Carmen Electra: Peasant Thoughts

Carmen Electra has been rich in love (she's engaged to rocker Dave Navarro) and in her career (she's starring in the upcoming comedy The Guest opposite Tara Reid), so for our pages she's taken, a change of pace by dressing up like a peasant, albeit a pretty glamorous one.

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Behind the Scenes

1. Talk about a family business. When Estelle Arpels married Alfred Van Cleef in 1906, it marked an unprecedented union of two jewelry dynasties. Known for using only the finest and rarest stones to create bold and whimsical designs--such as the $13,000 Lotus ring (pictured right) modeled by Carmen Electra on p. 80-81--Van Cleef & Arpels has captivated royalty and celebrities alike. The Duke of Windsor gave his duchess, Wallis Simpson, a swirling necklace of rubies and diamonds on her 40th birthday; Prince Rainier's engagement gift to Grace Kelly was a Van Cleef & Arpels pearl and diamond necklace and earring set. Such extravagant gestures continue today. Latin crooner Luis Miguel famously bought a $98,000 diamond bracelet for his girlfriend, Mariah Carey. Other Van Cleef & Arpels fans have included Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

2. If the walls of The Paramour could talk, they would share tales from a history that spans seven decades. Located on four and a half acres on a hilltop in L.A.S artsy Silver Lake district, the mansion, designed by architect Robert D. Farquhar, was originally commissioned by Charles Canfield as a wedding present to his daughter Daisy and her husband, silent-film actor Antonio Moreno. The couple married in 1923 and lived at what was then called Crestmount until 1928. Their guest registry included such luminaries as Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton and Mary Pickford, who would gather for parties around the Mediterranean-style swimming pool at the center of the estate. Later, the property was turned into a school for "precocious" girls and eventually a convent for the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. In 1998, interior designer and entrepreneur Dana Hollister bought the estate with the intention of turning it into a spa hotel. The plan was quashed by the city council, so Hollister makes her $35,000 monthly mortgage payments by renting out the grounds for photo shoots, parties and weddings (Anne Heche tied the knot there last year). On the day of our Carmen Electra shoot, Sarah McLachlan was recording songs for a new album in another wing of the house while location scouts from W magazine milled about and party planners for a charity event featuring Elton John and the Red Hot Chili Peppers made final arrangements.

3. Carmen Electra is a self-confessed Coke fiend, and we're not talking about the powdery white stuff. During the course of our shoot, Electra put away a six-pack of Coca-Cola (regular, not diet) in an effort to keep her blood flowing on what turned out to be a rainy, frigid day in November. The Cherokee, Irish and German beauty (nee Tara Patrick) left her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, shortly after high school and headed for Los Angeles. It wasn't long before she caught the eye of The Artist We Always Called Prince, who gave her a new name and produced her self-titled debut album, which generated the hit dance tune "Get On Up." Stints on "Baywatch" and MTV's "Singled Out" soon followed. Today Electra's prince charming is guitarist Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, whom she met on a blind date. They were engaged last August. Look for Carmen in the upcoming comedy The Guest, with Tara Reid and Ashton Kutcher, and in Rent Control with Melissa Joan Hart.

4. When photographer Isabel Snyder suggested that Carmen Electra conjure a little vintage Sophia Loren sexiness--as seen here in 1961's Madame--it was the perfect inspiration; Electra considers Loren one of the most "naturally sexy" women ever. The two sirens share more in common than ample bosoms. Loren (née Sofia Scicolone) was also plucked from obscurity by a creative genius mentor. The Pozzuoli, Italy, native's first big break came when, at 16, she left for Rome, where she was quickly discovered by producer Carlo Ponti, who had also launched the careers of Italian stars Gina Lollobrigida and Alida Valli. Ponti and his young muse would eventually marry (that is, after Loren turned down a marriage proposal from her The Pride and the Passion costar, Cary Grant). Loren has had a remarkable career both in Europe and the U.S., one that spans five decades and includes nearly 100 films, as well as a Best Actress Oscar in 1961 for Two Women. Her win marked the first time an actor in a foreign film was honored with the award.

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