Prior to her life-changing meeting with publisher David Sullivan in February 1974, one of Mary’s main softcore employers was Tabor Publications, originally based at Valentine Place on the Blackfriars Road in Southwark, SE1. The publisher’s flagship title was Experience, a pocket-sized digest magazine which made a very public virtue of its editorial staff being entirely female (and ostensibly promiscuous). This wasn’t a particularly original ruse, but it became a template which many magazines of the 1970s followed. The celebrated ‘Girls of Experience’ became so popular that they were eventually given their very own spin-off magazine in 1976 (boasting “today’s most beautiful female writers”). Although Mary was never invited to join that select club of wanton women, she nevertheless featured in many early issues of the Experience, sometimes donning a variety of wigs to change her ‘look’. Additionally, she wore a black curly hairpiece as ‘Sally Stevens’, the nominal letters editor of Experience’s pocket-sized spin-off magazine Vibrations, and also appeared as ‘Jean’ a randy nurse sporting her own blonde locks.
Another Tabor title hit the top shelves in January 1974, when Exposure (dubbed “the sister magazine to Experience”) was launched. Also a digest-size magazine, this time it promised ‘exciting picture stories for adults only’. Mary featured heavily in solo, duo and trio photo-sets alongside other British porn luminaries including Vicki Scott, Cosey Fanni Tutti and well-endowed 8mm actor Roger Carr. In August 1977 Tabor – which by this stage was threatening to steal readers from David Sullivan’s Whitehouse and Playbirds – launched yet another magazine: a ‘full-size’ version of Experience – called, rather grandly, Great Experience. Issue #1 flaunted a “new team of sexy, uninhibited young girls” but, in reality, mainly published recycled photographs of early Tabor models, Mary included; she is billed as ‘Stella’ in the launch issue.
By 1977, the blindingly obvious fact (even to the most casual of readers) that Mary was appearing under false names in Tabor’s publications, despite being the most instantly-recognisable model in Britain, was never alluded to. Advertisements showing ‘Mary Millington’ promoting Come Play with Me were regularly printed opposite old photo-sets of Mary masquerading under names like ‘Carol’, ‘Rita’ or ‘Shirley’. This ridiculous farce was played out for several years; it led to the supremely morbid situation whereby Mary was still ‘replying’ to Vibrations readers’ correspondence as the bewigged ‘Sally Stevens’ in 1981, by which time she had already been dead two years.
In the end, Sullivan’s more explicit magazines triumphed over the wordier, more old-fashioned fare offered by Experience, Vibrations and Exposure, but Mary – in her many guises – continued to appear within their pages for many years. It’s nigh on impossible trying to create a definitive list of Mary’s pre-Whitehouse glamour-shoots, but it’s still fascinating spotting her face, usually erroneously-credited, in these less-celebrated magazines.
All words © Simon Sheridan 2015