Friday, December 30, 2011

Non-Centrefold Venus of the Month 4: Raven, December 1973

Just time to get December's non-centrefold of the month posted, in the lovely form of "Raven" from Men Only's December 1973 issue.

She is just the sort of dark, exotic lovely who appeals to Triple P and the fact that she is posed in a nice tropical-looking setting helps immensely as the usual festive season drizzle runs down our window on this dreary afternoon.

Hers is a steamy, sultry appeal and we can only imagine being in her basic cabin in the humid heat as she lounges around or takes a cooling bath in a wooden tub.

It's a short pictorial this but benefits from some large full-page pictures and not too many of those picture in picture pages that the Paul Raymod magazines often annoyingly went in for.

Raven, does sluttily sultry very well, we have to say, and this picture is our favourite from the pictorial.

In their usual nonsensical way Men Only waffled on, in the text accompanying the pictorial, about the fact that she was from Knightsbridge in London and had only just returned home from travelling abroad.  Utter rubbish of course as whilst she conceivably could be British she really looks like she hails from somewhwere rather more exotic.

Anyway, she is a very fine antidote to a dreary day, we think.

Although we have no information on the model the photographer is Frenchman Serge Jacques, one of the longest serving glamour photographers in the world.  He originally started taking pictures of naked women back in the late forties; contributing many photos to the French magazine Paris-Hollywood which he published.  This was really the first truly international mens' magazine.

Originally it featured photo sets of (clothed) starlets and topless cabaret girls but, over time, the actresses disappeared to be replaced by more naked models.  The magazine ran from 1947 until 1973.

Alice Amo by Serge Jacques

Jacques himself ran into trouble a lot in the fifties as his pubic hair flashing models were deemed indecent and he was arrested by the French police, who regularly raided his studio, many times.

Brigitte Bardot by Serge Jacques

His most famous images were probably the ones he took of a very young Brigitte Bardot on a beach in St Tropez.

Another Jacques lovely

Jacques went on to work for all of the top mens' magazines in the seventies: Oui, Playboy, Penthouse, Chic, Club International, Mayfair etc.  Amazingly he is still photographing naked ladies, in his studio in Prague (as he says Eastern Europe is where the most attractive women come from - we have to agree), at the age of 83. 

Serge Jacques

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Most Unfortunate Venuses: 25 bad centrefolds from Playboy - 12 to 1

Having looked at the number 25 to number 12 bad Playboy centrefolds we finish our review of centrefolds which make Agent Triple P cringe and look at the top 12, starting with this early effort.

12 Barbara Cameron. November 1955

Although Miss Cameron has a nice face and figure we just can't get over that Brillo pad hair.  Not sexy!  Also, the way the tie hangs so as to obscure her face in the mirror is a mistake.

11 Rusty Fisher. April 1956

More nasty hair in this one and an awkward pose to boot.  The baggy jeans make it look like her bottom half has been pasted on from a picture one and a half times the size.  A very ugly picture.

10 Alice Denham. July 1956

Another most unfortunate picture from 1956.  We can see what they were trying to do here with a pillow fighting picture but the suspicion is that most of the "feathers" have been (badly) added afterwards.  Most don't look like feathers at all and just serve to obscure Miss Denham.  Frankly it looks like a seagull has done a poo on the picture and then walked up and down on it.

9 Heather Ryan. July 1967

Again, Miss Ryan is a nice looking girl with an eye-catching figure but she looks very stiff and uncomfortable here.  Frankly, she looks like some sort of stiff-limbed Frankenstein's monster who has just lurched out of the sea.  We wouldn't be at all surprised to find a couple of bolts in her neck.  The backlighting doesn't help either.

8 Sandra Settani. April 1964

Here we have Miss Settani in the landed tuna pose.  That's not the real problem though; its dull but not offensive as such.  No the problem is her hair.  It has so much lacquer on (presumably to stop it blowing around everywhere in the wind) that it looks like it has been carved out of wet tarmac and plopped on her head.  The sailor hat just draws attention to this terrifying confection as it shows how big her hair is. The forward sweeping horns look strong enough to hang lifebelts on. Every time we see this picture we can imagine touching her hair and our hand just sticking fast to it! 

7 Jean Cannon. October 1961

Thrust between the trunks of two trees much of Miss Cannon is obscured; the foreground trunk cutting across her form in a particularly jarring way.  What is worse is why on earth the photographer chose trees covered with distracting graffitti.

6 Sally Sheffield. May 1969

Sally has what Agent DVD would call a "hard" face and photographing it from this angle does her no favours.  The half closed eyes don't help either.

5 Jessica St George. February 1965

Jessica looks really uncomfortable here and her face is frozen into a nasty rictus that makes her look for all the world like dwarf actor Warwick (Willow) Davis.

4 Jean Moorehead. October 1955

Poor Jean has to cope with really big knickers, a see through petticoat that just draws attention to her solid thighs and a cluttered set.  Very unflattering. Even worse, the previous centrefolds stuck to the door show how good other ones had been.

3 Carol Eden. December 1960

Cursed with a hairdo that must have been old fashioned even in 1960 and photographed from an angle that no woman looks good from this is an insipid and unattractive shot.

2 Jackie Rainbow. October September 1954

This one is so old fashioned it could have come from the thirties.  An unflattering angle, a bad hair style and a ridiculous nineteen twenties pose makes this a horribly contrived and unattractive picture.

1 Clayre Peters. August 1959

So here it is.  In Agent Triple P's opinion, the worst centrefold Playboy has ever produced.  Wearing a quite hideous and nasty coloured negligee which almost looks painted on rather than real, a glassy-eyed Clayre poses uncomfortably inside a door.  She looks exactly like a zombie advancing unsteadily towards the camera.  The idea of a successful centrefold should be that you should want to step into the picture not run for your life.  Nasty!

Our next Playboy themed post is going to look at the evolution of the portrayal of naked women on the cover and their subsequent retreat from that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Most Unfortunate Venuses: 25 bad centrefolds from Playboy - Part one: 25-13

Agent Triple P's friend HMS is a laconic Northener and one of his distinctive phrases, when being presented with something perhaps not of the highest quality or otherwise ill-conceived, is that something is "most unfortunate".  Some time ago we looked at all our favourite Playboy centrefolds month by month; picking a handful as being especially pleasing to Triple P.  We have a screen saver which puts up pictures of Playmate centrefolds of that particular month and occasionally we are taken by a particularly bad one. So this post looks at all the really bad centrefold pictures there have been. The choice is no reflection on the women concerned; just their centrefold pictures.

The American science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon created Sturgeon's Law a few years ago; which is that 95% of anything is crap.  On the whole Playboy centrefolds do not fit this rule although it is arguable that most are a bit dull and that often, given the limitations of the format, better pictures of the girls are often in the main pictorial.  A couple of dozen are, however, for Triple P more than just dull; they are actually just awful and often make an otherwise attractive young woman look terrible.  British TV is full of "list programmes" at this time of the year (Fifty worst celebrity moments of 2011etc.) which give gainful employment to a small group of second rate comedians who only seem to appear on these sort of shows. So this is our particular selection of the most unfortunate 25 centrefold pictures Playboy has produced over the last six decades or so.  As is the case for list TV programmes we will attempt to put them in some sort of order, with the least awful being at number 25 and the worst being at number one.

Number 25: Athena Lundberg, January 2006

Really a demonstration of everything that is wrong with current Playboy photography.  Super bright, over-saturated bubblegum colours, over-photoshopped, plastic-looking body and lighting provided by a searchlight.  It's included here, though, because of the ludicrously over the top and utterly distracting cartoon background.  There is a girl in this picture but it may take you some time to spot her.

Number 24:  Jillian Grace, March 2005

Jillian is a lovely girl with a fine, natural body but they have made her adopt a most uncomfortable and clumsy looking pose here, with her right leg bent and placed to one side.  We never look at the rest of her as we can't take our eyes off that awkwardly placed knee and foot.

Number 23: Sandra Edwards, March 1957

Sandra is an attractive lady but not in red tights, which make her look extremely solid below the waist and completely dominate the picture, despite the attempt to ameliorate this effect by placing other random blobs of red in the frame.  We don't like the heavy flick up eye make-up either.

Number 22: Marianne Gaba, September 1959

The wearing a shirt and nothing else look can be very effective (Penthouse used the clothed top and unclothed bottom half extensively in the mid sixties, for example) but this is an ungainly pose which doesn't even show off Miss Gaba's impressive posterior to best effect.

Number 21: Gwen Wong, April 1967

Gwen is a spectacularly pretty girl and her outfit is cute as well but we just can't get past that hair!  It just completely dominates her rather delicate features and is just plain silly, even for the sixties. We suspect that underneath that huge pile of hair she is really a Martain from Mars Attacks!

Number 20: Stella Stevens, January 1960

There is nothing particularly wrong with this shot of actress Stella Stevens; it's just dull.  However, January 1960 is our birth month and we really wanted a better centrefold than this.  She just sort of lies there as an inert object, like a tuna on a fishmonger's slab.

Number 19: Lorrie Menconi, February 1969

It's easy to spot the two reasons Lorrie was chosen as a Playmate but Triple P can't take his eyes off her strange bendy mouth smile.  Unlike one of the other shots in her pictorial where her smile looks genuine this looks terribly forced; not surprising after days of posing, probably, but it puts Triple P off completely.

Number 18: Zahra Nobo, March 1958

In Playboy's pre-pubic days the need to hide their models' groins was a constant source of difficulty.  However, there were considerably more elegant solutions than standing her behind a post and then having to get her to bend sideways so we could still see her face.  This pose also makes it look like she has no waist either. The hand to the face makes it look as if she has bad toothache too.

Number 17: Felicia Atkins, April 1958

More terrible eye make-up makes poor Felicia look positively demonic.  Unusually for a Playboy centrefold she is not looking at the camera which just makes her appear to be in some mad reverie of her own. Triple P finds this image very disturbing!

Number 16: Linda Moon, October 1966

Linda is a big girl in every way but this low-angle shot on her face, a very unflattering haircut and the pose make her look like an East German shot putter.  Elegant it is not.

Number 15: Nadine Chanz, October 1996

Another very awkward pose for Nadine whose dropped right shoulder and tilted head makes it look as if her face has been badly photoshopped onto her admittedly impressive body.  She looks very uncomfortable in every way.

Number 14: Mercy Rooney, December 1972

So, lovely all the way down to her hips and then...GOAT!  Who could possibly have thought that this was an attractive outfit!   Bizarre and offputting!

Number 13: Gay Collier, July 1967

So Gay might have been able to just get away with this cheesy pose and unattractive smirk but any chance of redeeming the picture is ruined by that ridiculous flower which makes her look like the centrefold of Playclown.  They even titled her pictorial clown princess even though there was nothing about clowns in the piece, just her wanting to be a ballerina, but presumably even the copwriter was overcome by this most bizarre of all Playboy centrefolds.

Next time we will look at the most loathsome dozen centrefolds and announce our all time worst.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Happy Christmas... all our readers!   We very much appreciate all our followers and those who take time to comment on our illustrated ramblings!   We will be back with more lovely Venuses after Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Venus as mistress: Early Morning by Sir William Orpen

Early Morning (1922)

This is an affectionate portrait of Yvonne Aubicque, the mistress of its painter, Irish artist Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), who has several fascinating stories connected to her which we will examine in this post.  Called, Early Morning it is a wonderful evocation of the pleasures of a mistress, as she sits surrounded by domestic detrius that indicates no great desire to leave her bed anytime soon.

William Orpen

William Orpen was born in Dublin and attended the Metropolitan School of Art there to which he was admitted at the age of eleven, such was his natural skill. At the age of seventeen he moved to London to attend the  Slade School of Art.   Catching the attention of John Singer Sargent he rapidly became one of the country's top portrait painters.  Although he married and had three children he had a string of mistresses, many of whom modelled for him, despite constant worries about his unattractiveness (caused, it is said, by overhearing his parents asking themselves why he was so ugly and their other children so attractive!).  We will look at some of his other fine nudes another time but now we just want to concentrate on one of his model/mistresses, Yvonne Aubicque.

The Spy/The Refugee I (1918)

In 1916 Orpen was appointed as an official war artist and carried on in this role after the war where he was was the offical painter of the Versailles treaty signing.  While in France he fell head over heels for Yvonne Aubicque, the daughter of the Mayor of Lille.  He painted two portraits of her during the war but when he sent the paintings back to Britain he found himself in hot water, as official war artists were only supposed to paint pictures of military subjects. 

The Spy/The Refugee II (1917)

Even worse, he had called his pictures of her "The Spy" and claimed she was a German spy who had been executed by the French, no doubt in order to give it an acceptable "military" provenance.  However, the subject of female spies was sensitive at this period as English nurse Edith Cavell had been shot by the Germans for helping allied soldiers to escape and Mata Hari had also just been executed.  Orpen found himself facing a court martial and had to confess that the paintings were of his mistress. One of Orpen's friends was Lord Beaverbrook who was instrumental in preventing the court martial, although Orpen was severely reprimanded and only just hung on to his official war artist role.  Orpen changed the name of the pictures to The Refugee and, like his war paintings, they now belong to the Imperial War Museum in London.

The Beaverbrooke copy on the Antiques Roadshow

There is an interesting coda to this story.  Last year a man brought a picture along to the filming of the BBC show Antiques Roadshow, where members of the public bring along items and a panel of experts tell them about them.  It was a copy of Orpen's The Refugee I.  The owner had taken it to the Imperial War Musem who had said it was just a standard copy. He was not convinced, however, and was puzzled by the high quality of the picture and the fact it was signed Nepro Mailliw (William Orpen written backwards).  He discovered that in 1920 Orpen had gone back to France and painted another version of the painting for Lord Beaverbrook as a thank you for helping him escape a court martial.  The expert on the show confirmed that the picture was indeed a copy but was made by Orpen himself and was the long lost Beaverbrook version.  Much to the owner's shock, he valued it at £250,000.

Yvonne Aubicque in 1918

What happened to the lovely Yvonne?  She remained as Orpen's mistress for more than ten years; although he usually ran more than one simultaneously.  When in France, after the war, he had bought a black Rolls-Royce and hired a sixteen year old called William Grover as his chauffeur.  Grover was the son of an English father and a French mother but had been born in France. He immediately took a fancy to Yvonne and she him.  You might expect all sorts of problems to follow but when Yvonne stopped being Orpen's mistress he gave her his Rolls-Royce and a large house in Paris.  Grover and Yvonne married in 1929.  Grover had always been keen on cars and motorcycles and started to race motorcycles at the age of fifteen.  Worried about what his father might think he used the pseudonym W Williams when he started to race. By 1926 he had graduated to car racing.  In 1928 he won the French Grand Prix and in 1929, in a British Racing Green Bugatti, he won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix.  Now known as Grover-Williams he retired from racing to concentrate on business, including working for Bugatti and running a kennel where Yvonne bred Highland Terriers which she successfully showed at Crufts dog show, eventually becoming a judge there. They were a wealthy couple and, apparently, good dancers, winning several competitions.

Grover Williams leading the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix

With the German invasion of France Grover-Williams fled to Britain where, because of his fluency in both French and English, he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive where he was trained at their wartime base, the home of Lord Montague, Beaulieu in Hampshire, now, ironically, the site of the National Motor Museum.  Grover-Williams was dropped into France, with no contacts or support on the ground, and was instructed to set up a new resistance network in Paris, as the previous one had been compromised. Yvonne moved back to Paris as well although she lived in their house in Rue Weber while he lived in a seperate apartment.  He recruited two former fellow racing drivers and they began sabotage work, principally at the Citroen factory.  In August 1943 Grover-Williams was captured by the Germans as their network had been compromised and it was believed that he was interrogated by the Gestapo and shot almost immediately.

However, in the 1990's a different story emerged.  It looked as if Grover-Williams survived and was taken to a prison camp in Poland.  It then appears that he joined MI6 after the war.  Even more strangely, in 1948 a man called George Tambal turned up at Yvonne's house in Evreux and moved in with her. She introduced him as her cousin but the locals thought they acted more like lovers.  He claimed to have arrived from America via Uganda, bringing animals for the depleted zoos of Europe. Grover-Williams, it should be noted, had family in America and a sister in Uganda. Also, amazingly, Tambal's date of birth was exactly the same as Grover-Willams. Tambal was very knowlegeable about motor cars and bore the scars of a beating around the head. 

No-one has ever proved it conclusively but it looks like Grover-Williams survived the war, joined MI6 (MI6 have admitted they know what happened to Grover-Willams but they won't say what) and then rejoined his wife in Evreux.  She died in 1973 and Tambal/Grover-Williams was killed in 1983, at the age of eighty, having been knocked off his bicycle by a car driven by a German tourist.

Elements of this remarkable story were used by Robert Ryan in his novel Early One Morning in which a fictionalised version of Yvonne Aubique appears as Eve Aubique.

Sir William Orpen died in Kensington 1931, possibly from complications arising from syphillis, and at the time was probably the most famous artist in Britain.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Flexible Venus 2: Kristine Winder

We have had quite a few messages of appreciation regarding our ballet dancer post so, encouraged by S in Vancouver, we will be putting more of these ladies up over the next few weeks.

In fact we had a Skype video call from S only two nights ago where she had put on a blue leotard and legwarmers and gave us an impressive stretch routine across cyberspace. She had drunk nearly a bottle of Quail's Gate Dry Reisling earlier so was particularly flexible.  Most diverting!

So what more appropriate subject for our next dancer than the lovely Kristine Winder from Vancouver who appeared as Playboy's Playmate of the Month in October 1977.

Her original pictorial contained four ballet pictures but we have tracked down some more including some different shots which appeared in French Playboy.

Kristine had spent seventeen years doing up to five hours dance training a day but given the then lack of artistic opportunity in the British Columbia city (it's still a bit light on classical arts compared with Toronto and Montreal - the Vancouver Art Gallery collection is pitiful, for example) she ended up as a receptionist.

She still looked nicely limber when she posed, at the age of 21, for the magazine. It's not possible to find out who took these dance photos as her pictorial had no less than four photographers: Mario Casilli (centrefold), Arny Freytag, Ken Honey and Ken Marcus.

The whole sequence is really a paean to the erotic charge of legwarmers, which work visually for exactly the same reason as stockings do but have the extra tactile quality of ribbed wool.

At 5'6" Kristine would have been rather tall for a ballerina and her 34-24-34 figure would have been rather curvier than the norm but Triple P thinks she had perfect proportions and looks superb in these pictures.

Legwarmers can have a truncating effect on the limbs but Kristine had such long legs that she still manages to look elegant in hers.

Usually Playboy used their Playmates' real names but Kristine Winder is a pseudonym as she didn't want her father to find out she had posed for the magazine. Unfortunately he did, as a number of crank, heavy breathing calls were made to people called Winder in Vancouver, trying to seek her out, and the press got hold of the story.

Sadly, Playboy reported in this year's June edition that Kristine had died earlier this year at the comparatively young age of 57.  We are happy to celebrate her loveliness and dance-schooled elegance here.