MARY MILLINGTON (1945-1979)
“I treat sex as something to be enjoyed, something to be savoured, something to cling to, something to be indulged in whenever possible. The old slogan of ‘Make Love Not War’ was a very good one.” (Mary Millington, 1978)
The adorable, beautiful, misunderstood Mary Millington was the girl-next-door who became the undisputed sex superstar of the Seventies. Born ordinary Mary Ruth Quilter in Middlesex on 30 November 1945 to a single mother, and raised just outside Dorking in Surrey, she married a local lad, Robert Maxted in 1964. Rebellious and headstrong, Mary displayed few, if any, sexual inhibitions, and the couple enjoyed an unconventional marriage which involved partner-swapping, voyeurism and outrageous parties. So it came as little surprise that by the late-Sixties Mary was embarking on a career in the sex industry.
Discovered by a local snapper, Mary was recommended to a glamour photographer in London and soon her naked pictures started appearing in publications like Knave, Fiesta and Parade. A meeting with legendary pornographer John Lindsay in a Kensington coffee shop soon paved the way to illegally-made sex films, shot both in the UK and on the Continent. In 1970 Lindsay gave Mary the title role in Miss Bohrloch, the first of a dozen or so hardcore films she made over a four-year period. Miss Bohrloch portrayed Mary as a sexual powerhouse, effortlessly going through the energetic motions with two exhausted male co-stars. The film was so popular in mainland Europe that it sold in excess of 300,000 copies, and won the ‘Golden Phallus’ award at the Wet Dream Festival, held in Amsterdam in November 1970. Openly bisexual, Mary claimed to prefer lesbian sex, and to prove it starred in Russell Gay’s seminal 1974 short Response, which showed the tender lovemaking between two girls. Continuing to model for top-shelf magazines (under a variety of nom de plumes) and working as a high class prostitute for numerous wealthy and famous clients, Mary’s first big screen role came with a tiny, uncredited, cameo in Stanley Long’s Eskimo Nell, shot in 1974. Small roles in other movies quickly followed, but it was her love affair with millionaire porn publisher David Sullivan which finally broke her into the big time.
Sullivan had heard plenty of capricious tales about ‘Mary from Dorking’, but he didn’t meet her until his 25th birthday in February 1974, when he was presented with Mary as ‘his present’. The couple immediately became lovers and Sullivan, sensing Mary’s huge potential, persuaded her to change her surname to Millington, installed her as nominal ‘editor’ of his magazine empire and splashed her photographs throughout his publications, including Playbirds, Lovebirds, Park Lane and Whitehouse. Mary even began managing one of his sex shops in Norbury; suddenly her beauty became accessible to all. Virtually overnight, she became a sexual phenomenon, receiving thousands of fan letters each month. However, it was her role as a saucy nurse in David Sullivan’s 1977 comedy Come Play with Me which really made Mary a household name. Despite appearing only briefly on screen, it was canny marketing within the pages of Sullivan’s publications that sold the movie throughout Britain. The film went on to run for 201 continuous weeks at the Moulin Cinema in London’s Soho; still a record for a British theatrical engagement. Within the space of just two years Mary became the most bankable name at the British box office with a string of successful ‘X’-rated sex movies like The Playbirds (1978), Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979) and Queen of the Blues (1979). Off camera Mary campaigned tirelessly for animal charities and made personal appearances throughout the country, but with fame and wealth also came unhappiness.
The authorities continually raided her sex shop and Mary repeatedly complained of police threats and harassment. After the death of her beloved mother, Mary sank into depression which manifested itself in kleptomania and mild drug abuse. After being arrested for shoplifting at a jeweller’s shop on 18 August 1979, the police informed her that it was highly likely that she would be sent to the notorious Holloway jail. A court appearance for an earlier offence had already been set for the following Tuesday. Her husband Bob, collected an exhausted Mary from Banstead police station and took her back to their beautiful home in Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey. A row ensued and Mary retired to her bedroom (for some considerable time the couple had been sleeping in separate rooms). Later that evening Mary made a series of desperate phone-calls, including one to her old ‘friend’, the publicist John M. East, who dismissed her very genuine worries as paranoia. Mary rang off abruptly and on the morning of 19 August her estranged husband, allegedly, found her dead in bed. The cause of death was a cocktail of paracetamol and vodka. In a rambling, and poignant, note to David Sullivan she wrote: ‘The police have framed me yet again. They frighten me so much. I can’t face the thought of prison.’ Mary was just 33 years old.