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The rush for purchasing calendars usually hits during the winter holidays, but heed this fair warning: One of the hottest 2007 calendars — at least where D.C.’s gay community is concerned — may be sold out by then.
”We started selling [the 2007 calendar] at Capital Pride,” says Kevin Platte, founding member and artistic and executive director of the D.C. Cowboys, an 18-member troupe of dancers who have entertained audiences near and far for 12 years. ”It’s doing really, really well. We only printed 1,100.”
Following similar calendars offered in 2000 and 2004, this third endeavor offers a stylistic difference (more skin), as well as a tangible one (a ”making of” DVD). Both the calendar and DVD provide a glimpse at just how much fun — staged or spontaneous — the Cowboys had over the course of three days at a bed-and-breakfast in rural Maryland last spring. The exact locale of the shoot remains secret. ”We wanted to give them credit,” says Platte, ”but they were like, ‘This is way too much nudity.’ But they were very gracious.”
For the calendar, the Cowboys hired photographer Ward Morrison, while group member and director of communications, Chad Townsend, oversaw the DVD production.
”I knew it was going to be a blast working for them,” says Morrison, also a contributing photographer for Metro Weekly. ”I’d seen them perform, and I’d shot them a few times like at rodeos I’ve covered…. They’ve been around and they’re hard to miss. They’re gorgeous men and they’ve got great energy on stage.”
The process was a collaborative one. The calendar committee had a general direction in mind, as well as some basic ideas for poses. Within that framework, Morrison had plenty of creative freedom to explore. ”We worked well together,” says the photographer. ”The D.C. Cowboys rock!”
While there’s beefcake aplenty, there wasn’t much pressure put on the Cowboys to strip down.
Explains Morrison: ”Each Cowboy was given the opportunity to say whether he was okay with it or not — fully clothed, or you can see it all. We called it ‘junk’ or ‘no junk.’ Within their own comfort levels, they were all pretty playful.”
”Out there in the wilderness, everyone got comfortable [standing around naked],” adds Platte. ”They weren’t at first. We coaxed some guys out of their pants.”
Over the past year, the Cowboys also shot several of their performances for video. D.C. Cowboy’s Communications Director — and Mr. June 2007 — Chad Townsend, uploaded the footage to his computer, where he learned to edit it. Adding a DVD to capture more of the calendar-making process seemed like a natural extension of this new hobby.
”I had the camera with me all three days,” says Townsend. ”Kevin and I sat down and did a rough cut, then edited that down. It ended up being a lot more steps after that: the edits, the transitions, the titles….”
With his learning curve out of the way, Townsend says he would be willing to make another DVD if the Cowboys create another calendar. It’s a great way to catch a glimpse of the Cowboys behind the scenes, with plenty of candid footage of everything from Cowboy breakfast to shower time. And if the calendar seems to offer a bit more skin than the Cowboy calendars of years’ past, it’s got nothing on the DVD.
”There is some ‘full frontal’ in the DVD,” Platte laughs. ”Three shots were like, ‘whoops!’ We tried to edit it all out, but sometimes we missed it. With the royalty-free music, it’s basically become soft porn.”
But who can knock a little skin for a good cause? Platte says that half the calendar’s proceeds — $10,000, he estimates — will benefit HIV counseling and testing programs at Whitman-Walker Clinic.
While there is no guarantee of future calendar/DVD projects, tasteful, frontal nudity may be a natural evolution. Platte says it’s what the fans want. Besides, there’s really no other way to improve upon the 2007 offering. There’s more to add to future DVDs as well.
”There are things you don’t see [on the DVD],” Platte offers. ”It was a real bonding experience. We would have dinner. There were hot tubs. We’d go out in this small country town. We definitely brought some life to the [gay] bar out there. Our boys got drinks bought for them. They met some local boys. I think I even saw a couple later back at the b-and-b.”
The D.C. Cowboys 2007 Calendar and ”Making Of” DVD are sold together for $20, and are available at all D.C. Cowboys performances or on the group’s Web site, www.dccowboys.org. The package is also available at Pulp on 1803 14th St. NW and at Pulp on the Hill, 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.