posted by davidt on Tuesday May 13 2003, @08:00AM
Jake The Stripper cautiously submits:

"Hand in Glove: Cover Star: unknown model photographed by Jim French, taken from Margaret Walters' book 'The Nude Male.' It caused a frisson of semi-homophobic delight even among the more earnest denizens of Rough Trade Distribution at the time." - Peepholism

"For some people, nakedness signifies liberation, a joyful and un-neurotic sexuality; for others, it stands for a licentiousness which threatens traditional moral standards. Both of these seemingly contradictory attitudes rest on a common assumption: that the exposed body is emotionally charged and potentially subversive." - Margaret Walters

Twenty years ago today, The Smiths released their first single, and yet the identity of the cover star remains possibly as elusive as The Smiths track "A Matter Of Opinion."

So whose behind is the sun shining out of? Morrissey's? Leo Ford's? Long thought to be that of Leo Ford's, it's highly unlikely. Leo Ford was a 70's blonde pornstar killed in a motorcycle accident as he crossed Sunset Boulevard in 1991. A hustler who had a very one-sided relationship with Divine, Leo Ford broke the rules of 1970's pornography, and according to "The Andy Warhol Diaries," was involved in a 3-way with Calvin Klein on Fire Island in the 1980's.

[Leo Ford image (144k): Too Blonde?]

Rewind to 1959. Enter Kris Studio.

Chuck Renslow founded Kris Studio of Chicago, and ran it with his partner Etienne from 1952 through the 1970's. In the height of the 'physique mag' culture, Chuck Renslow met one George O'Mara in the summer of 1959 on Oak Street Beach in Chicago. The images of O'Mara which ensued are some of the most important photographs of the entire physique era.

[Chuck Renslow (39k image)]

How did you happen to photograph George O'Mara, where did you meet?
CR: Well, I met him on Oak Street Beach, went up and talked to him, and asked if he'd be interested in doing some photos.

What was he like to work with?
CR: George was a very nice, wonderful person, nice personality. I started working with him (grabs contracts) ... July 6th, 1959. I worked with him six to eight months. He lived at 839 N. Dearborn, downtown.

Do you know what he did he do for a living?
CR: He was a mover for Pickens-Cane. He was a natural, he didn't even work out! I've got lots of pictures of him I haven't released.

Any idea what ever happened to him?
CR: No, there was no contact after that for a while. We tried to get him for a movie, but couldn't find him! Wish the hell I knew what happened to him! He left for the Army in 1969.

Images: (warning: nudity)
Kris Studio 1 (81k)
Kris Studio 2 (85k)
Kris Studio 3 (141k)
Kris Studio 4 (136k)
Kris Studio 5 (134k)
Kris Studio 6 (96k)

On the west coast, photographer Jim French, who later founded Colt Studios, was developing his own brand of physique images. In "The Nude Male," (cover) Margaret Walters claims: "Certain photographers and agencies - most notably, Jim French,- have developed a market for genuinely evocative and stunningly photographed male nudes, that perhaps escape the limits of the mere pinup. They are a protest, and an important and valid one, against the unthinking assumption that beauty belongs only to women..."

Original Jim French photos of the "Hand in Glove" cover [image from 'The Nude Male - A new perspective' (110k)] can be found stamped with the date of 1966 on the back, but some Colt assistants claim that the photos were taken as late as 1972. Colt Studio archives list the model as George O'Mara, also listed as model name "Adonis." When asked to verify the model's identity or the date taken, Mr. French simply states that he was aware that the photo was used in "The Male Nude," but was not aware that it was also used for an album cover. Mr. French has "no comment" on The Smiths or Morrissey. Perhaps because the photo was used without his permission, he will not comment further.

Twenty years on, the verification of the identity of the "Hand in Glove" model still rests with Jim French. Although the Colt Archives list the identity as George O'Mara, there is speculation that he simply didn't have the physique at the time these photos were taken. You be the judge.

Images: (warning: nudity)
Jim French 1 (80k)
Jim French 2 (25k)
Jim French 3 (25k)
Jim French 4 (21k)
Chuck Renslow currently operates the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. He has been a pillar in the Chicago community for over 50 years. He also organizes the International Mr. Leather competition held annually in Chicago.

Jim French currently operates Colt Studios in California.

Thanks: Chuck Renslow and Jim French
Additional Thanks: Mel Hsu, Stephane Daigle, and Shawn.
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