Friday, February 26, 2010

Venus Revealed: The Pubic Wars 5 1973 Part 1

January 1973 saw the development of different standards between the US and UK editions of Penthouse. Whilst, the previous year, one cover had been re-edited to be less explicit for the US market (nipples were acceptable in the UK but not in the US) the opposite had started to happen with the pictures inside. Simply put, the UK editors believed that the pictures that started to appear in the US edition in 1973, driven by the ever escalating war with Playboy, were too strong for the UK market and they started to crop or airbrush some of the the photos.

Maggie Burton appeared on The Sun's Page 3 on 31st July 1973

The first victim of this was Australian model and, later, Page 3 girl Maggie Burton. Her UK edition picture shows her posterior artfully cut off to conceal what the US edition showed.

Maggie in the UK version

In the US version she clearly displays her mound between the cheeks of her bottom; the first time this pose had been shown in Penthouse.

US version

This editing of the images would become increasingly common in the UK edition of Penthouse over the next few years.  In the UK they had (as had the US) sometimes had to touch up a photo where the model was obviously displaying her labia but as the US edition started to show hints of the models' divided mounds over the next year the UK edition didn't follow.  Eventually the UK did stop doing this in the second half of the decade but after this as the US started to show more and more the UK increasingly just left some shots out of pictorials.

Big pussy!

Also in January's issue we got a pictorial of the then unnown model Susan Backlinie posing with a lion.  Backlinie would later find fame as the nude swimmer who was the first victim of the great white shark in Jaws (1975).


The final pictorial in January's issue, Through a Glass Starkly, illustrated a type of feature that both Playboy and Penthouse used to run fairly regularly at this time: the arty, surrealist type.  Take a beautiful girl, remove all her clothes and then pose her so that, in  this case, she appears to be very small against household objects. 

He found the table ornaments distracted, somewhat, from his post-prandial relaxation

We are sure that art directors and photographers (one Willard Thurston Jr, here) had great fun putting them together but as a teenager Agent Triple P always thought that they were wasted pictorials.  We would always have rather had a conventional shoot of the girl as these arty pieces were very rarely sexy.  No doubt it helped with high end advertisers if you could occasionally show them a pictorial and say "look we're not just about pictures of girls flashing their pussies; this is ART!"

Over at Playboy they provided their usual "gallery" cover for January, featuring some of the previous year's Playmates and most are flashing their fluff. 

Miki's backstroke presents some serious frontage


A year after Marilyn Cole had become the first full-frontal Playmate, Playboy, who had still been largely shooting their Playmates' pubic areas semi-obscured, from the side or in a deeply shadowed view felt comfortable enough to present January Playmate Miki Garcia in this splendid swimming pool shot.

Clever but sexy?

Playboy also carried an "arty" shoot that month, this time by New York photographer Pete Turner, today most noted for his photographs of Africa and Jazz album covers.

Fur on fur for Deanna Baker's (May 1972) Playmate review shot

No less than seven out of the previous year's twelve Playmates flashed some fur in the magazine's annual Playmate review but every shot was of the typical Playboy looking at the camera type; no Penthouse style voyeuristic shots yet.

Meanwhile, over at Oui, the Playboy/Lui joint venture was entering its first full year of publication.  A letter in the January issue confirmed the purpose of the publication.  "My friends and I here on campus think y'all have a fantastic magazine and believe you will totally destroy Penthouse and several others." wrote Jack from the University of Mississippi.

The lovely shiny Grete from January 1973


Oui hoped to destroy Penthouse with its younger, hipper image and its more "European" approach: a term they used constantly.  Visually, the magazine was defined by the significant amount of content coming across from Lui's Paris office such as this photo from a pictorial of "Grete" by Frank Gitty. 

Oui would always feature a lot of European girls but for the centrefold they would usually have girls with American sounding names, such as Anne Jones in the January issue.  They often didn't look that American, however, and the continental sounding names of the photographers often left you thinking that they were, in reality, as European as the other girls in the magazine.  Anne is shown disporting herself with a man who even appears in her centrefold. Something the other magazines didn't do, on the whole.

January's centrefold with added man

This was not very popular with readers, however.  "I was quite disappointed to see a male nude in the January issue of Oui" wrote Laurence from Michigan who claimed he had stopped buying Playboy because of male nudes there.  "What inmate wants a centerfold with a guy in it hanging from his wall?" asked Joseph from Yardville Reformatory in New Jersey.  Mr Garcia from Los Angeles had a different point and said that the inclusion of handsome men just reminded him of all the women he had lost to such people!  Oh dear!

Arty manouvering in Space Odyssey

Also in this issue they would have, in keeping with their half way between the two market leaders approach, an arty couples pictorial called Space Odyssey which was more homogenous than the typical Playboy boy/girl piece but not just a straightforward pictorial story like Penthouse's first effort the year before.

For Playboy's February cover Pompeo Posar had Jeanette Larson posed in a be-stockinged, contemplative pose which could have come right from the pages of Penthouse.

Cyndi Wood: entranced

February's Playmate Cyndi Wood was shown touching her pubic area in a very Penthouse-like way. Lost in her own personal reverie, in a natural light shot by a window, the influence of Guccione's magazine is becoming clear.

Marlon Brando keeping dry at bathtime

Finally, Playboy devoted two pictorials to the controversial new screen sensation Last Tango in Paris, showcasing Maria Schneider's very bushy muff.  One lady wrote in complaining that whilst Maria appeared nude in numerous shots Brando kept his clothes on!

The February cover of Oui, again, demonstrated their neither one thing nor the other approach.  They had a conventinally photographed girl, like Penthouse, but had her with a plain studio background, like Playboy.

Inside, all the girls were showing their pubic hair but there were no real full frontals, just the Playboy-like views from the side, or three-quarters.  Centrefold. Pamela Collin's drew hers to the readers' attention with this nice stream of soapy water.

Karen Sather on the cover

For February, Penthouse continued with it's usual policy of putting its Pet of the Month on the cover, something that Playboy rarely did.

Karen enjoys hers too

Pet of the Month, Karen Sather, was pictured in an almost identical pose to that month's Playboy Playmate, Cyndi Wood, in that she too was shown delicately touching her fleece with the tips of her fingers.  Really something of a coincidence that both magazines should come up with such pictures in the same month.  These poses took the depiction of pubic hair to a new level, however, in that they took the photographs from beyond just acknowedging that women had pubic hair to showing them acknowledging it.  This portrayal of physical self-awareness was very much a Penthouse trait which Playboy was picking up on.  Pubic touching would be the next competitive arena for the two magazines in the Pubic Wars.

 Karen's splitting hairs

Of much more note that month  were a couple of pictures in Karen's pictorial that showed her divided mons veneris. A reader wrote in, noting "that you are listening to the increasing demand to reveal what lies behind the obscuring pubic hair of your models.  In three of the photos of Karen, her genital cleft can be seen as well as the contours of her labia and mons veneris."  He concludes: "Nevertheless go slowly.  Karen's sex, sensitively revealed, is exciting enough.  Were you to reveal all I think it might drive me mad!"  These were the most genitally explicit pictures in either magazine so far but Guccione had to be careful about how far he went down this particular route and the loss of the concealing retouching would still take some time.

March's Oui took a more interesting approach to its cover than the two previous months and even, daringly, offered up the faintest glimpse of some pink nipple.

Playboy had Dwight Hooker photograph Miss December 1972, Mercy Rooney, doing a striptease on their entertaining March cover.

Bonnie's full on centrefold

March's Playmate, Bonnie Large, presented the most full frontal centrefold pose for over a year. In fact it was the boldest Playboy centrefold so far, avoiding the strong shadow seen in Marilyn Cole's (January 1972) and Carole O'Neale's (July 1972) centrefolds from the previous year. Bonnie's full frontal pussy literally brought Playboy out of the shadow and up to where Penthouse had been for some time.

Edy spreads

Cindy spreads

Another striking, full-frontal swimming pool  image was taken by Russ Meyer in a pictorial featuring his wife, actress, Edy Williams, in a defiantly spread-legs pose.  This pose was later copied for a bikini clad shot of Cindy Crawford many years later.

March's Penthouse Pet was strappingly (5'7") voluptuous Dubliner Avril Lund depicted displaying her impressive 40-24-36 figure by the seashore.


And display herself she did in these pictures by Bob Guccione.  No longer did his girls have to keep their thighs primly pressed together.   He had future Pet of the Year Avril open herself up to sun and sea in her pictorial.

Penthouse at last challenged the depiction, unlike not only other mens' magazines at the time, but also hundreds of years of western art, of a girl's pubic mound as a smooth expanse completely lacking any hint of a cleft.

In that same issue Ken Marcus presented  a photograph of a model they called Celeste which clearly showed the top of her clitoral hood.  Would Playboy respond to this new frankness?

The short answer was, not immediately, but Playboy was certainly pushing its own boundaries as regards its pictorials.  One of the factors contributing to the possibility of more explicit depiction of women in men's magazines was the increasing amount of nudity on stage and screen.  The previous decade had seen Oh, Calcutta on broadway (and full frontally -just- in Playboy) and the previous year had seen the huge success of Deep Throat (1972), the first movie that took hardcore out into the open  as it played across the country.

Playboy ran a pictorial feature, amusingly entitled, Say "Ah!",  on Deep Throat's star Linda Lovelace who posed for this sensuously ecstatic photograph in full Penthouse style complete with stockings and out of focus flowers in the foreground.

Julie: young, gifted, black and bushy

Another barrier broken by Playboy in that issue was their first full-frontal black Playmate, Julie Woodson, although she kept her bottom half covered for her centrefold.  Triple P's favourite photograph from April 1973's Playboy, however, is this one of former ballerina and Miss Montreal, Canadian actress Dayle Haddon striding through the grass.  Again, it is a very Penthouse like shot, taken with a long lens in a voyeuristic way. 

Dayle working on a bush/grass interface

The elements of Penthouse's approach slipping into Playboy's visual style by this time showed that there was serious concern at Playboy. For the first time in the history of Playboy their circulation was dropping. From a high point of 7.2 million in the autumn of 1972 by the Spring of 1973 the circulation has slipped to 6.7 million; a loss of 500,000 copies. Penthouse's circulation, however, continued to grow and was now running at about 4,000,000 copies a month. Playboy realised that one of the things that Penthouse had over them was a much greater focus on sex both visially and in written content.  They decided that they would have to increase the sexual content of Playboy to compete and this meant they would have to pose their Playmates, their precious girls next door, in ever more enticing ways to stop the slide in their circulation.

The difference at this point can be nicely summed up by the magazines' two covers in April.  Playboy had gone for a clever shot of Miss November 1972's Lenna SjΓΆΓΆblom lower face, her tongue enticingly licking the back of a Playboy stamp.   Penthouse just put that month's Pet on the cover, pulling up her top and feeling her bare bottom.  Not as clever or elegant as Playboy's but more effectively basic in its sexual appeal.

Leslie teases

Inside, the young lady in question, Leslie Burrow, has a fine photo by Bob Guccione of her contemplating her bush whilst teasing her strands with an elegant fingernail. This was a large picture that went across two pages and so the visual impact of her hairy mound was considerable.

The other model in that issue was one Joanna Danielli photographed in incredibly diffused style by Ken Marcus.  One hand on one breast the other drifting towards her nether regions its a sensual depiction of female self-love.

Mike sucks

Penthouse also had their second boy/girl pictorial in this issue called Pair Play photographed by Jeff Dunas.  It includes the enjoyably tactile nipple sucking shot above; certainly the most sensual couples shot in Penthouse so far.

Oui's April cover was their most daring so far with their covergirl's nipples fully exposed but for a thin coat of body paint.

For a change Oui claimed their centrefold was French as opposed to the American sounding names of the three previous centrefold's that year.  In fact, it was top British model Vivienne Neves, in a rare full frontal pictorial.

Playboy went for a straightforward girl (Bernie Becker) shot for their May cover but made it black and white to retain their arty credentials.

Inside, however, they ran their own version of a boy/girl pictorial with a piece called Sex and the Automobile which placed their models in different cars from previous decades.  This photograph actually shows traces of the man's pubic hair; something which Penthouse hadn't yet dare show.

That month's Playmate Anulka Dziubinska who, despite her name, was actually from Britain, demonstrated another pubic first for both magazines; really unconvincingly dyed pubic hair in a centrefold!  It was even odder as in several other pictures in the pictorial she is shown with her natural colouring.

Annulka Dziubinska in one of several convincingly passionate snogs she shares with Marianne Morris in Vampyres (1974)

The following year, former London club Bunny, Anulka would star in her first film, the rather good erotic horror film Vampyres (1974) back in England.  This would lead to a number of roles in TV and film both in the UK (Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975) and the US (Magnum PI 1982).  She now works as a florist in California.

Penthouse would come back at Playboy in their March issue however, pushing on two fronts which would take centre stage in the battles to come over the next few years.

May's Pet, Sandi Greco really fired a broadside at Playboy with yet another Bob Guccione photographed set.  At the top corner of one page there is a small, grainy, soft-focus picture of Sandi with her thighs spread and undoutbedly displaying her labia (albeit indistinctly) for the first time in either magazine.

Linda plays

In the same issue we also had a pictorial of Linda one photograph of which caused great excitement amongst Penthouse readers.  One girl wrote in to describe the stimulating effect it had on her boyfriend.  "That photograph of her on her back massaging her attractive sexual parts with a long slender finger got him so worked up he had my pants off in no time."  A few issues before a reader had asked if the magazine would show pictures of girls masturbating.  What we never know with Penthouse, of course, is whether they were responding to real letters or using fake letters to preview new developments in order to gauge reaction.  Whatever, pussy stroking  and spread legs would soon blossom on the pages of Penthouse and its rivals very soon.

By May Oui's cover was having a severe attack of Penthouse as well.  Out have gone the studio shots and in have come boudoir lingerie, foreground objects and natural looking light.  Again, Oui have risked some just about visible nipples on the cover.

In the early seventies nothing said tasteful, European eroticism like English photographer David Hamilton and so it was no surprise to see Oui having a pictorial of his floaty, dreamy pictures.  They were all over the place during this period in magazines (men's and fashion) posters and postcards.  Even girls liked their romantic style.  The first time Agent Triple P watched a young lady stimulating herself it was because she was looking at a book of David Hamilton photos.

Oui's centrefold Linda (who again was depicted with a man in her centrefold) nicely illustrates one of the differences between the girls who appeared there and Playboy: they often had quite small busts, largely because they were often fashion models.  A girl shaped like this would never have made it into the centrefold of Hefner's magazine.

Just as Playboy had its Vargas pictures so Oui had its Aslan pictures.  French artist and sculptor (Alain) Aslan was born in 1930 and painted a monthly pin-up for Lui (and, hence, Oui) every month for eighteen years from 1963 until 1981.  He also produced advertisements for companies from Peugot to the Moulin Rouge as well as sculptures for official use in France.  It was Aslan who sculpted the famous bust of Brigitte Bardot to serve as the French national heroine Marianne, whose statue appears outside every town hall in France.  His painting for the May edition gives us a nicely cleft mons veneris that would not yet have been possible in photographs.  The pretentious quote from French poet Rimbaud is typical of Oui. 

Elsewhere, Cavalier, which had always been slower to follow the trends (they were still pubic free as late as 1972, for example) started to jump on the couples bandwagon.

They ran a long pictorial featuring this couple in the shower and in bed. Part of this must have been because Penthouse was much more about sex, then those who copied this content felt that they should be showing sex (or as much as they could get away with) rather than just girls.  There was a great move towards couples friendly content and, no doubt, they felt that including men in their pictorials would help in this.

Gallery had a striking cover for May, illustrating a pictorial inside on the new French fashion for the monokini.

Considering the fact that Gallery had started as an exact copy of Playboy by 1973 its photography was starting to look more and more like that of Penthouse.  It features those Penthouse staples, feathers, foliage and old furniture.  Some of the pictures even had flowers.

It wasn't just Gallery, either.  June saw a very Penthouse like cover by Dwight Hooker for Marilyn Cole as Playboy's first (and still only) British Playmate of the Year.  It even featured some red flowers in the boudoir setting.

Inside she also went in for some  pubic hair touchng as well . Dreamily shot in Guccione style soft-focus her fingers are still only at the outer edges of her bush but there is a general, self-absorbed, sensual atmosphere to the shot which had been largely missing from Playboy's pictorials up until this time.

June's Playmate Ruthie Ross is portrayed in a very similar manner as well; again not looking at the camera with her hand hovering just above her pubis.  Even the style of lighting has changed to the natural light look.

The cover for Penthouse's June issue featured the first bare nipples on the cover of the US edition, although the UK version had been doing this for some time. In the picture bottom centre there is even just a tiny hint of fur. Again, like Playboy, they obviously thought that they could get away with this as the pictures were small and wouldn't stand out too much on the newsstand. Playboy, however, had already shown much bolder pubic shots on the cover in their January Playmate review cover so in that particular front of the war they were still ahead of Penthouse.

Paula plays

Their June Pet, Paula Francis, had several photographs in her pictorial where she is shown with her fingers on her floss, of which this example was the most sensual and the most graphic to date.

In their annual Pet of the Year play-off Miss March 1973, Billie Dean (english model Gillian Duxberry) also has her fingers on her floss.

We will leave the first half of 1973 with Oui and an illustration of another difference between their girls and those of Penthouse and Playboy: suntans.  A Oui girl was much more likely to have a deep all over tan, given that it was much easier to find places to sunbathe nude in Europe than the US.  Of course this poor girl probably looks like a shrivelled prune today.

Next time we will see how the Pubic Wars hotted up in the next six months.