The quaintly pious lake shore town of Grand Haven is not somewhere I had expected an individual such as “popular culture writer, collector and visual artist” Jim Linderman to live, but he does so- reclusively but productively- hidden away amongst the dunes, “I really like Grand Haven, but I don’t want to deal with the people, I’m not really sociable, plus, I kind of like porn” he chuckles. Linderman’s “porn” collection would surely titillate the older Grand Haven resident, but for most his book “Proto-Porn: The Art figure study scam of the 1950s” would prove less than soft-core. In a world saturated with hairless genitalia and impossible abs, Linderman’s compilation of 50s porn sold as instructional figure study aids or under other equally transparent guises is a sexy delight.
Linderman says he likes to think of his books as “limited edition prints” and Proto-Porn is one of many, Linderman has published 14 to be exact in the last three years.
Linderman’s star is rising, he wonders why this fame didn’t befall him when he was “young and it would have mattered,” but one gets the sense he is enjoying the attention. A recent and significant profile in the New York Times is a “legitimate” indication of his entry onto the world’s cultural radar. The New York Times probably picked up on him because of his 2011 “Best Historical Release” Grammy nomination for his exquisitely conceived book of vintage photographs and songs pertaining to Immersion Baptism entitled “Take Me To The Water,” and although Linderman says this nomination “vindicated him” he has been quietly and numerously collecting and collating various worldly artifacts since he was a boy.
How does he manage to stay so consistently ahead of the curve when deciding what to collect? “I think part of it is that I have no money, I am buying things before there is a market for it…” We are lucky to have him; few people would take the time to publish books containing only photographs of ventriloquist’s dummies or solely dedicated to “The secret history of the black pin up.” Linderman seems to have the ultimate knack for concerning himself with things you didn’t know you would find fascinating until he so kindly brought them to your attention, he’s a one man Taschen.
Linderman chooses what he deems unusual or worthy of further investigation and researches and collects until he has exhausted the subject, often selling the subsequent collections or compiling a book in their honor “I am not precious about my assembled things, the process of acquiring these objects is far more important to me than the objects themselves.”
Linderman explains he “never has a shortage” of things to research. He has three personal blogs Dull Tool Dim Bulb, Old Time Religion and Vintage Sleaze which he updates regularly, usually daily, with all kinds of glorious often unfathomable treasures “What distinguishes my blogs from others is that virtually everything featured is something I physically possess,” he explains. Unlike a growing number of people whom content themselves with virtual collections and interests, Linderman says he likes “to own things, to hold them.”
Linderman says that his MA in Library science from Western Michigan University has enabled him to give his enormous collections coherence, “I essentially have an education in learning to index materials so they are retrieved.”
Linderman had spent a majority of his life living in New York before moving back to Grand Haven around six years ago. His decision to move to Manhattan in 1980 was romantically and musically inspired. Although his partner had broken it off by the time he made it to the city, Linderman decided to stay, taking “a rent controlled apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.” He found work researching and compiling a 735 page book which he says is often referred to as “The Bible” amongst record collecting circles. “VOLUME TWO: International Discography of the New Wave” only ran 1000 in print; and if you really want to see it, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library has a copy.
This job followed various other researching positions including a ten year stint researching at CBS, work on short lived BBC and PBS pop culture and art show collaboration “edge,” as well as a few years at BBDO advertising agency before illness forced him to seek cleaner air, lake shore air. Throughout all phases of his career, Linderman was veraciously collecting anything he found interesting.
One wonders what Linderman will come up with next, and what collections gestate within his home in the dunes. News of a show in Miami based on his research on black pin up girls doesn’t fill Linderman with the excitement one might imagine “I might go and see it, I kind of like to stay at home,” he explains.
It became apparent over the course of my time spent with Linderman that he is also a serious collector of anecdotes, which might sound like tall tales if he weren’t such an authentically curious individual. The breadth of Linderman’s interests and collections can’t be done justice in a single article, if you have the time I urge a perusal of his blogs- especially if you have an interest in American Folk Art.
It’s an odd comfort to know that someone, somewhere is diligently archiving the forgotten curiosities of American history.