The unbelievable tale of smut peddler LEONARD BURTMAN as told by fetish culture expert RICHARD PÉREZ SEVES! With a zillion outrageous illustrations from his filthy magazines!

Sexploitation Magazines Gallery

Two major contributors to sexploitation/fetish art history

Two major contributors to sexploitation/fetish art history were Irving Klaw and Leonard Burtman.


Although Klaw was first in entering the fetish art business in 1948, it was Burtman who envisioned going beyond mail order and creating the first fetish-inspired publishing enterprise with nationally distributed magazines and books.



As with most figures of the 1950s fetish underground (a.k.a., bizarre underground), biographical facts of Burtman’s life are obscured by myths.


In the foreword of the three-volume Exotique collection, for instance, we have this account:

Enter Leonard Burtman, scientist and keen amateur photographer, who was instrumental in the discovery of the 'photo strobe'. Unluckily he had been in the California desert during A-bomb tests in the mid 40s and his proximity to the radioactive fall-out had left him sterile. Disillusioned he signed off the government payroll and channeled all his energies into photography and publishing. After years of working for the good of his country, his new endeavor would be entirely and obsessively personal: an exploration of his own sexual fantasies.[1]

Were A-bombs tested in California? No. Was Burtman instrumental in the discovery of the photo strobe? Nope. Was Burtman a scientist? Not exactly. Keen amateur photographer? Yes. Did he pursue an exploration of his sexual fantasies through his work as publisher? Yes.

Let’s examine the facts, culled from existing government documentation as well as a massive FBI file petitioned (by me) through FOIA (The Freedom of Information Act).

Leonard Burtman was born August 1920 in Columbus, Nebraska.[2] His father was Herman Burtman,[3] a one-time newspaper owner and editor,[4] who evidently planted the “publisher bug” in his impressionable son’s brain. At the age of nine and nineteen—as noted on the 1930 and 1940 census reports—Burtman resided with his father in the Bronx and Queens, New York, though according to one FBI report he attended the California Institute of Technology between the years 1937 and 1939.[5] Electronics would be his chosen field, and following the death of his father in 1940,[6] Burtman spent the rest of the decade chasing down available employment and establishing his career.

At first, Burtman appeared to show promise. His occupation was often noted as “Radio Engineer”[7] although his knowledge of electronics seemed to be broad: a result of attending numerous technical schools, which included the Philco School[8] and Bell Laboratories School for War Training.[9] Positions included stints at the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation (where he may have picked up his love of aviation), ITT and RCA.[10] One of his more interesting jobs, which more than likely contributed to the claim that he was a scientist, was the work he did for the California Institute of Technology—according to FBI papers—“as a member of the research staff in the development of telemetering devices for the atom bomb…”[11]

But Burtman could not walk the straight and narrow, and his first run-in with the law transpired in 1944 when he was arrested, according to one tabloid report, “on charges of theft and embezzlement of government property” while working as a civilian radio technician at a military base.[12] (His subsequent conviction resulted in a suspended sentence and probation for two years.) A second arrest followed in 1946 when Burtman failed to report for military induction at his local board, an act that amounted to draft evasion.[13] Luckily for Burtman—as detailed in one FBI document:

… the USA declined prosecution. At that time BURTMAN alleged that he was employed by the Office of Scientific Research and Development … the Unit had the code name (Camel), and was concerned with Atom Bomb Research.[14]

The worst came in 1949 when Burtman was arrested again for transporting stolen property,[15] compounded with the discovery that he had been passing bad checks under an alias (“J.V. Kirkland”):

Process was obtained in Los Angeles in 1949 and subject was arrested on 9/25/49. BURTMAN entered a plea of guilty to a six count indictment returned by a Federal Grand Jury at Los Angeles, California.[16]

For this last transgression, his third strike, Burtman was sentenced to one year in federal prison and three years probation. He was also ordered to make restitution to all those he defrauded.[17] Burtman served his time in Tucson, Arizona and Washington D.C.[18]

LEONARD BURTMAN (ACT II): THE SEXPLOITEER

Following his prison sentence, circa 1951, Burtman returned east. Now completely discredited in his chosen profession and unemployable, he sought to reinvent himself in New York City under various aliases and embarked on a new career as photographer and vender of so-called “glamour” or nudie photographs.[19] His chosen life from this point on involved becoming a sexploiteer, albeit with a penchant for the “bizarre and unusual.”[20] According to one source, Burtman freelanced for both Irving Klaw, the legendary self-proclaimed “Pin-Up King”—premier producer of fetish art at the time—and “girlie” magazine publisher Robert Harrison,[21] whose titles included Beauty Parade, Eyeful, Wink, Titter, Flirt, and Whisper. As Burtman later recalled, it was around 1952 [22] that he met his future business partner, Benedict “Ben” Himmel, a loud, brash former union organizer and one-time burlesque club owner[23] with rumored ties to the underworld.[24] A seasoned sexploiteer by the time he met Burtman, Himmel had already been arrested for selling obscene literature in 1951.[25] Himmel’s role in future operations with Burtman was to handle the business of funding and distribution, leaving Burtman to take care of every aspect of the creative end.[26] It was an arrangement that suited both men.

CONNECTIONS IN THE BIZARRE UNDERGROUND

In the early 1950s, part of Leonard Burtman’s social circle in New York City[27] included Charles Guyette and John Alexander Scott Coutts (better known as “John Willie”); both men had previously contributed material to Irving Klaw and magazine publisher, Robert Harrison. Charles Guyette, a burlesque/strip-tease costumer by trade (referred to in gossip columns by 1944 as the “G-String King”[28]) had been a pioneering merchant of so-called “bizarre” photographs, as well as exotic footwear and accessories. His aesthetic influence on Burtman would be profound. John Willie—another fetish style pioneer—was a man of many talents: illustrator, photographer, writer, publisher, high-heel and bondage aficionado; among his great contributions to fetish art history was his “damsel-in-distress” cartoon serial Sweet Gwendoline and his seminal magazine Bizarre. (The term “bizarre” became a euphemism for “fetish”—then a clinical word with negative connotations—largely because of John Willie’s magazine, and Leonard Burtman would incorporate the term into future publications, such as Bizarre Party and Bizarre Life.)

© Richard Pérez Seves

© Richard Pérez Seves

Of interest, in 1953, Burtman and Willie collaborated on a photo narrative, which Willie briefly sold through his mail-order business.[29] This narrative of thirty photographs involved a woman who ties up another woman to steal her bizarre (i.e., fetish) boots, and it comprised Burtman’s first attempt at “photo-fiction,” a concept he would exploit in many future publications. (The idea was to convey a novella-length story, hinging on some aspect of “bizarre” fashion, told entirely in sequential photographs and no words.) For this photoshoot, Willie took care of the bondage aspect while Burtman handled lighting and camera. Not long afterward, for reasons that remain unclear, Burtman and Willie would have a falling out. Deeply suspicious of Burtman’s illicit connections, Willie also became convinced that Burtman was behind a burglary of his office.[30]

Was there a shady aspect to Leonard Burtman’s character? If we examine the evidence, the answer clearly appears to be yes.

Bearing in mind that nothing embodies the American spirit more than reinvention—and that, for this purpose, an alias or two may be required, especially for someone trying to lay low—by 1957, Burtman operated under at least seventeen identities.[31] With so many aliases to keep track of, even the FBI was confused, listing Burtman files under the name “Burton,” his most widely used identity, until 1960.[32]

Coincidentally, it was as “Leonard M. Burton,” a name he would use again (more famously), that Burtman produced his first semi-legitimate risqué project in 1953.[33] “Cinderella’s Love Lesson” was an eight-minute theatrical short, featuring cabaret/burlesque legend Lily St. Cyr. As Burtman later described the film: “When a beautiful Exotic Dancer acts out a fairy tale you can be sure the result will not be a bedtime story for the kiddies![34]

PUBLISHING

It was in fall 1954 that Burtman would at last discover his true calling. Considering that his father was an editor and publisher, it almost seemed a path he was destined for. Using the alias “Leon Brenner,” Burtman produced his first magazine. It was named Exotica. The cover was more than a homage to Irving Klaw: it featured actual Klaw content—pirated, of course. Inside, was mild S&M fiction, a pseudo-scientific essay on “fetichism,” and reader’s correspondence (despite this being the first issue)—not to mention more pirated imagery: six Klaw-published Stanton illustrations, artwork by John Willie, and a photo of Bettie Page that appeared that same year on the cover of Willie’s Bizarre #14. With all this pilfering, we might understand why Burtman preferred to use an alias.

Legit or not, this “bizarre”-themed publication marked the beginning of Burtman’s unique publishing career.

FROM EXOTICA TO EXOTIQUE

Despite his unscrupulous behavior, Burtman was a man who yearned for respectability. In the fall of the following year, he and partner Ben Himmel legally created a publishing imprint that would forever establish his name in fetish art history: Burmel Publishing Co. (The “Bur” from Burtman, “mel” from Himmel.)[35] The name of his new digest-sized magazine was Exotique. If Exotica was a test run, then this would be the real deal. It was inspired by John Willie’s similarly-sized magazine Bizarre, and an obscure, bizarre-themed UK publication, Fads & Fancies. Burtman was also inspired by Charles Guyette, whose imagery and costuming Burtman relied on heavily early on. A final influence was the once fetish-friendly UK publication of legend, London Life.[36] Burtman’s own spin was to include more fiction than nonfiction and to shy away from bondage fantasy, which appeared to be of little interest to him. Rather than the helpless, submissive damsels that populated the photographs of John Willie or Irving Klaw, Burtman liked vamps and strikingly attired “dominant” ladies who glared at the camera, often with a look of contempt.

It may have been through Edward Mishkin, a Times Square bookstore owner and operator (and clandestine business associate[37]), that Burtman was introduced to Gene Bilbrew, a pioneering bizarre artist who got his start with Irving Klaw. It was Bilbrew who gave the magazine its eccentric look. Issue #1, which appeared in late 1955, featured at least ten Charles Guyette images and, as cover art, Bilbrew’s depiction of Lonnie Young, a dominatrix-style burlesque performer best known for her act, “Venus in Furs.”[38]

Apart from Bilbrew, other Irving Klaw alumni appearing in early issues of Exotique included models Bettie Page, Roz Greenwood, Baby Lake, and Brandy K. (who Burtman renamed “Brandee Kase”). It wasn’t until fall 1956, that striptease artist, Tana Louise Kirby[39]—better known as simply “Tana Louise”—entered the picture. She was formally introduced in Exotique #9; and from virtually one page to the next (see below), we can see her transformation from burlesque gal to fetish queen.

This metamorphosis was Burtman’s Svengali-like doing, as he, like Charles Guyette, was a believer in the transformative power of exotic costumes. (And it wouldn’t be the last time Burtman molded his ideal fantasy woman through the magic of bizarre fashion.) Soon Tana Louise became the publisher’s wife [40] and was crowned “Miss Exotique”—a title Burtman previously granted to Bettie Page.[41]


Exotique #10, the issue following Tana Louise’s entrance, introduced the final member of Burtman’s professional circle: the Irving Klaw artist Stanton, who—with Burtman—initially used his legal name: “Stanten” (with an “e”). Judging from the wide selection of pirated Stanton material in his initial publication, Exotica, it may have been Stanton who Burtman wanted all along (rather than Bilbrew). Regardless, Burtman did not treat Stanton—or any of his artists—generously, and Stanton never forgot it. “I hate that son-of-a-bitch more than anyone I ever met,” he recalled in later years. “I did a lot of work for him. I was up there one Christmas Day and I saw him writing checks and putting money in envelopes for the doorman, etc. At the time I was broke…. I heard he said to someone once ‘You got to keep these artists starving or they never draw.’”[42]

Despite the artist’s memorable contributions to Burtman in the 1950s, Stanton’s association with the publisher barely lasted eighteen months.[43] The relationship came to an end when Burtman reneged on paying Stanton an agreed-upon sum for artwork he delivered. Much as Stanton detested Burtman, he would work for him again, starting in the early 1960s. In fact, at that time, Stanton may have produced some of the most polished artwork of his career. Somehow, despite being the focus of Stanton’s intense dislike, Burtman managed to pull the best out of him.

BETTIE PAGE AND BURTMAN

Along with Irving Klaw, Burtman was instrumental in contributing to the Bettie Page legend. Burtman not only published images of her, he personally photographed her—often in his own apartment (with these images ranging from glamorous “dominant” Bettie shots to topless “nudie cutie” poses). Even after Bettie Page’s retirement from modeling in December 1957, Burtman continued to publish images and tribute magazines devoted to her. In fact, due to the popularity of these publications, this went on for decades, at long last contributing to the rediscovery and revival of Bettie Page as a cult figure in the 1980s.

THE FALL OF BURMEL

Under Burmel Publishing Co., Burtman produced/published thirty-six issues of Exotique magazine, along with an assortment of other “bizarre” and sexploitation-themed material, until the authorities forced a shutdown. Trouble for Burtman and Himmel began October 1957, following an NYCPD raid on the warehouse of Pigalle Imports Inc., distributor of Burmel material, a company registered under Himmel’s name. According to FBI files, material confiscated at that time included “$90,000 worth of indecent publications and 500 sets of negatives and photographs of semi-nude women.”[44] While his case was mired in the legal system, Burtman and his business associates were the target of unlawful harassment during years 1958 and ‘59. This included, according to Burtman, having his office and home broken into and searched by police and having Burmel employees tailed and their vehicles searched—all without a warrant.[45] Burtman was twice arrested in 1958;[46] the second time (November) purportedly for “possession of obscene material,” though that charge was dismissed days later and evidently only intended to further unsettle Burtman.[47]

In May 1959—on the basis of evidence obtained during the 1957 warehouse raid—Burtman and Himmel were found guilty of “possession of obscene booklets with intent to sell.” [48] More specifically, this conviction was based on three Bilbrew/Stanton illustrated booklets published under sham or unregistered imprints connected to Burtman and Himmel: The Wheel of Violence, Come-On Girl, and Virgins Come High.[49] Perhaps it was just bad karma finally catching up with Burtman since these books featured stories copied verbatim from pulp fiction magazines of the 1930s.[50] Although this obscenity conviction was later overturned, it effectively finished Burmel Publishing Co.

KAYSEY SALES

Unwilling to cave in to pressure, in the summer of 1959 Burtman and Himmel amended the legal paperwork of the company to reflect a new name: Kaysey Sales Co. Inc.[51] On paper, they also put someone else in charge—“Seymour Grasberg”—while they continued with the business of bizarre publishing, which that year included a costume catalog, photo album magazine, and two more issues of Exotique (now renamed “New Exotique”).

It was only a matter of months before the authorities caught on and moved in again, this time arresting Seymour Grasberg. On the day following Grasberg’s arrest, the offices of Kaysey Sales were raided, with nearly five tons of material removed by Federal Marshals and Postal Inspectors. (The haul of the previous raid on Pigalle Imports amounted to eleven tons.[52]) Although a conviction was obtained against Grasberg, the charges were eventually dropped on technical grounds (the illegal search and seizure).[53] Following this court case, Kaysey Sales would cease to exist, at least as a publishing imprint.[54]

SELBEE & ASSOCIATES

All that remained for Burtman and Himmel was to reinvent themselves again. Along these lines, in the summer of 1960, they incorporated a new company, Selbee & Associates Inc. Continuing in the tradition of Exotique, the first publication was named Masque. After four issues, this magazine would morph into Connoisseur.

Burtman continued to publish other digest-sized publications featuring bizarre-themed content, but the time had come for him to branch out in a more mainstream way. The idea was to obtain wider distribution by producing a line of full-sized magazines modeled after “heel n’ hose” slicks, which were then in their heyday. These more conventionally-minded sexploitation magazines would feature topless women in stockings and high-heels. His models would generally be showgirls and ladies of burlesque, like Tana Louise. Along the way, Burtman might inject an article on bizarre boots, corsets, and gloves. The magazines would also contain artwork by Gene Bilbrew and Stanton (who Burtman finally lured back in 1962). Previously, Burtman’s bizarre-themed publications contained no nudity, focusing instead on exotic clothing, make-up, and footwear, always with a suggestion of dark eroticism.

As for the titles of Burtman’s first line of Selbee magazines they included Leg Show, Pepper, Paris-Taboo, Diabolique, Orbit, Nocturne, Exotica (reimagined), Striparama and High Heels. His best-known models at this time included Jackie Miller, Anita Ventura, Dorian Dennis, Alice Denham, Mara Gaye, and Tana Louise (who Burtman divorced in 1960 but remained on amicable terms with). The publisher also wisely recycled images of Bettie Page whenever he could.

LEONARD M. BURTON, FILM PRODUCER

As if publishing a slew of sexploitation magazines wasn’t enough, in 1960 Burtman pursued the idea of making a feature film. More impressively, he entertained this notion while he was flat broke.[55] Even the FBI was sucked in by the gossip surrounding this event:

…subject LEONARD BURTMAN is going to direct a legitimate movie entitled, ‘Satan In High Heels’… FRANK LOVEJOY and SHERRE BRITTON [sic] will be in the movie. They are selling the points at $2,000 per point.[56]

Rumors also began to circulate in tabloid gossip columns, signifying that Burtman or his alias “Burton” had hired a press agent early that year. “L. Burton has gone daffy over Meg Miles. Bribed her with a featured role In ‘Satan In High Heels…’”[57] Later that year: “Sabrina, the curvaceous beauty from England, is being courted seriously by Leonard Burton, producer of ‘Satan in High Heels’...”[58] The most interesting—and in many ways revealing—bit of gossip appeared in February of that year:

Producer Leonard Burton avers he’s flying to Paris to sign the famed female impersonator Coccinelle for his film “Satan in High Heels”—if so, he’d better make the picture somewhere other than the United States. In this country, it’s unlawful for a male to masquerade as a female except under infrequent permissible circumstances such as Halloween and licensed costume balls, and Coccinelle isn’t going to give up wearing that long blonde coiffure and those full skirts.[59]

Ultimately, Satan in High Heels was shot in late 1960, and according to one tabloid report, filmed on a 27-day schedule and a budget of under $150,000.[60] It starred Meg Myles, Grayson Hall, Mike Keene, Del Tenney, and, in a small cult-worthy role, Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes). “Leonard M. Burton” was billed as the producer, with Ben Himmel listed as associate producer.

The plot of the film involves a carnival stripper, played in femme-fatale style by Meg Myles, who escapes to New York to reinvent herself as a lounge singer, along the way seducing a club owner and his son. The melodramatic final act involves a botched murder plan with the lead character’s scheming ways at last exposed. By far the most memorable—and perhaps unintentionally funny—scene involves Meg Myles, dressed in a quasi-dominatrix leather costume, singing “The Female of the Species” (below portrayed by Eric Stanton).

The film’s director, Jerald Intrator, had previously helmed the burlesque film, Striporama (1953), featuring Bettie Page. (The success of Striporama had inspired Irving Klaw to produce/direct three burlesque feature-length films of his own, two featuring Bettie Page.[61]) Leonard Burtman (below) makes a brief appearance in the film’s opening; also featured in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos are Jackie Miller and sexploitation photographer Sam Menning, a favorite of Burtman. Some interior scenes of the movie were also shot in Burtman’s Manhattan apartment—easily identified from the wall art, which appears in countless other Burtman photographs.

Although considered somewhat of a camp classic today, Satan in High Heels did lackluster business upon its release.[62] It was banned in England, where according to one gossip columnist it was cited for having “too much sadism and perversion.”[63] It effectively squashed Burtman’s bigger-than-life dream of being a Hollywood film producer, although he clung to the fantasy by spreading rumors of other proposed film projects.[64] Mention of “Producer Burton” sporadically appeared in tabloid gossip columns until at least 1966.[65]

TRANS PIONEER

There was always publishing. And being persistent meant that Burtman would always find a way to move forward and, occasionally, leave a mark. Before his arrival, there were no full-size magazines devoted exclusively to trans culture. In 1963, Burtman would change that.

Female Mimics would be among the publisher’s longest running titles—in fact, one of many Burtman publications to be widely imitated in years to come. For Burtman, this material also held a special, personal interest. According to one intimate, Kim Christy: “He loved the lady boys…”[66]

That same year (1963), Burtman also published what many consider the “holy grail” of Bettie Page tribute magazines: Focus On … Bettie Page. This 70-page publication featured an exceptional assortment of Burtman photographed images, along with Stanton tribute art. (“E. Stanton” is also listed inside as the magazine’s art director.) Today, highest CGC-graded copies of this collectible magazine often exceed an asking price of $1,500.00.

THE COLLAPSE OF SELBEE

After what could be called Burtman’s best year as a publisher (1963)—during which time he oversaw the publication of at least thirty magazines[67]—both he and Himmel found themselves in hot water, again. This was the result of a citywide anti-smut campaign involving New York politicians, local media, and, most visibly, a crusading Catholic priest employing scare tactics—even a hunger strike—Father Morton A. Hill.[68] (He would later tour with the propaganda film, “Perversion for Profit.”[69]) Burtman and Himmel, far more vulnerable legally and financially than the likes of Hugh Hefner, became easy local targets, especially after being portrayed unfavorably in the media. The end result, served up by federal prosecutors in January 1964, was a 66 count indictment (including conspiracy), in which Selbee Associates Inc. and other Burtman/Himmel corporate entities were named.[70] If this weren’t enough, within a year a major distributor (All-States News Co.[71]) went bankrupt, owing Burtman/Himmel $180,000.[72]

While legal and financial troubles continued for years, Burtman willfully forged ahead, producing magazines by striking “package deals” with secondary distributors. One such distributor was Acme News company, whose subsidiary company (essentially a printer) was Health Knowledge Inc.[73] With package deals, production costs were handled by the printer/distributor in exchange for a larger share of the profits.[74] Burtman would make this work for years while he and Himmel reinvented themselves under a series of corporate veils, which included S-K Publishers (1964), Bilife Publications, Inc. (1966-68), Bizcincorp, Inc. (1968), Consolidated Publishing (1969-71).[75] The variety of magazines produced under these faux companies included some of Burtman’s best known (most collected) titles: Bizarre Life, Corporal, and a continuation of his Selbee titles such as Satana, Orbit, Pepper, and particularly Leg Show and High Heels. Throughout this time, Burtman maintained creative control of the material.

As for the outcome of the 1964 legal case against Burtman and Himmel, it was held up in court for years and never went to trial. FBI memorandums made note of prosecution delays (6/8/64: “No trial date has been set”; 4/8/65: “…holding prosecution in this case in abeyance awaiting the results of an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the case entitled, “UNITED STATES V/X. KLAW”; 10/13/65: pending; 7/25/67: pending inactive status; 11/25/68: “…indictments against captioned subjects were dismissed 2/25/68.”). In the publisher’s favor was a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court obscenity ruling, usually referred to as the Fanny Hill decision (“Memoirs v. Massachusetts,” 383 U.S. 413[76]), which made government prosecution more difficult and eventually paved the way for hardcore pornography.

BURTMAN’S FINAL DISASTER

While Burtman used every stealth tactic at his disposal to survive as a publisher into the late 1960s, at one point he was shamefully exposed. In April 1968, a shipment of cutting-edge (i.e., pornographic) material from Denmark was discovered by customs officials when one of the crates—labeled “earthenware cups and saucers”—was accidentally dropped and broken open on the docks. What to do? How to fix? As described in court documents (428 F.2d 865, United States of America, Appellee, v. Charles Tourine et ano., Defendants, and Leonard Burtman and Benedict Himmel, Defendants-Appellants, 1970), Burtman and Himmel conspired with several others to make a payoff to a customs official who had been bribed before. Unfortunately for Burtman and Himmel, this plan was discussed during a private meeting in the presence of an individual who turned out to be an undercover agent for the government.[77]

The unfolding legal case not only revealed Burtman’s fraught dealings but his shady affiliations as well. In particular, one of the individuals indicted with Burtman and Himmel was Charles “The Blade” Tourine, a man described in the New York Times as a “high lieutenant in the Genovese Mafia family.”[78]

In the language of the court, Burtman, Himmel and chums were charged with “conspiracy to defraud the United States and the Bureau of Customs by bribing customs agents and employees and otherwise avoiding customs inspections of items imported into the United States.”[79]

While the jury was unable to reach a verdict regarding Tourine and another associate (Pasquale Giordano), Burtman and Himmel were found guilty. As per court records: “each of the convicted defendants was sentenced to one year imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.”[80]

BURTMAN AND HIMMEL SPLIT

While Burtman served his time in prison in 1971,[81] changes were underway by 1970. That year Burtman rebooted a signature title, High Heels, under a new label: Eros Goldstripe. The magazine cover bears the stamp of his new distributor: “Global Press,” a company, one of hundreds, run by mob-connected porn czar Reuben Sturman.[82] Although Burtman had relied on Sturman in the past, this was far deeper. Backroom deals were made: Ben Himmel was out, Sturman was in—for good. Within several years, Burtman also relocated to California, where he would remain until his death. Hundreds of titles, including countless one-shot magazines and paperbacks, would be published under Eros Goldstripe and various other imprints controlled by Sturman; although Burtman’s financial troubles were greatly eased, he would never enjoy the autonomy—or creative control—he once had.

BURTMAN’S FINAL TRANSFORMATION (ACT III)

With the arrival of hardcore pornography in 1970/71 came major changes in the adult publishing industry. Heel n’ hose magazines were a thing of the past; the quaint fetish fashion imagery of Charles Guyette no longer registered. Sex was not something veiled or alluded to: it was shown—graphically—often in full color. The difference between sexploitation/softcore and XXX/hardcore was enormous. Rather than evoke the imagination, everything had to be shown, spoon-fed—thunderously obvious. Fetish-themed magazines could only survive by showing more gratuitous violence, feeding the common belief that S&M was about abuse and psychotic behavior.

Burtman carried on, indifferently slapping together magazines, recycling artless photoshoots to meet production deadlines. Magazines that didn’t sell were resold with new covers. The public hardly seemed to notice. His models now included future icons of the porn industry: Jennifer Welles, Uschi Digard, Rene Bond, Serena, Linda Lovelace, and Jamie Gillis. As Gene Bilbrew had succumbed to substance abuse and was now unreliable, and Stanton had more or less gone into business for himself, Burtman turned to “glamour girl” sexploitation artist Bill Ward, who by then had reinvented himself as a fetish artist.

Exotique, the title that started it all, was revived in a full-size format. Here—at least in the beginning—Burtman tried to preserve a flame of the past, even lovingly reprinting Stanton and Bilbrew artwork from the ’50s and ’60s. Published under various corporate fronts, including “Jenifer Jordan Associates Ltd.,[83] it also featured Burtman’s new wife and star, billed as “America’s Number One Dominatrix!” Who was this lady? Let’s turn back the clock.

After Burtman’s divorce from Tana Louise in 1960, two more failed marriages followed. [84] It wasn’t until 1965 that Burtman met Hungarian-born model and aspiring actress Jutka Goz—although her image first appeared in a Burtman magazine in ’63.[85]

Burtman presented himself well, and Goz saw that Burtman had a taste for the high life. Beyond tailored suits, upscale apartments and luxurious automobiles, his interests included race car driving and flying.[86] Goz was on the other end of the spectrum, having experienced a difficult childhood and by then had learned to survive by her wits.[87] An open-minded woman with a bohemian spirit, Goz also wasn’t judgmental about Burtman’s more unusual interests, including trans and bizarre culture. If anything, she was curious. Right away, Burtman saw a woman who could be accepting of him, and in true player style, hyped the producer aspect of his résumé. Mention of “Producer L. Burton” and Goz appeared in a November ’65 Walter Winchell column alluding to the seriousness of the relationship—and this time it wasn’t just gossip.[88] Burtman and Goz married in 1966.[89]

Much as he had done with Tana Louise a decade before, Burtman could not resist reinventing Goz. With bizarre transformations his specialty, he dressed her up in leather for his most admiring spread, which appeared in the 1967 Burtman magazine, Modern Life Illustrated #1. From then on, Burtman worked on ways to feature her more and more in his publications, often inventing aliases for her. In a two-part 1967 spy spoof publication, The Girl From A.U.N.T.I.E., her moniker was “Lotta Phun”; her alias was “Jeanne Burton” that same year in the magazine Satana. She appeared in issues of SIN-ema Around The World, the spanking-fantasy magazine Corporal, and the lesbian sexploitation magazine, III. Goz appeared spectacularly on the cover and interior pages of Bizarre Life, where she bravely assumed the role of dominatrix—a role she stepped into with ease, but “only a role,” as she later admitted with good humor.[90] If this is what her husband wanted, hey … she could think of worse things than being dressed up in leather, placed on a pedestal and adored. She allowed Burtman to mold her into a fetish goddess. And why not? All that she asked of her husband was that he not mention the one name that would send her into a jealous rage: “Tana Louise.”[91] Who was the new “Miss Exotique,” after all? She was!



In 1973, resettled in Beverly Hills, California—a place better suited for a film producer and his wife—Burtman and Goz started a new life. Goz’s new professional name was “Jenifer Jordan,”[92] and Burtman set about creating an entire mythology around her, eventually producing a three-volume autobiography (all of it fantasy). Jordan was not only the star of Exotique magazine, she was the face of Burtman’s new empire—or fiefdom. Her masthead credits not only included editor but publisher, although in truth it was always Burtman behind the curtain, playing the bizarre wizard.

The 1970s saw an explosion of bizarre-themed magazines with distinct titles devoted to every imaginable fetish, and Burtman was a large part of this. Under Eros Goldstripe and various other labels, he produced publications devoted to everything from spring/winter fantasy,[93] to interracial sex, to airline stewardess fantasy, to kinky witchcraft, to eroticized Nazisploitation. Along with the acceptance of bizarre-themed material in the ’70s and ’80s came heavy competition and the realization that, as a publisher, he was no longer unique. In retrospect, Goz blamed her husband’s decline on Reuben Sturman, who pushed Burtman to produce the kind of mainstream porn he had little interest in.[94] But other factors were also at play—namely that Burtman gradually ceased to be relevant in a market he’d helped create. Others, perhaps relying less on formula, were producing the same magazines—and doing it better.

After a lifetime spent reinventing himself, Burtman could no longer find a way to reinvent himself one last time, and suddenly he found himself under intense pressure. The end came abruptly. Ever the workaholic, one Thursday in August 1989, he died where he’d spent most of his life—at his work desk.[95] Burtman had been dividing his time between Europe and the US, trying to make films and revive publishing projects, unable to escape his bizarre obsessions—still trying to find his own place in the world.


Vintage fetish art historian, Richard Pérez Seves is the author of Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground and the curator/author of Charles Guyette: Godfather of American Fetish Art, as well as two novels about bohemia. His work has been translated into Italian, Korean, and Turkish. Among other things, he has contributed to the New York Times.


[1] Kim Christy, The Complete Reprint of Exotique: The First 36 Issues, 1951-1957 (Köln: Taschen, 1998), p. 6.

[2] U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.

[3] According to a FBI file dated October 11, 1957; confirmed in 1930, 1940 US Federal Census reports.

[4] Herman Burtman was The News-Journal publisher The News-Journal (Fullerton, Nance County, Nebraska): c. 1913 – 1917. Source: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nenance/olres/nshsnanc.html

[5] FBI report dated November 13, 1957, p.4. It also states “…but he received no degree from this institute.” In a conflicting FBI report dated February 19, 1958, it states that Burtman attended Theodore Roosevelt High School from February 1935 to January 1939. Then briefly “re-admitted to the school as a post-graduate student.”

[6] Social Security death index: 12 Nov 1940.

[7] Undated FBI report marked “NY 145-13,” p. 16.

[8] Robert V. Bienvenu II, The Development of Sadomasochism as a Cultural Style in the Twentieth-Century United States” (PhD diss., Indiana University, 1998), p. 169.

[9] Ibid, p. 17. Burtman registered at the school under false pretenses. “…LEONARD BURTMAN ... represented himself as a member of the Armed Forces to obtain credit. Lieutenant REISS stated that Burtman was not in fact a member of the Armed Forces of the US.”

[10] FBI report dated November 13, 1957, p.4, 5.

[11] Ibid, p.5.

[12] Riverside Daily Press, November 22, 1944.

[13] Ibid, p. 15, 16.

[14] Ibid, p. 16.

[15] FBI report dated October 11, 1957, p. 13.

[16] FBI report dated November 13, 1957, pp. 4, 5.

[17] Ibid, p. 5.

[18] FBI report dated October 11, 1957, p. 13.

[19] FBI note dated July 20 1959 reported Burtman selling “art studies of nude women” as far back as “approximately 1951.”

[20] This later became a catch phrase in many of his publications, starting with his magazine Exotique, in 1955.

[21] Bienvenu, p. 169, 170.

[22] FBI report dated February 19, 1958, p. 10. In applying for a passport in 1957, Burtman’s identifying witness was Himmel: “a friend who had known BURTMAN for five years.”

[23] Burlesque club owner in Miami (1949-1951): The Miami News Jan 12, 1951.

[24] Bienvenu, p. 170, 171.

[25] FBI report dated October 11, 1957, p. 11.

[26] Bienvenu, p. 170.

[27] Ibid, p. 169.

[28] Richard Pérez Seves, CHARLES GUYETTE: Godfather of American Fetish Art (New York: FetHistory, 2018), p. 147.

[29] John Willie, ed. J.B. Rund, Possibilities (New York: Bélier Press, 2016), p. 186.

[30] Ibid, p. 189.

[31] FBI report dated November 13, 1957, p. 1.

[32] FBI report dated March 25, 1960: “LEONARD BURTMAN was previously carried as an alias of BURTON. LEONARD BURTON will henceforth be carried as an alias of BURTMAN.

[33] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0968263/

[34] Nocturne magazine n. 3, 1962, “Cinderella's Love Lesson,” p. 15.

[35] Incorporated October 25, 1955 (information courtesy of J.B. Rund).

[36] London Life continued into the 1950s, but it was no longer the fetish-friendly publication it had been. For issues #1 and #2 of Exotique, Burtman reworked some earlier London Life material (“The Triumph of Elaine,” which originally appeared in an October 26, 1940 issue of London Life: http://www.staylace.com/textarea/history/ll16.htm) and, for issue #1 of Exotique, lifted “The Lure of the Gloves” by “Bottier,” from an earlier, unknown issue of London Life ( “The Lure of Kid Gloves,” as it was originally titled was later reprinted by Burtman in the magazine [a compilation of London Life articles] Bizarre Nostalgia, Part 2, Eros Publishing Co., Inc. Wilmington Delaware, 1976.

[37] Richard Pérez Seves, Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground (Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2018), p. 74.

[38] She also appears on page 52 of the magazine. She would be a favorite of Burtman’s, appearing in future publications—well into the 1960s.

[39] FBI report dated February 19, 1958, p.16.

[40] the couple was married Oct. 5, 1956; Ibid.

[41] Exotique #8, p. 59.

[42] Eric Kroll, The Art of Eric Stanton: For The Man Who Knows His Place (Köln: Taschen, 1997), p. 10.

[43] Richard Pérez Seves, Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground (Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2018), p. 78, 80.

[44] FBI report dated February 19, 1958, p.1.

[45] Bienvenu, p. 195.

[46] According to NYPD Bureau of Criminal Identification (first 1958 arrest in Philadelphia, PA).

[47] FBI report dated January 12, 1959, p.1; also, FBI report dated December 5, 1958, p.32.

[48] FBI report dated September 16, 1959.

[49] FBI report dated July 2, 1958.

[50] Bienvenu, p. 177, 196.

[51] FBI report dated March 21, 1960.

[52] Bienvenu, p. 200.

[53] Ibid., p. 199, 200.

[54] In name, the company would carry on as Burtman’s principal mail order business throughout the early 1960s.

[55] FBI note dated July 12, 1960: “Burman is broke, financially….”

[56] FBI report dated June 2, 1960.

[57] Walter Winchell, The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 18 1960.

[58] Dorothy Kilgallen: Jamestown (N.Y.) Post-Journal, September 17, 1960.

[59] Dorothy Kilgallen: Jamestown (N.Y.) Post-Journal, February 26 1960.

[60] New York Post, January 5, 1961.

[61] Varietease, with Bettie Page (1954), Teaserama, with Bettie Page (1955), Buxom Beautease (1956).

[62] Judging by its spotty distribution and scarce newspaper ads in 1963. It mostly played in drive-ins and fringe theaters, though Burtman attempted to revive it for years.

[63] Lexington Leader, July 8 1963: Gossip column of Dorothy Kilgallen: "'The film "Satan in High Heels,' which was approved by the censors in the United States, has just been banned in England -- too much sadism and perversion. (That ought to hand Mandy Rice-Davies quite a laugh.)”

[64] The Daily Reporter, Dec 30, 1960: "Producer Leonard Burton, who wants the film rights to the story of racing driver 'Fon' de Portago..." The Evening Standard, May 22, 1962: "Producer Leonard Burton, who will film the "Dr. Sam Sheppard Story," wants Rod Steiger to star...." Daily News, February 15, 1962: "Six of the top film companies are bidding for the story of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker, but it looks like producer Leonard Burton will end up with the rights. Burton, unlike the others, agreed to comply with the estate's wishes by making no mention of narcotics, the addiction to which caused Parker's death."

[65] Announcements of Burtman's purported romantic entanglements and subsequent marriages (1961: Shirley Lewis, 1965: Ethyl Becher, 1966: Jutka Goz) always referenced "Producer Leonard Burton." The final mention that I was able to find was in the Asbury Park Press, Dec. 21, 1966.

[66] http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/photography/2011/02/12/kim-christys-lost-world?page=full

[67] Seventeen full-sized Selbee magazines, which included a new title: Satana; in addition to over a dozen digest-sized publications, some under sham imprints (e.g., B.S. F. Publishers).

[68] It was the theatrical Father Hill, who got the wheels in motion in 1962, acting on purported knowledge that “sadomasochistic magazines” were being traded among “sixth grade boys.” The galvanizing battle cry “Save our children!” soon drew in obligating city officials and media. See: http://www.moralityinmedia.org/index.htm?aboutUs/hillbiog.htm

[69] Bienvenu, p. 202.

[70] Ibid., see pp. 201 – 205.

[71] Based in Chicago.

[72] Ibid., 192.

[73] Richard Pérez Seves, Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground (Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2018), p. 277.

[74] Under such an arrangement, the distributor, in effect, became the publisher while allowing the packager creative control.

[75] The complexity of corporate entanglements and shell companies may never be unraveled.

[76] https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/383/413/

[77] https://law.resource.org/pub/us/case/reporter/F2/428/428.F2d.865.867.34708_1.html

[78] New York Times, May 22 1969.

[79] https://law.resource.org/pub/us/case/reporter/F2/428/428.F2d.865.867.34708_1.html

[80] Ibid.

[81] Bienvenu, p. 195.

[82] The Meese Report: http://www.porn-report.com/reuben-sturman.htm: accessed March 6 2014

[83] https://www.bizapedia.com/ca/jenifer-jordan-associates-ltd.html.

[84] Shirley Lewis Epstein, 1961, certificate of marriage (Commonwealth of Virginia): 10043; Lisa Merrill, 1964, certificate of marriage (Commonwealth of Virginia): 18358.

[85] Focus On … London After Dark #2, 1963 (Selbee & Associates, Inc.), page 47.

[86] Bienvenu, p. 169.

[87] https://www.therialtoreport.com/2018/06/17/leonard-burtman/

[88] News-Journal (Mansfield, Richland, Ohio), November 26, 1965: A Walter Winchell column states: "Producer L. Burton and Juka Goz (Miss Hungary of '64) marry next month."

[89] License Number: 31170. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan.

[90] https://www.therialtoreport.com/2018/06/17/leonard-burtman/

[91] Ibid.

[92] Initially “Jenifer” was spelled with one “n,” later became “Jennifer Jordan.”

[93] Older-aged men with “lolitas.”

[94] https://www.therialtoreport.com/2018/06/17/leonard-burtman/

[95] Ibid. (Note: his death day was August 3rd 1989)