In an interview with Champion, I've found that Monte was discovered by the photographer himself in a New York City hustler bar. Monte was born in Elizabeth, NJ and was working full-time hustling. Though he had a common-law wife (Kathy - we suppose - as a tattoo on one arm acclaims) and a child, being "trade" for johns was Monte's primary income. After of number of New York area photoshoots with Champion, Monte was brought to California to model for Athletic Model Guild.
The idea of the West Coast trip was apparently Jim Stryker's, Champion Studio's most famous model. Riding high on the fame (and bucks) brought to him by Champ's photos, he'd bought a new Harley-Davidson and wanted to try it out cross-country. Champ decided to meet up with Stryker and introduce him to his friend Bob Mizer at AMG. Hanson, hearing of this, decided it was a great opportunity for a vacation, figuring he'd be able to get by on the bucks from a California photoshoot and a few sideroad hustles.
Along the road Champ and Hanson met up with Stryker at the Grand Canyon. If one can imagine the combined blond and dark-haired sublimity of Hanson and Stryker perched - "Wanderer Above the Mists"-like - on the brink of the Canyon's abyss...
Up to now I've only had speculation on Monte's "proclivities" (cobbled together from my own interpretations of AMG's Subjective Character Analysis of him and the photographic evidence hidden elsewhere on this site) but I've since learned that Monte was "into" Jim Stryker. As Champ relates, though, in the interview mentioned above, Stryker was not into kissing or sucking though Monte was willing to leave behind his "trade" ways for Stryker (the term "legs in the air for Jim" was related in the interview).
Stryker is not featured in the AMG photoshoots because he preferred to work with Champion Studios exclusively. If you're familiar with the work that Champ did on Stryker (see Champion's webite for that) you'll know why. Jim was an ideal model for the sparkling, amazingly-lit photos (most of which, if not shot outdoors, were done in Champ's apartment) of Champion and whatever inherent physical perfection was already there, Champ capitalized on and made into art.
AMG and Champion Studios collaborated on one film with Monte, "Military School Initiation". The October 1963 issue of Physique Pictorial states "the models include Ernie Mathews, Chuck Steury, Monte Hansen (sic) and Bob Jackson (who replaced Jim Stryker originally planned for the film but who had to be dropped because of a personality problem)". One should take into account that AMG's owner, Bob Mizer, was one-of-a-kind and had his own brand of snappy, ironic wit.
Further, in the same issue of Physique Pictorial, Mizer continues in his inimitable style: "MONTE HANSEN (sic). Age 20, 160# 5'8 3/4, waist 29 1/2 loose, 27 1/2 pulled in tight. biceps 14 1/4 right 13 1/2 left. forearm 12, wrist 7 1/8, neck 14 7/8, chest 39 normal, expanded 41, hips 35 3/4 thigh 20 1/2, calf 14 3/4, ankle 9 1/8, circumferance of shoulders 48, leg 31 1/2, head 22 3/4 (but frequently swells larger)".
"Monte was loaned to us by Champion Studios who brought him on a trip by car from New York to Los Angeles... The photographer (AMG's Bob Mizer) had magnificent plans, but failed to consider the temperamental nature of his models (Stryker and Hansen). To put it mildly, he met so much opposition and so little cooperation that he was mentally and physically exhausted."
"On the day he was to do a cover shoot at an airport (for which exhaustive agreements had been made far in advance) Monte was off tom catting in some young lady's apartment. The day was saved because Evret Lee Jackson (also known as "Cherokee" and also photographed by AMG and Champion as well as Kris Studio of Chicago -ed.) happened along and took his place. (and not only for that picture, but for the rest of the way back to New York). Monte was undaunted however, quickly and magically (and honestly) gathered $150 together and started hitchhiking across country to his wife and children in Indianapolis. Before he left he completed the pictures for AMG: Military School Initiation, Travellers and Thieves, Cruel Cop and His Prisoner, and Monte Hanson Posing".
Not all of which is true according to Champ. Monte did accompany him in the car back toward NYC, along with Cherokee. (Again, the imagination heads south when considering both Monte and Cherokee in one's own backseat). But in Des Moines a traffic accident occured in which Champ was saved from decapitation by a hairsbreadth. Monte and Cherokee were not injured but Monte decided he'd had enough driving and stayed behind. It was the last time Champion Studios had contact with Monte Hanson.
Until recently Athletic Model Guild had been out of business for almost 10 years. Please visit their new website and tell them I sent you. There is a 3-volume compendium of all of A.M.G.'s Physique Pictorials published by Taschen which serves as a great resource to all that the great studio had to offer (and may, in fact be offering soon with their new website), including tons of Monte.
- Richard Hawkins