Return of the Pin-Up

Return of the Pin-Up

Inspired by pin-up art of the 1940s, Fairfax man creates book for soldiers overseas.


Photo from 'For the Boys.'

With fishnet stockings, curlers, rotary phones and high heels, a group of women have nearly bared all to support U.S. servicemen stationed overseas or recovering at home.

Frank Monahan, a Fairfax-based entrepreneur with a background in journalism and advertising, noticed that in the six years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the patriotism and respect shown toward men in uniform has "all but disappeared" from public places.

"When we first got involved in Afghanistan, if anyone in uniform walked through an airport, people moved aside and cheered," Monahan said. "You don’t see that anymore."

Monhan’s son is a veteran of that conflict, and he was inspired to re-ignite that sort of patriotism by updating a military favorite from World War II — the pin-up.

"We don’t have Bob Hope or his bevy of Hollywood starlets to entertain the troops anymore, and those guys are over there in the desert without any kind of entertainment," he said.

Using the work of pin-up artist Gil Elvgren as the inspiration for his request, Monahan put the word out that he wanted to create a paperback book that would fit in a soldier’s pack, filled with high-quality, glossy photos of pin-up girls. The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive.

"I started to get photos in from photographers and models before we had the copywrite clearance from Brown and Bigelow," Monahan laughed.

The photographers had a certain degree of creative license with the photos, but many of the images in the 156-page book are nearly identical to Elvgren’s paintings of the 1940s. The models are all covered and most are wearing some kind of clothing, at least panties or some strategically-placed fabric.

The first group of books, which were completed in August, were sent to a group of five men stationed in Afghanistan. Shortly after they arrived, Monahan said he began to receive e-mails from other soldiers, requesting more copies of the book for their buddies.

In addition to sending the book to men in Iraq and Afghanistan, Monahan said he’s sent copies to Korea, Germany, England and other places where U.S. servicemen are stationed.

"Wherever our guys are, we’re sending books," he said.

TO HELP distribute the books, Monahan has been working with VFW posts, their auxiliaries and some Harley Owners Groups to get the word out about his patriotic plan.

"Right now, all of the VFW posts in the entire state of Pennsylvania are signed on with us and they’ll be raising funds to send the books overseas," Monahan said. He expects to have a similar arrangement in Washington by early next year.

Some of the models have been taking books to VA hospitals near their homes, in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles.

"A lot of those guys are without family or will be in the hospital for a long time," Monahan said. "A lot of these older guys who served in WWII or Korea, their faces just light up when they get this book. It’s like a trip down memory lane for them."

All of the photographers and models in the project donated their services and will not receive payment for their work, which many have labeled a "feel good project."

Photographer Tiffany Krzywicki said she had been working with a model on a pin-up project when she first heard about the book. A fan of that genre of photography, she was one of the first photographers to contact Monahan and get involved.

"I really think pin-up is making a comeback," said Massachusetts-based Krzywicki, who recruited four models for inclusion in the book. She is also the photographer credited with the Rosie the Riveter photograph on the introduction page of the book.

"It’s a good patriotic way to give back to the soldiers, because regardless of how you feel about the politics, there’s still a war going on," she said. "I’d love to see the look on some of the guys’ faces when they get this book."

Matching Elvgren’s original works was a bit trickier than she originally expected, and Mandy Pauline, one of her models, said Krzywicki was a determined perfectionist.

"It probably took about two months to get all the photos together," Krzywicki said. "I love how they turned out."

Pauline, who posed for the Rosie the Riveter shot, has been modeling for four years, mostly in pin-up style, because she likes the rockabilly look of the images.

"I like the kind of old-school innocence and the cheesecake expressions," she said. In her favorite photo, Pauline recreates the "Bobbing for Apples" portrait, and the likeness is impressive, down to the bright red apple and snow-white blouse.

IN THE PAST few months, Pauline has heard from a few soldiers that have received the books and the feedback has been positive.

"I’ve heard from a few guys in the service and they just love it," she said. "I’ve been talking with one girl whose brother is in the Army and I’m hoping to send them both autographed copies."

The girls agree they’re very happy with the end result.

"I’m ecstatic with how the book looks," said Sarah Matous, one of the models and a nursing student.

The appeal of pin-up photos, she thinks, comes from both the innocence and kitsch of the girls, but also the provocative poses.

"The girls are so beautiful, but there’s also the sense that there could be more," Matous said.

Many of the models have been arranging book signings in Pennsylvania, Monahan said, allowing people to buy a book to send overseas and autographing their photos. Some of the girls have also started taking copies to VA hospitals on their own, visiting with patients and distributing books in their spare time.

So long as the war is going on, Monahan hopes to continue distributing the book to anyone who wants one. People can buy a book online and send it to a specific person overseas, or donate a book to send to any soldier on Monahan’s request list.

To be fair, Monahan also made a book for the women who make up 15 percent of the military, a book that took longer to make because of the scarcity of male models. That book, also available on his Web site, is made of original pictures not based on pin-up art.