Monday, July 21, 2014

“Beat Girls” smoking peyote! Topless! Yeah, man! I read it in UNTAMED magazine…

I’ve done several posts about the men’s pulp adventure magazine UNTAMED.

It’s one of my favorites, though it didn’t last long.

Only 8 issues of UNTAMED were published, in 1959 and 1960, by the company Magnum Publications, Inc.

They all featured wild cover paintings done by either Ed “Emsh” Emshwiller or Leo Morey, two great pulp artists who are more widely known for their science fiction magazine covers.

UNTAMED also featured some wild stories that I find highly entertaining, though probably for different reasons than originally intended.

Consider, for example, the supposedly true story about Beatniks from the February 1959 issue of UNTAMED, which uses a question as it’s title:


In this exposé-style piece, a writer named Gilbert Nash sets out to answer that question with his buddy Bob.

Gil is a New Yorker who knows some Beatniks in the city.

Gil says his friend Bob is a writer of detective novels from Bloomington, Indiana.

Bob tells Gil he wants “to get a close look at this Beat Generation he’d been hearing so much about, and see if he could get some idea what makes it tick.”

“I’ve read Kerouac and Ginsberg and all the so-called spokesmen for the Beats,” he confessed, his brow furrowed. “I’ve read all the books and articles I can find claiming to explain the whole thing. And frankly, all I get is more confused.”

Bob isn’t a fan of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg, or any of the other legendary Beat writers.

But he is especially intrigued by a recent article he’d read “about the kids who held plush Madison Avenue jobs on weekdays and indulged their Beatness on weekends, at ‘cool’ parties.”

Bob says that article described how “all the girls take off their blouses and bras and walk around with nothing on top.”

With this tantalizing image in mind, Gil and Bob began their “quest for Beatness.”

During the course of the evening they go to a Beatnik party and actually do encounter one topless “Beat Girl,” plus some others who are like, really wigged out.

For example, there’s Joannie.

She’s a 21-year-old who has already bedded hundreds of guys.

Joannie, Gil tells us, “keeps track of the number of men she sleeps with and announces the running total out loud at the appropriate moment.”

The appropriate moment seems to, er, come while she’s having sex with some lucky (or possibly unlucky) guy.

That’s when Joannie likes to shout out the guy’s number: “297 or 369 or whatever the number is.”

“It can be pretty disconcerting,” Gil notes drily.

Then there’s the blonde Beat girl “who was not nude from the waist up, but might as well have been.”

Gil says of her:

“She wore a thin, faded man’s shirt, wide open at the throat and tied in a knot beneath her large breasts. There was a huge expanse of skin visible between it and her ragged shorts, which were obviously the barely surviving remains of a pair of dungarees.

She was talking in a low, steady drone. ‘Baby,’ she said. ‘Don’t tell me about the past, baby. There is no past. The past is dead. The past is dead, baby. The future isn’t here yet. Maybe there’ll be a future, maybe there won’t. We’re in between. And in between is nowhere, baby. Nowhere.”

Man-oh-man, I groove on that attempt to portray some nihilistic Beat-speak.

I also dig the story’s unintentionally funny anecdote about how Beats liked to smoke peyote:

“‘Pot’ is a word that is used loosely, like most words these Beat’ kids use,” Gil explains in the story. “But generally it means the dried leaves of the peyote cactus, which are made into cigarettes and smoked. Though the stuff has obvious narcotic effects, for some odd reason it has not been made illegal in New York yet, and lots of the kids use it to get ‘high,’ or ‘far out.’ Aldous Huxley wrote a whole book about the sensations he had when he tried it, and now uncounted young people in New York grow the plants, dry the leaves, and smoke the stuff for kicks.”

The part about Aldous Huxley has a basis in fact. It refers to his groundbreaking 1954 book The Doors of Perception.

It’s also true that peyote and the psychedelic alkaloid it contains — mescaline — were not yet illegal in most states or under federal drug laws when Gil wrote his story in 1959.

Of course, the part about growing and smoking peyote leaves is a bit hard to believe.

Peyote is a cactus plant that has no leaves. It’s typically eaten, not smoked. Indeed, I’m not sure it’s even smokable.

According to the Mystica web page about the use of peyote by American Indians and other fans: “Smoking peyote is impossible because it simply will not burn in a pipe or cigarette.”

I also seriously doubt if many people in New York were growing peyote in 1959.

And, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone refer to anything but marijuana as “pot.”

In fact, as someone who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and who did his share of experimenting with psychotropic substances, I am pretty certain that the word “pot” was not generally used to mean peyote.

However, if (like me) you think Gil’s knowledge gap about drugs and his search for topless Beatnik babes sounds amusing, you’ll enjoy reading his “BEAT GIRLS” yarn.

It’s one of two mind-expanding, drug-related stories we included in our WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH anthology.

The other one is an account written by a participant in early LSD experiments, titled “I WENT INSANE FOR SCIENCE.”

They’re both way out there!

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Related reading, viewing and listening…

Friday, July 18, 2014

An interview with artist James Bama – Part 3…

Toward the end of Part 2 of my interview with artist James Bama, we discussed one of the classic men’s adventure magazine illustrations he painted that’s featured in the must-have book about him, JAMES BAMA: AMERICAN REALIST.

It’s a duotone that was used in the January 1962 of MALE for the story titled “THE FANTASTIC ‘GERMAN CORPSE’ HOAX THAT SAVED OUR LANDING AT SALERNO”

Jim told me his great friend Mort Kunstler, who also worked for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, posed as the model for American airman firing the machine gun in that illo.

As Jim noted, there’s a quote about him by Mort Kunstler on the page in AMERICAN REALIST that shows the painting... editor Bob Deis: I looked up that quote about you by Mort while we were talking...

James Bama: He wrote a very nice thing.

Definitely. He said: “Jimmy and I first met in the 1950s, in Magazine Management’s waiting room and it wasn’t long before we became best of friends. Once a week I’d go in to New York for assignments, have lunch or dinner with Jimmy, and we'd go to the Westside ‘Y’ to play basketball.”

Bama: Mort was a great athlete. He was a great basketball player. He was a track star and I think he was a swimmer or a diver. He used to play basketball with Dick McGuire, who was the star of the New York Knicks and Mort was better than him. When we went up to the YMCA he just wiped everyone out. I was a pretty good basketball player, but he’d beat me like 10 baskets to 3. Mort was a great athlete, a great athlete.

Mort also said in that quote: “Jimmy was one of the hardest working guys I knew. His technique was overwhelming and he became one of the best artists in the field. At a party in 1961, before I moved to Mexico, I introduced Jimmy to Len Leone, which started his career with Bantam Books. I have very fond memories of those days.”

Bama: Oh, yeah, we were great friends for years. I knew his whole family. I visited them in Mexico when he moved there for a while in the the early 1960s. He wanted his kids to experience a different culture. So, I went down to visit him, and some of the paintings in my latest book [JAMES BAMA: PERSONAL WORKS] were based on things I saw in Cuernavaca where he lived.

I did an interview with Mort a while back and he told me that, in addition to linking you up with Bantam Books, which led to the Doc Savage paperback covers that became one of the best-known facets of your career, he also got you your first job doing box cover art for the Aurora monster model kits, which you’re also famous for.

Bama: That’s true. Mort was doing airplane model box cover art for Aurora at the time. Like I’ve often said, my monster model artwork and Doc Savage covers are going to outlive me.

It’s interesting that Mort’s career arc is somewhat similar to yours. You both did advertising and magazine illustrations, paperback covers Aurora box cover art. Then in the 1980s, you both moved on to primarily do fine art paintings sold by galleries and made into prints. You focused on Western art paintings...

Bama: And, Mort does the Civil War.

Right. And, nowadays his original Civil War paintings sell for $40,000 or $50,000.

Bama: That’s what I was getting for my Western paintings before I couldn’t see anymore and had to stop painting.

It’s amazing that in the ‘50s and ‘60s you and Mort were only paid a few hundred dollars to do a men’s adventure magazine illustration. But you both made up for it in volume. Mort told me that each month he did three covers and two inside illustrations for the Magazine Management magazines, like STAG, MALE and FOR MEN ONLY.

Bama: Yeah. Mort had three kids to support.

I read in AMERICAN REALIST that you were doing about one men’s adventure magazine illustration and one paperback cover every week, on top of your advertising work for Cooper Studios and Aurora and everything else.

Bama: That’s right. In my last year in New York, I did over 70 different illustration jobs. I did about one-and-a-half illustration jobs every week. I worked all the time, all the time. I worked late hours, seven days a week and I was single at the time. I was very good at what I did and I rarely had corrections, except for the advertising art. Between the clients, the salesman and the art director, you’d get all kinds of different directions on that. And the ad salesmen were big drinkers.

Sounds like the TV show MAD MEN.

Bama: We had seven salesmen at Cooper Studios and most of them were big drinkers. So, I had to deal with that and getting misinformation and dealing with people who drank.

Did you ever try to estimate how many men’s adventure magazine illustrations you did?

Bama: I would guess over 200. A guy named Rodney Schroeder is trying to collect everything I’ve ever done. He sent me probably over 100 Xerox copies of my artwork from men’s adventure magazines that he’s come across. I would guess I did about 200. I have 25 covers that I did, reproductions, and I think I may have them all. I can’t remember. It’s been too many years, but I have 25 here and the inside ones may be close to 200. I did a lot, Bob.

An illustration like the one for the “German Corpse Hoax” story has so many elements: the interior of the plane, the machine gun, Americans in uniforms, Nazis in frogmen suits. How would you put all that together?

Bama: Well, I would do a sketch and create a composition for myself. Then I’d figure out the lighting and the poses and then I’d get people to pose for me.

And you used the reference files you had from cutting out pictures in magazines for things like the plane, the gun and so forth?

Bama: Yes. And, in addition to my own reference files, we also had a big set of reference files at Cooper Studios. And, I had the New York Public Library available. So, I would so research first and I would base parts of my illustrations on the images I could find.

How long would it take to from start to finish to create a magazine illustration or a paperback cover painting?

Bama: Well, it depended how fast the photographer at Cooper’s could process the film I shot and give me prints, and sometimes on how fast I could book a model like Steve Holland. Sometimes he was pretty booked up. But I usually had short deadlines, like ten days to two weeks to do those kinds of paintings.

Once you sat down to do the painting itself, about how long would that take?

Bama: Oh, God. It depends. People have often asked me that. If there’s just one figure, like the cover painting I did of Bobby Kennedy for a Bantam paperback, that was one thing. [ROBERT KENNEDY: A MEMOIR by Jack Newfield, first published in 1969.] It was a single figure. If you’ve got a painting with ten or fifteen figures, it could take ten or fifteen times as long.

When you got an assignment from a men’s adventure magazine, what did they give you for background on the story?

Bama: Well, I don’t think I ever read the stories. They just gave me a synopsis. That’s what Bantam Books did, too. The editors would get together and they would pick their artist and they gave you a synopsis of the book. I would never have had time to read the books or the magazine stories. I did read all the Doc Savages. It was beneath the dignity of the editors to read them. Each one took me about 90 minutes to read. I read all 62 Doc Savage novels that I did cover paintings for and the editors let me do whatever I wanted for the cover paintings. That’s why they were good. The only other one I read for Bantam was about Mozart, because I was interested in his life.

So you didn’t read the Magazine Management magazines you worked for?

Bama: Oh, no. I never read them. I never had time. I did a lot of stuff for READER’S DIGEST and their Condensed Books series, like Captain Hornblower and things like that. [For example, HORATIO HORNBLOWER: BEAT TO QUARTERS, which was included with Robert Byrd’s ALONE in READER’S DIGEST BEST LOVED BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS]. But no, I didn’t read Magazine Management’s men’s adventure magazines. I think I may have read some of the READER’S DIGEST books just because I did about six or eight illustrations for them, but I wound up quitting them and everybody except Bantam in 1968. Of course, then I went into fine art and it was a different ball game.

Aside from Mort Kunstler, did you know many of the other artists who were regular artists for the Magazine Management magazines, like Raphael DeSoto, Mel Crair, Robert Schulz, or…?

Bama: Well, Mel Crair and I went to art school together. We were good friends, yeah. Also Bob Schulz. We were all fellow students at the Art Students League in New York. They were both in my class. I knew who Raphael Desoto was and I’ve read all about him. I knew about some of the others but not as friends. We’d each only come into the Magazine Management offices for a couple of minutes, see the art director, and then leave. I only met someone if they happened to be in the waiting room at the same time. That’s where I first met Mort Kunstler.

Mel Crair and Robert Schulz both did hundreds of illustrations for men’s adventure magazines, like you and Mort.

Bama: Yeah, Mel was a good draftsman. He did very good realistic covers. Schulz, too, and Stan Borack. Stan was another fellow student at the Art Students League. He did beautiful covers for men’s adventure magazine. Mel, Bob, Stan and a lot of others all came from Frank Reilly’s class. We were all trained by him to do that kind of stuff.

My perception is that even though the men’s adventure magazines didn’t pay as well or have the prestige of mainstream magazines like the SATURDAY EVENING POST, they were important to a lot of illustration artists because they gave them gave a lot of work. 

Bama: We always had work from them. They were important in that respect. Oh, yeah. They paid horribly, but even with the SATURDAY EVENING POST I would only get $900 for a double spread. I did a lot of stuff for the POST too, illustrating stories by big time authors like Ray Bradbury and Pearl Buck. They paid $900.

So about three times as much and the men’s adventure magazines.

Bama: Yeah. But a lot of the other artists weren’t able to get assignments from magazines like the POST.

How about the men’s adventure magazines that had the highest circulations, ARGOSY, TRUE and SAGA?

Bama: Oh, I did quite a few jobs for ARGOSY and I did one for TRUE magazine. I remember Bernard White was the Art Director of ARGOSY and my fellow artists who knew Bernie said don’t go in after lunch because he’s a big drinker and he’d forget what he told you when he gave you the assignment. So, I’d always come in to see him in the morning and I did a lot of stuff for ARGOSY magazine. What happened with magazines that used a lot of illustration art like the SATURDAY EVENING POST in the ‘60s, the circulation was good, but people that were advertising were buying less and less ad space because they were catering to the older generation, which was no longer their major market. They almost all folded around the time when I moved here to Wyoming in 1968.

Some of the men’s adventure magazines continued on for a while into the 1970s, but in those final years they had more and more nude photos and less and less artwork.

Bama: I remember the SATURDAY EVENING POST tried to keep up. They hired an art director, I forget his name, and he redesigned the magazine so it was mostly a decorative layout with big lettering and small illustrations. And, they revived it, but not nearly like it was. I go way back and you can see I have a good memory. A very good memory. How old are you, Bob?

I’m 64.

Bama: How’s your health?

Pretty good so far, though I don’t think I’m in as good a shape as you are.

Bama: Well, no one is. I’ve been hitting a heavy bag for sixty-one-and-a-half years. When I was 26 I started a self-improvement program. I started taking dance lessons and I joined the YMCA and started lifting weights. And I got close to the world’s record by the time I was 35.

Jim, I want you to know I really appreciate you taking the time to share all these memories and facts with me and my readers.

Bama: Well, listen. We’re all in the same boat. Aren’t we? If you’re not nice, what’s the point of living? Of course, sometimes people take advantage. When my AMERICAN REALIST book came out, the deal was I had to go on a book-signing tour. And I was in Carmel, California and some guy wanted to sign a book for his girlfriend by writing, “Thanks for last night.” I didn’t.

You know, I only recently found a copy of the special Deluxe Limited Edition of JAMES BAMA: AMERICAN REALIST with the DVD and finally got to watch the documentary about you. It’s really great!

Bama: I just gave a copy with the DVD to my neighbor who plowed me out last winter. That video was taken when I was 68 years old. I’m almost 88 now. It was taken 20 years ago, almost 21 years ago.

It’s amazing how time flies.

Bama: Oh, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. And basically, I’ve never looked myself up on the Internet because I know everything. I don’t have to look it up. I can’t even see the computer now anyway. However, some time ago, I was at the library and there was a reporter there who was talking to a friend of mine, and he does all of his reporting on his computer. He showed me some of what there was about me online. There was tons of stuff, including some things that said I did a cover with Captain America, which I never did. I never did that cover.

Nowadays, there are a lot of your Western paintings online.

Bama: Yeah, I had three books come out of my Western art and they’re all sold out. And, recently there was a showing of my Western photographs. I’ve been taking pictures out here for almost 40 years and I’ve got a record of all the old-timers: a guy who drove a 24-horse steam stagecoach, the oldest living Arapaho Indian, who was in Tim McCoy’s Wild West Show and performed in front of Queen Victoria and was in the silent movie COVERED WAGON. I caught a lot of these people when they were in their 90's. And Robert Yellowtail, who was a famous Crow Indian Chief. I got them not only in my artwork, but in the photography.

I’m looking at a copy of THE WESTERN ART OF JAMES BAMA as we speak.

Bama: That was the first one. Then I started doing prints of my Western artwork at the same time. The second one was called THE WESTERN ART OF JAMES BAMA REVISED, and they used eight more images and almost doubled the price.

You know, in the DVD documentary and this interview, I hear you pronounce your name as Bama, like Alabama, not Baw-muh, with a soft “a.” I’d been saying it wrong for years.

Bama: Well, I don’t know. People pronounce it every which way. My father was a Russian immigrant. I don’t know how they pronounced it. I’ve always said Bama, like Alabama. Maybe I’ve been saying it wrong. I don’t know.

Ha! Well, at least now I know how you say it. Thanks again for talking with me, Jim. I greatly appreciate it.

Bama: You’re very welcome.

[In case you missed them, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of my interview with James Bama.]

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Books about James Bama and his art…

Limited edition prints of James Bama’s Western art…

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An interview with artist James Bama – Part 2…

A while ago, I posted Part 1 of a transcribed phone conversation I had with James Bama, one of the greatest of all of the many great artists who spent a portion of the careers doing illustration art for men’s pulp adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Near the end of that post, Jim explained that after serving in the US Army Air Corps during World War Two, he used the GI bill to go to art school.

Like many top illustration artists of the second half of the 20th Century, he studied under the legendary art teacher Frank J. Reilly at the Art Students League in New York.

Some of the other students of Reilly who, like Jim Bama, went on to do classic illustration art for men’s adventure magazines and pulp paperbacks include Stan Borack, Mel Crair, Ed Emshwiller, Basil Gogos, Roger Kastel, Robert Maguire, Lou Marchetti, Frank McCarthy, Rudy Nappi, Robert Schulz.

(For more about Frank Reilly, I recommend the fascinating essay about him by pinup artist and art historian Kent Steine, posted on the American Art Archives site.) editor Bob Deis: It’s truly amazing how many great illustration artists studied under Reilly.

James Bama: Well, Frank Reilly probably produced more students who could make make a living at art than anyone. He was the most popular teacher at the League and I was one of his best students. I used to substitute for him in classes after I was there for a while.

He died in 1967, before he could see how famous and successful you would become. But I think I can see his influence in every facet of your work.

Bama: Yes, I had great training from Frank. Both of my parents had died and Frank was almost like father to me. He and his wife were very nice to me. I used to work all night with him on jobs when I was still in art school. I also used to work on commercial art jobs with him.

I’ve read that two of your other big influences were comic strip artists: Alex Raymond, the creator of Flash Gordon and Hal Foster, who created Prince Valiant.

Bama: Yes, I was four months shy of eight years old when Flash Gordon came out in 1934 and I kept copies of that comic strip for 10 years until I was 18. I’d go to the candy store every Sunday and wait for the newspaper truck to come. I must have known how good he would be. Alex Raymond grew and grew and grew as an artist. He was incredible, and he was my first hero. I loved Hal Foster’s comic strips, too. In fact, I originally wanted to be a cartoonist. I used to copy comic strips all the time, like Flash Gordon and Tarzan...

Hal Foster also drew the Tarzan comic strip in the ‘30s.

Bama: That’s right. So, I wanted be a cartoonist and as a teenager I managed to get a job working for Burris Jenkins, Jr. who was one of the two leading sports cartoonists in the country. He worked for Hearst, for the Journal-American, an afternoon newspaper in New York. When I was 15 years old I did my first original artwork. I sold an aerial view of Yankee Stadium to The Sporting News for $50. Jenkins was too busy to do it. I worked for him when I was 15, and then I was offered two jobs when I was finishing high school with Jimmy Hatlo, who did the comic “They'll Do It Every Time,” and Bob Oksner, who did a detective series whose name I don’t remember, before going on to work for DC Comics. So, I was doing those two jobs and I had even worked up my own comic strip, “Mr. Faith.” But then the war happened and I went into the service, then I got the GI Bill and went to art school and wound up being an illustrator. But I always wanted to be a cartoonist. And, Alex Raymond and Hal Foster were my two biggest influences when I was a kid. Ironically, I wound up writing the introductions to books about both of them. What are the odds on that? [EDITOR’S NOTE: The books are ALEX RAYMOND: HIS LIFE AND ART and HAL FOSTER: PRINCE OF ILLUSTRATORS, FATHER OF THE ADVENTURE STRIP.]

And, ironically, your favorite male model as an illustration artist, Steve Holland, played Flash Gordon in the FLASH GORDON TV series in the ‘50s.

Bama: Yes, and I knew him before he was Flash Gordon. It was in 1954, I think, when he made the TV show in Germany. It had those terrible sets.

I read in the great book about you, JAMES BAMA: AMERICAN REALIST, that you met Steve in 1949. But it doesn’t say how you met him.

Bama: Well, Steve was already a model then and I booked him in 1949 for my first paperback cover. It was called A BULLET FOR BILLY THE KID. That was first paperback I ever did. I think they sold for 25 cents or something like that, and I booked Steve.

How did you find Steve Holland? Did he have an agent?

Bama: Well, that’s a good question. All the models had sheets with pictures of them and the agencies would send them out to everybody. I don’t remember how I got a hold of his, but I did.

And that was a couple of years before you started working at the Cooper Studios agency doing advertising art?

Bama: Yes. And, then we became good friends and Steve modeled for me more than anyone. We were friends until the end. I knew his wife and kids, too. I used his boys as models, with race cars and tracks, for an Aurora race car set box cover. They posed for me over at Steve’s apartment. He died in 1997 and he was only about a year older than me. I thought we were the same age, but I just did an article about him for Anthony Tollin and Brian Cain, 150 words describing Steve Holland, for one of their new Doc Savage reprints. Steve was a terrific model and after I used him for all the Doc Savage covers I did, he became known for that. But, ironically, he was also Flash Gordon, and the Flash Gordon comic was one of the biggest influences in my life.

It’s very cool the DVD in the special edition of AMERICAN REALIST includes an interview with Steve Holland talking about you that was taped before he died. I read somewhere that he wanted to be an illustrator himself.

Bama: Yeah, in fact I gave all my files to Steve when I left New York to move to Wyoming in 1968. He had started doing illustration and I left all my files with Steve. We were very good friends.

Your reference files?

Bama: Yeah.

Another artist I interviewed who did a lot of work for men’s adventure magazine, Bruce Minney, told me he collected drawers full of files of reference pictures that he cut out of magazines. Is that what you did?

Bama: I know Bruce’s name but never met him. Yes, I had a bunch of reference files and that’s where they all were from, magazines, and I gave them to Steve when I left. And, here’s a funny thing about him. You’ll appreciate this. I created that ripped shirt he wore as Doc Savage. I remember when I was a teenager my uncle was a cab driver and when my mother died I moved in with my two aunts and my uncle. He used to buy pulp magazines and he gave me his Doc Savages. I still remember the first Doc Savage pulp cover I saw. He had a ripped shirt and was in the jungle [in a cover painting by Walter Baumhofer], and that’s how I conceived the shirt for my version of the character. So, I ripped up a shirt and gave it Steve Holland to wear and it worked great. And, we kept using it for years. Then, when I moved to Wyoming in 1968 I left the shirt with Steve, along with the pants and the boots we used for Doc. Well, after I moved, his daughter was cleaning the house, his apartment, and she thought shirt was a dust rag and she threw it out. For a while after I moved to Wyoming, I was still doing Doc Savage covers, So, Steve had to create another one, which wasn’t quite like the one I made. Anyway, that’s the story of his ripped shirt.

Steve Holland was used by so many illustration artists. Do you think he made a good living as a model.

Bama: Well, I don’t know how to evaluate that. I paid him $25 an hour and he never raised his hourly prices. I don’t think he got rich, but I think he did pretty well. I don’t think he was money hungry.

Did you use any other male models on a regular basis?

When artists were doing work for some of the top magazines, like the Saturday Evening Post, or the women’s magazines, they usually used different kinds of male models. But he worked for just about everybody who was doing the men’s adventure paintings and paperback covers. I also used Vic Coutrer. He’s the one cutting the wire fence at night for a cover painting I did for MALE. He modeled for me. So did Burke McHugh, who was gay. He was very good for advertising. He was like the father type.

One of the female models I’ve interviewed and gotten to know is Eva Lynd. She did a lot of modeling sessions with Steve Holland for men’s adventure and paperback covers done by artists Al Rossi and Norm Eastman.

Bama: I don’t remember using her.

Eva and I think we’ve IDed at least one interior illustration by you that features her.

Bama: Could be, I don’t remember. I used a lot of models, though I used certain models over and over again. I used my wife Lynne a lot for paperback covers. I met her at a party in 1963 and we got married a year later. I also used Andrea Dromm.

You noted in AMERICAN REALIST that one day Lynne would pose as a hooker, like she was for the cover you did for the book MIDNIGHT COWBOY, and another day she’d be a nun. And, Andrea Dromm was on some of your most popular Bantam covers, like TOMBOY and THE HELLER and, of course, she posed with Steve Holland for THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT.

Bama: That’s right. But I can’t remember the names of most of the other female models I used, I used so many. In New York back then, you got to meet all kinds of people who were modeling part-time. Some made it big and some didn’t. I do remember using the actress Maggie Pierce for some advertising art and she wound up being the lead in the TV show MY MOTHER, THE CAR, which I never saw. I tried to date her. That was before I met Lynne. Maggie had been a nurse and she was a real American girl. I used her quite a bit as a model, but she turned me down for a date. Then all of a sudden, one day out of the blue, I was working and she called me up and she said, “Let’s go to the movies together.” So, the movie DIABOLIQUE was playing and I was supposed to meet her in front of the theater and she never showed up. To this day, I never heard from her. That’s what they’d do to you.

Did you do all your own photography of the models?

Bama: Oh, yeah. I did all my own photography, all my own. I posed the models and arranged the lighting and everything.

From the early-1950s to the mid-1960s, you did advertising art at Cooper Studios during the day and illustration art for magazines and paperbacks at night and on the weekends. Did you do the photography sessions for that work at Cooper’s?

Bama: Yes. Then when Cooper folded, I would do it at home. Steve Holland and other models used to come up and pose for me at my house.

How long would a modeling session last?

Bama: Well, we would usually book a model for an hour, but it didn’t always take that long. When I moved out here, I kept doing all my own photos, all the ones I used for my Western paintings. But for a while, I was still doing Doc Savage covers after I moved to Wyoming and I couldn’t bring Steve out here to photograph him. So when I’d go to New York to take my Western paintings to galleries, I’d take a whole bunch of stock shots of Steve as Doc Savage in different lighting and different poses and I used them on the final covers I did for the series, even though I didn’t know what all the scenes would be. I did 62 Doc Savage covers in all and Steve was on every one of them.

Did you also do your own processing of the film?

Bama: Only in art school. We had a darkroom in the bathroom there. At Cooper Studios we had a photographer who did all the processing and printing for us.

So would you get them back the next day or would it take days?

Bama: We were always on his back. No, it was right away, we’d get contact sheets and then we’d pick out enlargements, and go as fast as he could do them because we always had tight deadlines. Everything was a deadline for magazines. It was due yesterday.

After you got the photos, did you show sketches to art directors of the men’s adventure magazines, or just bring in the finished paintings?

Bama: For the men’s adventure magazines I didn’t do sketches and I never redid anything. They didn’t ask for changes. I was too good. But in advertising – oh, they gave you fits. Between the salesman and the art director and the client, you’ve got all kinds of different directions. One wanted one thing and one wanted the other. And, they never paid you for corrections. So finally I would refuse to do more changes and eventually I stopped doing advertising art. I remember I did an American Standard air-conditioners ad. It was the outside of a house, a wooden house, and it was at night and it was in a blue moon, the house, and inside the family was watching television. That was bright colors. The art director wanted me to paint the house bluer and then the client didn’t like it blue and he wanted it back the way it was. They give you fits and that’s one reason I quit. The paperbacks never gave me a hard time because I made millions of dollars for those people. The cover I did for THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT sold something like three million copies. I did covers for a lot of books that made millions of dollars, including four Pulitzer Prize winners.

Your men’s adventure magazine illustrations have the same dramatic lighting as many of your famous paperback covers and your Western paintings, but the brushwork seems less textured.

Bama: That’s because for the men’s adventure magazines, I worked with fast-drying, water-based paints on illustration board because of the deadlines. My paperbacks and fine art paintings were almost all in oil. When you work in oils, the paint is thick and you work on a textured surface. When you work in water-based paint, the paint is thin and you work on an illustration board, which is smoother.

Did you use gouache for the men’s adventure art?

Bama: No, I didn’t use gouache. I liked to use tempera.

All of your cover paintings for the men’s adventure mags are in color, of course, and some of the interiors you did were full color. But many of them were duotones. Did the Art Directors tell you which tones to use for the duotones?

Bama: Yes. They didn’t vary them much in an issue. A lot of the duotones I did are warm-colored. By the way, for one of the duotones shown in my AMERICAN REALIST book, Mort Kunstler posed for me. He’s the guy firing a machine gun inside a plane that was sinking. Another guy was slumped over the steering wheel. The plane was sinking and a couple of Nazis were coming in from the water. Mort’s in profile firing a machine gun. I think it’s the only time I used him as a model. He was very good looking. And, he wrote a nice thing about me that’s on the top of that page in the book.

That’s the story titled “German Corpse Hoax.” And, I notice that the Nazis all look like –

Bama: Yeah, they were all Steve Holland.

Steve Holland appears to have been used for multiple characters in a lot of illustrations in men’s adventure magazines done by you and other artists.

Bama: Yes, I would use Steve for multiple people for men’s adventure paintings. The magazines didn’t pay enough to book too many models. Sometimes I did book Steve and use some other artists as models in the same scene. At Coopers Studio, I worked with 45 other artists and so I had all of them available to me. In my men’s adventure illustrations, most of the men are either Steve Holland or my fellow artists at Coopers. I also used my best friend, Larry Leibowitz. He was retired and had plenty of money. After World War Two, he and his brother built homes like Levittown and they both retired pretty young. His father was Judge Samuel Leibowitz, who was famous. When he was a lawyer, he went to defend the Scottsboro Boys down south, and Quentin Reynolds wrote a book on him called COURTROOM. He also defended a lot of gangsters. He was a brilliant lawyer and was a judge for many years. Anyway, his son Larry was Hollywood handsome and he posed for me for many book covers and men’s adventure magazine illustrations. But not as many as Steve Holland. Steve was the best.


Here are links to PART 1 and PART 3 of my interview with the great James Bama…

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