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.
GO-GO GIRLS PORTFOLIO BOX CONTENTS (edition of only 6 produced in 2002):
- Series of 21 portraits 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)