America celebrated its bicentennial in July 1976 and this was reflected on the covers of some, but not all, of the leading men's magazines. Gallery failed to produce a celebratory cover but that was because they were too busy trumpeting their first amateur photographic finalist: "the girl next door". Ironically, Playboy had initially sold its women on the basis that they really were the "girl next door". However by the mid-seventies their primped and processed Playmates couldn't have been further removed from reality. Equally, when Penthouse started up in 1965 they proclaimed that all of their Pets of the Month had never posed naked before. This didn't last long, however, so it was left to Gallery to push undiscovered amateurs as "real" women rather than models.
Genesis had had a nasty case of premature patriotism and had done their girl with the stars and stripes thing for their June issue but still managed to get some red and white stripes onto their cover.
Hustler, needless to say, went further than the others and actually got pubic hair on the cover in a way that even Penthouse wouldn't have risked. The July issue was Hustler's second anniversary one and Larry Flynt, in his editorial, contrasted the US liberal capitalist society with the socialist government in Britain at the time and its public sector dominated approach, high inflation rates and low efficiency. Odd, that Agent Triple P now spends much of his time advising American government bodies on how to work more efficiently by using the private sector compared with their inefficient, old-fashioned, union dominated government sector. Britain has certainly changed since the mid-seventies!
The given the way that Hustler's depiction of women had moved since 1974 it was ironic (or perhaps not) that they included a couples pictorial called A Day in the Life of a Gynecologist. This not only had some simulated copulation but included this close up of the model's pussy being menaced by a speculum in the first appearance of this instrument in a mainstream men's magazine.
Oui didn't go for a bicentennial cover instead having a wet Playboy Playmate Victoria Cunningham (April 1975). They did have a period costumed pictorial themed around two Tory loyalists attacking a poor patriot girl as she embroidered a rebel flag.
A Oui/Playboy crossover: Somewhere in there are Playmates Ester Cordet (October 1974) and Christine Maddox (December 1973) together with model Gloria Baxter
Playboy also got Kris Kristofferson and Sarah Miles to pose for a passionate pictorial which recreated their steamy sex scene from the Mishima-based film The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea (1976).
Of all the magazines Penthouse really celebrated the anniversary with their "Bisextennial" (good grief) issue which featured a Stars and Stripes cover and a series of pictorials themed for every century since 1776.
Like Oui they went for an American Revolution period piece for their first pictorial called, with great originality, 1776. Less combative than the Oui effort (perhaps Guccione was still conscious of the British origins of his magazine) it took a "make love not war" approach with an English redcoat being seduced by a couple of lusty American wenches. Photographed by Jeff Dunas it featured one small photograph where one of the girls actually has her finger wrapped around the redcoat's penis in one of their naughtiest "love set" pictures so far.
The next pictorial entitled, 1886, was a girl/girl set by a photographer going under the name of Gajda. Two ladies in Victorian clothes undress each other, kiss and towards the end get quite friendly indeed. The picture above, which features one of the models with her fingertip on the other's open vulva, was the most explicit lesbian shot they had featured so far.
Pet of the Month Helen Lang appeared under the title 1976 and her pictorial featured a record number of spread legs and faux masturbation shots. This sensuous set, photographed by Earl Miller, really was the prototype of what was to follow in the rest of the seventies and onwards where the girl's vulva was the focus of most of the pictures.
Helen goes for it
Up until this point, Penthouse had almost sneaked these pictures in to the magazine but Helen has her legs wide apart in eleven out of her eighteen pictures (including the centrefold) and has her fingers on her pussy in five pictures.
Finally, leaping 100 years into the future in a pictorial called, wait for it, 2076. Earl Miller produced the first of what would be many science-fiction themed pictorials in Penthouse. Using rather space-age lighting it is often difficult to perceive what is going on but in one picture Miller has his spaceman cupping his spacegirl's mound in the magazine's most explicit female genital touching picture to date.
Omni first issue October 1978
Bob Guccione was a science fiction fan and less than eighteen months later he would start to publish Omni, a magazine which mixed considerable and high quality science fiction content with wider (largely specultaive) science articles. It was in an Omni magazine that William Gibson coined the word "cyberspace" and as far back as 1983 was predicting enormous amounts of content would be available online. It was a labour of love for Guccione who designed the early covers and the magazine's logo. The magazine was published until 1995. Associate editor and the person Guccione entrusted the magazine with was his wife Kathy Keeton. Keeton was a hugely influential part of the development of Penthouse.
Kathy Keeton in Penthouse in 1966
In an early issue of Penthouse in the mid sixties (volume 1 number 10) Penthouse had published a pictorial on strippers at the London club, Casino de Paris. Feauturing heavily in the pictorial was a dancer named Kathy Keeton. Guccione went along to see her act. At the time, overwhelmed by the success of his magazine, he was looking for new staff to help him out and top of his list was an advertising manager. He found the South African, former Royal Ballet dancer to be intelligent, driven, tough (her grandmother had been a commando in the Boer War) and with a good understanding of finance. He offered her the advertising manager job, which she took, even though it paid less than half what she could earn as a dancer. She recognised an opportunity, though, and within a few years had built a solid financial foundation for the magazine and a permanent place in Guccione's life, despite having to share him with a long string of Pets.
August saw Playboy displaying its first non-photographic cover since January 1974. During the period since then they had tended to copy the Penthouse approach to covers featuring rather conventional photographs of girls but now obviously felt confident enough to go their own way once more.
Linda sits on it
The August issue had a pictorial of rather small and not that interesting black and white Helmut Newton pictures and that month's Playmate, Linda Beatty kept her nether regions very much to herself. Linda would go on to appear as one of the Playmates in the USO show depicted in Apocalypse Now (1979) under her real name, Linda Carpenter.
Close but not touching
The pictorial sensuality in the issue came from a feature entitled Sex in the great outdoors. This featured a number of couples (and one threesome) having simulated rumpy-pumpy at a number of picturesque locations in the American countryside. In one photograph the man is nearly, but not quite, as hands on as in the previous month's Penthouse photograph. It was, however, by Playboy's standards a pretty racy pictorial.
The picture where two naked women are kissing whilst the man appears to take one girl from behind was as strong as anything from The Pubic War period. For a magazine that had told its advertisers the year before that it would be dialling back on the naughtiness this was a pretty racy pictorial.
Same sex, different races for Oui
In fact, it was far racier than the girl/girl set in Playboy's supposedly racier sister publication Oui. Although this pictorial featured an inter-racial theme the two girls were really rather chaste; with no actual kissing going on.
August's Penthouse featured one of Agent Triple P's favourite Pets, the wonderful natural redhead that was Victoria Lynn Johnson.
It would be only two and a half years later that Agent Triple P would be faced with his first bright orange pussy; one that we remained attached to in every way for over a year. So there is a special resonance attached to the spectacular picture above!
Victoria also gave us Penthouse's most explicit masturbation shot to date. There doesn't seem to be much faux about this picture by Stan Malinowski. Victoria would try and make a go of it as an actress but didn't achieve much other than stripping off under a waterfall and getting attacked by a giant bear in the ursine Jaws rip-off, Grizzly (1976). Her most memorable performance also featured faux masturbation as she was Angie Dickinson's body double in the notorious shower scene opening of Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill (1984).
Rub-a-dub dub for Vicky in Dressed to Kill
August's Penthouse followed on from the Bicentennial July issue by also presenting four, rather than the usual three, pictorials. Appearing first in the magazine was a young lady going under the name of Colleen Carney. Miss Carney had particularly prominent labia which were lingered on by photographer Timothy John. In one full page picture Miss Carney reveals very open labia showing that Penthouse had caught up again with Hustler. Was she the first girl in the magazine to display stimulated vulva? Probably.
An excited Colleen Carney
The third pictorial, The Sculptor, was another period boy/girl love set but was rather less explicit than some that had gone before. The attention to detail in set and props continued Penthouse's high standard in this area. They obviously retained some pretensions to art.
The final August pictorial featured one Rhianna Post in another genitally focussed set by Jeff Dunas. Miss Post, again, is seen with her fingers exploring her nether regions and one of these shots, from the rear, is one of the magazine's strongest such pictures to date.
Rhianna's real name was Henrietta Post and she was twenty three when this pictorial was shot. A very petite 5'2" she was later chosen by Bob Guccione to travel to Rome to film some of the added hardcore content he inserted into his troubled epic, Caligula.
In the picture below, from the additional scenes Guccione shot for Caligula, Henrietta/Rhianna is on the right watching April 1975 Pet Signe Berger service an Italian actor. Apparently Henrietta filmed an identical scene to Signe but it never made it into the finished film.
September saw another more graphically interesting cover for Playboy. Inside was another version of the cover's rabbit head logo which could be used as an iron-on tee shirt logo!
August's Hustler had a surreal cover to justify a punning title.
Two contrasting styles for the magazine's first couple of pictorials. The Penthouse style boudoir approach holds sway with the stocking-clad Bonnie while biker chick Rhonda is outside and in leathers. Both of course, ensure that they spread their thighs as widely as they can.
A couples pictorial, Under the Table at Tony's, took an interesting approach with some nicely revealing up skirt shots.
The final two pictorials in the magazine of Tina (top) and Naomi had the girls spreading their legs as usual but in both cases they are spreading their labia with their fingers to reveal a touch of inner dampness. Hustler had raised the pussy stakes again.
September's Playmate was Whitney Caine (real name Julie Anderson) photographed in surprisingly explicit style by Phillip Dixon. Dixon had also shot the labia revealing shots of Ann Pennington in March 1976 as well as the July 1976 Playmate, Deborah Borkman.
Whitney would abandon her art studies at UCLA to eventually become a disciple of Adi Da Samraj, a guru and spiritualist originally born as the rather more prosaic Franklin Albert Jones and known under a number of other names too, including Bubba Free John. She became one of his nine "wives" and moved with him to live, with a group of about 40 followers, on a Fijian island purchased by a wealthy follower from the actor Raymond Burr.
Whitney shows some tail
Whitney's splendid picture above is one of the most explicit rear-end shots Playboy has ever published.
There was more surprising post-Pubic War labia flashing in a pictorial entitled The Girls of Washington, photographed by David Chan. Marianne Sears, above, was a receptionist while Carolyn Grubbs (below) was looking for a job as an air hostess.
It is rather surprising, really, that girls who were, essentially, ordinary women, rather than models, would pose for such explicit pictures. Either that or they had a nasty shock when the chosen images were printed!
Again, these pictures were racier than those in supposedly "continental" publication Oui. September's cover presented a girl called Erica whose pictures inside would have been naughty in 1974 but, just two years later, looked rather tame compared with what Penthouse was doing.
Gallery girl has fun
So, quite a steamy summer for America's Bicentennial. Autumn would bring a new head for Playboy magazine as they attempted to stop the slide whilst Penthouse continued to go from strength to strength.