Two major contributors to sexploitation/fetish history
were Irving Klaw and Leonard (Lenny) Burtman.
Burtman (illustration by Stanton)
Although Irving Klaw was first in entering the fetish business
in 1947, it's Lenny Burtman who envisioned going beyond
mail order and creating the first sexploitation/fetish publishing
enterprise with nationally distributed digests and magazines.
As with most figures in
the sexploitation/fetish world, biographical facts of Burtman's
life (as with his wives, Tana Louise and Jutka Goz [aka
Jennifer Jordan]) are obscured by countless falsities. (In
the preface of the EXOTIQUE 3 book collection, for instance,
he's mentioned as being a renegade A-bomb scientist. Others
have insisted that he was extensively schooled in electronics.)
This much is known: In 1950,
after a discredited career in the science field, he arrived
in New York City from California to reinvent himself and
embark on a new career as a photographer. Specifically a
fetish photographer. Rumors have it that he may have initially
free-lanced for Irving Klaw; others have asserted that he
may have contributed to the publications of Robert Harrison
(best known for such cheesecake magazines like BEAUTY PARADE,
WINK, EYEFUL, TITTER, etc).
As a producer
of marketable fetish material, no doubt Lenny Burtman took
Irving Klaw as a role model, and by the mid-50s, Burtman
was selling his own wide assortment self-generated sexploitation
and fetish-inclined photo sets and films.
(Pics taken in Burtman's apartment)
"Dark Angel" Bettie was a favorite of his, and
when he began his first major publishing venture -- a fetish
digest in 1955 called EXOTIQUE -- he envisioned Bettie Page
as "Ms. Exotique" or a shinning example of the
type of woman his magazine represented.
role would be appropriated by Tana Louise, a former burlesque
stripper and Lenny's soon-to-be wife, formally introduced
in issue 9.
(Tana Louise from EXOTIQUE,
#9 ... transformation from burlesque girl to fetish queen.)
In large part, Lenny Burtman's
EXOTIQUE owes a debt to John Coutts (aka John Willie), whose
fetish digest BIZARRE would set the stage for the type of
publication he was trying to create.
(John Willie's Bizarre #14, 1954)
himself from Irving Klaw, whose niche was "damsels
in distress" (aka bondage), Lenny Burtman focused on
fetish fashion: whether it was women in corsets, stockings/garters
and ultra-high heels (Burmel/Selbee mags) or leather (as
with his dominatrix-inspired vamps).
Although asserting more
of a cult influence, Burtman's contribution to popular culture
can be seen today, obvious in the widely circulated work
of Dita Von Teese (whose fetish style lineage can be traced
directly back to Burtman's Burmel/Selbee publications).
The conflicting undercurrent
of fetish culture (and what accounts for much of its compelling
nature) -- then, as today -- is that it pulls from two polar
opposites at once: the "aristocratic" (or those
able to afford such rare and extravagant leather wear, handmade
shoes, and corsets) and the primitive (or what's tribal,
feral, and "animal").
All of Burtman's publications
-- from Burmel to Selbee and beyond -- would carry this
innate contradiction as well as the imprint of his personality.
He was an obsessive with a driving need to reimagine the
world through the particular -- and often repetitive --
subject matter of his magazines. And this repetition bears
mentioning -- as often photos taken in the late 1950s would
appear again in various publications throughout the 1960s;
photographs taken in the early 1960s would reappear as late
as the mid 1970s. And that repetition would extend beyond
articles (many purportedly written by a compulsive Burtman
under the name "Carlson Wade") to the artwork
contributed by Gene Bilbrew (aka "Eneg") and Eric
Stanton, artists who originally worked for Klaw.
was primarily his artist in the beginning (with Burmel),
with Eric Stanton (often signing as his work "Stanten"),
contributing later, especially in the early 1960s (with
Mr. Burtman's life was not
without major difficulties. In the late 1950s, for publishing
EXOTIQUE, he was pursued by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
(acting as a censorship agency then) and local law enforcement
(who functioned in coordination with Postal Inspectors and
the Catholic Church); he was also tailed relentlessly by
the FBI. Eventually, he was arrested -- with all his magazines
and materials confiscated -- and brought to trial. Much
like Irving Klaw, he would be targeted as a pornographer
though at the time none of his publications featured any
nudity (unlike Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine) -- or even
depicted sexually suggestive situations between men and
women. (As with Klaw's material, men were generally
excluded from this fetishized female-charged universe.)
Burmel, his first major
imprint, would be the first casualty in his legal battles
with the government. (He would manage to publish 36 issues
of EXOTIQUE, in addition to numerous "photo-fiction"
digests, before folding.) His next publishing imprint, Kaysey
Sales, would be his second casualty in his legal court battles
and brought down within a year.
In 1960, while still embroiled
in legal difficulties, Lenny Burtman would re-invent himself
most famously with Selbee Associates, the publishing imprint
of LEG SHOW, SATANA, HIGH HEELS, etc. (magazines that leaned
more toward sexploitation than fetish), in addition to publishing
a new line of digests, most notably those illustrated with
watercolor paintings by Eric Stanton.
In the early 1960s, Mr.
Burtman even made an attempt to enter the sexploitation
film business, producing the unintentional camp classic
SATAN IN HIGH HEELS, featuring Meg Miles wearing an ill-fitting
leather dominatrix jumpsuit.
Meg Miles (illustration by Stanton): Femdom Ethel Merman style
By the mid-1960s, with the
collapse of a major distributor and "anti-smut"
arrests and renewed court battles, Lenny Burtman would suffer
major financial problems and be forced to seek the assistance
of mob-connected porn kingpin, Rueben Sturman, who would
become a major financial backer in exchange for being Burtman's
The U.S. government finally
had the last laugh in 1970 when they managed to convict
Burtman ... though not of obscenity ... but bribery. The
official charge was "conspiracy to defraud the United
States and the Bureau of Customs" (for importing erotic
magazines in crates invoiced as "earthenware cups and
saucers") and for this Burtman was sent to federal
prison in 1971. (Dian Hanson, editor of LEG SHOW, has also
suggested that Burtman may have been obliged to take the
rap for the mob [thus, making it a "loyalty bid"].)
Out of prison, a wearied
but undefeated Lenny Burtman resurfaced in California with
his then wife, Jennifer Jordan (aka former "Miss Free
Hungary," Jutka Goz), where under various guises (including
"Jennifer Jordan Publications" [listed with Jordan
as "editor-in-chief']), he continued publishing magazines,
often re-vamping old titles, like EXOTIQUE and HIGH HEELS
and LEG SHOW. Each generation would lend these magazines
their own unique flavor. But from this point on, Lenny Burtman
kept a deliberately low profile -- no doubt fearing any
publicity that might result in renewed legal harassment.
(Jutka Goz, aka Jennifer Jordan: Burtman's wife)
According to writer Dian
Hanson, who would eventually take over as editor of his
1980 re-launched magazine, LEG SHOW, Lenny Burtman died
at his work desk, at age 74. He'd been dividing his time
between Europe and America, again attempting to make films,
working relentlessly, still trying to find a place in the
(Illustrations provided courtesy of Eric Stanton.)
© 2011 Richard Perez
Burtman artifacts from my collection:
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