Nellie Elizabeth “Irish” McCalla was an American actress and artist best-known as the title star of the 1950s television series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Sheena co-starred actor Chris Drake. McCalla was also a Varga Girl model for pinup girl artist Alberto Vargas.
Born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, United States, McCalla was one of eight children of father Lloyd, a butcher, and mother Nettie Geiger McCalla. The family moved often, settling in Des Moines, Iowa in late 1939 when Lloyd began working for Condon Bros. meat dealers. They family lived at 1070 10th Street. Nellie attended Washington Irving Junior High School before the family moved to Marshalltown, Iowa in November 1941, and Omaha, Nebraska in September 1942, before returning to Pawnee City, where she completed high school. At 17, she joined some of her siblings in Southern California, where she worked as a waitress and at an aircraft factory.
In 1951, she married insurance salesman Patrick McIntyre, with whom she had two sons. McCalla was already a popular pinup model by 1952, when she and other models appeared in the film River Goddesses, consisting of several voluptuous young women frolicking in the Grand Canyon.
In a newspaper interview, McCalla recalled being discovered by a Nassour Studios representative while throwing a bamboo spear on a Malibu, California, beach, famously adding of her Sheena experience, “I couldn’t act, but I could swing through the trees”. Her 26-episode series aired in first-run syndication from 1955-56.