Fluffy

I love the feeling when a painting ships out, this giant “whoosh” of relief.  It’s slightly tinged with anxiety until you know it’s arrived safely at the other end, but even that can’t diminish the awesome flood of pleasure that comes from watching the truck drive away with your painting in it.

“Playboy Redux” is opening tonight at Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, and I wish I was there (but instead I’m here in the blazing sunshine eating toast with almond butter and nectarine preserves — clearly the glass is half full). The show is a tribute to the gorgeous, iconic Bunny girls who worked at the Playboy clubs, the first of which opened in Chicago 50 years ago.  A tasty roster of contemporary artists were all asked to reinterpret the iconic Bunny for the show, and I am tickled to be one of them.

When I mentioned this show to my old buddy Harley, he reminded me that I had drawn a Playboy bunny twenty years ago.  Back when we were both working at Franklin Furnace, we often doodled on the file folders — in this case, he drew a bunny head, and I finished it off with a body.  (Sometimes we even worked…)

I’ve been on a bit of a “bird and animal” kick for a while now (maybe you noticed) so I knew I wanted to work some actual bunnies into the piece. This is what I was thinking about -

And this is what I sketched out -

A friend in NY sent me an achingly cute picture of their new rabbit, Chestnut, but I didn’t have easy access to that model.  Fortunately my friend Dana came to the rescue.  Meet Marshmallow –

My adorable muse

Marshmallow’s flop-eared buddy bit me on the arm (twice!), so don’t ever tell me that I don’t suffer for my art!

Those of you in the Bay Area know we were experiencing one of our coldest summers yet, so my mind ran to fluffy, snowy landscapes, and this is what I ended up with -

The arrival of the Snow Bunny!

But as I’ve said before, it takes a village, so then it was off to see Randy at Back To The Picture to get The Perfect Frame made -

Then my buddy Island Boy took me to Bombay Ice Creamery for a celebratory scoop of Black Sesame on a sugar cone!

So we’re walking down Valencia Street (which is even more fabulous now that they’ve widened the sidewalks, it’s a real pedestrian’s paradise) and this guy said something as I walked past, which I tuned out.  Growing up with red hair I’ve learned to ignore most of what guys say when I’m walking down the street (because there’s not really much of a conversation to be pursued from stuff like “Hey, you got a red box too?”), but Island Boy looked at me with surprise “Did you hear what that guy said?”  This required me to stop eating ice cream for a minute so I could say “No, not really.”  “He said ‘I love your work!” That kinda blew my mind, so I backed up and sure enough, the guy was talking to me and knew who I was.  So that was a pretty nice moment, and he was a pretty nice guy.  Thanks for making my day, David.

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13 responses to “Fluffy

  1. your awesomeness knows NO BOUNDS!

  2. In the early 1970s I worked as a photographer at the Great Gorge Playboy Club in Great Gorge, New Jersey, about 50 miles from NYC. Oddly enough this particular Playboy Club resort was a huge honeymoon and wedding anniversary destination. The photo shop at this resort was operated as a concession run by my dear friend Mark Davis of Doré Studios out of Miami Beach. There were about a dozen ‘bunnies’ that worked for Mark and for the most part they were intelligent and interesting women (not to be confused with the hundred or so bunnies who worked directly for the resort, who were typically NJ country gals). Every night the photo bunnies would circulate through the half dozen ‘night clubs’ at the resort, offering to take commemorative photos for the celebrating couples, and we’d take along for the inevitable switcheroo. The guy would immediately succumb to the photo bunny’s evident charms and agree to a photo. We’d take the photo while photo-bunny posed with the party-people. She’s set herself on one side of the fellow with the new bride on the other. Not infrequently there would be two couples, friends, celebrating together, in which case the bunny would stand between the two gentlemen. Out of one such shot, we’d hot soup four vignette individual portraits (each celebrant, alone), and four vignettes of couples (the two legitimate couples and two featuring a guy with the bunny), and we’d soup two vignettes of the whole party, for a total of 10 prints out of one photo. The guys would be obviously aching for the bunny shots to show to his pals at work so the gals would get pissed and make their new husbands purchase the whole set. A quick $70 plus $14 tip. Remember this is the early 70s! The photo bunnies earned a 20% commish on each sale, so they hustled like hell. Unlike the rest of the bunnies, who worked for the equivalent of iceberg lettuce, Our photo bunnies could clear as much as $1,000 to $2,000 in one 6 hour evening shift! In the early 70s! Mark finally lost the gig to actual mafioso-types who promptly ran the business into the ground because they were so stupid and greedy.

  3. ..and of course your awesomeness knows no bounds. ;-}

  4. Too cool…I love the art and the story even more.

  5. Hi I worked in the game room with Tony Murphy 74 -75 and knew Mark and Herb. I bought my first 35mm SRT 101 from one of the bunnies there although I cant recall her name. I have thousands of pictures Mark processed for me that I occasionally pull out. Was a great time for an 18 yo game repair man…
    Ray Currey

  6. Fred and Ray — I would *love* to see some of these photos!!! — i.

  7. Hi, this is Mark Davis from Dore’ Studio. We still do photography and I’d love to see some of those photos. The PB club was hopping back then with acts like Bill Cosby and Joe Frazier training there for two weeks for his fight with George Foreman. Some cocaine and Mafia types but mostly just clean fun.

  8. I’d *kill* to see the Frazier shots! — i.

  9. zombolina, it was neat talking to his trainers and trying to size up how I would do against him. Frazier had really big thighs and lower body where I think he got his punching power. He didn’t take Foreman seriously enough he was more thinking of an Ali rematch and Foreman just knocked the hell out of him.

  10. Hi Fred. I worked there a for 2 years (1978-80ish) -and quickly owed my soul to the company store. Was a camera bunny for a sec. and learned that I’m not the sales type. Was just trying to figure out who “Jr.” was… Mob guy who would show up at the pool with his Latina wife. Thats how I found this/you. They operated in NYC. Junior had an impressive gun shot scar across his chest. Any ideas? An aside: My best friend was Bunny Shelly who made really good money as a camera bunny when two guys ran it. My name was Bunny Iris

    • fred dodsworth

      Hi Iris! I recall you. The two guys were Mark and Herb Davis and I’m pretty sure Mark (who’s a pal of mine on facebook) would know who you’re talking about. Nice to hear from you after all these years.

  11. fred dodsworth

    actually, Mark’s posted up above! …and I see you’re in Tiberon, I’m in North Berkeley. Small world.

  12. Wow. Thats crazy. -That you remember me. -That you live in Berkeley. I used to live on the Berkeley/Albany border. I’m also an artist but mostly make a living at teaching (figure drawing, jewelry/metals and writing). If you go to my Facebook page, and my self portrait album, to the last photo, you can see me atop a stack of GQ models… at the club.

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