Yet another obscure magazine title of the early-1970s was Piccadilly, originally a ‘digest’-size publication from David Sullivan’s ever-expanding top-shelf of porn. Alongside Topsy, Mini Special, Blockbusters, Saucy and Weekend Sex, Sullivan’s Piccadilly has pretty much been forgotten by collectors of the genre, but there’s one issue in particular which opens a fascinating, albeit grubby, window on Soho in the Seventies.
In 1974 Sullivan commissioned a collection of ‘sex guides’, ostensibly aimed at randy visitors to London. These cumbersomely-titled publications, (Weekend Sex‘s 1975 London Guide, Climax Magazine’s Naughty 1975 London Sex Guide, Private’s 1975 London Adult Directory and the Piccadilly Bumper Special 1975 London Sex Guide)were all designed as the ultimate ‘gentlemen’s guides’ to the capital. Of the four glossy new magazines, the Piccadilly sex directory was the biggest – a whopping 132 pages intended to ‘blow the roof off sordid London’ for just 75p!
Alongside the now-obligatory adverts for Sullivan’s publications and businesses, this special edition of Piccadilly provided reviews of massage parlours, sex cinemas, blue film clubs, topless hostess bars, striptease joints and escort agencies. Additionally, readers’ questions were answered, with a particular emphasis on alcohol prices and the availability of prostitutes. (‘How does the visiting massage service work?’ asks ‘Mr Ron Walker’ from Sheffield. Piccadilly‘s tip: ‘Most escort girls are greedy. Don’t pay in advance!’).
Nominally edited by Sullivan’s then-office manager Doreen Millington, the Piccadilly Bumper Special 1975 London Sex Guide, was surprisingly candid in its reviews. The girls at the legendary Churchill’s Club in Bond Street are described as ‘not that attractive’ and charging an exorbitant ‘£40 for a quickie’. Similarly the Burlesque in Mayfair is called ‘second division’ (rather ironic, since it later became the location for several of David Sullivan’s films). Contrast this with Belle de Nuit in Soho where there’s, ‘a live striptease show every 15 minutes and the pretty waitresses walk around virtually naked.’
The sex cinema reviews are just as forthright, and Soho’s flea-pits get quite a pasting. ‘From the poster displays outside… London looks like the porno capital of Europe; not so I’m afraid.’ The stronger ‘members only’ cinema clubs don’t fare much better; the Dilly Cineclub and Compton Cinema Club ‘show too much simulated intercourse’ whereas further afield, the Exxon in Danbury Street N1, and the Albatross in Plashet Grove E6, show ‘full hardcore porno’. The owner of The Exxon was actually fined £8,000 and sentenced to three-years in jail for exhibiting porn in 1974. It regularly screened ‘British-made silent porno’, including several of Mary Millington’s early 8mm productions.
Like most of Sullivan’s early publications, Piccadilly magazine didn’t last long. It morphed into the larger-sized Piccadilly International and then quietly went bust, out-manoeuvred by the more explicit Whitehouse, Playbirds and Private. However, the magazine’s ‘London Sex Guide’ special is a thing of vulgar beauty, providing a rare peep-hole into the West End of 1975, where you could have a night on the tiles – striptease show, massage parlour blow job and a glass of champagne – all for less than £30…
All words © Simon Sheridan 2013-2014