Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Venus Revealed: The Pubic Wars 8 1976 Part 1

New year, new approach

1976 would be the year of the pussy in men's magazines in both the US and the UK.  Having dipped their toes into the pussy pool the previous two years, magazines like Penthouse would dive in completely in America's Bicentennial year. Showing their models pubic hair would no longer be enough and, increasingly, the girls would be expected to flash their labia (and more) as well.  However, by the beginning of 1976 Playboy had, largely, due to pressure from their advertisers, officially capitulated in the Pubic Wars leaving this fight, essentially, between Penthouse and some of the other magazines. New magazines were being planned at this time, too.

Photo by Richard Fegley. Playboy January 1976

Those expecting Playboy to go back to the innocence of the early seventies were in for a surprise, however. There were some changes but there were still some strongly erotic pictures in the publication, which were still pretty explicit and, indeed, more explicit than what Playboy shows today. So, 1976 was, for Playboy, a rather schizophrenic year and this was demonstrated right from their January issue. They knew that they didn't want to be Penthouse but they weren't quite sure what they did want to be.

An airbrushed Daina House

For only the second time in years they had dispensed with the sinister Playboy rabbit in front of a "gallery" of the previous year's Playmates, replacing it with said Playmates climbing around some lettering. This, incidentally, also took the pubic pictures they had had for the last couple of Januarys off the cover as these girls carefully concealed themselves. A clear message for the newstands and advertisers that Playboy had changed.

 Daina House as originally photographed

Inside, Playmate of the Month Daina House presented the sort of legs apart pose that certainly wasn't back to 1971 in style. However, comparison with a similar picture shows that Playboy had been to work with a little judicious airbrushing to remove any hint of her labia. Later Playboy would control the models' poses and use clever lighting to make sure nothing untoward appeared but these pictures had probably already been shot before the backtracking on the level of explicitness took place at the end of 1975.

But in the same issue Playboy had a portfolio of photographs by regular photographer Richard Fegley which included this very naughty picture. Although it was black and white (and therefore Art) the pearls being pulled up between the model's labia were as strong as anything Penthouse had been doing at that point. It illustrated the dual standards that Playboy always seemed to have regarding its Playmate shoots and the other pictorials; as if the Playmates existed in a separate reality where what was done in other parts of the magazine weren't important. We had seen pubic shots in Playboy before Liv Lindeland yet it was her centrefold that was seen by the magazine as the groundbreaker. From 1976 most of the Playmate pictures did become less explicit but the same rules didn't seem to apply to the rest of the magazine. Maybe the advertisers only ever looked at the centrefolds!

Playboy was still struggling financially at the beginning of 1976 and cuts had to be made: staff at editorial meetings found their lobster lunches replaced by sandwiches. Playboy's intended Penthouse clone Oui, which had done so much to damage Playboy's circulation, was struggling too.  The magazine that Hugh Hefner had set up to challenge Penthouse by being more explicit than Playboy was now losing ground itself.

Bobby Sparrow for Oui

Unlike Playboy, Oui continued to show the occasional labia shots but they were nothing like what had started to appear in Penthouse during 1976.  Oui's January centrefold Bobby Sparrow flashed in several pictures but not to the extent that January's Penthouse Pet did, as we shall see shortly.

Peek-a-boo Pia in Oui

January's Oui also featured a model called Pia Sorensen who had caused something of a scandal in Britain several years earlier when it was discovered that she has making hardcore films in her native Denmark whilst still at school. Having been voted Queen of the first Danish Erotic Film Festival she embarked on a publicity tour of the UK to expected, and no doubt welcome, outrage. One MP even tried to get her deported.

Pia in action in a Copenhagen park in the Lasse Braun film Romantic

In fact, Pia had appeared as Pet of the Month in the UK edition of Penthouse back in May 1974. At that time Penthouse UK occasionally didn't use the American Pet but replaced her with another model. So it was that the US April Pet, Nancy Sebastien, appeared in the May UK edition but not as a Pet. Likewise Pia did eventually appear in Penthouse's US edition in April 1975 but not as a Pet.

Penthouse's January issue carried on the trends seen in the last few months of 1975.  Cover girl and Pet of the Month Laure Favie was photographed by Allan Neumann using a number of different styles

Laura displays

Whatever style he used, which ran from light soft focus to very grainy, however, Canadian Laure displayed her labia in quite a few of her photographs, including, for only the third time in Penthouse, the centrefold.
Laure also had a rather sensual pussy caressing shot which was all the more the effective for the different angle Nuemann used for it.  This really caught the original Penthouse voyeuristic quality nicely.

The magazine's third pictorial featured a German "actress", (well, she did make two films) by the name of  Eva Carson,  getting to grips with herself on the bed in their strongest faux masturbation shot so far.

One pictorial in this issue caused something of a stir.  Penthouse had often had younger centrefolds than Playboy, who had run into trouble back in the fifties when they published the pictures of the under eighteen year old Elizabeth Ann Roberts. In contrast, several of Penthouse's early Pets had been as young as sixteen (there were not the same age restriction in the UK)  and for this issue they teased the readers with these pictures of Lindsay Freeman, going under the name of "Baby Breese", and wearing a vest with "12" on it. In reality, the young looking model was in her twenties.

Hustler, unusually, had its holiday themed cover for January rather than the more traditional December edition.  This was, however, more logical given that the issue was actually on the streets in December.  They offered a life-sized centrefold picture as a Christmas present for their readers.

Their first pictorial, of Inga, was accompanied by some text which was easily as pretentious as anything coming ouy of Penthouse at the time: "Like the sea's  thunderous undulation striking against the rocks, our bodies are in tune.  Suddenly, with great force our bodies clash, sending us into a realm of ecstasy...  Whirling, whirling waves...  Then like the flowing of the tide back towards the sea we succumb to a calmness.  My man has found me...the sea."

Next there came a very early Hustler couples pictorial which had a Dracula theme.  This was as explicit as it got although the light just catching the girl's bush provides a certain frisson in this shot.

Strong tan lines frame the spread pussy of Donna at the beach in the next pictorial.

It is Shelley, however, who demonstrates how, during this period, Hustler had become considerably more explicit than Penthouse, as she clearly shows her anus.  Already, this part of the anatomy was set to be the new battleground.

February's Playboy saw an assertive cover featuring Jill de Vries (October 1975) which, with its boudoir lingerie and long string of pearls, owed a lot to Penthouse's early seventies approach; altough the smiling for the camera is pure Playboy. It's almost saying:" Look, we can do a sexy legs apart shot without showing anything!"

Laura gets wet

Inside, February's Playmate, Laura Lyons, clearly demonstrated that you didn't need to show a girl's bits to produce a sexy picture.


It wasn't all back to 1972, however, and Playboy hadn't completely abandoned the faux masturbation shots that had got it into so much trouble with its advertisers the previous year, as these February 1976 shots from a pictorial entitled "funderwear" show.

February's Penthouse carried on in the way that they had been going since mid 1975 with their centrefolds and other models now regularly showing their genitals and doing so in increasing sharpness of detail, as the magazine largely dialled back on the soft-focus.

Pet of the month Martine le Mauviel (oddly re-christened Vivienne Maid in the UK edition) is lit in such a way that all the attention is on her hand and her sex. The pictorial, by Bob Guccione, was soft focus but was not as extreme an example as had been seen the previous year. However, there was at least one letter to Penthouse printed in the UK edition criticising this set.

Martine demontrates the now common but then still unusual spread thighs pose

The rather pompous letter from someone in Surrey (which is where Triple P lives!) declaimed that "Penthouse has gone soft. I refer of course to the soft-focus filters your photographers have jammed on their lenses. As an amateur photographer myself I appreciated the idea at first started to use it excessively and Vivienne Maid (Martine le Mauviel in the US edition) is very disappointing. Combined with the contrejour lighting it is artistic: but doesn't do Vivienne the credit she deserves and that's a pity." The following month they published another letter expressing similar sentiments.

Amber Marie: trimmed

That month's non-Pet of the Month, Amber Marie displayed an early example of the later ubiquitous fashion for girls to trim their pubic hair from their vulva, thus removing all that inconveniently concealing bush.  The soft focus wouldn't have gone down well with Mr Grumpy from Surrey, though.

Fetish for February

The real barrier breaking pictorial for February, however, was one called My Funny Valentine. Penthouse had had a (comparatively) few girl/girl pictorials before but this month they published their first fetish photographs. Dressed up in leather and vinyl the girls were depicted by photographer Stan Malinowski indulging in light bondage and whipping each other.

Stan Malinowski in 1976

Malinowski attended the Design School of the Illinois Institute of Technology and had been a photographer for fifteen years when he shot these pictures. Starting as an advertising photographer he first shot for Playboy before being taken on by Bob Guccione. Apart from Penthouse he worked on Guccione's short-lived (1973-1980) Viva magazine, an erotic magazine aimed at women, where one of his colleagues was Anna Wintour who got her first job as fashion editor there in 1976. Wintour later went on to be the formidable editor of Vogue and the inspiration for the character in the novel The Devil Wear's Prada (2003) written by one of her former assistants, Lauren Weisberger. Ironically, Malinowski's work in Penthouse attracted the attention of the art director of Vogue and since then he has been a major fashion photographer, especially for Harper’s Bazaar.

This pictorial, in the days when this sort of fetish was very underground and not displayed as a matter of course by female pop stars, caused some controversy in the press. Letters to the magazine, however, were universally appreciative (and Penthouse did, as we have seen, publich critical letters at this point) and asked for more.
Penthouse answered one of these letters to the UK edition by pointing out that readers wanting their own fetish gear should proceed to the shop called Sex in the King's Road in London which was, of course, run by Sex Pistols manager Malcom McLaren and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Whether these letters were real, of course, is not known but, in fact, Penthouse did not immediately return to the bondage theme, although later in the year we would see another pictorial involving fantasy fetish, rather than everyday clothing; a theme that did continue in the magazine from then on.

February's Oui saw them start to really become the racier magazine in the Playboy stable.  Whilst Playboy was covering up its covergirls breasts Oui continued top get theirs to still display themselves.

That month's centrefold girl Anne-Marie Challen had several faux masturbation shots which hadn't been very common at all in Oui up until that point.


Her centrefold too, was as revealing as anything by Penthouse up to that point and more revealing than anything Playboy had done.

Where Oui had always been at the forefront of what could be shown on a newsstand magazine, however, was in its couples pictorials which were notably racier than either Playboy's or Penthouses'. February's offering entitled, rather unimaginatively, Dennis and Phyllis make love, featured the young lady indulging in some implied fellatio. 

Phyliss takes the measure of Dennis in Oui

The really radical shot in the pictorial is the one where Phyliss gets to grips with her companion's member in a way that even Penthouse hadn't done in such clarity. Playboy had never showed the man's penis in its entirity in any of their boy/girl sets and then only partially once in their Three in Love pictorial in February 1975.  Oui wouldn't be so explicit again, in one of its couples sets, for years.

Over at Paul Raymond's Club the February issue saw a girl/girl pictorial, called Betroughed in the US magazine, imported from the January issue of Men Only in the UK.  Photgraphed by Fred Enke it was called The Last Straw in Men Only.

This anus revealing, bottom kissing picture, however, was one which didn't appear in the original UK pictorial.  Club in the US often usied slightly stronger pictures than appeared in Men Only in the UK

Molly shows off

Up until this point Club had not had its girls revealing as much as Penthouse or Hustler.  This changed (as it did in Paul Raymond's UK parent magazines) as 1975 became 1976.  The new approach is demonstrated by Club's February centrefold girl, Molly.

March's Playboy featured their cover girl, April 1975 Playmate, Victoria Cunninham, in a sexy but not explicit photo shoot where she manages to be photographed with a whole fire engine's worth of equipment between her legs. An axe, a jack, a hose and, inevitably, a fireman's pole all mean that her bits are thankfully (for the advertisers) obscured.

Indeed, in this shot (below) her visible labia (which can be seen in this, the original image) were blacked out, as had been the practice at all of the magazines three years previously.

Peek-a-boo...but not in the magazine

This pictorial was probably shot before Playboy decided to back off in the labia wars, however.   This may also explain some of the shots of that month's Playmate, Ann Pennington.

Given that Playboy had said the Pubic Wars were over only two months previously it was something of a surprise, therefore, that Ann, sister of May 1971 Playmate Janice Pennington, was shown in two explicit shots, especially given the more modest pictures of her predecessors as Playmate of the Month that year.

Her visible labia were a throwback to the explicitness of 1975 and showed that Playboy hadn't after all, gone back to the innocent style of full frontal nudity of the early seventies as expected

Another thing that had attracted the wrath of Playboy's advertisers was the increasing use of lesbian themed pictures so it would be expected that in the new "back to basics" Playboy these would have been thrown out with the beaver shots.  March's issue, however, had a feature on the second Emmanuelle film starring Sylvia Kristel and included these pictures of Sylvia getting a Thai massage from Laura Gemser (who would later take on the mantle of Emmanuelle herself and be featured in subsequent Playboy pictorials).

Oui was still happily showing nudes on its covers (in this case playboy Playmate of the Month from October 1975, Jill de Vries) but inside its girls were increasingly showing their bits.  So, in a few months they had progressed from showing nothing to chasing Penthouse.

Something that even Penthouse hadn't done, however, was have their centrefold not only showing her bits but also indulging in faux masturbation.

Oui's March centrefold  Cindy Devereaux not only flashed her labia in several pictures but was also photographed enjoying herself in bed.

There was more naughtiness in a pictorial that not only depicted a threesome but an interracial threesome; something that was still very controversial in America at the time.   In the shot above Oui showed some implied male/female (and white/black) cunnilingus; again, before Penthouse had.

Shot in Mexico by Playboy regular Richard Fegley there were some striking images, such as the one above, in this feature.

Interracial fun. Having a ball in Oui

No penis flashing from the male model but his other assets were on show in one picture that also featured some female finger delving.

Club continued its increasing explicitness too this month with centrefold Amy presenting us with not only a bold rear end but a little pit of pussy stroking as well.  Still, at this point Club was still really about posteriors and hadn't quite jumped into the pussy pool in the same way as some of the others.  This would change over the year, however.

Hustler took the opportunity in their March issue to have a pop at the struggling Playboy Empire.  Although their circulation wan't anywhere near Playboy's Hustler's was increasing and Playboy's was declining. 

Inside they featured a pictorial on what, in those bushy days, was a novelty.  Entitled Bare Beaver it was supposedly about a group of men positing that a shaven pussy couldn't be a turn on.  There was then a sequence of shots of a fluffy redhead getting reduced down to the state which is so familiar today but in those days must have been very unusual.

We have seen the future and it looks like this!

Since then many magazines have had similar shaving features but this must have been an early example.  Of course such a pictorial gave Hustler a great opportunity to get in as many labia shots in as possible.

Whether the budget was tight that month or it whether it was just a scheduling mix up, the same girl appeared, under a different name, in a regular pictorial in the same issue. However, she was still in possession of her orange fleece at this point.

March's Penthouse presented their first ever three girl pictorial. Entitled Moulin Rouge it was another of what would become their increasingly popular costume (!) sets.

Three can-can have more fun than two

It featured some not really very naughty pictures but marked a return to the extreme soft focus approach, although these pictures were taken by Robert Farber in the Guccione style.

Although the UK edition of Penthouse was now coming to terms with all the hitherto hidden labia coming out of the shadows they were still a little nervous about the faux masturbation shots and so this one from Moulin Rouge was left out of the UK edition.

Arla fondles

Non-centrefold model that month was Arla Terrell who appears to have suddenly had an interesting idea when confronted by this silver obelisk.  At least her tight trousers appear to have split in a convenient place.

The Pet of the Month and cover girl for March, Joann Witty, was destined to cause Penthouse all sorts of trouble in the future. Described in the magazine as a 26 year old British girl who had just taken up flying in fact we now know that she was a 20 year old born in Fort Dix New Jersey, the daughter of an Army major!

Joann shows off her dancer's legs

She moved to Hollywood and became a dancer but an accident on stage, where she broke her leg and jaw, ended her dancing career. A leggy 5’7” tall and 35-23-36 she went the beauty pageant route, winning the Miss Hollywood, Miss San Bernadino and coming second in the Miss California beauty pageants. In 1975 two things happened which changed her life. Firstly, she met actor Peter Falk who saw something in her he liked (whatever can that have been?) and later cast her in a bit-part in his show Columbo.

Jeff Dunas

Secondly, she was working as a hostess in a Hollywood bar when she was approached by photographer Jeff Dunas. Jeff Dunas was a self-taught photograper who started working for Penthouse in 1973. Inspired by the French impressionists he copied Guccione’s soft-focus, romantic style, gradually injected more sensuality into the pictures. He went on to career as a successful, award-winning, mainstream photographer specialising in advertising, fashion, and especially portraiture. He doesn’t mention his Penthouse work on his website!

Dunas was described as a staff photographer (although in reality he was technically freelance) for Penthouse. He introduced himself to "Joann", showed her a copy of Penthouse and asked if he could take some pictures of her with the idea of submitting them to the magazine. She must have been, therefore, quite clear as to what type of pictures he would be shooting.

Joann's labia-revealing centrefold

The usual procedure at the time would have been for Dunas to do some test shots, get Penthouse approval and then do a proper shoot. However, in this case the test shoot went so well he decided to submit the pictures direct to Penthouse.

Priscilla Barnes

Penthouse  liked them and took the photos as they were and didn’t ask for a new shoot. They were published the following year and Joann became Miss March 1976. Joann had signed the usual model release form at the start of the shoot. Dunas added the letters AKA (also known as) under her name meaning that she didn’t want to use her real name in the pictorial and so, in due course she appeared under the name Joann Witty (picked because her quick wit was much admired). It all started to unravel when Joann’s acting career started to take off. Under her real name Priscilla Barnes she appeared in a number of films and TV shows in the late seventies including: Cannon, Starsky and Hutch, The Incredible Hulk, The Rockford Files, Kojak, Taxi and The Love Boat.

Then in 1981 she was cast in the hit soap Three’s Company, replacing the hugely popular Suzanne Somers. It brought her enormous fame in the US but meant that she had to turn down Steven Spielberg, who wanted her as first choice for the role of Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), as she couldn’t get out of her TV contract.  Barnes’ replacement, of course, Kate Capshaw, went on to become Mrs Spielberg.

Then, in 1983, the National Enquirer carried a story that Barnes had posed for an un-named mens magazine in the past. Barnes categorically denied this but, of course, Penthouse knew better and published one of her pictures under her real name. Barnes denied that the picture was her. When Penthouse announced it would republish more under her real name, Barnes took them to court, having to admit that it was her in the pictures. She argued that they were in breach of contract by publishing the pictures under her real name. She won her case but of course, by then everyone knew it was her. What was worse, of course, was that in her pictorial she was shown in masturbation shots, showing her bits and even her anus in one photo, where she was sitting on a mirror. Barnes would later go on to play Hilary Clinton (!) and appear in the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) where she played Felix Leiter’s murdered bride.

In the next post on 1976 we will see how the girls' legs continued to spread.


  1. Ahh, 1976...I was 15 years old, and thanks to the extensive collection of my best friend's older brother, I remember many of these girls. It was truly a heady time.

  2. Hello,
    All these fascinating photos ( and fascinating they truly are too), reminds me of a British softcore magazine that I once saw in about 1990. It featured a lovely looking girl with golden looking eyes who was wearing black lingerie, and, I think, a large hat. Any ideas as to where I could find these photos? I have always remembered looking at this girl. Do have the photos in question? If so, could you please, please upload them onto your wonderful blog?
    Many thanks.

  3. Hmm 1990 is a bit after most of the the magazines in my collection. You might try the Vintage Erotica Forum...

  4. Agent Triple I do enjoy your work. Brings back such wonderful memories. I also appreciate the information you share. My current quest at the moment is in search of the elusive Mr. Fred Enke who made CLUB magazine the gem of 1976. Wish me luck! I shall keep you posted.

  5. March Club cover is Virginia Winters, again.

  6. Thanks for all of your time and research, and for clearing the airbrushing out of the pix.