This month is the 45th anniversary of the first edition of Penthouse; which was first published in the UK in March 1965. This is the very first Penthouse Pet of the Month from that first edition: eighteen year old Denise Johns from Camden, photographed by publisher Bob Guccione himself.
Guccione had overstretched himself on the first edition so much that he couldn’t afford a photographer. There was only one thing for it: he would have to take the photographs himself.
He had never taken any photographs before but believed that his experience as a painter would stand him in good stead. Nevertheless, he had to take a one day photographic course before he shot this pictorial.
Desperate for a model for his first edition, Guccione hung around outside a secretarial employment agency in the Kings Road in Chelsea asking likely looking girls if they would agree to be photographed for his new magazine.
Denise has a really lovely bust
After being rejected by a number of girls, who quite clearly thought that he was a pervert, he persuaded Denise to agree. Guccione was in a hurry, he was running out of money so when Denise turned up to be photographed in Guccione’s own flat, on a Rolleiflex borrowed from a friend, the session was over in 45 minutes.
Whilst this may have been good news for Guccione it was slightly bad luck for poor Denise as she was being paid on an hourly rate.
So for the privilege of being Penthouse’s very first Pet of the Month she received the princely sum of...4 pounds and 5 shillings. Worth every penny we would say: all one thousand and twenty of them! In fact, while it sounds like a tiny amount, in 1965 a secretary was paid £5 a week!
Unable to afford fancy lighting, Guccione used the available light from his apartment window; thus developing a style he would use for many years and in complete contrast to Playboy’s huge team of technicians.
Note the red flowers in the background of Denise's centrefold. These would feature a lot in subsequent Penthouse pictorials (not the same flowers, obviously!)
Denise also featured in the fold-out flyer that Guccione had printed to attract subscribers before the first magazine was published.
He got into trouble for sending these "obscene" pictures to random people on a mailing list he had bought but the subsequent controversy didn't damage him at all!
In fact the first edition of 120,000 copies sold out in five days. The first edition now sells on eBay for up to £80 a copy.
In the first few issues the centrefold wasn’t the last image in the pictorial, there was another page afterwards. So here is our last look at Denise in, possibly, the sexiest shot of the lot. If any picture put down a marker to Playboy that there was a new approach in town then this was it: nothing girl next door about Denise here.
A year on Penthouse collected their first year's worth of Pets into one pictorial and we got this extra superbly tactile picture of lovely Denise and her lovely bust!