The decades pass by so quickly, the internet has made Playboy largely irrelevant, but the dream lives on... And is sometimes satisfied.
Come with me to Northwestern Avenue, behind the clock tower in the old Horlick Malted Milk factory complex. There, models and photographers -- mostly amateurs with day jobs -- came together Saturday for a day of fun and photography. Was there nudity? Yes, but it was tasteful nudity enhanced by colorful and imaginative body painting.
Let me stress from the outset that no hanky-panky ensued. One of the models, Katie Hutchins, 20, of Rockford -- a gorgeous 20-year-old blonde wearing, if that's the right word, a see-thru halter top and a Paris Hilton pout -- even brought her mother, Stacy Bradley, to the photoshoot. Mom said she was there not as a chaperone, but to provide support as her daughter tries to break into the modeling business: "This is my first time seeing her posing. I think it's beautiful, seeing her in motion. I'm very proud.,"
Still, this is not a PG story, so all you prudes should go elsewhere.
For me, the event began about 1 p.m., when I opened the door and walked into a big open space filled with about two dozen mostly male photographers and an equal number of models, mostly female. At first glance, most of the models were wearing elaborate costumes: for example, an elaborate black and gold Art Deco outfit, an African costume, a tiger skin, a baseball uniform, a red and white striped Teddy. It was only upon closer examination that you saw that most of the "costumes" were ... body paint! The stylists and models had arrived about 9 a.m. to begin a transformation that, in some cases took hours.
Yes, it was a tough job, interviewing and photographing nearly naked beautiful women, but I persevered...
"I'm an artist. Your rules don't apply" said the t-shirt worn by Kat Beringer, a body painter and makeup artist from Chicago who was painting the face and torso of Jeanie, a 26-year-old model from Milwaukee, who stood patiently in shorts -- and nothing else. Jeanie, like some of the models present, didn't want her real name used.
Tatiana Zierath-Visintainer, 34, a model from the Twin Cities, stood virtually nude for about two hours, as Dawn Marie Svanoe, a professional body artist from Madison, transformed her into a colorful jester.
"It's all about making it as flattering as possible. It's not just about sex," said Svanoe, "It's an art form. It's an honor to paint this young lady... and when I'm done, I want her to be proud to put the pictures up in her house." Tatiana, who models "alternative, gothic, nude and bondage," said, "I'm hoping one day to get some money out of this."
Katrina Folberg, 20, from Cedarburg, a pre-med student painted into a baseball-like uniform (well, a crop top and short shorts) said she was there just to help photographers build their portfolios.
"Little Alice," as she calls herself, was painted to resemble a deer -- "it's an Okapi, an Amazon deer, my favorite animal," she said. "I just picked it out." Her body was painted by Gerald Mews of Westville, a full-time makeup artist, and included antlers made of small twigs stuck into two hairstyle buns at the top of her head. It was an artistic depiction, and she stayed in character, holding her hands like little hooves for picture after picture. She was deeply into the performance, but planned, after a couple of hours to wash it off and re-emerge as something totally different.
The 4,200 sq. ft. studio space -- one big room, high ceilings, brick walls, high windows -- had half a dozen makeup artists, hair stylists and body painters along one wall, with the rest of the space divided up into nine photo studios, each with an uncluttered backdrop and studio lights in large, 7-ft. reflectors. The photographers each had a little device mounted to their digital camera's flash shoe, a "Pocket Wizard" ($169 from Amazon.com) that wirelessly triggered each studio's flash. Given the equipment, lighting and beautiful models, it was hard to take a truly bad picture. And if you did, many photographers were willing to provide advice and assistance.
The day went like this: A model would offer to pose, and half a dozen photographers, in turn, would direct her movements and shoot as many pictures as desired. When done, the next photographer would step up. Sometimes, two or three models would pose together. Multiple shoots were going on simultaneously.
Most of the models said they participated for the fun of it, and to build up their portfolios. Amy Anderson, 23, a psychology major from Elgin -- a redhead painted in zebra stripes who models with a band -- said events like Saturday's bring out "My crazy wild side. I'm untamed, solitary, free."
Faith Enfire -- not her real name, she said, because she works in a bank "and they wouldn't appreciate this" -- is 28, and enjoys competing with the 19-year-olds. She just wanted to get published. "My goal is to get one print out of this," in a magazine or on a flyer.
Wearing a red-and-white-striped Teddy and posing for sexy pin-ups was Debra Schneiderwind, of Mt. Horub, who confessed that she'll turn 42 "at the end of January." Her day job is that of dental lab technician -- "I make teeth," she said. Dina Osterberg, 27 of Chicago, said she's been modeling since she was 21. "I work in accounting," she said. "This is something I do for fun."
Some of the photographers were professionals -- Jon Wenger of Roscoe, IL, for example, is a full-time fashion photographer, and Mike Crouse of Spring Grove, IL, a real estate appraiser, calls himself a semi-professional photog who does portraits, sports and cars. But most were amateurs; all said their wives or girlfriends knew what they were doing Saturday, but at least two told me, "she doesn't approve."
Most of the models are registered for work with the Model Mayhem website, "where professional models meet professional photographers." Saturday's event was put on by Painted Muse Productions, which creates events "to encourage artistic design, fun, and networking opportunities for the Midwestern glamour scene." The two men who run Painted Muse are a photographer from Kenosha (who, after this article was published decided he didn't want his name or image used) and Adam. Baker. "We try to provide something unique to shoot," said Mr. Now-Anonymous.
The two dozen or so photographers who participated each paid $150 for the day. Models were not paid, but pictures are jointly owned by the models and photographers. The hairstylists and makeup artists are paid.
The best way to hear about events like this is to become a member of the three Meetup.com photography groups in the Milwaukee area. The Painted Muse workshop was held at Michael Lee LaPointe's studio behind the clock tower off Northwestern Avenue. Studio MLP often holds free meetup workshops; I attended a very down-to-earth, helpful one last week on portrait lighting. The next one is Feb. 27 on digital camera basics. It, too, is free.
Kristen Casey, 20, of Rochester, made up as an African Mother Nature