We'll start the last quarter of the year with Oui for a change. Launched as a Playboy-owned challenger to Penthouse with a remit to be rather naughtier and using a lot of its French parent Lui's European pictorial content, it had been fulfilling that mandate rather well with a much more sex-focussed written content and more explicit photos than Playboy. Unfortunately, it was Playboy's not Penthouse's readership it was poaching. Worse still, even though it was now being bought by one of the most attractive advertising audiences in the country it had lost $2,278,000 in 1975.
Most of the entries, of which around ten were featured in the magazine, were fairly conventional nude full-length portraits although you would occasionally fine one, like this young lady from the October 1976 issue who, perhaps, tried a bit too hard. Despite her all too apparent charms she didn't win that month so may have been rather embarrased to have posed in such an explicit way (or maybe not!) as all the other ladies were rather more modest.
Meanwhile, over at Playboy what was really exercising the staff on the magazine was the arrival of new President and CEO for Playboy Enterprises Incorporated, Derick Daniels who would go through the House of Bunny like an outbreak of myxomatosis. He had been executive editor of the Detroit Free Press when it had won a Pullitzer prize in 1967 and had gone on to a top management career in Knight-Ridder newspapers. Staff expecting a sober looking businessman were in for a shock, however, when he a showed a predeliction for dressing in jodhpurs, flying suits, red cowboy boots and gold lame jumpsuits. Victor Lownes, over from the UK, had been doing a pretty good job trimming the excesses of the company in Chicago and was not too pleased to see Daniels, who he had hated on sight, get the top job. Daniels, during the last months of 1976, however, found that despite Lownes cuts (he had, for example, got rid of a whole department whose job was just to track the present location of anyone who had once been a Playboy Bunny) the organisation was still losing huge amounts of money and its accounting systems were inefficient and out of date. Heads would have to roll!
Melanie Griffith October 1976
In the magazine, Playboy continued to champion proper writing and the October issue featured a preview of what would become Alex Haley's blockbuster, Roots. Coverage of up and coming young starlets remained a favourite, with this issue featuring a softly gorgeous nineteen year old Melanie Griffith.
Bunny Christy Ann
October's Playmate was rather more modest in her poses than some earlier months that year but, as was often the case, the annual look at Playboy Bunnies had some rather more explicit pictures such as Christy Ann Brumfield form the Phoenix club, above.
Bunny Linda Haycox
In fact, spread legs poses were actually becoming more common in Playboy, despite their promises to advertisers at the end of 1975, but clever lighting (usually) made sure that their pictures remained tasteful enough for the advertisers.
October's Penthouse would be another taboo breaking issue for Bob Guccione. The first pictorial in the magazine, photographed by Donald Milne, who would shoot for Penthouse well into the nineties, was of a rare ethnic-looking lady going under the name of Joni Flynne. Joni had a splendid pair of legs and wonderful long dark hair.
Joni feels herself up
Carrying on with their trend that a naked lady would look sexier if she appeared to be playing with herself, Joni had no less than five pussy toucking shots inlcuding this, for the time, extreme one where her finger is actually between her labia in a first of its kind photograph for the magazine.
Suzanne feels herself up too
Then, rather like London buses .where you wait ages for one and then two come along at once, we get this picture of Pet of the Month Suzanne Saxon doing exactly the same thing. Was it a coincidence that we had two such similar shots or was there an editorial decision that October 1976 was going to be "finger in the bits from the rear" month? It seems odd, given that they had never published a picture like this before to have two in one issue.
Suzanne sticks it in
It starts to beg the question, as well, as when does a picture of faux masturbation become one of real masturbation? For in one of her other pictures in this pictorial, photographed by Stan Malinowski (then dropping the "Stan" and going under the rather more pretentious Malinowski), Suzanne actually has the tip of her finger in her vagina. This was a first for Penthouse and indeed they didn't repeat this for nearly three years when non-Pet of the Month Jeannie Butler in April 1979, popped the tip of her finger in as well.
Born in Illinois, Suzanne Swanson moved to Houston as an eighteen year old and worked as a cocktail waitress. By the time she came to the attention of Penthouse she was a nineteen year old who had followed her musician boyfriend to Los Angeles.
Suzanne Saxon (left) with Bob Guccione directing the Imperial Bordello scene in Caligula January 1977
In January 1977 Bob Guccione selected a bunch of Pets and took them to Rome to appear in the extra sexier footage he shot behind director Tinto Brass' back for Caligula.
Three pets and an actress in Caligua: Juliet Morris (January 1975 -second from left) Carolyn Patsis (November 1976 -second from right) and Suzanne Saxon (October 1976 -far right)
Suzanne featured briefly in several scenes in the orgy scene in the Imperial Bordello and in one scene is shown enthusiatically snogging her successor as Pet of the Month, Carolyn Patsis
Miss October 1976 snogs Miss November 1976
Suzanne carried on modelling for while, lived in Japan for a time and appeared in some film and TV, also appearing on the cover of the Average White Band's album Warmer Communications.
She gave up nude modelling at the end of the seventies married her second husband and moved to Arkansas where she died in 2006 at the tragically early age of 49; the first Penthouse Pet known to have died.
October's Penthouse also featured a fantasy (aren't they all) girl/girl pictorial called The Spider and the Fly. In this Earl Miller shoot, two ladies, Lauren Hart and Tina Jordan (in fact one is really Christine Burke who would appear in many men's magazines at the time including on the cover of Oui in January 1977), do things to each other which no two girls had done to each other in Penthouse before.
Serious rug munching as Christine Burke attacks her companion
Bottom licking, tribadism and Penthouse's most full on cunnilingus shot so far blast all previous girl on girl sets out of the water.
Not only does one girl clearly display her anus but in the next shot Christine actually puts her finger on it.
With this pictorial Penthouse really drew away from the types of girl/girl shoots that had been appearing in the likes of Oui and Gallery. It was so strong that the UK edition of the magazine never printed it.
Hustler had four models appearing in its October edition, the first went under the name of Toni who was an attractive Oui style of girl photographed in the sort of bright sunlight Oui and its French progenitor Lui tended to use.
Hustler had her with her legs spread, flashing her arsehole and with pink and damp looking labia.
Their second girl, as they trumpeted on their cover, was a girl who had previously appeared in Penthouse in January 1976 under the name Baby Breese. In that issue sthe girl (real name Lindsay Freeman) had posed in a vest with "12" provocatively written on it, although she was, in fact, twenty two years old at the time but looked much younger.
For Men Only, was originally a men's adventure magazine which were, by the sixties and early seventies, the last surviving pulp magazines. Featuring rousing stories (mostly supposedly based on real events) the two fisted heroes of these magazines spent most of their time rescuing damsels in distress, escaping headhunters, defeating the Japanese or fighting off wild animals. By the mid-seventies, with the Vietnam War making these sorts of heroes less popular some of these publications switched to become girlie magazines, including also Swank, Male and Stag magazines.
Freeman's pictorial in Hustler moves on from the glimpses of her labia seen in Penthouse in January to feature that new battleground in the Pubic Wars: the anus.
Freeman's arsehole flaunting shots are far more extreme than anything seen in Penthouse to that date and, unlike Penthouse when it would push at the boundaries in its pictorials but not mention it, Hustler quite happily drew attention to her anus flashing in the accompanying text.
Lindsay Freeman in Fairy Tales (1978)
Freeman went on to make a number of erotic films, the first being Young Lady Chatterley (1977) where she appeared as "light duty maid". In her second film Fairy Tales (1977) she appeared as Jill (as in Jack and Jill) in a remarkably unfunny parody of some traditional fairy tales.
The other two models in Hustler's November issue Leslie (above) and Cookie (below) both flashed pink and moist looking pussies.
It was now not sufficient for the girls to just flash their labia now, given how ubiquitous they had become in mens' magazines in a comparatively short time. With Larry Flynt just concentrating on this bit of the anatomy the next stage was to show their genitals looking aroused. This was something Playboy never did but Penthouse, which arguab y had started to do this with Colleen Carney in July this year, would gradually go down this route over the next eighteen months or so.
Cover girl and Playmate of the Month for November was a fresh faced young lady who had actually appeared in the magazine the previous month as one of the Bunnies of 1976. Pompeo Posar's pictorial on her was one of the racier ones of the mid seventies; with no knicker tugging here as Pattie preffered to let her fingers do the walking ina very explicit faux masturbation shot for Playboy.
Finger of fun for Patti
Patti McGuire hailed from St Louis, Missouri and worked as a Bunny in the St Louis Club before being chosen as Playmate. With her lovely bust, great behind and sweet but sensual face Patti was one of the great Playmates of the seventies.
Happy to show everything on the bed for Pompeo
She would go on to become Playmate of the Year the following year and would attract the attention of tennis player Jimmy Connors.
The last month of 1976 would highlight a number of themes that would develop in mens' magazine the following year.
After a pretty racy Playmate pictorial in November Playboy dialled back on the labia in December for Karen Hafter.
That doesn't mean that Ms Hafter went back to a 1971 style girl-next-door peek-a-boo coyness, however, as she sprawls across two pages, an ecstatic look on her face and her hand between her legs.
Oui's centrefold for December was also tickling her fancy across two pages, although, as you would expect, to rather more (but only slightly) graphic effect than Playboy. What was quite clear however, by the end of 1976, was that not only was this the year of the pussy it was the year of the self stimulated pussy. In a few short years the definition of daring had gone from flashing a hint of pubic hair to clearly revealing the clitoral hood, then the labia, then the open labia. Now this wasn't enough either. The lady in question had to be apparently demonstrating her sexuality by pretending to (or even actually in Penthouse's case) play with herself. Part of the reason for this was that nudity just wasn't that naughty anymore. It was on stage, in the cinema and even in the fields of Woodstock. A girl posing in Playboy demonstrating that under her clothes she had a body wasn't a big deal any more. For magazines that had relied on pure nudity initially they had to set themselves apart. Penthouse went the more explicit route. Playboy, as we have seen started to back track but not, as we have also seen, back to where they were in 1972. In the meantime, magazines like Hustler had come along without any pretensions as to being for "gentlemen" and including significant literary or reportage content.
Pussy tickling by Ava Cadell in Oui
The other significant development over the course of the year was the prevalence and explicitness of couples pictorials. In many ways this was a return to the erotica of previous centuries which was largely concerned with depicting couples (whether boy/girl or girl/girl) rather than individual women. Indeed, it could be argued that the depiction of women alone as subjects for erotica can be largely traced to the beginning of photography in France (where else?) in the mid-nineteenth century.
December's Penthouse contained a good example of this in a pictorial called "The Housebreakers" which culminated in this picture of the young lady grasping her partner's testicles in an act of simulated coitus. Up until this point the girls in these pictorials were hardly ever pictured with their hands on the man's equipment in this way. It was another barrier broken for Penthouse.
December's Pet of the Month was rather less explicit than most of those who had gone before in the second half of 1976. The only interesting thing to note was that, for the first time the UK and US went for slightly different centrefold shots.
Adrian King in the UK centrefold
Adrian in the US centrefold
Melanie looks swell
So, at this point, the battle for explicitness was now being waged between Hustler and Penthouse. As the cover of Hustler proudly proclaimed they now had over three million "readers" which took them up with the big boys of Playboy and Penthouse.