Irving Klaw was an American photographer and filmmaker, best known for being one of the first photographers to make fetish photos and catalogs. One of his most famous models was the pin-up Bettie Page that he immortalized for a fetish and bondage catalog.
In the fifties he devoted himself to cinema; two of his best known films were burlesque, Varietease (1954) and Teaserama (1955), both with Bettie Page, while a third film in 1956 Buxom Beautease had a different protagonist. Around the same time, he was crowned the "king of pin-ups."
In 1948, a collector/enthusiast known as Little John "inspired/sponsored Klaw's full-fledged entry into the fetish art business." Irving Klaw was also influenced by magazine publisher Robert Harrison. Klaw's early fetish models included Harrison's Barbara Leslie, Vicky Hayes, Joan "Eve" Rydell, Lili Dawn, Shirley "Cici" Maitland, Kevin Daley, Roz Greenwood, and finally Bettie Page.
Inspired by John Willie, Klaw also commissioned and distributed illustrated serials of adventure/bondage chapters by fetish artists Eric Stanton, Gene Bilbrew, Adolfo Ruiz, and others.
After the surprise success of the 1953 B-movie Striporama, a burlesque revue featuring famous striptease artists and model Bettie Page, Klaw quickly duplicated the formula and directed his own burlesque films. Using a professional crew and richly saturated Eastman color film, Varietease (1954) and Teaserama (1955) featured Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm, and Bettie Page (and were released on DVD in the United States in 2000). He produced and directed a third film in 1956, Buxom Beautease, without Page.
Also during this period, Klaw organized weekend home-movie sessions, where he produced dozens of 8mm and 16mm black-and-white silent films. These featured striptease acts and an assortment of fetishistic subjects based on special requests from his clientele. Titles such as Riding the Human Pony Girl, Bondage in Leather Harness, and Booted Amazon Fights Again depicted women in skimpy lingerie and high heels engaged in elaborate bondage, catfights, spanking, and slave training. Nearly all of these films were shot on a single, sparsely decorated set, either in the studio above Movie Star News or in a nearby loft. At least two films featuring Bettie Page (Rumble Seat Bondage and Jungle Girl Tied to Trees) were shot outdoors in secluded locations.
Photos taken during the sessions were also sold at the store and in the biannual mail order catalog Cartoon and Model Parade.
Kefauver's hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1957 marked the beginning of the end of Irving Klaw's mail-order fetish art business in New York. The investigation sought to link pornography to juvenile delinquency. McCarthy-style hearings branded Klaw a degenerate pornographer and ushered in a new wave of media censorship. Bettie Page was also summoned to the hearings but was never called to testify (parts of the hearings are recreated in the film The Notorious Bettie Page). She retired from her modeling career shortly thereafter. Due to the political, social and legal pressures she faced, Klaw closed her store and burned many of her negatives. It is estimated that over 80% of the negatives were destroyed. However, her sister Paula secretly kept some of the best images, which can be seen today.
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Images credits: from web