When Mary met Sonia Svenberger

One of Mary’s most distinctive-looking co-stars of the late-1970s was the mono-named model, ‘Sonia’. Born in Germany, Sonia had worked as a stripper on the Continent, but came to London in 1975 in an attempt to further her modelling career. She made a few appearances in Experience magazine before being brought to the attention of director George Harrison Marks, who had a penchant for statuesque ‘Amazonian’-style glamour girls. George told me that they began a passionate, but brief, affair and the filmmaker – some 25 years Sonia’s senior – cast her as one of the nymphomaniac nurses in Come Play with Me, a part he’d originally offered to elegant blonde Aussie model Margo Reid, who had, unsurprisingly, turned him down.

Sonia Svenberger Private 38With her striking, gingery ‘Mod’-ish haircut – not dissimilar to the style Toyah Willcox sported in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee – Sonia stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of Come Play with Me’s female cast. Her two significant scenes involve giving portly health farm patron, Thick Wilson, a vigorous inner-thigh massage and then shagging an uncredited Gordon Hickman, in a hardcore sequence shot at Bushey Studios on 26 October 1976. The latter scene was heavily cut down for the film’s British release, but this did little to deter publisher David Sullivan from reproducing hardcore stills of Sonia and Hickman ‘in action’ throughout the pages his stable of magazines, prior to the movie’s release in April 1977.

It was around this time that David Sullivan saddled Sonia with a longer name – ‘Sonia Svenberger’ – in order to give her a more alluring, Continental-sounding moniker. Despite Sonia’s German heritage, the Scandi-obsessed Whitehouse magazine labelled her a ‘Swedish sexpot’. Probably because of her somewhat unconventional looks, Sonia was only awarded prestigious cover-girl status by Sullivan on one occasion – but she totally dominates the front of Private (issue #38), in a sultry photograph taken on the Oxfordshire location of Come Play with Me.

Lesson for Lolita Sonia SvenbergerAfter shooting the movie, Sonia worked with Harrison Marks on at least four more 8mm loops in 1976/1977 – these were Any Way You Like, plus the tongue-in-cheek Cum Lay with Me and two corporal punishment-themed shorts entitled Rawhide and Lesson for Lolita. The latter two productions (shot back-to-back on location at Harrison Marks’ flat in smart St John’s Wood) also reunited Sonia with her Come Play with Me co-star, and Marks habitué, Lisa Taylor. In Rawhide Sonia and Lisa take wicked revenge on a cane-wielding headmaster, even scrawling ‘This must be the end’ in lipstick on his tanned buttocks, whilst Lesson for Lolita dispenses with the anonymous male performer and promotes itself as “the strongest juvenile lesbian film ever sold in Britain…” All of Sonia’s loops were advertised regularly within the pages of David Sullivan’s magazines throughout 1977, retailing at a princely £18 each.

The same year Sonia appeared in another short – English Schoolgirl – this time produced by prolific Italian pornographer Lasse Braun. The now-infamous film follows the adventures of a blatantly over-age school pupil (played by Kathy ‘Jane’ Meadows) who is picked up by her mum in a taxi and taken to an underground S&M club. The mother is made to demonstrate fellatio and intercourse with one of the males (played by ‘Big’ John English – a popular, well-endowed model in Sullivan’s magazines of the era), while her daughter watches. Randy John then has anal sex with Kathy, before urinating all over her face. Eventually a PVC-clad Sonia arrives to join in with the increasingly kinky activities. As you can tell, English Schoolgirl certainly isn’t to everybody’s taste, but it’s one of 10 remarkably well-made loops which Braun managed to make, albeit in somewhat clandestine circumstances, in London in the spring of 1977. Costing £200,000, Braun’s exorbitant porno budget was nearly twice the cost of Come Play with Me.

A number of Braun’s London vignettes (including Sonia’s scenes) were edited together into a feature-length movie – with new linking footage shot in a room above the legendary Julie’s Restaurant in Holland Park, west London – and it was released theatrically in Europe in 1977 under the title Sex-Maniacs. After the film’s release, Sonia relocated back to Frankfurt, where she worked as an escort. When I first met George Harrison Marks in 1997, just months before his death, he spoke incredibly fondly of her – perhaps more so than any of his other models. Marks confessed that his ex-love had killed herself in 1984, but was unable to provide me with any further details. Sadly, just like Mary Millington, Sonia was a casualty of the porn industry, but unlike her British counterpart, it seems unlikely that her brief, eye-catching career, will ever be fully celebrated.

All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2013-2015

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