Friday, May 29, 2015

John Norman Collins Strikes a Pose


In January of 1969, John Norman Collins did three photo shoots for a pocket-sized body building magazine entitled Tomorrow's Man (1952-1971). The popular subtitle for this "beefcake" magazine was "Hunks in Trunks." Readers may recognize the names of Steve Reeves (Hercules) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) as people who have posed for this periodical. The pictorials and covers featured prominent bodybuilders and amateurs.

This pulp fiction relic was particularly popular in the 50s and 60s among gay men and curious newcomers. It was considered a crossover publication which could be found on newsstands in urban areas across the country, or it could be mail-ordered discreetly from home.

In those days, beefcake magazines were often the only connection closeted gay men had to their sexuality. But by the end of the Sixties, social conventions had relaxed and gay porn became legal. The market for beefcake magazines declined. The advent of home video in the Seventies struck the death knell for this pulp genre. Collectors of vintage beefcake magazines have made it next to impossible to obtain a copy of Tomorrow's Man.

***

In a prison letter written July 15, 2013, John Norman Collins tells his Canadian cousin the story of his brief involvement in the world of bodybuilding modeling. 

[The following excerpt is presented essentially unedited as written.]

"Oh my God, you found those pictures of me in that "Tomorrow's Man!" ha, ha. Those were taken when I was at Eastern Mich. University. I was a Junior I believe [January 1969]. The media tried to PLAY IT UP after my arrest and make me seem GAY. Here's the SCOOP, John [Collins' Canadian cousin]. I was a JOCK in college and loved all sports so I joined a JOCK Fraternity [Theta Chi] that had lots of football players, wrestlers, baseball players, etc. Well a couple of Brothers told me about this guy that took photo's of guys for some weight-lifting magazines and it paid really good for just 1/2 hour of work. I went to the studio with a few Brothers and I saw what they really did and I agreed to do it. I did like maybe 3 sessions and forgot all about it. I knew the photographer could use my photo's in any magazine he wanted to and he used Bill Kenyon as my name. I have no idea WHY he did that? Anyhow, he used guys from the wrestling team, swim team, etc. Anyone that was in decent shape. At the time he told me he would try to get me into modeling jobs (clothing), BUTT, that didn't happen. How many pictures were in the mag.? I'll never be an "Arnuld." ha, ha. Maybe I should have you send me a copy of the photo(s) they used in the mag.? :) Just curious! I lifted weights for football, hockey, baseball etc., NOT really to be a bodybuilder. Just want some size & strength."

Tomorrow's Man used only one of the photos from Collins three separate shoots, for which he was paid $5.00 a session. "Teenage bodybuilder" Bill Kenyon was, of course, twenty-one year old John Norman Collins. In addition to the photograph, which was placed to the right of an advertisement for wheat germ capsules, the photo's banner read "GREAT FUTURE."

Two Eastern Michigan University coeds had been murdered in Washtenaw County prior to the Collins photo sessions. Five additional unsolved murders of young women occurred in the nine months after Collins posed for Tomorrow's Man magazine. Only for the last of these brutal serial killings would John Norman Collins ever be tried and convicted. The six other cases have hung in limbo for almost fifty years.

For more examples of Tomorrow's Man covers, tap on the following link: http://www.pulpinternational.com/pulp/entry/Assorted-covers-of-Tomorrows-Man-bodybuilding-magazine.html

For more information about Beefcake magazines, tap on this link: http://www.bilerico.com/2011/02/a_short_history_of_physique_magazines.php

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Allen Park's Uniroyal Giant Tire--Fifty-Four Years Old--Heralds Entrance into The Motor City



The original U.S. Royal Tire exhibit was a Ferris wheel attraction at the New York World's Fair of 1964/1965, held in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens. The fair was open for two six-month seasons. In 1964, it was open from April 22th until October 18th, and in 1965, the dates were April 21st until October 17th.

The history of the U.S. Royal Giant Tire is pretty straightforward. Originally rigged as a Ferris wheel and powered by a 100 HP engine, it was over eighty feet high. It carried over 2,000,000 people at the World's Fair, many of them famous world figures. There were twenty-four barrel shaped gondolas, each carrying up to four people for a total of ninety-six passengers paying a quarter apiece. 

At the fair's end, the tire was disassembled and shipped by rail to Detroit and reassembled as a static display outside the Uniroyal sales offices in Allen Park, Michigan. It is the world's largest roadside attraction. The Uniroyal office has since moved, but the Giant Tire still stands.

The tire is not made of rubber, but sightseers don't notice the difference whizzing past the landmark at seventy miles an hour on Interstate 94. The tire weighs just under twelve tons and is anchored in twenty-four feet of concrete and structural steel. It is rated to withstand hurricane force winds.

When the Michelin Tire Company bought out Uniroyal and Goodrich in 1990, they renovated the landmark in 1994 with a fresh coat of paint, a modern looking hubcap, and neon lights for the Uniroyal lettering. Four years later in 1998, the Giant Tire was modified again to resemble a "Nail Guard" tire. An eleven foot long, 250 pound nail (world's largest) was sticking out from the tire to promote their new puncture proof product. The nail was put up for auction on eBay in 2003 and sold for $3,000, with proceeds donated to the Allen Park Historical Museum.

In 2003, the Giant Tire was once again renovated as part of the I-94 corridor revitalization. The neon lettering was replaced with reflective lettering and spotlighting. It has remained a Detroit landmark and an Allen Park roadside attraction for forty-eight years heralding the entrance into the Motor City from Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan.

It has been noted that the one thing the Beatles wanted to see on their American tour was the Giant Tire. Whether they stopped along the freeway to take a good look at it on their way into Detroit from Metro Airport isn't known, but when Paul McCartney and Wings were touring in 1976, the moment was commemorated.