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October 23rd, 2010

Behind the Cover: Earle K. Bergey

Earle K. Bergey (August 26, 1901 – 1952) was an American illustrator who painted cover art for a wide diversity of magazines and paperback books. Today Bergey is best recognized for creating the iconic cover of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for Popular Library at the height of his career in 1948.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bergey attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1921 to 1926. He initially went to work in the art department of the Philadelphia's Public Ledger, and he drew the comic strip Deb Days in 1927. Early in his career, Bergey contributed many covers to the pulp magazines of publisher Fiction House. By the mid 1930s, Bergey made a home and studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and he married in 1935.

Illustration for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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Throughout the 1930s, Bergey worked freelance for a number of publishing houses. His eye-catching paintings were predominately featured as covers on a wide array of pulp magazines, including romance (Thrilling Love, Popular Love, Love Romances) as well as detective, adventure, aviation, and westerns. Bergey illustrated mainstream publications, such as The Saturday Evening Post, during this time. He illustrated covers for fitness magazines, and he was one of the first major American pin-up artists, contributing numerous covers for men's magazines such as Gay Book Magazine, Pep Stories, and Snappy.

During the 1940s, Bergey continued to paint covers for romance, sports, and detective pulp magazines, and he began working on a number of science fiction magazines, including Standard Publications' Strange Stories and Captain Future, and later for Fantastic Story Magazine. His illustrations of scantily-clad women in space helmets served as an inspiration for Princess Leia's slave-girl outfit in Return of the Jedi and Madonna's brass brassiere. Bergey's science fiction covers, often described as "Bim, BEM, Bum," usually featured a woman being menaced by a Bug-Eyed Monster, alien, or robot, with an heroic male astronaut coming to her assistance. The bikini-tops worn by the girls often resembled coppery metal, giving rise to the phrase "the girl in the brass bra," sometimes used in reference to this sort of art.

In 1948, Bergey made the transition to the rapidly expanding paperback book industry along with skilled pulp artists like Rudolph Belarski, whose work is often confused with Bergey's. While continuing to paint pulp covers at this time, Bergey sold illustrations to at least four (4) leading paperback publishing houses, including Popular Library and Pocket Books. His art graced the covers of dozens of novels and helped to sell millions of volumes. His paperback cover illustrations were as diverse as his work for the pulps. In addition to his work on Anita Loos' famous Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bergey painted cover art for well-known authors from Émile Zola to the Western master, Zane Grey, whose 1951 Pocket Books edition cover painting for Spirit Of The Border is a Bergey classic. Many of his paperbacks are now cult classics, some featuring hidden self-portraits. Bergey died suddenly in 1952 in a doctor's office with family at his side.


Stray by Ash Penn

I wasn’t really expecting much from this book, either because the author was new to me and also since I had the wrong idea this was a menages a trois (M/M/M true, but always a menages). And even if sometime I like a good angst romance, I was probably not in the mood for one.

So it was with great, and pleasant, surprise that, after few pages, I realized that I was reading more a comedy than an angst romance, and it was not a menages a trois at all. Terry is a middle twenty English gay man living with his best buddy; they know each other for year, since then they were two misfits in school, one the fat guy, Marc, and the other the sissy one, Terry. They made team together and from that moment on they are best friends, almost everything for each other. And Terry is jelaous.

Between Marc and Terry there has never been a sexual relationship, but Terry nevertheless consider Marc private property. As soon as Marc brings home a boyfriend, Terry starts to behave like a jelaous girlfriend, until the day he is not able to drive away the unwelcomed addition to their couple. At first you can think this is a sex/love jelaousy, that Terry wants Marc for his own, but I think it’s more a friendship jelaousy, that can be even worst: you know when two teenagers are best friends and one of them find a girlfriend/boyfriend? How the other almost always reacts in a bad way, trying to instill the doubt in his/her friend’s mind that the other is not good form him/her? Same here.

Terry awakes one morning to find out that Marc brought home a boy the night before, Dan. For Terry is not a nice surprise, above all since he has just managed to get free of Bradley, Marc’s previous boyfriend, and now he has to start it all over again. But apparently Dan is not so much interested in Marc and way more in Terry. As soon as they are alone, Terry approaches Dan trying to test his interest on Marc, to have a proof that Dan is profiteer, that Marc for him is only a safe shelter… and he is right. Dan is a runaway from home, he has no job or place to stay, Marc was like a guardian angel for him, and he really wants to be able to love him, but that is not as he sees Marc. On the other hand when Dan sees, and “tastes” Terry for the first time, he becomes addicted: despite Terry being rude and selfish, despite all the time he treats Dan more like an object than a man, Dan is stubborn and firm in wanting Terry, in trying to make him realize that they are perfect for each other.

There is an innocence in Dan that is almost disarming; he is like a punching ball, he absorbs every blow and never gives back. And in his innocence he reads love and caring in everything, even when Terry indead was trying to be the bad boy. On the other hand, Terry can be rude, but he is not really bad; probably he would even like Dan if not for his connection with Marc. And in the end, it’s Terry that is always going back to Dan, and from his ten years more on Dan, he almost behaves like a big brother, wanting to teach Dan how to be an healthy modern gay guy… and having sex with him is only one step on the good path.


Amazon Kindle: Stray

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Anne Cain


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