Update here (August 2017).
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According to her original Playboy feature,
Sue has spent the past 19 years blossoming in the healthy California clime. Born and raised in Glendale… she graduated from high school last June.
Her birthday is given as May 13, and her birth year works out to be 1945.
“Raised in Glendale” makes sense: her sister was an artist employed at Figge Photographic Studio, then located in Glendale. Photographers Bill and Melba Figge submitted one of their photos of Sue Williams to Hugh Hefner. In a 2005 interview, Melba Figge said,
We sent the first [photo] in … and Hugh Hefner said, “She’s really cute. We’d like to see your work.”
They were then contracted to shot the Miss April 1965 pictorial. Sue Williams was the first of 48 centerfolds that Bill and Melba Figge shot for Playboy magazine.
“She came into our studio to have a glamorous picture taken, because she was sick and tired of going to the firehouse and opening her husband’s locker and seeing centerfolds inside. She had an adorable face, the type Hef likes. So we said, ‘Why don’t you try out for Playboy? Then when the issue comes out you can put it in his locker.’ She did and he was flabbergasted. Sue used her Playmate money to get a boob job, and then she was in several beach movies. I haven’t seen her in 20 years.” (page 108)
There was a Sue Williams pictured in the 1957 Glendale High School Yearbook who looks similar to the Playboy model:
If she is the same Sue Williams, her senior year would be 1959, not 1964, and her birth year around 1941. The similarity fades in her senior photo.
Although she was quoted in Playboy as not having academic aspirations, could this be Sue Williams in the San Jose State College Year Book 1964?
This Sue Williams graduated from San Leandro High School, San Leandro in 1963 (bottom left photo):
When a researcher tracked her down to a north-western state in 2015, the 70-year old grandmother politely denied ever having appeared in a movie and wished the researcher well in the quest for the actress-model Sue Williams.
It’s possible that her name, age, birthday, and hometown were all invented by Playboy magazine, just as Spanish-born and Detroit-educated Maria McBane (Miss May 1965) was given “Avignon, France” as a home town and Ohio-born Laura Lynn Hale was remade into English beauty Ashlyn Martin (Miss July 1963 – probably to sound like James Bond’s favoured British car-maker, Aston Martin). Even Playboy stopped believing its April 1965 text, changing Sue Williams’ birthdate to 14 November on its website.
Karen Sue Hamilton
KAREN SUE HAMILTON
NOV. 14, 1945 – SEPT. 2, 1969
She looked for the best in others
and gave the best she had.
This Karen Sue Hamilton was born Karen Susan Levitt in Queens, New York, grew up in Tuscon Arizona, married architecture student Kenneth Mayer in Tucson in June 1964, did “some professional modelling” and, by 1969, was living alone in Los Angeles, under the surname Hamilton, when she committed suicide with shotgun blast to the chest at 2am.
The source for identifying the actress with Karen Sue Hamilton is the book Who Was Who on Screen by Evelyn Mack Truitt (New York: R.R. Bowker, 3rd Edition, 1983):
Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen removed the references to Arizona Karen Sue (Levitt) Hamilton after being contacted by her brother, Greg, who stated that his sister did NOT pose for Playboy and was 5’10” tall, towering above the famously petite 4’11 actress and model.
This wedding photo of Karen Sue in the Tucson Daily Citizen 15 June 1964 clearly shows that she was not the model and actress Sue Williams/Hamilton:
After The Movies
Sue William’s final appearance in a film was the opening scene of Fireball 500 (1966) as the “farmer’s daughter.”
Significantly, this was also the final film for AIP of director William Asher. According to Thomas Lisanti, Sue Williams was a particular favourite of Asher (at the time married to Bewitched‘s Elizabeth Montgomery but a notorious philanderer) and perhaps her entire acting career, like her one word line in How To Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), was due to him.
Sue Williams’ career as a model was limited to her one Playboy pictorial and promotions for AIP movies, syndicated worldwide to newspapers and magazines: Starlets Seek Natural Look (August 1965), Use Makeup The Professional Way (February 1966), Cool Office Hints and Office Coolers (July – August 1966). Some of these ran as late as 1967 in small town newspapers.
She was not the only “face of Sheer Magic” – as suggested elsewhere. “Super Face” was a promotion for Fireball 500 (1966) featuring both Patti Chandler and Sue Hamilton:
Then in September 1966, Sue Williams, Playboy Playmate, reappeared at the Anaheim store of Cotler’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters:
After that, there is nothing on the public record except for the incorrect entry in Who Was Who On Screen and the ensuing internet confusion with the short, tragic life of a tall young Jewish woman from Tucson, Arizona.
Why did author Evelyn Mack Truitt make this mistake? Perhaps she heard from a reliable source that AIP actress Sue Hamilton had committed suicide, searched the Los Angeles register of deaths and assumed she’d found the right person.
It’s not particularly unusual for an actress or a Playboy model to vanish. Both Playboy and the internet have lost contact with Mary Warren, covergirl for Playboy June 1966 and Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend for four years (1964 – 68). The origin and fate of beach party and ski bunny actress Linda Rogers is unknown. Valora Noland (Animal in Muscle Beach Party 1964), despite her unique name, has faded into anonymity.
Someone who worked on How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and admits they weren’t close to Sue Williams, remembers her as a Playboy Bunny who came from out of town, drove a pick-up and had a toddler and a boyfriend or husband – Mr Hamilton perhaps? If the person’s recollection is accurate, then perhaps Sue Williams / Hamilton is enjoying retirement with children, grandchildren and memories of her brief career on the sandy edges of sixties Hollywood.