Book Review: Urban Girls by Howard Huang, edited by Dian Hanson
“I buy Playboy for the articles.” Yeah, right. We’ve heard that story for several generations now, since 1953 when Marilyn Monroe graced the pages. Then in 1955, Betty Page appeared as “Santa’s Helper”. Well, there were those interviews with Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon, Rush Limbaugh, and Jimmy Carter. Several big name authors got some great exposure for their writing (Ray Bradbury) as well as artists and their work (think LeRoy Neiman). Does anyone wonder how well Hefner’s magazine would have sold without the nudity?
Such flimsy excuses as a faux interest in literature and celebrity interviews aren’t necessary for Howard Huang’s Urban Girls, a new book from Taschen. With the exception of a four page introduction (in three languages) titled, “When Booty Calls,” there is no text — just 245 pages of exotic, erotic, multi-racial Hollywood glamor. 2010 marks the thirtieth anniversary for Taschen publishing and this collection of glossy inner city pin-up girls is one of their latest coffee table books.
Dian Hanson edits, as has been her responsibility with Taschen since 2001. Hanson’s experience includes stints with several well-known porn magazines: Oui, Outlaw Biker, Juggs, and Leg Show among others. Together, Huang and Hanson have put together an attention-getting volume filled with images that pay homage to famous pin-ups and poses — and no nudity. We see alluring women of color re-enacting such famous shots as the Marilyn Monroe Playboy shot with a solid red background, Betty Page in leopard skin and James Bond movie posters.
Over sixty gorgeous models fill the readers’, wait scratch that, viewers’ eyes in scenes as diverse as dark allies, deserts, jungles, and boudoirs. (One image has the model shopping in what could easily be a Wal-Mart.) Whether fantasy or dreamscape, Huang begins most shots in his studio and uses photo editing software (Photoshop) to complete the image with the locale of his desire. Although inspired by the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriquez film, Sin City, this collection surprised and somewhat disappointed me, since few, if any, images were in black and white.
Urban Girls was released on October 15, 2010 and celebrated with a launch party at the Taschen store in New York City on October 19. Just in time for Christmas!