Last night I watched a DVD of Don't Just Stand There, a 1968 comedy-thriller with Robert Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore. A few minutes into the film, those two are seated side by side on an airplane. Wagner looks down at Moore's legs (she's wearing a short skirt) and then he starts a conversation with a gambit which baffled me at the time.
"Pardon me . . . but aren't you Pamela McCarthy?"
"No, Pamela's my roommate. I just borrowed her legs."
"Well, I'll tell you're taking very good care of them."
Nothing more is ever said about the mysterious "Pamela McCarthy." So whomever she may have been, she was not a character within this film.
I theorized that she was some sort of female celebrity in the 1960s who was well-known, at least in part, for the beauty of her legs. Thus, in the context of the late Sixties, the target audience would be likely to get the joke and appreciate why Mary Tyler Moore's character was not displeased by the suggestion that there was a certain resemblance. But it's been almost 50 years, and I've never heard of her before!
I did some online searching. Nobody named "Pamela McCarthy" or "Pamela MacCarthy" has ever gotten her own page on Wikipedia. (Granted, there could be some other spelling -- the DVD I watched doesn't have subtitles for the dialogue, so I can't be sure of how the name was spelled in the original script.)
When I searched on IMDb, I found that one lady named "Pamela McCarthy" has an entry on that site, but it indicates that her main claim to fame is that after she'd worked as an elementary school teacher for a while, she and her husband founded a company called Hibernia Film Productions. She allegedly has written or consulted on various screenplays over the last 25 years, which seems to preclude the possibility that she was already a well-known figure a half-century ago. So I don't think she's the one the characters in Don't Just Stand There had in mind.
Broader searches, such as Googling for "Pamela McCarthy" and "nice legs," failed to turn up anything promising. (Ditto for when I switched the "Mc" to "Mac.") There seem to have been several women who used one variation or the other of that name, and who at some point were considered "newsworthy" for one reason or another, but none of them seem to have been famous, way back in the 1960s, for owning an impressive set of legs. (Not that I bothered to check out every single link that came up in Google as I searched for various combinations of keywords.)
So I'm hoping someone who knows more than I do about the pop culture of the 1960s will be able to unravel this little mystery for me. Why would Robert Wagner's character think pretending to mistake a girl for Pamela McCarthy was a good way to charm her? Why would Mary Tyler Moore's character instantly know that mentioning that name was a roundabout way of complimenting her legs?
In other words, who was the "Pamela McCarthy" (possibly with a different spelling) whose name was a veritable household word in 1968?