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The weird world of cheesecake stock photography
04:58 am

Pop Culture


This is the third and final installation of posts from the influential graphic artist Art Chantry’s forthcoming book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design. The first is here, the second here. Chantry’s clear reverence for and deep knowledge of the history of his discipline, particularly in championing its seediest manifestations and its obsolete processes, informs a body of work which as much as anyone’s has been THE look of garage punk and grunge, and we’re grateful to Chantry and Feral House for letting us use his work in this form. —Ron Kretsch

We’re all familiar with stock photos. Nowadays, most professional photographers I know no longer take photos, but make stock images. These photos are sold through websites for download and reproduction. Designers grab these photos, sometimes actually paying for them, and then “re-work” them in Photoshop to create the desired image. Basically they take stock photos and make new photos out of them. Strange days.

Maybe not so strange. This system existed back in the earlier days of advertising and design as well. The images were often seconds, outtakes and highly adaptable images that could be used in any of a number of settings and advertising situations. The user would order it through the stock photo house (often out of a printed catalog). Then the stock house would send them either a slide or a print of whatever was needed for their use. The user would pay a “usage fee” depending on how the photo would be used. If it was to be used in a dummy or comp, the fee would be much smaller than if it were to be used in a brochure printed in the millions of copies and distributed worldwide. Very practical, and everybody made money. It would still cost much less than hiring a “live” photographer and working with them to obtain the custom photo image you might need.

In the postwar period—the glory years of “Mad Men”-style advertising—one of the most popular forms of stock photography was the “glamour” shot. This was an offshoot of model photography that would have a buxom, beautiful young woman posing in a variety of peculiar environments (and varying states of dress) that could be used for adverts or calendars or even be picked up by “men’s magazines” and used to entice America’s hormone-soaked males.

A lot of these glamour stock photo companies were little more than a single somewhat slippery fella with a studio, camera equipment and a lot of props. I think of this territory as classic “bachelor pad” photography—that weird fetishistic territory where the hot-shot handsome young man with a camera used the existing system to meet hot chicks and maybe get lucky. Then they would make some money on the side. It’s one small step above pornography. Indeed, back in the days of our fathers, this was viewed as “R-rated” pornography. Those old “morality code” systems disappeared in the late ‘60s and are almost forgotten.

Once in a while I’ll get lucky and find an old catalog of glamour photography stock photos. Some of the glamour photographers became quite famous, like Russ Meyer and Peter Gowland and even Bunny Yeager. Exactly what kind of advertising could this stuff be used for? Dunno. They all have terms and conditions of use on the cover and the rest of the catalog is only photos of buxom scantily clad babes in silly poses. I swear I’ve seen some of these images in old “men’s magazines” of the ‘50s and ‘60s with names like Cocktail and Duke.






Art Chantry is a graphic designer with more awards and accolades than he can shake a stick at, including a Golden Lionne from Cannes. Over his 40-year career, he worked on the dark side of the marketing world, concentrating on popular culture and broken clients.  during that time he managed to brand a cultural moment in time - grunge. His works hangs in the Smithsonian, MoMA, the Library of Congress, the Louvre, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More recently, he’s been getting old and writing down his heretical notions about the work he immersed himself in. The results weren’t pretty. Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design is due out on July 14th.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
American Gothic version of Divine and John Waters
11:46 am

Pop Culture


There’s really not much to say about this fantastic painting of Divine and John Waters taking the place of the old prairie couple in Grant Wood’s iconic 1930 painting “American Gothic.” I simply dig it.

I had a hard time tracking down the artist as I misread the signature as GG Allin. To be honest for a few moments there I actually thought the late shit-hurling hate rocker painted this. The artisit’s name is spelled GIGI ALLIN and here are links to her Instagram and website.

The work in progress via Instagram
Via Divine on Facebook

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Beautiful vintage restaurant menu art as a study of social change
09:42 am

Pop Culture


Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
On June 13th, the Los Angeles Public Library will begin a multi-platform exhibition of their massive collection of vintage restaurant menus as part of a project called To Live and Dine in L.A.  The exhibition at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles (which will be presented along with a series of celebrity-chef panels) consists of more than 9,000 vintage menus collected from the L.A. area and archived at the library. The event is being held as a prelude to the June 15th release of a book by Angel City Press documenting the entire project called To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City by author, curator, and USC professor, Josh Kun (in collaboration with, and a forward written by, chef Roy Choi).

Josh Kun was the mastermind behind a similar project, Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, back in 2013, that incorporated pieces of sheet music culled from the archives of the L.A. Public Library—spanning the years from 1859 to 1959—to illustrate the history of Los Angeles through song. 

As for the historical importance of studying old restaurant menus in helping to understand the evolution of society in general, Kun told the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books:

Menus are social text. They’re urban text. They’re pieces of fiction. And they are written. How can we look at our city and its history through the window of menus? Through the menus, how can we see what was missing? We’ve got about 25,000 places to eat in L.A., but we are the ‘epicenter of hunger,’ according to the USDA. We live in both a foodie society and a food bank society. How do you reconcile those two things? How can restaurants and food be used to restore ideas around justice, around community and equality?


In other words, with many of them dating back as far as the 1800s, these vintage menus aren’t just beautiful to look at, they also serve as tiny time capsules, little printed microcosms that can be used to chart the progress of Los Angeles in regards to societal issues that have occurred over the past century. For example, studying these menus can illuminate the ongoing class struggle against social and economic inequality, the rise of car culture, improvements (or not) in race relations, or even how different types of foods have fallen in and out of favor throughout L. A.’s various historical eras due to immigration, drastic economic changes, or the fact that wartime rationing was in effect. 

According to Kun:

Menus are urban texts which give us a glimpse into a specific time and place by revealing cultural identity, class conflict, race, and gender disparities. Some of the menus we came across are food documents of privilege and speak to issues of food awareness and inequality. It is those kinds of histories that are buried within the menu.

Browsing through these menus may make you hungry, but if you delve in deep enough, you’ll come to the realization that there was a time when ordering from the “dollar menu” was something that only rich people could do. So, if your stomach starts growling as you study these works of delicious art, remember that it’s always best to take time capsules with food.

The menu collection at the L.A. Public Library’s website is searchable. We recommend searching by decade—you can get lost in that collection for hours.



Much more after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Never-before-seen photos of Brigitte Bardot
10:28 am

Pop Culture


Photographer Ray Bellisario, best known as “London’s first paparazzo,” was absolutely loathed by the Royal Family for his tireless pursuit of their private moments—Prince Phillip got him blacklisted from most British newspapers and joked about sending him to London Tower, and Princess Margaret used to refer to him as “that bloody Bellisario.” Photos of Prince Charles waterskiing hardly qualify as “tawdry” to our modern eyes, but at the time Bellisario was considered the most vulgar of characters—he was not considered an “artist,” to say the least.

Two years ago, Bellisario began selling off his collection—much of it unpublished—for charity; his previously unseen photos of Brigitte Bardot are now being shown at Dadiani Fine Art gallery, a far cry from the Euro-tabloids that made him famous. 13 Unseen Photographs, London 1968 show Bardot as a much more willing subject than the Royals. At this point in her career, she was already a massive star, and likely used to the camera. The pictures are beautiful, and not just because of Bardot. Bellisario has instincts for light and composition, and the random collection candids actually look like a high-end photo editorial spread.



More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
For Sale: Beatles ‘White Album’ signed by members of the Manson Family, including Charlie
07:48 am

Pop Culture


A curious artifact recently turned up on Listed for sale is a copy of The Beatles White Album, allegedly autographed by Charles Manson, and members of his “family”: Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel. If this thing is real, it’s one of the most intense pieces of music/murder memorabilia we’ve ever seen. And it can be YOURS for the low, low price of only $49,005.00

The significance of the item won’t be lost on anyone with cursory knowledge of the “cult” of Charles Manson and the murders associated with the “Manson Family.” It was argued by Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in court and in his book, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, that several of the songs on The White Album were interpreted by Manson as signs to a coming racial revolution that would lead to Manson emerging as a Christ-figure.

According to this UMKC site which also details Manson’s specific interpretations of White Album songs (at least according to Bugliosi):

Manson believed that the Beatles spoke to him through their lyrics, especially those included in the White Album, released in December 1968.  Several songs from the White Album crystalized Manson’s thinking about a coming revolt by blacks against the white Establishment.  He interpreted many of the songs idiosyncratically, believing, for example, that “Rocky Raccoon” meant black people and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was a song about getting firearms to carry on the revolution rather than—more obviously—a song about sex.

The White Album played a key role in forging Manson’s warped ideology. 

According to Family member Paul Watkins, “Before Helter Skelter came along, all Charlie cared about was orgies.”

The listing from seller popculturesignatures seems legit:


The White Album of course contains the song “Helter Skelter”, very significant to the whole Manson saga.

All are signed in blue ballpoint or biro pen except Leslie Van Houten, who is signed in black. Manson added the inscription: “Can you live in sin or in it LAST WORD-NO easy, Charles Manson” and added a swastika through his signature.

The signatures were obtained by a gentleman who was at one time associated with the Manson family at the Spahn Ranch, I choose not to post his name here. He acquired them at the respective prisons where they are incarcerated in California, including Corcoran State Prison, and the California Correctional Institution for women.

The top and bottom seams are cut through with a knife, as the album was checked for possible contraband as it was brought into the prison. Because the seams were cut, the cover is now separate from the inner gatefold… The album cover shows other signs of wear, including a water stain in the lower left corner, the result of a fire in the previous owner’s home. Both vinyl records are included. There are a number of scratches on both which I expect would affect play.

As further provenance, I have two additional items from the same source: a bible from the prison chapel signed by the same five individuals, and a Life Magazine signed by Charles, see other photos. I am currently offering the bible here also. An iconic image of the sixties, and perhaps the ultimate signed Manson relic. I will also issue a certificate of authenticity with a photo of the item, the signing details, and will have it notarized as I sign it.



The price seems a bit STEEP to us—but it does include shipping, which is very generous of the seller. For spending nearly $50k, we’d hope, at least, for a Squeaky Fromme hand-delivery.


Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Garbage Pail Kids: Where are they now?
05:58 am

Pop Culture


Garbage Pail Kids are evergreen. Invented by cartoon legends Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden, the Cabbage Patch Kid parodies developed a cult following as juvenile gross-out art in the 80s. The trading cards are now revered by collectors, the depth and grotesqueness of each “kid” a treasure to enthusiasts. Garbage Pail Kids don’t really need an update, but art director Jake Houvenagle and photographer Brandon Voges collaborated on a modern take that really captures the spirit of the originals. Vosges explained how the project came about:

About a year ago, my friend Jake Houvenagle (a very talented local Art Director and Designer) and I (Brandon Voges, commercial lifestyle photographer at Bruton Stroube Studios) went to lunch to hang out, talk ideas, and drink good beer.  In the middle of our conversation, Jake tells me about this concept he has to shoot Garbage Pail Kids, 30 years later…as real people, in real situations, with backstories of how their lives have played out.  I then proceeded to crap my pants, tell him of his genius and get super excited.

I believe crapping one’s pants is the exact response merited by such a notion!

And how did the “Kids” fare? Welllll… it varies. Adam Bomb survived the nuclear blast, only to live a life of regret, while Clogged Duane turned his mangled lower half into a lucrative drain-snaking business. Armpit Britt works two jobs to support her five kids (but at least she can hold down a job with those pit-locks), and Bony Tony now takes it all off for the ladies. Barfin’ Barbara became a successful private chef and Noah Body became CEO of a pencil company—all in all, a pretty decent collection of adult lives!


More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Radio Shack’s pre-recorded musical answering machine messages have to be heard to be believed
09:41 am

Pop Culture


In the 1980s answering machines first entered the consumer market in a big way—and everyone who owned one was obliged to record some kind of outgoing message to let callers know they had reached a machine. Some people (a small minority) were fond of rigging up high-production-value messages. The video at the bottom of the page represents Seinfeld‘s amusing take on this concept—that episode first aired in 1997, so if nothing else it indicates what smart folks from the 1990s thought of this oh-so-very-1980s concept.

In 2010 an WFMU employee purchased an incredible cassette at a library sale (for a dime) and posted it on their great blog. The cassette dates from 1985, and (for younger readers) the convoluted full title, “Radio Shack Telephone Answering Machine Outgoing Messages,” vaguely gestures at the idea that even then, it wasn’t super clear to all consumers what this product was actually offering. Basically, this amazing cassette offers Radio Shack’s version of George’s “Greatest American Hero” outgoing message. They cut ten 20-second (or so) songs, each with and without lyrics, and put them on this cassette for “whimsical” answering machine owners.

Let’s take a gander at the track listing to see what we’re in for:

1. Jamaican
2. 21st Century Funk
3. 50’s Rock & Roll
4. Rappin
5. Soft Contemporary
6. Vaudeville
7. Country
8. Jazz
9. Up-tempo Contemporary
10. Orchestral Pops

Oh, boy. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that “Rappin” and “21st Century Funk” and “Country” represent three singular, er, “highlights” from this execrable collection of “music.” The “21st Century Funk” track sounds like some debased version of Kraftwerk, and the “Rappin” one is so bad that it took me a moment or two to realize that I was in fact listening to the rap one. Meanwhile, the main thing that makes the “Country” one so bad is that it was entirely done on some Casio (or Tandy!) product.

The “lyrics” of each song, of course, are about how the caller has missed the recipient with a request to record some contact info on the machine. Here’s a representative example, from the “Jamaican” track:

I’m sorry that I missed your call
But you don’t have to worry!
Just leave your name and number
And a message at the tone
And I’ll be back to you in a hurry!

Here’s Side A (with lyrics) and Side B (without lyrics). Note that they also made a production error—on Side A tracks 1 and 9 (“Jamaican” and “Up-tempo Contemporary”) are the same track—when you switch to side B, the two tracks are not the same, so you can get some approximation of what the “Up-tempo Contemporary” was supposed to be.

The quality of the WFMU recording is, regrettably, not very good, but thanks to a blog called Tape Findings, we have versions of some of the tracks in considerably better shape:

With lyrics:
21st Century Funk
Soft Contemporary

Without lyrics:
21st Century Funk
Soft Contemporary


Note that this cassette was the “Music Edition”; Radio Shack had other editions on the market as well, including the following: “Office/Home Edition,” “Professional Edition,” “Comedy Edition,” and even the “Rich Little Comedy Edition.” If you want to listen to Little’s shitty impression of Rod Serling dealing with your missed call, all you had to do was ask. The other “comedy edition” is also available to listen to.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Teenage Michael Stipe attends ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ in Frank-N-Furter drag, late 1970s
11:25 am

Pop Culture


A local St. Louis news broadcast from the late 1970s about the fans of the then almost controversial horror-musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the city’s Varsity Theater.

At around the 1:25 mark, you’ll see future R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, in his best Frank-N-Furter drag, talking to the camera about the film.

“We’re all quite normal, really” sez the young Mister Stipe…

The clip is not dated, but seems likely to have been taped around the period while Stipe was living nearby with his family, across the Mississippi River in Collinsville, IL (home of the world’s largest catsup bottle) before moving to Athens, GA where he would meet the other members of what would become R.E.M. at the University of Georgia.

Win a Blu-ray of the new documentary R.E.M. by MTV from Rhino here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Andy Warhol luxury surfboards
08:35 am

Pop Culture


Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol portrait surfboards
Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol portrait surfboards

By some strange twist of fate in 1968, the paths of eleven-year-old surfer Tim Bessell and pop art phenomenon Andy Warhol, intersected in La Jolla, California where Warhol was filming San Diego Surf.
Brillo surfboard
Brillo surfboard (based on Andy Warhol’s mid-sixties work, “Brillo Boxes”)
The Last Supper Andy Warhol surfboard, Series One
The Last Supper surfboard (from “The Last Supper” series by Andy Warhol, 1986)
Although the film would go unseen for 43 years, Bessell had the unique opportunity to observe Warhol and his muses up close during his formative years. According to Bessell, Warhol lived only two blocks away from him during his time filming in La Jolla and that the artist himself even ended up purchasing surfboards from Carl Ekstrom (the inventor of the asymmetric surfboard and snowboard), who was mentoring Bessel at the time.

Too young to understand the sudden culture explosion surrounding him, Bessell was content to be a curious observer, but the experience would go on to help frame his future as an artist. After graduating with degrees in Art and Architecture from San Diego State University, Bessell and Warhol found themselves rubbing shoulders once again at a mid-80’s party at the Playboy Club in New York. Bessell shared his childhood recollections of when Warhol’s “freak show” invaded his sleepy, hippie surf town during the Summer of Love. He says that this chance meeting “opened his relationship” with Warhol and ultimately led to his collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation for a decadent line of surfboards, all bearing Warhol’s unmistakable artwork.
Marilyn Monroe surfboards
“Marilyn” (Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe done in the weeks after her death in 1962)
Elvis (silver tone) and Gun Metal Elvis surfboards
“Elvis” (silver tone) and “Gun Metal Elvis” surfboards (based on “Double Elvis” by Andy Warhol, 1963)
Chairman Mao Zegong surfboard
“Mao Zedong” surfboard (from a series of portraits of Mao done by Andy Warhol in 1973)
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The day the music died: Vintage ads of pop stars selling shit
11:12 am

Pop Culture


‘When You’ve Heard Lou, You’ve Heard It All’ Lou Rawls advertising career covered insurance and booze.
Musicians have long depended on patronage from the rich and powerful to sponsor their careers as artists. As far back as composers such as Haydn or Mozart, who earned his keep with a string of patrons starting with Prince-Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg. It’s the same today with pop stars taking the cash offered by brands like Coke and Pepsi to pay for their tours or alimony or undisclosed bad habits.

While some stars promote things they believe in—guitars, charities—there is always a longer list of those who would sell out for some unbelievably low rent shit—Rod Stewart pimping shoes, Elton John peddling pinball, the Yardbirds shilling toiletries. Occasionally, there are those who are smart enough to use the brand to sponsor their ambitions, like Lou Rawls who sold Budweiser but used the brand to sponsor his telethons. Neat, but not all of the following are in that category.
When Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck sold perfume in sexist sixties ads: ‘She’s among the Yardbirds. She goes for groups. They go for her. She has her own group too. Named after her. Miss Disc. A very ‘in’ group indeed…’
Late 1960s, Dave Brubeck attempts to convince the gullible to buy Sears-Kenmore products in ads for magazines like Better Homes and Gardens.
Rod the Mod was once famous for his sartorial elegance, but here he is dressed as if Walt Disney puked on him.
More mighty musos shilling for money, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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