Put Boobs On It! Sex Sells 1970 Album Covers

In the 1960s-1980s, if you wanted to sell your record, the most reliable method may have been to simply put a pair of boobs on the cover.  It was a variation on the “sex sells” approach – you might call it “chests sells”.  Whether it was subtle cleavage or loud-and-proud bosoms, we know the strategy worked simply because it was used so unbelievably often – with EZ Listening artists being the prime culprits.

L) Gitti wanted to keep it classy, but Erika said, “To hell with that. There are bills to pay.” (R) Sold! Even though I’ll probably hate the music, I can’t think of a reason not to buy this album of Scandinavian folk music.



More faceless women and their boobs as album cover centerpieces.
In case you haven’t picked up on the pattern – almost none of these cleavage-bearing ladies are actually the artist featured on the albums. This ain’t Victor Lazlo – his sorry visage is lucky to even appear on the back cover.









The record on the left is by a group called The Cuarto Hombres. Needless to say, none of the “four guys” made the cut for the front cover. At right, Serena Grandi is busting out front and center… Simon Boswell is MIA.
That’s not Marin Denny, and that’s not Fred Weyrich. But that’s not to say no female musicians and singers opted to flaunt their assets for record sales. A few more examples…


This album by Elkie Brooks often makes the top ten of ‘worst album covers’ lists. I think this is primarily due to the fact that Ms. Brooks was and is a well-respected artist and her spastic-breast-exposing-contortion seemed unbecoming and “beneath” such a talent. I happen to love it.

You might also like this 1970s forgotten album cover art.

The Secret History of Hunky Male Beefcakes

In the same way that porn magazines are often hidden under pillows or locked away on the top shelves of closets, the history of “beefcake” photography has been highly secretive. The photographers and models who created the hunky, hypermasculine work beginning in the 1940s right up to the pre-disco age did it on the sly, often dodging strict obscenity laws that landed some of them in prison, forced them to endure harassment and attacks, and kept almost all of them hiding deep in the closet.

For Petra Mason, the editor of 100% Rare All Natural Beefcake, published by Rizzoli, trying to track down the images and, more significantly, the holders of the copyrights, turned out to be a bit like falling down a rabbit hole.

“It was an amazing journey in terms of many months of research to try to find the right people,” Mason said. “A lot of this was a secret history, tucked away in shoeboxes or under beds. The photographers were all fascinating characters of varying shapes and sizes who were brave enough to risk for their art by breaking the law. The models were doing it for a couple of bucks and they were either spotted at the gym or pulled from the streets so there isn’t much documentation about them.”

In the end, roughly 50 photographers were included in the book, some of whom are well-known, including Bob Mizer, and a number of photographers who worked under pseudonyms tied to their locations: Bruce of Los Angeles, Douglas of Detroit, and Lon of New York.

Left: Howard Eastman and Benny Piekaiski, 1950s. Right: Rollie Hawk and Leroy Hoffman, 1950s.
Walter Kundzicz’s Champion Studios, New York, 1963-64
Walter Kundzicz’s Champion Studios, New York, 1963

While doing research, Mason encountered some serious collectors who owned a significant amount of work and also had tracked down many of the models’ and photographers’ names.

“Beefcake collectors take collecting beefcake more seriously than cheesecake collectors,” Mason said. “Men in general take collecting more seriously it seems, a bizarre but true fact. I was seriously surprised to get to chat to one of the original photographers who is still going strong, Chuck Renslow whose KRIS Studio shots I think are really hot. Chuck’s a legend and his collection is now in the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago which I would never have heard otherwise, an amazing source of material for a very secret history.”

The book divides the images into various categories including  “Duals in the Sun,” “Figure Studies,” “Neptune’s Boys,” and the somewhat cringe-worthy “Cowboys and Indians.” While a lot of beefcake is often associated with having a gay sensibility, as a heterosexual woman, Mason said she felt the work has a universal appeal.

“I think one of the many things we’re constantly reminded by the media and elsewhere is what we don’t have in common, we actually do. There is a shared appreciation to the overall hotness of the material that is hard to resist for anyone.”

Lady Bunny, a legend in the drag world who wrote the foreword to the book, agrees about the universal appeal.

“I am from the South, so it was not uncommon to meet married women who had never had an orgasm,” Bunny wrote via email. “Women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex too much, so I always rejoiced when I met women who thought about sex the way gay men did, i.e., they wanted lots of it and were concerned with penis size. I think one of the reasons Sex and the City was so popular is that it was one of the first portrayals of women objectifying men for a change. Perhaps Petra was ahead of her time and had been objectifying men for ages! Or, perhaps she’s just a slut who has found a way to mix business with pleasure and call smut art! It works for me!”

Mason added that while there is certainly a humorous aspect to the images, especially seen from a modern-day perspective, there is also a profoundly sad aspect tied to the history of the photographs.

“Our intention is to strike a balance, to give meaningful historical information among all of the gorgeous eye candy.”

(Via Slate)

An 1849 Guide Lists Philadelphia’s Best Brothels

Haunting Photographs of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912

This Guide to the Stranger offered young men visiting Philadelphia guidance in their choice of brothel or “bed house” (where rooms could be rented by the hour, for assignation purposes). The entire text of the 1849 booklet is available here, via the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Historian Rodney Hessinger notes that by the 1840s a culture of “rakes”—male libertines who partook in sex, drink, and fashion—had grown, fed by the new life circumstances of middle-class young men. Members of this demographic now often found themselves living alone in urban centers, away from family and unrestricted by the increasingly outdated apprenticeship model of employment.

In his preface, the author of the Pocket Guide poses as rescuer of his fellow “gay city buck,” warning them away from the dangers of untrustworthy women: “How many hundred men, yes, I may say thousands, are weekly led into the snares employed by the wily courtezans [sic],” the author muses. Referring to the risk of venereal disease or robbery, he warns: “A single visit might be the cause of utter ruin and disgrace.” Often enough, assumptions of untrustworthiness came coupled with racism; “yellow girls” and a madam who had “had connection with the lowest negro” provoked the author’s sarcasm and scorn.

The houses in the Pocket Guide were located in Philadelphia’s waterfront area; along the South Street corridor, where a large population of free black Philadelphians lived; and just west of Washington Square, at the corner of Twelfth and Pine, cheek-by-jowl with the families of working-class and artisan laborers.

Historian Marcia Carlisle points out that the city’s prostitutes didn’t stay confined to the buildings where they conducted their business, soliciting men in public parks and theatres at night and in the business district during the day. It’s funny to imagine an anxious purchaser of the Pocket Guide meeting such a woman, finding out her address, then hastily drawing out the pamphlet and flipping through to find her listing.

1849 Philadelphia Brothels Guide 1849 Philadelphia Brothels Guide 1849 Philadelphia Brothels Guide 1849 Philadelphia Brothels Guide 1849 Philadelphia Brothels Guide

(Via Slate)

Philadelphia was not only a hotbed of prostitution.  In 1912 New Orleans had a similar area of prostitution in Storyville.

Photos of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912

Haunting Photographs of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912

First of all, the pictures are unforgettable – photography’s ultimate standard of value. And it’s not hard to see why the trove of glass negatives by a hitherto unknown photographer working in New Orleans in the early years of this century became one of the most admired recoveries in photography’s widening, ever incomplete history.

E. J. Bellocq (1873–1949) was an American professional photographer who worked in New Orleans during the early 20th century. Following his death in 1949, eighty-nine glass plate negatives of portraits of female prostitutes from New Orleans’ Storyville district were found in his desk. All of the images were taken circa 1912. Photographer Lee Friedlander acquired them and made contact prints of the 8 x 10 negatives on the same gold toned printing-out paper that Bellocq used in his rare prints. Friedlander is credited with salvaging and promoting the work. The mystery surrounding the photographs and the personality of E.J. Bellocq is furthered by the fact that many of the plates were cracked, scratched, or damaged at the time when Friedlander acquired them.

Haunting Photographs of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912 Haunting Photographs of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans’ Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912