Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Venus Revealed: The Pubic Wars 6 -1974 Part 1

1974 saw Playboy's 20th Anniversary and the magazine interviewed Hefner about Playboy and his philosophy. Incredibly, this interview took writer Larry DuBois six months to complete! Inevitably, they came to the question of Playboy's imitators and of them all Penthouse was singled out for special attention.

Hefner dismisses his imitators

Penthouse, Hefner observed (having dismissed Playboy's other imitators like Gallery, Cavalier and Genesis) "was going to be called Playgirl until lawyers warned its publisher, Bob Guccione of the danger of trademark infringement... So he settled on Penthouse, a name closely associated with Playboy- our first TV series was called Playboy's Penthouse...but not close enough to be actionable." Hefner continued: "The primary feature in each issue of Penthouse is a pictorial rip-off of our own Playmate of the Month, imaginatively titled "Pet of the Month." Hefner celebrated Playboy's 20th Anniversary with the pneumatic but chastely posed Nancy Cameron. The only radical thing about her centrefold was that it was double sided and also showed her from the back.

Nancy's front

Nancy's back

In the annual Playmate Review feature there was a lot of fluff on view, especially in the picture of June 1973's Playmate of the Month, Ruthy Ross.

Ruthy Ross gives it some fur

Ruthy was displayed in a fluff on fluff situation on what looks like one of those nylon faux fur rugs which were so popular in the mid-seventies. Agent Triple P remembers having a rug just like this on the orange (!) carpet in his bedroom and, indeed, we had several young ladies pose on it in similar fashion in the late seventies and early eighties!

Claudia Arena on January's Penthouse cover

Penthouse's particular Pet for the January 1974 edition appeared on the cover in a very bold nipple flashing cover.

Inside, it wasn't just her nipples she was flashing as the young lady in question, one Claudia Arena, posed in two pictures, including her centrefold, caressing her black bush.   This was Penthouse's naughtiest centrefold to date and, incidentally, Claudia, who was, like Bob Guccione, a Sicilian American, also displayed possibly the hairiest arm seen in the magazine so far!

Claudia enjoys her bush

The UK edition included both photographs but eliminated the hint of labia in the top one.  The photographer was John Slack in his only Penthouse pictorial.  That was because he was the one who had discovered Claudia at a lingerie fashion show in a motel in Orlando, Florida.  So he was one of those few photographers who got their work published in the magazine because of their relationship with the model.

Claudia grumps to the press in January 1974

Claudia, however, wasn't too impressed with the text that the Penthouse writers attributed to her.  She subsequently told the press that the magazine's story "made me sound like  a sex-starved country girl going around humming hillbilly songs."  She went on saying "The only thing they got right was my name and statistics" (35-22-35). She also declared that she wouldn't be posing nude anymore as "I don't want to be another Linda Lovelace."  Oh dear!

The second model pictorial (the third pictorial featured vegetables photographed in a supposedly erotic way) in the January issue featured German born model Paula Kite photographed by Ken Marcus. Marcus made the most of her bust with this nice nine picture full page sequence which harks back to the Penthouse breast caressing of the sixties.

It wasn't all just about her tits, however. With this full page photograph Marcus presented the most explicit labia picture so far in the magazine. No concealing shadow here for Paula's pussy. This photo, not surprisingly, was left out of the UK edition.

Karen Christy for February 1974

Hefner may have ranted on about Penthouse copying him, but his February cover looked awfully like a cover from Guccione's magazine; right down to the flowers. He even went in for some bold nipple flashing as well, from Miss December 1971 and former girlfriend, Karen Christy.

Inside, the Penthouse style continued with this photograph of the Playmate of the Month, Francine Parks, who was photographed in soft-focus. Her inviting pose would have been unthinkable for Playboy a few years before.

Oui's February cover featured November 1969 Playmate of the Month and 1970 Playmate of the Year Claudia Jennings on the cover.  Claudia's brazenly displayed nipple was pretty bold for Oui, or indeed any other men's magazine in America at the time.  Tragically, Claudia would be killed in a car accident in California just a few months short of her thirtieth birthday in 1979.

Inside, centrefold girl Violente gave us a rather nice rear-end shot.

A piece on strippers in Hamburg's Reeperbahn gave us this combination of fetish clothing and implied lesbianism in a foretaste of things to come.

February's Penthouse Pet and cover girl, Beatrice Vogler was presented in a less explicit but, perhaps, more sensual centrefold than January's. Her hand between her legs, a trail of golden hairs between her bottom cheeks leads the eye to her barely concealed anus.

Beatrice Vogler gives it some tail

Beatrice's pictorial was rather modest, on the labia flashing front, compared with some which had come before over the previous few month so, at first, it seems odd that she never appeared as Pet of the Month in  the UK.

Lucy Lunn on the cover of the March 1974 UK issue

At this point the UK Pets were running one month behind the US so it would have been expected that Beatrice would appear in the March edition in the UK (Volume 8, number 12). However, for that issue the UK had Lucy Lunn (supposedly from Romney Marsh but given her appearance in a lot of Swedish magazines we suspect she was from that country) as their centrefold instead. 

Lucy had several pussy touching shots but her magnificent bush meant that no glimpse of her labia were visible.  The reason the UK edition couldn't use the pictures of Beatrice was not because of some concerns over the explicitness of her pictorial (as had happened before) but because pictures from this shoot by Jerry Bloomberger, (this was his only Penthouse pictorial) had already appeared in rival magazine Men Only just three months previously (November 1973).

Just five pages of pictures from her pictorial appeared in Men Only Volume 9 no 1 in the UK which appeared in April 1974. This was bad luck for UK Penthouse readers as they missed out on one of the best golden fleece pictures of the seventies (above), with Beatrice's fine strands catching the light all over her lower belly.  This lovely shot never made it into the UK pictorial.


February also saw a couple of Penthouse's more arty pictorials with the model in Living Doll made up to look like a clown (something we will not show as we don't want to encourage clowns in any way) and a sequence of photographs supposedly being self portraits by a model called Cheyenne from a forthcoming Penthouse publication: Penthouse - I am Cheyenne. This picture (above) is the most striking of those.

Whilst Playboy's Playmates themselves were not as abandoned as Penthouse's Pets it didn't mean that Playboy had given up the battle. March saw another saucy cover from Playboy featuring Debbie Shelton resplendent in stockings and suspenders and revealing the full profile of one breast. This was at a time when both magazines were still wary of bare breasts on the covers of their magazines for fear they might be taken off the newsstands. They were pushing the limits by just offering the odd peek of their girls’ peaks.

Deborah Shelton on the cover of Oui: February 1975

The lovely Miss Shelton would appear on the cover of the Playboy owned Oui magazine in February 1975. She had won the Miss USA contest in 1970 and went on to be runner up in the Miss Universe competition that year.

Miss Shelton as Miss USA

Under the more refined "Deborah" she would go on to be a successful actress; first appearing on screen in a Greek film in 1976 with Telly Savalas' brother George. Most famously she appeared in 62 episodes of Dallas as Mandy Winger in the mid-eighties, where she got to wear some of the most ornate boudoir lingerie to have ever been seen on TV.

Deborah in Body Double

Agent Triple P also remembers her fondly from Brian de Palma's Body Double (1984) where she dances around wearing very little whilst watched through a telescope by a neighbour before indulging in some, naughty at the time, faux masturbation. She is still making regular TV appearances.

Talkning of faux masturbation, inside the March Playboy there was a non-Playmate pictorial of the, unusually, short-haired Morgan, photographed by Philip Dixon. One of the pictures showed Morgan really getting to grips with her groin in what was was Playboy's first real Penthouse-style faux masturbation shot.  This was another barrier breaking rejoinder from Playboy but demonstrated, yet again, that Penthouse was making the running and Playboy was playing catch-up.

Not only were Morgan's fingers going where no Playboy girl's had gone before but in one full sized picture she sits with one leg draped over the arm of a chair, a necklace around her waist barely concealing her vulva. In fact, it does not conceal it completely: Morgan displays Playboy's very first labia.

March's  Pet Marie Ekorre (her surname is Swedish for squirrel, Agent Triple Pis told!) demonstrated that Penthouse had moved away from its original remit to only feature unpublished girls as Pet of the Month.

Penthouse claimed Marie was eighteen but she was actually twenty-two at the time her pictorial appeared.  She was already an actress having made films, since 1971 in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, such as Keyhole (1974).

Marie in Oui, August 1973

Ekorre had already appeared as the Centrefold in Oui in August 1973 where she was photographed by Swedish photographer Siwer Ohlsson. Ohlsson had discovered her during casting calls for the film Rötmånad (1970) which gave Christina Lindberg her big break. In fact they later appeared in the same film, Was Schulmädchen verschweigen (1973) but, sadly, didn't appear together as it was a portmanteau-style film made up of seperate episodes.

From her March 1974 Penthouse pictorial

She was a successful model and continued to make soft-core films until 1976. Unable to break into regular films she opened a Jeans shop in Amsterdam and then later ran a modelling agency in Spain before returning to Sweden. Unlike her contemporary, Christina Lindberg, she doesn't participate in conventions or conduct interviews about her time as an actress and model.

The following month she appeared as Pet of the Month, with the same pictorial, in the UK edition of Penthouse but with  this alternative and striking cover.

The lovely Sarah and her lovely crutch

Marie didn't flash her bits for the March issue but Guccione continued to push on the labia front with this photograph of the appropriately named Sarah Crutchfield. This pictorial didn't appear at all in the UK edition as they were increasingly using different pictorials (and covers) from the US edition.

Suzanna squeezes

One pictorial from Penthouse's March issue which did appear in the UK was the one featuring the delightfully top heavy Suzanna Hayes.  Busty enough for Playboy but much more tactile photography from Bob Guccione than Playboy would have done at the time.

Over at Oui, which was still trying to win readers from Penthouse with its "European" approach, they became the first major magazine to put two girls on the cover.  Not just that but they were touching each other in a sensual way and one of them was showing Oui's first bare nipple on its cover.

Inside, the far from European J Frederick Smith's two girl set was playful rather than passionate with a lot less implied lebianism than Penthouse's last effort the previous year.

Centrefold girl that month was the gorgeous Laure Berg, photographed by Andre Berg (coincidence?), who gave us this superb fluff between the thighs shot.

One picture that appeared at the beginning of the magazine was of a (very) young girl flashing her bare bottom.  Worryingly, several readers wrote appreciative letters about it.  "That shot of the young girl in March Openers was dynamite.  I am certainly glad that Oui has found that there is another type of sensuality that far surpasses what is currently in most men's magazines" wrote someone from Atlanta. The other two letters that appeared in the July issue were so distasteful that we won't even quote them.  We won't show the picture as these days it could lead to a jail sentence.  Thank goodness Oui didn't pick up on this nasty approach.  How times have changed (for the better in this case).

The peachy Karen June Sliger

April saw Playboy produce another cover that made it look like Penthouse. Karen June Sliger became only the third Playboy cover girl to appear wearing stockings but she would be the first to fully bare her bottom for the newsstands of America. Penthouse had been featuring girls in stockings for some time but it was only gradually that Playboy went down the boudoir lingerie route, which it is now so closely associated with, as well.

Marilyn contorts

Inside, Playboy ran a pictorial on porn star Marilyn Chambers who contorted herself into some very un-Playboy like shapes including this very abandoned bubble bath shot.  It was the increasing acceptability and availability in theatres of hard core films like Chambers', Behind the Green Door (1972) that was one of the factors in driving the men's magazines to become more explicit.

Penthouse's April cover girl was Elaine Lowny

Penthouse took their April Pet, Nancy Sebastien outside, in a pictorial largely shot in field of long grass overlooking the sea, in a rather Playboy type location. There were a couple of interior pictures of her, including this one where she flashes her labia.  This shot was considerably toned down so that Nancy's bits were barely visible in the UK edition where she did appear but not as Pet of the Month.

Nancy flashes

Cover girl, Elaine Lowny also bent over backwards to push at the labia flashing barrier in her pictorial in the April issue.  Her pictorial never made it over the Atlantic to the UK at all.

Elaine bends

For April's Oui they went for an even more explicit nipple shot than the previous month; getting as bold as Penthouse's January cover.  Neither Playboy nor Penthouse had put men with their naked cover girl.  In this case it is to illustrate a circus themed pictorial.

Inside, Oui still hadn't gone down the labia display route so, visually they were no naughtier than Playboy but this picture of Martine shows that they knew that the pussy was the coming thing in the Pubic Wars without actually displaying it.

Martine idly tweaks herself 

May's Penthouse saw Pet of the Month, Brandy Howard, also on the cover in a very naked shot for the time.

Inside, we had a pictorial by John Demetrius, in his only Penthouse feature, of Shawn Day whose very wispy curls did not conceal her bits.

Shawn flashes
Pet Brandy's pictorial was not as explicit as some of the others that had gone before; the exception being her centrefold shot.

Brande rubs

Brande is shown, like Claudia Arena in January, seemingly rubbing her pussy. Somewhere along the line the Pubic Wars battle had moved from who could show a girl's pubic hair to who could show a girl touching her pubic hair to who could show a girl who looks like she is pleasuring herself.  To look to see how Playboy was responding to the increasing crotch-caressing shots from Penthouse you only have to look as far as their May issue.

For a start Playboy showed more than their recent hints of areolae with covergirl Marsha Kaye wearing a very see-through set of lingerie. So far neither magazine had actually fully showed bare, completely unobstructed nipples (at least in the US, Penthouse in the UK was being bolder) so this was strong stuff for Playboy.

Inside, Playboy ran a pictorial on lingerie which opened with a photograph of a girl  with her hand inside her tights and caressing her pussy, her eyes closed in ecstasy.

  Marilyn goes for it

That month's Playmate, Marilyn Lange had the sort of enormous bust that Playboy loved (Penthouse was never as bust-obsessed) and so, not surprisingly, the pictorial concentrated on showcasing those assets. However, with one small picture Marilyn became the first actual Playmate to be pictured indulging in faux masturbation.

Oui went for the man and woman on the cover approach again in May and, indeed, two of their pictorials that month were boy/girl ones and this was at  a time when Penthouse had only had two such pictorials ever.

Neither pictorial was really raunchy, however, and, indeed, one featured a pillow fight but at least that couple were shown kissing whereas in the second one a chaste kiss of a bare shouder was as naughty as it got.

This approach, however, did not go down well with many of the readers.  One complained about the May issue that "two out of the three (pictorials) featured couples.  Ditto the subscription ad and the cover of the issue."  He continued: "Part of the attraction of magazines such as Oui is fantasy...with the introduction of a partner, however, these fantasies are shattered.  Please give us the girls and leave the studs to Playgirl and Viva." 

The offending ad from May 1974

This of course highlights one of the key issues of erotica: is it only erotic if members of the opposite sex alone are depicted or is a fundamental of erotica that it depicts interaction between two sexes?  Most erotica from ancient times until the birth of photography depicted couples. What graduallly happened over time, during the first half of the twentieth century, was that it became more acceptable to show pictures of girls alone whereas the addition of men crossed the line into pornography.   These magazines were dealing with a legacy largely circumscribed by Playboy in the mid-fifties.   It was Guccione and Penthouse who started to introduce couples into the pictorials as part of their greater concentration on sex in itself (rather than as part of a wider lifestyle as Playboy posited).

January 1974's Viva featured Janet Dunphy, October 1972's Penthouse Pet of the Month on the cover

The correspondent mentioned, critically, Guccione's womens' magazine Viva, which had been launched less than a year previously.  It featured a couples pictorial every month which not only looked like the ones in Penthouse but often featured the same models and photographers as well. 

The first issue of Playgirl June 1973

Playgirl, which the aggrieved gentleman  felt a more proper repository for male nudes, had first appeared in June 1973, three months before Viva, and featured its famous male centrefolds.  Interestingly the cover of the first issue of Playgirl  was of a couple rather than a man on his own.  Given that Viva often featured couples on their covers as well it is easy to see where those who made the negative comments on  the "big debate", as Oui subsequently called it, were coming from.

Carol Augustine

Putting it out much more in May was Oui's sole girl-only pictorial, centrefold Carol Augustine who displayed, pretty much for the first time in Oui,  some of the spread-legged hints of labia that were becoming more common in Penthouse.  In fact, Carol had been Penthouse Pet of the Month back in February 1972.

Things got even worse for Oui the follwing month.  They had at least, dispensed with the couple on the cover in favour of another lone nubile nipple flasher.  However, a piece featuring the then wife of film director Russ Meyer, Edy Williams also included a male model, Richard Dow,  in every picture of her.

Further on in the magazine there was a pictorial on nudist beaches of the world which had several pictures of full frontal men in it.

Brazenly naked in Guadeloupe

The real issue, however, was that instead of a centrefold girl they had a centrefold couple.  They had included a man in their centrefold picture of Florence Fossorier in their very first issue, of course, but at least they had had the majority of the pictures just featuring Florence.  Here, however, it was a couple right from the start.

In particular, it was this picture that got them into trouble with some of their readers as, six months before Penthouse risked it, their male model in a couples pictorial is just showing a glimpse of the previously unshowable.  "Please take the June issue of Oui and shove it up your ass," wrote someone from New Jersey, elegantly.  ""For the man of the World" should read "For the queer of the World"" he said, referring to the magazine's tagline.   Yes, the issue of the depiction of the penis caused a split in the readership.  Oui published equal numbers of letters from each viewpoint but the men stayed, at least for the time being.

No men on Playboy's June's cover but another teasing, nipple-flashing effort with Playmate of the Year Cyndi Wood's prominent breast nestled amongst the marabou feathers. Given that this was literally a head and bust shot then she was exposing a bigger area of nipple than any previous Playboy cover girl.

Wild thing!

Inside, Cyndi sprawled about on a zebra skin rug in the way Playboy now felt it had to go in order to keep up with Penthouse's sexed up women.

We bring the first half of 1974 to an end by looking at Penthouse's offering, the cover of which featured a positive cornucopia of bare breasts from the candidates for the Pet of the Year play-off.  Not everyone was delighted with this, however, and VR of Holidaysburg wrote in with a letter published in the September issue venturing that the magazine shouldn't have nude women on the cover.  In the pet playoff feature itself girls had a couple of pictures each in the pictorial, some of them being ones the magazine hadn't printed before.

Angela Adams had appeared as Pet of the Month back in November 1972 and so this picture, which just reveals a hint of her labia, wouldn't have been able to have been published at that time.

Even more explicit were August 1973's Lane Coyle's two Play-Off pictures.  Although all these pictures appeared in the UK edition the offending bits were airbrushed out.

Pet of the Month Alicia Justin was caught by photographer Peter Fortuna, in his only Penthouse set, spreading her legs to reveal her divided mound and then with her hands on her pussy.  The trick, of course, being that it looks like she is unaware of the camera and has been caught out, diddling herself on the rocks.

The final pictorial featured model Deborah Clearbranch smilingly spreading her thighs for Earl Miller in the countryside.  For the first time Penthouse had displayed its girls labia in every pictorial in an issue.  What was it that has provoked this full-lipped presentation of pussy for this issue?  The answer, of course, was the first issue of Larry Flynt's Hustler, due out the following month.  Unlike all new mens' magazines to date which had modelled themselves on Playboy, Flynt was specifically targeting Penthouse.

Deborah/Desiree in Men Only November Vol 48 no 11  (1983)

Deborah herself, having failed to make a go of it in conventional movies (such as the B-movie girls in prison classic, Caged Heat (1974), transformed herself into the late seventies/early eighties porn star Desiree Cousteau (thanks to our anonymous source) and not only appeared in the conventional mens' magazines at the time but also the hard core ones like Swedish Erotica.

Deborah/Desiree gets it from John Holmes on the cover of Swedish Erotica

She also made a lot of hard core films.  However, it would be a notorious pictiorial that she did in Hustler in 1975 which would have the most far-reaching consequences and we will examine that when we look, in full, at the Pubic Wars for the second half of that year.

From the following month Penthouse would be fighting the Pubic Wars on two fronts.

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