Carl Kravats: Golden Age Photographer

Carl Kravats: Golden Age Photographer

The Rialto Report long been interested in the symbiotic relationship that existed between New York adult films in the 1970s and the men’s magazines of the era, like High Society, Cheri, and Swank.

It was a perfect marriage: The XXX films and their stars wanted publicity and legitimacy, while the magazines were seeking glamor, excitement, and most of all, sex. As a result, the magazines regularly featured the latest adult film stars in lavish pictorials.

But what of the photographers that filled the pages with pictorials of the adult film stars of the days? Who were they, and what was their experience of the industry?

Over the years, certain photographer names stood out as being behind some of the best picture features – men with mysterious names like Carlos Dee, Carl Kravats, and Carlos De Norman.

When we dug deeper, we found that there was just one person behind these three names (and many more) – and that was the talented photographer Carl Kravats.

Whereas most photographers worked for one magazine (or magazine publisher) and their photographs would be completely owned by that publisher, Carl was different: He was freelance and he worked for all of the men’s magazines based in New York.

What’s more, Carl held onto these photographs over the last 40 years, and we’re grateful to him for sharing a selection of rare and unpublished pictures – together with his memories of the times.

Carl Kravats

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Photography of Carl Kravats

It all started when I bumped into the photographer, Martin Schreiber, at O’Neill’s bar in Manhattan. This was 1976. Martin went on to achieve fame because he was the one who shot the nudes of Madonna before she was famous.

That night, Martin was with Sue Richards (aka Bree Anthony), a model and adult film actress, who was the titular ‘publisher’ for High Society magazine. She was with Martin because she a photo of herself for the masthead of the magazine. We started talking, and she asked me if I was interested in shooting ‘girlie pictures’. I’d been taking photographs commercially for a while, and so I said, “Sure.” I was happy for the work.

Carl KravatsThis picture was from my first ‘girlie’ shoot

 

After that, High Society kept giving me more and more work – including a number of shoots with Sue Richards.

Carl KravatsMy first cover for High Society – which featured Sue Richards

 

Sue Richards, High Society

 

Sue Richards

 

For one shoot, I went to Sue’s house to take pictures of her boyfriend or husband and her. Their bedroom was equipped with chains and cuffs, so we shot the pictures using the equipment.

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

I also took pictures of social events for the magazine.

Sue Richards. High SocietySue Richards, with comedian Henny Youngman

 

I soon realized that it was important to use girls that were reliable. If I knew that a girl was going to turn up on time and be professional, everything would go smoothly. One of the models that I could trust was Samantha Fox, so we did a lot of photo shoots together.

Samantha Fox

 

Samantha Fox

 

Carl Kravats, Samantha Fox

 

In 1977, I shot Samantha Fox for a one-off magazine called, ‘Who’s Who in X-Rated Films.’ It was put together by Richard Milner, and featured interviews and articles with many of the stars of the era. I shot the cover.

Samantha Fox

 

Samantha Fox

 

After a while, Sue Richards was replaced by Gloria Leonard as the ‘publisher’ of High Society. As a result, I shot a number of pictorials with Gloria too to promote the magazine.

Gloria Leonard

 

Gloria Leonard

 

I was never an employee for High Society, and I remained freelance all the time. This meant that I was free to work for many magazines, and soon I developed a regular flow of work for magazines like Cheri, Swank, Gallery, and Genesis.

My favorite model was a girl called Alexandria. She had a thin, lean dancer’s body, long reddish hair, and was absolutely beautiful. She made several adult films in the mid 1970s.

Alexandria Cass

 

Alexandria

 

Alexandria

 

Alexandria

 

I was given free rein to be creative. I came up with one shoot called ‘FutureFux’ which featured Alexandria and her boyfriend.

I built a set with dildos and a rubber vagina. Then I built little sets where the robots would have sex with her. I positioned her in different poses, so the re-toucher could super-impose her in the scene.

Alexandria

 

Alexandria

 

Some girls were less reliable than Samantha Fox and Alexandria, and one of those was Bambi Woods, who had just hit big with ‘Debbie Does Dallas.’

Bambi Woods

 

Bambi Woods

 

The work I was getting was so plentiful and I often used my own studio in a basement on West 67th Street, where I shot features, and then processed the pictures.

One of the scenes that I had most fun with was a photo set called ‘Psycho Sex’. It featured Jean Silver, Alexandria, Elda Stiletto and a number of others.

Jean Silver

 

Jean Silver

 

Before Sue Richards left High Society, she and her partner went to Atlantic City to do a story on the sex scene there at the time. The city was decaying from its bygone era. Folks were holding on for dear life, hoping that the legalization of gambling was just around corner. I took a number of pictures of the sex shop-fronts. These places aren’t there anymore. Gambling was legalized two years later.

Chicago Knockers

 

Chicago Knockers

 

Chicago Knockers

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

I liked the people that I took pictures of. We had a blast, and it was so much fun. It was the magazine publishers and management that I had a problem with… people like Carl Ruderman and Peter Wolff. I get that you have a business to run, but it doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.

But most of the time, we had a ball. Queen Adrena was one of the real characters of the time. She was a fetish wrestler.

Queen AdrenaQueen Adrena, with Jean Silver (left)

 

Queen Adrena

 

Jean SilverJean Silver

 

I did a popular feature for Cheri with adult film actress C.J. Laing, called ‘CJ, the BJ, at Home.’ These are some of the outtakes that I took. I would only ever give the magazine the pictures they needed for the article. I would keep all the rest. I still have them all.

C.J. Laing

 

C.J. Laing

 

C.J. Laing

 

C.J. Laing

 

C.J. Laing

 

Fanne Foxe was one of the ‘correspondents’ for Cheri magazine. She’d been a stripper who’d been involved in a political scandal in the mid 1970s.  The magazine sent her out on ‘assignments’ and they featured her in many pictorials.

Fanne Foxe

 

Fanne FoxeThis was from a feature called ‘Little Orphan Fanny’ featuring adult film actress Jean Dalton

 

Fanne Foxe

 

I did a number of covers for the magazines. This one entailed a model and a large amount of popcorn. She didn’t like it because of the way the popcorn felt against her skin, so she complained a lot.

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

It was a wild time, and the stories of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll were all true. Especially the sex and drugs. I got caught up in the scene, and it was a riot.

The magazines often wanted pictures of the adult film stars of the time because they were already audience favorites.

Sharon MitchellSharon Mitchell

 

Jean DaltonJean Dalton

 

Fanne Foxe

 

Jean Dalton

 

I did a few jobs for the pro-marijuana magazine High Times. They were the worst at paying so I had to take them to small claims court. I was told they did that a lot to photographers at the time. They knew how time consuming it was to go through that procedure in New York, so they figured most people would give up. But I didn’t.

I was waiting to receive a check at their office one day, and after they’d made me wait for an hour or so, I just got up and took the ashtray on the table in the waiting room, and walked out. Nice ashtray, huh?

High Times

 

I got to do some ‘field pieces’ too where I traveled to an event to take pictures. One was Ms. All-Bare America in 1976 – which was a big event of the day.

The winner was apparently called Joy Rider. I took pictures of the event and two of the runners up, Dina Mite and Erika Joyce.

Carl Kravats

 

Ms All Bare America

 

Carl Kravats

 

Ms All Bare America

 

Ms All Bare America

 

I remember going to the benefit for Harry Reems to raise money for his legal defense fund. There were a lot of big names there, like Julie Newmar in this picture.

Harry Reems

 

Other shoots involved models who were one-offs, and I never heard or saw from them again.

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

 

At the beginning of every shoot, I would take Polaroids to check that the lighting and composition was working. These weren’t posed and just feature the models waiting for the shoot to begin.

Carl KravatsPolaroids featuring Dian Hanson, Jean Silver, Sharon Mitchell, Sue Richards, Robin Byrd, and Kenneth Anger

 

Carl KravatsPolaroids featuring Jean Silver, C.J. Laing, and others

 

Carl KravatsPolaroids featuring Jean Silver, Fanne Foxe, and others

 

There was this female mud wrestling troupe called the Chicago Knockers. They came in and I did a pictorial with them.

Chicago Knockers

 

Chicago Knockers

 

Chicago Knockers

 

Carl Kravats

 

Robin ByrdRobin Byrd (right), with Henny Youngman

 

Cheri BombCherry Bomb, with 10 Pin Bowling Champion

 

Ron JeremyPictorial with Ron Jeremy

 

Ron Jeremy

 

Ron Jeremy

 

Humor was an important element to the picture-features that I did. I was not interested in doing anything overly sleazy or nasty, but I wanted to make people smile.

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats‘A Christmas Carol’, featuring C.J. Laing

 

Girls and cars were always popular. I’d fly over to California with my girlfriend, and hire a model and a vintage car. My girlfriend would do the makeup and we’d drive somewhere and take rolls of photos. Then I’d sell the pictures to a magazine back in New York.

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Carl Kravats

 

Another reliable model who I liked to work with was Linnea Quigley. This was before she became a big name in movies.

Linnea Quigley

 

Linnea Quigley

 

Linnea Quigley

 

Linnea Quigley

 

Carl Kravats, with a transsexual model

 

*

I shot for the adult magazines from 1976 to 1981. It was a great experience and I made good money. But then I realized that I couldn’t use this work to transition into other photographic jobs. I mean what was I supposed to do? Take along a collection of sexually explicit pictures to a potential client?

Fortunately I had been photographing paperback book covers (I shot approximately 300) so my work wasn’t exclusively sexual, but I knew I had to leave it behind if I was to move on.

For the last few years, I’ve worked as a food photographer. I’m still freelance, and I make a good living from it.

Carl Kravats

 

This is how I’ve stored the slides for the last 40 years. My desk has been crazy as I’ve sorted through the pictures for this Rialto Report article.

Carl Kravats

 

Alexandria

 

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to relive a time in my life that was adventurous, enlightening and fun.

I was young and full of life, living in NYC. I loved it.

*

 

52 Comments

  1. BB · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Give this guy his own TV series! I’d love to find out more about his stories.

  2. ANON · October 8, 2017 Reply

    I’m interested in the extent of Sue Richards and Gloria Leonard’s involvement in publishing High Society – as I suspect it has been greatly exaggerated. I assume they were publishers in name only, and that all the real work was done by faceless management?

    Perhaps the Rialto could do one of their exceptional deep-dives into the subject and reveal the truth?

    • Steven Thompson · October 8, 2017 Reply

      Same here. Even back then I got the impression Sue Richards (SO cute) was just a figurehead but then later Gloria really seemed to have more to do with the mag.

      • Thomas Wood · October 8, 2017 Reply

        They were just figureheads, for High Society Carl Ruderman was the actual publisher. Track down a copy of BEAVER STREET by Robert Rosen. He worked there and wrote about his experiences.

  3. Terry J. · October 8, 2017 Reply

    GREAT pictures! Massive kudos to Carl for holding onto them!

    What about a book?

  4. Jeanne Silver · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Omg!”’ I would love to get my hands on copies of the ones I’m in!
    Having lost so much from my ex burning up everything. This could fill in so many gaps!!!
    Fabulous collection!!!!
    Wonderful find and bravo Carl for keeping sushi a beautiful slice of our history!!!

  5. Martin H.M Schreiber · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Wow! I also worked for both Cherie and High Society but didn’t know you did Carl! And for a while I went out with Sue Richards and even acted in a few films with her! It was a crazy time of our lives! And went out with Annie Sprinkle as well!

  6. Alan G · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Good to see some great period pictures of Samantha Fox!

  7. T. Coffee · October 8, 2017 Reply

    What a great photographer! I recognize many of the photos from magazines I haven’t seen in decades. Lisa Cintrice said in her interview on this site that one of her first modeling jobs was a Christmas theme with a midget for OUI magazine, I see a photo from that layout

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks T!!! That Christmas shoot was really Fun! The little guy cracked us up the shoot.

      • T. Coffee · October 11, 2017 Reply

        You are welcome Mr Kravats, you are a talented photographer and deserve all the props you are getting here on you illustrious career. I always liked the 1977 magazine shoot Vanessa Del Rio did with midget porn star Louis Short Stud, I had no idea Lisa Cintrice also did a shoot like that until I read it here and you were nice enough to share a shot with us.

  8. Patrick Palmer · October 8, 2017 Reply

    HA… In 1988, I mud wrestled in a tag team event against The Chicago Knockers mud wrestling team at our local county fair. We got our asses kicked.

    A great pictorial.

  9. Jen Arnold · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Such classy and inventive photos. Really exquisite work. Bravo.

  10. Tim · October 8, 2017 Reply

    GREAT PICTURES CARL!!!!!!!!!!

    Amazing record of the era and they look like they were taken yesterday, so fresh and vitrant.

    Thanks for holding onto them for decades.

    And I agree with the previous comment: of you have so many pics how about a book?

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Tim! I can’t believe I hung onto them also. I always felt that some day I just might want to do something with them. Not sure about the book thing, but I will give it some thought.

  11. NFT · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Sue Richards was one of the most beautiful women in the business. Love her. Can we get a RR feature or interview with her?????

  12. Jean Silver’s Biggest Fan · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Cracking pictures. My favorite?! The young ones of Jean Silver..! The one next to Queen Adrena is a peach. So sweet.

    Any idea where I can get the full Pyscho Sex feature? Awesome.

  13. Dr Tim · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Amazing work! Why, oh why did I stay in Iowa during that time?

  14. Ron Johnson · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Wasn’t Marilyn Chambers involved with Club International about that same period of time, using her talents to inform and delight the readers, as a figurehead to the magazine? Whether or not she was part of the publishment, I’m not sure, but maybe she filled a similar role as Sue Richards and Gloria Leonard did for the others? And then as well, Kandi Barbour, ah, once upon a time!

    • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Apart from the photo calls, I’m sure Chambers’ main task was cashing the cheques given her for using her name. 😉

  15. Scott H. · October 8, 2017 Reply

    Great to see these pics. CJ and Jeanne… love it.

  16. Dimitrios Otis · October 9, 2017 Reply

    awesome photography – !

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Dimitrios! I had a ball getting back to my past, working with Rialto Report.

  17. Tony St. James · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Beautiful photography! Thank you for keeping sharing such great work!

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Tony! Other than showing my friends what I did in the 70’s, I really haven’t shown anyone since that time.
      It brought me back to a wild and crazy time in my life that I totally enjoyed.

  18. Thomas Jane · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Can someone explain why the male models had flaccid dicks in most of the pictorials?

    • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 9, 2017 Reply

      These were newsstand mags so, at the time, wood wasn’t allowed, though they were always pushing the envelope.

  19. Albert Mudat · October 9, 2017 Reply

    “awesome photography”

    Yup and **technically** astounding! I wonder if 2017 pro photographers could achieve the same level of technical sophistication.

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Albert! I love what I did and what I do now. I shoot food now. Soooo different, as you can imagine.

  20. Henry Funes · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Another great submission by one of the best blogs I’ve read. Kudos to all those involved. Sue Richards aka Bree Anthony and her colleague Mary Stuart are two of my favorites of that era. Please please spotlight both if you can. Bree Anthony was absolutely delicious and Mary Stuart was a damn good actress!

  21. J. Walter Puppybreath · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing, Carl!
    I’m sure the ‘publisher’ title, much like the columns various stars ‘wrote’ for the mags, worked just like the hilarious ‘executive producer’ credit in the movie/TV industry – they had no involvement except, of course, being paid to use their name.

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks J. Walter! You are so right about the “executive producer” thing. Sue was basically the “Face” of the magazine.

  22. Louie Max · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Carl , great great work. Loved the car shots… Cheers !!!

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Louie! That was done for Penthouse. The red car is a 1939 Alfa Romero. One of a kind. The other was a Mercedes race car from the 50’s.

  23. Guillermo · October 9, 2017 Reply

    Many thanks Carl for sharing your genius. That snatch of your life brightened up my whole evening. What a lucky fellow you are. I remember reading those magazines and wishing I was the man with the camera.

    • Carl N Kravats · October 9, 2017 Reply

      You’re welcome! It was every male heterosexuals photo students dream. I was just in the right place at the right time.

      • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 10, 2017 Reply

        As you liked doing sets with a light touch, Carl, do you recall if you did any work for the outrageous ‘Velvet’, with it’s clearly bogus articles and irreverent photo captions?

        • Carl N Kravats · October 10, 2017 Reply

          Vaguely… I shot for about 10 of the Adult/Men’s magazines…..don’t forget, it’s been 40 years….it was NYC…….”Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll”…..and not always in that order.

          • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 10, 2017

            Fair enough! 😉
            I ‘m pretty sure I’ve seen your work in that crazed mag, as I believe ‘Velvet’, ‘Swank’ and a few others were from the same publisher.

  24. eagleeye · October 10, 2017 Reply

    Elda Stiletto did hardcore in some loops and movies back in the 70s. She used the names Elda and Pola Black. The latter name is the one she’s listed by on IMDB and IAFD. Surprised no one else has made this connection before.

  25. julie stevens · October 12, 2017 Reply

    Loved these fotos. I am a big fan of Sue Richards. My favorite film of hers was Oriental Blue. What happened to her? Would love to contact her. I had a collection of High Society from the beginning. My 1st wife found them and gave them to our garbage men in Brooklyn as a xmas gift

  26. Anonymous · October 13, 2017 Reply

    I also had a hard time getting High Times to pay up.

    Hung out in the lobby to no avail, and slipped in one day, sat myself down in the editor’s office, and sweetly said I’d be happy to hang out while he got my check.

    It helped to be a cute girl.

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