|First, you should remember that the Mercury astronauts
were very competitive guys, even among themselves, and each of them wanted
to have the first flight. It didn't matter that the first couple of
flights would be sub-orbital, first was first and that was part of the
These guys had really fought to be named the first astronauts, although
some people referred to them as astronaut candidates. Wally Schirra once
said that they were actually only "half-astronauts" until a space flight
So, after the first 7 were picked they then fought to make the first
flight. This led to a lot of good-natured competition and jockeying for
position and it involved every aspect of their flights.
When Al made his flight there was a stencil cut for the name Freedom 7 and
the name was sprayed onto the capsule. The same was true for Gus' Liberty
Bell 7. I don't know who sprayed the names on the capsules. I do know that
when John Glenn decided he wanted his Friendship 7 hand painted on his
capsule there was a good bit on "joshing" that went on about it. Al and
Gus made comments that a stencil wasn't good enough for John, that he had
to have his name hand painted by an artist.
Gus told me later that he wished he'd have had an artist do his Liberty
Bell. He said it really bugged him that someone else thought of it and he
Also, behind the scenes, every now and then, John would give the other
guys lectures about their be-havior. He'd tell them they were role models
and, as such, they should always keep that in mind. I don't know just how
seriously the guys took these lectures but I think they just kind of
let it all go over their heads. However, Gus would sometimes refer to John
as their "Boy Scout."
One day, as I was leaving the astronaut's office, I met Gus on the stairs.
He wanted to know how the paint job was going with the "boy scout's"
capsule. Then he said he thought what I really should do was paint "naked
ladies" on the capsule because it would really shake John up, since he was
so "straight arrow." Can't you just see that, naked ladies painted on the
outside of that capsule. What an incident that would have created.
I told Gus I didn't think that would be such a good idea. As he headed up
the stairs to the offices he made some crack about the fact that I was
chicken. I told him that it was my job that would be in jeopardy and not
his. They weren't going to fire an astronaut. An artist was another
matter. He just chuckled.
I did get the idea that I could possibly play a joke on John by using the
periscope view. I can't recall exactly what the periscope measured but it
was probably about 5-6" in diameter. Covering the periscope view was a pad
located on the exterior of the glass/lens and the pad would be removed
just prior to the count down.
So, I painted a naked lady. Well, she was lying on some throw pillows that
were very strategically placed. The caption on this was "It's just you and
me, John Baby, against the world." I should explain that because of my
last name some of the guys called me Cece Baby or Cece Bibby Baby. I'm not
sure but I think some people thought my last name was Baby and not Bibby.
I gave the drawing to a friend in the photo lab and he made a positive
print of it. Then I gave the print to one of the white room engineers so
it could be put into the periscope. He promised he would remove it before
As it happened the flight was scrubbed because of some technical problem
and it was rescheduled for a later date. When I went into work the next
morning there was a note taped to the lamp on my drawing board. The note
was from John telling me he had gotten a big kick out of the drawing and
that he was going to have it framed for his den at home. (I have no idea
what Annie thought about that!)
In the note, John asked whether there was going to be another drawing for
the rescheduled launch. He also added that I shouldn't let anyone tell me
that he was upset about the drawing, because he hadn't been. Based on that
remark I sort of figured there was a problem.
It was my understanding that Rocco Petrone, who was, I think, the launch
director for that flight, wanted to have me fired because I had upset John
with that drawing. John told Petrone that he'd actually gotten a big laugh
out of the drawing and that I shouldn't be fired for it. So, then Petrone
wanted me barred from the launch pad. I heard that Petrone kept telling my
boss that I had really upset John and that I might have caused the flight
to fail, etc., etc. A 5-6" drawing could cause a flight failure??? Get
However, I showed my boss the note John had taped to my drawing board
lamp, so that put an end to that.
When John's flight went on 20 February (my birthday, as a matter of fact)
I did have another lady for the periscope view. She was a dumpy old lady
in an old house dress, I think I had her wearing combat boots. Her hair
was tied up in a scarf and had a security badge attached to her
dress. She had a mop in one hand and a bucket nearby. The bucket had
"Friendship 7" on it, in script like on the capsule. The caption on this
was "You were expecting someone else, John Baby?"
One of the engineers put that in the periscope view despite a warning from
Petrone that this wasn't to be done.
Later John told me he got a good laugh out of that one also. Some of the
guys in the white room told me they had all had a good laugh from it, too.
That it relieved some of the pre-launch tension.
So, that's the story of how I nearly got fired and an attempt was made to
bar me from the launch pad.
When Scott Carpenter had decided what name he wanted for his capsule one
of the first things he asked me was whether he was going to have a "nekkid
lady" for a periscope view. I told him I just might do that... and I did.
I didn't do one for Wally's flight because I thought I would really be
pushing my luck. Not only that, an incident had taken place just about the
time of Wally's flight that made me think twice about doing one of those
ladies for his launch.
So, let's fast forward to a few months later. NASA wanted a safety manual
published about certain issues involving safety out at different launch
pads. A couple of pages in the manual were devoted to using the elevators
at the pads.
To show even the most simple-minded among us the correct way to use the
elevators they staged a photo shoot. I think they posed six men in an
elevator; two in the front and four in the rear. All were wearing their
hard hats and facing forward. They made sure that the men in the front
were shorter than the ones in the rear and then they shot the photo.
There were about 300-500 manuals printed and then distributed to different
offices at the Cape. The problem is that someone hadn't been very alert
when proofing or editing the manuscript. It seems that some enterprising
person had used an airbrush to remove one of the men in the rear of the
elevator. In his place someone had pasted in a buxom blonde lady whose
upper body was bare. The person who did that made sure that she was taller
than the men in the front row. It was quite a sight. All of those men,
very somber looking, in their hard hats, next to that nude blonde with a
wicked smile on her face.
When the photo was discovered by someone who felt the need to report the
problem there was an instant recall of the manuals. However, the vast
majority of them were never returned because people wanted to hang onto
them. If you had one it was bviously going to be a collector's item.
Well, you can imagine in which direction the finger of blame was
pointing... that's right, at me. But, I was in the clear because NASA had
farmed out the work for that manual to another contractor and the art
department I was in had nothing to do with it.
I guess that sort of cured me of painting naked ladies. Some time later
Gus Grissom apologized to me about his dare. Said he didn't realize that
such a storm would result from something like that. He told me he had
admitted to Petrone and others that he was the one who had instigated the
whole thing. He even told them he had called me a "chicken."