Friday, 25 June 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.

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