GEORGE SMITH SR. FOUNDER OF S&S CYCLE | TALE OF THE H-D KNUCKLE DRAGSTER “TRAMP”

The story of a young man’s need for speed that would lead to the founding of the legendary S&S Cycle Equipment is chronicled in these amazing archival images on their website. They show founder George Smith Sr. as he builds his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead racer called “TRAMP” that became the testing ground for innovative after-market performance parts that are now the gold standard for the industry– S&S Cycle.  

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1941– George Smith Sr. pictured here at just 19 yrs old on his 80″ Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. He would go on to found S&S Cycle Equipment with Stanley Stankos in 1958. (via)

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“PENTON: THE JOHN PENTON STORY” | FROM THE WOODS TO THE WORLD

“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up  a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.

Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”

John Penton_June 10 1959_Trascontinental record

“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via

But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/  and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.

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BUSTY BETTY BROSMER | PINUP PHENOM & 1950’S COVERGIRL QUEEN

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Betty Brosmer was the highest paid supermodel of the 1950s – winning more than 50 beauty contests before the age of 20 yrs old, posing for more than 300 magazine covers, and stunning men and women alike with her insane hourglass figure (38″-18″-36″)! You litereally could not go anywhere without seeing her image in a magazine, on a record album, or store window display. She married the fitness icon Joe Weider in 1961, and joined his fitness lifestyle empire. Together they co-authored several books on bodybuilding, and founded the International Federation of BodyBuilders. Check out this trove of photos of Betty Brosmer in her stunning prime.

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THE CATALINA GRAND PRIX 1950S HEYDAY | AMERICA’S VERSION OF THE ISLE OF MAN

“The Catalina Grand Prix was one of the biggest races In the country at the time. It was a 100-mile event held on Santa Catalina Island of the coast of Los Angeles. The 10-mile course was a mixture of road, dirt fire trails, singletrack, and even went through a golf course. Cycle Magazine noted that many of the big AMA national riders skipped Catalina so as not to suffer embarrassment at the hands of Southern California scrambles riders who dominated the event.” –AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

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It was a time and energy completely unrivaled in all of motorcycle racing history. Many of the AMA’s best motorcycle racers, local SoCal riders, shop owners, and colorful MC’s (The Checkers, Shamrocks, Rough Riders, Dirt Diggers, and more) mixing with Hollywood actors, stunt riders, and thrill-seekers– all converging on the tiny vacation island from 1951 – 1958 for an event like no other. Actors Keenan Wynn avidly raced, Steve McQueen famously attended, and Lee Marvin infamously raised holy hell. In fact, Dave Ekins went so far as crediting Lee Marvin for being partially responible for the Catalina GP’s demise in 1958–

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THE TOWERING 5’10” BEAUTY IRISH MCCALLA | 1950s QUEEN OF THE (PINUPS AND) JUNGLE

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Irish McCalla, the towering beauty who posed for Vargas, and then found fame as “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” was tough to measure-up against. She grew up humbly, forever the athletic tomboy, and even did her own vine-swinging and tree-climbing with her pet chimp, Chim, on “Sheena” until the day she misjudged a vine swing and crashed into it tree, smashing her knee. After that, the producers did the only thing they could do (due to her size), they hired male stunt men, and dressed them in leopard skins and blond wigs.

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VARGAS PINUP MODEL IRISH MCCALLA

5’10” beauty, Irish McCalla, posing for famed Peruvian pinup artist Alberto Vargas. Since she was born on Christmas Day, McCalla posed nude for the December page in a Vargas calendar. McCalla’s attention-getting measurements were reported as 39-24-38 in her heyday.

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DANCER & MOTORCYCLE RACER PATTI WAGGIN | SHE STRIPPED AND SHE ROARED!

bill brownell Patti Waggin harley davidson motorcycle

A young Patti Waggin presenting 1950 AMA Grand National Champion, Larry Headrick, with a trophy. His career prematurely ended in 1950 when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on the street. The accident shattered Headrick’s left leg, making it impossible for him to race again on the dirt ovals. The rider from San Jose, California, was tragically forced into retirement just has his career was taking off. via

“If there’s one word to describe shapely Patti Brownell, it’s excitement. The young lass lives by it–and for it. Into her existence, Patti packs a triple life: During the day, she’s a student at California’s Chico State College: at night she draws tremendous crowds into the cafe where she presents her whiz bang strip act: and on her off moments, Patti is a death-defying motorcyclist. As far as our luscious blue-eyed blonde is concerned, there’s nothing unusual about her life. Patti’s been winning trophies for motorcycle riding since she was 14. She loves the sport.

Show business is also old hat for Patti. Her mother and father were adagio dancers in vaudeville, and it was only natural that they should teach their little girl the art. Patti wanted a college education, and she was able to pay her way with her show business savvy. As for the future, Patti wants a home in the country, four kids–and lots of motorcycles.”

patti waggin brownell stripper motorcycle

“Bumps are nothing new to luscious Patti–either on a motorcycle or in the strip tease profession.” Born Patricia Hardwick in 1926, she also used the stage name Patti Waggin. Her 2nd marriage was to Chico, CA local legend, Bill Brownell, a well-loved motorcycle racer. Not sure who her 1st husband was…

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MARILYN MONROE, THE TALK OF HOLLYWOOD | 1952 PHOTOGRAPHY OF PHILIPPE HALSMAN

In 1952, LIFE magazine assigned photographer Philippe Halsman to shoot Marilyn Monroe in her tiny Hollywood studio apartment. The resulting cover photo (at the end of this post) pushed her over the top, giving her immediate superstar status, and 20th Century Fox jumped to sweeten her existing multi-year contract to keep their starlet happy.

Marilyn Monroe LIFE Magazine Philippe Halsman photo shoot 1952 crop 900

“I drove to the outskirts of Los Angeles where Marilyn lived in a cheap two-room apartment. What impressed me in its shabby living room was the obvious striving for self-improvement. I saw a photograph of Eleanora Duse and a multitude of books that I did not expect to find there, like the works of Dostoyevsky, of Freud, the History of Fabian Socialism, etc. On the floor were two dumbbells.

I took hundreds of pictures. Finally I asked her to stand in the corner of the room. I was facing her with my camera, the LIFE reporter and my assistant at my sides. Marilyn was cornered and she flirted with all three of us. And such was her talent that each one of us felt that if only the other two would leave, something incredible would happen. Her sex-appeal was not a put-on– it was her weapon and her defense.” –Philippe Halsman

Marilyn Monroe LIFE Magazine Philippe Halsman Photo 1952 900

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BUNNY YEAGER | THE LEGENDARY QUEEN OF PINUPS AND PHOTOGRAPHY, PT II

Bettie Page Bunny Yeager Miami 1954

Miami, 1954– Bettie Page, Kathleen Stanley, and Bunny Yeager. Photographer Bunny Yeager was assigned to do some catalog photos of a line of petticoats and one of the models didn’t show up. Bunny jumped in, taking off her clothes and putting on a petticoat, and took this shot using a self-timer on her camera.

Bunny Yeager knew from an early age that her life’s desire was to be a model, and set out by studying the “come hither” poses of classic painted pin-up art, and snipping pictures of sexy screen sirens Betty Grable, Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth, etc., that were hoarded away in her growing collection of scrapbooks. Right after high school Bunny Yeager made it official. “I took a modeling course from an agency with the finest reputation in Miami,” she recalled.

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CRY BABY | JOHNNY DEPP IN JOHN WATERS’ ’50S HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS CULT CLASSIC

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“John Waters’ musical ode to the teen rebel genre is infectious and gleefully camp, providing star Johnny Depp with the perfect vehicle in which to lampoon his pin-up image.” –Roger Ebert. Well said. Depp has always deftly embraced ironic roles to deflect the trappings of his undeniable handsome-as-hell looks. 21 Jump Street definitely had the potential to pigeon-hole his career, had he been a lesser actor.

Cry Baby would go on to become a cult classic, due largely to the pouty lipped, chiseled face of a young Johnny Depp in his physical prime, and on a Harley to boot. (They used a Sportster and K model, both red, that they swapped a few times in the film apparently with the thought that it would go mostly unnoticed.) For me the enduring 1950s aesthetic is always a draw, and Waters’ witty one-liners are priceless. And let’s not forget the interest that was stirred up back then by the young and sultry Traci Lords. It was her first non-nude screen role following her controversial (not to mention highly illegal) underage porn career that was still hot on everyone’s tongues and minds.

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