As part of the "Legends Project", Lenny Burtman has been recognized as an BDSM Icon
for the work they have done to make the BDSM/GLBT/Leather communities what they are today.
Leonard "Lenny" Burtman (1921-1994)
Lenny was born in Nebraska in 1921 and lived in California between 1941 and 1950. During this time he worked in the electronics industry and trained at California Institute of Technology. In 1949 he encountered problems with the legal authorities concerning the transportation of false securities, after which he moved to New York in 1950, to start a new career.
On arrival in New York, he started to work as a professional photographer. It is believed that, amongst others, Lenny Burtman may have worked as a photographer for Irving Klaw in the early 1950`s.
The experience he gained led him to starting his own fetish publishing company in 1954.
His business partner from 1954 to 1970 was Benedict "Ben" Himmel, who had worked at sometime as a union organiser and also in a variety of businesses in New York. From 1939 to 1951 he worked as a partner to his father in "a number of bar operations". It is unclear how they met. Himmel was involved in the financing and distribution of products, whilst Lenny was the creative force behind the business.
Burtman's enterprises were larger than any of his predecessers, including Irving Klaw. Burtman was the first to employ a professional, nationwide distribution network, unlike Guyette, Klaw and Coutts. In the history of the American Fetish style, there is probably no early figure better suited for an interesting film or non-fiction narrative. His products from an early stage included fetish magazines, photo sets & films plus correspondence & contact services. Published by various Burtman companies, the following magazines were produced: - Exotica - 1954 , Exotique - 1955 - 1959, New Exotique - 1959, Masque - 1960 - 1961.
During this period , single issue topical publications, such as Bizarre Desires (1959), were also published. In 1964 he first published "Bizarre Life".
Burtman offered photo sets of Bettie Page, photos of women wearing rubber and leather on the cover of "Bizarre Life", 1966, Meg Miles on the cover of "Satan in High Heels" 1960, and one of the most famous dominatrix's of all time, Monique Von Cleef in 1965! By 1966 , the professional dominatrix in New York was well connected in "bizarre" social circles.
Costumes used in Lenny Burtman`s photos were often supplied in the 1950`s by Charles Guyette and during the 1960`s and 1970`s by, amongst others , the British company Anello & Davide, whose fetish boots were amongst costumes used in the 1960`s British TV series, "The Avengers".
Enter Rueben Sturman
From 1964 to 1971, "Bizarre Life", was the main Burtman publication. Lenny distributed his material either through a network of professional distributors or the Post Office. This brought Lenny under the purview of postal law, used so effectively by the authorities against Irving Klaw and Charles Guyette.
This eventually changed the nature of Burtman's business and magazines, as Sturman became Burtman`s main distributor. Prior to Sturman`s involvement, Lenny, like John Coutts before him, had sourced his own multiple distributors, which gave him complete creative control of the content of his magazines.
By the mid-1960s, with the collapse of a major distributor and "anti-smut" arrests and renewed court battles, Burtman & Himmel would suffer major financial problems. These problems were alleviated when he was forced to seek the assistance of mob-connected porn kingpin Rueben Sturman. Sturman was a contemporary giant in erotica publishing and distribution and would become a major financial backer in exchange for being Burtman's sole distributor.
With Sturman`s involvement, Burtman appeared to have less business flexibility and the content of his products appears to be more uniform.
At various stages of his publishing career, Lenny also employed the services of seminal B&D artists such as Bill Ward and Gene Bilbrew. In the 1960`s Lenny married Jutka Goz (a former Miss Hungary), who later became Mistress Jennifer Jordan. In the 1970`s & 1980`s, when he had moved back to California, he published various products under the title of Eros Gold Stripe Publishing. Most of the Eros Gold Stripe magazines featured Jennifer Jordan and Kim Christie.
- Also see the page [ Legal Encounters of Lenny Burtman & Associates ]
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