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Gone Racin' to see the Suede Palace Models

Gone Racin' to see the Suede Palace Models


Story by Richard Parks
Photographs by Mitzi Valenzuela

The Grand Nationals Roadster Show (GNRS) has something for everyone, including a modeling and Trophy Queen contest.  Some have said, “Why bother reporting on a beauty pageant when the guys are simply concerned with cars at a car show?”  The answer is that the GNRS is more than just cars or roadsters.  John Buck has created something bigger and better than a show; he has created a hot rodding experience.  That would be a strange title, “Have you been to the EXPERIENCE at Pomona?”  But that’s exactly what it is and why cars, hot rods, motorcycles and roadsters are the star attractions, there is much more to the hot rodding life than simply cold steel.  From time immemorial there have been beauty queens present at events.  I’m sure that there were beauties in togas next to the winning chariot in the Roman Coliseum holding the Laurel leaves of victory.  Just as I am sure that when two guys challenged each other to a duel on the streets to see whose car would go faster that there were two girls at their sides or at least waving the starting flag.  So the promoters of the GNRS thought; “Why not have an old-time traditional Trophy Queen contest.” 

     The person that we associate with at the various modeling shows is Mitzi Valenzuela.  She has a business photographing ladies in 1940’s and ‘50’s style of clothing.  If you want a boudoir photo for your boyfriend or husband, Mitzi will choreograph the photo shoot at her studio in San Dimas or out in the field in some fantastic looking car.  It takes more than a camera to be a photographer.  Mitzi looks into the soul of the person she is photographing and brings out that particular personality behind the smile.  Often the ladies having their risqué photo taken like the experience so much that they become professional models and Mitzi will give them advice on how to go about that line of work.  Mitzi’s specialty is the golden age of pin-up modeling; the Betty Grable and Betty Page look.  To get that look requires work and study and enthusiasm.  The model doesn’t put on a tight dress or one of those chunky bikinis and strike a pose.  It is harder than that.  It takes a lot of study of old books, magazines, movies, catalogs and other historical literature to find the right mood and look for the model and then to master the spirit of the age.  Models tend to be the best historians of an era.  They know the dance steps, clothes, cosmetics, hair styles, furniture, home designs and yes, they know their cars too.

     Once a lady chooses a career in modeling she has to find work and for those who work hard the rewards are good pay, travel and contacts in the business world.  For traditional models that represent past eras there is no age requirement, though it can be a short career and the competition can be fierce.  One never knows what the photographer or businessman may want for his advertisements.  It is feast or famine and thus many models have full time jobs or are married with families.  It can also be hard work.  A model may be skimpily dressed in hot or cold weather for long hours at indoor or outdoor shows or events.  Some photographers are difficult to work for and a model needs to ask for references for her protection.  Spectators at shows can be pleasant and respectful or difficult and crude.  In order to find out more about what a model goes through I asked two who were stationed at Mitzi’s booth in the Suede Palace at the GNRS this past January.  The crowds were packed tight, the rock and roll and rockabilly music was blaring and the vendors had a large selection of goods to sell; setting the mood for the interviews.

     Miss Rockwell De’Vil was a dark brunette with glorious tattoos on her arms in a tight and appealing dress.  “I have more tattoos than these, but that’s all that I can show you,” she said with a smile.  She came all the way from San Francisco, California to be in the show and has known Mitzi for 8 years.  Like most models she prefers to go by her stage name and does not like to give out her given name.  This is for more than just desiring a private life; a stage name that is recognized is very valuable to a model.  I didn’t ask her why she chose the name Rockwell De’Vil, but it sort of had an edgy ring to it and brought out a darker side to her.  She was actually very nice and I suppose that modeling, like acting, allows the artist inside us to experiment with exotic feelings that we normally wouldn’t consider.  A model, after all, sells a mood and a feeling to the public.  De’Vil has been modeling for twelve years and prefers fashion and ALT (Alternative) styles.  Alternative modeling borders on edginess and that definitely fit the Suede Palace. 

     Miss De’Vil has been featured in INKED Australia, Car Kulture Deluxe, where she got the cover shot and other magazines.  Her favorite photographer is Mitzi Valenzuela and Melissa Gamez out of Texas.  You will notice that many of the new photographers are women.  Whether women are behind or in front of the camera they have a unique sense of how to portray the photo and to put their female models at ease.  Miss De’Vil has traveled all over the United States and to Germany, Spain and Italy.  “I cried when I had to leave Germany,” she told me.  “I’ve have been in every kind of show imaginable and I specialize in Traditional and Alternative styles of modeling.  This year I will be a model for the NASCAR racing series,” she said.  I asked her if she has any favorite movies that give her inspiration for her outfits, make-up and mood.  “PEARL HARBOR is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It is the most period-perfect motion picture made recently,” she continued.  “I also have a large library of old books and magazines in order to be perfect for the age I am modeling,” she concluded with a smile from her ruby red lips.

     The next model was cherubic Josephine Jean and I guessed correctly that Marilyn Monroe was one of her inspirational muses.  JJ is from Long Beach, California and she is a newbie, having modeled for just one year and looking to make a name for herself in the business.  Her first photographer was Jason Holmes of Retro Dolls in Southern California, but Mitzi has become her favorite cameraperson.  “I like photographers and that helps me along in the process,” she told me.  From her expression I gathered that photographers, being the artists that they are, can sometimes make life a little tough for models and vice versa.  “It takes hard work, practice and commitment.  It’s my hobby.  I have a Masters Degree in Social Work from USC,” she added.  It was obvious that modeling is as much a way of life as it was potentially profitable.  Models come from every profession and do it for any number of reasons.  “I’ve been on the cover of DRIVE-IN magazine (December 2012) and I’m really honored to be the December 2014 model in Mitzi’s Calendar.  I hope to make modeling my career and to travel.  My style is the classic pin-up look of Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth.  I get my inspiration by watching old movies, the internet and my library of old books and magazines,” she beamed.  Then the two models went to help Mitzi and her assistant Ana as white-haired hot rodders bought the Calendars and asked for autographs.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].