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!