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Meet Dorothée: The French Olivia Newton-John look-a-like who sang about Ewoks and Dungeons & Dragons
12:23 pm

Pop Culture


Dorothée is the stage name of Frédérique Hoschedé, the TV host whose hit children’s show Club Dorothée ran in France for ten years. With an insane daily schedule which included a before-school show, an after-school show, and all day long broadcasts on holidays… thousands of kids spent nearly 20 hours a week watching Dorothée on their television sets. Despite the show’s extreme popularity with children, Club Dorothée‘s tight shooting schedule made it nearly impossible for the writers and producers to turnaround any sort of quality, and many teachers, parents, and intellectuals attacked Club Dorothée for being violent, lazy, and even racist programming.

Dorothée received her first break in 1973 when she was asked to host a short children’s program called Dorothée and Blablatus. Blablatus was a skinny, pink, Charles Dickens looking muppet who wore polka dot bow tie and a top hat. Program manager Eliane Victor declared that Dorothée was incompetent for the hosting job and fired her, she then spent the next several years working as a secretary in a plumbing fixture factory, as a waitress, and as a sandwich maker in a supermarket. In 1977 at the age of 24, Dorothée got a second chance at fame when she was hired to host the program Dorothée and her Friends. The show was co-presented by famous French cartoonist Cabu (who sadly became a victim of the January 2015 shootings at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices).
In March 1980, Dorothée released her first album Dorothée in the Land of Songs which sold 70,000 copies. She then proceeded to record one album a year from 1982 to 1997. Among her many hits were “Les Schtroumpfs” (a theme for The Smurfs), “Les petits Ewoks,” written for the Star Wars made-for-TV film movie Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and “Donjons et dragons” (for the animated television series Dungeons & Dragons based on the role-playing game). “Allo allo monsieur l’ordinateur” (“Hello Hello Mister Computer”) was a tongue in cheek song about asking love advice from a machine and in “La valise” she sang about the items she put in her luggage, and released a new version of the song on every album. For her live concert performances, Dorothée would be joined on stage by actors wearing Ewok costumes.

In 1987, Dorothée and her producers were contacted by rival channel TF1 who offer her a higher budget, attractive salary, and a bigger studio. Club Dorothée immediately became an institution with its wild cartoons, sketches, and games. Children who were members of the studio audience could win a variety of prizes: everything from expensive gifts to series pins and subscriptions to Dorothée magazine. Dorothée presented several music episodes where she sang along with guest stars like Chuck Berry, Percy Sledge, Cliff Richard, and Ray Charles. “I have very good memories, it was non-stop craziness,” she said in an August 2012 interview. 
Adults were highly critical of Club Dorothée, they thought games and the sketches were ridiculous, stupid, and noneducational. Channel TF1 purchased a high volume of Japanese cartoons to help fill out the length of each program. These cartoons were poorly dubbed and broadcast without first being reviewed. Many parents found them to be too violent for children, and many complaints were filed to the CSA (the french equivalent of the FCC) after one particular cartoon featured a character wearing a Nazi-like symbol. Viewers also complained about the blatant lack of diversity in the show, pointing out that the only black people ever to have appeared on Club Dorothée were represented by the most archaically outdated stereotypes imaginable, such as a “comedic” dance sequence for a song called “Banania.”

In addition, the actors often complained about the bad sketches and dialogue that were presented to them on a daily basis. “We do not talk like that, the endless sentences that don’t mean anything, the tirades that have nothing to do with anything… we have been legally bound to go along with these scripts that don’t make any sense” said actor Philippe Vasseur. Terrible rumors about Dorothée began spreading in the early days of the internet: that she hated children, had previously acted in pornographic films, and was only interested in making money. As audience viewership and album sales declined, Club Dorothée was finally canceled in August 1997 after a ten-year run. When the show ended, Dorothée disappeared from the spotlight and immediately fell into the “Where are they now?” file. 




Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
The kick-ass movie poster art of Frank McCarthy
07:24 am

Pop Culture


‘Where Eagles Dare’ (1968).
I don’t go to cinema as much as I once did. In large part because there is too much stuff out there waiting to be seen in places other than the cinema but also because today’s movie posters don’t sell their product. Most of them—and okay there are quite a few exceptions—look like they’re selling something other than a damn good film. They could be hawking deodorant, beer, suppositories—anything but a movie. They’re bland, anonymous, tasteful, safe and utterly in-o-fucking-fensive. They look like they’ve been designed by a committee of cockwombles who are all dressed in identical wool shirts and bowties who like to stroke their imaginary beards and talk about you know nuance.

That’s not the movie posters I like. I want to see the ingredients on the label first before I consume the product. That’s why I dig the artwork of Frank McCarthy.

McCarthy (1924-2002) produced a staggering and unparalleled selection of movie posters, book covers and magazine illustrations during his long and respected career. When I look at one of McCarthy’s film posters I know I’m gonna go and watch this movie—even it turns out to be a piece of shit—because he sold me the damned thing in a single image.

McCarthy started out copying frames from his favorite comic strips. After high school, he attended Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute where he majored in illustration. And so on and so on, into his career as a commercial artist. But you know an artist’s life is rarely as interesting as their work and McCarthy’s film work is the best. Just look at the way he gets the whole thing down to a few key painstakingly detailed scenes. That’s how you sell a movie.
‘The Chairman’ (1969).
‘Danger Diabolik’ (1968).
‘The Dirty Dozen’ (1967).

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The subversive world of Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies: Underground comic satirizes 70s rock
03:10 pm

Pop Culture


Ahh, the endless subversive thrills of underground comix. It is hard to fathom in these everything-goes days of informational overload, but during their early 70’s heyday, they were a thumb in the eye to everything holy and sacred about American culture, including its worship of bland, morally-incorruptible superheroes. Instead of lame-os like Superman and Captain America we had pervy creeps like Fritz the Cat and weed-smoking slackers The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Rife with drugs, violence, sex and sedition, these thoroughly adult “funnybooks” were counter-cultural timebombs. Once you’ve read an issue of Bizarre Sex, Death Rattle or Cocaine Funnies, Archie and Jughead just won’t do anymore.
The underground comics (or “comix” as they were widely known) phenomenon sprouted from the fertile artistic well of San Francisco in the late 1960s. Some of its earliest practitioners/pioneers included Gilbert Shelton (Freak Brothers), S. Clay Wilson (The Checkered Demon), Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) and of course Robert Crumb (Zap Comix, Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural). It took a few years for these gritty, greasy comics to slither across the pond, especially since Britain had a knack for banning this kind of hippy-dippy counter-culture stuff. In fact, the bible of British hippies, Oz magazine, was undergoing an obscenity trial in 1972 and was withering on the vine when it split off into its own short-lived underground comic offshoot, cOZmic Comics. The title combined strips borrowed from American comics with new British artists like Mike Weller, Ed Barker and Malcolm Livingstone and became the flagship for underground comics in the UK.
Cozmic Comics ran for three years and eventually a handful of spin-offs were released, including Animal Weirdness, Half-Assed Funnies, and Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies. Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies only ran for two issues and then vanished, but it serves as a crucial snapshot of an era that treated its rock stars like untouchable gods. As is the job of any subversive, Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies turned that notion on its head, filling its pages with zonked out weirdos blowing their minds and millions on drugs and death trips. Many of the stories in both issues were written by musician/journalist Mick Farren and drawn by Dave Gibbons, who would later go on to fairly massive success with titles like 2000 AD and The Watchmen.
None of the stories are particularly hard-hitting and everyone’s favorite, a tawdry descent into drugs and debauchery by a Crumb-ian rock n’ roll cat named “Dirty Pussy,” was never credited. But what makes these two comics so eminently cult-y are the stunning covers by American artist Greg Irons. Irons was a prolific poster artist from SF who had worked on the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film and was also responsible for the frequently hair-raising underground horror comic Slow Death. He died in 1984 after getting hit by a bus in Thailand, which is a helluva time/place/way to go. The covers he created for Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies achieve what they’re supposed to—portray a slice of live, out-of-control, all-knobs-to-the-right rock action. But in his attempt to concoct the freakiest, wiggest-out cartoon bands imaginable, Irons managed to lampoon rock stars who didn’t even exist yet. Issue one’s skinny glam rocker is such a shoo-in for Antichrist Superstar-era Marilyn Manson that you would assume he was capable of time travel or ESP, and issue 2’s thoroughly amazing blood-splattered tableau seems to predict both hardcore punk and corpse-painty black metal in one-over-the top image.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
When Sparks formed a band with Franz Ferdinand: The best of FFS live
10:21 am

Pop Culture


Wait a moment. Hold it. Just back up a second. Let me see. Nope, we haven’t as yet covered FFS on Dangerous Minds. So, okay, let me sort this little oversight out right now.

FFS is the group formed by Sparks and Franz Ferdinand circa 2014 when they started recording their scintillating and perfectly formed eponymously titled album together. This glittering 24-carat nugget was released in June 2015 to rave reviews and promoted with a series of sell-out, headline concerts all across Europe and in parts of America.

So far so good.

But let’s hold on a second. For you see, in a way, FFS really all began back in 2004 when Franz Ferdinand, a four piece out of Glasgow Scotland, released their second single. This was a little number called “Take Me Out” which kinda put the band on the international playlist and hit the number three spot in both the UK pop charts and on Billboard’s Alternative Songs listings.

Apart from all the admiring reviews and sudden expectations, Franz Ferdinand’s single was heard by two brothers living out on the west coast of America in Los Angeles. Nothing too unusual about that except these two brothers happened to be pop royalty, Ron and Russell Mael, who for over forty have been producing some of the greatest most original and utterly delicious art pop/alternative music as the legendary band Sparks. Ron and Russell liked what they heard and decided Franz Ferdinand were creating a similar kind of original and utterly gorgeous music to themselves.

Sometime shortly after this, Ron and Russell (or Russell and Ron) read in the music press that Franz Ferdinand were big, big, big, big fans of Sparks. Now, this all happened around the time Franz Ferdinand were gigging in LA. So, word went out from one band to the other and a meeting was arranged “for no particular reason.” Well, probably other than to share a little mutual admiration. They met in a coffee shop and at the end of their little conversation together came the suggestion “We should do something together some time.”
Now, Ron Mael describes this kind of coda as “Usually, that’s an empty kind of expression between bands.” But Sparks really got on with Franz Ferdinand and they liked what they were doing. So Ron and Russell wrote the song “Piss Off” which they sent over to Franz Ferdinand.

But like life, promises tend to drift with the pull of work commitments and personal relationships and well, you know. So, nothing happened until one day, almost a decade later…

Franz Ferdinand were playing in San Francisco at the very same as time as Sparks. The band’s lead singer Alex Kapranos was out wandering the streets looking for a dentist—Huey Lewis’s dentist to be precise—who he sought to fix some broken teeth. Looking for the right address, Kapranos suddenly heard a voice ask, “Alex is that you?” And lo, almost miraculously, there was Ron and Russell (or Russell and Ron) standing right behind him. And then they said, “Whatever happened to that project?”

Franz Ferdinand were about to release their fourth album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action while Sparks had released their epic live album Two Hands, One Mouth: Live in Europe. This time Kapranos decided not to let things slip, “I remember sitting down with the others and saying, ‘It doesn’t matter how busy we are, we have to make this happen.”
Watch highlights of FFS on tour, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Twin Peaks’ vinyl figures to be released in March
09:27 am

Pop Culture


Two months before Twin Peaks is set to premiere on May 21, toy manufacturer Funko will be releasing their Pop! Television line of vinyl figures depicting characters from the beloved reborn cult TV series. The figures are expected to be in stores by the end of March 2017.

The Pop! toys feature Laura Palmer, Dale Cooper, Audrey Horne, the Log Lady, Leland Palmer and Killer Bob.


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Thrill to ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor,’ forgotten comic book hero
11:14 am

Pop Culture


#7 April 1974.
Excuse me while I drool. I know it’s not polite but really what else can I do? Having missed out on this classic comic book horror series The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor the first time around, I really don’t have much choice. You see, being landlocked on a distant island far, far off the coast of America, Doctor Spektor never made house calls to my neighborhood comic book emporium in Edinburgh or even Glasgow. There were lots of Spideys and Hulks and Avengers but much less of my preferred taste in the Boris Karloff’s or even the Cryptkeeper’s ghoulish delights to keep my boyhood imagination suitably fevered.

And look what I missed….

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor was the brainchild of one Donald F. Glut—a whizzkid filmmaker who made a total of 41 amateur movies during his teens and early twenties. These mini-movies featured “dinosaurs, the Frankenstein Monster, teenage monsters, Superman and other superheroes”—basically anything that took his fancy. Though none of these films were blessed with any real script they did achieve enough “notoriety”—mainly through the pages of Famous Monster of Filmland—to allow Glut to rope in actors like Glenn Strange—the man who filled the Frankenstein’s monster’s boots after Boris Karloff moved on—to take part on his features. Strange starred as (who else?) the Frankenstein Monster in Glut’s The Adventures of the Spirit in 1963.

Glut’s last amateur film was his take on Spider-Man in 1969 which was a seriously loopy Ed Wood-like film.

But anyhow….

His apprenticeship in home movies earned him a career as a scriptwriter for film and TV. He wrote novelizations of films, too—most notably for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He also wrote storylines for comic books like Marvel’s Captain America (1978) and X-Men Adventures (1993) as well as DC’s House of Mystery (1974-81) among many, many other titles. Since the mid-1990s, Glut has been carving a niche as a writer/director of exploitation horror films like The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001), Countess Dracula’s Blood Orgy (2004) and most recently Dances with Werewolves (2016).

But we don’t need to know that. What we do need to know is that Glut created the sophisticated Doctor Adam Spektor—occult detective and monster hunter. (Imagine having that on your business card…) Spektor along with his Native American assistant Lakota Rainflower investigated strange goings on in the weird and terrifying supernatural world of vampires, werewolves, ancient curses and swamp creatures.

Now having just about caught up with—or rather having enjoyed a prescription of—Doctor Spektor’s marvellously thrilling adventures I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Glut and artist Jesse Santos’ work. Look at these covers—just look at ‘em. They are awesome, aren’t they?

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor ran from May 1973 to February 1977. And while there has been a pale reboot since, here’s a gallery of Santos’ excellent cover art for Glut’s debonair hero who almost manages to make wearing a bolo tie and a goatee beard seem cool.
#9 August 1974.
#23 December 1976.
More fabulous covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Ballroom Blitz’: The teenage rampage that inspired Sweet’s greatest hit
09:59 am

Pop Culture


Well now, I suppose you could call it art out of chaos. That in a sequinned nutshell is the story behind Sweet‘s “The Ballrooom Blitz.” For glam rock’s catchiest trashiest most lovable song was inspired by a riot that saw the band bottled off the stage at the Grand Hall, Palace Theater, Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1973. Boys spat and hurled abuse while girls screamed their loudest to drown out the music. Hardly the kind of welcome one would expect for a pop group best known for their million selling singles “Little Willy,” “Wig-Wam Bam” and of course their number one smash “Block Buster.”

Why this literal teenage rampage (the title of another Sweet hit) ever occurred and what caused such unwarranted and let’s be frank unnecessary violence against such four lovable glam rockers has been the focus of much speculation over the years.

One suggestion was the band’s androgynous nay effeminate appearance in figure-hugging clothes, eye-shadow, glitter, long hair and lipstick—in particular the gorgeous bass player Steve Priest—was all too much for the sexually binary lads and lassies o’ Killie.

Bass player Priest thinks so and has said as much in his autobiography Are You Ready Steve? But this does raise the question as to why an audience of teenage Sweet-haters would pay their hard-earned pocket money to go and see a bunch of overtly camp rockers they hated?

Money was tight. After all this was 1973 when the country was beset by cash shortages, food shortages, strike action, power cuts and three-day work weeks. People couldn’t afford to waste their readies on some pseudo queer bashing.

Moreover, homosexuality was out and proud, Rocky Horror was on the stage, Bowie was the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, teen magazines were giving boys make-up tips, and the #1 youth program was the BBC’s music show Top of the Pops—on which Sweet appeared to have a weekly residency.

Another possible reason for such fury was the virulent rumor Sweet didn’t play their instruments and were just a “manufactured” band like The Monkees. This story gained credence as the famous song-writing duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote and produced Sweet’s hit singles were well-known to prefer using session musicians to actual members of a given group. It was just easier and faster to leave it to the pros.

The sliver of truth in this well-known rumor was the fact Sweet only sang on their first three Chinn-Chapman singles “Funny, Funny”, “Co-Co” and “Poppa Joe”. It wasn’t until the fourth “Little Willy” that Chinn and Chapman realized Sweet were in fact way better musicians than any hired hand and so allowed the band to do what they did best—play their own instruments.
Give us a wink…
Chinn and Chapman may have blessed Sweet with their Midas hit-making skills but it came at a price. This unfortunately meant the band was dismissed by London’s snobbish music press as sugar-coated pop for the saccharine generation. A harsh and unfair assessment. But this may also have added to the audience’s ire.

In an effort to redefine themselves with the public Sweet also tended to avoid playing their best known teenybopper hits when on tour. Instead they liked to perform their own compositions—the lesser known album tracks—and a set of standard rock covers. A band veering from the songbook of hits (no matter how great the material) was asking for trouble. As Freddie Mercury once said after Queen made their comeback at Live Aid, “always give the audience what they want.”

But it was the album tracks that gave Sweet and glam rock itself its distinct sound. The credit for this must go to Andy Scott’s guitar playing (his six-string prowess was often favorably compared to the talents of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), Steve Priest’s powerful bass and harmonizing vocals, and Mick Tucker’s inspirational drums (just listen to the way he references Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums” in “The Ballroom Blitz”). Add in Brian Connolly’s vocals and it is apparent Sweet were a band with talents greater than the sum of their bubble gum hits might indicate.
More plus a short documentary on 24-hours in the life of Sweet, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Early photos of Boy George, Steve Strange & more at the club that launched the New Romantics
01:47 pm

Pop Culture


DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.

Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.

It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
A blonde-haired Siobhan Fahey with at friend at Billy’s long before she joined Bananarama and later Shakespeare’s Sister.
Club host Steve Strange (in cap) with an unknown friend.
See more photos of Nicola’s photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Surreal paintings of Francis Bacon as ‘The Joker,’ Charlie Parker as ‘Big Bird’ & many more
05:37 pm

Pop Culture


‘It was all a Dream.’ An oil painting depicting rapper Biggie Smalls as ‘Max’ from Maurice Sendak’s 1963 book, ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’
Artist Camargo Valentino is a painter whose beautifully mashed-up, pop-culture inspired oil paintings routinely fetch between $4,000 - $14,000 bucks a pop. Though he is self-taught when it comes to his preferred medium of oil-painting, Valentino graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and then went on to study under the tutelage of Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum in Norway and Iceland.

As a child, Camargo spent much of his time drawing pictures based on his toy collection. According to the artist, his creations can take anywhere from 40 to 200 hours to complete and the influence of masters such as Diego Velasquez and his mentor Nerdrum are vibrantly apparent in the composition and use of color to evoke mood in his dreamy oil paintings. Here’s more from Camargo on what inspires him to paint pop culture icons such as jazz great Charlie Parker clad in a “Big Bird” costume:

I paint what I am most attracted to; icons; comics; movies; history; art; sports figures; hip hop; my heritage and world myths. So my paintings are a combination of all these things rolled into one with a splash of myself.

I’ve included a nice selection of Camargo’s paintings below that I think you will love just as much as I do.

‘Bird Lives.’

Painter Francis Bacon as the Joker.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
This incredible fetish photo history book will have you tied up for months!
02:18 pm

Pop Culture


It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.

Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.

Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.

To quote the author:

At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).

In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.

London Life was, as Rund puts it:

...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!

At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.

“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.

In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.

Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.

In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
To quote Rund again:

In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:

“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”

This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”

John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.

Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:

The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.

The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.

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