During the 1960s, Mary took various jobs before becoming Britain’s most famous pornographic pin-up, including working as a veterinary nurse, telephonist and barmaid. However, it was her role as a manageress of a local fashion store, just a short bus ride from her home, which friends say she most enjoyed.
On 6 September 1969, Mary started work in Gemini, a ladies’ boutique located at 148 High Street, Dorking, opposite what was then-Woolworths. The business generated quite a lot of publicity, since its grand opening was attended by popular BBC disc jockey ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton. It was noted that the diminutive radio star was more taken with Mary’s abundant charms, than the shop’s extravagant decor. ‘The boutique was a really swish place with thick-pile carpets, soft lighting, music, chrome fittings, and very beautiful, very expensive clothes,’ remembered Mary in 1978. ‘It looked more like a Bond Street establishment than a shop out in the sticks.’
Mary loved placing orders for customers (and modelling the latest fashions for clients and her own benefit!), and was a superb saleswoman. Men buying items for their girlfriends were immediately seduced by her eagerness to help, knowledgeability and beaming smile. “It was a good experience for Mary,” recalls her former boyfriend, Trevor. “She could wear the clothes, then hang them back on the hanger and they were sold in a couple of days’ time!” Mary claimed in her part-ghosted autobiography, The Amazing Mary Millington, that, age 25, her first lesbian experience occurred in the changing room at the back of the shop, with a visiting French girl named Danielle. Interestingly, Mary later told the BBC that she’d “been bisexual since the age of 14”, so it seems unlikely that Gemini actually provided the backdrop for her very first same-sex encounter. Nevertheless, the experience at the back of her shop was hugely significant to Mary; it was even crudely re-created in the posthumous ‘tribute’ film Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions in 1980.
Certainly, Mary actively embraced her bisexuality during her short lifetime, and she celebrated it in numerous girl-girl photo-shoots, as well as a number of hardcore 8mm productions in the early-1970s, including Oh Nurse and Special Assignment (both directed by John Lindsay) and, most famously of all, Russell Gay’s beautifully-shot lesbian fantasy Response, released in 1974. After Gemini closed the building changed hands and for a long time it was famous as Dorking’s Ye Old Chocolate & Fudge Shop. Coincidentally, in more recent years it became a boutique once again, called Bells Fashions, until that closed in 2011. Since then it has lain empty – a blank space next to the White Horse pub. I was lucky enough to go inside recently and the tiny white box, which at one time echoed with music and voices, is now quiet and still. And at the rear of the shop, the changing room stands forlornly – once the scene of wanton lesbianism on a provincial High Street…
All words and photos © Simon Sheridan 2013-2015