LOS ANGELES -- Frederick Mellinger, 76, whose Frederick's of Hollywood introduced racy lingerie to a post-war America squeezed into white underwear, died June 2 at his home here. He had pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.
He became famous as a purveyor of colorful, risque' underwear that included satin bustiers, peekaboo bras and a legendary selection of crotchless and edible panties.
Mr. Mellinger once said his success came because "sex appeal is always in style." Born in the Lower East Side of New York City, he got his start when he lied about his age -- then 14 -- to get a clerical job at an "intimate apparel" firm, where he learned the art of mail-order merchandising.
In 1946, he opened Frederick's Fifth Avenue in New York, a mail-order business selling products that his World War II Army buddies told him their girlfriends would like. He said he was inspired by a famed World War II pinup of Betty Grable.
In 1947, he moved the store to the West Coast, where the bright purple Art Deco-style headquarters on Hollywood Boulevard became a landmark. The company went public in the 1970s and is traded on the American Stock Exchange. There are now 160 Frederick's stores and sales topped $80 million last year.
Mr. Mellinger was the guiding spirit of the company, designing brassieres with names such as "Rising Star" and "Cadillac," and teaching himself French, Spanish and German to deal with European suppliers personally.
"Our clothes cosmetize a woman's body," he told the Associated Press in 1983. "They don't just cover the body, they take the good parts and enhance them."
Catalogues featuring scantily clad models and offering sex toys, body oils and X-rated videos were mailed to thousands of U.S. homes, making Frederick's of Hollywood a household name. Beginning in the 1950s, Frederick's offered a collection of garter belts, G-strings and inflatable and "pointed missile" bras.
While seemingly all America knew of the Frederick's catalogues, many got a closer exposure to the Frederick's look when Mr. Mellinger began to open a hugely successful string of shopping mall outlets.
Despite the daring designs and the cost, most of his customers came not from large cities but from Middle America. It was said that one common sight was that of women shopping his emporiums while pushing baby strollers.
These days, singer-actress Madonna and other entertainers flaunt Frederick's-style lingerie and department stores have begun to stock clingy "unmentionables."
But styles do change, and in later years some of Frederick's stock-in-trade came to seem dated and tacky, rather than risque'. In 1984, the firm suffered its first yearly loss, a $148,000 shortfall. Mr. Mellinger stepped down as chairman and chief executive, replaced by George Townson, who set about changing Frederick's image.
In current catalogues, Frederick's no longer offers sex aids, bondage devices and X-rated videos. More tasteful clothing and underwear are worn by wholesome-looking models.
And last fall, the purple Hollywood headquarters was painted gray. Perhaps the new look actually more closely reflected Mr. Mellinger's personal style. He worked in a conservative office filled with conventional family photos.
"Many people," he said in a 1981 Los Angeles Times interview, "expect me to be a dirty, old lecherous man. I think they're kind of disappointed when I'm not."
Mr. Mellinger's survivors include his wife, Harriett, of Los Angeles; two children; and five grandchildren.
SOCRATES J. MYSEROS
Iron Works President
Socrates John Myseros, 66, president of the Hercules Iron Works of Fairfax, died of cancer June 1 at his home in Fairfax.
He and his brother, Nicholas, founded Hercules, which makes ornamental iron work, in Arlington in 1959. They later moved the company to Fairfax.
Mr. Myseros was a native of Greece, where he had worked as a blacksmith and served in the Greek army during that country's civil war. He came to this country and the Washington area in 1956. He worked as a blacksmith here until founding Hercules.
He was a member of St. Katherine's Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church. He also was a member of the Prometheus and Atheneum clubs, both Greek social organizations.
Survivors include his wife, Euridiki, of Fairfax; a son, John, of Richmond; a daughter, Stavroula Larigakis of Alexandria; and two sisters, Eleni Ziras and Giannoula Kiriazis, both of Greece.