The preservation of nearly one million negatives, slides, and movies that represent almost 60 years of the history of male erotica, was assured Tuesday by the acquisition of Athletic Model Guild (AMG) of Los Angeles by Dennis Bell of El Cerrito, California.
Bell, a well-known physique photographer and owner of two websites that specialize in vintage collections of physique photography (PosingStrap.com and PhysiqueLibrary.com) purchased the entire estate of Bob Mizer, founder of AMG, for an undisclosed sum.
Now an icon of gay history, Mizer was a trailblazer in fighting the strict censorship laws of the mid-20th Century that permitted female, but not male, nudity in photography. Since Mizer's death 12 years ago, the slides, negatives, and other assets of his estate have been licensed only periodically for publication, reproduction, sale, or exhibition.
Bell plans to manage, market, and preserve one of the most outstanding collections of male physique photography and film production in the world. Bell told AVN.com that he will release the Mizer films in new media formats as well as produce new AMG material.
The mainstream film Beefcake introduced Mizer and his work to millions of moviegoers. But for thousands of servicemen and others, Mizer was no stranger. "Soldiers, sailors, and marines knew that if they came through Hollywood, they could pick up an extra fifty bucks by posing for Bob," said Bell. Mizer photographed thousands of gay and straight men of all descriptions. His subjects included motion picture and television actors, waiters, motorcyclists, college men, construction workers, California surfer boys and midwest farm-hands "fresh off the bus" and searching for fame and fortune in Hollywood.
"Bob Mizer's photographs document the entire gamut of masculinity," says Bell, "from George Abagian to Dick Ziglar. There were names many will recognize: Glenn Corbett went on to star in 77 Sunset Strip after Bob photographed him; Ed Fury was in a number of films and TV shows; Dick Dubois was pictured in Life magazine as a member of the Las Vegas cast of Mae West's show. Estimates are that Bob photographed more than ten thousand men over his forty-five year career."
In a telephone interview with AVN.com, Bell estimated that it will take him at least three years to catalog all the material. "It will be a massive undertaking to ensure that these irreplaceable treasures and relics of gay history and male photography are preserved and treated with the respect they deserve."
He is developing a plan to exhibit and market the photographs, many of which have never been seen by the public. "Even in 2004, we Americans have tremendous hang-ups about frontal male nudity in photography. But remember, at the time Bob was taking some of these photographs, this kind of photography wasn't the subject of a hang-up — it was illegal. Some physique photographers did prison time for a single pubic hair visible in their work," Bell said.
"Athletic Model Guild was the pioneer of modern gay erotica and this acquisition will continue the legacy into the 21st Century," Bell stated. "Look for classic collections of AMG 8mm films soon on DVD, and new productions from AMG later this year. In the new films we'll be connecting the innocence of Mizer's past work with the expectations and ideals of today's gay audience." The new company will keep the historic name. According to new owner Bell, "It is far too important a name, with the attendant mythology, to give it up."
For more information on AMG visit its website at www.AthleticModelGuild.com