Myarchives.net Is Dead

March 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Non-fiction Essays | 30 Comments
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The My Archives Vintage Porn internet site has vanished.  In mid-October 2012, its picture gallery disappeared but regular members continued to visit by linking directly to discussion forums.  These forums, and other components such as the chatbox and private message system, remained intact.  At first we were told the gallery was backed up and would return online after a programmer updated the operating system.  But as time progressed, the gallery remained inaccessible and other structures stopped working.  When only the chatbox and discussion forums still functioned, I frantically started copying posts from my 36-page discussion thread.  Among the more than 800 posts to this thread were several thoughtful exchanges that I didn’t want to lose.  Another member told me how to quickly back up the entire thread; three days later, the website crashed.

My Archives lasted less than eight years.

***

How long should internet material endure?  Should it last as long as print material?  Will digital forms of communication replace printed matter?

A while ago, I decided to re-read a Ruth Rendell book of short stories that I first read in 1982.  It was not in my local library system, so I tried Amazon.  An anthology, consisting of her four published books of short stories, was issued in 1987 with several reprints.  Amazon’s third-party dealers were selling used copies.  For $6.50 (which included postage), I purchased a 1991 edition of Rendell’s Collected Short Stories in excellent condition, pages just slightly tinged yellow.  With careful handling, it will last another 30 years.  Ruth Rendell is now 83 years old but her writing will last long after her death.

***

I wonder if Tony T thought his comments would last at least a few years after he died.  Tony T was the moral centre of the My Archives discussion forums. Many visitors to the website ignored the discussion forums; they only were interested in looking at “dirty” pictures.  But a loyal group took part in the forum exchanges, where members analyzed and debated various aspects of the porn industry and model anatomy.  Whenever a discussion became contentious – and several did – Tony T would weigh in with a balanced comment.  Even when there was no controversy, Tony often posted comments that encouraged reflection on a topic.  He joined the community in 2005 when the site contained only photos taken prior to 1980.  About a month before the gallery disappeared, Tony wrote his final post, stating that his cancer treatment had not succeeded and he was moving to a hospice.  We don’t know if Tony has died, or whether his family tried to notify us only to find that they couldn’t enter the site using its entrance link.  Before My Archives vanished, one member was copying what he considered the most important discussion forums.  I don’t know how to access these copies.  All I have to remember Tony are a few private messages and his comments on my discussion thread.

***

Photos posted to My Archives were submitted by members – mostly scans of pictures found in vintage porn magazines.  Images from books that had lasted 40 to 60 years, as well as some 90-year-old postcards.  Print material endures!

Volunteers vetted the posts and ensured they were placed in correct folders.  The domain name was owned by “Tiger.”   He paid for the server space – a major expense given the huge number of posts each day, especially after the cut-off date was changed to 1989 in 2006 and to 1999 three years later.  The few advertisements, all for pay-for-view porn sites, were supposed to cover expenses.  They probably didn’t cover these costs, particularly when a major overhaul of the operating system was needed.

***

One reason expenses overran revenues was internet thievery.  Images posted on My Archives could be copied and pasted to another site.  I didn’t realize this at first, and by the time I discovered it, my pictures were published on numerous tumblr sites.  Tumblr is a network for sharing internet photos.  A visitor would capture an image from My Archives and post it on his/her tumblr site; others would “reblog” the original post until it circulated around the network.  My modelling name was usually included with the image (that’s how I acquired more fans); however My Archives was never identified as the original source, so it never received “value” from this circulation of its images.

Had I known my photos were going to be passed around the internet, I never would have put the private ones on My Archives.  These were pictures I owned that were not scanned from magazines.  Initially I hoped to sell some of these private shots as autographed pictures, but now anyone can copy them without my permission.

Within its own realm, tumblr is relatively innocuous.  Unfortunately, these images are captured by other internet users who place them on commercial websites.  I’ve found my photos on sites selling hair products and espousing political views I don’t agree with.

Other porn sites also contained photos copied from My Archives.  For example, one member found a photo of me on Vintage Stockings.  Although this image had originally appeared in a magazine and conceivably could have been scanned directly from that magazine, I knew that this one was captured from my post on My Archives; unique changes I had made to the magazine image were present also in the Vintage Stockings version.  Management at Vintage Stockings relies on posts by its members and members can “pass off” images taken from other websites as their own scans.

Similarly, some My Archives members posted images from other internet sources on My Archives.  The photo below was posted in the “Gloria Dawn” folder of the gallery by a member who did not know where he initially obtained it.  Since then, I have been trying to locate the original source.   I know it is a Ron Vogel shot and it looks like it appeared in a magazine – but not in any magazine I own.  (If anyone knows its original source, please let me know.)

Gloria Dawn photo posted on My Archives.  (Source unknown)

Gloria Dawn photo posted on My Archives. (Source unknown)

***

When it comes to stealing images, the worst perpetrators are eBay sellers.  About two years ago, other My Archives members informed me that eBay dealers were selling prints of photos I first posted on My Archives.  Because these photos contained my image, I was able to have the auctions stopped.  However, eBay will not halt auctions unless I find the offending photos and fill out a complicated form.  Finding the stolen images among the thousands published on eBay each day is the problem, and I must rely on friends to inform me about them.  In one year, I had photos removed from those listed by slipboy, fleamarketkings, your-usa-seller, ultrararefinds, arieteii and massrappc.  I started writing my name and “My Archives” on each new image I posted.  This didn’t stop the thieves.  Below, on top, is a private photo I just had removed from a listing by t50fox.  Beneath it is the original I posted.  You can see that t50fox simply cropped the image to remove its source (and then had to compensate by cutting off the top and bottom portions of the photo to fit it onto 8 x 10 photo paper).

Gloria Dawn photo being sold on eBay.

Gloria Dawn photo being sold on eBay.

Gloria Dawn photo I posted on My Archives.

Gloria Dawn photo I posted on My Archives.

I sent a message to t50 fox asking:

Did you copy this image off an internet post?

He replied:

I don’t recall the original source of the photo.  As a hobby, I have collected photos from many sources (scans, originals, downloads, etc.) for many years.

My photos are of little consequence to eBay thieves because I was a 1960s model, just one of the horde of unknown 60s vintage models (unknown at least until I joined My Archives).  For every print of my image they attempt to sell, they list 30 different photos of Bettie Page and 10 of Joyce Gibson.  Many of these images were initially published on My Archives.  In their eBay listings, print sellers use words to suggest that they are selling prints of original photos they posses; to mislead buyers, they use phrases like “reprinted from my personal collection,” “60s vintage print,” or “original print.”  What they really sell are copies of images downloaded from the internet.

People who originally posted these images cannot get the auctions stopped because eBay has no mechanism to allow for removal of pictures stolen from other internet sites.  (I can get my personal images removed because the sellers do not have my permission to advertise and sell pictures of me.)  As one former My Archives member wrote to me:

I can recognize my work most of the time and most of these jerks refer to their items as part of “their private collections.”  I knew my Bettie photos would show up elsewhere but I still get cranky when I see my stuff pop up unattributed.  When a dirty little scumbag appropriates a Bettie that I paid $200 for and then spent a gazillion hours reconstituting and refining, I can’t stifle my rage.  EBay won’t answer my complaints and it doesn’t give you a proper way to report thieves.

EBay makes money from these thieves, but given the millions of legitimate auctions that take place each day, I wonder whey they facilitate felonious behaviour to earn a few thousand dollars a year.

***

The internet is still evolving and many who initially flocked to publish material have discovered that ideas and images are easily stolen.  Many sites will disappear during the next few years; their stories and pictures will vanish.  Newspapers have already found that it was not a good idea to provide information free of charge.  Porn sites that once offered free access are now charging their customers.  At present, I post my images on www.gloriadawn.wordpress at a low dpi and small size so clear prints cannot be produced from them.  They still can be shared by tumblr members using small-sized viewing devices, but if the effort and cost of maintaining my website becomes too onerous, and no one wants to purchase autographed photos, this site too will come down.

***

In an email to me, Tony T wrote:

Like you my main interest lies in the true vintage and retro periods, although I also like the early days of photography, the 1860s onwards – I think the ladies of the 1900s/1920s like the Ziegfeld beauties are something else.

My own feelings about the site have been gradually changing since they allowed firstly the 80s some years back when I voiced an opinion that it was the thin end of the wedge, then the 90s.  This latter has resulted in a takeover of modern posts that can be found on any porn site.

When I visited MA yesterday there were five pages of new posts since my previous visit the day before.  Four of the pages were 1990s videos.  In the gallery updates there were again five pages of which the major proportion was either 1990s models or silicone enhanced 1980s ones.  There were two sets of pictures from Harrison Marks Kamera magazine and a couple of other pictures that were of interest – so I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies.

All this from a site that started out to archive vintage and retro material before it was lost in the mists of time!

Like Tony, I feel that the site lost its original mandate once 1990s material was added.

***

My Archives is dead.  The list of model indices for the 1950s and 1960s – a massive undertaking – is no longer available.  It served as a wonderful resource for identifying models.   Many vintage models who had been identified and allotted folders will return to being “unknown.”  No other porn site provided this service for the vast number of women who graced figure magazines printed in the 1960s.  (The Spiderpool group is still attempting to identify a select group of models who worked during the 1950s.)

I miss the back-and-forth interactions with others who appreciated the classic porn era, interactions that provided information about the industry that I wasn’t aware of, even though I worked in it.  Now I still post stories about my experiences on my two wordpress blogs, but this format does not allow for back-and-forth discussions.

Perhaps it was inevitable that My Archives would die given the unhampered capturing of its images, the lack of protection from theft.  I am seriously wondering if I should continue to maintain the gloriadawn blog, or whether I should just write my stories and self-publish a few copies of a book to give to family and friends.  At least print endures.

Nude in Black and Blonde

March 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Memoir -- Non-fiction Stories, Modelling Stories | 14 Comments
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It’s 1963 in Los Angeles and I’m twenty-two and restless, bored by office work and trying to revive my career as a figure model. Pictures of me as a blonde have appeared in a dozen men’s magazines, so my hair is now black. Change the hair colour, change the name and readers will think it’s a new girl. That’s what people in the business believe.

My agent books me with new photographers and between sessions I work at one- and two-day office positions for a temp agency. When not on a job, I share stories with other girls living at the Hollywood Studio Club. We’re all young and employed – or trying to find employment – in the entertainment industry. A few of my friends seek stardom, but most, like me, are just looking for a bit of glamour, some excitement. Figure modelling is not a long-term career. My future, I believe, lies in finding the right man, but since my “great romance” disintegrated eight months earlier, no special man has turned up.

Black hair may be hindering my quest for a new relationship. In my case, it appears true that “blondes have more fun.” But as a brunette, I’m getting more bookings.

In mid-June, Bill, my agent, phones to arrange a modelling session with Elmer Batters. I met Batters once, in Bill’s office, and vaguely remember seeing the two men hunched over my photographs. A matched pair, I thought, two middle-aged jowly men, with forgettable faces, thick waists and thinning hair.

The next morning, Batters parks in front of the Studio Club and I slip into the passenger seat clasping the leather hatbox that stores my modelling accessories: black bikini panties; black garter belt; black bra; sheer pink baby-doll peignoir; tight blue slacks; blue sweater with buttons opening down the front; open-toed gold shoes with two-inch heels; and a makeup kit containing eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencils, and several shades of lipstick.

I’m wearing white bikini panties, a white garter belt and an armour-like white bra designed to support large breasts. Its clasps are unfastened; when they are hooked, the bra’s straps pull tight, leaving deep red grooves in my shoulders. So I’m wearing a dress over a loosely swinging bra. My long-sleeved, flowing shirtwaist dress is white with a green leaf pattern; it’s office apparel, not a modelling accessory.

Elmer Batters drives east towards the San Fernando Valley and then beyond into the desert. He says little. Most photographers attempt to put me at ease by conversing prior to a shoot.

We ride for an hour until we reach a desolate road, finally stopping at a derelict movie set. Not much remains except scruffy wooden planks and crumbling plaster buildings. Beside this deteriorating structure is a railway track leading nowhere. A gurgling stream runs nearby; no other sound permeates the silence.

From the back seat of his car, Batters pulls out black nylon stockings with seams that he asks me to exchange for my pale seamless ones. He also hands me a pair of black stiletto shoes. But he doesn’t want me to remove my dress, just my bra. He shoots pictures of me in the dress, top buttons open, with my breasts revealed but still supported, making them appear full and firm. I pose on a concrete ledge dangling my legs over the creek, leaning against the front of his car, sitting on a faded wooden sidewalk and standing in front of a tattered screen. Finally, he asks me to remove the dress. Now I’m wearing only white panties, white garter belt, black nylons and black stilettos. With no support, my breasts droop.

Behind the buildings is a rusty dump truck, its front wheels propped on blocks. I’m beside the truck. Click. My foot rests on the high step below the cab. Snap. After Batters covers the tattered seat with a towel, I sit sideways. Clack. I’m inside the cab, curled in the grungy passenger seat, my feet resting on the dashboard. Whirr. Was it only a week ago that I was lounging seductively on a red brocade sofa?

I rely on photographers to tell me how to pose my body; I control the tilt of my head and facial expressions. But sometimes Batters shoots photos before I’m ready – so there’s no seductive smile, no sparkle in my eyes. And he doesn’t seem to care about my sagging breasts.

After I climb down from the cab, he leads me to the railway track where I totter on one rail wearing the stilettos. No longer worried about my looks, I concentrate on keeping upright. My feet are sore. I’m wobbling. The shoes must go! Returning to the car, I remove the hated footwear and change into my low-heeled pumps. Batters sighs. Then he guides me to a cluttered room with a low ceiling and slight mouldy odour. I straddle a rusty bathtub in my stocking feet, balancing on tip-toe. A dirty mattress covers much of the floor. Batters rolls up his towel to make a pillow and I lie on this mattress, but my body is stiff and I don’t smile or look towards the camera.

Batters snaps his photos quickly. Then we leave that stuffy cellar and head for the car. While he stores his cameras and tripod in the back seat, I fold my dress, carefully pack it in my case and then slip on my pants and sweater. Despite being parked in the shade, the auto is hot. Batters opens all four doors. When shooting in the crisp desert air, a gentle breeze cooled my semi-naked body. Now sweat runs down my forehead. Batters rummages through his back seat, finds two Coke bottles and flips off the caps. Although the pop is warm, I sip mine gratefully.

I start a conversation and Batters responds. We talk about the weather and then I introduce the topic of models and their looks. My ideal is the Playboy image – the glamorous, full-bosomed beauty.

Batters presses his lips tight. He says, “Men don’t want to look at fake women.”

“They aren’t fake,” I respond. “Men like to look at pretty girls.”

“No, they don’t. They want to look at the type of girls they see every day. Ordinary girls … naked. Girls they know they can get.”

He twists to the back seat, gropes around, and pulls out a magazine. Flipping it open, he shows me a page. “Look,” he says, “She is my most popular model because she doesn’t look special. She looks like someone a man can date.”

I glance through his photos. The model is average-looking, but she does things with her mouth that remind me of oral sex. When I point this out to Batters, he doesn’t respond, but instead tosses the magazine into the back seat and starts the car.

We stop at a bungalow in the San Fernando Valley. Most of my modelling stints occur in houses – places belonging to friends of the photographer – but previously these have been upscale homes, tastefully decorated. This is a shabby one-bedroom cottage with cracks at the bottom of the door. Its furniture appears to have come from a thrift shop: pink sheers covering the front-room windows, a matted sheepskin rug in front of an old tan sofa; a starburst clock above the fireplace mantel; a lime-green lamp; and, in the bedroom, purple curtains matching a purple bedspread.

I smell no whisper of perfume, no whiff of food. The place feels unoccupied – another forlorn setting, different from the desert but emitting the same sense of loneliness.

Before shooting begins, I hurry into the bathroom, splash water on my face, dab it dry, reapply my lipstick and touch up my eyebrows. I attempt to fluff my hair but my bangs stick to my forehead. In the desert, my hair had a soft wave; it flattened in that hot car. No hope for the bangs; backcombing gives the top some lift. Batters may not want me to look pretty – but I do.

I emerge from the bathroom wearing black underwear and embodying a new resolve. When he seems about to shoot, I lower my eyelids and don’t raise them until I’m ready. Dipping my chin, forming a half-smile, I look into the camera lens; this is my technique for simulating sexual desire in my photos. I hold my chest high and my shoulders back, raise my arms whenever possible, and thus make my breasts curve upward and appear fuller. Batters takes photos of me sprawling on the bed, stretching over the sofa, and sitting, cross-legged, in front of the fireplace. In only a few shots am I totally nude; in most, I’m wearing black panties, garter belt and nylons – and sometimes my open-toed gold shoes.

A lot of the time, Batters’ head is bowed while he views me through cameras. When he looks up, he doesn’t meet my eyes. Is he shy? He seldom speaks, simply waves an arm to direct my movements.

Finally we finish and he drives me back to the Studio Club; I have just enough time to clean up before walking downstairs to join friends for dinner.

That night in bed, I cannot stop thinking about Batters’ comment. He takes pictures of “ordinary girls.” In person, I do look ordinary as a brunette. In photographs, it’s different. The contrast between dark hair and my pale complexion can appear dramatic. That’s why some photographers place me in lavish settings: kneeling by an electric blue wall, reclining on a red brocade sofa, or huddling among lush green foliage. But I have large eyes, a stubby upturned nose and rosebud lips – childlike features, not dramatic ones. In person, with dark hair, I do not look striking. Men never fawned over me before I became a blonde.

Photographs be damned. I hate vivid colours. With fair hair, pale makeup and subdued clothes, I feel at ease; men notice me. I want to be blonde again.

The next day, I purchase hair supplies. To save money, I’ll do it myself. I’ve watched hairdressers bleach my hair for five years. How difficult can it be?

***

I have orange hair. Bright. Orange. Hair.

Around my scalp is a one-inch halo of pale yellow hair. The rest, the part previously dyed black, is now orange. I mix another package of bleach, cover the orange for an hour, then wash it out. My hair is a slightly lighter, even brighter, orange.

I wear a wig to dinner and consult with girls at several tables.

“You should go to Clairol,” one suggests. “They’ll know what to do.”

Unknown to me – and most other people – Clairol maintains a private salon in Hollywood where new products are tested. The girls chosen as models receive free hair services.
The next day, at Clairol’s beauty parlour, a colour expert examines my hair. She says, “You should have used a colour stripping process before you tried to bleach dyed hair.”

I’ve never heard of their colour stripping product. It isn’t sold in regular stores with their bleaches and toners. If I’d gone to a hairdresser…

The colour expert applies the stripping solution, waits an hour and washes it out. My hair is a slightly dimmer orange. “There’s no way to get the dye out now,” the expert says. “We’ll have to use a toner to mask it.”

Miraculously, she finds one, a dark blonde toner that turns my hair golden. A stylist trims the frizzled ends and I leave the salon with an appointment in two weeks. I will be their training model for “what to do when disaster strikes.”

I visit my agent to show him my new look. He takes four head shots, examines the prints and says they appear fine. He doesn’t have another photo session lined up but says, “There’s a big job coming soon. A soft core movie. It’s going to be another Immoral Mr. Teas.”

I know that Mr. Teas was a surprise hit featuring bare breasts and humour. However, Bill’s contacts in the entertainment industry are limited to photographers; he processes their colour film. A year earlier he couldn’t arrange trade show employment for me. Now he thinks he can get me a movie part?

I visit the temp office and they have a two-day job with a talent agency, one that evolves into a two-week position. My first day there, Martin, an entertainment lawyer, drops by, notices me and asks me out. Maybe I don’t have model bookings but I’m having fun, as Martin escorts me to restaurants and nightclubs. I’m blonde again. My social life has revived.

A month later, Bill calls. The movie job has come through. A four-day booking. One hundred dollars a day, double my usual rate. Fantastic!

Later, I reflect. How did I get this job without an audition? Topless girls in a soft core movie don’t need to act but they must look alluring on the screen. How a model moves in front of the camera is just as important as breast size.

Two days later, I drive to the studio, a warehouse in the San Fernando Valley. A makeup artist applies foundation to my face and neck (but not my body), and then skillfully highlights my lips and eyes. She is followed by a hair stylist who backcombs my weakened hair to give it volume. I join two other girls. We’re all clad in skimpy black satin underpants and black nylons (with seams) that have tight elastic bands to keep them from falling down (so no garter belts). I’m wearing my gold shoes with the two-inch heels. The three of us are standing outside the makeup room, awkwardly staring at walls, because there has been a delay in shooting our scene; the crew and movie camera are in another section of the warehouse, filming an episode that was supposed to be completed yesterday. Shivering in the cool hall, I drape my blue sweater around my shoulders and clutch the top.

A familiar face appears. Elmer Batters. He catches my eye, holds up his right hand and crooks his finger to indicate “come here.” He leads me to a room containing two large beds and begins taking photos, this time working with me, watching my eyes, waiting until I’m ready. He is the film’s still photographer. I know now how I got this gig.


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