Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Robert Harrison helped shape Irving Klaw: Part 2

Welcome back! First up, some eye-candy!

Robert Harrison magazines, Richard Pérez Seves
Now, last week, in considering how magazine publisher Robert Harrison influenced Irving Klaw, we examined a particular issue, Titter, Nov. 1946, and took note of what amounted to a catalog 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, Richard Pérez Seves

These subcategories were 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 two 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 heavy competition. The advertisement below, for example, is virtually identical to Klaw's, offering (in the very same issue: Titter, Nov. 1946) the same deal: twelve pin-up photos for $1 + a FREE catalog (below, left).

Irving Klaw competition, Richard Pérez Seves

Such competition, we might assume, served 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 find a market in the coming decades, becoming a staple not only for Irving Klaw, but those that followed in Klaw's footsteps: Leonard Burtman (the father of commercial fetish publishing) and Edward Mishkin (Times Square operator/publisher). This of course was the subcategory of "female impersonation." Here's a typical spread from the Harrison publication, Wink:

female impersonation, Richard Pérez Seves

female impersonation, Richard Pérez Seves

Years later, in the Burlesque-themed feature films he would produce—Varietease, Teaserama—Irving Klaw also included female impersonation. And Klaw also offered female impersonator photo sets.

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

John Alexander Scott Coutts (aka John Willie), Richard Pérez Seves

John Alexander Scott Coutts (a.k.a. John Willie), as we can see, also participated in photo-shoots for Harrison's magazines, early on.

John Alexander Scott Coutts (aka John Willie), Richard Pérez Seves

In 1949, Klaw commissioned his own damsel-in-distress serials inspired by 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.

Klaw also licensed the publishing rights of Sweet Gwendoline and another serial, The Escape Artiste, from Coutts in 1949. And Klaw even advertised both in Harrison's magazines.

Sweet Gwendoline, Richard Pérez Seves

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, Richard Pérez Seves
How else did Harrison influence Irving Klaw? We might say by providing the models. Take, for instance, Barbara Leslie:

Barbara Leslie, Richard Pérez Seves

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

Barbara Leslie, Irving Klaw, Richard Pérez Seves

Then there's adorable Vicky Hayes:

Vicky Hayes, Richard Pérez Seves

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

Vicky Hayes, Irving Klaw, Richard Pérez Seves

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

Eve Rydell, Richard Pérez Seves

Who appeared as Klaw star model "Joan" Rydell:

Cartoon and Model Parade, Joan Rydell, Richard Pérez Seves

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

Bettie "Betty" Page, Richard Pérez Seves

Thanks for tuning in. Hope you'll join me next time....

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Charles Guyette: Godfather of American Fetish Art

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