The Real-Life Jupiter Jones
In the fall of 2009, I was contacted by Bruce Cranner. I did not recognize the name, but I was thrilled to read his message. It turns out that Bruce was one of the models used by Ed Vebell when he photographed teenagers for the covers and interior shots of The Three Investigators in the 1970s. Bruce is now an attorney in New Orleans, LA, and was kind enough to send me some information about his affiliation with Mr. Vebell. He also sent some photos of himself, and it's not hard to see now how a "grown-up" Jupiter Jones might appear. As best Bruce and I can piece together, he is the model for Jupiter Jones on the Windward Press paperback version of Terror Castle and Stuttering Parrot along with being the model for both the cover and interior illustrations for Singing Serpent. In addition, he was the model for the cover of Phantom Lake and Shrinking House.
Bruce also knew the model who posed in the fringe jacket on the covers of the books drawn by Mr. Vebell. His name is Rolf Munsen and was a buddy of Bruce's from back in junior high school.
Unfortunately, when I obtained photos from Mr. Vebell from his T3I illustrating days, there were no photos left with Bruce, although you can see the photos that I had of Rolf Munsen here.
Bruce tells it best in his own words; so I'll let his message speak for itself.
My Jupiter Jones Story
One day when I was in ninth Grade at Bedford Jr. High in Westport, Connecticut the football coach called me into his office and introduced me to Mr. Ed Vebell. Mr. Vebell explained that he was an illustrator and was looking for models for a set of boy's mystery books he was drawing. Some new installments of the Three Investigators Mysteries and--in particular--he was looking for a boy of 13-14 who looked like Jupiter Jones. Well, I was a tall, husky dark haired boy and looked the part--but there was something more.
I was thrilled. You see, I had read many of the books starting in fourth grade and Jupiter Jones had long been my hero. Like Jupe, I was always "roly-poly" but bright and prematurely articulate even as a very young boy. I remember that, as a kid, adults were frequently taken aback by my verbal skills and poise. And, I was and remain something of "an investigator' and adventurer by temperament. I devoured every book I could get my hands on--books about science, archaeology, medicine, the sea and ships, military history, automobiles and aircraft--there is very little I did not research and read about even in grammar school. Normal sports bored me and I wasn't any good at them anyway. So, in grammar school, I identified with husky, articulate and diabolically clever and independent Jupiter Jones. His wonderful character made me feel that there really was a place in the world for me and boys like me--and I often pinch my lower lip when I am thinking and have since those days.
Well, no boy could have been more thrilled! I would have done the job for free, but Mr. Vebell offered very nice compensation to spend a few hours at his studio posing for photos. My buddy Rolf Munson, a tall blond boy with a wonderful fringed leather jacket, was asked to join in and pose for the roles of Pete and Bob.
I remember very well the first day I was asked to pose. We lived near Mr. Vebell at the time, but too far for me to ride a bike and my mother rarely drove. So, Mr. Vebell agreed to pick me up at my parent's house. I'm so glad he did--he showed up in my driveway in an early 1960's silver Mercedes 190 convertible with red leather seats!! As a car buff, I was in heaven. But it got better--Mr. Vebell's studio was a veritable museum of military memorabilia and--in particular--uniforms and weapons. And, Mr. Vebell was a delightful and interesting man. He had been a fencer (in the Olympics, I think) and had plenty of stories to tell. He vaguely knew or knew of my father, who was also an illustrator and graphic designer and who is best known for his work for the Children's Television Workshop on the graphics for Sesame Street, and made me feel very comfortable.
The work itself was a lot of fun, too. Mr. Vebell explained the plots of The Singing Serpent and Shrinking House in general and posed us representing episodes from the stories. I remember posing for the photo that was made into the cover of The Singing Serpent against a white screen. He took a lot of shots from a lot of angles and was intrigued by the way the pinky of my left hand protrudes at an almost 90 degree angle when my hand is fully extended. He asked me to do that for those shots and for the Shrinking House Shots and, as you can see on the covers, he captured that odd angle. My mother saw a copy of The Singing Serpent at a tag sale once and bought it because she recognized my hand on the cover! I remember, also, posing for the shot where Jupe is shown (in one of the internal illustrations in The Singing Serpent) looking at the serpent bracelet in his characteristic 'pinched lower lip" pose. My wife laughed when I first showed that to her--since I still do that when I am thinking she knew instantly that the boy in the drawing was really me. I also remember the day we posed for the illustration where the lovely young girl is holding something. I think my coach was the other male model, but the lovely young girl is Mr. Vebell's daughter Andra. And, since Andra was one of the most beautiful girls in our school (she was a year or two behind me in school and knew my younger brother) I remember being very shy and a little awed. Andra is also shown on a horse in one of the illustrations--and that was a hard pose for me. Posing like you are falling off a bike when you are really not falling off a bike is a nice trick! I think I fell off the bike a few times.
There were only a few photo sessions. Three or four. You have some of the shots of Rolf in his jacket on your website. The other shots are of boys who are younger than we were and are wearing earlier period hairstyles. They are from the 60's. Mr. Vebell told me that I would be shown in the Singing Serpent and The Shrinking House. It looks like I am also shown on the cover of Phantom Lake and the paperback of The Stuttering Parrott. The latter was drawn and published when I was a Senior in High School and/or already away at college so I suspect that Mr. Vebell used old photos of us for this cover. I have not seen Mr. Vebell since those days since I never lived in Westport after I left for school, but remain grateful to him for the opportunity "to be" my hero in a way few boys are ever fortunate enough to enjoy. It was a delight.
You know, the Three Investigators and Jupiter Jones in particular had a very big influence on me and a very positive impact on my life. Today, I am a lawyer and I concentrate my practice on defending and litigating complex medical, products and business cases. I try cases all the time. My work puts a premium on my verbal skills, tenacious and creative investigation and the ability to deduce that truth from disparate clues and seemingly unrelated facts and present my conclusions with confidence and clarity. Well, Jupiter Jones would have been a terrific litigator and thanks, in part, to Jupe's example on my best day I hope I am, too.