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California slicks and Swedish Sin test the censors
In 1958 Milton Luros left his New York job designing and illustrating detective pulp magazines for North Hollywood, California. A year later, with a loan from an underworld figure, he founded a publishing empire that revolutionized men’s magazines in the 1960s. His so-called “California slicks” borrowed bad-girl themes from pre-Playboy burlesque titles, featuring big hair, heavy make-up, cigarettes, and cocktails, but in west coast mid-century settings with better photography, paper, and printing. With no redeeming articles, they were too strong for newsstands, but outsold Playboy in tobacco shops and specialty bookstores.
Californian Elmer Batters invented leg art photography the same year, with titles Black Silk Stockings, Leg-O-Rama, Tip Top, Elmer’s Naked Jungle and more. Back in New York, Irving Klaw introduced fetish digests in the same specialty bookstores, leading to a ’60s fetish boom, with Lenny Burtman’s High Heels, Satana, Striparama, and Leg Show. A simultaneous uptick in sexploitation films spawned sexploitation film magazines, including Blazing Films and Banned.
Sixties freedom spread to England too, where George Harrison Marks launched Kamera and Solo magazines with totally naked models posed to barely hide the banned bits, inventing “top shelf” titles: those not on public display. And lastly, up north, Swedish Sin was coined, with the first magazines challenging European censorship; a challenge they’d soon win.
Volume 4 in this series contains over 650 ground-breaking covers and photos from the U.S., England, and Sweden with descriptive text.
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