Portfolio: David Meyer

Portfolio: David Meyer

His name appears on the masthead of Playgirl’s inaugural issue as Assistant Designer. Then as Staff Photographer from the January 1974 issue through 1976 (the wonder years). With art director Norbert Jobst, editor Marin Scott Milam and publisher Douglas Lambert, he helped shape both the visual identity of the magazine and the rules of the Playgirl nude. But who was David Meyer? We asked his nephew Francis, who offered this loving remembrance of the man and the artist.

Dave, as his friends and colleagues called him, was born in 1943 in Buffalo, New York. He attended Hamburg High School and went on to study design in New York City.  He excelled in the arts and eventually taught his skills in New York to future generations of artists.

Playgirl magazine hired Dave in 1973 as an assistant designer to the premier issue.  In January 1974, Dave came on board as a staff photographer.  As such, he photographed many celebs: an iconic cover shot of Burt Reynolds in a Santa outfit, smoking a cigar, comes to mind (December 1974).   Other celebs include Jim Brown and David Kopay (NFL players), actors Michael Caine, Christopher George, Peter Nash Lupus Jr., Charo, Bill Cable and Cassandra Peterson (best known as Elvira).  Cassandra and David became friends and he photographed her early on in her career, when she performed in Las Vegas. In 2021, Cassandra mentioned David in her memoir, Mistress of the Dark.  David was also credited with test and bonus issues of Playgirl, including Erotic Fantasies.

Self-Portrait by David Meyer

While working at the art school in New York, David met the famed artist and illustrator Mel Odom.  Mel illustrated many covers for Blueboy magazine as well as Playboy and several book covers.  They would go on to collaborate on a mask series with Mel Odom providing the design and David the photographs.  These iconic works would be later published in Mel’s books titled First Eyes (1982) and Dreamers (1984).   In 1980, along with a partner, David opened a gay bar and restaurant on Melrose Avenue in East Hollywood, California (“The Zoo Bar”) and commissioned a 30 inch mural by Odom on the backstage wall.

David befriended two more people who helped shape his career.  The first was Glenn Milstead, best known as John Waters’ muse Divine. David’s vast collection of casual photographs, documenting Divine’s life has yet to be published. The second iconic figure is Stephen Varble, a performance artist, playwright and fashion designer.

David’s life was cut short in 1981, he was only 37 years old. But he had the vision and insight to surround himself with formidable artists, performers and actors.  These people, through images by David and others, would go on to impact pop culture for decades. David Meyer’s collection of photographic works is vast and spans across many artistic subject matters. It may very well be the largest private collection of Stephen Varble and performer Divine. It is currently being documented, scanned and archived for posterity.