2012 Show Headera

Show Pictures Brought to You By Classic Performance Products

Mitzi & Company
San Dimas, CA.
Jan 31,’12
Story by Richard Parks,
 Photographic consultant  Roger Rohrdanz

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Richard Parks and Roger Rohrdanz

  Hot cars and beautiful girls have always been a great combination. But it hasn’t always been easy for the ladies. In the 1930’s and ‘40’s the car clubs were a male bastion and females were not allowed entry. The dry lakes were far away and often a hot rodder had to choose between taking his girlfriend or his auto parts and tools to Muroc or El Mirage. The young ladies exacted revenge, demanding that the dust covered racers get back to town early, clean up and take them to the ballroom for a night of dancing. Times improved a bit for the gals when drag racing came on the scene after World War II. The drag strips were closer to town. The girls could even race their own cars and compete against the guys. But there was always one arena in which the women of that era could excel and where the men were nearly excluded and that was in pin-up art. Another word that was used was cheesecake, but it was simple; a pretty girl next to or in a hot rod made a guy’s car even more exciting and interesting. World War II increased the demand for pin-up art as barracks and Quonset huts were wall-papered with photographs and posters of movie starlets like Betty Grable and Veronica Lake. The pictures ranged from fully clothed to tastefully bare and everything in between, but the art form demanded several things; big red lipstick, huge curls, a big smile and a pretty girl. Sometimes the pin-up art came from magazines, posters and artwork created by big publishing houses, but another form was simply a photograph from the girl back home.

There were studios that specialized in boudoir photography or a young lady could have a friend take a photo in the privacy of her home. For those in the service, far away from home, living in a fox hole, tent or slogging through the jungles, a letter from home was all that kept one from going crazy. Movies might give the impression that war is just noise, action, danger and excitement on a grand scale, but the truth is that most of the time war is simply boredom, with a few battles here and there. It seems like wars will never end and the soldier or sailor will be kept from his loved ones forever. Mail call is what keeps service people from going over the edge. We read those letters that we received over and over again and keep them close to our heart. Every once in a while there is a photograph in the envelope of the girl back home and that becomes extra special. The picture with an alluring pose, a sexy smile, an outfit that is a little more risqué than normal gives the fighting man memories of the past and a will to keep on going. It isn’t really important how pretty the young lady is; what the photograph is portraying is a dream, a fantasy, a future and hope. All that we love and hold dear is wrapped up in that small pin-up photo and we treasure it as we treasure life itself. Many a young lady had boudoir photographs taken for their boyfriends and husbands. Some even found a way into Hollywood and the entertainment world. Today those old photos are treasured keepsakes and modern women have rediscovered the allure of that long ago pin-up era.

 

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Erika Rivera, Mitzi Valenzuela, and Dolly Mears at the GNRS Suede Palace booth.

Mitzi Valenzuela founded Mitzi & Company about a decade ago. She had an idea, developed a business plan and set about to offer a service that has proven to be highly appreciated and successful. To understand the company you have to understand Mitzi, a petite and pretty brunette with a huge smile and a friendly disposition. More than that is her personality, which puts everyone at ease. This is an important point because trust and faith are integral to her business. There are many reasons why a lady would answer an ad and come into Mitzi’s studio in San Dimas, California to pose for photographs. One of the most common reasons is to give a cheesecake photograph to a husband or boyfriend serving overseas. You see,

things really haven’t changed between men and women from the 1940’s to the present day. Men miss their women as much today as they did back then and women love their men just as much. But it is stressful posing for a photographer in clothes that are skimpy and sometimes barely clad at all. Mitzi finds that comfort zone where the models are willing to go and she doesn’t pressure people. What Mitzi does is to encourage the models to find their identities; their inner selves. The vast majority of the photographs show less skin than you would normally find at the beach on a summer’s day. Men equate boudoir photography and pin-up art with nudity, but for women it isn’t about clothing or the lack of clothing that is humbling. What women see as a stumbling block is imperfection; a nose too big, a belly too wide, a few extra pounds, a mole in the wrong spot. Physical beauty is a difficult problem for women to deal with.

Mitzi overcomes that reticence for women to pose and face up to their supposed imperfections. With grace, patience and persistence she draws out the beauty that is in every woman and the results are startling. No matter whether a woman is tall, short, fat, skinny, blonde, brunette or redheaded, the results are astounding. But it isn’t the looks that are the chief results of Mitzi’s work; it is the change in personality in the models themselves. They are no longer afraid of their bodies, nor are they filled with self-doubts. The models explode with confidence and find that this has enhanced their lives beyond whatever idea they could have conceived being possible. What is boudoir photography if it isn’t dress-up, fantasy and faith? It brings back the memories when they were a small little girl trying on their mother’s clothes and high heels. It reminds them of the costume parties and dances of their youth. It is playful and innocent and fun. The women who look at the results that Mitzi gets out of them have a renewed feeling that they are beautiful and that they can achieve whatever it is that will make their lives happy. It shows each model that age is no barrier, nor are standardized models of beauty of any importance. The average model begins her journey with the idea that this is a gift for her loved one and then learns that the gift is the freedom from fear of her own body and her own perceptions of her beauty. It has little to do with skimpy clothing; it has everything to do with beauty. The men who are the recipient of the photographs are in for a double treat as their wives and girlfriends have rediscovered their self-esteem and value as people. There is nothing sexier than a person who feels valuable in their own right.

  Mitzi was at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California from January 27-29, 2012 with several of her models. She had two booths, selling pin-up posters, magazines, catalogs and calendars. She also has her work displayed prominently in magazines and other published works and one book, Kustom Kulture Queens. Her style is retro 1940’s and ‘50’s pin-up, with a little ‘30’s and ‘60’s era thrown in for good measure. There is also a little cheesecake that is artistically tasteful in a traditional sense. The vast majority of her work centers on the clothing styles of the eras that she portrays and is a major component of the rockabilly craze. This can hardly be called a fad any longer as it has been widespread among the traditional hot rodding community (18 to 36 year old men and women) for the last twenty years. The poses are cheeky and full of life; sassy if you will. The playful spirit is what I best remember growing up in the late 1940’s and ’50’s. A sort of innocence as we left the teenage years and found ourselves thrust into Viet Nam and the cultural civil wars of the 1960’s. For most of us, men and women alike, there is this desire to go back in time and relive those “glory years of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s when the worst thing that could happen to us was being grounded for the “Elvis Shake.” It’s easy to schedule an appointment at Mitzi’s studio in San Dimas or for an outdoor shoot. She can obtain the car of your dreams or you can use your own hot rod. In the studio are clothing styles to choose from or you can buy your outfits on-line or at places like Steady Clothing. Mitzi suggests poses or a customer can suggest what poses they would like to photograph. The fees and costs are reasonable and affordable. The results are stunning and a gift that any man would cherish.  www.mitziandco.com

 

The first model that I met was Melanie Lacy. Her husband, Jason, was a medic in the Army and stationed overseas. She read about Mitzi & Company in magazines and made the initial contact. Melanie thought this might be a great way to cheer up her husband. At first she was a bit self-conscious, but had such a great experience that she wanted to do more modeling and posing and has actively been trying to find modeling jobs with Mitzi’s help for the last two and a half years. Melanie was originally from Texas, but I could detect no discernible accent. She now lives in Seattle, Washington. She does her own hair and make-up and wants to make this a full time job even after her husband returns from the military. I asked her

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Melanie Lacy

how long she would like to model and she told me, “As long as the public wants me.” Her favorite eras are from World War II to the Viet Nam War. She loves big Bee Hive hair styles. Dita Von Teese and Betty Grable are the models that she admires most. “I’m just a housewife, but I’m having so much fun modeling. I get a kick dressing up and modeling. I would like to send posters to our troops overseas. I can model even with my glasses on, but usually they ask me to take them off. After all, ‘men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,’“ she said. Actually, there were plenty of men and some women who were googly-eyed and a bit awe struck asking for her autograph on the free posters she handed out. “This is my first assignment at the Grand National Roadster Show and I’m a bit nervous, wondering if they will like me,” Melanie added. She needn’t have worried as she appeared calm and collected and handled all the comments with a great poise.

 

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Miss Dolly Mears

Mitzi came by the booth and brought some refreshments and mentioned that there were other models working the show over in the Suede Palace and so I said goodbye to Melanie and walked past buildings full of great hot rods. At the Suede Palace I met Sarah Sunshine from Thousand Oaks, California and Miss Dolly Mears. The ladies love aliases and nicknames. It was the same with the roller derby skaters as well. Some of the names are a bit racy, but it is all in good fun. Sarah Sunshine was just like her name, bouncy and elated to be there. “I saw Mitzi on a cable TV show called Rock of Love about two years ago and thought that this would be a great Christmas gift for my husband Eric. I liked the photo shoot so much that I continued to do pin-up modeling. I love dressing up and posing; the 1950’s and ‘60’s are my favorite eras. It’s funny, I did the boudoir modeling for my husband, but loved it so much that I came out of my shell and now I do it for myself. The culture of that time period appeals to me,” Sunshine beamed. Sarah didn’t stop with just modeling; she also developed her own brand of gluten free cookies which she markets under Sarah’s Skinny Sweets, Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. They can be found at www.sarahsskinnysweets.com and www.glutenfreecookies.org.

 

Miss Dolly Mears first posed for boudoir photographs in 2005, also as a gift for her husband, and because she thought it would be fun. It turned out to be more than she ever expected and she also fell in love with modeling. She has posed for tattoo expos, magazines and big shows. She self-promotes and doesn’t have an agent, which seems to be the typical method for pin-up models. “This is a whole new Kustom and Kulture era; a new generation that is redefining the old rock and roll era,” Miss Dolly continued. I asked her where she got the name Miss Dolly and she replied, “Miss Dolly is divorced though once she was Mrs Dolly.” It appears that her husband was too possessive and demanded that Dolly give up her new found vocation. It’s important for men in the hot rodding field to realize that our wives and girlfriends need encouragement and not control. We do best when we support our ladies, rather than show our insecurities. Mitzi came by to check up on her models as she is very protective of their feelings. I overheard Mitzi mention to Miss Dolly and Sunshine about a booth outside where retro clothing could be found. I decided to see for myself and said goodbye to these pretty ladies. Across from the Suede Palace was a large booth with banners proclaiming the Steady Clothing brand.

  Matt Siebert greeted me and explained a bit about the company. He works in retail and sales and told me that Steady Clothing was founded in an Anaheim garage in 1994 by Josh Brownfield and Eric Anthony. The company is now located in Santa Ana, California and has 26 employees and manufactures all their clothes right here in the United States. They specialize in a 1950’s retro look and attend various shows around the country, including the rockabilly show in Las Vegas in April called Viva Las Vegas. The Steady Clothing website is at www.steadyclothing.com. The company sells their clothing all over the world and reached millions in sales in 2011. “The 1950’s and the Elvis brand is our biggest volume in sales,” Matt said. “Also a huge trade show for us is the MAGIC Trade Show which is held twice a year, first in February and later in August,” Matt continued. “All our work is done in Santa Ana and we do all the manufacturing and sewing there. For between $50 and $80 you can buy a nice retro looking dress from the 1950’s. We have the rights to reproduce the Sun Records and Elvis Presley clothing lines, which we negotiated with from the Presley estate and Sun Records,” Matt concluded.

  Matt saw Josh Brownfield walking towards us and gave me an introduction. This young man saw the future of the rockabilly culture and took a chance, which has paid off for his young company. “I think we really made it with the public when Brian Setzer was seen wearing one of our Martini Button Downs. We make an effort to get out to all the stores that carry our brands and check up on what the store owners need. We’ve found that this builds up goodwill for our brand names that we sell. Steady Clothing went through a very difficult period from 2007 through 2010 when 30% of the stores carrying our clothing went out of business. We worked very hard to regain that market share and our sales were up 50% in 2011 over the previous year. This year will be even better. I learned the trade working at Hot Topic clothing stores before I left them and founded my own business,” Josh ended. Customers were lining up and it was time to go back to work. I left this very friendly and energetic young man and his staff as I headed back into the main buildings of the GNRS. One thing stands out after speaking to the pin-up models and the people who live the rockabilly culture; they’re lively, fun and they have a long and prosperous future ahead of them.

 

 

 

 

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