One evening this past summer, a trio of Hampden entrepreneurs–Genco Pura’s Lou Catelli, the Charmery’s Dave Alima and Corner Charcuterie Bar’s Bernard Dehaene–sat in Dehaene’s restaurant drinking and thinking, when he hit upon an idea that lit up the table: Why not create a winking beefcake-style calendar featuring fellow neighborhood merchants perched naked on motorcycles, with proceeds from its sales earmarked for the nonprofit Hampden Family Center. Holding to the tradition of “Boys of” or “Men of” titles for such calendars, they’d call theirs “Boys of Hampden.”
“We argued it drunk and we argued it sober,” recalls Catelli, seated with Alima at the latter’s premium ice cream emporium, “and it made sense both times.”
But when only two guys signed on for the bare-all concept, the trio quickly changed tack. “We expanded it, saying that the men could dress as provocatively as they wanted with a vehicle or non-
vehicle,” says Catelli, whose firm helps prospective business owners find locations, staff and equipment; procure funding; and navigate the permitting and licensing processes, all principally for restaurants and bars. “Come as little dressed or as much dressed as you want.”
A subsequent Facebook group call for “models” brought 28 respondees—male Hampden business owners, managers or merchandise producers—and a two-day shoot was hastily arranged at eight different neighborhood locations chosen by Hampden-based photographer Justin Tsucalas, who provided his services gratis.
Overwhelmed by the resulting wealth of usable images, Catelli, Dehaene, and Alima called an audible, electing to produce two calendars: “Boys of Hampden” and “Boys of Hampden (Boys Gone Wild),” the second a winking allusion to the wildly popular 1990s softcore porn series “Girls Gone Wild.”
“If you have your shirt on,” Catelli explains, “you’re a Boy of Hampden. If your shirt was off, you’re a Boy of Hampden Gone Wild.”
Relatively demure by beefcake standards, “Boys of Hampden” features the irrepressible Catelli riding a vintage pink motor scooter as its coverboy, plus the kilt-clad Fred and Elliott Hays (Messrs. July) of the Charlotte Elliott antiques shop/bookstore; Drudge Parlor’s Nicholas Mulkey (Mr. September) sprawled beside a motorcycle, shirt completely unbuttoned; and Greg Hatem and Brian Henry (Messrs. October) standing in their bizarre curio shop, Bazaar, wearing disturbingly sinister masks.
Meanwhile, the fleshier “Boys Gone Wild” finds a stripped Dehaene (Mr. July), true to his vision, carving a prosciutto ham while straddling a motorcycle atop his bar (a loincloth was Photoshopped in post-shoot); Alima (Mr. August) on his motorcycle dressed in a heavy-duty apron, pouring sprinkles over a cone of ice cream; a buff, in-the-buff Johnny May (Mr. May) of Twenty20 Cycling, shot in profile, riding an exercise bike on the roof of his business; and Dan Harvey (Mr. January) of Cotton Duck Title Co. stretched out on his office conference table, his essential parts obscured by three volumes of the annotated code of Maryland.
“Every shoot was different,” notes Tsucalas, “and I wanted everyone to have their input into what they wanted to accomplish with the picture and how they wanted to come across. So each shoot took on its own life.”
Accordingly, Cotton Duck’s Harvey struck a pose that directly evokes the granddaddy of beefcake photos, actor Burt Reynolds’ infamous naked-on-a-bearskin-rug centerfold in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan, while Twenty20’s May playfully mimics an iconic image of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong. Others brought along props from their businesses: JoJo South Record Shop’s Luke Huff (Mr. November, “Gone Wild”) naked, his crotch covered by an album; Kevin Blodger, Jon Zerivitz, and Adam Benesch (Messrs. May, “BoH”) toting kegs from Union Craft Brewing.
Although it would be difficult to characterize these models as anything but men, the three organizers opted for the “Boys” title in keeping with the frolicsome nature of the project. “We didn’t want to sound too full of ourselves,” notes Alima, “and we like to think we have boyish charm.”
In addition to Tsucalas, everyone involved worked pro bono, including hair and makeup by Nikki Verdecchia Berry, and layout and design by Kat Feuerstein.
The project’s beneficiary, the Hampden Family Center, offers critical programs and support services for neighborhood residents. “They do the hardest work around,” says Catelli. “After-school care, clothing and food needs, help with medical bills and gas and electric bills.”
Adds Alima, “They’re a lighthouse in this area.”
Catelli, Dehaene, and Alima already have made plans for an all-women 2017 follow-up: “Ladies of Hampden.” Just one calendar, presumably minus the “Wild”ness.
“We’ve got a year to work on it,” says Catelli. “Everybody’s getting ready: Just bring it, bring it, bring it next time.”