We have just had an e-mail from B in Germany saying that all these girl/girl sets are "all very well but that most erotica features men and women" and I "need to do something about it"! Not wanting to upset a particularly bossy German, especially as she has promised to take me out to dinner in Istanbul mext week, we present Penthouse's very first couples pictorial.
So here, from December 1972, is One and One Make Free photographed by Ken Marcus. This was not only Penthouse's first couples pictorial (although the first girl/girl sets had preceded it) but it was Marcus' first pictorial for the magazine as well.
Our protaganists were touted as photographer James Francis (27) and his girlfriend Gwen Selvage (24). Now we don't know about Mr Francis but the lady certainly is Gwen Selvage, a dancer, model and actress so maybe they really were a couple. We'd like to think so!
Pictures of men and women together had not been unusual in Penthouse at this point as they had regularly produced picture features on, usually, the racier European films which usually contained a number of photographs of the stars getting down to some simulated sex.
However, this was the first pictorial specifically shot for the magazine which included a couple. Penthouse would eventually christen these with the rather coy title "love sets". Unlike the girl/girl sets, which had been a bit reserved, Marcus photographed James and Gwen kissing right from the beginning.
Girls in stockings were still something of a rarity in the magazine but Gwen looks very fetching in her yellow ones.
She moved to Hollywood to break into films but instead accompanied a friend to an audition as a dancer and was chosen as a performer for a group of dancers called the Gazzarri dancers (after the choreographer of the troupe) who performed on a TV pop show called Hollywood A Go-Go from 1964 until 1966.
She was on of the core go-go dancers (naturally) on this show for some time. Above, Gwen is the second girl from the front with some Vietnam era servicemen during a show they put on for them in California.
Here she can be seen performing in front of a one hit wonder group called The Knickerbockers in January 1966. They are playing their Beatles sound-a-like top twenty hit "Lies".
Here she is performing in a very different way for Ken Marcus five years later. The show finished in 1966 but she went on to be a dancer on the Playboy After Dark TV show which ran from 1969 until 1970.
This must have been something of a risk for Penthouse given that their first girl/girl set, Two Women, had attracted mixed comments from their readers. After all, men bought the magazine to look at pictures of naked women, not men.
Is he going up or going down?
However, the risk paid off and Penthouse published several appreciative letters. "I sincerely congratulate you on your superb pictorial featuring James and Gwen" wrote Mr Black of Pennsylvania.
Mr Franciaso of Denver was even more effusive.: "I would like to say how much I appreciated the December pictorial, as I really enjoy seeing pictures of men and women together." Given that Penthouse was very much making the running at this point we wonder where else he had seen them! "I sure hope you continue to show men and women making love", he went on. "Photographs like those by Ken Marcus should be a regular feature", he concluded.
Marcus (and indeed his models) certainly really went for it in this pictorial as this photograph shows James' hand right between Gwen's legs.
In this final picture from the pictorial, Gwen gives us the set's only pubic shot. So, all in all a good start at Penthouse for Marcus and an early example of the couples pictorials he would specialise in in the future.
Gwen in her heyday
As for the lovely Gwen, she still lives in Southern California and we must thank her for being the hippy era California girlfriend we would all have wanted to have had.