In this post we look at the increasingly racy portrayal of cover girls in US men's magazines in the sixties. Many, as we shall, see relied on cleavage to attract readers with this example from Hi-Life being typical.
Curiously, for a magazine that would become known for its busty models, Gent focussed on the face of their April covergirl.
Not so Modern Man, who had Las Vegas showgirl Sharon Richardson displaying herself.
It was legs rather than, surprisingly, breasts which Mario Casilli emphasised in this shot of some anonymous legs running across a beach for July 1960;s Playboy. It was a still rare location photo for the cover.
Monsieur's July cover featured the well known body of Diane Webber who, as Marguerite Empey (her real name) was Playboy's Playmate of the Month for March 1955. She then became a Playmate again by accident, in February 1956, when photographer Russ Meyer submitted pictures of her under the name of Diane Webber.
Even more upfront than some of its rivals was Adam's August young lady whose nipples are just barely covered by some gauze.
Rogue had, at last, got rid of their cover paintings and had a very Playboy like cover in August.
Nugget was offering up girls with impressive cleavage too and a rather bewildering selection of fonts which almost, but not quite, overpowers the girls breasts.
By September the naked legs seen in July had been superseded by a naked back in Playboy's most assertive naked woman cover so far, cleverly presented as a jigsaw puzzle. The model is Marli Renfro photographed by Don Bronstein.
Screech, screech,screech, screech!
Renfro, who was also a Las Vegas showgirl and nude model, was famously the body double for Janet Leigh in the shower scene in Psycho the same year. Janet Leigh wore a one piece swimsuit for her scenes so anything where you see a naked stomach is Renfro.
After a two year gap the Playmate review gallery cover made a return, featuring another selection of dare to bare centrefold shots. A couple of the originals of these did include some nipple but these were removed for the pictures on the cover.
There was even bolder breast display on the cover of Monsieur's February, through the keyhole, cover. This was another magazine that had appeared following Playboy in the mid fifties.
Escapade's cover girl for April 1961 showed quite a lot of skin but ever so tastefully, in this rather classical shot.
Gent eschewed the simple shot of a girl for something much more striking which says a lot of about the erotic power of red lips.
July had Playboy's first real lacy lingerie cover with Susie Scott, the February 1960 Playmate of the Month, showing a lot of skin through her short, black negligee.
Hi-Life had a twist on the usual bikini girl in that she has lost her top and is shot from above.
The photo of Jean Carroll on the cover of Adam was an early example of what would become their cover style for some years; using portraits of their models rather than focussing on their bodies.
Meanwhile Nugget ignored their girl's face completely and instead had this striking cover featuring a model's legs alone.
Rogue got all of their cover girl in a coloured black and white shot, which is also quite Playboy-like in its use of a limited palette.
At least it is natural to be naked in the bath so it is rather surprising that bathtime shots were quite unusual for men's magazines covers. Perhaps it is because it is so natural that they preferred situations of more unexpected nudity.
Hi-Life obviously thought it was more enticing to have a half naked model wandering around in the woods than in a boring old bath.
As more and more Playmates revealed their nipples in their centrefold pictures Playboy had to be more inventive in covering them up on its Playmate review covers. Here they use the magazine's title to obscure June 1961's, Heide Becker's, prominent peaks.
This abstracted picture by Marvin E Newman not only works because of the fine hips and stomach of the model but also because her bikini bottoms are slightly smaller than her revealed tan lines. The tied side of the bikini bottoms are also suggestive of untying them to expose that hidden groin. The cropping of the picture sexualises it in a way that showing the whole girl wouldn't. A clever and enticing cover. Playboy readers discovered that covering up the top half of the picture generated a much racier looking image.
The outrageously buxom girl fronting up this issue of Modern Man was English model Ann Austin, one of Harrison Marks' favourite models. Statuesque (5' 10") and with a 39-25-37 figure she was a well educated girl from a middle class family.
Sheralee Connars (Miss July 1961) isn't quite naked behind the fur but her top is not exactly substantial and is still sheer enough to demonstrate that she is not wearing any knickers.
This is clearly demonstrated by the reverse shot inside the cover, which shows Miss Connars from behind. Interestingly, the shots weren't done at different times, with Miss Connars turning around for the reverse picture, as you might expect. Instead a u-shaped backdrop was circled around her, two apertures were cut in it for two camera lenses in front of and behind her (each hidden by her body) and the shots were made simultaneously. Pompeo Posar and Bob Hart took the pictures and it took six hours and fifteen rolls of film to get right.
January 1963's Playmate review gallery cover was a first, as both Avis Kimple (November 1963) at bottom left and Merle Pertile (february 1962) at top right both show a little glimpse of areola. This was the first glimpse of nipple on the cover of Playboy.
More skin on show on the cover of the March issue with Cynthia Maddox photographed by Don Bronstein. This was the second of no less than five covers Maddox would do for Playboy. Maddox was Hugh Hefner's main girlfriend from 1961 to 1963, having joined Playboy as a secretary in 1959 and ending up as assistant cartoon editor. In the end, sick of Hefner's two timing, she walked out on him. She wasn't a Playmate and this is as naked as she got for the magazine.
Escapade's June cover girl is patently not wearing anything under her brief top in a pretty bold display for the time.
A nice study of a naked back for August's Nugget whose girls were out exposing the Playboy ones at this time.
A tantalising shot of Teddi Smith by Pompeo Posar appears to show her completely naked in the shower. in fact, as this outtake shows she really does look like she was naked for the shoot.
It is another example of a bold but unusual use of an apparently naked girl on the cover of the magazine. Smith was Miss July 1960 and would also go on to appear on the cover of the magazine five times, although one of these was on the January 1961 gallery shot with other Playmates so she doesn't quite match Cynthia Maddox.
The January 1964 edition had a continuation of the cover on the inside so that they could display the more, er, upfront, Playmates as part of their traditional gallery. Prominent on the actual front cover was the centrefold for Terre Tucker (November 1963). There had been some de-emphasising of her nipples but these were the first full-on, unobscured naked breasts on the cover of the magazine.
The March 1964 issue's cover wasn't particularly revealing but it was suggestive and included the first image of a girl on a bed to appear on a Playboy cover. Czech actress Olga Schoberova's sultry sulkiness, as captured by Herman Leonard, just exudes a sexy rumpledness that matches the disarray of her sheets.
Olga/Olinka in The Vengeance of She
Olga would later go on to be known as Olinka Berova and would be the star of the somewhat disappointing Hammer film sequel The Vengeance of She (1968) replacing Ursula Andress, from the original film, as she-who-must-be-obeyed.
Instead of some wisps of fabric or an unbuttoned shirt Hi-Life added a drawn on fence to keep their March girl legal. It just emphasises even more her topless state.
Just as Playboy had its rabbit Cavalier had its, well, cavalier, a caricature of a seventeenth century gentleman who turned up on the cover as a drawing and sometimes, as here, as a rather curious doll. Displaying herself with the cavalier on the cover is none other than Jane Fonda who was still in sex symbol mode.
Another thrusting breast trying to escape a rather too tight jacket decorated the cover of August 1964's Escapade.
Mr uses the same approach. How much easier to photograph a busty girl than worry about all that tiresome design and art direction nonsense that so concerned Playboy.
January 1965's gallery cover was unusual in that although it featured pictures of the previous year's Playmates it did not use their centrefold shots. A lot of cleavage on show in this one and more than a hint of nipple on the third picture down on the left.
Escapade's February girl's right breast seemed to be trying to escape from behind her blue sheet. Was that perhaps, a tiny hint of areola on display? Surely not!
The rest of Playboy's 1965 covers were mainly of portraits or fully clothed girls, with only Lannie Balcom, who would become Playmate of the Month in August that year, showing any skin. Another one of those Playmates who died before her time, in 1991 at the age of fifty of a drug overdose.
While Playboy's girls kept themselves covered this was certainly not true of the other magazines and Modern Man's May girl not only displayed a profiled breast but also a visible nipple under her almost see through nightdress.
September's Nugget cover went even further as their cover model actually displayed fully naked breasts and they only got away with it because of the fact they used a double exposure of her also wearing her bikini top. But the evidence is clearly there. Twice.
While Escapade's December girl, actress Anna Karol (who made a number of sleazy B-movies at this time), kept her top half covered, below her belly button the picture plunged lower and lower towards the even more forbidden region.
The Playboy January 1966 issue played around with the usual gallery cover idea and had just the one visible picture. where September 1965's Patti Reynolds' pert breast was visible in profile through a cut-out in the front cover. Inside the pictures had reverted to the usual reproductions of the centrefolds. The other Playboy covers for that year were probably even more modest than for 1965.
Certainly not so modest were the covers for Escapade which were still showing as much skin as they could get away with.
Cavalier was successfully exploring the erotic power of the face on their mid-sixties covers by using really beautiful women rather than just girls with big busts.
The cover girl on the May 1966 issue of Nugget certainly doesn't have a big bust but she is certainly flashing the edge of her areola.
Modern Man's cover girl is revealing her pertinent points through her lace top. Playboy's 1966 covers were very modest, surely they wouldn't be drawn into a nipple war?
But for January 1967, while Playboy persisted with its flat rabbit and Playmates in picture frames approach, the Playmates in the pictures were presented without any censoring. At least this time the picture frames were appropriate as they had commissioned some artists to "interpret the Playboy Playmate" and one of these paintings was on the cover. The other three frames were occupied by some of the previous year's Playmates. For the first time, all of them, however, were defiantly topless and clearly displaying their nipples without them having been touched up, so to speak. These were the first clear, uncovered nipples on a US newsstand magazine.
No wonder the rabbit looked even smugger than usual, although he had been virtually pushed off the side of the cover to give full prominence (and that is certainly the word for Melinda Windsor bottom right) to the Playmates' charms. The rest of the rabbit appeared on the inside cover. This was a very bold step for Playboy.
Escapade's girl was a bit less uncovered than some they had but displayed a lovely toned stomach, in contrast to the softer lines of some of the bustier models of the time. Wende Wagner was then starring in TV's the Green Hornet. The daughter of a US Navy diving instructor, as an eighteen year old she had been spotted by director billy Wilder while swimming in Coronado where he was filming Some like it Hot (1959). After finishing school she did a a screen test for Wilder but turned down a part in The Apartment. She became a fashion model and then did some TV. underwater stunt work and some films including The Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969) Rosemary's Baby (1969).
Playboy's main rival, Cavalier, as we have seen, was largely featuring just portraits of women on its cover and had had nothing as racy as Playboy's January effort. Playboy seemed to be actively competing against its lesser and more downmarket rivals, surprisingly, in this nipple war.
Cover model Venita Wolff, photographed by Mario Casilli showed the most skin of any Playboy girl in 1967 other than the January gallery cover. A successful beauty pageant contestant in California, earlier in the year Venita had appeared in the Star Trek episode The Squire of Gothos. After a few other bit parts in film and TV she retired when she married the manager of the group Canned Heat, whose On the Road Again Triple P well remembers from the late sixties.
Peggy Aldrich just wore a tiny tie-on bikini bottom for her August Cavalcade cover.
Monsieur's girl in a lace catsuit was also letting her assets just peek through in another teasing cover.
The rest of Playboy's 1967 covers were very conservative and it wasn't until the Playmate Review cover came around again in January 1968 that we got to see more nipples on the cover of the magazine.
In March 1968 Playboy's cover had another naked girl from behind. In this shot of Sharon Christie by David Chan she is just showing the very top of her bottom; revealing an inch or so more than Marli Renfro had in September 1960. This was Chan's first cover for Playboy. Over the next ten years he would do five more and shoot eight Playmates.
Another very naked girl for Cavalcade in June showed how, January Playmate review covers aside, Playboy, despite its reputation really wasn't as out there as regards nudity on the cover as other men's magazines at the time.
Cavalier was still featuring the faces of its lovely models. In this case her name was Karen.
Mr was also going down the portrait route, although this head and shoulders shot implied nudity in a way that the Cavalier picture didn't.
The key-hole shot remained popular, this time for Rogue who demonstrates one of the rules at the time, that you could show a naked bottom from the side but not from the rear.
Cavalier had now backed away from their girls' faces enough to get an enticing hint of breast in too.
For January 1969 Playboy eschewed the usual gallery cover for a plain white one with the rabbit head logo embossed on it. The next naked girl on their cover was Sharon Kristie again, for April 1969. This time she is viewed from the front and shot by Pompeo Posar in one of the most effective Playboy girl-only cover pictures of the sixties. Sharon is clearly revealing some of her right areola here for the first time on a full-size Playboy cover photo
Playboy copied this cover for their August 2010 issue which featured Mad Men's Crista Flanagan although she is not able to show as much. The two covers demonstrate the superiority of the sixties small text compared with the overpowering approach of which, happily, Playboy has now backed off from.
The summer vacation issue gave Rogue a good excuse to feature a naked girl on the sand.
September 1969 saw another slightly racy Playboy cover with that month's centrefold, Shay Knuth, lifting her shirt to show the underside of her naked breast. This area was considered particularly racy in the US for some reason. Bill Theiss, the costume designer for Star Trek, earlier in the decade, had been told that although plunging cleavage was acceptable, he must never show the underside of a woman's breast on one of his costumes on TV. Was this slightly racier than usual cover anything to do with the arrival on the newsstands of Bob Guccione's Penthouse that month?
September 1969. First US Penthouse
Crossing the Atlantic from Britain, where it had been on sale since 1965, Penthouse's first US cover featured Pet of the Month Evelyn Treacher in an enticingly see-through dress. Her breast is veiled, certainly, but it's assertive profile put an immediate marker down to Playboy. This was a full-sized photograph not a small photo in a picture frame cover.
By November Penthouse was displaying The Sun's first Page 3 girl, Ulla Lindstrom's chest even more thinly veiled, with a hint of just visible nipples on display.
By November Penthouse was displaying The Sun's first Page 3 girl, Ulla Lindstrom's chest even more thinly veiled, with a hint of just visible nipples on display.
Cavalier's November model already looks forward to the more casual seventies. At this point all the publishers of the men's magazines knew exactly what they could get away with as regards exposure on the cover and inside. Apart from a few glimpses of the edges of nipple nothing had really changed since the fifties. But a storm was coming and that storm would be kicked off just four months into the next decade by Mr Bob Guccione.