Warrior Wire: Calendar Girl


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Having written a handful of Warrior Wire columns, I was beginning to think that I’d always end up a little depressed from the work, and that my readers would always be a bit down after reading my articles. Of all the articles I’ve written—both those that have been published and those that are with my editor right now—I’m fairly certain that this is the only one with a truly upbeat tone. Writing about unemployment, poor health care, and burn pits is obviously not cheerful work, but even writing about veteran artists and writers has its down moments. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people about their post-traumatic stress, physical injuries, difficulties adjusting to civilian life, and the myriad other problems that come from serving in the military and going to war. That’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots in all my reporting, because there certainly have been, but there’s a lot of pain, too. Writing about Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets, however, was the most cheerful experience I could have imagined.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Pin-Ups for Vets first came to my attention when a coworker spotted a video about the project on AOL. After watching the clip, I was a fan, and I knew I had to interview Gina. I was lucky enough to get a response within minutes of sending my request, and I had Gina on the phone first thing the following Monday. And while Monday-morning interviews can easily go bad, there was nothing but cheer coming through the wires when I talked to Gina.

The thing about Gina is that she’s happy. She’s smart, funny, sweet as peaches, and genuinely excited by the work she does. And the work she does is truly inspiring. If you read my article, you’ll get a good idea of why I’m so smitten with Gina and her Pin-Ups for Vets project, but I’m not the only one. In the course of writing the article, I asked for quotes from Gina’s fans, and I was bombarded. Everyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting her or receiving one of her calendars has something nice to say. I don’t think I’ve ever read so many positive comments about anything, ever. So rather than say anything further, I’m going to let Gina’s fans do the talking for me:

Nick Palmisciano, founder and CEO, Ranger Up: “What makes Pin-Ups for Vets special is Gina’s personal touch. When our troops are injured, especially when they are away from friends and family, it’s important for them to know someone cares. Without that human link, it’s very easy for a guy to start thinking no one cares, and this can lead to depression, which is a pandemic right now. When they see Gina and how genuine she is, they light up. The calendars she leaves with them are reminders that there is someone out there who not only cares about them but is working to make their lives better. For some guys, that spark of humanity can make all the difference. Plus, you know, the pictures are really hot.”

Retired Master Sergeant Jim Majors, US Air Force: “Pin-Ups for Vets is such an amazing program! The way that our veterans have been treated, mistreated and even forgotten is appalling and embarrassing, to say the least. The smiles Gina leaves behind at every VA hospital she visits are truly heartwarming. Having met her in person, I saw a tiny piece of what the hospitalized vets must see during those visits. That she is so devoted to helping our vets is . . . well, there are not enough words for it.”

Technical Sergeant Chris Short, US Air Force: “Any piece of home is a morale boost. When you’re away from not only your family and friends but the entirety of your culture for months upon months, you long for reminders of what and who you’re fighting for. Pin-Ups for Vets provides a healthy reminder of why you’re out there doing what you’re doing. Gina always supported me and my teams, and she continues to support me now that I’m out and in the VA system.”

Sergeant First Class Toby Nunn, US Army: “Sometimes the most simple gestures can have the most profound impact. A picture from home can transport a soldier mentally and emotionally and remind them why they are in the fight. Gina’s Pin-Ups for Vets does this exact thing, whether she is sending her awesome calendars overseas to us when we’re at the top of our game or visiting us in the hospital when we’re hurting and at the bottom. The calendars and visits are tokens of her support and make our lives better. She’s a vision of beauty, and her taking the time to make our lives better and brighter reminds us why we’re in the fight and gives us a reason to believe in our country and the great folks back home.”

Retired Master Sergeant Phillip M. Parker, US Air Force: “Gina is every bit as beautiful inside as she is on the outside, and she is quite possibly one of the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever met. The Pin-Ups for Vets program has brightened the lives of countless vets and troops downrange. I feel greatly privileged to have been able to meet and help someone who has made such an impact on the vets in the VA hospitals, and I feel blessed to be able to call her my friend.”

Retired First Sergeant Troy Steward, US Army: “Pin-Ups for Vets is a great example of patriotism at its best. Gina is a great American who took the gifts God gave her—her looks and personality—and is using them to not only lift the spirits of sick and wounded veterans, but also using her popularity to raise  money to provide rehab equipment for their long-term recovery. Pin-Ups for Vets not only helps veterans from all generations, but it plays on the sexy but tasteful nose art of World War II. I think that’s why Gina’s style is appealing to such a wide range of veterans, including women.”

Retired Sergeant First Class Michael Schlitz: “With the War on Terror going on for the last 11 years on multiple fronts, I feel the American people sometimes forget about veterans of past conflicts. We have tons of World War II and Vietnam veterans receiving care in different VA hospitals, but often times, “support the troops” non-profits only focus on wounded Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans like myself. Gina and Pin-Ups for Vets focus on all veterans from every era, location and branch. This is a worthy organization giving back to those who deserve so much more. I am not the only person she has touched through her organization. If you really want to see the good she is doing, then follow her on Facebook, go to her webpage or sign up for her newsletter. Look at the pictures of the smiles on veterans’ faces. This will show the true impact of what Pin-Ups for Vets is doing. Look at the photos of the deployed troops and you can see that, for a moment, at least, they don’t care about the war, they’re just happy that someone at home is thinking about them. I wish more Americans were like Gina and were doing work like Pin-Ups for Vets. Most of all, I hope people continue to support her and the organization. I know I appreciate the hard work and effort she puts into it. It’s a great feeling to know that there are people who care that you served your nation. Not all heroes wear uniforms, and Gina is a hero in my book for everything she has done for my brothers and sisters in arms.”

X-Rated Art

Artists are some of the most entertaining interview subjects because like writers—like me—they’re out of their minds. When I was interviewing Kelly.X, she worried that her randomness and crazy tangents would be a problem for me, but I assured her that they would likely only make my job easier. I never write in order, after all. I’ll hear a really good line, or a phrase I want to use, and once I’ve found that, I just write around it. That’s how Kelly paints, too. She paints the faces first, because she wants to see the girls’ personalities, and then she moves on to the rest of the painting.

The only downside to interviewing artists is that it makes me incredibly jealous. I don’t have any talent when it comes to the visual arts. Words I can do, but pictures? Not so much. Of course, most of my artist friends feel the same way about me, and they all wish they were better writers. Huh.

To read my interview with pin-up artist Kelly.X, which ran in the September 2012 issue of Penthouse, click the link below. To see the painting Kelly did of Pet of the Year Runner-Up Emily Addison, you’ll have to visit Kelly’s website.

Kelly Futerer spent more than ten years traveling the world, working as a fashion model for some of the top designers before she started her second career as Kelly.X, a pinup artist who shines the spotlight on other beautiful women. Now Futerer is one of a handful of talented artists bringing pinup art back into vogue, with sold-out gallery showcases and sexy women hoping to be immortalized on her canvas.

Her work is reminiscent of original pinup masters Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren, but with a modern twist all her own. “The girls in Vargas and Elvgren paintings just speak to you. They jump off the page and they have personalities,” Futerer says. “So when I started painting, I decided to paint my own versions of what I would want a pinup girl to look like today.”

The women in Futerer’s paintings wear leather and latex—if they wear anything at all—and they frequently get caught with their hands down their pants, not something you’d see in the forties and fifties. Futerer’s models even flip you off once in a while. But no matter how rough, tough, or risqué her muses may ap­-pear, each of the women she cap­tures with her oils and watercolors exudes the lighthearted eroticism that you’d expect from a cheesecake model.

Futerer started painting pinups seven years ago, and with more than a few models’ names in her Rolodex, it wasn’t hard to find inspiration. She wanted to show her friends’ personalities, which is unwelcome in the fashion world. But it’s what good pinup art is all about. “When we were models, we weren’t really allowed to have personalities,” she says. “We were just there to sell clothing—look pretty and be a hanger.

“In fashion, you’d be asked to make a certain face or do a pose, and a lot of girls wouldn’t do it because they were afraid it would make them look ugly,” she continues. “But pinup models, those girls don’t give a shit. They’ll try it all. It’s a different breed of model.”

Women who pose for her, Futerer explains, aren’t simply catalog pages come to life. They range from five foot two to five foot ten and can be stick-thin or curvy and voluptuous. While all the women she’s featured are stunning in their own way, it’s not a particular body type or bra size that makes them stand out. “Every girl who I paint, even if she’s just sitting there, you can see personality in her eyes,” Futerer says. “It’s not that the girls are zany or crazy, but they exude sexuality and have a lack of inhibition.”

One of her favorite models is her close friend Samantha Phillips, our June 1993 Pet of the Month, who’s one of Futerer’s biggest fans. “Her work has a cool insight to it,” Phillips says. “You get a sense of the person from her work instead of just seeing a really beautiful picture of a pretty girl. Her paintings let you feel a connection with the model. It feels as if it’s a 3-D image and you’re a part of it.”

And being part of a Kelly.X work is exactly what women want. Futerer also fields requests from women who want to star in their own pinup fantasies. Ladies across the country have commissioned paintings of themselves in classic pinup poses—and even completely nude—usually as gifts for their boyfriends or husbands. “People are more in touch with their sexuality today,” Futerer says. “You used to only see pinups hung in hot-rod shops, but these days people aren’t afraid to display them as major pieces of art in their homes.”

Considering that a painting typically takes 150 to 280 hours to complete, you might expect Futerer to limit how many projects she takes on. But when we suggested one of our own lovely ladies, 2012 Pet of the Year Runner-Up Emily Addison, Futerer was delighted, despite being in the midst of finishing work on a book and two calendars. The buxom Pet’s delicate curves and expressive features had already earned her a spot on the artist’s wish list. “She’s like a gazelle, so very graceful,” Futerer says. “The way she walks, the way she holds her fingers. Everything about Emily is perfect, especially in this photo!

“I work with the nicest, coolest peo­ple,” she adds. “My job does not suck.”