Calendar Girl

Calendar Girl
by Tom Watson

A once in a life­time assign­ment that exceeded my expec­ta­tions started with a concept presen­ta­tion to Seatrain Ship­ping Company. Seatrain was not unlike many Indus­trial accounts that I worked on in my career. It wasn’t a bad account, but not partic­u­larly stim­u­lating with creative oppor­tu­ni­ties. Well, not until they agreed to have me create and produce a Pin Up Calendar for the coming year. By the 1970s’ and pin up calen­dars were virtu­ally a thing of the past. However, beau­tiful sexy ladies are never a thing of the past, and the client wanted his logo to be seen by his customers all year long.

Seatrain shipped cargo every­where, but for the calendar we focused on just the United States. I chose 12 loca­tions which would become the theme for each month of the year. For example, I used the Statue of Liberty as an East Coast loca­tion for one month, a Midwest Corn­field loca­tion for another month, and the next month it was Hawaii, and so on.

One of the more diffi­cult tasks was selecting 12 beau­tiful models over several days of exhausting (?) inter­views.. yuk, yuk. Well, the exhausting part was trying to narrow it down to only 12 gorgeous ladies. Part of the proposal to the client was to keep the total budget rela­tively low. That meant using photog­raphy (illus­tra­tion would require more time and a bigger budget, although, that would have been my pref­er­ence) and most impor­tant, we had to eleme­nate travel expenses. I had heard of rear view projec­tion from 35 mm slides for a back­ground scene, but never used it before. So, I did some research and selected 12 familiar scenic slides from various photo morgues. Jim Blakely was recom­mended to me, since he had expe­ri­ence working on Playboy Club photo assign­ments for most of their S.F. promo­tion. I had to twist Jim’s arm a little, but he finally agreed to take on the assign­ment as a char­i­table gesture, and a gallant display of his human­i­tarian side. Well, that might be a slight exag­ger­a­tion.

Seatrain wanted the calendar girls to be sexy but not erotic or raunchy, so we (well, the client) decided we should subtly cover up the “bare essen­tials.” Each scene and model would be char­ac­ter­istic of a general region of the U.S., and each model would have one or more props with the Seatrain logo in plain view. For example, one month the model was wearing just a thin wet unbut­toned beach shirt and a bikini bottom, holding a large conch shell to her ear, and a coastal beach scene projected in the back­ground. The conch shell had the Seatrain logo painted on it. We used a fan to add the effect of a sea breeze. As much as I would have liked to have photographed at the real loca­tions, we had complete control in the studio, espe­cially with the lighting. Bad weather was not a concern, nor any other unpre­dicted prob­lems that some­times appear on loca­tion shooting . And, using rear view projec­tion, really looked like they were shot on loca­tion.

One of my models was Suzanne Somers, whom several years earlier had a bit part as the pretty blonde in the T‐​Bird in the movie “Amer­ican Graf­fiti,” and later became a star in the hit TV series “Three’s Company.” She was about 27 when she modeled for the calendar, and she had modeled for me a few times before.

While preparing for the morning shoot in the studio, I knocked on Suzanne’s dressing room door and she responded, “Come in. I want to show you some­thing.” As I stepped in, I was busy looking at my notes for the upcoming shoot, and began explaining how I wanted her posi­tioned. When I looked up, she was sitting at the mirror applying her makeup, and to my aston­ish­ment, she was wearing nothing from the waist up. I gulped and eluci­dated with utmost sincerity, “Oops, Sorry Suzanne, I didn’t know you weren’t dressed,” and started to leave. She quickly replied, “Wait, it’s okay. I brought three halter tops to try on for you,” as she held up a shop­ping bag. I tried to act unphazed, but I doubt that I pulled it off. Strug­gling to gather my composer, I blurted out, “Great, I would like to see them,” imme­di­ately thinking, yikes!, what a poor choice of words ! Showing no discom­fort, she spon­ta­neously tried on each halter top, and of course, they all looked terrific on her. I under­stand­ably pondered over which halter top I would use in the photo.. another tough deci­sion. As much as Jim would have been willing to help me make this diffi­cult choice, I knew his first priority was setting up his equip­ment for the day’s shooting, so I thought it best not to disturb him.

Well, Suzanne was perfect as she posed on a bicycle with her care­fully selected halter top, a pair of very short shorts and tennis shoes, as the breeze from the fan softly ruffled her long blonde hair. The back­ground was a view of El Capitan in Yosemite. Jim did a fine job behind the camera, and all the models were ideal. Suzanne modeled for me later, on several more assign­ments before moving on to fame and fortune. She was an excel­lent model with an infec­tious smile, sparkling blue eyes and always a good sport. That was the only pin up calendar I did in my career, and one of the most enjoy­ably assign­ments, as you may have guessed !

2 thoughts on “Calendar Girl”

  1. Jim Blakeley says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for bringing back a great memory from the past. That was a very fun project and I too was some­what enam­ored with Suzanne. However the rest of the cast were not “chopped liver” as the saying goes. That assign­ment, although chal­lenging, opened the door to some of the larger produc­tion shoots that I later became known for. Thanks for offering me the oppor­tu­nity to work with you.

    Go Geezers,

    Jim Blakeley

  2. Tom Watson says:


    Good to hear from you, after so many years. It was a plea­sure and lots of fun working with you on that assign­ment. We were lucky to have been in a career that over­lapped and gave us so many great memo­ries. I couldn’t imagine, working all my life in a bank, as an accoun­tant or any other routine type of job.

    I haven’t been to any Geezer picnics yet, but will try to make the next one, and hope to see you there.

    Thanks for the great work on that calendar, and by chance, do you have a sample of the calendar ? I lost mine.
    Tom Watson

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