Almost twenty years ago, in 1994, a friend and I were kicking some ideas around, and one that we began to really concentrate on was creating some nice glamorous images of some gorgeous gals and guys with a fire service theme. There was a lucrative market for posters and calendars with such a theme and we felt we could successfully launch a poster and calendar line that could be marketed not only nationwide at fire service conventions and trade shows, but possibly worldwide as well.
The Missouri Winter Fire School was soon approaching and we felt we could photograph and produce a poster that we could take to this show and test our idea. We created a partnership and called our business Creative Concepts, selected a sexy female model named Jodie, who was also a female firefighter, to photograph for the very first poster, came up with some ideas, and shot the initial layouts in my studio. We then selected the best image, took them to a local printer friend, and had a few thousand posters printed up to take to the trade show. We named our poster line ” Raging Sensations “, which also doubled as the name of the calendar that we produced later on as well.
We took Jodie and a few other friends to the trade show with us to help with sales and for security as well. it`s a good thing that we had some extra personnel there with us, because there was never a time that we had less than fifty firefighters in front of our booth, patiently waiting to purchase an autographed poster of Jodie. We had a couple of other models there that assisted in the sales of the posters, all of them dressed sexily in cut off jean shorts and a Raging Sensations t-shirt tied up in halter fashion, complete with red high heels. They certainly garnered quite a bit of attention everywhere they went in the trade show hotel, and we often had to send a contingent of security with them to the restroom doors as well as to their vehicles in the parking lot.
That first show is an experience I will likely never forget because of all the good memories from it. To say it was a successful launch of our side business would be a great understatement, because it not only provided a tremendous start to Creative Concepts, but it also created hundreds of new friendships and customers alike, and showed many people what can be accomplished when you follow your dreams with hard work and perseverence.
We then traveled to the Summer Fire Schools in surrounding states, to market the posters. Jodie traveled with us to the shows, and autographed the posters as they sold at the booths….
…this is actually a lighter copy of the original darker version of the poster….the original image shows a heavy fire in the background behind her in her fire gear, Jodie was a female firefighter at the time I photographed her……and let me tell you, it sold like hot cakes…she was a hit everywhere she went, due to her sexy looks and very bubbly personality, and firefighters were lined up twenty and thirty deep quite often all day long at the fire service convention trade shows that we set up our booth at…..we did so well with it, we decided to add a second poster on, for our second year, and we selected two female firefighters from the Jefferson City area that were twins ! One was actually a paramedic firefighter and the other a volunteer firefighter and we photographed them at St Clair one evening with the help of several firefighter friends there….
…once again, our sales started taking off and we began hearing from firefighters all over, suggesting we create and market a calendar for worldwide distribution. So we mulled it over and decided to take a chance on it if we could secure funding for it, most of which would be for printing it and the advertising costs of it…which was very costly in those days.
Even though I had a large number of male and female models available to pick from at the time, models I had worked with already and had on file, we began looking for a few more potential models…..guys and gals, due to the feedback we had received from firefighters at the trade shows…we had hundreds of females asking us why we werent selling posters of hot guys in fire gear, so we decided to photograph both from then on and not leave any target audience out….we also searched for various locations around the state where we could photograph the models. I utilized many of my connections with firefighter friends across the state to locate fire stations that we could shoot at and we concentrated heavily on departments with antique fire trucks for backdrops and props since this might provide us with another target audience for the calendars.
There were a couple of fire service themed calendars out at the time that were doing the same thing that we wanted to do, I had written one of the photographers and found out he was shooting many of his models at fire service museums in the northeastern US…and he was having great success marketing his calendars…later on he added posters and did quite well with them too. I obtained permission from several surrounding departments as well as my fire district and Chief, and we decided to do the local shoot in December before the Christmas holidays. We had a lot of good help at each location we went to from local firefighters and also had a good crew with us as well….Jodie`s brother Kurt Ploch, from Boles FPD, assisted us with lighting, smoke machine control, and security at several shoots and trade shows. Alot of our male models doubled as security and set up labor at many of our shoots as well.
We started shooting the latter half of 1994 and finished up into early 1995 with the layout and production work, and here are some images from those shoots….
…we had contacted the St Louis Fire Department after learning that they had a few antique pumpers in their stations that were in excellent condition still, many of them parade pieces and still functioning quite well. Karen was one of our St Louis models, we located her working at a fitness gym, and decided to photograph her on the St Louis FD trucks, here on the bumper of the 1952 Mack Pumper. We had her dress up in cut off blue jeans shorts to showcase her amazing legs, red high heels, and one of our Raging Sensations t shirts…yes we had a few of those made up as well….
..in the next image, she is on display in the top center, surrounded by sexy young firefighters who were trying to clean the truck when she just showed up and distracted them….
…and in the next photo, you can see that all work and no play aptly fits this scene when they decided to wash off the 1926 Ahrens Fox Pumper too……the lesson here is never tick a gorgeous gal off when she is standing there with a loaded water pistol….
….I think John learned his lesson well, he was another super nice kid to work with….here Karen is spraying him down, while Dale and Jason look on with amusement….and below are closeups of Dale and John on the Mack….
We really wanted to photograph the horse drawn steam pumper that St Louis FD has, but it`s housed at Grants Farm and while we made an effort to contact them regarding this, let`s just say that the extra work that would have been required from us, to make it happen, would have cost us way too much to make it worthwhile, so we abandoned the idea and searched for another steam pumper to photograph instead….we soon enough found one in early December at a museum up in Bonner Springs, Kansas…we were up there shooting at the Kearney FD one weekend, and had set up a shoot at a museum in Kansas City as well one morning….that was a very cold shoot because we found out on arrival at the KC museum that there was no heat in the building and it was probably around 20 degrees outside…the building was jam packed with antique fire trucks though and we had a few brave and willing models, so we set up our lights and photographed as quickly as we could in the cold…
…our core crew consisted of Kimberly Warnock, in the white bloomers with the red fire bucket…normally this shot would have required her to be barefoot but the floor was way too frozen for that, so we allowed her to wear a pair of boots, figured we would photoshop them out later if needed…Jason Sparks was to her right and sitting on the siderail next to Steve Brady and his brother Mike is kneeling down, up behind Jason and the two guys on the side were from the Kearney FD.
Luckily, the guy running the museum in KC, who allowed us to shoot there, knew there was a steam pumper sitting on display at the museum in Bonner Springs…so we quickly made a phone call and set up an hour long shoot there…the only stipulation was that we had to set all of our lighting equipment up, shoot the idea, and then tear it all down and clean up within that hour, before the doors opened to the public for tours. We quickly drove over to the museum and did exactly that….here are the results of that shoot……
…..these were the main shots…when we finished shooting them, we had a good attentive team and they worked well together….we decided to take a few extra minutes and shoot a couple more single images as well…here is Kimberly in her finest hour….
….pretty hot for a Racetrack Trophy Girl, that we found at the State Fair one year….she actually traveled down and shot some more poster work with me later, very nice to work with….next is Steve Brady….he was into bodybuilding at that time and it shows well….he looked stunning in jeans and red suspenders….
I didn`t shoot any photos of Mike at the time, perhaps we ran out of time…hard to remember details from shoots nearly twenty years ago now…after all, we only had about an hour to work it all in, and that included set up and tear down time too. Mike and his brother were in the KC area, finding them was a real prize for us in several ways, not only were they good looking and well built, they were great models to work with, and their father ran a huge printing company in the KC area that printed of all things, calendars…so we were able to glean some information from both of them that really helped us with our own printing project a few months later.
…and Jason Sparks, who I discovered online one evening that was dancing…and turned out to be a very exceptional model for us and for me later on in my work with models….and a super cool guy just to hang around with as well, we took him to a Romance Novel Convention later that year and entered him into the contest there, competing against some real romance model heavyweights and he came in third place and won the hearts of many romance novel authors while there. Third place landed him a calendar contract as well as the covers of some novels, and helped launch his career with the Chippendales later that year as well…
While up in the KC area that week, we also photographed a few scenes for the calendar at the Kearney Fire Station, one a Christmas scene with Santa Claus and a few Elves that we were able to locate at the last minute….
…and then while we had that background set up, we removed Santa and the girls, and showed off the beefcake once again, thinking we might be able to utilize it as a poster later on….
…and then photographed an idea at the back of the ambulance, working in my good friend Kevin Pratt, who is a paramedic / firefighter, putting a bandaid on Kimberly, who was flat on her back on the stretcher, while two of our EMT models, Stacy and Tracy, who we located working at the casino in KC, gave us their best ” what-ever ” looks….
…then we photographed the guys in some single photos once again, holding on to some rescue tools….Jason shown first….
…and then we have Mike Brady, who looked very good in fire gear and I remember he was told that many times while at the fire station….
…and his brother Steve Brady again….
We also shot a few scenes inside my studio at the time, here locally, utilizing a projected fire backdrop and a smoke machine that I had on hand. One of my area models, Cory…teamed up with Jodie to work with us one day in the studio to produce our idea of a firefighter`s fantasy rescue of a beautiful damsel in distress…..
…and then we posterized some of the other images along this line….
Corey turned out to be quite a modeling catch for us…and worked out to be quite an asset in a few other shoots along the way, and then came back to model for me during the summer months as well…not only a true gentleman, but a great look and muscular build as well…these are a couple of images we had hoped to market as a poster for more sales….
Luckily, we were able to work Cory into a few more of our calendar shoots, one at St Clair, where we were able to shoot multiple ideas at. A good friend of mine owned a 1951 Packard Chiefs Car then and called to let me know he would be happy to load it on a trailer and bring it where ever we wanted to shoot it…I told him about the St Clair shoot and he made arrangements with a friend of his to transport it there…St Clair had a crew waiting for their arrival as well as ours and accomodated us very nicely on our ideas for shoots, even allowing us to work with their Dalmation dog Daisy……here are the results of the shoots there….
…in this image, Scott Selter, who was one of my models at the time, was also a firefighter and we had him walking Miss Daisy when Holly, one of my south St Louis County models, decided to walk by, if front of St Clair`s antique pumper, and about the time Scott noticed Holly walk by, Miss Daisy decided to take off running the other way….this was the setup shot and then we had the printing company airbrush the backdrop for us.
We unloaded the Packard Chief`s car, which Brian had originally found rotting away in a field down south, and had it restored from the frame up…painting it candy apple red and it really shined that night at St Clair….along with the two babes showing it off…Holly was joined in this shot by Jenny, one of my local models from Sullivan…..
Again, for the finished shot, we had the printing company airbrush the backdrop and floor for us….these are the rough idea shots….
…and then we sat Holly up on the front of the hood of the car….
After shooting two antique vehicles, we decided to work with one of the modern pumpers on the next couple of ideas….we asked Holly to use a smaller hoseline to clean off the floor while firefighters Cory, and Elton were putting away tools as Scott watched her wash off the floor……this time no one got wet down….
..and a few close up images as well….Jenny below showing off her gorgeous legs on the bumper of the pumper….
Cory below, pulling hose from the bumper tray on the pumper….
…and Scott Selter below, the first image shot in my studio against a firey backdrop….
…and one taken that night at St Clair`s station as well….
We were able to set up an advertising shoot at Washington Fire Department, utilizing one of their antique pumpers for the shot, and using it to advertise the calendars and posters in Firehouse Magazine later on…Skip and Kenny, members of the Chain Gang from Washington FD, helped us set up the shot and then we included them in the shot with Rhonda, one of our gorgeous female models on the antique chain driven pumper. Skip even parked his antique Model A Ford Pickup close enough we were able to include it in the image as well as a Dalmation dog….
…and this shoot, led to yet another shoot at Washington, this time at the fire station with the ladder truck, and again we received great support and assistance from a group of firefighters there….and models Tony, Jason, and Ryan showed up to work with Tammy Downey….we had the floor wet down so the reflections from the truck would show up well, and we handed Tammy a squeegee and told her to get to work….
…and in the next few shots, their Dalmation dog showed up and took his spot in the image….
…and then we pulled Tammy out for a few minutes, allowed her to make a clothing change, and we concentrated on the guys for a few minutes with the truck…
…we used the smoke machine on this one and changed the lighting around just a bit…I like the way it came out and we almost used it for a poster later on….
…and then we pulled the guys out and put Tammy back in with the truck, in her red bikini….it took some work and some help from the firefighters, but we were able to get her up into a higher position soon enough….
…and then back down to the side of the truck as well….
…then we shot Tammy with the guys, first with Tony…..
…and Tony actually smiled on this next one….he rarely smiled when modeling anything….
…and here with Jason….
…and then I shot a few of Tony, who wanted to wear the coat as well as the bunkers and boots….
Our next shoot took us to Hermann….we had enjoyed the Steamer Shoot, and I remembered that they had two horse drawn hand pumpers that were beautifully restored , so I contacted the Chief there and we received permission to shoot their antique pumpers at their station soon after. They had added on to their station sometime back to store both the hand pumpers there, and the beautiful matched teams of horses were nearby at the farm of a firefighter. Several years ago, they brought them over to one of Sullivan FD`s parades to set off the Firemen`s Picnic and Carnival…the year we hosted several games for firefighters and competitions…the parade ended at the carnival grounds and before leaving, several of our younger firefighters assembled on the hand pumpers and tried to see how long they could last pumping water….needless to say, they didnt last very long at all…. five minutes or a little less, if I remember correctly.
Again we had very gracious hosts that evening and they moved the pumpers around for us and positioned them so we could get some great images. As far as the models, we had five guys show up and luckily, our female model, Shelly, brought her boyfriend David, with her to the shoot and we were able to recruit him on the spot to fill in for the sixth man who didnt show up. Ironically, the reason the sixth model didnt show up, was his girlfriend. So we worked with Shelly`s boyfriend David, Jason Sparks, Alf Maxwell, John Bost, Dale Young, and Jason Brown.
This time, even though we assembled the male models on the larger of the two hand pumpers, we didnt make them work it or even attempt it. We had them wearing dark blue jeans or black jeans, and boots, and we attached red suspenders to the jeans…
….we shot several images of this set up, and came up with several good ones as well…in retrospect, I wish we had lit it up evenly on the backside with two red lights instead of just one, because the red backlighting really set it off well on the one end, and then we had to have the calendar printer airbrush the backdrop once again on the finished image. Scotts Printing in Rolla was our printer and they did a fantastic job with the artwork and printing. I dont think we could have found a better printer to work with.
We shot some extra shots with the hand pumper, pulling a few guys out and putting Shelly into the shot….
…then we found out that they also had an antique truck, kind of like an antique ladder truck, so we placed Shelly behind the wheel and converted David into a mechanic, looking over the fender and into the engine compartment, and produced a bit of smoke as well….
From here we had one shoot left to complete the calendar project, and that was at Sullivan…I had obtained permission from the board as well as the Chief, and we set the shoot a few days before Christmas to finish it all up. I arranged for Jodie, Raye, and Emily to model for us there on the girls side and for the guys, I arranged for Mike Graves, Jason Sparks, Scott Fuller, Mike McNeil, and Cory Goodwin. We decided to shoot with two trucks for the images of the guys, one was our Rescue Truck and the other one of our red pumpers. Jodie`s brother Kurt Ploch, is a good friend and firefighter with Boles FPD, and assisted us on this shoot with lighting and the smoke machine.
Some of the guys were running late, Scottie Fuller and his girlfriend showed up early along with Mike Graves and Karen Scaglione, so we went ahead and set up and shot a hoseline scene with a fire hydrant, that we were thinking about for the cover of the calendar. We decided to put Mike in the middle with the hydrant, posed as if he was turning the hydrant on with they hdryant wrench in his hands, and we staged Karen with the nozzle and after asking Scottie`s girlfriend if she would like to work with us on a shot, placed her in the shot with the hoseline as well, after having her change into the Raging Sensations uniform of cut off jean shorts and a Raging Sensations t shirt…..Kurt then activated the smoke machine for a good smoke cloud and gelled it red from behind……
We positioned the trucks, then laid down some background paper on the floor to hide the heavy grease marks on our concrete floor, then positioned red gelled lights behind the trucks along with the smoke machine and backlit the trucks with the gels to give them a good glow. Here are some of the images from the Sullivan shoot….
We then shot a couple of images of Mike Graves and Mike McNeil by the pumper as well, to use potentially as a poster later on….both guys were super nice, one with a lean swimmers build and the other with a muscular build, and both guys modeled quite a bit for me for a few years back then….
…and then we switched to the rescue truck for some images…first of Jodie, to break things up a bit….one of our firefighters had a vast collection of fire toys, so I had asked him if we could include some with Jodie in the next idea shot….
…and then we shot the guys again, this time with the rescue truck and tools….
…we were shooting the trucks at the back of the fire station and the hydrant and hoseline was set up in the front bays…we shot the last few images with the hydrant again, and had the guys set up a portable deck gun so we would have a nice even spray behind the gals, this time Emily and Raye, from the local area…and we gelled the water spray behind them as well….
…we started her out in cut off jean shorts and a red bikini top, and had her go barefoot in the water soaked concrete floor…she was a real trooper considering that water and floor were both a bit cool….we then dressed her up in fire gear for some sexy images….
Emily had only been modeling for me a short time, but did very well that evening because she is a natural at it and she had a good coach there that night as well…Raye Erxleben, hometown sensation, who had started modeling with me and was truly a natural flirt and had a very sexy look for modeling glamour work…we switched gears and shot a few images of Raye with the same set up….
….then we put a halligan tool in her hands instead of the hoseline….
…and then put her in charge of the portable deck gun….
After a few minutes of working with Raye alone, we shot Raye and Emily together in fire gear….
….and we finished up with this shot of the babes….
….then switched to Mike and Karen for a few photos to finish up….
After this, Dave and I started the calendar production and this took a few months to put together…laying out the images, selection of images for the calendar, and setting aside for posters, securing capital for the calendar and advertising costs. We had very few problems along the way and after selecting Scott`s Printing of Rolla as our calendar printer and delivering the images to them as well as the copy, or printed information for page one, the credits and thank you`s, and letting them know which images needed to be manipulated as far as the backdrops, we then turned our attention to advertising the calendar…I had tried to warn Dave that much of the capital we secured would be put toward the advertising costs, but I don`t think he listened or ” got it ” til we started down the actual road of advertising with the fire service magazines….THEN he got his eyes opened up big time…and boy was he shocked….big difference between black and white ads, and full color ads in magazines..major difference was price and he soon found out, I already knew this, that black and white ads were at least a thousand bucks cheaper per month than a full color ad. The BIG thing to remember when producing a calendar, is that you only have six months to advertise the sale of it and you have to pray that your sales in that first six months climb to the figures you want so you can pay your costs off, cause after that, people either want them for a discounted price or free, and believe me, most of them want them for free. Free doesn`t pay the bills or the costs.
We should have stayed with posters…they were much easier to work with, much less money to deal with, and timeless as far as their value goes…there was no deadline or shelf life, sales-wise as there is with calendars, plus they are easier to take to trade shows and sell, especially if you have your poster model there to autograph the posters as they sell.
Looking back, we had great support locally, but your local support will only go so far in terms of calendar sales, you have to be able to branch way out and target your audience to purchase your product. Since we were the only ones to shoot and produce a fire service themed calendar with both cheesecake and beefcake, that might have been why we were unable to move enough calendars….perhaps we should have shot one or the other only. Within six months we realized that we were not going to be able to sell enough calendars to continue our operations, so we shut down, split up, and paid off our bills. It was a good run while it lasted, we made many new friends, solidified old friendships, and had some great experiences along the way.
Fifteen years slid by, and I decided to try and revive the poster line myself…notice I said poster line, not calendar line…just like when I tried to convince Dave years ago that we should stay with the posters because we could move them alot easier and there was no shelf life on them, they were timeless…I decided to try posters once again….figured I could possibly even support base sales with one of my websites and advertise them on the internet. I had several friends that had their own fire trucks, many of them antique fire trucks and a few friends over the years had given me some older fire gear, so I was using that donated gear for my model shoots and traveling to friends with antique fire trucks….many times the only request was that I photoshop out the name on the trucks, which I had no problem with. From here on, the posts will be about the continuation of Raging Sensations, the Poster Line.