From a nondescript warehouse near Ybor City's main drag, April Catalano and Richard Strawn bring to life the sensual world of pinup, burlesque and rockabilly.
They do photo shoots of women in retro pinup clothing, host a weekly webcast and publish Pin Up America magazine. Their burlesque troupe, Le Teaze, practices out of the studios.
This weekend, Catalano and Strawn presented their biggest event yet, the American Pinup Burlesque Fest, held at the Cuban Club. The three-day festival concludes today with pinup workshops, entertainment and a tattoo contest.
The festival is an ambitious undertaking for the company Pin Up America, founded in 2010 with lots of heart but few backers. Back then, not a lot of people were familiar with the pop culture associated with sexy but wholesome women from the 1940s and '50s.
Today, it's a different story, as many wax nostalgic for simpler times, when beauty came in all sizes and even June Cleaver seemed hot.
"Pinup is turning up everywhere,'' Strawn said. ''Just go into Dillard's. Everything is pinup, all the shoes and clothes. Three years ago, there was nothing.''
Strawn, a boudoir photographer for 35 years, was on the cusp of retirement when a customer approached him about doing pinup art. He fell in love with it and rented out the warehouse at 1701 N 20th St. to pursue a new photography niche.
Catalano was a graphic designer and part-time photographer doing fashion shoots and portfolio work for models. She was renting out studio space in the warehouse when she met Strawn and discovered pinup.
The two started brainstorming ideas for a pinup calendar, which debuted in 2011. Its success paved the way for the burlesque troupe, The Pin Up America Show and a bimonthly magazine.
Pin Up America has fans worldwide, the majority of them women. A network of correspondents writes about pinup happenings for the 8,000-circulation magazine and appears on the webcast, which airs live from 8 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Burlesque troupe coordinator and performer Nicole Nadreau, a.k.a. Contessa, and Judy Pop co-host.
Catalano, 39, and Strawn, 65, credit pinup's rising popularity to its inclusiveness and nostalgic nature. All the models aren't super skinny. Even the girl next door can look sexy.