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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Peek-a-boo Playmate Venuses. Fur flashing in the pre-pubic era: A Pubic Wars Special 1 1957-1964

Liv Lindeland January 1971

January 1971 was a key date for Playboy magazine.  In that issue Liv Lindeland became the first pubic Playmate, as Hugh Hefner's magazine fought back against Bob Guccione's Penthouse, which had had its girls flashing their fur since April 1970.  Actually, as we will see, Lindeland was not the first Playmate to display her pubic hair in the magazine but hers was the first pubic centrefold. More on this, of course, can be found in the relevant section of our Pubic Wars series here.  

Zahra Nobo March 1958

Depiction of pubic hair in American magazines before this was deemed to be obscene and would, it was widely regarded (there was no definition, as such) open the magazine to prosecution.  So Playboy and its imitators often had to go to great lengths to be able to show naked women but without displaying the offending hair.  The simplest solution was for the girls to wear something on their bottom half but many photographers realised that displaying bare skin from foot to head was far more enticing and so the groin had to be covered with sheets, towels, hats, soft toys etc. Alternatively, the girl made sure another body part obscured the forbidden zone or she could stand behind some foliage or other object. 

Jean Jani July 1957

For the girls themselves, of course, in the pre-permissive society, baring their breasts was a big enough step for these girls next door (although Playboy's first Playmates were all professional models); to have to show their most intimate region would have been a step too far and we can imagine that they kept themselves covered up as much as possible between shots.  

Linda Vargas December 1957

As a result, the fifties and early sixties are seen as a pubic free era.  You even get people talking about "seventies style bush" on women, ignoring the fact that women had bushes for every decade before then.  It's just that they were never seen in magazines.  But possess them they did, so we thought we would have a look at the strands of evidence for this from some of the outtakes of Playboy shoots in the fifties and sixties.  There is something particularly enticing about looking at something today which would have been unthinkable in the past and these pictures make these women from decades gone by, who bravely posed in a less tolerant era, all the more real.  It also gives us a chance to look at some of the lesser known Playmates from the early sixties.

We start with our only fifties example in the shape of the sultry Linda Vargas from December 1957.  There is nothing timid about Miss Vargas' poses here although both she and the photographer Herbert Melford would have known they could never have been published at the time.  In her centrefold she hides her groin behind a book but in these two shots she seems quite unconcerned about her total nudity.  Vargas, like Playboy, was from Chicago and moved to Hollywood in 1958 getting a small part in a film.  She then, according to the magazine, 'disappeared'.

 Teddi Smith July 1960

Teddi Smith lived at the Playboy Mansion for a time and appeared on the cover of the magazine no less than four times.  Here she employs the holding fabric in front of the groin cover up, not entirely effectively in this slightly revealing shot.  She worked in Playboy's offices and eventually became an interior designer.

Elaine Paul August 1960

Elaine Paul digital version

The centrefold of Elaine Paul, from August 1960 demonstrated the manipulation of the images done by the Chicago firm Regensteiner, who printed all of the Playboy centrefolds at this time, separately from the other pages of the magazine.  The top image is how Miss Paul appeared in the original magazine over fifty years ago.  The second image is the original image which shows that the printers removed the glimpse of her fluff below her belly and also changed the colour of her shoes.

This shot is almost but not quite identical to the centrefold and demonstrates how much of the image had to be cropped to get the long, thin, centrefold format.

Here is a final shot of the fur flashing Miss Paul, a Brooklyn based fabric designer.

Susan Kelly May 1961

 From May 1961 comes Susan Kelly a former schoolteacher from Oklahoma who went to Hollywood and was spotted by a film producer.  Or, at least her 36-22-35 figure was spotted.  She appeared in a few films (in one of which she played a Playmate!) and some TV shows but seems to have disappeared off the Playboy scanner in 1967.

In the top picture she just reveals a few stray strands which would have been cleaned up later if the picture was destined for publication (which it wasn't).  In the bottom shot, though, most of her bush is visible beneath her blouse.

 Mickey Winters September 1962

Mickey (Michele) Winters was described by Playboy writers as relaxing in the hay although readers soon wrote in to point out that she was actually posed amongst straw; a lot more of which can be seen in the uncropped centrefold shot above.

When she was initially photographed for Playboy she was a brunette (the evidence is just visible in this shot) who had become a blonde for her centrefold.  Winters, a Chicago Playboy Club Bunny, was just five foot tall and had a remarkable 36-18-34 figure.

Toni Ann Thomas February 1963

Toni Ann Thomas was spotted by a photographer during a trip to a hardware store.  He shot some pictures of her in a bikini and she sent them to Playboy who immediately offered her a Playmate slot.  She used the money to help fund her education in design, a career that she followed, as an interior designer from then on. Here she gives us an enticing corner.

Adrienne Moreau March 1963

Although born in New Jersey, Moreau's parents were French and after studying politics and languages did some modelling and later acted as an interpreter at the New York World's fair in 1964.  

 Phyllis Sherwood August 1963

Pompeo Posar shot Phyliss' centrefold in the pool of a Chicago house, where his challenges included how to keep the lilo from moving about.  By the time the issue came out Phyliss had met a Chicago nightclub owner who she is, remarkably, still married to.  In the shot above she hasn't moved her leg quite far enough to obscure her fur, as was the required pose.

 Victoria Valentino September 1963

As we can see from these two shots Victoria Valentino, who had just discovered she was pregnant the day before this shoot, sports a dark thatch.

However, during the course of her Playboy shoots it was removed, leaving her perfectly smooth; a common procedure for nude models at the time as it saved the need for expensive retouching later on.  Although bald mounds did appear in Playboy from time to time (oddly, it was only the hair that was deemed obscene) during this period this hint of crease would not have got through.

Victoria was married at the time she appeared in Playboy, although she later spoke out about the fact that her husband abused her.  She worked as a Bunny in the Los Angeles Playboy club but tragically the son she was carrying at the time of her photos drowned in an accident when he was six, bringing an end to a burgeoning singing career as she struggled to cope with the aftermath.  More recently Victoria has got involved in helping with bereavement counselling as a result.  During the late sixties she appeared in a number of films (usually requiring her to remove her clothes), largely under the name Victoria Carbé, and some TV, including an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1967.  She eventually flashed her fur in the pages of Playboy in a Playmates revisited feature in February 1998 at the age of 55.

Nancy Jo Hooper February 1964

Here we have twenty year old Nancy Jo Hooper just exposing a little for the lens of Pompeo Posar.  Posar told her to try to look sexier during the shoot and Nancy Jo admitted that she didn't know anything about sex as she was a virgin.

Ashlyn Martin April 1964

Ashlyn was the stage name of Laura Lynn Hale, who was born in London but grew up in Florida.  She appeared in a few films and TV shows in very minor parts in 1963 and 1964.  Maybe the intention here was to hide her groin with the arm of the chair but it doesn't quite work.  Still, it's a lovely shot of the smiling girl.

 Teri Kimball May 1964

Teri was a Bunny at the Chicago Playboy Club and no doubt the intention was for her to hide her fluff behind the glass but, again, the alignment was just out.

More fur flashing outtakes from the sixties and very early seventies in part 2.


  1. Wasn't there a pool shot with underwater fur evident, sometime in the 50's/60's?

    1. There is a shot of Marguerite Empey (February 1956) holding a sea shell underwater but it wasn't part of her centrefold shoot.

  2. Another geat post, on a site already overflowing with them. Well researched, as usual, and very educational. I had seen a lot of these images but not all of them. There is a certain frisson in seeing photos from pre-exposure days taken by professionals in the Playboy style but showing more than was permissable back then. I think the first instance of such exposure I can recall was the Anita Ekberg photo on page 46 of the Playboy book (Forty years edition). Thanks for posting

    1. I write regarding the Victoria Valentino post under which you write "Although bald mounds did appear in Playboy from time to time (oddly, it was only the hair that was deemed obscene) during this period this hint of crease would not have got through."

      My theories about why only the hair was held as obscene: First, remember the long-held convention in Western art, both painting and statuary, that depicting a nude woman, surely a mythological one from the ancient world, was acceptable if there was no evidence of hair or genital detail, like the venereal cleft. (The breakthrough 19th century painting "Origin of the World" was scandalous because it violated both rules.) Second, in a culture where women did not shave pubic hair, a hairless mound would be as inoffensive as that belonging to a pre-pubescent girl, which creature (at least the pre-Freudian era) held to be sexless.

      Now let me take note of a unique germane incident on (fee-free) American broadcast television, on the eve of the Pubic Wars. A half-century ago this season there debuted a situation comedy serial, in full color, about a 15-and-a-half-year-old girl, portrayed by 18-year-old Sally Field, titled "Gidget." Much of the action took place on the beach and involved surfing, attempting to leverage the popularity of films with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon set in the same circumstances. All these works exploited the setting to exhibit the figures of shapely young women in form-fitting bathing suits, including those missing at least part of the midriff. While the films sometimes dared baring the navel, this would be taboo on US TV for some years yet. Gidget followed this convention, but on at least one occasion, currently exhibited on YouTube at , it transgressed in other FAR more dramatic ways.

      The pink bathing suit worn by Gidget's title character is basically the same in appearance as underwear of the period - and in those days, it was unthinkable to show women dressed only in underwear, even in an appropriate setting like solitude within their bedroom, presumably because of the tacit sexual implication. But most shocking of all is that the bathing suit fits so tightly, the venereal cleft seems to be plainly visible several times! (I think it is pointless to argue whether this is an intrinsic feature of the suit or its deformation against the genitals of the actress, because the sexual psychology is the same.)

      This display is even more transgressive than a nude featureless shaved mound, on account of the crease, and I'd argue even more transgressive than even a typical nude unshaved mound, which would at least hide the crease! I am inclined to believe this was an intentional and daring, albeit sneaky, move by the producers, in an era where viewers had no VCRs et alia to examine "instant replays." My reason? The previously cited (plausibly deniable, but nonetheless effective) manifest eroticism of a suit that resembled underwear.

      The series, which I recall from childhood, was short lived, despite how cute Sally Field was. This "cameltoe slip" was virtually the only one on free US broadcast TV of which I know, and one about which I learned only in the present decade. My only other example dates from 2007, where a vaguely extant exhibition of this kind was an intentional comedic gimmick on the famous late-night satirical show called "Saturday Night Live" shown at

    2. Indeed. I am just collating some pictures of Marguerite Empey who was often pictured with a bald (retouched) pubis.,like all nude models in the fifties. I have just watched that Gidget clip you so kindly pointed out. Remarkable! At at time when you couldn't show belly buttons! I remember reading about all the issues Star Trek costume designer Bill Theiss had in order to hide them. I had heard of Gidget but it was not shown in the UK. i hadn't realised she was played by Sally Field!

  3. Great set, which I think also accentuates Playboy's fall from grace to their inane decision to cease nudity in the magazine. This set included natural beauties with some hints of the forbidden artistically photographed. The Playboy of the 21st century veered away from this, including too many fake blondes with fake tits, no bush and the Playmates were often photographed in unoriginal repetitive poses. Even though Playboy too often teased us with beautiful women wearing sheer panties while we hoped for the money shot, there was something much more exciting about them than the current offerings. Despite not being as explicit, for years Playboy had the reputation for having the most beautiful naked women. The current CEO is a fool for thinking that mimicking Maxim, rather than further leveraging one of the world's most recognized brands and why it became one. Simple math should make him realize the magazine can lose money, albeit less if it were actually better managed, while enabling the company to increase it's trademark royalties increase overall revenue and profits.

    1. I read an article once which could Playboy the worst managed, recognisable brand in the world.

  4. Reading this makes me quiestion one thing. Do you know if the centerfolds as they appears on iPlayboy have some differences as they actually appeared on print?

    1. The short answer is yes. Not least because many of the centrefolds on the website don't include the lettering, for example. Others certainly have slightly different versions online.