Larger Than Life? They’re Still Out There…

Retro Staff 8 Comments

Door Poster: Marilyn MonroeEver think about how you decorated your room when you were finally old enough to put your individual stamp on your living space? What did you change? Did you take down your closet door and hang a bead curtain? Get a lava lamp? Ditch your square-chair for a beanbag and glue a peace symbol over your bed?

I remember wanting to do something with a very narrow wall panel that cornered right where my bookshelf was. The space was about 40 inches wide and, of course, ran floor to ceiling. I had two such spaces like this in my room, which had been built—along with the rest of the house—by a guy back in the ‘50s who’d tried to make use of every available space. I had the same idea, only on a smaller scale.

Posters, I decided, were the way to go. They were reasonable, even on a newspaper delivery boy’s pay, and the local record stores (remember those?) were always rotating their stock, which meant the clearance bin was always worth digging through.

I remember going into the city (which is what every kid in the tri-state area calls Manhattan), having told my parents I’d just be hanging out over at a friend’s. We did that a lot growing up… took the bus from his place because he lived on the Nassau/Queens border, which brought us to the subway, and within an hour, deposited us on W. 4th Street smack-dab in the middle of Greenwich Village. A couple of 15 year olds with some cash in their pockets wandering around Manhattan. Good times.

So, on one trip, we wind up at Bleecker Bob’s, a record shop that carried, well… everything. Used records. Classic 78s. Every genre you could think of, from jazz to blues to early punk (bought my first Sex Pistols album there), new wave, psychedelic, prog rock—you name it, Bleecker Bob’s carried it.

Bleecker Bob's in NY

A more recent pic of Bleecker Bob’s, which is still in operation. (Source: Bleecker Bob’s web site)

And, they sold posters. Wasn’t a big selection, but they were there. The Suzanne Somers black-swimsuit Three’s Company poster? They had it. The controversial-for-its-time bikini poster of Loni Anderson, of WKRP in Cincinnati fame? That too. But what caught my eye on that particular day (okay, I’ll admit—I already owned those two posters), was a late ’70s full-length door poster of David Bowie, wearing a flight suit.

Bowie. Ziggy Stardust. The man who fell to Earth. The Starman. One of my heroes (no pun intended). Life-size. Bigger, even. I think I was reaching into my pocket even before I checked the price tag.

Ten bucks. That was pretty steep back then, and would’ve almost certainly made me think twice. But, this particular poster had a crease at the base. Barely noticeable, especially if you were going to put it on the back of a door. It certainly didn’t impact the image any, so I asked the guy behind the counter about it. He looked over, shrugged.

“Four bucks,” he offered. “You roll it.”


Boris Karloff Door Poster

A reproduction of a 26″ x 76″ Frankenstein poster set me back $2.50. An original in great shape can fetch upwards of $500.

I’d never seen a life-size poster before, but shortly after, I began seeing more, and they became popular, at least for a little while. On subsequent trips, Hollywood idols like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean showed up, immortalized in iconic poses. Marilyn trying to hold her dress down; Dean as the cool, cocky rebel. The Duke, John Wayne, captured wearing a white hat and a sheriff’s star. Clint Eastwood, from one of the old spaghetti westerns. (That one made it home with me, and I had no problem paying the full $10 for it). Boris Karloff as Frankenstein was a $2.50 treasure snared on a cold November day a few weeks after Halloween. Jane Fonda in a fuzzy bikini came awful close to joining us one day, too, but eventually, Barbarella lost out to Vampirella.

Note: Many door posters produced today measure 21″ x 62″. Many produced years ago were sized up to 27.5″ x 77″.

I’m not quite sure when the door poster fell out of favor, but the fad soon ended, and they became tougher and tougher to find. Over the years, though, I did spot others popping up from time to time. A Prince poster that was released right around the time Purple Rain was in theaters. A shirtless Bruce Lee. A Creature From the Black Lagoon Gill Man that made me wish I had a much larger room.

With advances in technology and a reduction in the cost of large-format printing, door posters are making a comeback. Now, you can add a life-size image of your favorite athlete, movie star or musician without much difficulty.

But that first wave of full-length, life-sized door posters? Those were the glory days. There wasn’t a huge selection. You couldn’t find these things in your local record shop or candy store. Not to mention, you had to really be something special to warrant a company producing one. You, too, had to be larger than life to find yourself on a 27 x 77 sheet of high gloss poster paper.

What graced your walls? Teen idols? Rock stars? Black light posters? Send us a photo if your mom or dad ever took one—and threatened to use it against you one day. Don’t deny it—you know they did!

Oh, and if you remember that David Bowie flight suit poster, I’m desperately wanting to show off an image of it – if you find a link to one, please do share!


Last updated: Mar 13, 2013
Filed under: Retro Memories Tagged with: 1970s decor, retro teens