Posted - 01/17/2008 : 04:13:58 AM
Nudism, porn and the history of nudist magazines
In this book excerpt, learn how sex magazine publishers exploited the nudist movement in the 60's. See how early nudist publications served the sex industry. For collectors, purchase a recently published compendium and analysis of the early nudist magazines mentioned in this excerpt.
Jaybird was a "nudist" magazine that was around during the time that porn mags didn't have the protections that nudist magazines enjoyed. As a result this "nudist" magazine printed some very controversial photos during its later years of publication.
Warning for those sensitive to adult references: This article from TASCHEN.com shares some insights into the confusion between nudism and sex, and how the adult magazine industry benefited from this in the 1960's and early 70's. It includes adult references and images that some individuals may find offensive. Due to its historic insight and direct relation to early nudist magazines and the nudism movement, this excerpt is reprinted here with the original illustrations. The book Naked as a Jaybird (Photobook) by Dian Hanson is available by clicking the link.
Naked as a Jaybird and loving it
A true milestone in fine art publishing.
Excerpt from the book by Dian Hanson
The year was 1965, the place was southern California. Public nudity was illegal and, in the eyes of the government, nude photography was pornography (unless practiced in the conservative confines of a nudist camp or tastefully displayed on the pages of a nudist magazine). A new brand of nudism, however, was on the rise among hippies and other freespirited individuals who loved nothing more than to peel off their clothes and lounge around in their birthday suits. Jaybird magazine, a celebration of groovy nudism, was born out of this tumultuous climate, hovering in a gray area somewhere between the decent nudist magazines and porn. Over its eight-year life span, Jaybird (appearing under many titles, such as Jaybird Happening and Women's Home Jaybird) grew from a standard family nudist journal to a farout, psychedelic happening of naked hippies frolicking in wacky settings—preferably showing as much pubic hair as possible. Though the tone of the magazine evolved, the philosophy stayed the same: nudity is natural and fun for all. These days, issues of Jaybird are impossible-to-find collectors' items, Technicolor testaments to a bygone era of free love and pubic pride. But not to worry—TASCHEN has resurrected Jaybird with this highly amusing, lavishly illustrated, sweeping retrospective of the magazine that let it all hang out.
Modern nudism began in Germany with the Wandervögel, or wandering birds, young men and women who took to the countryside, hiking, singing and shedding their clothes in protest against Europe's dehumanizing industrialization. The year was 1900. Modern nudism nearly ended in California with the Jaybirds, young men and women who took to the beaches, spreading peace, love and limbs in protest against Puritanical prohibition of doing their own thing. The year was 1965. Both Wandervögel and Jaybirds failed in the end to change the world, but unlike the Wandervögel, Jaybirds left a paper trail, the pseudo-nudist magazines full of hippy-speak and the happy, healthy, hairy bodies you find in this book.
Examining the Jaybird magazines it's hard to imagine that they started with a serious social mission, but then the Wandervögel also probably looked like a bunch of crazy kids to their elders. The Jaybird philosophy was formed by a Mensa member and fine-tuned by a psychologist, and in the beginning it wasn't so different from that of Heinrich Pudor, the German sociologist who turned Wandervogel idealism into the Nacktkultur still practiced all over Germany and the world.
For example: Pudor wanted to break down class divisions in industrial Germany. The Jaybirds wanted to spread good vibes to all mankind. Pudor considered clothing class slavery.
"We really hoped Jaybird would lead to freer acceptance of nudism in general culture."
Jaybirds considered clothing the straightjacket of uptight society. Pudor preached intoxicating substances should be expelled from the body like undesirables from the country. And Jaybirds... well, they disagreed on some points. But like the original German nudists the American Jaybirds were absolutely creatures of their time, born of unique historical circumstance, nurtured by social upheaval and dreams of a better life for all mankind. The Nacktkulturists had Heinrich Pudor, Richard Ungewitter and Paul Zimmerman to lead them.
The Jaybirds had Stan Sohler, Bob Reitman and "Connie". "We really hoped Jaybird would lead to freer acceptance of nudism in general culture," says Connie, the Mensa member, who at eighty still holds the Jaybird vision, but because she now works for a conservative firm chose to use a pseudonym. "Jaybird was meant to sound fun, to give a certain sense of abandon along with the nudity. You have to remember the time; Jaybird couldn't have existed in any other time."
Oh, she's right there. Jaybird magazines, with names like Jaybird Happening and Jaybird Scene, Campus Jaybird, Women's Home Jaybird and Utopia, were the collision of two worlds, the conservative nudist community where families gathered to play volleyball and barbeque in the buff, and the rockin' hippie planet where all was groovy, especially if it kicked sand at the man. And in the 1960s, when Jaybird spread its wings, hippies were kicking sand all up and down the California coast. It was the era of the Free Beach Movement, the largely forgotten fight for nude access to public shores; the time of Sandstone, a swinging psychotherapy commune in the Hollywood Hills where biologist Alex Comfort and psychologists Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen went to tune in, drop out and get laid, in any order desired; and the time when sexual researcher Dr. John Money was prescribing stays at the almost equally libidinous Elysium Fields nudist park up in Topanga for patients suffering excessive shyness; and also the time when author Gay Talese was partaking of all these places and pleasures for his book on America's changing mores, Thy Neighbor's Wife, and losing his own wife in the process.
Yes, it was a time, such a time it could even lead a middle aged, Midwestern mother to run away to California to join the nudists.
"My second husband and I married at the age of 39 and we decided we were going to be nudists," says Connie. "We had reproduced ourselves and our children were grown. My husband was able to find some of these old Modern Sunbathing magazines and we talked about a lot of things we didn't like about how society was run and I told him how I liked to swim nude."
It started when Connie was only eight, in Chicago's chilly Lake Michigan.
I'd swim out beyond where I should in the lake and struggle out of my swim suit and swim around nude, and then struggle back into my suit and swim to shore. Sure it was cold, but it felt so good," she says.
The feeling only got better with age. "When I was at summer camp, age about 14, and we were supposed to be sleeping decently, I convinced another girl to go to the lake with me and keep watch and I swam around in the lake naked until I was tired out, then I threw my robe on and went up to bed. It was the only way I could sleep."
Sunshine and Health and Modern Sunbathing
Connie never dared share her peculiar urges with her first husband, this being the American Midwest of the '50s, but her second husband, she says, "was a weirdo too." We decided to devote the rest of our lives to fun, and who cared what society thought," she says, still giggling about it 40 years later.
They began by joining the Illinois nudist camp owned by Alois Knapp, a German Nacktkulturist and editor of Reverend Ilsley "Uncle Danny" Boone's Sunshine and Health magazine. Boone's original magazine, The Nudist, debuted in 1933, just about the time young Connie was learning to swim. It was a serious, philosophical magazine, much like the early German journals, but America was not Germany, and to keep his distribution Boone was forced to obscure the genitals in his photographs. A few years later he changed The Nudist's title to the less confrontational Sunshine and Health, but the airbrush stayed busy.
Boone was known as The Dictator in nudist circles. He loved to preach and he loved to fight—as long as he won. He confronted the courts over and over on the issue of censorship, demanding the right to display the naked human body—every dangling bit of it—in his magazine. In 1941 the government resurrected the Comstock Law, a Victorian law that prohibited sending obscene material through the mail, in an attempt to defeat him.
It only enraged him. Through the '40s and '50s "Uncle Danny" fought for pubic hair. On January 13th, 1958 he won. Nudist magazines were judged to be nonsexual, and therefore not obscene; they could travel through the mails and show what no other American magazines could: full frontal nudity. New magazines sprang up like violets after a spring rain.
Back in Chicago, Connie and her new husband were enjoying the honeymoon, spending weekends in an old milk truck at the camp and plotting their nude future. Hubby had become the camp photographer, with Knapp's encouragement. Connie had begun to write. In the evenings, in the truck, they dreamed their dreams.
"We knew there were nudist magazines being made in California," Connie says, "and by golly, they needed pictures! We thought we'd give it a try."
Out in California there were indeed nudist magazines being made. Modern Sunbathing, that same magazine Connie's new husband had used to tease out her nudist confessions, responded to the couple's queries with a job offer. Known as the nudist magazine that had never had a nude on its cover, Modern Sunbathing avoided Boone's battles, preferring to go unnoticed by the government. This had less to do with modesty than that the publisher's main business was girlie magazines. Publisher Ken Price was the first to see there was money to be made from nudism after the legalization of pubic hair, but other men's magazine publishers were watching his sales with great interest.
"When we got to California in 1962 we went to camps every weekend, shooting pictures for Modern Sunbathing and having fun," said Connie. "We became members of The Sundial Club, and there we met Ed Lange. Ed wanted to start magazines that would end nudist prudery. He finally found a publisher and named his first magazine Sundial, after the club."
Milton Luros, America's richest pornographer
Ed Lange was not new to nudism but was a new kind of nudist, an avowed hedonist like Connie and her husband. When he embraced nudism in 1938 it was "to discover a way that would acknowledge the innate sensuality of all humans, that would allow me to accept my and other's humanity and sexuality comfortably—without shame." In his book Thy Neighbor's Wife, Gay Talese described Ed Lange as "a tall, well-built former fashion photographer with an elegantly trimmed gray beard." Everyone I interviewed spoke of his charm, his charisma, his vision of a sexually liberated nudist community. Several people also described him as a swinger. It's little wonder he picked Milton Luros to publish his magazine.
Luros started his professional life in New York City illustrating science fiction pulps. By the late 1950s sci-fi was a sinking ship; Luros jumped to illustrating the rising pin-up pulps. In 1958 he left New York for L. A., where he worked as art director for Adam and Knight, two of the better girlie magazines of the time. In 1959 he started his own publishing company, American Art Agency, in North Hollywood; his first magazine was a nudes and booze celebration called Cocktail. Where he got the money is debated and perhaps best unexplored. Whatever the source, there was plenty of it; by 1965 Milton Luros so dominated the field that the staid Readers Digest proclaimed him America's richest pornographer, citing profits of $20,000,000 a year.
"This was a case of a man owning the store, owning all the fixtures, owning the printing presses, owning the distribution company, and the trucks and the delivery people, owning the photographers and all the photographs, owning the property it's all on, owning the street, owning everything," said Bob Reitman, the psychologist. "He probably could have put up a gate and kept the traffic from going through." It was that Readers Digest article that convinced Reitman to shelve his career and join Luros's vast holdings.
While the majority of Luros's wealth came from his printing business and high quality girlie magazines, Sundial proved so lucrative he gave Lange his own building to develop new nudist titles. It's doubtful whether Sundial accomplished Lange's goal of easing nudist hang-ups, but it was very popular with men who fantasized that nudists were uninhibited sensualists. The fact is that most nudists were very happy with their prudery.
"You didn't display erotic emotions in the camps," Connie says. "If some poor man developed even the beginnings of an erection it was frowned on. I remember a man being thrown out of camp because he went in the bathroom to hide an erection and someone went in and saw it. I want to read something from Sir Kenneth Clark: 'No nude should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling, even though it be only the faintest shadow. If it does not do so it is bad art, and false morals.' We live in a society where people go berserk because someone doesn't have all their clothes on."
Lange tapped his liberated friend Connie to work with him on the new magazines. In 1964 they were joined by Stan Sohler, a Texas transplant with a charm similar to Lange's and a cultist's zeal for nudism. Together the friends reinforced The Vision. When hippies began cavorting nude on California beaches, Lange and company welcomed them and their philosophy into Sundial. Lange's influence continued to grow in the nudist community, but many criticized the sensual photos and hipster texts in his magazines. Old guard nudists feared where it might be leading. Rightly so, as Jaybird was already hatching in the mind of Milton Luros.
"Jaybird meant it wasn't pure anymore."
"I'm sorry," says Bob Reitman about keeping me on hold. "That was Marilyn Horne doing the big aria from Samson and Delilah." The opera still wails in the background. "In my old age I've decided to let everything finish before going on to the next thing." Bob was Jaybird editor between 1967 and 1971.
"Milt Luros thought up the Jaybird title," he says. "As far as I know he brought it up to Stan Sohler and that's one of the things they broke over, because that title meant it wasn't pure anymore."
He's referring to The Nudist Vision, which he says amounted to a religion for Sohler, who was promoted to head of American Art's nudist department in 1965. Ed Lange had split with Luros and formed his own company, Elysium Publishing, to produce Sundial. Luros didn't mind; he'd ceased needing Lange. Milt saw that men were buying nudist magazines to see what they couldn't in the girlies, namely pubic hair. He'd make a nudist magazine tailored more to this readership, with less of Lange's tiresome, page-wasting idealism. Still, he needed some nudists on staff to get the photos, which came from the camps and their members. Sohler wanted the job, but he had a hard time swallowing a magazine with the inelegant title of Jaybird. Back in Texas where Sohler's vision had also been poorly appreciated, Jaybird was part of a corny colloquialism that began "Naked as a...". It meant the same thing to Luros, but he had no problem with corny; it sold just fine in his girlie magazines.
To cover his shame, Sohler concocted a story, printed in the first Jaybird magazine, which may even have been true, but no one else quite remembers it. He claimed a housewife had written a letter to newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers, saying she found relief from the drudgery of housework by doing it in the nude and wondered if she was alone in this. Ann had supposedly assured her that this was normal and healthy and was then deluged with letters from similar nude housewives glad for the chance to reveal themselves. At least in writing. The original housewife reportedly signed herself "Jaybird Anonymous".
If it wasn't real it was genius on Sohler's part. The idea that there was a secret underground of nudist housewives across America appealed to nudist and non-nudist readers alike. It also defined Jaybird's mission, which was to get nudism out of the camps and incorporate it into everyday life. Sohler maintained Jaybird was meant to sound more irreverent than other nudist titles, to create a sense of fun and abandon. Jaybirds were not just naked as birds, they were free as birds, as free as the Wandervogel, released from the rigidity of outdated camp culture. The camps didn't like this one bit.
The Iowa Case
Connie stayed with Stan to make Jaybird. Their first issue, released in July 1965 was called Jaybird Journal.
Jaybird Safari followed a month later. To increase interest in the new magazines, Jaybirds went under many titles, each printing four issues a year. The first Jaybirds weren't that different from standard nudist fare; just happy, naked people frolicking on beaches or hiking in the California deserts, decamped but not debauched, hip but not hot. Connie calls this the Pre-Iowa Period.
In 1965, the United States government decided to get Milton Luros. His girlie magazines, tame by today's standards, were considerably more explicit than anything else on America's newsstands. The tool then used to trip up purveyors of obscene materials was the Comstock Law, but because Milton owned his own distribution company and moved his magazines in his own trucks there was little chance to snare him with the mails. Thus a trap was laid with the help of a news dealer in Iowa who persuaded American Art to send him several titles via the US postal service. Luros was subpoenaed and ordered to stand trial in Sioux City, buckle of America's conservative Bible Belt. It was not exactly a jury of his peers.
Again from Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife, the trial "lasted three months, was heard by a cranky judge and a jury that consisted almost entirely of farmer's wives." Luros was convicted of conspiring to disseminate obscenity, but the government hadn't figured on the zeal of Stanley Fleishman, Milt's first amendment lawyer. Fleishman, horribly crippled from childhood polio and shy with women, understood the necessity of erotic literature and devoted his life to fighting for its legalization. He took Luros's case to the highest federal court and got the conviction overturned.
In late '65s, Luros returned to North Hollywood fearing nothing and nobody. He'd beaten the government and set a national precedent against censorship.
"Before the Iowa case," says Jaybird designer Steve Goldenberg, "I spent a lot of time airbrushing out pubic hair. After, I was airbrushing it in."
Especially when Bob Reitman came onboard. While Reitman didn't share Stan and Connie's vision, he had one of his own that was equally strong and exceptionally focused.
"All I did was gauge everything by how sexual it was to me personally," Reitman maintains. Luros, impressed with the young psychologist's work ethic, had made him Jaybird editor on a whim, to see if he could improve sales. "Everybody else was spouting these big philosophical treatises on it. For Sohler nudism was a religious cult. I used to quarrel with Connie all the time. Her premise was, believe it or not, that because people were ugly it made it legitimate. I brought in the young and the beautiful. There was never any discussion about whether we could get away with the crotches or not. It all went back to my crotch!"
"It was crotch-a-rama..."
One must remember that most Americans of this time had never seen pubic hair in print. Every nude outside of nudist magazines had her pubic region airbrushed smooth and featureless as a mannequin's. In my collection I have magazines of this period in which the original owners carefully drew in public hair to make the models more realistic. All this denial of simple, normal female anatomy made many men desperate for images of natural pudenda. Reitman was one such man, and Jaybird was the vehicle to satisfy his desire.
Bob Reitman wasn't a nudist, but "I never had any inhibitions. I would go out to Corona Del Mar (a nudist camp) with Connie. I'd take my clothes off and start pointing out people. 'Why don't you take that one?' She didn't want the young or beautiful ones; she just wanted to sell the philosophy and get by the district attorney. So I just made up my mind that that wasn't going to stop us. We interpreted the 1958 law our own way. The sales figures went sky high with my changes. That was '67." "It was crotch-a-rama," says Goldenberg.
By early 1968 there were 12 Jaybird titles, many with hippie inspired names. There were even all male issues of Jaydudes for the Jaygay reader. "At one point the company was doing 60 titles a quarter," Reitman maintains, "and a lot of those were Jaybird." He doesn't remember the exact figures, but estimates print runs ran around 20,000 copies per issue. They even formed a Jaybirds Anonymous society with membership cards and a credo. Foreign sales were good, especially in Asian markets and in Germany.
Luros was delighted, but the nudist photographers rebelled against the new Jaybird esthetic and Reitman's theory that no pose was too ludicrous if it revealed abundant pubic fuzz. Like, don't most people play volleyball with one leg behind their necks? Luros simply recruited new photographers for the new Jaybird.
"Milt Luros got me to come out to California," says photographer Johnny Castano. "Milt first asked me to go to Sunny Palms (that was a nudist camp) in Florida and told me he wanted me to shoot for Jaybird and to tell people it was this new company, Jaybird. Plus, shoot a lot, we're going to use a lot of nudist photos in other magazines."
As soon as the camps found out I was working for Milton Luros they didn't want me. This was the late 60s. The magazines were getting too rough, with the splits and all. Bob Reitman was editing the books then, and he was no nudist. They paid these people (to pose). I never paid nudists, but for Jaybird they did." Connie the idealist remembers it differently.
"Johnny, when the couples start getting it on, let 'em go. Don't stop 'em."
"What happened," she says, "is there came a point where certain members of the camps were saying, 'We're in all these magazines, maybe you can pay us.' Stan Sohler said, 'We could pay you if you weren't photographed in the camp. Because if I start to pay, I'll have to pay the camp owners.' So he started taking people on outings, and they loved it. He takes them into the desert, to beaches, they'd be wined and dined and put up in motels.
This way those who wanted to be in magazines-and a lot did-could do it and have a lot of fun." Plus nearly all the camps were barring Jaybird from their premises.
Johnny Castano says, "Milt Luros used to say to me, 'Johnny, when the couples start getting it on, let 'em go. Don't stop 'em.' Bob Reitman would say, 'We can't use that hard stuff,' but Milt brought me in his office and said, 'Look, you shoot whatever they're doing, we'll put it away for later.' He knew things were changing."
Indeed they were. Stan Sohler, fed up with philosophical impurities in the new Jaybird, left in late '68 to work with Lange at Elysium.
Without Sohler as conduit to the camps, Jaybird abandoned nudist models altogether. "We needed so much product and the nudists weren't cooperating," Reitman explained. "That's when we set out to hire photographers and models to bring us the hot stuff. We brought in Stan Grossman, our resident hippie; Paul Johnson, to me the best Jaybird photographer; Orm Longstreet, who did a lot of the photos for the girlie magazines; Johnnie Castano from back east, and Nippie Philips. They were all on staff, no more freelancers.
"We set up our shoots ourselves, got our models from the agencies, picked up our film at American Art in the morning and dropped the exposed film back at American Art in the evening for processing", says Nippie Philips. "We didn't own any of it and never saw the finished photos unless we looked in the magazines. We didn't make a lot of money but it provided great security and creative freedom for a young man like me, because we were on salary and didn't have to worry about whether we could sell the shoot. We just had fun."
"I made sure the modeling agencies only brought us a clean type of model," says Reitman. "That was what we wanted: new faces, and we got 'em by the bushel basket."
"You show us the green and we'll show you the nude!"
In 1968 Reb Sawitz was dividing his time between rent collecting and The Jokers motorcycle club. He fell into nude model management while collecting unpaid wages for some female tenants behind in their rent. "The girls kept saying they couldn't pay their rent 'cause this guy wouldn't pay them their money", says Sawitz, "I decided I was going to be the big bad guy and go out and collect for 'em. It turned out they were photographers who weren't paying these girls for nude modeling—not Jaybird, though, Milton Luros paid his bills." As did the deadbeat photographers when tattooed Reb showed up on his bike. Soon he was working full time as a bill collector for the model agent."Then he quit paying, I said 'Screw you', moved a block away and opened my own agency".
Reb's Pretty Girl International provided models for all the Jaybird photographers from '69 to '72. "I'd walk up to them on the street and ask them if they wanted to be in Playboy or Penthouse, 'cause they didn't know what Jaybird was. I also advertised in hippie newspapers. Most of the people I got were hippies. We got paid $25 to $50 a day. I was one of the models too. The first shoot, we were out in the desert up on top of a tractor. Two, four people up on a tractor for Stan Grossman. Stan was bi-sexual and kind of a fruitloop."
Which explains a lot about the pubic equality in Jaybird. One of the notable, and laudable, Jaybird qualities was that men and women assumed the same silly poses. Jaybird also freely mixed races at a time when most magazines were rigidly segregated, in keeping with the hippie philosophy that had supplanted the nudist.
Reb doubts there were any real nudists in Jaybird by 1970. They'd become too "sensitive". Hippies, on the other hand, had a much more fun-loving attitude and enjoyed participating in the crazy Jaybird shoots. As Reb put it, "Sure we're nudists! You show us the green and we'll show you the nude!"
Connie hung on, not completely embracing Bob's changes, but accepting them as part of getting the message across. "The only purpose was to show people having fun", she says today. "Even if we had to go about it through selling to people who wanted to look at naked bodies, we wanted to get to them with the message. The hippie lingo of the later magazines came because we were feeling more relaxed. We felt the world was really changing. We displayed humor. We were all having an awful lot of fun." Sadly, the fun was fast coming to an end.
"Sundisk is an entirely different kind of magazine."
In 1968 Ed Lange retitled his long-running Sundial magazine Sundisk, and gave it a groovy psychedelic makeover. Clearly competing with the hippified Jaybird, his models not only bared their charms; they shoved them in the reader's face.
"Sundisk is an entirely different kind of magazine," stated the first issue's editorial. No longer pretending to a nudist agenda, the cover proclaimed "Sex and Social Intercourse". Inside were articles by dubious sexologists attacking conventional morality, illustrated by hard-eyed models that looked more like strippers than hippies.
The nudist establishment had had enough. Here was Ed Lange, owner of Southern California's highest profile camp, making and marketing unapologetic pornography. His Elysium Fields was built with the profits from his nudist magazines and Sundial had functioned as official organ for the camp. The nudists wanted nothing to do with the organs on display in Sundisk. It looked to them as if Jaybird was contaminating the whole movement, relegating their cause, their philosophy, their whole way of life to masturbation fodder.
Lange could have argued it was a matter of survival, because that same year Luros dropped the panties in his girlie magazines. With girlies showing what had once been purely nudist turf—namely pubic turf—there was no reason for non-nudists to buy nudist magazines. Sales plummeted as quickly as they'd risen; proving once and for all that it was all about the fuzz and not the philosophy. Even Lange's blazing Sundisk couldn't outshine the new Luros magazines that, as Connie describes it, "covered the beauty of the nude body with garter belts and stockings and nutty underpants that have holes cut in them, turning it into an unattractive ornament that's only a sexual thing."
"Jaybird as an entity ceased to exist after 1968", says Bob Reitman. "Before, they had their own offices, separate from the girlie titles. After that time we were making it in a little corner of the office. All the nudists were gone."
Goofy gimmicks and bizarre props
After the nudist exodus there was no impediment to the creativity of Reitman's crotch. The girlie magazines were producing so much income Luros turned the operation completely over to his creative staff and stopped coming to the office. Freed from any pressure to be profitable Jaybird became the office toy, at last allowed to live up to its silly title. Frankenstein menaced "nudists" on the cover of Jaybird Happening December '68; Jaybird Experiences December '69 featured a couple in space helmets. The naked dentistry cover of the January '69 Jaybird Nude/Image was a high point of thematic confusion and the 1969 calendar whereon two girls frolicked with a chimp is today one of the most collectable Jaybird items.
"I'd gather together our photographers in my office and noodle and between us we'd come up with spreads we'd like to see, then they'd shoot them to order," said Reitman. Of the goofy gimmicks and bizarre props he says, "The photographers pretty much did what they wanted and had fun."
When Bob Reitman explained these circumstances Jaybird came clear for me. In my 25 years making erotic magazines I've seen the planets of creativity, intelligence, humor and most crucial, absent adult supervision, line up just a few times. The result is predictably bizarre, funny and unprofitable. The archetype was a magazine called Sluts and Slobs, which produced a single issue featuring an erotic vomiting centerfold, made by four men whose combined IQs topped 600, and whose sales bottomed at 14%, a figure so low it became an industry bogeyman employed by publishers to frighten young editors out of excess imagination. This magazine is, of course, hugely collectable today.
Jaybird, growing weirder and wilder, careened into the '70s. Reitman left in '71 when Luros refused to pay him a quarter million in owed book royalties. A use, you see, was found for all those extra photos Milt told Johnny Castano to take when the couples started getting it on. They went into big glossy picture books called the Sex And The Law Series, books so sumptuous, so scholarly; the elegant Brentanos' bookstore on New York's 5th Avenue displayed them in its windows. They were full of photos of human sexual expression and edited by that noted psychologist Robert Reitman. The publisher was the newly formed Academy Press, a company that didn't bear Luros's name, but produced books on his presses, filled with his photos.
"We never wasted anything..."
Sex In Marriage alone made millions and was quickly followed by an Academy Press magazine of the same title. This magazine and its imitators used explicit photos accompanied by psychobabble text. The industry term was marriage manuals. "We even had a psychologist on staff who would look over the publications and make sure everything was up to standard", says Steve Goldenberg. "He was a nice elderly gentleman." And the photos? "Yeah, I saw Jaybird photos in the marriage manuals," says Johnny Castano, "cause when you signed a release for Milt Luros you were gone!"
"We never wasted anything," says Reitman. The marriage manuals were short lived. Once Stanley Fleishman—who in Milt's absence made many of the company's creative decisions—established they could market explicit images, American Art went straight to what the photographers called "full commercial," hardcore photos with no sophisticated pretense. Other companies quickly followed their lead.
In response the US government passed legislation in 1972 that was to be the end of Jaybird. Magazines with explicit imagery, which included the blatant display of pubic hair, could be sold only in special stores created for this purpose. The adult bookstore was born, and in a reversal of the 1958 law nudist magazines were judged to be sexual and were shut away with the pornography. There in the dim cinderblock bookstores, deprived of sun, sand and laughter, Jaybird withered and died. The passing of Jaybird marked the end of nudist publishing in America. The final issue was released in late 1973, and was nothing more than recycled random photographs with the title 315 Jaygirl Photos. The gimmicks, the humor, The Jaybird Vision were gone.
Today one can find the occasional small nudist magazine on an American newsstand; tame little digests from England or Australia showing nude volleyball, nude barbeques, nude beauty pageants. If not for eBay, the Internet auction site where Jaybirds bring up to $75 each, few would remember there'd ever been another kind of nudist magazine. No one was more surprised than Connie to hear that collectors are scrabbling for Jaybird's chimp calendars and Frankenstein covers, its happy hippies and exuberant appreciation of all things pubic. "I'll be darned", she laughed, "maybe we changed the world a little bit after all." And if not, does it really matter? As Connie says, the important thing was to show everyone having fun, and as you'll see here, in that Jaybird was supremely successful.
For collectors, purchase a recently published compendium and analysis of the early nudist magazines mentioned in this excerpt.
The entire book
Naked as a Jaybird (Photobook) by Dian Hanson
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