A few years ago, I accepted an invitation from Dennis Bell to visit the Athletic Model Guild. Founded by Bob Mizer in 1945, AMG is the longest continually operating adult male studio in history. It is legendary in so many ways, and it has had such an impact on American erotic culture and counterculture, that Mizer deserves to be on a postage stamp.
Mizer himself was an astonishing personality. As a precocious teen, he and his friends would attend parties thrown by older gay men, delighting their hosts by taking off all their clothes. He began keeping a diary at the age of 17, writing in it nearly every day for the remainder of his life. That diary today encompasses many volumes and makes fascinating reading. Written in extra-large lettering on the very first page, it says: "Bob Mizer … The Boy … The Thinker … The …?"
It was as if he were setting the stage for the rest of his life.
Mizer was as handsome as he was precocious and he became a model himself before finding his life's ambition as the man behind the camera. Today, Mizer may best be known as the man who published Physique Pictorial, the definitive homoerotic publication for gay men, over the years 1951-1990. George Quaintance, who served as Mizer's de facto art director, played an important role in the success of that publication.
During the years that Mizer operated AMG, he took nearly one million photographs. Bell told me during my visit, "To the best of my knowledge, Bob shot about 500,000 4x5 black and white images; 350,000 color slides; 150,000 other formats — large format, stereoviews, etc. — for a total of one million. He recorded 2500 Beta videotapes in the 1980s, about three hours each, and 3000 films (in all formats, 35 mm, 16mm, 8mm) were edited and released. There is other work that was never edited or released. We figure that about 10,000 models passed in front of his cameras throughout his life."
On June 8, Bell launched a 35-day fundraising campaign to help purchase the physical materials needed to archive a portion of those one million photographs and negatives. The project will only be funded if $8,000 is pledged by July 16. Please consider pledging at least one dollar.
To read more about the project, watch a short video or to make a pledge, please visit this link.
Photo captions, top to bottom
Bob Mizer at 20
First page of Mizer's journal
Den Bell in his labyrinth
Millard Forrester, the first AMG model. Forrester died April 1, 2011 at the age of 81
Pearl posing strap made by Mizer's mom, Delia
Props in the AMG archive; inset: vintage photo of models using that sword and scabbard