Penthouse's Pet for July, English schoolgirl Jane Hargrave, was photographed by Bob Guccione in such a diffuse way that in many photos she was almost invisible. The cover picture being the only one where you could work out what you were actually looking at. This was a shame, as Jane was a spectacularly beautiful girl, but fortunately she would reappear in the magazine again.
Disappearing in the mist
After some of the barrier breaking issues of recent months Penthouse's July edition was rather conservative. There was more soft-focus in Jeff Dunas girl/girl set The Castaways which did, however, contain the first picture in the magazine of a girl touching another's pubic hair.
The final pictorial, by Geoff Howes in his second and final Penthouse pictorial, was of the delicate looking Sissy Stanley who had this one dreamy pussy touching shot.
Artistic decisions aside (they never went quite so soft-focus with their Pet of the Month again), Penthouse was doing well and seeing a continuing rise in circulation, although their claims of a global circulation of over 5 million may have been a bit optimistic.
If only the finances had been as transparent
Over at Playboy things were not nearly as happy. Over the years they had poured millions of dollars into clubs, records, hotels, movies and books. Almost none of these ventures made any money. The Playboy Clubs were increasingly finding themselves in what had become undesirable city centre locations. Many had to be closed down and re-located to more salubrious suburban areas.
The Playboy clubs overall would have made a loss if it hadn't been for the $3.3 million a year profit Victor Lownes was producing from the London operation. Concerns about press stories relating to allegations (probably spurious) of hard drug use in the Playboy mansion were causing advertisers and subscribers to withdraw. The year-end figures for 1974 showed a worrying 48% drop in profits. By the time the report on the second quarter of 1975 came out Playboy was actually posting a loss of $356,000. The loss for the third quarter was up to $387,000.
The casino at the London Playboy Club
Playboy was still under the impression that the only way to stop the slide was by keeping up with Penthouse and its numerous other competitors (there were now almost 40 nationally distributed mens' magazines on sale in the US by now). It was probably no coincidence that Playboy was noticeably visually more explicit in the second half of 1975. July's Playmate Lynn Schiller, for example, sat with her legs apart licking who knows what off her fingers.
Lynn Schiller keeps her end up
Lynn also became the first Playboy Playmate to flash her anus in the magazine, in this two page spread.
In another pictorial on "legs" in the same issue this young lady is clearly displaying her perineum as well. Playboy seemed to be actually anticipating the trend that the arsehole was going to be the new pussy.
One of the other things that was eating Playboy's money was their attempt to out Penthouse Penthouse, their sister magazine Oui.
A young and lovely Helen Mirren
Although it contained a lot of European-themed news items (such as a faintly incredulous (and rather envious) little piece on the fact that British newspapers were featuring topless women on their pages) and European sourced pictorials from French partner Lui, it was actually less visually explicit than Playboy at this point. The July issue also saw a small but racy picture in their news section of up and coming British actress Helen Mirren.
However, they were also just starting to feature faux masturbation pictures such as this double spread in the July issue of "Diana". Many of her pictures were of her caressing herself but this one, with its naughtily extended finger, was the most explicit.
Hustler had been struggling financially in its first year to the extent that Larry Flynt was about to pull the plug on it.
The first girl for Hustler in July was photographed in full-on Penthouse style complete with out of focus flowers in the foreground. Celeste, or so she was called, was also showing just a hint of her anus in this shot; an area that Penthouse had not so far displayed.
Although she too displayed her labia in her pictorial a rather more enticing shot was of Therese tickling her fancy with a pink ostrich feather. A sexy and unusually creative photograph for the magazine at the time.
Given the parlous state of Hustler's finances the magazine was constantly looking for new gimmicks and in this issue presented their first life sized centrefold, printed on the equivalent of eight normal pages.
This particular Honey was none other than Althea Leasure. Leasure, from Ohio, had met Flynt in 1971, at the age of seventeen, when she applied for a job as a go-go dancer at Flynt's Colombus, Ohio club. By the time of this pictorial she was Flynt's fiancee and they would be married in August 1976. When Flynt was shot in 1978 Althea took over the running of the magazine and was heavily involved in its management until her death from drowning, having passed out under the influence of prescription drugs, in her bath in 1987 at the age of 33. She had become addicted to the painkillers Flynt was using and also developed AIDS which. Flynt later said, would have killed her anyway, before long.
This issue also saw the announcement of Honey of the Year which, unlike Penthouse's Pet of the Year or Playboy's Playmate of the Year, wouldn't go on to be regular feature. Nevertheless the initial winner was Patti, the girl from the December 1974 issue who had been the first girl in a nationally distributed newsstand magazine to display spread labia.
In February that year they had shown a pictorial which purported to show the first pubic curls appearing on an adolescent girl's mound. Encouraged by the positive response from their readers they brought the girl back for another pictorial entitled The Farmer's Daughter. Hustler would not have risked a genuinely young girl, of course, so they managed to locate one who looked younger than she was. The whole thing smacked of desperation.
Penthouse's August cover continued their recent trend for full-on topless pictures which most of their rivals were not yet being bold enough to follow.
Marsha in 1975
Their first pictorial featured a somewhat arty selection of photographs by Czechoslovakian born photographer Gernot Plitz whose first work had appeared in Penthouse exactly two years earlier. Plitz was raised in a concentration camp during World War 2 and was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich as well as a member of a rock band. It was in Munich where he met his future wife, Marsha Middleton, during the 1972 Olympics. They subsequently set up a photographic studio in Sunset Strip producing portraits of rock stars, pictorials for Penthouse, Viva, Omni, Oui and Time as well as corporate clients. It is Marsha who features in the photographs in this pictorial including this assertive knicker delving one (above).
Marsha now calls her self Amarushka and describes herself as an Elven Fairy High Priestess who researches and writes on alternative lifestyles, free energy technologies, archaeology, sacred sites and advanced healing arts.
Pet of the Month Marguerite Cordier's pictorial, also shot by Bob Guccione, had a number of spread legs shots but the dreamily erotic one above took their faux masturbation shots to a new level of explicitness.
The final pictorial that month was a photo feature on the making of an erotic film which included this double page, er, spread. None of the six girl/girl pictorials that had been in the magazine since December 1970 had had a shot anything like as graphic as this cunnilingus picture.
August's issue featured Playboy's most explicit cover so far with that month's Norwegian Playmate, Lillian
Müller, photographed by Suze Randall wearing very little indeed.
Inside Suze had Lillian posing for an aggressively self-caressing faux masturbation shot which would certainly have looked at home in Penthouse. Interestingly, Lillian's centrefold was shot by a different photographer, Dwight Hooker. This happened occasionally but not often. Perhaps Playboy felt that, the relatively new on the scene, Randall wasn't yet ready for the responsibility of the large format gatefold yet.
Kim's racy pose for Posar
Talking of experienced gatefold photographers, this issue also carried a pictorial on Playboy books editor Kim Komar. She had been working on a new Playboy book on photographer Pompeo Posar and he had persuaded her to pose. However, if she had been hoping for a few tasteful nudes she was in for something of a surprise. In one photograph she has a curly telephone handset cord between her legs and in the picture above she is showing as much as most Penthouse girls of the day.
August's Oui (incidentally the publishers always capitalised it as OUI) carried on with its gradual move to more visually explicit material.
This issue had two of its models idly toying with their pussies in a keep up with Penthouse way. Kathy McKinnon (above top) leaving little doubt as to the sexual intent of her self-touching and whilst Marianne (above bottom) is not quite so full on, her index finger does appear to be right on the button.
The sexiest pictorial in the August issue of Oui was of British actress Jane Birkin undergoing some light bondage, as in this extraordinarily effective picture above.
August's issue of Hustler presented Marie who not only spread her legs to display her bits but was also shown stroking her pussy as well.
There was more pussy stroking from Marilyn as well, in her pictorial by Tony Currin. At least the magazine was giving photographers credit now.
Susan also had her fingers stroking her fur as Hustler copied the self-caressing shots of Penthouse.
Tina made it four out of four pussy teasing models in that issue. Oddly in the next few years whilst penthouse got its models to indulge in more and more faux masturbation Hustler moved away from the self-caressing shots.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis saves porn magazine shock!
The big splash in the August issue, however, came just in time for a magazine which was desperately looking around for its salvation. Hustler found it in New York. Earlier in the year the New York based Screw magazine, run by Larry Flynt's friend Al Goldstein, had published some blurred paparazzi photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis doing some nude sunbathing. Goldstein had set up Screw in New York in 1968 as a weekly tabloid. Flynt saw how well the pictures had done in New York and now wanted to take them national. Flynt paid $18,000 to acquire five of these photographs and put them in the August issue of his magazine. The ploy worked. He sold over 1 million copies that month, created a national profile for Hustler and saved the magazine financially.
The cover of September's Playboy featured the pert derriere of Amy Arnold, photographed by Philip Dixon. That month's Playmate pictorial of Mesina Miller, was the second in a row photographed by Suze Randall. However, the black and white pictures in the feature were by the veteran team of Bill and Mel Figge.
One of these monochrome shots appears to feature Miss Miller's perineum as she struggles to fit herself into a hip bath. Playboy was getting very close to showcasing their girl's anuses.
More focus on the rear end came in this picture from a feature on legs, which also followed the trend of using the increasingly prevalent lesbian theme.
However, the biggest erotic charge in Playboy that month came from a clever reverse striptease pictorial by Richard Fegley. Entitled Put it on, put it on it showed a striking redhead getting dressed with the maximum amount of writhing and spread leg shots possible.
Our heroine shows just as much pussy as any of Guccione's girls up until that point. Not only that, but she has her hand between her legs in Playboy's strongest faux frigging shots so far.
One picture in the set was so strong that Playboy has subsequently censored it, removing the probing fingers from the current version. Above top, we have the current incarnation of this photograph and can see by comparing it to the original (above, below) how the probing fingers have been airbrushed out.
Penthouse for September dialled back on the pussy touching apart from one shot of Pet of the Month Michelle Stevens (below).
Michelle's Pet of the Month pictorial, photographed by Jeff Dunas, carried on the very soft focus look of the third quarter on 1975 in Penthouse.
Despite the fuzzy pictures, in several of her photos Michelle is clearly flashing her bits, however indistinctly, and more times than the previous Pets.
That month's issue saw Penthouse doing another boy/girl set, Mountain Retreat, photographed by Earl Miller. Continuing the trend of making each set slightly more explicit than the last this one had, for the first time, the man with his hand very close to the most intimate part of the girl's anatomy and actually touching her pubic hair.
In addition, the pictorial featured the clearest depiction yet of the man's penis, making only its third appearance in one of the magazine's "love sets".
Hustler's covers were getting more and more striking as their September issue demonstrates.
The first girl that month, Jane, was depicted in a jungle hut setting and assertively flashing her labia.
Peggy Hood worked in Larry Flynt's Colombus Ohio club and gave us this remarkable anal presenting shot, long before Penthouse did anything similar.
Talking of Penthouse, that month's Honey was no less than fifty years old. Cruelly Hustler dubbed her "Kathy Keeton" which was, of course, the name of Bob Guccione's wife. This woman was not, of course, the real Kathy Keeton. Guccione, who adored his (very attractive) wife, would not have been amused.
The final girl that month, Mitsy, could have come straight from Penthouse, with her self-absorbed breast caressing shot. Except the lack of soft focus highlighted her prominent labia in a way that Guccione was still only hinting at.
Next time we will look at the final quarter of 1975 which saw some activity which had a profound effect on the future of the Pubic Wars.