Mary Ann was raised in the heartland of Michigan. Growing up in the country she always had a desire to move to a big city. Her mother approved of only Chicago, as New York and Los Angeles were too far from home and family, having the approval of her parents she move to Chicago. Once in Chicago Mary Ann started her first job at modeling for A+ Models Inc.
In 1960 Checker would expand nationally into the retail consumer car market. At the time, the Herbert Baker advertising agency, based out of Chicago, ran the advertising campaigns for Checker Motors. Checker needed to develop marketing content for the new market. Brochures and promotional photographs were needed, content that would be as flashy as anything created for the Big 3 automakers.
The agency needed female models for advertising copy and they contracted with A+ Modeling for just the right model, the agency was specifically looking for a highly animated model. Having been in Chicago for a couple of years, Mary Ann had developed a reputation in the market for being able to create many different “looks”. She was particularly good at “mugging” for the camera, she would also model in blond and brunette wigs to create different appearances for the camera. Checker leadership and the agency would picked Mary Ann, and a long relationship was started. Mary Ann worked as a print model as well as a Chicago Auto Show spokeswomen from 1960-1968.
One of the most memorable photo sessions with Checker was an extensive location shoot at the Kalamazoo plant. The photos are very campy, and Mary Ann can be seen with various expressions and poses throughout the plant.
What’s truly amazing regarding this factory shoot, is that according to Mary Ann, the Checker assembly line was running live while the photo shoot was executed. The camera was mounted on a dolly in order to migrate around the plant and moving Checker being assembled.
While photos were being taken of Mary Ann in and around Checkers, they were actually being assembled! Workers were told to just “do your jobs”, while Mary Ann was improvising and posing. There was very little planning that day, it was a very long, fast-paced and improvised photo shoot in all assembly areas.
In one photo Mary Ann is laying on a bench seat in the upholstery department, she appears to be sleeping. That photo was taken at the end of the day, its actually the last photo that was shot for the entire shoot. The photographer asked Mary Ann to “do something”, given the long day shoot Mary Ann mocked sleep.
Another memorable photo shoot took place around 1961 in a park setting. The shoot featured Checker wagons. A series of photos depict a happy family picnic. According to Mary Ann, in reality the picnic was hardly “happy”. Through most of the shoot the kids were problematic: getting in trouble, fighting and crying. In one picture Mary Ann is pulling a cake from the tailgate of the wagon, if you look closely you can see a little boy clearly crying. According to Mary Ann, she was actually pulling the cake out of the wagon to show that little boy what he would get, if he stopped crying and behaved.
Mary Ann’s client list beyond Checker was quite impressive. She was “Sally Skyline” for Skyline Mobile Homes. She also appeared in print ads for United Airlines, Dr. Pepper, Kemper Insurance, Jenn-Air, Staley Beer, Duncan Hines an Sun Beam razors. For ten years Mary Ann was a regular for the Chicago Tribune Fall fashion insert.
Post modeling, Mary Ann has devoted her life to her first love “dance”. A trained dancer, Mary Ann operated a dance studio for children in Wilmette, Illinois. Her students would know her as Miss Mary Ann.
Miss Mary Ann is well known for teaching ballet and choreography to hundreds of North Shore children, many of whom were awarded dance arts scholarships to colleges and major universities. In 2008, all eight of her graduating students were awarded both arts and academic scholarships to college. According to Mary Ann, from experience, “that the discipline and concentration from the study of ballet and dance definitely enhance a child’s abilities in school. All my long-term dancers excelled academically. The arts enhance one’s ability to listen, absorb and then take action. Music and dance both are proven human enhancers. The creative impulse is fundamental to being human. The art of dance engages the body, mind and spirit.”
Today, in 2020 Mary Ann is retired. She closed her dance studio in 2011, but she has been very active in the dance community to date. She currently lives with her husband, composer Howard Standroff in Northfield, Illinois.
For more photos of Mary Ann, check out the album in our members-only album in the Facebook group.