By now, you are all well aware of the scandal that has befallen former Project Runway contestant Kenley Collins. No, not the dress copying one – though good thinking — rather how Ms. Collins was jailed for throwing a cat at her (ex?)-boyfriend. Some of you (read: none of you) may have given Kenley the benefit of the doubt on this one...

Click HERE for the rest of the snark. Or, watch the video where Tim Gunn unloads on Kenley:

Punk Goes Country

They say that country is a genre that allows a musician to grow old with grace. The fans stay loyal and the road never ends. Maybe that's why so many punks start to twang it up when they start seeing the north side of 40. It's only right, as punk appropriated the direct, down-to-earthy lyrics and 1-4-5 major chord patterns of country, while picking up the pace and stripping away (at least in the early days of punk) all of the pickin' prowess.

However aging punks are often caught in a dilemma -- as they get older their musicianship improves, their interest in the same pedal-pushing tempo fades, their lyrical interest broadens and deepens with their increased life experiences, but they are trapped in a genre that for many years militantly resisted any of this... causing many punk icons to "cross the tracks" into country. All of this seems natural... moving back in time, exploring an even more primordial style of American music. That is, until you look at the contemporary "country" landscape... populated by John Rich (Love everybody... except liberals and gays), Kenny Chesney and a whole boatload of reality show fembots.

What's a country/punk to do?

Perhaps the rockabilly audience is the closest available for these acts... openminded folks who have an appreciation for "real" country and a working knowledge of punk. Maybe that's why Mike Herrera (best known for being the frontman of MxPx) is pitching his solo project, Tumbledown, as a rockabilly-inspired act, when, in fact, it sounds much more "alt country" or "roots rock" or "american" than "rockabilly". Still solidly enjoyable, though. It'll be fun to hear the album when it's done.


Country Dick
Jello Biafra

Burlesque Beat

Dita vs. The Pussycat Dolls:

"It drives me crazy when the media or groups like the Pussycat Dolls try to sanitize and take away the sexual and nudity aspects of burlesque."

She added: "I'm sorry, but if you're not up there taking your clothes off and dancing around in pasties and a G-string, it's not burlesque.

"It can be cabaret, or it can be cute and funny and retro-showgirly, but it's not burlesque. They were strippers, and that's the way it was."

...he didn't want 'boas, strippers, and (expletive)' in his neighborhood... - Boston Babydolls vs. City Hall!

Seattle Weekly's 26 pic slideshow of Moisture Fest Burlesque...

Denver Post's slideshow from the New Denver Civic's "Leadville Or Bust" and "Black Box Burlesque."

Video of Los Angeles' Burlesque Bingo at the Key Club, on LA Weekly's site.


Project Runway's Kenley Collins in Jail for Attacking Fiance with Pussycat

Kenley2 She's not just a hellcat.

She's hell on cats.

Kenley Collins - the serial-rude contestant from season five of Project Runway - spent St. Patrick's Day caged behind bars after being arrested for attacking her boyfriend with (in no particular order):

1. a laptop

2. assorted apples and water glasses

3. a door (slammed his head in it we hear)

4. a living, breathing probably-pissed-off cat

The third-placer allegedly went ballistic on her sleeping ex-fiance - one Zak Penley - in their shared Brooklyn home early yesterday morning according to TMZ.com. We can only assume that it was too early to have a St. Patrick's Day buzz, so maybe he wasn't wearing a fashionable shade of green.

According to papers from the D.A., Kenley ripped into her lover-slash-victim with, "You're lucky. It could've been a lot worse."

That is true. He might still be her fiance. Seriously dude, you live with your ex-fiance and you close your eyes? Do you have a death wish?

Here's a delicious detail from the cat-astrophe: if they DID get married she'd be Mrs. Kenley Penley.

Kenley Penley.

That's only slightly funny...after the first few years of marriage.

Kenley has been charged with six crimes including 2nd degree assault, 3rd degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the 4th degree.

Hey, what about animal cruelty?

Can't wait to see the puddy-tat on Larry King and Inside Edition.

The youngest of three girls, Collins began her career at 16 when she started reconstructing vintage clothing. The 26-year-old daughter of a Broward County tugboat captain, Collins has a marketing degree from Florida State University.

After graduating from FSU in 2005, Collins set her sights on crashing the New York scene. In a relatively short time, she has supported herself by teaching sewing classes and designing childrenswear, and even managed to get a few of her designs into a boutique.

Collins rose quickly with her Bettie Page hairstyle and boundless energy, morphing a sales job at Missy Wear into a design position within a week.

She auditioned for HGTV’s Design Star while working for what she calls a “cheesy women’s wear company.” That job did give her two years of Seventh Avenue design experience and invaluable insight into the garment business.

“I am a very ambitious person,” Collins told me in a telephone interview days before the fifth season premiered on July 16th in 2008. “I’m a hard worker.”

On her MySpace page at the time, the one-time bartender described herself as "a tough girly-girl who likes to make clothes, listen to music, watch movies and drink dirty martinis."

And cat-fighting....she forgot to mention her nuanced cat-fighting. Faster pussycat, kill, kill.

In that 2008 interview, I asked Kenley how she thought she'd come across once the series starting airing in the middle of that summer.

She answered: "I know I laugh a lot. I don't want people to think that's all I do. I may not be portrayed in the best way. I'm very outspoken and I'm not very sensitive to others - especially in that sort of environment. I want people to know that I'm a nice person and I have a big heart and I think it shows. We'll have to see. A lot happened in that time."

...Talking about Women’s History Month over the last 10 days, I asked people who their female role models in history are, and I got a wide array of answers — from Joan of Arc to Susan B. Anthony to Bettie Page. While mothers and grandmothers took the No. 1 place of role models in general, people listed off activists, scholars, authors, doctors, leaders, athletes and queens.

Article in the University of Idaho's Argonaut

This Costa Mesa CA icon does barberin' right.

Read about 'em here and be glad y' did:

It's the rare moment when a can of Pabst and a straight razor really should comingle.

But peek through the window of Hawleywood's Barber Shop in Costa Mesa, and you'll see old-school beers and old-school razors forming a rare but nice harmony.

You'll see Donnie Hawley in there too. He's the co-owner, the guy talking and shaving and styling and generally breathing life into a business that could double as a clubhouse or movie set or, you know, a barber shop.


Peter Bjorn and John "Nothing To Worry About"

Peter Bjorn and John's video for "Nothing To Worry About" features the Tokyo Rockabilly Club in Yoyogi Park. Is it celebratory or ironic and what does that mean for the rest of us greasers?

About the Tokyo Rockabilly Club

Dave Stevens Bettie Print

If you scroll back to the humble beginnings of this blog, you'll see it started near the time Dave Stevens died. For those who don't know, Dave was one of a handful of talented Bettie fans who helped engineer a personal and professional renaissance for Bettie. Creator of THE ROCKETEER, Dave uses Bettie as the model for his hero's girlfriend, and, as such, exposed a generation of fans to Bettie's appeal. More than any artist except Olivia, he had a clear understanding of the ingredients of Bettie's appeal... and had the skill to translate this appeal to paper.

Striken with leukemia (which affected his output) and taken from us far too soon, Dave doesn't have a voluminous legacy, but one of unparalleled quality.

Bud's Art Books, a real mecca for pin-up, fantasy art and thinking comics fans, has a limited-edition print, SIGNED AND NUMBERED by Dave Stevens on sale for just shy of $60.00.


Pin-up focused novel

We ran across blurbs for this book, which we haven't read (but want to!):

Nothing But a Smile
A Novel by Steve Amick

From the author of the widely praised The Lake, The River & the Other Lake comes the delightful love story of a man and a woman who choose an unconventional way to redefine themselves during and after World War II.

It's 1944 and Wink Dutton, a former illustrator for Yank and Stars and Stripes, has arrived in Chicago after an injury to his drawing hand gets him an unwanted discharge from the service. Renting a room above the camera shop run by Sal Chesterton--the wife of Wink's buddy, still stationed in the Philippines--Wink is surprised to learn how Sal is making ends meet: producing pinup photos for the soldiers' favorite girlie magazines. In fact, she's using herself as a model. When Wink becomes a partner in her covert enterprise, it's the beginning of a collaboration that is both wonderfully sexy and pure, one that blossoms into a subtle and unexpected romance. Their work leads to Wink's reinvention as a photographer and, as the war ends and the business expands, to a shared understanding of the painful adjustments to be made in the rapidly changing postwar world.

Steve Amick's grasp of Wink and Sal's generation is remarkable, as is his fresh take on the period. The triumph of the war's end is tempered by his deep understanding of its quiet undercurrents--the fear of not knowing what to do next, the loss of more carefree prewar selves, the sorrow of mourning soldiers recently dead when everyone else is parading in the streets. In the surprising story of Wink and Sal, Amick has created a beautifully understated love letter to an America of simpler choices that were nonetheless hard for the people who made them.


Column: “Wearing Nothing But A Smile”
Local author Steve Amick's new novel draws crowd to Nicola's

By Bill Castanier

March 12, 2009
A display of Steve Amicks new book at Nicolas Books in the Westgate Shopping Center.

A display of Steve Amick's new book at Nicola's Books in the Westgate Shopping Center. Amick held a book-signing there on Tuesday.

Don’ t avoid the obvious: there is a half-naked woman on the cover of Steve Amick’s new book – wearing “nothing but a smile,” which appropriately is the title of the book (wink-wink). She made quite the impression on you when you walked into Nicola’s Books, where Amick was doing a book signing Tuesday night.

How she got there is quite an innocent story. The book, “Wearing Nothing But a Smile,” deftly balances the innocence of WWII pin-up girls with the harsh realities of the war back home.

Amick admits to stumbling on the idea of a book with the pin-up industry central to the plot.

In 2006, the Ann Arbor author said he and his father-in-law had been talking about cheesecake art, especially the work of noted pin-up artist Gil Elvgren, whose work they both admired. Later, Amick was looking for a calendar online when he came across an especially cheesy pin-up.

“It was old – really old amateur photograph of a girl in a bathing suit. Well, actually half a bathing suit,” Amick said. He showed the audience his muse at the book signing and it appeared that no bathing suit was closer to the truth.

He printed out the pin-up and put it in his writing file. A day later he looked at it and made it his assignment to write about that picture.

“I thought it would be a great assignment and I gave it the title ‘Girlies,’” he said. “I’m a writer who works with assignments.” This may be partially derived from Amick’s song writing and art skills. Amick has a CD and drew the dust jacket art for his first book, “The Lake, the River & the Other Lake.”

The result is an unusual look at the war on the home front, complete with a love lost, a love found and survival wrapped around an innocent diversion that gradually becomes sleazy.

The plot is like one of those innumerable WWII war movies. Near the end of the war, the central character, Wink Dutton, returns home with a hand injury which has ruined his cartooning career. He decides to make an unannounced visit to Sal, his buddy’s wife who has stepped in to operate a family camera store in Chicago. Wink rents a room from Sal and discovers she has been attempting to supplement her income by selling pin-up photos with herself as the model. Of course, Wink graciously offers to step in as the photographer.

Amick said that although the book is peripherally about the pin-up industry, that it “wasn’t going to be another Kavalier & Clay,” (which detailed the comic book industry while along the way winning the Pulitzer Prize).

“It is really about two people putting themselves into positions where conflicts and needs are created. I just let flow. It’s a he said/she said novel,” he told the large crowd which filled every seat in Nicola’s on a cold wet night. It may have been gloomy outside, but Amick entertained the group with his wit and readings, which were frequently punctuated with laughter.

It’s a funny book, in addition to being a romantic and historical look at an era. The one scene he read where Sal and her friend Renee buy black market nylons for the budding pin-up business was reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel and their outlandish skits on the Ricky Ricardo show. The book nails the era: the home front city of Chicago, the burgeoning women’s movement, the black market economy and tough and tumble streets of Chicago’s Loop.

If you’ve ever seen a WWII-era interior photograph of a soldier’s barracks, you’ve probably noticed pin-ups adorning a wall above a bed. Not only did GIs carry the folded pin-ups into battle, but they ended up on the noses of bombers and fighter planes (probably some made right here in nearby Ypsilanti). Many a GI’s green trunk came home from the war with Ava Gardner pasted on the inside of the plywood luggage.

The women in the pin-up photographs are legendary and went on to become major stars, including Dorothy Lamour, Rita Hayworth and Heddy Lamar. Amick said the pin-up industry was informally sanctioned by the military brass and even Yank Magazine and Stars and Stripes carried pin-ups. He said at the beginning of the war the pin-ups were actually sleazier than they were later in the war, when they were toned down to present a different image back home and as the war manned up.

Later, pin-ups would be transformed on the pages of men’s magazines such as Playboy, which Amick subtly weaves into his new book. They also began to become the backbone of a much seedier business as they were exported from Times Square to middle America.

Amick said he had no intention of writing this book. He had another manuscript at a publisher and since his wife was expecting and his father-in-law had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, he had put his writing on hold. (He dedicated the book to his father-in-law, Don Burau.)

But the book did get written. As fate would have it, that pin-up girl motioned Amick to come hither, and he began writing the book in January 2007. He figured he would write about the pin-up girl and place her in Chicago and he would be able to talk with his dying father-in-law about that era and pin-up girls, which generally sounds more interesting than “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

Locals will appreciate Amick’s weaving in an important Ann Arbor connection. But Amick is careful to tell you that, too, is an accident. While wondering what camera Wink would use to shoot pin-ups, it dawned on Amick that it should be an Argus, once made right here in Ann Arbor. A reception following the signing was appropriately held in the old Argus building on William and Fourth, where a collection of old Argus cameras and memorabilia hold forth.

In his discussions about the book, Amick leaves the reason for the trip to Ann Arbor a little vague to avoid a spoiler, but let’s just say that the scenes shift to Ann Arbor after the war, when the pin-up industry begins to evolve into something less than innocent. Amick told the book-signing audience that he enjoyed writing the Ann Arbor segment, especially “about the things that aren’t here.”

When asked how much research he did on the novel, he said, “I tried to write things that I knew and were safe. It’s factual, not fact heavy.”

He also told the audience he didn’t know who the model for the cover is, saying, “It’s no woman I’ve ever seen – at least not in that state.”
Steve Amick signs copies of his book at a Marach 10 reading at Nicolas Books.

Steve Amick signs copies of his book at a March 10 reading at Nicola's Books.

One woman in the audience was especially intrigued by the book. Doris Strite of Ann Arbor was there to hear Amick and get her book signed. She said she worked at Argus from 1940-46.

“I took care of the sales department,” she said. Stite said she is looking forward to reading the book. “It was great – great working there.” She met her husband in the parts department at Argus.

By the way, Amick was not only signing his books but also making rough sketches of Argus C-3s or half-naked women.

Amick has done a wonderful job in his second book of mixing a tender love story against the atmospheric backdrop of WWII. He shows a nation of mourning also quixotically dancing in the streets as the war ends, wondering what it will do next. And his descriptions of the Chicago home front will leave you yearning for a noisy stop in Berghoff’s.

The author said he wrote the novel prior to the nation’s current financial crisis, but the undercurrent he has captured about survival, moving on and an unknown future has caught the attention of reviewers, who see it as a metaphor for what we must do to survive difficult times. Amick’s book seems to suggest that The Greatest Generation is still showing us the way.

Amick said at the reception that his book will soon be reviewed in the New York Times and People magazine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going online to look for one of those pin-ups.


Another Bettie Page Blog Recession Buster:

Click HEREto stream Country Club by John Doe (he of X, The Knitters, a fab solo career and an eclectic acting resume) and the alt-country virtuosos, The Sadies. And no, we're not in "in the tank" for Yep Roc... don't even know the people. But with a roster that includes John Doe, Los Straitjackets, Southern Culture on the Skids and The Reverend Horton Heat, it's hard not to shill!

In true honky tonk style, Country Club is the bastard child of a drunken promise.

A post show hang-out between X & the Knitters’ John Doe and The Sadies produced the idea to join forces to a make an album of country songs. Both rock n’ roll and country music are littered with the ghosts of broken promises but this one was destined to become reality. Timeless sounds abound on Country Club, driven by Doe’s gorgeously rough-hewn vocals, the dueling thousand pound chops of the guitar-wielding Good brothers and The Sadies’ world class rhythm section of Mike Belitsky and Sean Dean.

Here, the Countrypolitan sound of late 1960s Nashville is filtered through the telecaster-based tonk of Bakersfield, CA and the results are simply stunning. Classic tunes by Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings stand alongside corkers by Tammy Wynette and Roger Miller, all of them getting unique treatments by Doe and The Sadies. The album also features four originals - three from The Sadies and one courtesy of the timeless pairing of John Doe and Exene Cervenka.

On Country Club Doe and The Sadies find the perfect blend of the reverent and the experimental, resulting in a slightly psychedelic brew that just might pass for straight if you’re not lookin’.

1) "Stop the World and Let Me Off" (made famous by Waylon Jennings)
2) "Husbands and Wives" (made famous by Roger Miller)
3) "'Til I Get It Right" (made famous by Tammy Wynette)
4) "It Just Dawned on Me" (by Exene Cervenka, John Doe)
5) "(Now and Then) There's a Fool Such as I" (made famous by Hank Snow)
6) "The Night Life" (made famous by Ray Price)
7) "The Sudbury Nickel" (by The Sadies)
8) "Before I Wake" (by The Sadies)
9) "I Still Miss Someone" (made famous by Johnny Cash, Roy Cash Jr.)
10) "The Cold Hard Facts of Life" (made famous by Porter Wagoner)
11) "Take These Chains from My Heart" (made famous by Hank Williams)
12) "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (made famous by Kris Kristofferson)
13) "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good" (made famous by Merle Haggard)
14) "Detroit City" (made famous by Bobby Bare)
15) "Pink Mountain Rag" (by The Sadies)

CD/LP Release Date: April 14, 2009. Pre-order Country Club at the Yep Roc Webshop and get a limited edition guitar pick. These were created as promotional items for Country Club and will not be available after the pre-order ends!
Click HERE to buy the record.


Merkin Fun Facts!

From the EXAMINER:

Burlesque costumes are over-the-top sexy. The Pussycat Dolls, Dita Von Tease, VEGAS, smoking hot babes in sexy little outfits that cover next to nothing. These costumes weren't always what they seemed though. A few centuries ago, the outfits had a slightly different purpose. According to the Museum of Sex, merkins (the bottom half of burlesque costumes) were originally created as "pubic wigs" for 15th century prostitutes. The designs helped hide pubic lice and syphilis symptoms. Ladies: share this information with your boyfriend or husband the next time he heads to Vegas with the boys.

Fango Fashion: Hey Sailor!

Hey Sailor

Check out this fun profile of hat designer, HEY SAILOR, on FANGO FASHION/CULT COUTURE.

Motor City

A while ago, we reviewed (and heartily endorsed) the greaser/zombie graphic novel, MOTOR CITY. Here's another interview with Gavin, the book's creator, in CARMINE MAGAZINE.


Tattoosday: Millie Dollar

millie dollar

"England's Most Graceful Teaser", marvelous Millie Dollar proudly displays her Bettie tattoo! This globetrottin' burlesque babe is based in Liverpool, but will probably be performing in a town near you! Go to her shows, so you can catch her amazing ink in person!

If you have some retro-inspired ink (especially a portrait of Bettie), EMAIL a picture/link and some info!