Irving Klaw, born Isadore Klaw (1910-1966) was an American merchandiser of fetish art imagery and films. He was a major influence on Leonard Burtman.
In 1948, a collector/enthusiast known as Little John “inspired/sponsored Klaw’s full-blown entry into the fetish art business” (as stated in “Charles Guyette: fetish pioneer who influenced Klaw, Willie & Burtman“, by The Fetishistas). Klaw was also influenced by magazine publisher Robert Harrison. Early Klaw fetish models included Harrison models Barbara Leslie, Vicky Hayes, Joan “Eve” Rydell, Lili Dawn, Shirley “Cici” Maitland, Kevin Daley, Roz Greenwood, and finally Bettie Page.
After the surprise success of the B-movie Striporama, a 1953 burlesque revue with famous striptease artists and model Bettie Page, Klaw quickly duplicated the formula and began directing his own burlesque features. Using a professional camera crew and richly saturated Eastman color filmstock, he directed Varietease (1954) and Teaserama (1955), which featured Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm, and Page (and were released on DVD in the U.S. in 2000). He produced and directed a third film in 1956, Buxom Beautease, without Page.
Also during this period Klaw set up weekend home-movie sessions where he produced scores of silent 8 mm and 16 mm black-and-white film loops. These featured striptease acts and an assortment of fetishistic subjects based on special requests from his clientele. Titles such as Riding the Human Pony Girl, Bondage in Leather Harness, and Booted Amazon Fights Again depicted women in skimpy lingerie and high heels engaging in elaborate bondage, cat-fights, spanking and slave training. Nearly all of these featurettes were shot on a single, sparsely decorated set, either in the studio above Movie Star News or at a nearby loft space. At least two films with Bettie Page (Rumble Seat Bondage and Jungle Girl Tied to Trees) were shot outdoors at secluded locations.
Still photos taken during the sessions were also sold at the store and in the bi-annual mail-order catalog Cartoon and Model Parade.
The Kefauver Hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1957 branded Klaw as a degenerate pornographer and ushered in a new wave of media censorship. Because of the political, social and legal pressures he faced, Klaw closed his storefront business and burned many of his negatives. It is estimated that more than 80% of the negatives were destroyed. However, his sister Paula secretly kept some of the better images, which can be seen today.
After the Senate hearings and the ensuing legal difficulties with state authorities, Klaw was barred from continuing his business in New York. Shortly thereafter he moved his Nutrix Publishing Company, along with the associated Satellite Publications (Stanley Malkin & Pat Martini), to an office building in Jersey City, New Jersey. Both companies sold similar fetish-oriented photos and magazines.
To further avoid prosecution, Klaw’s Nutrix publishing imprint was restricted to a mail-order-only business. For several years he published a number of small illustrated bondage/fetish photo-booklets. Titles such as Girl Psycho Handled with Restraint (1960), which includes old photos of Bettie Page, Girls Punishment at School of Discipline (1962), Tortured Models in the Wax Exhibit (1962), and Paddled Severely During Sorority Initiation (1963) are typical examples. Eventually he sold this business to Ed Mishkin, who changed the company name from Nutrix to Mutrix, adding the first initial of his last name.
Klaw relocated to Florida where he briefly returned to filmmaking in 1963, producing two films: Larry Wolk’s Intimate Diary of an Artist’s Model and Nature’s Sweethearts, co-directing the latter. Photographer Bunny Yeager worked closely with him during this period. She had multiple duties on these films, including casting, writing dialog, etc. Unlike his previous movies, both pictures were exploitation “nudie cuties” that featured a number of topless women. Irving continued to photograph bondage in Miami as well, with models like Maria Stinger.
Due to the revival of interest in Bettie Page that began in the 1980s, various compilations of Klaw’s films have been released on video and DVD. Background music and narration were added to the silent fetish loops for the two-volume video Irving Klaw Bondage Classics (1984) by London Enterprises. In 2005, Cult Epics released both volumes on one DVD under the title Bettie Page: Bondage Queen. Also in 2005, Cult Epics put out Bettie Page: Pin Up Queen, a DVD compilation of her burlesque performances from Striporama, Varietease and Teaserama, plus six black-and-white film loops of dancing and a cat-fight.
More of Klaw’s bondage film reels, including one with Bettie Page, are in DVD format in Bizarro Sex Loops (Volumes 4 and 20). These are compilations of vintage fetish films released by Something Weird Video (2008).
Irving Klaw was inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2012.