Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Robert Harrison helped shape Irving Klaw: Part 2

Welcome back! First up, some eye-candy! Yum-yum....

Robert Harrison magazines
Now, last week, in considering how magazine publisher Robert Harrison may have influenced Irving Klaw, we examined a particular issue, Titter, Nov. 1946, and took note of what amounted to a catalog of subcategories of borderline material. There were images of "Shackled Sirens," "Corset Cuties," "High Heel Honeys," "Booted Babes," "Dominant Damsels," "Fighting Girls," even "Long Haired Ladies."

Titter, Nov. 1946

These subcategories would be even more clearly defined in Harrison's own mail order business, Fem Fotos, which existed (if we are to trace the ads) for at least 2 years prior to 1950. Such subcategories would undoubtedly serve as an example for Irving Klaw in his evolving pin-up photo business, which by the end of WW II would attract some competition. The advertisement below, for example, is virtually identical to Klaw's, offering (in the very same issue: Titter, Nov. 1946) the same deal: 12 pin-up photos for $1 + a FREE catalog (below, left).

Irving Klaw competition

Such competition, we might assume, would serve as an incentive for Irving Klaw to step up his game. After all, less than a decade earlier, he had already watched his first attempt at running a business—that time, in the fur trade—fall to ruins.


Another subcategory of borderline material we failed to mention last time, which appeared with regularity in Harrison's magazines, relates to burlesque/vaudeville and the blurring of gender lines, as well as gay culture. (In fact, it may have been the only acceptable manifestation of gay culture in mainstream America at the time.) Such material would continue to grow in popularity in the coming decades, becoming a staple not only for Irving Klaw, but those that would follow in Klaw's footsteps: Leonard Burtman and Edward Mishkin. This of course would be the subcategory of "female impersonation." Here's a typical spread from the Harrison publication, Wink:

female impersonation.

female impersonation

Years later, in the Burlesque-themed feature films he would produce—Varietease, Teaserama—Irving Klaw would also include female impersonation. And, offered in most advertising bulletins from 1949 until 1964 (his last year of business), would be female impersonator photo sets.

How else did Harrison influence Irving Klaw? By introducing this artist (below), whose seminal (though unfinished) serial, Sir d'Arcy d'Arcy, renamed Sweet Gwendoline by Harrison, originally ran in the publication, Wink, starting in 1947.

John Alexander Scott Coutts (aka John Willie)

John Alexander Scott Coutts (aka John Willie) would also indulge in burlesque photo-shoots for Harrison's magazines while he was still on speaking terms with the publisher.

John Alexander Scott Coutts (aka John Willie)

By 1949, Irving Klaw would start commissioning his own damsel-in-distress serials inspired by John Willie, starting with Zaza’s Perilous Adventure, illustrated by a family relative (either Irving's cousin or his sister-in-law). "Zaza," by the way, was the name of a maid in Sweet Gwendoline.

According to Bélier Press publisher, J.B. Rund*, Klaw would also license the use of Sweet Gwendoline and another serial, The Escape Artiste, for about a year. And Klaw would advertise both (as adventure cartoon serials or "melodramas") in Harrison's magazines.

Sweet Gwendoline

Those following this blog might recall that both serials were advertised in the first issue of Cartoon and Model Parade:

Sweet Gwendoline, The Escape Artiste
How else did Harrison influence Irving Klaw? We might say by providing the models. Take, for instance, Barbara Leslie:

Barbara Leslie

Who you might recall from an earlier blog looking like this:

Barbara Leslie, Irving Klaw

Then there's adorable Vicky Hayes:

Vicky Hayes

Who you might remember from a former post looking like this:

Vicky Hayes, Irving Klaw

Then there's Harrison star model "Eve" Rydell:

Eve Rydell

Who appeared as Klaw star model "Joan" Rydell:

Cartoon and Model Parade, Joan Rydell

Other Harrison models that crossed over to Irving Klaw would include, among others, "the Hedy Lamarr of burlesque," Lili Dawn, "Cici" Maitland (better known as Shirley Maitland), Kevin Daley, and, by 1951, Roz Greenwood (aka Roz Green). Last but not least you might recognize this lady (below). It was Robert Harrison who would initially misspell her name "Betty" instead of "Bettie"—a misspelling Irving Klaw would imitate and never correct.

Bettie "Betty" Page

Thanks for tuning in. Hope you'll join me next time....
Cheers. —Richard Perez

Index ~ of FetHistory ~ From the Beginning:
FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory
FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory, FetHistory

 *See page 22, The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, 2nd edition, Bélier Press, 1999


  1. Thanks for this useful information! A really interesting reseach work.