"I don't care what you do. I don't mind any bare buns but I didn't want any swingin' frontal shots. Just remember that we're in the underwear business, not the pornography business."
Or so Phoenix jockmeister Dan Martin said several months ago when he gave a Hollywood producer carte blanche to turn out a video version of the famous Parr of Arizona catalogue.
As it turns out, it's Martin who may have reason to blanch. When Having a Parr-Day rolled out of the video factory a few weeks ago, it became instantly clear that the nationally known racy-underwear emporium's first-ever video catalogue was a far cry from a Fruit of the Loom TV commercial.
Not that anyone was ever likely to confuse the brief, European-cut Parr product with standard-issue, garden variety B.V.D.'s.
Founded in 1954, Parr was for decades practically the only male MDRV equivalent of Frederick's of Hollywood. (In recent years, the store has added custom bikinis for female bodybuilders.) But rising postal rates have forced the midtown Phoenix store and mail-order house to drastically pare deadwood from its mailing list. Martin okayed production of the $19.95 tape to goose Parr's sagging sales.
At first blush, the tape appears to be nothing more than 85 minutes of beefcake Dada, with the emphasis on the "under" rather than the "wear"--an impression that is only reinforced by repeated viewing.
In one weird bondage sequence, a muscle-bound hunk halfheartedly struggles to free himself from the red-yarn macrame "lashing" him to his bed. In another surreal segment, an exhibitionist competes against himself in a "strip-off"--thanks to trick photography. Several models are so concerned about keeping their swimwear dry that they shuck their trunks before diving into a pool. And at least one young man finds it necessary to make multiple underwear changes while making coffee and re-heating food in a microwave.
"My first reaction was `Too much skin, not enough garments,'" says the sixtyish Martin, a strait-laced ex-fire-hydrant salesman from Minnesota who bought the company ten years ago. "Some of the garments did get passed over rather quickly." So quickly, in fact, that after viewing the edited product Martin and his wife, Elaine, decided it was necessary to somehow remind viewers they were indeed watching a Parr "catalogue," rather than a male-stripper tape. The result is a three-page "cue sheet" for video shoppers that keys style numbers to individual sequences via awkward shorthand like "Batman Dance, Continued/Mini Sumo Deluxe, V-1023."
The task of compiling that cumbersome viewing guide fell to Elaine Martin, a self-avowed Christian who gives the impression she would die happy if only she never had to watch a couple of the catalogue's steamier moments again.
Asked about a fleeting sequence in which a pair of Parr panties fall by the wayside as a prelude to an oral-sex teaser, Elaine's eyes roll heavenward. "Let's just say that there are a few things I would have left out," she says diplomatically. "Overall, though, I felt it was pretty well done for a first-time effort. That's why we're asking customers who buy the tape to send in comments. We want to able to fine-tune things if need be if we ever do this again." While the Martins received "executive producer" billing in the tape's credits, the pair's role in the production could more accurately be described as "wardrobe supplier." Scripting, casting, and other chores for the project were handled entirely by Great American Productions, a Hollywood-based video firm run by "infomercial" producer Roger Larson, a longtime Parr associate.
Dan Martin describes Larson as both a "friend and customer," noting that the producer also has discovered some of Parr's most popular print models in the past few years, including several who appear in the video. "He has befriended various young actors on their way up and helped them to get their start," Martin explains.
Pointing out that Larson footed virtually the entire bill for the project, a grateful Martin calls the video "both a miracle and a blessing."
Not that there's much chance that Larson will lose his shirt. "We're not talking a lot of money here," says Larson during a phone interview from the Hollywood home he shares with several of the video's models. "I raise kids from broken homes, and two of my kids who aren't kids anymore--well, it's pretty cheap to get talent when you've got 'em right in your own home."
One of those kids grew up to be a Playgirl centerfold, and the proud pop claims that another (billed as a "popular star of many recent Parr catalogues") recently copped top honors in a Hollywood modeling contest.
"We kind of did this tape just for the fun of it," he says, explaining that much of the action was improvised on location in Las Vegas, along the Colorado River and other sites throughout the Southwest. "We just hopped in the motor home and away we went."
Whether they went too far is debatable.
Asked whether a heterosexual average Joe (the typical Parr customer, according to Martin) can actually be expected to watch a parade of young men in various states of undress pose and preen for ninety minutes simply to select a pair of mail-order underpants, Dan Martin pauses thoughtfully. "I'll be honest," he says. "If they're like me, the answer has got to be no."
Still, someone is buying the tape. During the first week alone, the shop shipped more than 400 copies. "Our clientele runs from the ultra ultra ultra ultra conservative through the far far swingin' left wild weirdo liberal or whatever you want to call it," explains Martin. "And right now it's pretty hard to predict what the reaction is going to be. Experience has taught me that the people who I predict will think the tape is a worthless piece of garbage are the ones who are going to love it. And the ones that I think are going to love it will be the first to complain that it's a worthless piece of garbage." To date, however, almost all response to the tape has been favorable. Typical is this comment from one Phoenix customer: "You can see everything from every angle, and the models are absolutely the best. Great faces and bodies." Elaine Martin predicts the tape will garner similar raves from guests at bachelorette parties. Her husband, meanwhile, expects it may click with gay audiences. "They'll love it, just love it," he smiles. "You've got to have your head in the sand not to think that."
And the bottom line? Martin says, "If we don't sell any garments from this, well, at least we've sold a few videos.