Los Angeles Daily News
Beverly Moody poses seductively on a bed, wearing an old-fashioned slip over vintage bra and panties, a vintage telephone in hand.
With the cord wrapped provocatively around her legs, the 27-year-old hairdresser smiles teasingly as photographer Lori Mann snaps away at the Pink Kitty Studios in Eagle Rock, a studio that specializes in turning out pinups like those that kept G.I. morale high in World War II.
Moody's photos are meant for only one person - her boyfriend, a Navy SEAL stationed in Afghanistan.
"This is our wartime," she explains. "Our generation, we're the young ones who have our husbands and boyfriends overseas. (Pink Kitty) specializes in glamour and pinup-y girls shots. I thought it would be kind of fun to go for the World War II look.
"There's always people overseas even when we're not at war; so people will always be doing this, even if their guy is on a ship somewhere. Within the last year, the vintage thing has gotten so big. Not only are they coming in because they want to send something to their man; they want that whole Betty Grable fashion pinup thing."
In early summer, Moody, who lives in Costa Mesa, spent "three days of hell" when she didn't know whether her boyfriend was dead or alive after hearing of a helicopter crash that had killed several members of his special-forces unit. Fortunately, he had gotten off the chopper 10 minutes before takeoff.
"He almost died," said Moody. "Just the fact that he's alive, I want to do something special."
Admittedly, a "pinup" shot may have a rather different connotation today than it did in the 1940s and '50s. Footlocker display space may have given way to screen-saver space on laptops, and wall capacity figures to be at a premium if you're occupying a tent in the desert. Forget the perfumed letters of decades past; wives and girlfriends of troops overseas now have many more immediate ways of communicating with their men.
But some things don't change, whether we're at war in 1943 or 2005: loneliness, missed milestones, longing and fear.
Mitzi Valenzuela, an L.A.-based photographer whose Mitzi & Co. specializes in pinup and erotic art (although rarely for a woman to send to a military husband or boyfriend) understands the urge of a civilian back home to "do my part."
"It definitely seems like a natural thing," said Valenzuela, whose studio is in the Brewery Arts Complex in downtown L.A. "Why not send a beautiful picture overseas. I think it's great. Any type of contribution."
At the Pink Kitty, Mann and makeup artist Alex LeMarsh have found a brisk trade catering to the wives and girlfriends of military personnel stationed overseas.
"We were married two days before he left," said another Pink Kitty customer, Amanda Olivas, 28, whose husband, Jeffrey, is with the National Guard's 5th special-forces unit in Iraq. "That's another reason I wanted to send him off with some good pictures. Since my husband is deployed with other guys, I kind of liked the idea of him having some real pinup-y photos. If he wanted, he could show them to the other guys. If he didn't want to, he didn't have to."
For about $400, Moody and Olivas ended up with a CD of three sets of glamour shots - retouched for best effect - of themselves in various displays of artful dishabille. Out of these photos, they might opt for a memory book or perhaps even a calendar with a different shot for each month. ("He could have me all year long," said Moody with a laugh.)
The women in illustrations by artists in the past such as Gil Elvgren, Art Frahm and Alberto Vargas usually displayed long shapely legs, a hint of garter and an air of innocence. The clothing can be easily duplicated. Not so, those ramrod stiff poses. Props such as 45s or old Life magazines can further help set the scene.
And the look? The tease? Well, that's largely supplied by the model, according to Mann.
"A lot of it is the expression," said Mann. "They don't have that sexy face thing like they do in Playboy. They're all smiling or with that air of surprise like 'Ooh!' looking very innocent, young and untouched, almost like they're a little bit embarrassed. In the current girlie magazine, everything's right there in your face. This is the fun of the tease, the innocence that hasn't yet been ruined."
Coyness reigns as Mann instructs Moody to "totally think, like, cutie pie." The hand goes to the face, the gaze simpers. Moody is reminded to breathe through her mouth. A feather boa is added, then removed. Pretend you're gossiping on the phone. Be appalled. He said what? What's he going to think when he sees this?
The guys might be the beneficiaries, say the photographers, but the ladies get something out of the experience as well.
"It's such a huge self-esteem boost for these girls to look at their photographs afterward and say, Oh, my God, I can look like the girls in a magazine," said LeMarsh. "When they've got the hair and makeup and they're ready to step out, they look in the mirror and they say, 'Oh, my God, I'm so excited. This is great!' Whereas the (professional) models are like, 'Yeah, I'm hot."'
According to Mann and Cragnotti, clients looking to go vintage sometimes have already conducted much of their own research and arrive at the studio armed with clothes, props, wall hangings, even potentially a period specific automobile.
With three sets of poses, customers can take their photos in bedrooms, bathtubs, kitchens, garages or wherever suits their mood. The amount of skin a model is willing to show is entirely up to the customer.
"I didn't do anything beyond, like, topless and that was enough for me," said Olivas. "I thought it was risque and that whole period was not overtly sexual anyway.
"The second time around might be a little different. But I'll have a drink before I do it."
Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651