Monday, 23 November 2009

Venus Revealed - The Pubic Wars 3; 1971 Part 1

January 1971. The Wars begin in earnest

The end of 1970 saw Playboy magazine being drawn into a battle with the newly arrived upstart from London, Penthouse. The war between them focussed, largely, on the extent to which they could show their models' pubic hair, something that had not really been possible during the sixties. However, in 1970 both Penthouse and then Playboy had decided to challenge what was acceptable on the newsstands of America.
In the next two episodes of the Pubic Wars we examine in detail the first full Pubic War year, 1971.

December 1970 had seen Playboy making a very positive move on the pubic front with their photographs of actress Paula Pritchett but she was not, of course, a Playmate. Over in London Guccione had put together a January issue that would continue to push at the envelope a little more.

Viva Helziger from January 1971

In the past, Penthouse (and Playboy) photographers had often concealed the Pet's charms behind strategically placed bunches of flowers or other foliage. January's Penthouse Pet, Swiss watch technician (really!) Viva Helziger, finds that her typically out of focus foreground Alpine wild flowers don't quite do the job!

The Swiss miss was even bolder in this shot, especially as this, like the flowery one, was a full page picture, at a time when most of the pubic pictures in both magazines were still quite small.

Most of the pubic photos shown in the magazine so far had been smaller ones, such as the candid one in Viva's pictorial shown above. It was almost as if the editors though that legal challenges might come based on area and that small pictures would be easier to sneak in. In fact, Viva's three pubic shots in one pictorial equalled Stephanie McLean's total from her taboo busting shoot from April the previous year. intervening Pets who had shown their fluff (and by no means did they all) only had one pubic picture per pictorial until his date.  Guccione must have felt that he had a lead over Playboy at the beginning of 1971 and Viva's pictorial was well at the cutting edge of what was being shown.

In addition, that month, Penthouse included an article on the Californian Miss Nude Cosomos pageant (which incidentally confirmed that pictures of naked girls and sexy pictures of naked girls are quite different things). Although Penthouse Pet pictorials had more pages than their Playboy equivalents, at this point, the London-based magazine was limiting itself to two pictorials whereas Playboy usually had three.

Hefner was not to be outdone, however, and Guccione must have had a shock when he opened his rival's January edition. Like Penthouse, Playboy had gone for a European girl (there was a sense, perhaps, in America at the time, that European girls were just naughtier!), in this case Norway's Liv Lindeland.

Carrie Enwright, from July 1963, is undone

The first picture in her pictorial showed a much used Playboy pose: the girl with her trousers undone. Playboy had been using this rather curious pose for years to show, perhaps, that the girls weren't wearing any knickers or to show as much as groin as possible without showing anything else. Either that or the wardrobe department was underestimating the hip measurements of their models and they just couldn't get them done up! These shots only worked because most of the models of this time shaved themselves.

Liv's image was similar but eagle-eyed viewers might have caught the top of Liv's blonde bush in the back lit picture. If not they would certainly have gone back and checked it again once they saw Liv's centrefold.

Liv catches the light

Guccione must have had a shock when he saw the Playboy centrefold: a big bold image, covering, as it did, the equivalent of three pages. In a brilliantly composed photograph by Alexas Urba a ray of light catches Liv's blonde bush; effectively making a few tufts the visual centre of the photograph, depite the distractions of her awesome bust. Urba later claimed that this was an accident and he hadn't noticed the highlighted wisps until he developed the film. Hefner and Urba pored over the picture wondering what to do. The main concern was what the advertisers might think. Urba thought that perhaps he could take the highlights off the offending wisps and right up until the time that the picture was due off to the printers there were two versions of the centrefold ready to go. Much to Urba's surprise Hefner gave the go-ahead for the original version to be published as the centrefold. The Playmate was going pubic! Interestingly Urba, the photographer of this iconic image, later left Playboy objecting to the magazine's increasing explicitness in its war with Penthouse. After nearly twenty years of showing photographs of naked women Playboy had actually shown a naked woman! If Hefner was expecting a big fuss then he was disappointed. Reaction to what all at Playboy saw as a bold departure was almost non-existent.

Playboy had always feigned indifference to Penthouse's arrival in the US but Hefner was starting to get concerned. He started to count the number of pubic pictures in Penthouse every month. Guccione was delighted with Playboy's decision to follow him down the bushy path as he now felt that Playboy worried enough about him to start chasing him. Guccione felt that he had taken the lead in the battle. Vince Tajiri, Playboy's photo editor, agreed and felt that Playboy shouldn't be pursuing this upstart. But Penthouse was now an upstart with a circulation of over 1,500,000 a month and still climbing. Playboy's market share was larger but static.

Linda Forsythe (February 1970) in her Playmate review picture from January 1971

It wasn't just Liv either. Having made the decision, Playboy really went for it. Further on in the issue Playboy had it's usual January review of the previous 12 months worth of Playmates. No less than five out of the twelve were showing some strands of what they couldn't show in their original pictorials.

In particular, the photograph of July 1970 Playmate Carol Willis (above) was not only the most full frontal seen in Playboy to date it was more explicit than anything seen in Penthouse so far either. Sadly, part Cherokee, Carol was killed in a car accident later that year.

Carol Imhof shows a touch of fluff

Hefner was questioned on this ground breaking move for Playboy and responded that "it's time that society grew up and recognised that pubic hair exists." He sent a staff memo which said "Remember, pubic hair is no longer a taboo at Playboy-as long as it is handled in good taste."

Interestingly, when Penthouse had shown Stephanie McLean's pubic hair the previous year they had published a number of letters from readers applauding the move.

“Heartfelt congratulations...on giving us Stephanie. A delectable creature, who is not afraid to let us know that she is a real woman, complete with pubic hair. Surely no sane person could take offence at such natural beauty?”

“Thank you Stephanie for being the second Pet (after Ada Grootenboer in the UK -she wasn’t a Pet in the US edition) with enough courage to show us your pubic hair. I sincerely hope other Pets will be as “daring”."

Although there was also a letter saying that such things should be left to the imagination and it was all too much. What next, the reader wondered: the depiction of labia? Surely not?

In Playboy, however, which regularly printed letters from readers appreciating the Playmates charms, there was no direct mention of crossing this milestone at all.  Were they embarrassed by it or did they just not want to make a fuss and draw attention to it?

Fran Jeffries

No doubt readers were eagerly awaiting what Playboy would come up with in February and the magazine's first pictorial featured singer Fran Jeffries (much appreciated by Triple P for her turn in The Pink Panther) in an enticingly see through dress.

Willi: first  full frontal Playmate

Although Playmate Willi Rey presented the first full frontal photograph (Liv's photograph had been shot from the side) in a Playmate pictorial she coyly kept her arm between her groin and the camera for the centrefold.

Not just fluff but ethnic fluff!

There was also quite a bit of fluff on view in a pictorial about ethnic jewellery so Playboy were demostrating quite clearly that January had not been a one-off (although there were those working for the magazine who wished it had been and hoped they could put the genie back in the box).

Penthouse, meanwhile, who only had the one (albeit effective) picture of their Pet, Cassandra Harrington, sans knickers ran a poor second to Playboy again.

Cassandra Harrington stretches for Penthouse

The Sexploiters

February's also Penthouse ran an article called The Sexploiters about the exploitation film genre.  This gave  Penthouse an excuse to print a page of (admittedly small) pictures depicting threesomes, orgies in the bath, lesbian clinches, fetish and several pubic shots.

March's Playmate kept her nether regions covered and it was left to a couple of models in a feature on the Girls of Holland (one of whom, ironically, was Dutch model Maureen Renzen who would become the Penthouse Pet of the Month in September), particularly the magnificently bushy Marian de Vree, to fly the furry flag.

Marian de Vree: Bushy in the grass

Cherie Latimer displayed

In addition, a piece on actress Cherie Latimer (who was due to apear in a film called Alex in Wonderland, starring Donald Sutherland, only to find her part cut) also had this fine, rather classical, study.

A racy cover for the time

Lottie Gunthart, over at Penthouse, posed for a record four pubic pictures (although she kept herself covered for the centrefold) in March but Penthouse had an advantage in that their Pet sets usually featured over a dozen colour pictures plus the centrefold. Playboy was restricting itself to the centrefold plus three or four more colour photographs, only one of which would be full page. Most of the Playboy pictures were black and white pictures showing the girls going about their girl-next-door type lives.

Lottie Gunthart for Penthouse in March 1971. This typical natural light shot is in stark contrast to what Guccione felt were the over-produced efforts of the Playboy team.

Their second pictorial featured Pet of the Year, Kelly McQueen, but she didn't show her fluff, however, having been photographed in pre-pubic days.

The April Playmate kept herself covered and so did starlet Lana Wood but this didn't mean that Playboy had gone back to being a fur free zone.

Margaret Markov: the sole example for April

A pictorial on French film director Roger Vadim and his actresses gave us this defiantly fluffy full page picture of Yugoslavian starlet Margaret Markov. Still, only the one picture that month.

In Penthouse, the April 1971 Pet of the month was the rather posh British girl Jacqui Simmons-Jude, whose pictorial contained a lot of pictures of her horse riding (fully dressed).

April 1971's Jacqui: feeling floral

Three fluff shots (on a rather alarming burnt orange carpet) and then her centrefold shot saw her posed with some daffodils. Now, as we have seen, Guccione had often used flowers to cover his models' groin but a few daffodil stalks aren't really going to work. Possibly he was being ironic. Jacqui is showing a lot more than Liv Lindeland did and the choice of the centrefold as her only fully nude shot must have been quite deliberate. We can probably give her the prize, therefore, for the first really full frontal centrefold (stems not withstanding). Another victory to Penthouse in the Pubic Wars.

Groovy on Ibiza

Also in that issue was an article about the newly hip and grrovy Island of Ibiza. Four random and anonymous lovelies let the Mediterranean sun get to their bushes.

May's Playmate, Janice Pennington, was, again, not showing her fur. This was rather ironic, given that when her sister, Ann, became a Playmate in March 1976 it would be in a pictorial that constituted Playboy's last big salvo in the Pubic Wars.

Sarah Kennedy catches the light

However there was fluff on display in a pictorial about actress Sarah Kennedy and her new film, The Telephone Book.

Candace Bajada May 1971

At the Playboy Mansion in Chicago Hefner had started to get annoyed. "Why can't we take photos like this?" he had demanded of his team, holding up a copy of Penthouse. No-one dared say that as Hefner selected the Playmates and Hefner chose the pictures to go into the pictorials then of course, therefore, the look of the photos was down to Hefner alone. But by the May edition, Playboy seemed to be responding. In a pictorial on the Bunnies of New York Candace Bajada is presented in a very Penthouse like picture: natural light, gauzy curtains and even a Guccione-type signature flower.

May's Penthouse not only saw a very racy cover featuring a girl in a very see through shirt but Pet of the Month, French Canadian Billie Rainbird had no less than a record five pubic pictures in her pictorial.

Billie: not a natural blonde!

Unlike previous Penthouse photographs there was no soft focus or diffused lighting; just Billie in bright light on the beach showing her engagingly fluffy bush.

Given Billie's full on assault in May it was somewhet surprising to find that June's Pet, Josee Troyat, kept covered. in fact she was the first Pet for six months not to flash wheras Playboy had only had two Playmates display themselves in the first half of 1971. The June issue of Penthouse, in fact had no pubic shots at all. Playboy had managed at least one for all six months.

June Playmate, Leiko English, had flashed her fur in the Bunny feature the previous year but didn't, oddly, as a Playmate.

Sharon Clarke: First pubic Playmate of the Year

Bullet-nippled Sharon Clarke, however, became the first Playmate of the Year to show everything in the June issue of Playboy.

Probably the most significant pubic development in the first half of 1971 was the appearance, in the June edition of Playboy, of the first pubic Vargas girl. The venerable pin-up artist had been producing pin ups, accompanied by excruciating little bon mots, for years. We have to say that his floss rendering was excellent!

So, if we copy an anxious Hugh Hefner, sitting on his round bed in the Playboy mansion in Chicago counting his competitors pubic shots,and do a pubic picture count for the first six months of 1971 we get this.

Centrefolds 1
Other pubic pictures of the Playmates 1
Other pubic pictures 20

Centrefolds 1
Other pubic pictures of Pets 16
Other pubic pictures 11

So Penthouse win by 28 to 22 but it isn't a convincing win by any means. Many of the Playboy pictures had been large ones of Playmates or models. Many of the Penthouse shots were small reportage ones from film sets and the like. Penthouse were handicaped by only having the two pictorials per issue to Playboy's three. The war would continue into the second half of the year.

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