Larry Gomez is betting that tall, dark and handsome is in vogue any time of the year--especially in Southern California where the Latino population is booming.
Gomez is the force behind "Bravo--The California Latin Male Calendar." He has taken 12 Latin-lover types honed in health clubs from Pico Rivera to West Covina, put them in Speedos and other scant attire, and dropped them onto the glossy pages of one of the first beefcake calendars for Latinas.
The 33-year-old free-lance photographer came up with the idea several years ago, about the same time the women of the '80s began scooping up calendars of about every persuasion of the male species.
Dancers from Chippendales were featured, as were students from USC. Muscle-bound Los Angeles firemen also were displayed in some of the most popular calendars to set female passions ablaze in Southern California.
Somehow, the Latin lover was all but forgotten.
"I was shooting a friend of mine to build my portfolio up and it just hit me it's too bad no one is doing a calendar featuring Latin models," Gomez said in a recent interview. "Especially with the large Latin population" in Southern California.
So Gomez and Rick Rodriguez, both of Whittier, teamed up to first produce "Bravo" for 1985. Gomez shot the photos and arranged production, while Rodriguez provided the financial backing. The first calendar and the two that followed all feature amateur models, who are usually in their mid-20s to early 30s.
Some were born in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, but most of the models are from Southern California, Gomez said. He pays them about $85 for one to two hours of modeling.
"They're guys walking down the street, at the mall, at the gym I go to," Gomez said. "I've had friends on the lookout for me."
The calendars, priced at $7.99, are sold by mail order and in independent book and record stores, gift shops and beauty salons, usually on a consignment basis, Gomez said. They are sold mostly in local shops, but bookstores as far away as Massachusetts and Chicago also sell the calendars, Gomez said.
4,000 Sales in 1985
About 3,500 of the calendars were sold the first year. Sales jumped to about 4,000 the next year, and about that many already have been sold this year, Gomez said.
But sales were less than brisk one morning last week when Mr. June and Mr. August were seated at a small table, ready to autograph 1987 calendars at the Heavenly Choice gift shop in Montebello. They expected throngs of women a little later. Gomez stages the periodic promotional appearances to boost calendar sales.
"I've had offers, women telling me where they're staying at a motel," said Mike Garcia, a 27-year-old construction worker from La Habra who makes his appearance in August. "They tell you to write your phone number on the calendar. It's really crazy."
Garcia, who had some experience modeling suits, was looking at cars at an auto dealership when he was discovered last year by a friend of Gomez. Garcia said he received several calls from agents after he appeared as Mr. January the 1986 calendar. He went to acting school and numerous "cattle calls," but has yet to receive any solid offers.
"We're hoping to get the same reaction this year," he said.
'I Did a Calendar'
Arthur Nichols, 29, of Hacienda Heights had never modeled when Gomez approached him at their gym and asked if he wanted to be in the 1987 calendar.
"I was shocked," said Nichols, who is Mr. June and also graces the cover of the 1987 calendar. Nichols added that he was happy to be in Bravo "so I can look back a few years down the road and say, 'I did a calendar.' "
While the calendar was primarily intended for the Latinas, Gomez said it has sold well in some stores with an Anglo clientele.
"Surprisingly, I get a lot of orders from stores that aren't in Latin areas," Gomez said. "I think there's a Latin appeal, a crossover appeal to women who just like Latin guys."
Gomez said the reaction to the calendar also seems to dispel the stereotype of the Latina as shy, submissive and sheltered.
"When we did the first calendar, I was trying to make sure I didn't offend the Latin woman because I thought in my mind they were more conservative and wouldn't buy it," Gomez said.
"The funny thing about it was the most reaction I got was that the guys had too many clothes on."
Both Gomez and his models hope the changing demographics of Los Angeles will fuel demand for the calendar. By 1990, Latinos are expected to comprise 30% of the population in Los Angeles County.
"I think as the years go by this calendar, Bravo, is going to make it because of the growing Latin population," Garcia said.