Ted Trikilis is beaming. Lynda Carter is beaming. The photographers are frantic. Trikilis hands carter a giant, golden-framed poster in which Carter parts her lips, hooks one thumb over the fly of her blue juans and tugs gently in the general direction of the floor.
"That's a lot poster," Carter Says.
This poster is everywhere. This poster is in America's dormitories, bathrooms, gas stations, rumpus rooms, drug stores, pool halls, storage sheds and panel trucks.This poster is such a smash that Ted Trikilis, the poster king himself, has come all the way from his poster company in Medina, Ohio, to bestow upon it his own Special Gold Poster Award, which until now has been granted only to Farrah Fawcett-Majors and her enormous teeth.
"We just don't take any picture in making a poster," Trikilis explains, in his Special Gold Poster Award Presentation Speech. "A poster really is a silent movie. It has to communicate something. It has to hve a feeling of literally drawing the person into the article. As you see, Lynda Carter's poster not only draws you in, it invites you in."
Ted Trikilis loves his work.
Scholck? You call this scholck? What about Currier and Ives, Ted Trikilis would like to know? What about the wall posters that enlighten the Chinese people on momentous issues of the day? What about commemorative postage stamps? What about Leonardo da Vinci capturing those "personalities with charisma," as Trikilis puts it, in "The Last Supper?" Ted Trikilis -- the man who took Farrah, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Kiss, Shaun Cassidy Cheryl Tiegs, the Coneheads and Matilda the Kangaroo, and flattened them all out so they would fit on your bedroom wall -- likes to think of his work as more than mere decoration. He is a communicator, he says. He is an attentive monitor of the public pulse. He is chronicling our times.
"Everybody sooner or later buys a poster," Trikilis says. "Just because we've come from a reading society to a graphics society, our thoughts are becoming much more rapid. We don't have time to read books anymore."
He is sitting in a Beverly Hills restaurant, talking at a furious pace and eating handsful of peanuts at the same time. "These people are looking for something more than just a pretty picture," Trikilis says. "They're looking for something with a little thought behind it. It's not like a going out and buying a ham sandwich, you eat it and it's gone. This is something that lasts. I call it the mental bullet. When I see the Farrah Fawcett poster I think of... I think of... oh, some of the programs she's been on."
A certain reverence creeps into Trikilis' voice at the mention of Farrah's name That one photograph of Farrah Fawcett-Majors' tanksuited blond body has sold enough posters ($1.67 discount, $2.50 retail in the Washington area) to qualify her for an ordinary gold poster award (500,000 copies sold) around 16 times, It was for Farrah that Trikilis' Pro Arts Company created the Special Gold Poster Award, which signifies that one's poster has not only sold a half million copies but has also dominated the Top 10 Poster List in the bimonthly company newsletter called Pro-Vision.
Cheryl Ladd, who took over the blond slot on Charlie's Angels when Fawcett-Majors left is likely to be one of the next Special Gold Poster candidates, Trikilis said. The poster he has in mind will only have to sell 250,000 to qualify, though, because it is the size of a whole door. It shows Ladd wearing a leather jacket that will not keep her chest region warm because she has forgotten to button up.
"It's likfelike," Trikilis says admiringly, gazing at the picture in a company catalogue. "A person now can put that on the back of a door and you can merchandise the door." Pause. "You might say it broadens the myth. Instead of having a small segment of an individual you now have a much broader base. So to speak."
The birthplace for these "personality posters," as the Pro Arts communiques refer to even their most fetching pinups (including Cheryl Ladd's standard sized, back-arched, all-fours posture on a white fur rug) is the Medina Pro Arts headquarters, which includes a 51,000-square-foot plant, a complete photo studio and a giant gray lithograph press that can spit out 250,000 posters in one four-day shift and is locally referred to as the "Big Mamoo." Trikilis shares ownership of Pro Arts with his older brother and uncle, and has made his living this way since 1969, when he was a 25-year-old art major at Ohio's Kent State University and made some money on the side delivering other people's posters.
This was during that musty historical era when antiwar symbols were more popular than chesty blonds among the poster set so when Trikilis decided to manufacture his own design, he settled on a big teardrop-sharped peace symbol. The poster was sent to a printer in Akron who did mostly realty signs ("wouldn't give us credit because he thought we were flaky," Trikilis says); and the business, following the whims and convolutions of the American poster-buying psyche, began to take shape; anti-LBJ posters, Easy Rider posters, zodiac and erotica and psychedelic art and black power posters.
"We did Jesus, too," Trikilis says, opening the catalogue to a nice close-up head shot, with halo. "For the Jesus freaks." Then there was Farrah.
Trikilis tells this story now in exquisite detail like a survivor recalling the great flood, "It was April 1976, on Good Friday... I used to work on my farm from 6 to 9:30... I was planting dwarf apple trees." A young friend was helping him out. It was drizzling in the orchard. Trikilis wore work clothes and leather clodhopper boots, the young man wore an old jacket and a cap. Trikilis was digging a hole. His friend was holding the tree.
"He says to me, 'You know who you really ought to do? You ought to do Farrah Fawcett.' I says, 'Who?' He says, 'Farrah Fawcett-Majors.' I says, 'who's she?' He saus, 'The girl who does Wella Balsam, Noxema, the Cougar.' His face started getting flushed. He says, 'Our dorm voted her the most beautiful girl on television.' He says, 'We have to cut out ads for Wella Balsam and put them on our dorm walls.'"
"Farrah who?" is still a great joke at Pro Arts, of course, because by the time it was over, by the time Trikilis had asked around about this Farrah person and gotten an impressive collection of variously salacious responses and secured for his poster company that blazing multi-colored array of teeth and hair and curves, Farrah Fawcett-Majors was well on her way to becoming American poster history -- 6 million copies the first year.
No poster, even in the occasionally frenzied market for pinup persons, had ever taken off that way before. The Fonz never sold like that. Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable never sold like that. The Pro Arts national sales director was using adjectives like, "gross, staggering, unbelievable, mind blowing." Pro Arts kept churning out posters as the requests piled up; analysts of popular culture offered theories as to the true meaning of the Farrah phenomenon.
"She represents law and order," one university professor told a newspaper, "so it's that free-spirited, wind blown, sexy look in the context of that law and order image that makes it work.")
Also she was rather more attractive than most human beings in the world.
Anyway, life at Pro Arts has gotten more complicated since then, which is one of those things millionaires have to contend with.Ted and Mike Trikilis spend a lot of time suing poster pirates, who print up their own versions of posters with Pro Arts copy rights; and Ted Trikilis is currently livid about a recent federal injunction which prohibited Pro Arts from distributing an Elvis Presley memorial poster on the grounds that another company has the rights to the material.
"We're not out advertising Elvis Presley like Colgate toothpaste," Trikilis says indignantly. "We're taking him at the prime of his life. This was a great man. To me he was an era." Pro Arts is fighting the injunction on the grounds that the memorial poster the company wants to distribute is protected by the First Amendment: The poster's function, Trikilis explains, is to fully inform the public about Presley's death.
"It was much like a tombstone," explains Gregory Happ, the Pro Arts attorney.
"The Constitution of the United States was printed on a poster!" Trikilis cries. "The actual Bill of Rights!" He will expound on those at more length in his book, "The Power of the Poster," which he has been writing for seven years, in those odd moments when he is not turning public infatuation into full-blown, four-color passion.
"It's a history of the poster back from 1965 as a college student observing the market to the present day," Trikilis says, now somewhat distracted by Lynda Carter. Her filmy black and white dress keeps slipping discreetly off her left shoulder, and each time she tugs it back up she smiles radiantly, as befits a poster queen.