Friday, 18 January 2013

Centrefold Venus of the Month 42: Hilary Stephens/Caroline Crowther, November 1977

We haven't had a Mayfair centrefold since February 2010 so thought it was about time we had another young lady from that most British of men's magazines.  Amidst the regular articles on old cars, World War 2 exploits and such like were rather more pictorials than the likes of Penthouse and Playboy had.

This issue, like the previous one we have featured comes from 1977.  Mayfair had refused to be dragged into the competition between the other magazines (principally Men Only, Club International, Fiesta, Knave and Penthouse in the UK) to become ever more explicit from the end of 1975.  Although by 1977 there was, just occasionally, a glimpse of labia in some of their pictorials.

Mostly, however, they presented young ladies like "Hilary" here who were usually quite obviously British.  They had none of the polished sensuality of the European girls who often featured in Club International and none of the overt sexuality of the Penthouse models.  This is not to say that they were unattractive but it was a real not fantasy attractiveness; a sort of busty barmaid down at the local pub approach.

Mayfair tended to take two approaches with its description of its women: they were either secretaries or hairdressers or very posh country or Chelsea types.  The implication being, often, that they had not posed before.  This, of course, was exactly the approach Bob Guccione had taken with Penthouse, which had been launched just under a year before Mayfair's August 1966 first issue in the UK.   In Penthouse's case, however, often his girls were first timers (initially they had to be to be Pet of the Month) and many of them were quite posh, as he used to pick them up from exclusive secretarial colleges on the King's Road.  In Mayfair the girls were often (sometimes quite well known) models.  

Anyway, the editor obviously decided that Hilary was going to be one of their posh girls, working as an estate agent and living in Fulham (not quite as posh as Chelsea but nearly) who had got into jolly scrapes at her boarding school.

Whatever, Hilary was posed in typical Mayfair style on location, inside, with typically gloomy weather visible through the windows.  We can't say that we are very inspired by her clothes in this pictorial and the wrinkled stockings don't do much for her either.  A detail that Hugh Hefner would have never let get into Playboy.

She does have a nice figure although the poses that she assumes don't always show it at its best and it would have been nice to see what another photographer might have done with her.  Photographer for this pictorial was David Hinton about whom we can find nothing whatsoever.

Hilary does not seemed to have posed again for Mayfair or any other magazines and that is probably due to the fact that she was shortly about to meet the man she would marry.

Hilary Stephens is, in fact, Caroline Crowther and was the daughter of Leslie Crowther, at the time one of the biggest stars on British TV.   Crowther's TV career started in the nineteen fifties and he was a presenter, compere and, latterly, game show host whose TV shows were some of the highest rated on television, including the UK version of The Price is Right.  Leslie Crowther was in a terrible car crash in 1992 from which he never fully recovered and died in 1996.

Caroline was one of five children and her sister, Liz, is an actress who became well known for her part as a radio station receptionist in the Bristol-set detective series Shoestring from 1979 to 1980.  Caroline was working for top British rock publicist Tony Brainsby when she met Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, who were one of Brainsby's clients.

By 1978 she was pregnant with Lynott's child and they got married on Valentine's day 1980 at which point Caroline was five months pregnant with her second child.  The wedding was in a freezing cold church in Richmond, south west London, and the reception was at the Kensington Hilton.  During his speech at the reception Caroline's father famously said "When Philip asked for my daughter's hand in marriage I said,'Why not? You've had everything else!'"  

The wedding was attended by a host of figures from the pop world including Billy Idol and members of Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Dire Straits, Bad Company and Midge Ure, who had played in Thin Lizzy for a time before forming Ultravox.

This picture comes from the Record Mirror coverage of the wedding, the text for which was written by Paula Yates, who we have featured as a non-centrefold of the month for her 1979 Penthouse shoot.

Caroline left Lynott in 1984, with her children, as his heroin use had got increasingly out of control.  But when Lynott collapsed on Christmas Day 1985 it was Caroline who drove him to a drugs clinic but he died on January 4th  1986.  

A magnificent rear!

We think Caroline is really rather splendid and the very average presentation of her in Mayfair just adds to her girl next door allure.

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