Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cheesecake and Soldiers

Here’s the new (and refreshing) thing from the land of rocket & mortar attacks, IEDs, and misery. I have always had the hobby of creating artwork, as demonstrated in the mural on one of my first postings, one of the particular genres that have always been a favorite is “Cheesecake” or “Pin up” art that was commonly seen on WW II aircraft. Being in the “politically correct” Army, you don’t see that kind of artwork posted on any vehicles because we cannot be seen as sexist or offend our host country. Ironically, we can shoot the bad guys, as long as we don’t offend them.

With that being said, here is the history behind the “Pin up” or “Cheesecake” art and photographs as defined by Wikipedia.

A pin-up girl or pin-up model is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as pop culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display. Pin-up girls are often glamour models, fashion models, and actresses. "Pin-up" may also refer to drawings, paintings and other illustrations done in emulation of these photos. The term was first attested to in English in 1941; however the practice is documented back at least to the 1890s. The “pin up” images could be cut out of magazines or newspapers, or be from postcard or chromo-lithographs, and so on. Such photos often appear on calendars, which are meant to be pinned up anyway. Later, posters of “pin-up girls” were mass-produced.
Many “pin ups” were photographs of celebrities who were considered sex symbols. One of the most popular early pin-up girls was Betty Grable. Her poster was ubiquitous in the lockers of G.I.s during World War II. Others pin-ups were artwork, often depicting idealized versions of what some thought a particularly beautiful or attractive woman should look like. An early example of the latter type was the Gibson girl, drawn by Charles Dana Gibson. The genre also gave rise to several well-known artists specializing in the field, including Alberto Vargas and George Petty, and numerous lesser artists such as Art Frah.

The term “cheesecake” is synonymous with “pin-up photo”. The earliest documented print usage of this sense of “cheesecake” is in 1934, predating “pin-up”, although anecdotes say the phrase was in spoken slang some 20 years earlier, originally in the phrase (said of a pretty woman) “better than cheesecake”. These days, men can be considered “pin ups” as well and there are male equivalents of attractive and sexy actors such as Brad Pitt or numerous male models. The counterpart term to “cheesecake” is “beefcake”.

Where am I going with this? I was searching the internet for historical pin up art for a project here and ran across the web site This was a very noteworthy site due to the cause and the content of the project. The site is operated by Miss Gina Elise; she is a young woman out of California that, among other achievements, has dedicated her time, skills, and natural beauty to create a “Cheesecake” calendar for soldiers. She holds a B.A. in Theater from UCLA, has expanded her career in many facets including dance, theater and hosting.

So what’s the big deal, she donates the proceeds to several veterans programs throughout the United States. She has brought this project to life to show her love and dedication to all soldiers, sailor, airmen and marines. She applied herself in a very creative manner to provide a unique venue for people to support soldiers from all across America.

Here are some of the excerpts from her web site behind the project.
Over the past year, I have heard and read incredible stories about the injured soldiers returning from military service. Their hardest battles have just begun, as they attempt to recover in Veterans Hospitals all across America. I was touched by each story, and knew that I had to try to do something to help our hospitalized Vets. I came up with an idea to recreate a World War II style pin-up calendar that would have the dual purpose of raising money for programs that support hospitalized Veterans, and also serve as a GIFT for each and every Veteran, as they recover in a Veterans Hospital.

I always loved the beautiful pin-up photos and paintings from the World War II era that American soldiers took overseas with them to boost their morale. The troops often carried these “cheesecake” pictures with them into war to help remind them of what they were fighting for back home. One of the most famous pinup shots was taken in the 1940’s of actress Betty Grable, in a bathing suit, looking back over her shoulder.

With these old glamorous pictures as inspiration, I decided to try to recreate the feeling of these nostalgic pin-ups in my own photo shoots, and then assemble my pictures in a calendar for a fundraiser to benefit the programs that support the hospitalized Veterans, injured in ALL wars, past and present.

Your calendar donation will go towards: eyeglasses for Veterans, the home health program, recreational therapy, spinal cord injury & amputee programs, substance abuse program, women’s Veterans’ program, chapel improvements, homeless program, reading materials and subscriptions for the Veterans, patio improvements, parking lot shuttle, courtesy cart, social relief fund, televisions, wheelchairs, and outreach programs for the visually impaired.

I have had the pleasure of being able to communicate with Ms. Elise directly and found her to be very bright and dedicated to her cause. Please feel free to visit Ms. Elise’s web site ( and see what you can do for your soldiers. If this is not the venue for you, stop by the local church, VFW, American Legion, or USO office to see what you can do to help. Remember, if the soldier is not currently in need, maybe his family may be so it will still provide you with a rewarding experience.


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