In June 1974 Mary appeared in one of the most unusual magazine pictorials of her entire career. For Fiesta Volume 8, number 6 she was photographed totally naked on a London Underground train. However, these pictures weren’t ‘faked’ in a stationary coach sitting in a yard, nor were they taken late at night, out of sight from prying eyes, and the story behind their creation is almost as surprising as their appearance in print.
Mary had known Fiesta‘s publisher Russell Gay for 12 months, and she soon started appearing as the nominal editor of his newly-published digest-size publication Response. Under the name ‘Samantha’ she had been assigned the task of sleeping with men in the magazine’s regular ‘Stud of the Month’ feature. Gay was keen for Mary to appear in some of his other titles and engaged the services of prolific glamour snapper Colin Ramsay to photograph her in an ‘unusual setting’.
Ramsay (1935-2013), one of the top magazine photographers of the 1960s and 1970s, had previously shot his girlfriend, and future wife, Nicola Austine on a London bus for Mayfair. Under the name ‘Nicola Blair’, she appeared flashing her bum under a mini-skirt, and this gave him the inspiration for taking the stunt one step further. The London Underground’s Victoria Line was built in stages – the first section was officially opened by the Queen at Victoria Station in March 1969, with the Brixton extension unveiled some two years later. The southerly part of the Victoria Line, from Kings Cross to Brixton has traditionally always been the busiest section, and Ramsay worked out that the northerly end, towards Walthamstow, was often scarcely used in the early afternoon.
After lunch one Monday, Ramsay and Mary boarded the train at Oxford Circus and travelled northbound. After the last passenger exited the carriage at Seven Sisters, Mary immediately began stripping and Ramsay started snapping. The resulting photographs stunned readers of Fiesta, many suggesting that the magazine had used trickery to achieve them. For Mary it was just the first of many public nudity stunts – including posing topless on a nuclear submarine, being photographed in only her leather boots outside a cinema in Leeds and, most famously of all, going topless at the best-known address in Britain… 10 Downing Street.
All words © Simon Sheridan 2013-2015. Image © Galaxy Publications