involved four-hundred people, including the Nassau Air-Sea Rescue Squadron. Later that day a searcher flying overhead spotted a water ski floating near Rose Island, a stretch of sand about fifteen miles from Nassau. It was on the eastern end of the island that Mansfield, Hargitay, and Drury were finally found.
By this time the press had descended upon Nassau, and the spectacle of Mansfield being conducted to shore, weak and in tears, was witnessed by scores of journalists and photographers. The trio told the world a harrowing tale. Mansfield fell from her water skis, and Hargitay swam to retrieve her while Drury circled in the boat. At that point Drury saw sharks, and as they rushed to lift Mansfield into the boat it overturned. Hargitay and Drury continued trying to push Mansfield onto the now upside downvessel, but at that point things went from bad to worse when she passed out. They got her atop the boat but could do nothing but drift. They bobbed on the waters for hours until they neared a small coral reef, decided to brave the sharks, and swam for it. There they spent the night, lacking supplies of any sort, with the tide rising until they were almost back in the sea again. At daybreak they saw that Rose Island was nearby. With the tide out, they were able to walk, wade, and swim to it.
Mansfield's stranding and rescue was a huge story, but there were many who said it was a publicity stunt. It's an interesting take on the event, considering the attending physician at Rassin Hospital, whose name was Dr. Meyer Rassin—he founded the facility—said Mansfield suffered from “quite severe exposure, and the effects of bites from numerous mosquitoes and sand flies.” Having dealt with Caribbean sand flies ourselves, we can tell you nobody would willingly put themselves through the hell of being feasted on by them. But on the other hand, sand fly bites
itch and swell, and when scratched they break open and bleed, yet Mansfield doesn't look particularly marked. On the other-other hand, doesn't dragging a local pilot and the respected founder of the island hospital into a fake near-death experience defy credulity?
But maybe two things were true at the same time. Maybe it started as a stunt. Maybe Mansfield and company motored to Rose Island, purposely turned the boat over and set it adrift, then waited for the pilot they'd selected to fly over the next morning. Maybe they even had food and water, and hunkered down for a night under the Caribbean stars while chortling over the free press coverage they were going to generate. But maybe they had failed to consider the sand fly aspect, and Mansfield really was in a sorry state when found, which means Dr. Rassin was being truthful. It's possible.
To us the biggest hole in Mansfield's story is the accidental capsizing of a boat seventeen feet long that's weighed down by an outboard motor. It takes serious work to overturn a floating canoe, let alone a waterskiing boat. But Mansfield was a hefty woman, Hargitay was a bodybuilder, and with Drury leaning waaaay out over the boat's gunwale, maybe they really did accidentally flip it. We'll never know what happened, which means Mansfield's big Bahamian adventure will always be a subject of speculation. But you now what? The truth is often banal. A mystery is so much more fun.