Dennis F. Stevens moved
to San Francisco in early 1958 and wrote comedy material for several night club
comedians – including Lenny Bruce, Ronnie Schell, Jackie Gayle and Mort
Sahl. He worked as a part-time
missile-tracking cinematographer for Lockheed, at nearby Sunnyvale, and as a
contract photographer for Playboy Magazine.
The Playboy assignments lasted on an assignment-by-assignment basis,
until the late '90s.
The missile tracking
platform Stevens operated was huge and he has said that it was a thrill every
time he mounted the platform and seated myself in the control seat – surrounded
by two separate, 35mm motion picture camera systems; each of the magazines with
1,000 foot loads, (approximately 9 ½ minutes of film going through the aperture
at 90 feet per minute). Powered by its
own internal gas powered 40 amp generator, It was the two large lenses that
gave the platform its massive look; one a 500mm and the other 2,500mm; but each
with 2X extenders.
Stevens’ job was to
control the tracking for the big lens cameras.
Like the ball turret gunner on a WWII B-17, his feet controlled the left
– right movement and his hands on the joy stick controlled the up and down
movements. On the joy stick was the
trigger that started and stopped the cameras.
All he had to do was keep the gun sight steadily on the target.
The entire system was
designed to be taken apart and loaded onto a 10 wheeler for transportation, and
then reassembled at the site. It was
often flown aboard a cargo plane – and just as often towed on a trailer behind
Stevens’ leisure time
during this period was spent racing his Porsche Carrera.
As a member of the
Sports Car Club of America, Stevens raced as an amateur on Saturdays while the
professionals like Dan Gurney and Sterling Moss raced on Sunday. Although his racing strategy was to complete
the race with as few dents in his Porsche Carrera as possible, he did end up
winning a few. Placing first in Las
Vegas during May’s 1960 Helldorado Week was probably his most satisfying.
In San Francisco’s
North Beach, writing his own material, Stevens began appearing as the warm-up
comedian at the then iconic cellar night club, Purple Onion, managed by Berry
Drew – a Barrymore.
It was during this
period that Stevens began photographing semi nude military wives and
girlfriends wishing to send such photos to their husbands serving
overseas. It was not surprising when
Stevens was contacted by Playboy Magazine and offered the job of photographing
young women from northern California who had submitted self photographs to
Playboy in hopes of being considered Centerfold material. Stevens’ job was to do a professional shoot
of these potential Playboy models to bring out and determine their attributes
for appearing in the magazine.
As the same time,
Stevens also was active as an advertising print and portrait photographer –
even dabbling for awhile in so called baby photography, popular at the
CAREER AS A PLAYBOY PHOTOGRAPHER
In the late 1950s,
‘60s and ‘70s, although only working part-time for Playboy, Dennis F. Stevens
helped shape the Playboy rules for photographing the nude bodies of attractive
women. For instance, as a photographer
you could not simply photograph a nude woman standing up and facing you, arms
at her side. Models had to be properly posed
– hopefully in exotic environments. Below
are some standard poses Stevens used.
Remember, lighting is everything.