Saturday, July 5, 2014

How Robert Harrison helped shape Irving Klaw: Part 1

Previously we mentioned how Charles Guyette was Irving Klaw’s predecessor. We mentioned in passing the remarkable (and mysterious) individual known as "Little John," who not only paid for the early Irving Klaw sessions but supplied his sophisticated aesthetics as a fetishist. But we can't leave out Robert Harrison, publisher of those popular “girlie” magazines of the 1940s and early '50s: Beauty Parade, Eyeful, Wink, Titter, Flirt, and Whisper. It was Harrison, who also gave direction to Irving Klaw and in many ways helped shape the sexploiteer he would become.

Beauty Parade, June 1949, Richard Pérez Seves

We've all seen and admired these magazines. This particular issue (above) is from my personal collection: Beauty Parade, June 1949. I'm posting it here because it's pretty, for one, and secondly because it made me aware of a particular fetish that I hardly gave much notice to before. (This fetish will be more clear by the end of this blog.)

As far as Harrison's influence on Irving Klaw, let's begin with this sweet issue, also from my collection: Titter, November, 1946

Titter, November, 1946, Richard Pérez Seves

If you'll recall in our preamble blog to the first Cartoon and Model Parade, we mentioned that by the mid-to-late 1940s, “borderline” material was introduced into Irving Klaw's catalogs (then called Movie Star News). We said that this was a natural progression ... as what sold would be featured more and more.

But who inspired such material to begin with? It was Robert Harrison, who by the mid-1940s featured such material in his popular magazines. By now, the self-proclaimed "Pin-Up King" was enjoying some success thanks to the pin-up craze of WW II and could afford to expand his mail order business by advertising in widely circulated magazines like those of Harrison's.

This issue above: Titter, Nov., 1946—aside from being intensely beautiful as an artifact (as you'll see) —is a virtual textbook of borderline material, and, as such, indicates the origin of Klaw's initial pre-bondage "fetish" offerings. Such material was even explicitly broken down into subcategories in Harrison's own short-lived mail order business, "Fem Fotos," which obviously served as a template for Irving Klaw's evolving pin-up photo business. Take a look at the Fem Fotos ad, below:

Robert Harrison's Fem Fotos, Richard Pérez Seves

Now that you've seen the subcategories of borderline material, let's review them by peeking inside the magazine, starting with "Corset Cutie":

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

"Seductive Siren"

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves
 "Dominant Damsel"

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

 "Booted Babe"

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

 "Fighting Femmes"

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

 "Long Haired Lady"

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

"Long Haired Lady?" Before looking at Harrison's magazines, I never knew (or acknowledged) that such a fetish existed. (That's the fetish that appears at the top of the blog with Beauty Parade, June 1949.) And even that fetish was featured by Klaw by 1949. (It appears as part of Offer No. 13 ["Long Haired Girls"], in issue #29 of Movie Star News and likely in earlier catalogs.)

Not featured on Harrison's Fem Fotos list, but appearing in his magazine would be what Klaw called "Slave Girls" but what Harrison referred to as "Shackled Sirens." Klaw would even create a separate category in the years to come, which he identifies as his "CH" (or "Girls in Chains") series (which, by the way, featured Charles Guyette and John Willie images, as well as pre-code Hollywood stills).

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

Also not on Harrison's Fem Fotos list, but featured in the magazine would be "High Heeled Honeys"—a phrase that later often appeared in Klaw's advertising.

Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

In this same issue, in the back, is an ad for Klaw, but as we can see, he was still only selling straight pin-ups at the time, although no doubt he was taking notes, learning from Harrison.

Irving Klaw ad, Robert Harrison, Richard Pérez Seves

 Tune in next week for Part 2 of "How Robert Harrison helped shape Irving Klaw!"

Robert Harrison's Fem Fotos, Richard Pérez Seves

  Richard Pérez Seves
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