Go-Go Girls

“Go-Go Girls” portfolio box contents, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Fall 2002

The Music Bar was a strip club–and our favorite neighborhood hangout–on a dimly lit side street just a couple blocks from our studio in downtown Manitowoc. Ray ran the place since 1954. At first it was a typical down-home Wisconsin type tavern serving sandwiches and beer. It also featured sing-a-longs around the spinet piano–hence the name. In 1965, Ray remodeled adding go-go dancers, mirrors and wood-paneling to create an environment he conceptualized as a swank cocktail lounge. There was a jukebox, pool table, pinball machine and the infamous back door. In between dancer sets he’d sing popular standards and risque ballads accompanying himself on Hammond organ and trumpet. He was Manitowoc’s own Dean Martin and Hugh Hefner rolled into one. His ad in the yellow pages read: GO-GO GIRLS, FRIENDLY ATMOSPHERE. It was his DIY burlesque fantasy world and it stayed about the same–except for a accumulating patina of nicotine and duct tape–until he passed away in 2001. The Music Bar closed and its contents were put in a dumpster in the back alley. The story was over.

This portfolio is primarily made up of our fashion photos of five of Ray’s regular dancers. Our own pictures are placed in the context of artist-produced/curated artifacts exploiting a “found” aesthetic. The resulting memory-box reflects our sentimentality for the subject matter and offers the viewer an opportunity to have a voyeuristic experience by discovering a group of objects that collectively evoke a specific time and place.

View images on Flickr



(edition of only 6 produced in 2002)

  • 21 portrait prints of Ray and his individual dancers: Wendy, Dutchess, Lydia, Joye, and Pumpkin at the Music Bar (8×8” images on 14×11” sheet gelatin silver prints from Rolleiflex negatives, 1987-1991, signed)
  • Pumpkin (Topless), Music Bar, 1991, gum bichromate over platinum-palladium print (4×5” image on 14×11” sheet, signed)
  • The Stripper Polaroids book (29 pg., 5×5”, color inkjet reproductions of 21 anonymous Polaroids of local strippers circa 1991 with essay, spiral bound)
  • The Music Bar: Go-Go Girls booklet (20 pg., 5.5×4.25”, b/w laser printed with essay)
  • Wendy’s Life Story original video (DVD, 59 min., color, 2002)
  • Wendy Wrapped in Black Tulle post cards (five 4.25×6” standard post cards)
  • Wendy Rogers (1961-2003) memorial booklet (4 pg. 5.5×4.25” b/w laser printed essay with cyanotype cover and hand-tied binding)
  • Ray V. Songs & Organ music tape (Audio-cassette, 60 min., includes covers of “My Way” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” + 23 more recorded on location at The Music Bar, circa 1975)
  • A Night at the Music Bar video (DVD, 120 min., color, circa 1986)

4 thoughts on “Go-Go Girls

  1. I am the I am the grandson of Ray Vassilew and want to express my gratitude for your appreciation of his “craft” and for immortalizing it in your content here. Found this site by googling his name and looking for photos of him…I live in San Diego and am the one who most takes after him. I sing, play piano, organ, and accordion in the same style and can sing all the songs he used to sing at the bar. His wife, Bernice, just passed away in November of 2011. Thanks again! feel free to contact me about anything at my email address or by calling me.
    Benjamin Bieberitz, RN, BSN
    Elvis Impersonator

  2. Thanks for writing Benjamin. Did we meet you at the Music Bar years ago? It’s great that you are an Elvis impersonator and carrying on Ray’s legacy more or less. He would have loved it, no doubt! We were also contacted recently by another of Ray’s family members from Manitowoc area. Ray was pretty cool and we’re glad to know there are fans out there remembering what he accomplished with his music!

  3. I would stop in by Ray and watch him play trumpet and sing. One day I showed up he gave me a record he bought at St Vinnies of my gramps Romy Gosz. he would tell me stories of him. I miss Ray.

  4. We loved taking artist/musician friends to see Ray perform at the Music Bar. One of our sheer joys in Manitowoc in the 1990s. Ray made life so rich. We miss him too!

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