Sunday, June 27, 2010

Redheaded Venus of the Week 8: Redheads by Fritz Willis

Fritz Willis was the last great American pin-up artist; doing most of his best work in the 1960s before colour photography finally put paid to the painted pin-up and, indeed, paintings in advertising.

Trend Soap 1947

Born in Oklahoma, he attended the Vesper George Art School in California, before getting a job at Warner Brothers. He had a few small acting roles before concentrating on art.

His film studio work was as a publicity and production design artist in the late 1930s before moving on to pin ups and advertising work for the likes of Pepsi, Max Factor and Sunkist.

Esquire Calendar Girl 1948

In 1946 Esquire launched a new feature called the Esquire Gallery of Glamour and chose Willis to do the first illustration. He went on to have a long association with the magazine.

Much of his best work was done for calendars for Brown & Bigelow who produced corporate items, such as calendars, which could be printed up with the name of any firm on them.

Agent Triple P came across him years ago when he was given one of his art instruction books, The Nude (1960), by a girlfriend. This book which explained how he drew his spare, elegant figures had a great effect on our own sketching style. He wrote several other art instruction books for the Walter Foster company at about this time.

Calendar girl February 1966

In 1961, Willis produced the first of his Artist's Sketch Pad calendars for Brown and Bigelow and these continued into the seventies; the last survivors of the illustrated classic pin up period.

August 1966

Willis' pictures had some distinctive features which make them easy to identify. Some of the distinctive features belong to his wife Pat, who modelled for many of his paintings. The use of unfinished sketches on the final painting were another feature of his work. Quite often he would pose his model holding a cup of tea.

A Moment of Pleasure

Unlike many other pin up artists, he also occasionally depicted a girl's fluff which really only Vargas did in his later work for Playboy in the mid seventies.

Calendar 1972

Willis' women were in complete contrast to someone like Gil Elvgren's innocent cuties. "The Willis Girl", as she was christened by Esquire (they were always desperate to find another "Varga Girl") looked a little older, more sophisticated, richer and a lot more worldly wise than her rivals.

She was no girl next door, damsel in distress trying to deal with errant clothing or appealing for male help as she tried to repair her car.

Willis died on January 13, 1979 leaving a legacy of elegant and poised looking women as the final curtain of the classic pin-up era came down.

Here we present a selection of his redheads. We like his pictures so much that we will find some others to put up in the coming days.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June Venus: Debbie Davis

Another clear winner this month from the 57 June Playmates in the shape of Debbie Davis from 1972. We have said before that we like a young lady with prominent teeth and Debbie has a fine mouthfull here. But the centrefold, by Bill Figge, with its lightly tanned figure isolated against the abstract white bubbles and peek-a-boo lower half is what makes this Triple P's June favourite.

A somewhat dryer Debbie

Louann Fernald June 1979

In second place we have to have Louann Fernald. We were recently contacted by Ms Fernald who said: "After trying to ditch the 'Playmate' identity my entire adult life, I give up. I can no more retrieve my photos from the Internet than BP can retrieve all the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. And so I will take this opportunity to spread the word about Veganism.
Do your part to help save the planet. GO VEGAN.
With Love,
Louann Fernald"

Neatly put, we feel! This raises a couple of interesting issues. Obviously some people posed for Playboy and never had a problem with it subsequently but for some, later on, it became an issue. Possibly because it makes it extremely easy for others to drop you into a category which completely ignores anything else you may have achieved in life. We suspect part of the problem, also, is to do with living in conservative America, which still has a peculiar attitude to nudity. We find it extraordinary that network TV in the US still can't show naked bodies or that topless sunbathing for women is prohibited in places like California (as B found out on the beach at Santa Monica). Strange! So we can appreciate that this could be an issue for Ms Fernald in her current life. Without being ungentlemanly about it, she did appear under her own, somewhat distinctive, name whereas it was quite common to use an alias at this time. But no doubt, at the time, she didn't think anything of this. The real issue, of course, is that models of the time could never have imaginied that pictures they posed for in something as disposeable as a magazine would be preserved and instantly available to the entire world through the internet. If, for example, Agent Triple P had remembered Ms Fernald's pictorial ten years later in 1989 (he did, in fact buy this particular issue from a newsagent near Heathrow airport, where he was working before going up to Oxford) and had wanted a copy, he would not have known where to start. Now, however a few clicks can give him the option of downloading Ms Fernald's pictures or buying an old copy of the magazine itself.

So we have decided to delete the paragraph on this blog detailing Ms Fernald's current whereabouts and activities giving her a little less chance of being so easily located today. We are also quite happy to broadcast her plea for Veganism. We will not be removing her pictures from here because this blog is about the depiction of the most beautiful women in history, a category into which Ms Fernald triumphantly falls.

Gail Stanton photographed by David Chan

Our next June favourite comes from a year before, 1978. We have always preferred Playboy's horizontal format centrefolds and this sauna set one is a particularly nice example.

Karin Taylor photographed by Arny Freytag

Leaping forward to 1996 we have the scubalicious Karin Taylor, one of our favourite Playmates from the 1990's. We do like a girl in a wetsuit (we remember V and her wetsuit with great affection) and although she has one of those rather contrived Playboy poses the sheer quality of Ms Taylor overcomes the rather cheesy pose.

Brittany Binger from 2007

We are not usually a fan of the current Playboy photographic style; we find it over-lit and over digitally processed. Nonetheless, when we went backwards and forwards through our June choices we kept coming back to the alliteratively named Brittany Binger (!). Brittany manages to be sultry in a way that completely escapes many Playmates and the only thing that spoils the rather studio bound picture is the sinister stuffed seagull in the background. Nevertheless it is a reasonably successful eveocation of 1950s style and brings our June review to a very pleasant close.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Centrefold Venus of the Month 13: Vivienne Long aka Vivien Neves

Vivienne Long/Vivien Neves shot by Philip O Stearns

This month's rather tragic centrefold, Vivien Neves, comes from the June 1968 issue of Penthouse in the days before it was published in the US.

Pet of the Year Brandy meant that Vivien didn't make the cover

Billed in the magazine as Vivienne Long from Brighton, the details of her life in the accompanying text were reasonably accurate; later the words accompanying the pictorials were often completely fictional.

Vivien was, indeed, born in Brighton in November 1947 and was twenty when this pictorial appeared. Her father worked for the Gas Board and when she was 12 the family moved to Walton-on-Thames; just a few miles from where Agent Triple P lives today. She wasn't exactly an academic and left school at fifteen.

Her modelling career began by accident when a photographer approached her in the street and asked if she would mind being photographed. A picture of her in a short skirt duly appeared in a local newspaper and created a stir, as it was noted that she was the local scoutmaster's daughter! She left home and moved to London and soon got a job working as a bunny girl in Paul Raymond's Revuebar in Soho.

It was whilst working there that she came to the attention of Penthouse. “Working at the club had made me immune to nudity, and the thought of showing my nipples to magazine readers didn’t bother me a bit,” she later recalled.

This photograph attracted several letters to Penthouse decrying the need for models to cover their pubic areas

Her pictorial was shot by Philip O Stearns; the photographer who also specialised in photographing model soldiers and who was a co-founder of the Sealed Knot English Civil War reenactment society. She was paid £75 for the shoot.

he then became the model for Nelbarden swimsuits and posters of her were liberally plastered over Tube stations. Soon she started to model for The Sun's new Page 3 feature and appeared many times there.

It was, however, an advertisement that brought her national fame. On March 17th 1971 the chemical company Fisons bought all the major advertising space in The Times to promote their various products. Vivien appeared in one of these full page advertisements becoming the first naked woman in the newspaper in all its 186 years. It created an enormous stir.

Letters poured into the paper. “The Times should not use such matter which degrades womanhood and uses the female body as an eye-catcher” said one. Others were more supportive: “I hope this delightful picture has the same effect on The Times’ circulation as it does on mine” . Every copy of the paper sold and it made the radio and TV news. In those days for The Times to show such a photograph was bordering on the unthinkable. The effect on her career was catalytic.

Vivien with Tony Curtis in The Persauders Episode "Someone like me"

In October 1971 she appeared briefly in small role in an episode of the Tony Curtis/Roger Moore series The Persuaders in an episode written by Daleks creator Terry Nation. Subsequently, she appeared with Curtis on the prestigious Parkinson chat show on 1st July 1972.

She had already starred, in the leading role, in cult Danish sleaze fest Whirlpool (1970) but she didn't pursue an acting career and would appear in only one other film; Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's awful The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978) where she appeared as a nun.

Other than Page 3 she appeared in a series of famous advertisements for Norton motorcycles and appeared in a few other mens magazines in the UK and abroad.

She also appeared on the covers of a number of records of the budget compilations of dreadful cover versions of current hits type that were popular at the time.

She had a string of boyfriends including photographer David Bailey and impressionist Mike Yarwood before moving in with a man 20 years older than her much to her father's disgust.

Vivien was The Sun's third anniversary Page 3 girl on November 17th 1972 (above)


Then, at the height of her career she announced that she was retiring. The Sun was inundated with letters from readers begging her not to but even the £25 an hour she was making there couldn't persuade her.

She married the glamour photographer John Kelly and moved to a huge house she had bought in West Clandon, just a few railway stations down from Triple P's station. The last time it was sold, in 2006 it fetched over £3 million.

Kelly Neves recreates her mother's famous pose for The Sun

They had a daughter, Kelly, who years later recreated her mother's most famous picture for Page 3 of The Sun.

Linda Krygsman

Then, in 1979, Vivien, who had been suffering with numbness down one side of her body, was told that she had multiple sclerosis. John Kelly eventually couldn't cope with her deterioration and left her for another glamour model, Linda Krygsman from the Netherlands, where he went to live. They were divorced in 1985. Vivien took up with an electrician sixteen years younger than her who had visited the house to do some work but her family accused him of just spending her money and not looking after her so kicked him out of her house.

Looking after the house had become too much for her so she lived in a cottage in the 14 acre grounds and let the main house, first to Marlon Brando and then Boy George before selling it for £1 million.

Over the years the effects of the MS destroyed her ability to walk and speak and she needed full time care. She was admitted into the Royal Surrey Hospital in November 2002 where she caught the MRSA bug. She went home briefly but was readmitted with pneumonia and died on December 29 2002 at the age of 55.

A tragic end for the original girl who was known as "The Body", years before Elle Macpherson.