Over the past few years, it’s been my great pleasure to have an ongoing correspondence with model and actress Eva Lynd.
I first became fascinated with Eva after learning that she was not only a popular pinup photo model in the 1950s and 1960s, but also a favorite model of Norm Eastman and Al Rossi, two of the top men’s adventure magazine artists.
On top of that, Eva appeared in many classic TV shows, several movies, and in some memorable print and TV ads. (She was the girl in the famous, award-winning “Girl in the Tube” Brylcreem commercial.)
After Eva and I became pen pals and virtual friends, she began sharing photographs from her personal collection with me.
Many of them were taken by top glamour girl photographers, such as Peter Basch, Wil Blanche, Herb Flatow, Leo Fuchs, Emil Herman, Morris Kaplan, Charles Kell, Lester Krauss, Earl Leaf, Ed Lettau and Jerry Yulesman.
If you are old enough to have read men’s magazines in the 1950s and 1960s or if you collect them now, you’ve undoubtedly seen photos of beautiful models and actresses taken by those photographers, even if you don’t recognize their names.
Recently, Eva Lynd showed me a treasure trove of photos from her collection taken by Earl Leaf, one of the best-known celebrity and pinup photographers of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Leaf started out as a globe-hopping photojournalist whose stories and photos appeared in both magazines (like NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC) and newspapers.
One of his biggest news coups was being the only Western journalist to interview and take photos of Mao Zedong (previously spelled Mao Tse-tung) during the midst of the Sino-Japanese war in 1938.
After roaming the world, Leaf traveled the US, spending most of his time in either New York City or California in the ‘50s.
During that decade, he made a splash by taking photos of many up-and-coming actors, actresses, musicians and bands who he often helped publicize by writing magazine and newspaper stories to go with his pics.
By the late ‘50s he was also known for taking photos of many the most famous celebrities in the country.
In addition to taking posed, portrait shots, he snapped many informal shots of celebrities at parties and events or on the street.
In fact, Leaf is sometimes described as a paparazzi photographer.
He spent time with them, went to some of the same parties they went to – and had them come to his parties.
Earl did indeed like to party and became something of a celebrity himself. His beard, funny outfits and hip demeanor and lifestyle earned him the nickname “The Beatnik Photographer.”
They can now be viewed online as part of the Michael Ochs Archive section of the Getty Images site.
If you browse those photos, or the set in an article about Leaf on a recent San Francisco Chronicle article about him, you’ll see that he took photographs of an amazing number of famous people.
As summed up by the San Francisco Chronicle story (which the photo of him at left is taken from): “Marilyn Monroe. Clint Eastwood. Grace Kelly. Elvis. Ricky Nelson. The Beach Boys. Natalie Wood. Jayne Mansfield. Debbie Reynolds. Frank Sinatra. The list goes on and on.”
In the realm of movie celebrities, Leaf is probably best known for being one of the first professional photographers to start taking and selling photos of Marilyn Monroe.
He became friends with Marilyn in 1950, before she was a star, and shot photos of her intermittently from then until her sad last year in 1962. Some of Leaf’s most intimate photos of her are posted on the “Immortal Marilyn” website and collected in the book MARILYN MONROE: FROM BEGINNING TO END.
The leggy shot he took of a young Marilyn outdoors in 1950, shown below, reminds me of some of the outdoor shots he took of Eva Lynd that she has recently shown me.
The Michael Ochs Archive also includes photos of Earl and Marilyn at a party together in 1956.
They remind me of party shots Eva has shared with me.
In the rock music realm, Leaf had an especially close relationship with The Beach Boys.
He shot many of the most familiar photos of them for stories he wrote for Capital Records’ THE TEEN SET magazine and other publications (like those on the cover of TEEN SET, Vol. 1 shown below), went on their first European tour with them in 1964 and essentially became their main publicist.
The band even included a snippet from an interview Leaf did with them for TEEN SET on their 1965 album THE BEACH BOYS TODAY, under the title “Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy’”.
Eva Lynd was a budding young starlet and model when she met Earl Leaf in New York in 1956. Born Eva Inga Margareta von Fielitz in Sweden, she moved to New York City in 1950 with her mother, Margareta von Fielitz, a European Countess and concert singer.
By her late teens, Eva was winning beauty pageants and attracting attention as a model.
Between 1956 and 1958, she made numerous appearances in skits on TV variety shows like the STEVE ALLEN SHOW, ERNIE KOVAKS SHOW, JONATHAN WINTERS SHOW, GARRY MOORE SHOW and PERRY COMO SHOW. She also appeared in live specials like The Producer’s Showcase FESTIVAL OF MAGIC episode hosted by Ernie Kovacs in May 1957.
Eva thinks she may have first met Earl Leaf in 1956, when he took some photographs of her at that year’s Art Students League Ball, a big annual costume party for students of that renowned art school in New York City, many of whom became top illustrators.
Among ASL students of the ‘50s and ‘60s were many of the top illustrators who worked for men’s adventure magazines, such as James Bama, Stan Borack, Mel Crair, Ed Emshwiller, Basil Gogos, Roger Kastel, Mort Kunstler, Mike Ludlow, Robert Maguire, Lou Marchetti, Frank McCarthy, Rudy Nappi and Robert Schulz.
One of those artists, Mike Ludlow – who became famed for his pinup art – used Eva as his model for the Marilyn Monroe lookalike in the illustration he painted for a story published in the September 7, 1957 issue of the SATURDAY EVENING POST.
Another, James Bama, used Eva as a model that same year for an illustration used in STAG, August 1957. Jim Bama (who I had the honor of interviewing for this blog) also connects a dot to another notable person Eva knew.
And, as I’ve discussed in previous posts here, Eva Lynd often modeled with Steve Holland for men’s adventure magazine cover and interior illustrations painted by both artists Al Rossi and Norm Eastman.
Some of the cool things Eva has shared with me are reference photos Al Rossi took of her and Steve Holland for his men’s adventure magazine and paperback cover artwork. One example is shown below. (You can see more by clicking the “RELATED POSTS” links at the bottom of this page.)
Although Eva can’t recall which artists she may have met at the 1956 Art Students League Ball, the record shows she did meet photographer Earl Leaf.
An article about the ball in the October 1956 issue of the men’s bachelor magazine NUGGET includes a color photo of Eva looking smashing in a princess costume at age 18. The credits say that one was taken by another photographer, not by Earl.
But Leaf did take the black-and-white photos used in the NUGGET article. He also took some black-and-white photos of Eva that night that were never published – until now.
Leaf gave Eva prints of two photos he took of her. She has kept them all these years and scanned copies that she shared with me.
They’re shown here, for the first time anywhere, as are many other photos in this post that come from Eva’s personal collection.
Not long after the Art Students League Ball, Earl Leaf scheduled a photo session with Eva and took a classic set of glamour girl photos of her wearing a black stole and tiara.
In the late ‘50s, Leaf sold photos from that session to a number of magazines, including the pinup mags FOLLIES, GALA, MALE POINT OF VIEW, PICTURE DIGEST and WHIRL. A decade later they were still being used. In 1969, they appeared in the men’s adventure magazine MAN’S COMBAT.
In 1958, Eva Lynd moved to Los Angeles. Once there she began getting parts in a number of Hollywood-produced TV shows, such as THE THIN MAN, PETER GUNN, THE TEXAN, BOURBON STREET BEAT and DESILU PLAYHOUSE.
That year, she also linked up with Earl Leaf again, who had also moved to California and was living in a house in the Hollywood Hills.
Like Marilyn Monroe and most aspiring young actresses at the time, Eva modeled for glamour girl-style photos published in the various types of men’s pinup, bachelor and adventure magazines that were sold on newsstands.
Vintage pinup photos in that era were sexy but comparatively chaste – as opposed to the porn-style nude photos that appeared in “under-the-counter” magazines in the ‘50s and early ‘60s and in almost all men’s magazines starting in the late ‘60s after various court decisions shot down longstanding censorship laws and postal regulations.
For example, the photos Earl Leaf took of Eva Lynd wearing a black stole and tiara are clearly sexy, but not salacious. So are the many shots he took of her in various poses in his house in the Hollywood Hills.
In 1958, 1959 and 1960, Earl Leaf took dozens of photos of Eva Lynd, in his home studio and various places in his house.
Leaf also took many photos of Eva outside. I’m especially fond of the ones that show off her beautiful long legs, but neither Eva nor I have been able to find out what magazines they were published in.
It’s possible that Leaf took some of his indoor and outdoor portrait shots of Eva just as portfolio shots she could use when looking for acting jobs, something he did for a number of aspiring actors and actresses.
Earl gave 8”x10” prints of some of the photos he took of her. He also gave her a bunch of proof sheets. Since he shot them with a camera that used 2”x2” film, when Eva scanned the proofs at a high resolution I was able to make amazingly good quality images from them.
As he did with Marilyn Monroe, Leaf took a number of informal shots of Eva Lynd at parties attended by various celebrities.
Eva shared some of those party shots with me, too.
After I looked through all of the photos she’d sent me, I asked Eva to tell me some of the things she remembered most about Earl Leaf.
Here’s some of what she told me…
“I spent quite a bit of time with Earl after I came to Los Angeles in 1958,” Eva said. “I can’t quite remember how it happened. However, we instantly bonded. He became a great friend, and he took tons of pictures of me. He photographed me both inside and outside of his house and I would pose for him in various outfits. He lived in an interesting house in the Hollywood Hills. The entrance to his property was hard to find, as it was covered with greenery, and it always felt like I was entering a secret, mysterious place when I visited him.”
“Often, Earl would take me to the top of the Hollywood hills and shoot me outside,” Eva told me. “I also remember he had a neat cat, which allowed herself to be photographed with me in one set of photos. Actually, she didn’t have a chance to complain. He also took me to a lot of parties and photographed me with celebrities like Charlie Chaplin Jr, actor Steve Cochran, musician Ray Anthony and Hollywood gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky. At one party, I met James Mason, who was a favorite actor of mine, and luckily, he turned out to be very nice.”
“One costume party that Earl took me to was a lot of fun,” Eva remembered. “I was wearing a fishnet, with not much else, and he was dressed as the captain of a fishing boat. He decided to pose himself in some of those photos. Photos of me, in fishnet, appeared in several Swedish newspapers, and I don’t know where else.”
“Earl also photographed me in a bathing suit, at the pool of the Roosevelt Hotel, which became a postcard for publicity,” Eva recalled. “Considering that Earl Leaf also photographed Marilyn Monroe and a lot of other famous people, I felt privileged to have had him do so much with me, and to have had him as a friend. He was a delight to be around. And, he was indeed one of my all-time most favorite photographers.”
“Earl, besides being a photographer, was also a very good artist,” Eva said. “I spent several sessions with him teaching me how to use oil on canvas. One day, just for fun, I drew a cartoon of him with a lot of models around him, and he liked it so much that he used it for his Christmas card. He made me do another for the next year. Life happened, and I went back to New York City in the early 1960s. When I came back to Los Angeles years later, it took me a while to get around to getting in touch with Earl again. When I finally did, I found out that he had died. It is one of the sorrows of my life that I waited so long, because I never had a chance to tell him how much he had meant to me.”
Coming soon: more posts about Eva Lynd. Thanks for all the photos and quotes, Eva!
● The Eva Lynd 2017 Pinup Calendar – and some key facts about Eva…
● Eva Lynd vs. The Nazis (and various other bad guys) in Norm Eastman’s classic cover paintings – Part 1…
● Eva Lynd vs. The Nazis (and various other bad guys) – Part 2, updated…
● Eva Lynd vs. “The Tattoo Gang” and evil Nazis, in vintage cover paintings by Norm Eastman…
● Eva Lynd vs. The Nazis (and various other bad guys) – Part 2, updated…
● More classic illustration art and photos featuring Eva Lynd…
● Connecting dots between model Eva Lynd, Carter Brown – and the Rocky Horror Show…
● Eva Lynd…Illustration art model, glamour photo model, actress and more…
● Glamour girl Eva Lynd and artist Al Rossi: together again…
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