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LAistory: The It Girl

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We talk about "It" girls in this town. There's a new flavor every week. It could be Mischa Barton, Scarlett Johansson, or Sienna Miller. We all kind of know what that means. A young starlet, largely untried but definitely gorgeous and sexy. But did you know that the phrase comes from one "It" girl? The original was the one and only Clara Bow.

Clara Bow was an original Hollywood legend; born into the tenements of Brooklyn, she broke through the class barriers to become a star. In case you thought Leighton Meester had it tough, Clara's mother was a mentally ill, occasional prostitute, and her father was abusive and seldom around. When she was born, her mother didn't even bother calling a doctor because her first two babies had died, so Clara never had a birth certificate. Her only friend died in her arms when she was 9 years old. (When she wanted to cry voluntarily, she thought of the song "Rockabye Baby" because his mother sang it to him.)

She used movies to escape (didn't they all back then?), and when she found out about Motion Picture Magazine's "Fame and Fortune" contest in 1921, she entered. She won, even though her part in the film, Beyond the Rainbow, ended up on the cutting room floor. Her mother told her that being an actor was basically prostitution and threatened her with knives.