Monday, June 20, 2011


Lois Olson of Bismark North Dakota was the daughter of poor Norwegian-American parents. In 1947 at age 17, 6 feet tall, blond and beautiful, she ran off from home to marry a sailor named Evans. Unhappy in her marriage she left him after a short while and moved to New York to join her sister, who was appearing as a showgirl at the fabled Copacabana nightclub. She tried modeling dresses, but because of her height, the only job she could find was modeling fingernail polish for magazine advertisements.

It was in New York in 1949 when Lois' life changed dramatically. While waiting for a stoplight to change at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, a handsome, well-dressed European gentleman commented to his friend the girl next to them was the most attractive woman he'd seen in New York. Overhearing the conversation, Lois thanked the stranger and jokingly said that he was the handsomest man she'd seen in that city. After a brief conversation and introductions, Alex Berglas, a French textile magnate invited Lois to dine that evening.

Over the next few weeks, Alex began to lavish Lois with gifts of jewelry and clothes. Charmed by her Mid-Western naivite' yet chagrined by her lack of social acumen, he convinced her to return with him to Colmar, France, where she could learn French and German, and polish her social graces. In retrospect, Berglas might have been recreating a French version of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, thereby commencing to turn an ingenuous farm girl into a poised, charming, "great beauty" adept in language, makeup and wardrobe. Christian Dior, a friend and client of Berglas', personally designed her clothes.

At age 20, Lois wasn't happy being secluded in a small textile town in the Eastern part of France. She begged Alex to take her to Paris or the Cote d'Azur where she could meet other young people. Reluctantly, the world-wise Berglas, 20 years her senior, agreed and taking her to Monte Carlo he introduced his protege to his jet-set world, which included the rich, jaded "beautiful people" of La Dolce Vita. Lois became a willing participant.