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Irving Klaw and Bettie Page More of the Early Years series by Jim Linderman



COLLECTION JIM LINDERMAN

COLLECTION JIM LINDERMAN

As these scarce envelopes indicate, while Betty Grable was being reported as the pinup our boys favored in their foxholes, the REAL soldiers were writing to Irving Klaw, self-styled Pin Up King and soon to be major distributor of bondage photographs.  Klaw made money on tired, dreary Hollywood cheesecake long before hitting on the harder stuff…but it was the stuff he sold the soldiers when they got back home which put him in hot water.

In the first example, you can see the Klaw office notes: one dollar for one 4" x 5" still.  I hope it was a Bettie.

Klaw had been peddling gams and gals for quite a while before Bettie Page came along.  In 1950, Eye Magazine reported "Klaw advertises his wares in more than fifty domestic magazines and about two dozen foreign publications…" so business must have been doing fine.  (It was…by 1950 Klaw was reportedly selling a million cheesecake photographs a year.)  And yes, Klaw sold Grable in the early days…but as you can see, he was hot on his own discoveries as well.  Here Klaw inspects the talent of a hopeful.  He could make even more money on his own photos.

No less than Dr. Kinsey paid visits to Klaw.  (Three times!)  Perhaps because Klaw also sold John Willie material.  I can't even link to John Willie on this site, you can look him up yourself.  Trust, they were trussed.  Seriously knotted and trussed.  Klaw sold Willie drawings for fifty cents each and also the series on photographic paper for $5.00.  Five dollars in 1950 would be $47.81 today.  As I have reported elsewhere, that was more than the entire weekly wage for the Average worker in 1950.  Look close at the yellowing clip below to see some of Klaw's other early "cheesecake" of fighting women in high heels.

Eric Stanton began selling work to Klaw as early as 1947.  Eric Stanton was influenced by Willie and more information on Stanton will be on Vintage Sleaze soon.



Klaw's success was also his downfall.  Or rather, his failure to disclose his tax receipts and business records was his downfall.  He was cited for contempt by the United States Senate (along with Eddie Mishkin and Abraham Rubin, both organized crime figures) for failing to comply. 
ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINT COLLECTION JIM LINDERMAN


Although Irving Klaw is today best known for the photographs of Bettie Page he distributed, she was but a minor part of the millions of photographs which went out...and millions of dollars which came in to the Klaw offices.