Lyric International produced "physique" photography of boys and young men from the late 1960s until the scandal that brought about the studio's downfall in 1973. Lyric's most ambititious production was the 1971 feature film The Genesis Children. Its owner was Billy Byars, Jr., its main photographer was Harlan 'Slim' Pfeiffer, and the best known of the youthful "Lyric Boy" actors was Peter Glawson.
Physique but not pornography
According to a 1975 interview with a Lyric producer,
- "Lyric had specialized in nude photos of models ranging from twelve to twenty years of age. As a physique photographer, Lyric had been out of business for several years, since Byars did not approve of doing hardcore photography and the market accepted little else, but the company name was being carried on as a producer of television travelogues."
Lyric’s production occurred in a narrow window of time, when social mores had loosened sufficiently to permit the sort of naturist films it produced, but not enough to allow more explicit content. The same producer acknowledged that "Lyric had once been one of the biggest photographers in the business." .
While Lyric produced no pornography, Lyric's owner joined with Guy Strait in creating DOM-LYRIC to distribute Lyric's products as well as Strait's. Strait did produce pornography, including pornography with adolescent actors.
Crossroads of the World
Lyric also had an office located at Crossroads Of The World office complex in Hollywood, which Wikipedia says "has been called America's first modern shopping mall. Director Anthony Aikman and cameramand Bill Dewar edited The Genesis Children there. Aikman describes the studio as being in a building designed to look like Mothers Hubbard's shoe.[Interview, 2006, Anthony Aikman by Ballog]
Zipper Magazine's office was also in the complex. That, along with the large amount of space that Zipper devoted to Lyric's projects, and the number of ads in the magazine purchased by Lyric, suggests that it too may have been owned by Byrars.
Wikipedia also says that "In the late-1960s, one of the offices was occupied by a porn magazine that tried out young hopefuls by photographing them in the nude. It was here that an unknown John C. Holmes went one day and showcased his unusually large "endowment", leading to the start of his notorious career in adult films."
Online rumour persistently identifies a figure called "Uncle Terry" associated with the Lyric studio and Byars. The list of those charged in the 1973 scandal does not include anyone named Terry. One Lyric short was reportedly titled Uncle Terry's Pool. Usenet posts mention a "Terry Stuart" as sharing Mr. Byars's house; as a former physique model; as the owner of the house with the pool with the cinderblock walls; as being Peter Glawson's uncle; as the person Mr. Glawson lived with; or as all of the above.
One 2001 Usenet post says,
- "I think that I am clear about Terry; he was Billy's first and always tried to look the biz. He had a thing about clean money and used to wash it and dry it in a big rotary dryer in the studio. Once someone saw all the money coming out and called the Feds 'cos they thought he was printing it! He was always running around with a briefcase; I'd forgotten all this." 
A January 1999 Usenet post describes the cover of an issue of Lyric’s “Naked Boyhood” magazine, probably Vol 1, #2, as showing “young Peter [Glawson] on the Gulf Coast of Texas with his Uncle Terry (middle) and an unknown adult friend.”
One of the earliest appearances of Billy Byars' Lyric Studios upon the gay "physique magazine" scene in California appeared in the October 1965 issue of "Muscle Teens" magazine published by Y.P. Productions. This issue featured photographs of various nude teen males including the soon to be famous 15 year old "Terry Stuart".
In almost all of Lyrics' magazines, Byars would give each specific issue a "title" and include a mostly ficticious "storyline" about the photos included. In one particular issue that featured the Lyric boys swimming, naked as usual, at the Mulholland Drive home, Byars wrote about the Lyric boys "...visiting Uncle Terry and Uncle Bill..." at their home for a summer swim.[needs source]
Summers's quote of Smith on the use of "Uncle" in nicknames [Summers, p. 378] argues against presuming that Terry is actually uncle to Mr. Glawson or to anyone else. There is no "Terry" in the list of those arrested, and no "Terry" in the extensive credits of The Genesis Children. Three of the others accused with Mr. Byars in the 1973 case were also said to be from Hollywood. All three are roughly ten years younger than Byars. At least one of them was acquitted at trial in 1973. All are possible candidates for "Terry", but "Terry" could well be someone else, or merely a figure of rumour.
Lyric came to an end in late 1973, in a scandal that the Meese Commission later called "the first child pornography ring ... brought to public view." (Attorney General's Commission on Pornography (1986) PART 3: Law Enforcement Recommendations. Chapter 3, paragraph 5 .
The Los Angeles Times article about the arrests was titled "14 Men Indicted in Sex Movies Featuring Boys Ages 6 to 17: Son of Actress, Heir to Oil Fortune, YMCA Counselor, Scoutmaster, Schoolteacher Among Those Facing Charges". [Los Angeles Times Oct 27, 1973, p. B1]
The "Heir to Oil Fortune" was Lyric's owner, and the "Son of Actress" a Lyric producer. As the policy of the Los Angeles Times was then to not index criminal justice proceedings, it used to be difficult to determine just what happened to the fourteen accused. Those newspaper archives with full-text indexing are now available online, however. A later story confirms that the first of the accused to go to trial ("YMCA Counselor") was acquitted after a full day of jury deliberation, and that two others had pled guilty.
Guy Strait, though among the first two arrested in the case, jumped bail and was never brought to trial on the Los Angeles charges.
While the Meese Commission and the Los Angeles Times both refer to films of child pornography, the news article says that the accused were charged not with child pornography, but with molesting children. It says "One confiscated film shows the boys playing nude on a beach believed to be near Corpus Christi." Lyric did produce such a film, Summer Freedom, but a film of "boys playing nude on a beach" is neither pornography nor illegal in this jurisdiction.
One source claims that one of the boys was "dangled over a cliff" by policemen until he agreed to name men he had had sex with . The claim was apparently made in open court. The Lyric producer cited above also says that two of the accusers "were just hustlers the police had dug up to testify two of them were just hustlers the police had dug up ... they had worked for Lyric a good little while ago. Even the police didn't push their stories too much, because they were both well into their teens and they admitted they were willing participants."
The Los Angeles scandal was fueled in part by the August 1973 discovery of the murders in Houston, Texas, by Dean Corll of at least 27 teenagers. The police insinuated to the press that the Lyric scandal might have a connection. Lyric's owner was originally from Texas; another of those arrested in the case was identified by the L.A. Times as "W.J., 55, a Houston photographer".
Lloyd Martin, the policeman most responsible for the arrests, constructed a national reputation as the "child abuse policeman". He later fell into discredit. Widespread criticism of him and his methods is easily found on the Internet. Martin's signature sound bite is that child abuse is "worse than homicide." One Salon article calls him "infamous" and provides a good general discussion of the exaggerations of child pornography foes .
Technical quality of the films
Pfeiffer is said to have filmed the Lyric movies in 16mm, and reduced them to 8mm for distribution. Guy Strait, who handled the distribution end of DOM-LYRIC, recounted in prison his techniques for avoiding piracy of his films. Part of his 70s era copy-protection technology was to reduce the quality of his 8mm commercial products to the point that reproductions would not be of salable quality. (Clifford L. Linedecker,Children in Chains 1981)
The pool with the cinderblock walls which appears in many Lyric shorts changed over time: the diving board was removed, and the walls repainted. In some films the cinderblock walls appear to be black or purplish, but still photos taken at the same time, or perhaps printed from a frame of the 16mm negative, show the walls to be royal blue. The video files that circulate on the Internet and the DVDs available commercially may have been made from old or deteriorated 8mm films.
Books, magazines, and films
The Genesis Children was Lyric's only feature film, its other movies being shorts produced in 16mm and reduced to 8mm for distribution. Some of the films are:
- Danish Boys' Camp. Feature documentary. 1971. Producer: Billy Byars. Editor: Wayne Schotten
- Swim Party and Spring Break were filmed by Slim Pfeiffer at the pool with the cinderblock walls at the Lyric studio in Los Angeles.
- Sandy Hill may have been filmed in Sandy Hill in east Texas.
- Summer Freedom was made at Corpus Christi National Seashore in Texas.
- Peter and the Desert Riders
- How to Make Friends
Lyric produced a number of magazines (two authors, Robin Lloyd and Clifford Linedecker, say 90 magazines were produced, but neither cites his source for the figure) and at least one calendar.
Some of the magazine titles include: