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Vintage Sleaze Collector Interview: Jim Linderman

Collector Jim Linderman aka Victor Minx of Vintage Sleaze

If you’re a lover of all things in our sexual past, there’s little chance you don’t know of collector Jim Linderman, aka Victor Minx, of Vintage Sleaze.  For years he’s been luring us over to his place to see his etchings (along with his ephemera, novelties, etc.); this time I decided we should all get to know him and his collecting habits a little better…

So I slipped into something a little more comfortable and plied Linderman with liquor, hoping to release his inner Minx — turns out one needn’t work so hard. Linderman is easy; all you need to do is ask. Plus, he’s in no rush. My kind of fella!

How long have you been collecting what you call “vintage sleaze”?

Not long…the blog is a learning activity as well as a way to bring back stories which haven’t been told, or which have lain dormant a long time. I do have a knack for finding things which haven’t been “exploited” or marketed, and my goal in collecting is to stay ahead of the curve. I can’t afford to collect REAL art and never could, but there is always something which has never been put in a group and presented.

I might look like a smut collector, but what I am really collecting is stories. The “genre” or “field” or whatever you like is an important piece of our history, and I have always been attracted to what I call “fugitive” literature, that which fell out of the mainstream. What is under the counter (or in the back room) is always FAR more interesting than what is being shilled by the front door. This stuff never would have had a bar code.

Rightly or wrongly, some talented visual artists, models, photographers and such did some remarkable things under cover of night during the 1950s. Sexist or not, a massive hypocrisy about the material exists then and now. It sold like pizza. We are all human, and most of us are visual. The women’s movement came along and put many of the artists I collect out of business. (The ones which weren’t hounded out by FBI and local ordinances that is.) I am pleased so many women read and follow Vintage Sleaze on Facebook. I would like to think my scholarship is part of it, but who knows. Kids today don’t know you could walk into a news stand 50 years ago and see literally a HUNDRED magazines and girlie gag books on the top shelves, many with the most sexist and strange stuff in them.

More and more as I research, it becomes clear the whole thing was run by the mob, and with those characters meeting up with some extraordinary artists, cartoonists, amphetamine-addicted writers and such, you have a good group of folks to study…the stories are hilarious. THAT is what I really collect. Stories.

Burlesque Legend Carrie Finnell & Her Educated Breasts

An example might be Carrie Finnell and her Educated Breasts. The woman who invented the strip tease (seriously) and no one has heard of her. There are hundreds of stories like her and I intend to find them all. As I research my posts, I’m often laughing aloud in amazement.

Vintage Sleaze (and my other two primary blogs Dull Tool Dim Bulb and Old Time Religion) are all composed primarily from items in my collection. I find things, buy them, study them, and then OWN them through the process of writing a post. It is my art form…I use visual images from flea markets as starting points for little essays and as a way to inform myself. If others are informed, I am pleased. I’ve had well over one million hits, so it must be working. There is no money in it…but then I once read the average income of a writer was like two grand a year. I might as well be a poet…their average income is NOTHING.

I have to raise my eyebrow to the reference to the women’s movement putting an end to or limiting the works available at the newsstands, negatively impacting the careers of artists… I’ll concede the impact of women’s movements, from feminism to its counter-groups of traditionalist “family values” femininity (the latter of which were far more rabid on the issue of “pornography” — and remain so to this day), but what about the cultural changes at this time? Such as the huge change in media to television? And, if your opinions about the mob connections to this industry are correct, didn’t the focus on organized crime even have more of an effect?

Sure, all manner of things ended what I call the “golden age” of the soft-core smut industry, but it won’t ever really go away entirely, neither will the dirty joke. I’m not an advocate for the material, I just find it interesting and curious. And I’m a feminist…social and technological change causes things to fall into and out of vogue, and I don’t BLAME the women’s movement for the elimination of any artist’s career, just that there was less social approval for dumb blond and big boob jokes.

Today the material seems more odd than anything else, and compared to the real stuff which drives the web, in the early days of the web especially, it even seems harmless.

The fetishistic material is a way more dicey, at least to me…and it was to the censors too. I have a counter on the site, and if I post a spanking cartoon, my hits go through the roof. I don’t know why, but I can only speculate there is still a bunch of people out there who fantasize spanking people.

House of Tears by Harold Kane, Illustrations by Joe Shuster

It used to be a staple of the gag cartoons as much as a desert island and a worker looking up a skirt from a manhole. I don’t know why that material is of such great interest to some, but I’m objective…it exists, so it is fodder for study. It is astounding to me that people would select, purchase, write a message on and actually MAIL a risque postcard with a woman being spanked on it…but they did, and by the millions! I have no idea why. Anyway, I stay away from that stuff for the most part. I’m an advocate of intellectual freedom, and it is up to each to filter their own material.

There was, and I guess is today, a large market for S & M material. Personally, I find it ugly and wrong, but it has become mainstream. Watch a Lady Gaga or a Beyonce video. They are far more graphic than the material of the 1950s I am interested in. At the time, the law didn’t know how to deal with it…there was no “part” visible which would define it as obscene (a nipple or some other commonly understood “obscene” thing)…but it was clearly not for children, just like the comic books they regulated. The graphic novels of today are far, far more risque than anything I post.

As for the mob, the 1950s were a different time. The feds would stamp out some small time publisher who borrowed money from loan sharks to print a thousand copies of a Tijuana bible…and another one would spring up to fill the void. Compared to organized crime’s role in other things, the smut business was small. It won’t go away either…it has just moved to the internet, and I have a feeling what used to be risque or shocking is now just ignored and taken for granted.

How do you best define “vintage sleaze” in terms of a category for collecting? Does it differ from porn — or do you just feel more presentable calling it by another name?

Well, it is not porn, as for the most part what I am most interested in appears during the 10 or 20 year window when authorities were trying to figure out what porn was…if you look close, the material I post is clearly not at all pornographic. I guess you could call it smut, but sleaze seems more appropriate. To me, porn is frosted hair Dallas Cheerleaders. Vintage Sleaze is about a small industry of misfits who figured out they could make a living selling desirable literature, drawings, photographs and such to others. And it is about the diverse manner in which they sold it. Ash trays, towels, jokes, gags, drawings, playing cards…if there is a product NOT sold with a bathing beauty glued on it…someone was missing an opportunity.

Vintage Gentlemen Prefer Bronze Men's Mag

The Vintage Sleaze blog is about hypocrisy, unwarranted censorship and the incredible social change brought about by the participants I write about. Without the amateur camera club guys in the 1950s we would have no Bettie Page, and with no Bettie Page we would likely still have woman in the fashion industry doing the catwalk in long furs. The first African-American pinup in Playboy was in 1969! Before that, the dominant culture didn’t even consider Black women beautiful. I have lived through the time when writers were BANNED from writing certain things, even if they were less graphic than a romance novel. So it isn’t porn, it is more about an upheaval of social mores and the cultural detritus left from that change. I sort of use a dancing girl out front to bring folks to the stories. The site may look flippant, humorous and exploitative, but I take it seriously.

What are your guidelines for what you keep and add to your collection?

Well, most of my collecting is behind me. I’ve made modest contributions to the Folk Art field and the Baptism Project (Take Me to the Water). But today I collect for small ideas on the blogs. I suppose my sites differ from nearly all of the others in that every thing I post, I own. I might crib another image to help tell the story, but I very seldom do a post on things I don’t have in the shoe box behind me. I’ve always felt to understand an object, a relic or a piece of art, you have to invest in the material. To suffer a bit for it. So I eat canned tuna and buy an original illustration or something.

I was collecting for years before I realized I was a collector… And years more before I discovered just why I was collecting the objects I was.  When did you realize that you were creating a collection, as opposed to just amassing stuff, having a smut stash?  And what do you think your goal is with your collection?

The notion of using collections for an end other than just HAVING things was something of a revelation.

Vintage Gag Illustration By Jefferson Machamer

I have this little notion that the things I find, collect and write about would be lost if I didn’t, but more relevant to your question is that they would HAVE NO VALUE if I didn’t. I want folks 25 years from now to know I owned original drawings by, say Jefferson Machamer…and here it is on a website saying what an interesting artist he was. It doesn’t have to be smut, it could be anything. Smut is just an area with a whole bunch of funny stories which should be told.

I’m also collecting material on a faith healer from the 1920s. Smut has no real appeal to me other than it is a rich, fertile and important area which has not had the history told or shown.

I collect in very narrow, specific areas and with a specific goal in mind. A show, a book, an essay, an exhibition. I’ve never been a “stamp from this country and a stamp from THAT country” kind of collector. I collect in depth, in very narrow categories, and hopefully in areas not yet put together. I collected 100 antique photographs of people being baptised…that had never been done and I got nominated for a Grammy when they were published with a CD. Never been done before, done in depth, and done for a result. I always have like five projects I am collecting, and once I’ve assembled enough, it becomes a book or website or something.

What was behind your decision to go public and blog your items? Are you a bit of an exhibitionist in terms of collecting? Was there a purpose or mission — and if so, did you know it when you started, or did that unfold in the process?

Rather than exhibitionist, one could say “giving and sharing” or something less creepy! But you did hit it on the head.

I decided one day to leave a big digital footprint. I had made modest contributions in some areas, but as mortality approaches, I want to be discovered again and again by future generations…so I every day I create some content and upload! My goal has become the notion that one day someone will be digging around and think “Who the hell was THIS guy?” Plus, if an image of something I own becomes the representative standard for what I am writing about, all the better. The art familiar to us is the art which is shown, and as the world continues eliminating printed word and object for digital nothing, I like the idea those images to be physical objects I had in the drawer.

Soon, physical objects won’t exist at all, and I suppose one day a kid will look in my shoebox and say “Check it OUT…PATINA, WEAR, SURFACE and FORM!” The physical object is a wonderful thing, and the authenticity in them is sorely lacking in most things digital…and by that I mean the swill sold to kids today. I don’t want to sound grumpy or old, but a 1.5 x 2.5 movie of Justin Bieber on a handheld device is a long way from…oh, I dunno…seeing Steppenwolf play in a Biker’s bar (which I have done) I feel sorry for young consumers today…they are being taken for an empty ride and paying for it.

Censorship Jury Screening During The Golden Age Of Porn

For me, the item must keep its original or current condition; it kills me to harm old paper or any other object. But, especially in light of your reference to items being a “shoe box behind you,” I have to ask: Do you cut or clip stories to scan from their original publication?

No…but condition doesn’t matter to me at all. I LIKE wear and tear, it makes thing authentic. I’m not a big mylar bag collector. I have some books and drawings which are quite scarce and valuable, so I protect them…but I like how things age through use. It is my folk art background. Authentic wear in the right places and crackled paint adds to the desirability of most folk art. Same with photographs, at least in my eye. It means it suffered a hard life and survived…that means much more to me than a pristine picture.

But no, I don’t clip things…I have a few magazine boxes of magazines, but for the most part they aren’t valuable. I have purchased many OTHER collections of clippings though and use them as raw source material like any artist.

Even if you aren’t physically lifting items from their original place and context, your storytelling is based upon lifting stories from the past and placing them into a different mosaic which includes not only other time periods and works but your own knowledge of events which came later, etc. Do you have a rule or philosophy regarding your presentation?

I like things interesting, funny and beautiful. Simple as that.

Has publishing your blog, authoring books, etc., ever forced you to consider or reconsider the original efforts of publishers, editors, authors, photographers, content creators, etc.?

A Natural Pair, Vintage Novelty Gag

I don’t know. An artist’s intent is of great interest to me. I think the authenticity of anything is paramount, and if something was made out of love, or obsession, or passion…it has more interest than something simply made for money. I like individual quirks and individual ways of solving artistic challenges. It makes one artist more interesting than the other.

I see my contribution as a starting point for others. I like to think of each and every post I make, on any of my blogs, as just a beginning for someone else. I try to write things in which a paragraph from me could be an entire book for someone else one day, and they can correct any errors too! I just posted a giant wooden head on Dull Tool Dim Bulb. There was an easily found paragraph on the fellow who made it, but who was he really? Do his grandchildren even know or care that he made a huge head? Did his wife laugh at him? I have family members write in all the time…”Thanks for remembering my father” and such.

In terms of your digital footprint, what are your thoughts on sites like Tumblr and people who just “take” and post images you’ve scanned without linking back to you as the source — not only in terms of not crediting you for your efforts, but in terms of the images being removed from their context?

I’ve sort of gotten over it regards my own collection. I see things I found, or even own posted all over the place. I also see unique folk art objects I used to own at shows priced 20 times what I paid for them, and sometimes they’ve been doctored with to make them “more presentable.” I respect the copyrights of others, and see the abuse as an important concern for artists and content creators. But it is unenforceable. The law moves slow…they still haven’t haven’t figured out an equitable way to protect copyright owners from the XEROX machine for god’s sake, and they are already almost extinct! Once in a while I’ll take the time to remind someone they should credit my stuff, but it is a loosing battle so I don’t fight.

Camfield House Stag Film and Slides Brochure circa 1960

I embrace Tumblr…it is an amazing phenom…but you know, it bodes poor for the future. I read they have a million users, and yet the entire company has 12 employees. This was a year ago…they have a million young drones creating content for them, all unpaid, and yet no one profits, monitors or regulates it. We’ve advanced ourselves so fast there is no work left for us to earn a living at. It also runs on an insidious behavioral psychological reinforcement principle.

One posts an image, and if it is reposted immediately, you receive reinforcement for your taste. It is also staggered reinforcement…one picture might be ignored by others, so you will try again and again. If you “hit” every fifth try, you win. I see kids practically begging for others to repost an image. It is exactly the same principle which keeps folks pulling slot machine arms and trains monkeys to perform a task…a small pay out every fifth pull keeps you playing. It is institutionalized copyright violation based on staggered reinforcement behaviorist principles on a scale which certainly makes my little collection of dirty pictures seem tame.

If you had to pare down your collection to a smaller number of objects (say for that equally hypothetical deserted island situation), what items/categories would have to remain, how would you redefine your collection?

WELL, I have run through dozens of collections. I never had any money, being a researcher type for most of my life….so I have always had to trade, sell or barter one collection to work on another. If I do my homework right, and assemble a unique, desirable group of objects (and document them on the web, in a book or in a museum show) they will have acquired value to others and I can “trade-up” a bit. I get as much of a kick in finding a photograph of, say, Al Capone buying a copy of Titter magazine as I do discovering a two thousand dollar weathervane in an abandoned field. It’s all about the hunt. Once I have “used up” an object or a group of things, that is, “mastered” my understanding to a degree, off they go and on to the next thing.

I still haven’t studied gospel music….I’m saving it for the next thing. I would like a collection of bird’s nests….real ones. I’d put each in a little plastic box and display them like rare baskets. I recently saw a collection of outdoor garden hose nozzles. I have always said if I had unlimited funds, I would collect Shaker furniture and Navaho rugs, both which I consider the finest artistic achievements from this era. I guess if I had to choose something for an island right now, it would be a few Clapton solos from the early 1970s when he was chipping and not quite a junkie and some Bettie Page originals. And Dylan’s Basement Tapes…a rich, always entertaining and challenging group of material I have never tired of.

Have you had any success arranging museum shows for the vintage sleaze items?

Modest…and not for the sleaze. In fact a recent major exhibition on cartoonist Will Eisner appears to have omitted the sleaze artists he worked with completely, though I haven’t seen it. Some of the baptism photographs were just exhibited at the International Center of Photography in NYC…and they are working on a show of circus freak photographs I donated as well. Folk Art Magazine once did a big spread on the homemade paper dolls I collected. A large article on my Real Photo Post Card collection is on the way, and mainstream publications have used images from my collection…but I’ve never done anything with the smut. I’ve printed a few books on my own because they are fun to make, and I think of them as “limited edition prints” but I guess I’ll give it all to the Kinsey institute one day.

Or maybe to another collector… One who made herself available…

Posted in Authors, Collecting, Essays, Sex History.

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4 Responses

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  1. Pope says

    Have u ever listened to the ballad of fanny hill a musical monodrama circa 1963

  2. R A says

    I admire his attitude to collecting: it’s only after the fact that you realize you have a collection! Collecting is all about self-education, really.

    I consider it a bonus that he collects old-timey kitschy smut. I really like that old stuff, and what it reveals about us.

  3. Panty Buns says

    The illustration from “House of Tears” by Harold Kane is hot!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. A Loose Sex History Link Round-Up – Silent Porn Star linked to this post on August 26, 2013

    […] nearly missed seeing Secret History of the Black Pin Up, by Jim Linderman, aka Victor Minx, of Vintage Sleaze. I’m hoping to get my copy soon! (Hint, hint, […]



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