The Complete Reprint of Physique Pictorial: 1951-1990 by Bob Mizer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Volume 1: 1951 – 1960
I have purchased this and other books with lots of photos previously, always with the intention of going back to them to read more but never finding the time.
In this first volume Mizer always speaks highly of his models and most of the editorials are on the legitimacy of the material presented as art. Many are the comparisons made to the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo. There is still the odd misplaced rant, a noted one on the fallacy of the death penalty, but generally he keeps it together. Mizer was dancing on the line of the law during this period and that occupied most of his efforts.
Summer 1955: “Because so many art schools require their students to prepare completely nude figures, physique photographers receive countless requests for this type of work.”
Summer 1956: a 6 minute video of Ed Fury in full color and sound for $65. In today’s money that is almost $500!
Mizer mentions he was sued by a model for ruining his reputation, at then in a later issue, Fall 1956, writes a thinly-veiled editorial about it entitled “INSTRUCTIONS TO A LAZY ATHLETE WHO WANTS TO MAKE SOME EASY MONEY by Doonald A. Thrillkiller”. The real Mizer is slowly emerging! In the winter 1957 issue there is a follow up: “PP’s editor inferred that the young man’s attorney was illiterate, and the latter currently has a case in court against the editor in which is[sic] has asked the court to give him the latter’s personal home.”
Fall 1956: The word “Homosexuality” is used for the first time, in the article “HOMOSEXUALITY AND BODYBUILDING”. While denying in a roundabout way that he is gay, Mizer does advocate acceptance and gives mailing addresses for One and Mattachine Review magazines.
Spring 1957: “Even the person who likes to unburden his frustrations in an anonymous letter which would project his own motives to us may write being assured that instead of being thrown away, it will be given to a psychology research group for study.”
Spring 1958: Miser writes himself! Under the guise of a reader’s letter, Miser publishes a letter from R.K. of New York, NY saying to start selling nude photos and “Get with it!” This is immediately followed by another letter from R.K. of New York, NY a month later saying he was arrested for nude photos and do you know a good lawyer?
Summer 1958: We start to see the beginning of model criticism here at the back of this issue in type too obscured to fully read. I can make out: “Wayne Hunt who had promised to be a slave apparently decided that the role was too menial for him and didn’t show up.” Other models on a movie shoot vanished to Mexico, had to visit a sick Aunt, or “visit his ladyfriend on the next block.”
Volume 2: 1960 – 1967
How long until we get to the penis? Not this book. I also thought Mizer didn’t publish nude photos until his mother died, which also doesn’t seem to be the case. January 1969 is the date of legality and we have nudity on the cover of that issue.
This middle period sees a harder edge coming in, but also a loosening of Mizer’s tongue to talk about such issues. More models die in fights or car crashes, have tattoos, and there’s less Wally Cleaver types. Also with the death of Quantance there is an opening for Tom of Finland and Harry Bush, two prolific artists whose work will live beyond these volumes.
August 1961: Another lawsuit, this time over a dead monkey that was left in Mizer’s care. Nowadays lawyers would prevent their clients from discussing these details but Mizer goes right in to it, naming names and basically calling the guy an idiot. He mentions in the same issue a recent burglary at his studio and frequent visits by passing tourists slowing down his work. The trials of running this business seem many but I’m glad he shares them.
November 1961: A Japanese model, the first non-white or black model I have seen.
January 1963: Hah! After a lengthy song and dance about how models are always asking to borrow money and then take off, Mizer says: “If in future issues of this book you see the initials (P.R.) in brackets as part of a model’s description, you will know this indicates we feel the subject is a poor risk…” Let’s see if he follows through!
No follow through on the above it seems but the next few issues do have some kind of code next to each model which is not explained. Google Image Search “Subjective Character Analysis” for Mizer’s official guide. There is another, coarser one floating around which I think goes too far and the reality of the symbols is I believe somewhere between the two. I refuse to believe Mizer, who was known for not touching his models, knew whether each was a top or a bottom.
July 1964: A list of DELIQUENT MODELS appears with four models who are Persona Non Grata for various reasons which include “for throwing a dog in a cold pool, causing it to catch a cold which eventually resulted in its death”.
February 1965: Mizer and his assistant robbed at gunpoint (!) by “Silky” who warrants a full page wanted poster here. Some rough trade and it seems to be getting rougher!
June 1965: An article “HETEROSEXUALITY CAN BE CURED!”, an excerpt from Time magazine published July 2065.
October 1965: Sad face. “Drum” magazine for homophiles criticised Physique Pictorial and consequently its readers. Mizer includes here a lengthy reply admitting his faults and asking for a stop to gay on gay slander.
September 1966: The print is SO SMALL in these magazines, that’s another reason I decided to read them now, while my eyes were still young enough to adjust. A reader writes: “With the aid of my microscope I read your last article….” I laughed for about ten minutes.
September 1967: The first Mexican model I noticed.
Volume 3: 1968 – 1990
February 1968: A model named Tom Griffom was brought to AMG by his buddy Rock Hudson!
January 1969: Let the penis begin! The text also mentions the pictures now in colour, but this reprint has no colour. Boo.
January 1970: A full year since the last issue? Model John Manning “has recently acquired his own cement truck and he can bring you a big load whenever you’re ready for it (if you live in the Hollywood area.)”
June 1971: An article of note that ONE magazine has stopped publishing and now the go to magazine is the Advocate. Also a reader leader titled “Whatever happened to muscular models” asks: “Where do you get your models now—the midnight mission?” with a reply from Mizer that the kids nowadays just want to hang out and smoke grass. Lousy kids. Issue also has the first shot of boys kissing.
December 1971: Already we see the demise in an article “Why Physique Pictorial is not on the newsstands anymore!” Magazine shops are unable to display nudes and porn shops think the books are too tame. Who is the audience, and only 2 years after nudity itself became legal.
August 1973: “Some of the street bums that are occasionally brought in to us often tend to have a “delayed reaction time” before following any posing suggestion. First, the data must be received and processed (and translated, especially if English and not street-talk is used). Then the model decides if he wants to follow the suggestion or prefers to debate it’s wisdom. If his decision turns out to be in the affirmative, he must then try to determine how he will go about doing the pose, such as separating his left from his right, his ass from his shoulder, etc. As often as not, by the time all this takes place he has usually forgotten the basic command, and the photographer himself has long since ceased to care.”
August 1977: A model is labelled as “Gay and proud.”
May 1979: “At the beginning of this century, every boy had a hero but today none seem to and quite often when they see this question on their registration card they simply write in “Myself.” A few list some current “macho” TV or movie star. Never has a model listed his own father.”
Sept 1982: “It is doubtful if we will see Forrest for a long time. On his last visit he asked to borrow $10 to eat or else he would rob the corner motel. We loaned him the money but he still robbed the motel.”
June 1987: AMG Gallery & News, an off-shoot publication with bitchy comments on the models sounds good.
September 1990: The last issue! I don’t want it to end! JP Kennington, who wrote the AMG Gallery & News magazine above and seemed to be really helping Mizer forged $10,000 worth of checks from him and went to jail. What became very clear from reading this is how dangerous his job was, and Mizer was lucky not to be stabbed to death like many of his contemporaries. Still there are constant reports of fire, theft and violence throughout the magazine. I’d like to read more about Mizer’s life, did he have friends? I suppose the only lasting copies of his thoughts are in these magazines.
This last issue also has the magazine’s only mention of AIDS.
I read in another review on Amazon that Mizer died from kidney failure due to huge volumes of artificial sweetener he ingested. Can this be true? It would be nice if there was a post-script in this volume.
Look up “The Bob Mizer Foundation” for more information on what is happening to the collection now.
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