Where in the World is Victor M. Garcia? By Ken Furtado

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Where in the World is Victor M. Garcia? By Ken Furtado

Three miles from where I live, there’s an old Arizona home that was once the nearest thing to Shangri-La in American History. It was called Rancho Siesta.

Rancho Siesta was the fabled Arizona abode of male physique artist George Quaintance (1902-1957). Like Shangri-La, its actual location was never disclosed — adding to the mystique. Said to be somewhere “in Paradise Valley, Arizona,” Rancho Siesta was populated with cowhands, models, staffers, ex-lovers and a coterie of followers who were always young, handsome, built like gods and clad in little more than 501s and boots. It was also an ingenious and overwhelmingly successful marketing concept.

Rancho Siesta still exists today, without the magical overlay. It’s a medium-sized home in east-central Phoenix, straddling two adjacent lots. The property is surrounded by a tall block wall and cast-iron fencing. Decades-old oleanders nearly obscure the view of the building where George Quaintance, Victor Garcia and Tom Syphers once ran the Quaintance Studio. And while there might not have been the men, livestock and other details as depicted in Quaintance’s canvases, there was surely a steady and heady parade of beefcake in the form of the many models George painted and Victor photographed.

It’s Victor I want to talk about.

Victor Manuel Garcia came to the United States in 1938 from Ponce, Puerto Rico, to seek his fortune. Almost immediately, he got work modeling for the famous beefcake photographer, Lon of New York. It is almost certain that Lon introduced Victor to George Quaintance. Lon and George were great pals and partiers, and George had a well-known affinity for Latinos.

For a brief time, George and Victor became lovers. More importantly, Victor became George’s business partner and the principal photographer of the Quaintance Studio, remaining with George and following him from New York to Hollywood to Arizona.

Upon his premature death in 1957, Quaintance left his estate to Victor Garcia and Victor’s then-lover, Tom Syphers. Victor and Tom continued to run the Quaintance Studio, dividing their time between Los Angeles, where Victor preferred to be, and Phoenix, where Tom preferred to be. In 1964, Tom died and Victor sold “Rancho Siesta” and returned to Los Angeles.

Without George’s driving force, the business faltered, and Victor eventually sold off the remaining canvases. Other items — mostly hundreds of photographs and color slides, along with several small sculptures — he sold to Cosmo Book Sales. Some sketches, personal scrapbooks and damaged items that were not salable Victor left in a storage facility.

Victor moved on with his life. He acquired a new lover, a much younger man by the name of Glen (or Glenn) Martin. They moved to Altadena, then to Beverly Hills. Victor continued to correspond with a collector until December 1977, then nothing.

Had thirty years not intervened before anyone went looking for Victor, he might not have disappeared so thoroughly. As the heir of George Quaintance, Victor owns the rights to the Quaintance estate, so for an author (me) seeking to publish a biography of Quaintance, it is critical to find out what became of Victor Garcia, and, if he is dead, whether he left a will.

Victor Manuel Garcia is a maddeningly common name, as I learned when I hired two detectives who specialize in locating missing persons. Not knowing his exact date of birth or other helpful information, like a Social Security number, adds more stumbling blocks. It is likely that Victor was born around 1920, which makes it unlikely that he is still alive.

Information found in one of the scrapbooks Victor left behind shows that some of his and Glen’s friends in the early 1970s were: Charlie Hayes, Lynne, Rick, Ama, Bob Miller & Glenn Vogt, Don Libby, Kimberly Clarke, Larry Sturges, Doyle Cornelius, Tony McGrath, “wetback Bobby Vera,” Bill Waugh, Hal Taylor, Lenny, Sylvester, Perro, Bill Magnuson and Chuck Morgan. Add to that list another infuriatingly common name, Glen Martin, and my detectives still have had no luck.

I was able to trace one of the people mentioned in the scrapbook, Mrs. Robert Paul Cowsill, due to the fact that I attended high school with her celebrity husband. Still no luck.

If anyone has any information about Victor or any of the people mentioned in this article, please write to waybrightj@comcast.net or ken_furtado@earthlink.net, or call Ken at (602) 350-2771.

So much vital history and culture is lost because it is not passed on or recorded. The complete and marvelous story of George Quaintance has never been recorded or told, and my co-author, John Waybright, and I are eager to find information about the elusive Victor Garcia before his memory is swallowed up by passing time.

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