Not a lot of people know that Stephen Sims, a successful published author under another name, wrote photo stories and other fiction for well over 100 issues of Janus! He also starred as Roger Storing (below) and Royston Arnold in numerous photo shoots and went on to edit Privilege Plus and Privilege Club. With his new novel about to be published, Janus archivist Jon Rayworth caught up with him just before Christmas last year…
Jon Rayworth: Stephen, welcome! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Perhaps we can start by talking about how you came to be involved with Janus…
Stephen Sims: In between writing jobs I used to do walk-on and support acting work in film and television. At one of the gigs I did a chap was talking about this photographic stint he’d done for a magazine. I hadn’t heard of it at the time, but what he said made my eyes light up. He said it involved working with delightfully pretty girls who aren’t always fully dressed, you get paid in cash on the day and it’s not terribly hard work. The next day I phoned the number he gave and spoke to the editor’s secretary, a girl called Raine, who said I had to write in and apply formally, so that’s what I did. I was invited along to a little office they had in Golden Square in London at the very top of the building, really the attic area, for this interview. They obviously needed to see the candidates first, and I met this towering man who introduced himself as the photo editor, this was Vic Barnes, and Peter French who was the editor. We got along okay and that’s how it all started.
JR: What were your first impressions of Peter?
SS: At first I thought he was rather a cold person, he’d gaze rather bleakly at you, a bit like a headmaster I suppose, but it was all a front. Peter was a Fleet Street man, he’d worked in newspapers and was very interested in the fact that I was actually a writer and had books published. After I’d done the first shoot he asked me if I’d like to have a go at writing a photo story. He added, “we’ll pay you,” which sounded like a good idea, so I was delighted to see if I could do it. My first appearance as a model though was as Roger Storing in Janus 47 (below).
JR: Here it is! What was it like to do that shoot?
SS: Goodness, I haven’t seen this magazine for a long time! Shooting this was a very strange experience. It was my first time, as they say, and I didn’t know what to expect, there were several other people there. Rather to my relief I found I wouldn’t have to actually do anything except sit down and watch. The idea behind the shoot was that this young woman had misbehaved in some sort of way and her stepfather had called the neighbours round to witness her punishment.
JR: As you do!
SS: Well exactly – it was a great set-up! I was very nervous actually, it was quite extraordinary to see this girl come in, not in the least bit nervous herself, chattering away in a cockney accent, giggling and laughing. I assumed she’d be terrified as she was about to be “dealt with most severely”, as Peter would say; she didn’t bat an eyelid, but I was absolutely mesmerised! Of course once you’ve done a few shoots you become a bit blasé about it, but this was my first experience. I do remember Vic saying to me at one point, “Stephen, pull your socks up” – my socks were round my ankles, which would show in the shot. I remember too that there was a strangely negative rapport going on between Peter and Vic, in a nice sort of way, they were always arguing and it was quite funny to watch. Vic would get so exasperated sometimes he’d hand the camera to Peter and tell him to get on with it. They were both perfectionists, but the relationship worked. As it went on I gradually relaxed and at the end of it I remember Vic saying it was a good shoot and Peter said he’d like to use me again. I don’t think there was any thought that they’d use those particular characters again, but once Peter knew I was a writer he was happy to talk about story ideas with me, and he discussed whether there was anything more we could do with my character. Peter was wonderful – he became a great friend really, I could always turn to him for advice, he was really into the subject; Vic and I weren’t so much, but we were fascinated by it and we learnt a lot from him.
JR: You returned very quickly as Roger Storing in Janus 50 (below). Do you remember much about Jackie? She only appeared once but she was a very believable model.
SS: She was a sweet girl, very mild. She was probably about 19 or 20 years old. I don’t know if she’d done anything like this before, she seemed quite shy. It was Vic’s job to have a chat with the model beforehand, talk about what he was looking for and put her at her ease. When you start a Janus shoot you don’t really want to have a ‘warm-up’ chat with the model, some tension between the man and woman is a good thing for a photo shoot like this as the tension is conveyed in the pictures. The photo on the front cover of Janus 50 is brilliant. The shoot was important for me because it was the first one Peter let me write the photo story for. It was my big test, but he liked it and they ran the story alongside the photos. After that first one I wrote every photo story until well into the hundreds, maybe as high as Janus 161.
JR: I didn’t know that – you appeared in Janus 161 as well. This time you were playing Hillary Hanbury-Boyce’s cousin Royston Arnold (below).
SS: Yes, St John (who was editor of Janus at the time) and I did this one at the Greenwich house. Vic had left by then and we were using a digital camera. When we got there we didn’t quite know what we were going to do for the shoot, but in the end I reckon it was one of the best we ever did. When this model walked in she was so beautiful, so exquisite, she was almost not quite human and one of us came up with the idea that she might be a machine who would do absolutely anything for a man. Imagine! The girl was great. I remember saying for the very last shot let’s put in a little twist and have her smile to herself as she walks out, as if to say, “Fooled them,” just so people might think that maybe she wasn’t a doll.
JR: Let’s talk a bit about another photo shoot at the Greenwich house. This one was shot in the bathroom for Janus 66 and featured Sheena McBride (below). Sheena had appeared in the magazine before, but it was the first time she’d met ‘Roger Storing’.
SS: It was the first time I’d met Sheena. Again, she was a very quiet girl. I remember she was a make-up artist by profession; she wanted to work in films I think. That house in Greenwich was amazing, it was next door to the house where Daniel Day-Lewis grew up; his father was Cecil Day-Lewis, the poet, so who knows if Daniel saw any of our photo shoots taking place! It was an extraordinary house, decorated in a style similar to the early- to mid-1800s and full of memorabilia and vintage furniture. The woman who owned it was completely laid back about it all – she even made tea for us! There were so many rooms we could use and Vic was great at working in tight spaces. We even used the garden there. I was in quite a few photo stories, though; another one that stands out is ‘A Stern Line’ (Janus 72 below left), although I was almost unrecognisable in dark glasses, a hat and a beard. I was also ‘Mister X’ for the lovely ‘Usha’ (Janus 77 below right). I learnt so much from Vic, which was especially helpful when I took over as editor of Privilege.
JR: I understand you were based in Golden Square while you were writing for the magazine. You were really the fourth member of the Janus dream team, along with Peter, Vic and Paula Meadows weren’t you?
SS: I suppose I was. I think Peter rather took me under his wing; with his background in journalism he liked the stuff I was producing and kept using me. He would have me in the office two or three times a week to help out with the preparation of the text, so I learnt to proofread, which is a lot more difficult and exacting than it might seem, but he taught me not to miss things. I’d sit there for hours just going through the final copy in preparation for the printer, and Peter would be the first to tell me if I missed out an apostrophe or comma or the slightest glitch in spelling. Vic was there as well, working with his lightbox to find the very best images from the transparencies. There was always something to do – you were preparing the copy for one magazine and working out what you were going to do in the photo shoot for the next one. Peter would discuss every tiny detail about the next story at length with Vic, and eventually I did start to join in these discussions. After Golden Square they moved to a nice little office at Camden Lock and I became more involved there in the preparation of the magazine.
JR: I seem to remember you telling me that you were actually working in the office when Sophie Fennington and St John came in for the first time. Is that right?
SS: I was there, yes. I wrote that photo story as well. They were a great couple, married at the time, good-looking and both with appealing personalities. Unlike most models they knew exactly what they wanted, and were well-versed in the subject. Incidentally, the reason Peter was looking for a writer to take over the photo stories was because the chap who’d been writing them before me had been ‘doubling up’ – selling the same stories to another magazine so he was actually getting paid twice for the same work! They do say you never get away with anything, and eventually he got found out, but it worked out well for me because I was on the spot ready to take over.
JR: What was working in the Janus office like?
SS: Well first of all you came up in a creaky old lift to the top floor, and walked in to find a very attractive girl called Raine on reception. On the wall behind her was a big American illustrated poster showing a secretary over her boss’s knee getting a whaling, yet Raine looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth! I’ve mentioned this in my book because it amused me so. You became a little bit used to absolutely gorgeous young women coming in. I’d be sitting there proofreading or something and Vic would be chatting to these prospective models. Peter would usually just be sitting and watching this conversation, and at some point he would invariably ask if they were into the subject. Eventually Vic would say, “Would you go ahead and remove your garments so I can have a look at your bottom and get some idea?” Then he’d take a few polaroids of this semi-nude girl in all sorts of postures and I’d be thinking, like, ‘Now then, should that be a comma or a semi-colon there…?”
JR: There are still many of these polaroids surviving in the archive today (the three below are from Lucy Bailey’s interview). Presumably from those shots they’d then make decisions about which models to use?
SS: That’s right, Vic would ask the model to assume a couple of positions, but he was very keen to see their expressions, Peter was too. They had to be able to act otherwise the shoot would look flat and unbelievable. Most of the models could do it but one or two couldn’t, some would keep collapsing in giggles.
JR: Peter was always looking for women who hadn’t done much modelling before, wasn’t he?
SS: Yes, he wanted them to be a ‘Janus Girl’ – one who didn’t appear anywhere else. I remember this one girl who was an undergraduate at university and she wanted to model to make a bit of extra money. I think her mother even came along with her to the interview! She was very well-spoken, and after the shoot she said “Thank you for smacking me so nicely.” All the models were lovely, though I suppose my favourite was Christina Winchester (below) who appeared in Februs and Privilege. I even gave her her ‘nom de spank’ of Winchester.
JR: She also went under the name of Rosaleen Young, I believe.
SS: That’s right. The picture you’re showing is from a shoot Christina did for Privilege Club. She was an extraordinary talent; a great actress and dancer and I know she performed Shakespearian roles on the stage. She’s retired from modelling now but continues to act, I believe. She was a very good writer too, and used to write her own stories for Privilege. A very interesting character altogether – a talented artist as well.
JR: She appeared quite a few times in Privilege, didn’t she?
SS: Yes, she got in touch with me; she wanted exposure, if I can use that word, and showed me some of her work, and I could see she was a good writer. I asked if she wanted to write about her own fantasies and we had an experiment photographing these fantasies. I’m not sure it was always successful because what goes on in one person’s mind doesn’t always translate to good photographs, but it’s good to try new things and I felt very lucky to have her contributing to Privilege.
JR: Tell me how Privilege came about then.
SS: Well, for a very long time there was a small A5 size Privilege which was available to Privilege Club members only. I used to put that together on a regular basis, once every two months. We didn’t pay any money to contributors for that, so there wasn’t always a lot of material, so anything I didn’t have I had to create myself! I was already doing that when Peter stepped down as editor of Janus. I’ll be honest and say I hoped I might be asked to take over or that Vic might take over. Gordon Sergeant rang me and said he wanted to meet me in a pub near the Camden Lock offices. I thought (hoped?) he was going to offer me the job as editor on Janus. He started off by saying “I’m afraid…” I thought that doesn’t sound too good! Then he went on, “I’m afraid I can’t offer you the editorship of Janus as someone else is doing it.” I thought Vic must have got it and I would have been delighted for him. Later I learned it was St John who’d actually got the job. However, Gordon did offer me my own magazine, a full-size version of Privilege to be called Privilege Plus, and that’s how it began. He let me hire my own writers and artists and arrange my own shoots.
JR: Did you continue to use Vic at all for Privilege Plus?
SS: Absolutely, Vic’s the best there is. Apart from his more obvious photographic skills in arranging and lighting his subject he created those amazing impact shots and was certainly the first photographer to achieve that. But I knew I couldn’t make the new Privilege Plus a clone of Janus, or another Februs, and I think Gordon was expecting me to create something a bit different, though he didn’t give me any particular brief, just let me do my own thing. As part of this ‘difference’ I thought why not have a series of historical scenarios and even write in the style of the period? We found a lovely costumier down in Hastings who was amazingly inexpensive to hire all kinds of costumes from. I had a very large friend called Max and remember thinking he’d make a wonderful Henry VIII, so we did a great shoot with him and some 16th Century wench at Hampton Court. We did all periods, from a flapper girl in the 1920s getting seen to, to Victorian and Edwardian spanking extravaganzas, including what I thought was an interesting take on a scenario from Thomas Hardy in which a widow and her daughter got physically disciplined at the same time by the miller. We even experimented with two girls together getting spanked by a ghost! Not all these ideas worked, but the challenge was always there to come up with something a bit unusual or unexpected. We even did a P.G. Wodehouse take-off in which, in the accompanying text, I tried to write in the spirit of the great man. Of course Privilege continued as a ‘Contacts’ magazine as well, it was important to keep that aspect from the old A5 pamphlet, as it was so popular. We used Julie Holmes, who was a great writer with great imagination and also very cheeky; she used to write a column called Advocate, looking at different aspects of corporal punishment from the female perspective. I was lucky through the connections I’d established with Janus to draw on the talent of a number of excellent female contributors, including Christina Winchester, Sarah Veitch and Delaney Silver.
JR: What were your feelings when Privilege came to an end?
SS: I did miss it. I missed the excitement of having a whole new magazine to create from nothing. The format was always set for each issue. Contact adverts were arriving and you had to fill the rest of the magazine up. It was a marvellous challenge to be different to Janus and Februs: deciding who would write the stories and articles and illustrate them (I couldn’t use the same artists as Janus); organising the photo shoots; finding the models and booking them, then dreaming up a suitable story and collecting the costumes for it; it was wonderful. Also, I did all my own layouts in those days, I had a lightbox and used to choose the colour trannies, measure them all up and crop them to size; I did the whole of the layout of the magazine myself. I selected the fonts and lettering for the story titles. I found the whole experience fascinating. The magazines were such a marvellous collection of beautiful writing, incredible photography, evocative artwork and readers’ letters, I can’t help feeling we’ve lost something with their demise. There’s nowhere online where you can get that rich combination of different elements – yet, ironically, it was the availability of instant downloading of images from the internet that eventually killed off the magazines.
JR: I certainly agree. I guess you must have been thinking about the next issue of Privilege all the time?
SS: Well, I tried to make each one the best it could be. I was always trying to come up with fresh, new, original ideas and to use as many female contributors as possible. Obviously Paula had Februs, and that magazine was entirely from the feminine perspective, but as a male orientated magazine I felt it was important for Privilege to have a female voice as well.
JR: What do you remember about Paula?
SS: I must get back in touch with Paula. I used to pop round and see her every now and again and we’d have a drink and some lunch, she was delightful. We were mates in those days – she had a magazine, I had a magazine. Both our magazines closed at the same time, people just weren’t buying printed magazines anymore.
JR: As you look back what memories stand out from your time working for Janus?
SS: It was the camaraderie, you know. There was always a nice atmosphere in that office, they were the golden days in Golden Square really, it was a golden era. You’d get girls coming in and out most days – after a while you didn’t bat an eyelid. You’re doing a bit of copy editing and you turn round to discover a model with her knickers off bending over; imagine that happening in an ordinary office! But the girls were sweet too, had a laugh and a chat over coffee with us afterwards, none of them ever got hurt (unless they wanted to be, and one or two did), seemed to enjoy what we were doing and were of course an essential part of the scene. We didn’t think anything of it at all back then. I guess I must have been there about fifteen years in total – they were good years.
JR: You’re a published author under your own name but after quite a break you’ve come back to writing about the subject of corporal punishment in your new novel ‘The Bottom Man’. Tell me a little bit about the new novel and how you came to write it.
SS: For a long time I’ve wanted to write a story about a decent and caring man who finds himself inexplicably drawn to the idea of erotic spanking, and of a young married woman with a responsible job who finds herself fascinated by the idea of being spanked. And neither knows why. How they eventually get together in the book is really an adult comedy of errors, and when they do the result isn’t at all what might be expected. But don’t expect an extended piece of highly-charged Janus-style fiction, this is an I hope insightful and realistic story of two people, puzzled by their rather ‘strange’ and socially unacceptable desires, who find each other through these desires, with many a slip-up and misunderstanding along the way. I’ve used my experiences of working in the business to give an authentic background, even to the reality of how those magazine photo shoots would sometimes go! Even the content of certain erotic correspondence in the novel is taken from life and not invented. Then there are the all-too-often misguided prejudices indignantly aired by those who don’t or won’t or are afraid to understand the adult need (because it is a need) by others to spank or be spanked in a mutually consensual way. As will by now be obvious, this scene has long fascinated me, which is why I couldn’t resist writing about it. And at last it’s ready! I hope readers will emote with, empathise and enjoy it.
JR: I certainly very much enjoyed reading it. I think people will be interested to know that you have indeed drawn on some of your own experiences working for Janus and editing Privilege, specifically in the way that your two central characters, Jed and Tamar, meet.
SS: Yes, no one who hasn’t worked for a magazine like Janus could possibly know what it was like. I wanted to reflect that experience in some way for the reader. All of the personal ads came in the form of letters back then and it was rare for a woman to advertise; an advert sent in by a woman would stand out, so in the novel, Jed, whose growing interest in the subject has caused him to subscribe to a magazine similar to Janus, responds to Tamar’s classified advert before it’s published, with all sorts of interesting consequences. As I say, the set-up of the photo shoot I describe really were often like that! Vic Barnes is very thinly disguised in the novel as Allan Jardine, while Peter French might well see something of himself in the editor, Gus Britten!
JR: The novel also includes quite a few unpublished photos from the Privilege shoots and in particular some lovely previously unseen images of Lucy Bailey and Christina Winchester. What made you decide to include those?
SS: Well, they’re not intended to illustrate the ongoing action, but rather to reflect the atmosphere stimulated by the respective male and female heroes’ subconscious fantasies at certain points in the narrative. I think they add something and I hope readers will enjoy seeing them. Although one or two of the pics might appear familiar to aficionados, these particular versions of the shots have never been published before.
JR: Any more thoughts now you’re back in touch?
SS: I’ve got quite a lot of material left over from those days, and it did occur to me to put together a small anthology every couple of months or so to go on the Janus website, a miscellany of pics, articles, stories, illies, readers’ letters – that sort of thing – from past editions, including stuff that never got published and illustrations that were never displayed. These anthologies could carry new contact ads too, free – I’d love to think we could help get people like Jed and Tamar together in this way.
JR: Stephen, there will be many people reading this who won’t have previously been aware of the enormous contribution you made to Janus over the years. Thank you so much for giving up your time to talk about your experiences. It’s been great to meet you.
SS: My pleasure, Jon. And, if I may say so, a privilege.
You can read a free chapter of Stephen’s new novel ‘The Bottom Man’ here.
Janus’ legendary illustrator and model Paula Meadows reflects on her time with the long running spanking magazine and beyond to a life after CP.
Interview by Jon Rayworth
Jon Rayworth: It’s great to meet you Paula. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.
Paula Meadows: My pleasure.
JR: We know quite a lot about how you discovered CP (see Janus 29) but we don’t know how you came to be involved with Janus. Can you tell us how that came about?
PM: I had done some modeling for soft-core magazines in the early 80s… to explain why I did that would take far too long – it was one of those peculiar shots in the dark that propelled me into a different mode. Anyway, through this I met photographers, and one of them was Vic Barnes. He told me he was also doing photo-shoots for Janus and was always on the lookout for new locations. I said he could use my flat in Ladbroke Grove, which had quite a large living room/kitchen area. Vic was someone I immediately trusted. He was friendly and very careful to ensure that his female models felt comfortable. (In the context of a Janus shoot this has to be interpreted slightly differently!)
I knew very little about Janus at this point but had a sudden inkling that I might enjoy that sort of modeling. When I told Vic that I would be quite happy to take a spanking myself on camera he arranged to include me in the next shoot at my own home.
JR: Was this the one where you modeled as Lesley?
PM: Yes, that’s right. The very first shoot was the one that appeared in Janus 13 with that lovely dark haired dominant lady, who later became a close friend.
JR: So, when did you start as Janus illustrator?
PM: After we had finished that shoot and Vic was packing up his equipment he mentioned that Janus had recently taken on a new editor and they were now looking for an illustrator. He knew I was an artist so suggested I went along to meet Peter.
JR: What was your interview with Peter like?
PM: Here I must mention that back in 1981 a woman going alone into a sex shop in Old Compton Street was almost unheard of! I had never been in one and I thought the men inside would have been extremely embarrassed if I had – such was the general shame that surrounded us then, and the uncomfortable separation between men and women where any sort of erotica was concerned. That discomfort was even more pronounced in the world of CP. It was generally believed that this was a male driven activity and women only consented to be on the receiving end if they were coerced, intimidated or paid large sums of money. Now, here I was proving that this was not the case.
It felt very exciting, and a little strange, to be going to the Janus shop – well, not actually going in but better still, going back stage, so to speak. Penetrating into the workings of the minds that created it and seeing how it functioned. I entered the side door, next to the shop, climbed the stairs gingerly and found Peter in his office.
The thing I remember about him was his exacting attention to detail. Only the very best would be tolerated for Janus! Do you know, he had such a bearing about him that you automatically pictured him with a cane in his hand. The cane was a sort of extension of his arm, and personality. The moment I went into his office, I had a strong intuition that he would cane me sometime.
JR: And did he?
PM: As a matter of fact, yes. It was something that happened because I had a naughty twinkle in my eye in those days and wanted to push things as far as they would go. I am not sure how I would describe those canings now. It was all very controlled and proper. He was a great expert. Most people might assume that he was taking advantage of his position as editor, but nothing could be further from the truth. I really think that I expected it of him. I would deliver the drawings and receive a short sharp six of the best. I daresay he thought he was keeping his staff in order – but I used to joke about it being my reward!
JR: What were your first impressions once you started illustrating for Janus?
PM: Well, to begin with, the Janus themes of naughty schoolgirls and discipline didn’t gel with me at all. It simply wasn’t my world. Up until then I had experienced spanking as a means of stimulation and helping me override inhibitions. My fascination was the idea of submitting to a man by choice to see what would happen. The one thing I never thought about was punishment and discipline. I hate to disappoint fans of Janus but since I am now retired from it all I would like to speak out and say that I never felt turned on by the idea of a fault-finding headmaster giving me a ticking off! Neither did I relish the humiliation of being spread-eagled across someone’s knee.
JR: But you managed to draw all those things with relish.
PM: Oh yes, I did. The scenes of punishment offered me great opportunities to create exciting dramatic situations with intense emotions, and facial expressions to go with it. I used to be an actress, remember! I really got involved with illustrating those scenes and began to understand how being punished in school (particularly during an era when sex was kept well hidden) could become a really erotic experience because you were so exposed. I used to identify with the dominant and the submissive while I was drawing.
JR: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you got to know Richard Manton who created the character of Lesley and wrote many classic stories for the magazine over the years. What can you tell us about him and what do you remember about your first appearance as Lesley?
PM: I believe two Lesley stories appeared in the magazine and it was the photoshoot for the second one that stands out most vividly in my memory. I particularly remember that Lesley had to be attired exactly as described in the text– flesh-coloured tights and a little white singlet. This made me feel strangely vulnerable. Come to think of it, Peter was rather partial to girls being chastised in innocent white vests – he had me wearing one again for a much later shoot in a flat with some very busy red flock wallpaper… honestly, it really was overpowering. Ha… it’s coming to something when you have to compete with the wallpaper for attention! At one point Peter made me run on the spot and I remember thinking, ‘Oh dear, I’m getting too old for wearing little girl undies and being put through these sorts of indignities!’ But of course, that was the whole point of the exercise.
Oh sorry, I’m digressing. You were asking about RM – I first met him during that second Lesley shoot. He looked in to give some guidance, if I remember correctly. We tried hard to reconstruct his story to perfection, but no one was willing to show their face for the camera on that occasion, so we just had a mysterious hand appearing out of the corner of the shot, holding a cane. This made me realize that the male dominants were in an invidious position… I was willing to reveal myself because being the passive submissive was not as difficult to admit to – unless, of course, you happened to be talking to militant feminists! Strangely enough, that question never bothered me. I was just following my own instincts and this was what I needed to do at the time.
JR: What was RM like?
PM: He was a very shy and restrained man, extremely charming and respectful. We got on very well and I still value his friendship and appreciate his wit and humour. You have to admit… even in an extreme punishment scenario there is still a funny side. He was very fond of researching the Victorians and digging up stories of stern disciplinarians who took their duties terribly seriously. Nowadays we might think of them as hypocritical old windbags – or worse still –insane! But those stories were all based on fact. Ha ha… to our sensibilities today all those houses of discipline were a lot more bizarre than any fiction we might dream up… and yet these were run by very respectable people who were pillars of Victorian society.
JR: We can see some of your artwork on the wall in the photos from Janus 13. Was it shot at your house?
PM: Yes that was shot in the flat we lived in at the time. That painting on the wall was part of a series called ‘Bodyscapes’.
JR: So, how did your career as an artist begin?
PM: Well, I went to art school in Canterbury during the late 60s, which gives my age away! I studied graphics, but when the time came to leave and go out to work I chose to go into the theatre and become an actress instead. I had a great love for the theatre and for five or six years I managed to get work in rep and TV, but my beginners luck did not last and I began to be aware of my limitations as an actress. When my partner and I got together he was writing a book for children, which I illustrated. That was my first professional illustration job.
As theatre work on-stage tailed off, I began to work back-stage in London theatres instead. From that vantage point I managed to get commissions for painting portraits of the performers in the shows. It was only when I started to explore my sexuality that a more erotic sort of art began to emerge. That was like a big breakthrough. It felt as if I had found my subject… the thing I really wanted to devote myself to!
JR: You were the only member of the Janus team to have a public face. Whose idea was it to unmask Lesley as Paula Meadows the Janus artist?
PM: I deliberately chose to ‘come out’ and reveal myself because it seemed right. I was in a position to do that because I had no children to worry about and in a way, since I had elected to be honest and straightforward, it was no good me veiling myself and remaining anonymous. Someone has to speak out and say, ‘I do this and I like it!’ Sometimes we have to go beyond what the world thinks of as ‘perverted’ and admit to it so we can understand it as a need. I don’t really care what the world in general thinks any more.
The year before I started at Janus my family found out that I had appeared in an X rated video so the worst had already happened! Once I had weathered that, there were no more reasons for covering up.
JR: You eventually left Janus to work on a new spanking magazine – Fessée. I was wondering how that came about and what you enjoyed most about your time working on those eleven excellent issues?
PM: Oh, was it only 11? It certainly seemed like a lot more at the time.
Yes, Janus came to an end because I spent rather a long time in the USA and another illustrator had to be found. I think Peter probably felt I let him down.
I can remember clearly meeting St. John and Michael for the first time – I was very surprised by them… their attitude towards me seemed almost reverential! Because of this I realized that my work was starting to acquire something of a reputation. They were quite young men, late twenties early thirties, while I was in my late thirties by that time. They were relatively inexperienced at publishing, but their enthusiasm was enormous.
PCs were not in use then so magazines had to be typeset and pasted up… a process that now seems impossibly laborious. I had several years experience doing paste-up so we agreed that The Boys – I always called them that – would take care of photo-shoots and financial matters and I would do all the rest. We were a good team. When Fessée number 1 finally came out there was a real sense of achievement! It had been such hard work.
JR: Eventually the call came to return to the Janus fold and the opportunity for creative control of your own magazine – Februs. Can you tell us how that happened?
PM: This was a great opportunity! The invitation to create a new magazine came completely out of the blue, from the publisher. This time St.John and I would be putting it together. We did have computers now and we found a designer who would take care of the technical stuff. This lady became a friend and although she wasn’t a devotee of CP at all, she began to learn about it and became quite intrigued. We used to discuss the stories over the phone sometimes and I used to hear her chortling.
It dawned on me that Februs could be a wonderful means of making contact with all those aficionados – the lonely, frustrated ones as well as the fulfilled ones… and both male and female this time. No longer was this the preserve of men only! This new magazine would hopefully appeal to women too. I longed to talk for real about my own experiences and hear what readers had to say… and I could choose stories and do most of the drawings myself – how many other artist have this privilege?
JR: What did you enjoy most about your time editing Februs?
PM: Hm… let me see… I think, looking back, that one of the most enjoyable parts of it was being able to write up my own thoughts on the subject. I know the readers wanted genuine comments from real women. When you look back to sex magazines of the 70s there were often female editors (like Fiona Richmond) who supposedly wrote columns but it was obvious that a man had written it… so readers were naturally suspicious. Now here I was being given the freedom to express my own point of view and I had to make sure it was genuine. In the background I was having a lot of erotic adventures at the time, most of which featured a bit of s/m role-play, and experimenting with different implements and situations. It was very satisfying to be able to describe them and mull over in my mind what was happening. To write something is to make it more understandable and lots of things occurred to me while I was doing it. At one time I thought I could cure all the world’s psychological ills with a dose of CP, if administered in the right way. I’m not kidding… such was my idealistic zeal! I thought I had stumbled on a great secret.
Obviously I enjoyed doing the drawings more than anything else, for the same reason. Although they illustrated a specific story, they were also a personal expression of what was happening for real in my life. I always imagined myself and my friends in the pictures… each one came alive while I was doing it… well, usually it did. If it didn’t then it wasn’t much good!
JR: I wonder if we could talk a little about how the magazine was put together. How long did it take to prepare each issue and how ‘hands-on’ were you with regard to the photography, fiction etc?
PM: Oh, I was very ‘hands-on!’ St.John organized the shoot but I frequently came along to help him direct the storyline. The photos would then be sent to me and I would choose the ones I wanted to use. A pile of manuscripts had to be read and I would select the ones that appealed and forward them to our designer to type up. I wasn’t very computer literate in those days… just about managed to type my column but couldn’t do the clever stuff with design programmes. I would get copies of the text and lay it out with the photos and drawings… did a quick paste-up job and then sent it all back to the designer to finalize and send to the printer. An important part was editing and doing last minute corrections. The printer was a very nice, friendly fellow. He often used to drop the latest issue in to me, hot off the press, so we could look through it together.
JR: I counted 13 original pieces of artwork in just one issue of Februs – how long would it take you to produce this content?
PM: The magazine came out every two months and I remember feeling very pressurized to get it done. We were only a small team, you see. It was great to see it in print – when it all looked good, that is. When something was wrong – like a drawing not printed properly, or an error of some sort… I was usually infuriated and a bit obsessed about it for a while. Yes, I did work hard on the drawings for each issue. I wanted it to be the best we could make it and stand out from the rest.
Will Scarlet’s interview was usually genuine, believe it or not, although there were times when girls decided to disguise themselves. He used to be in touch with me all the time discussing his ideas, but I must admit that I worried about the whole concept of him spanking each girl he interviewed. One of those days I feared he would get into trouble. I’m glad to say he didn’t. Well, he was such a fun person to be with and had a lovely sense of humour. I’m sure no one ever felt threatened by him.
I remember in the early days we tried various photographers and St.John managed to find some wonderfully photogenic models… some of them were good actresses too. Later on we decided to ask Vic to help us with his expertise, which he did. His photos were excellent. He had the ability to find just the right angle for a bottom, to light it and show off its plumpness to perfection! But in later editions of Februs it became more and more difficult to find models who resembled normal girls with some individuality… and normal bushy pubic hair. All the models seemed to have become homogenized with the same glamorous blond hair and Brazilian wax.
JR: What was the funniest thing that occurred during your time on the magazines?
PM: Hm… it all seems amusing to me now… particularly the way I strove to get myself into the most extreme and uncomfortable positions for my readers. What a driven person I was in those days.
JR: What do you miss most about your time working on Janus and Februs?
PM: Miss? I don’t miss any of it now. When the time came to call it a day it was just the right thing to happen. I had been thinking, breathing, experiencing, writing and drawing CP for many years and it was time to say goodbye to it.
JR: It’s 11 years since Februs ceased publication. The era of spanking magazines has given way to online content and forums. What do you think have been the most significant changes the Internet has brought about for the spanking community?
PM: The reason for Februs’ demise was exactly as you have just suggested. In a word – Internet! People could find whatever they wanted, for nothing and they didn’t even have to go into a shop to ask for it. One person could buy a copy of a magazine and then post it up for all his friends! Why should they pay for it? Everyone wants things for nothing nowadays, whether it is music or images – they think they have a right to it, but this attitude is very short sighted. If the Janus publisher had not paid us in the first place to do that work, it would not have been done. Who is going to pay for the creations of the future?
That is just a general observation from my own point of view. As regards the spanking community, I cannot really comment because I have not been part of it for some time. I think any sort of interactive site carries its own risks, but may also open up avenues and prevent people feeling cut off and isolated. We can all make contact so quickly nowadays and build up huge networks in a jiffy. That’s rather daunting.
JR: Do you think Februs was ahead of its time? How do you think it would be received today?
PM: I would guess that Februs was in the forefront of something that was coming. I was just one of many women who were beginning to explore and talk about sexuality, CP and otherwise. Men could not properly be themselves until we did. I think, on the whole, women are more honest then men, now that they are out of the closet at last. It was time for this new freedom to happen.
Interest in erotic CP has been with us a long time but it changes its emphasis. In earlier times when women had an obligation to obey their husbands I can’t imagine them getting much pleasure from fantasizing about being dominated. In the 70s and 80s, many men were getting uneasy with the way females were beginning to gain confidence and this led to interesting power struggles that come out in sex play.
Nowadays young couples enter relationships with the expectation of being equals, and if they desire to explore CP together it is for the sake of extending the parameters of their relationship and getting to know each other more thoroughly. This is a healthy thing. Februs was all for this, but I am not sure that all its readers approved. I remember a few letters from members of the old school who expressed the view that some of our female authors were getting a bit too uppity for their liking! When it comes to the submissive dictating her own punishment, then that is going too far!
JR: Quite right too! Now Paula, you appeared in many issues of Janus and Februs but you only starred in a couple of spanking films. Do you have any classics hidden away in your loft that you might be tempted to release one day?! Was there any reason why you didn’t appear in more spanking films?
PM: Yes, there was! The two I did were quite enough to convince me that this was not the direction for me. In both cases I was hit much too hard and quite indiscriminately by actors who hadn’t a clue what they were doing. I know they didn’t mean to hurt me – they just lacked the skill and understanding… but why on earth would anyone in their right mind volunteer for more of that?
JR: Yes, I see. I’m guessing you never enjoyed watching those films?
PM: No, I didn’t want to watch them… but I think a lot of girls would say the same – if they’ve had experiences with people they didn’t trust.
JR: Let’s leave that behind now. Tell us about your career since Februs came to an end.
PM: I did a lot of work in France, when Februs was still going, and some of my strip cartoons are still being reissued today, by a publisher in Paris called La Musardine. For the last few years I have mainly been doing commissions for private collectors, so none of that will show up in books or magazines, unfortunately.
Have to admit, after my husband died I have been taking things at a more leisurely pace… still inspired by sensual erotic subjects, of course, and the female bottom still features in a lot of my work – but not bottoms bent over covered in stripes! Visitors to my website will see that I have also been exploring the spiritual meanings of Tarot and designing a new deck, which of course is highly erotic. How could it not be?
A few years ago an American man emailed me to find out how I was doing. He knew of me only as someone who had worked in ‘porn’ (a word I detest). After receiving my positive reply, he said, ‘Paula, I am so pleased to know that there is life after porn!’ This shocked me – he had been assuming that because I had entered this dangerous and corrupt way of life, I must necessarily be suffering from drug overdoses, attempted suicide and goodness knows what else. The fact that I was drifting happily towards my sixties, still living with the same man after 30 years, never having taken a drug in my life, seemed quite astonishing to him!
It’s true, though, that there are many casualties of the porn industry, many women – and some men! – who feel undervalued and desired only for their bodies. This is why so many of them go off to look after animals, or work for charities protecting animals. I suppose I too have felt the need to go off in a different direction since Februs came to an end. I decided that, from now on, I wanted to protect my body from any more painful whippings and canings, because it really had had enough over the years. It was time to find out why I had so passionately looked for those experiences. It’s been an interesting journey and these days my interests take me more towards the healing arts.
JR: It sounds like you’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting?
PM: Yes, I have. I’ve been doing some writing too, trying to make sense of all my adventures… but I doubt that any of it is suitable for publication – far too personal and analytical, not written for titillation at all.
JR: Paula I think it would be fair to describe your contribution to the CP scene as a model, illustrator and editor as immense. I know this part of your life has come to a close but on behalf of the many people who continue to appreciate and enjoy your work, thank you for all you have done and for giving up your time to do this interview.
PM: Oh, that’s very kind of you, Jon. Actually…I have to admit that when you suggested interviewing me I imagined it would be difficult going back over all this, but in fact it wasn’t. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. It’s made me realize how fortunate I have been. That whole period working for Janus allowed me the rare chance to safely experience what I wanted to experience. The work gave me the opportunity to extend myself and really delve in deep to find out about the CP world – a world that had been completely hidden before… and it allowed me to be an editor and develop my writing and my art in complete freedom. I can’t imagine having the chance to do that anywhere else.
And that seems like a good note to end on. These are probably my last words as Paula Meadows – she is now consigned to history! Come to think of it, she was first ‘invented’ in 1980, for that infamous video I made. I used the name Paula because that is my second name… and I still answer to that today, but I don’t think of myself as Paula Meadows any more.
JR: For the last time then, Paula Meadows, thank you very much. We wish you well.
The Artist Formerly Known As Paula Meadows
Paula illustrated every issue of Fessée and Februs and appeared as a model in Janus 13, Janus 21, Janus 29 and Janus 38. She also modelled in Februs 18, Februs 22 and Februs 25. A Janus Collection celebrating her favourite illustrations for the magazine is also available along with Encore Janus 9 which brings together all the surviving images from Paula’s appearances in Janus. All these magazines can be downloaded by clicking on the highlighted links.
For the first time Janus photographer Vic Barnes lifts the lid on his eighteen extraordinary years working for the magazine between 1982 and 2000.
Interview by Jon Rayworth
Jon Rayworth: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview Vic. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Perhaps we could start by talking about how you got into photography and your background?
Vic Barnes: I was in the RAF for 12 years and the only hobby I had in those days was music and I’d bought one of the very first tape recorders, a great big heavy thing that weighed 48lbs. I was based in Turnhouse in Edinburgh and I came home to Norfolk where I lived with this tape recorder because I couldn’t carry it abroad, the weight of the thing was just horrendous. I didn’t have any other hobbies except music. My father suggested I use the family box camera to take some pictures and I thought, why not and I did and I was hooked. That’s how it started.
JR: How did this hobby become a profession?
VB: I got posted to Bahrain where I spent 9 months, then 15 months in Aden, which is Yemen now and they were places where a brand new Nikon will cost you about £20. I bought a Nikon S3, which is a bit like the old German Contax cameras. I learnt photography through buying a decent camera. I had my first picture published in the [Persian] Gulf News. It was of a Boeing 707, which had just been built, and one of its first stops for unknown reasons was Bahrain. I took a picture of it landing and I sold it to the local press.
JR: Do you remember when that was?
VB: It would be about 1960. That was it from that point I really never looked back. I got a taste for it and buoyed by the fact that I’d had one of my pictures published, I thought I must be quite a good photographer. One of the first big jobs I had after I turned pro at the end of 1969 was a rally for BMW. I’ve always had an association with BMW ever since I started. I was their official UK photographer for years. I actually ended my career still working for them. I’d gone from photographer to writer over 30 years with BMW and not many people can say that.
JR: So how did you come to work for Janus?
VB: I was between photo agencies. I worked in Fleet Street in 1980 and the guy who ran the photo agency I’d been with had retired. Somebody said to me Janus were looking for a photographer but I thought it wasn’t really my scene. I knew what Janus was, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t into the subject. I also knew they paid quite well and were a good, straightforward, honest company, so I decided to go along and see. I phoned up and spoke to Peter.
JR: And this is Peter, the Editor of Janus that we’re talking about of course. What were your first impressions of Peter?
VB: I didn’t really have any until after we’d done the interview. Peter invited me to come along and meet him. He said to me, ‘I’m looking for a photographer, I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it,’ which I thought was a great way of expressing things. He looked at my portfolio, which was all motor cycles and page 3 style pictures of girls. He said, ‘You’re a good photographer but I’m looking to do something a bit different in Janus, do you think you can handle it?’ He explained everything and I said, ‘Yes, I’ll give it a go.’ The first shoot we did was the shoplifter from Janus 15 I think (below). She took that punishment for real.
JR: Yes, she was certainly a model who was into the subject.
VB: She was. She was also doing nude modelling and all I remember her saying was, ‘You can hit me as hard as you like’. I said, ‘Really?’ She said, ‘Oh, yes, I quite like it’. She said, ‘I’ll tell you if it gets too much but you can do it really hard if you like’. I was amazed when I saw how much she could take.
JR: From our earlier conversations I remember you saying that one of the first photo shoots you did was of Michelle from Janus 14 (below).
VB: That front cover of Janus 14, I remember Peter going absolutely ga-ga over that picture.
JR: In this magazine there are about 7 or 8 pages of Michelle just waiting for her punishment. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
VB: Well I was just learning at this point. The idea was Peter’s. He was imparting information to me at a phenomenal rate. I was trying to soak it all up to understand what we were photographing. When I got a grip of it Peter then used to leave it to me in the most part. As far as photography was concerned he didn’t have a clue what looked right and what didn’t, so I would then be charged with finding a shooting angle on something. It became very much a 50/50 relationship, when it came to putting the photo fantasy together. We called it photo fantasy because we didn’t want anyone to think it was real. We wanted people to look upon the pictures as a story in themselves. They could read the text, look at the pictures or do both. We hoped people would first of all look at the pictures and then go back and read the story.
JR: So in a sense you were providing readers with the opportunity to experience the photo fantasy in several different ways?
VB: As time went on we got better and better, especially listening to feedback from the readers. Incidentally 99% of the readers’ letters in Janus were real. Peter and I created the odd one or two to generate feedback. There are not many adult magazines that could say that.
JR: You had an amazing postbag in those early days because people were responding so well to the work you and Peter were producing. I suspect that most readers would be surprised to discover that you didn’t have an interest in the subject matter and that it was through Peter’s eyes that you learnt what to look for.
VB: It may not have been my subject but Peter was educating me and I’m not minimising it but he knew the subject inside out and upside down and round the corner. I didn’t know anything about it when we started but I did learn very quickly. Once I knew what the storyline was I was able to learn a lot of the nuances from Peter.
JR: What were the nuances that you learnt to look for?
VB: It was really facial expressions more than anything else, body language was very important too. You’ve got Janus 14 open at the moment. The picture on the front cover of the girl in a schoolgirl’s outfit really does capture what Peter wanted. The girl standing outside the Headmaster’s study, not quite sure whether her skirt is too short, whether she’ll look like a scruff bag when she goes in, what sort of punishment she’s going to get this time…
JR: It’s a wonderfully evocative front cover. So many of your covers were.
VB: Well, thank you. Body language and the expressions are so important. The idea behind the story was quite often just a little bit over the top but Janus readers seemed to like that. Being part of it through those early stages where I was learning the subject I could understand why people were into it and to a certain extent I could empathise with them. I don’t think I could have done Janus unless I’d had that empathy for the subject.
JR: I’m guessing it was that empathy for the subject that meant you were also pretty handy at writing fiction for the magazine. You wrote a number of short stories didn’t you?
VB: Yes, Nicholas Holland was me! I wrote the Victoria Moon stories (Janus 25 and 41). Peter used to like me writing because he said, ‘Your writing is very gentle and there’s room for that in Janus, you must write more’. I told him, ‘I haven’t got the bloody time Peter!’
JR: You mentioned when we spoke before that creating each issue was very much a labour of love for you and Peter. What was the working process like?
VB: Bear in mind that at that time you couldn’t use a computer to plan your magazine, you had to use the old fashioned way of doing it which was pasting up pages, putting in text that a type setter had done for you in the font and everything that you wanted. So we had a guy doing that who was actually a contact of mine, I got him to do it because he was a graphic artist. Like me he specialised in the motorcycling industry. He said to me one day, ‘Vic, I’m not blaming you because you and Peter know what you want but the trouble is I’m getting 50% of it wrong every issue.’ ‘I don’t know this subject and I think you should do the layout.’ So I ended up doing it but he still pasted the boards. I developed a system where I ruled up a page with the columns and everything and then photocopied it millions of times. I took one of these for each page of the magazine and worked out the crop with a china graph on the 10x8s that I’d printed.
JR: So that’s mostly your china graph writing on the 10×8 prints that we’ve got in the archive then?
VB: Yes, all those china graph marks are mine. I really was the photo editor; Peter just let me get on with it. That was fine by me as I had my own ideas by that time and I knew the way Janus was. So I did the layouts from probably about my fourth or fifth issue and I did them every issue after that. We had a philosophy with the layout and with the front cover. We didn’t change the front cover because we wanted it to look dated. So the way the magazine was laid out, there were no flashy bleeds or anything like that. It was done very sequentially so people could read the pictures like they would read text. It was always difficult to sync the pictures and the text so we didn’t worry too much about that. It was nice if we could. Janus developed this look because we saw it like a flashback to another time.
JR: That’s really interesting. Was it a monthly production cycle at the time?
VB: I think we did very briefly go monthly but by and large it was bi-monthly.
JR: So in terms of the photography side of things did Peter eventually just leave you alone to create the shoot?
VB: He did, but he also liked to come along to the shoots.
JR: Just to oversee things presumably?!
VB: He’d come along and pitch in and sometimes we used to change the story and he would make an observation and say, ‘Look this would be great if we did that again because I’ve got a slightly different idea for the middle.’ ‘Do you mind shooting another version of that?’ He’d let me set it up and shoot it, he never directed me. Even right at the beginning he never directed me. One of Peter’s roles in the shoots we did was, when we were doing close ups of the bottom I’d get him to do the whacking. The fact was Peter liked doing it anyway…
JR: I’m sure he did – one of the perks of his job!
VB: He knew exactly how to do it. He knew exactly what weight to put on the cane and everything. So although Peter might have enjoyed it he was also the best person for the job.
JR: Tell me about ‘the impact shot’?
VB: I invented the impact shot. Nobody had ever done that. I can’t remember the first one we did but it wasn’t an accident. I saw it through the viewfinder, a quite ample bottomed girl hit with the strap. You imagine throwing a small pebble into a big pond and the way the ripples go to the outside, that’s what happens to a bottom when you use a strap or a cane. With a cane you get this scalloped effect, it’s like a tube cut down the middle as it were, just very briefly. It’s difficult to photograph because with a single lens reflex camera there is actually a delay and if you try and time it precisely you’ll miss it. I had to find this out. I was wondering why I wasn’t getting this impact shot. So I started to look very carefully the next time we had a shoot with a girl who was quite happy to take it. We did this one and I looked at it, I didn’t even take a picture, I watched what happened carefully and just briefly I saw that ripple. I realised it came about a quarter of a second or maybe less than that after the actual impact. I was getting the point of impact precisely but you had to wait a quarter of a second before you pressed the button otherwise that ripple effect wouldn’t be there. I learnt to be always a little late but you couldn’t be sure you’d got it until you saw the negatives. If the girl had a skinny bottom it was far more difficult to capture than for a girl with an ample bottom. There was just more flesh to ripple. You didn’t have to hit hard to achieve the effect.
JR: How did you set up an impact shot?
VB: Well I used to say to the model, ‘We’re going to go for an impact shot, you won’t get hurt.’ I never did it until I was sure they could trust me. I’d say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ I’d do a count 1, 2, 3 at which point I’d ask Peter, or whoever to hit the model on the bottom so that I could capture the ripples. The only way to do this and get it to look right is for the model to put an expression of pain on their face before they feel the impact and hold it for at least a couple of seconds. If you think about it when you hit someone on the bottom for real the expression of pain doesn’t come until after the ripples have gone. So in a sense impact shots where you can see the model’s face are partly faked pictures. If we wanted marks and the girl was happy to take it lightly or we were lucky enough to find someone who was into it then I could do impact shots. Sometimes the model couldn’t handle it but in my experience women seem to have a much higher pain threshold than men. I reckon about 20% of the girls that modelled for Janus got to enjoy it. I remember talking to a girl a couple of years after she had appeared in the magazine and she said that she had never been spanked before but admitted, ‘I like being spanked.’ I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t realise you were into it’ and she said, ‘I wasn’t, but I am now.’ It’s amazing the number of girls that have said that.
JR: I guess for some people if the shoot is their first experience of CP and they enjoy it, that discovery is likely to be part of their sex life going forward.
VB: It was a sexual turn on for some of the girls. Before Janus I did page 3 stuff and glamour calendars and I always used to ask the girls, ‘How do you get on with this subject?’ ‘Do you like being a sex symbol?’ They would always say they loved it, that they felt empowered by it. So many girls have said that being an object of other people’s sexual fantasies is very enjoyable,
JR: You mentioned Nicola Redway and Priscilla (below) and I was going to ask you what you remembered about them. They were obviously incredibly popular models.
VB: Well the girl who played Nicola, I can’t remember her name now; she was an absolutely lovely person. She wasn’t really into it, although I thought she was a little bit but wouldn’t admit it. She was a delight to work with, some girls just were and it wasn’t always the ones that were heavily into the subject. Nicola understood the subject, she was a very intelligent woman, and she got it in the same way I did, from an intellectual stand point. She was every bit as good as the background we gave her in Janus 68. We told her she’d got her degree but in real life she was an academic girl. She’s one of the standout models of my time on Janus
JR: I think a lot of readers would agree with you! Was she actually a model?
VB: No, not at all. She came to us and it was the only work she did.
JR: I’ve brought some photos with me from what I guess would be termed ‘classic photo fantasies’ and I wonder if these bring back any memories. We’re looking at Michelle from Janus 14 for starters, although I know we’ve already discussed her.
VB: Michelle obviously wasn’t her real name but I really remember her. She was one of the first girls that really could act.
JR: She was in the St Winifred’s Trilogy as well. What was your involvement in that project?
VB: I wasn’t involved that much really – I came in to do some of the stills at the very end of the day. I’d only recently joined Janus and the stills were just taken to promote the videos really.
JR: We’re looking at photos from both of the shoots in Janus 14 and this was the first time that the ‘Janus House’ in Greenwich was used wasn’t it. Can you tell us a bit about this amazing location?
VB: You’ll find it also appeared in the Crossbow motorcycle calendar! My association with Janus brought me into contact with some interesting people. I met a girl who wouldn’t work for Janus but I got on really well with her and she said to me, ‘ I’ve got a location you might like to use.’ ‘It’s not mine, but the bloke I’m going out with now, it’s his mother’s!’ I was desperate for some good locations so she took me there and I met the woman who owned the place. I explained what would be going on and she said, ‘Absolutely no problem!’ She was so open-minded she didn’t give a damn.
JR: It’s a wonderful location and it appears in a number of issues. We’re now looking at photos of ‘The Wedding’ shoot from Janus 16 (below).
VB: I loved that shoot. It was so ridiculous!
JR: Where did you shoot it?
VB: It was done at the Ritz. We hired a suit for the day and I believe Gordon Sergeant ended up staying there over night to make sure Janus got it’s money’s worth. We also did another issue a few years later at the Kensington Hilton
JR: Was that with Nicola?
VB: You’re right, it was. I stayed in the room overnight that time!
JR: We’re now looking at a photo of Serena James in ‘The Treatment’ from Janus 16 (below).
VB: I remember her. I love that expression – brilliant isn’t she?
JR: This was where Janus was really making its mark because you were capturing that anxiety and anticipation before a punishment. Obviously Blushes went on to do this very effectively as well.
VB: Blushes copied us and did a very good job of it. They bought their own particular style to bear on the subject and Blushes turned out to be a pretty good magazine – I thought the written content was poor though. It was basically the same story every week.
JR: I think most people would agree that the photography in Blushes was superb but the magazine didn’t have contributions from the likes of Paula Meadows or some of the excellent writers Janus used. A particularly severe photo story was Janus 19…
VB: Yes, this location belonged to a friend of mine who was in the music world. I did some record covers for him and he got to know what I was doing. He produced a lot of great artists. We became friends through motorcycles of course and he let me use his flat for loads of things.
JR: I think the flat appears again in Janus 21 (below) and you can see all the records on the wall.
VB: Yes, the record producer making his Janus debut as a model. I remember it well!
JR: We’re looking at a still from ‘Schoolgirl Screen test’ in Janus 19 (below), which was also shot in a hotel.
VB: We very rarely put long socks on a model.
JR: In the early days censorship wasn’t really an issue, but it became one didn’t it.
VB: Yes, the turning point came when Westminster Council started to licence sex shops and they gave Janus the first license. But then they started to turn against licensed shops! Janus was the least of their worries. It was well run and it stayed within the law all the time. Prior to the licence it seemed the authorities were happy with Janus – they never caused us any problems. As soon as we were licensed they started raiding the shop once a week! The first time they raided the shop they completely emptied the stockroom. They took all the magazines away and only needed one magistrate that was sympathetic to give them a destruction order and they could burn the lot. That’s justice?
JR: That’s probably the reason that a number of early magazines are really difficult to find now. You and Peter were two parts of the dream team but it’s important to remember Paula Meadows whose contributions as a model and artist were immense.
VB: Oh well Paula was a top class artist.
JR: I always felt Paula’s artwork gave Janus a continuity that other publications lacked. What do you remember about working with Paula?
VB: I knew Paula anyway, only on a casual basis and I got to know her much better when she worked for Janus. I loved her work, even though I’m not into the subject. It was a shame that we couldn’t continue to use her when she started to edit Februs but we found Hardcastle, who was also an excellent illustrator and Paula loved his work too. We had to find someone else of that standard. To a lot of people Paula will always be No1 in the world of CP illustrations and nobody will ever knock her off the top spot but Hardcastle was a good second, and a nice guy.
JR: So the three of you worked well together for a number of years?
VB: Yes. Peter was a steady hand on the tiller. He didn’t ever really tell me what to do, in the same way that I never told him what to do. We trusted totally in each other, which was the beauty of the teamwork we had.
JR: Would you say working with Peter was the closest collaboration of your working life?
JR: What was it like when you were working together?
VB: 90% of the time it was great because we totally trusted one another. Peter trusted the fact that I understood the subject and that he couldn’t direct me any more. In fact there were times I’d say to him, ‘This is wrong.’ Nine times out of ten if I criticised anything he did or vice versa that would be OK, but every now and again there was an explosion and you wouldn’t even want to be in the country for ten minutes. Eventually one of us would say, ‘Come on, enough is enough, let’s go over it again, I’ll keep my mouth shut this time until you’ve finished.’ One of us would back down, it didn’t matter which because there was no loss of status or anything like that. If we had an argument and I was at fault eventually I’d say, ‘Alright Peter, lets do it your way, you were right, I jumped the gun.’ If it was the other way round he’d say the same thing. He often said that when we had our arguments, which thankfully were very rare, if Vic doesn’t think the same as I do he must have a point. I said that’s exactly how I think. We always sorted it out.
JR: I think the best working relationships are where people are able to take a step back and think hang on a minute, the other person is seeing this slightly differently, is there something here that I’m missing.
VB: Exactly, that’s how we used to bring the thing to an end. We both knew that it wouldn’t last ten minutes. Ten minutes would be a long time for an argument between Peter and me, but my Christ when we argued. I remember saying to him a couple of times in the early days, ‘I can’t believe you, I really can’t.’ ‘You tell me to do this and when I do it, you don’t like it.’ ‘I can tell you what I see when I look through the camera lens but you don’t look through the lens.’ ‘You don’t know what I’m doing.’
JR: You were both ‘detail’ people weren’t you?
VB: We were. It just worked though. You don’t get relationships like that by accident. The funny thing is we are both Leo’s
JR: How would you describe Peter?
VB: A brilliant writer from the old school. I don’t write like that but Peter said to me, ‘Whatever you do don’t try and copy me.’ I said, ‘It will be very simple Peter, I know my limitations and I’ll work within them’. He said, ‘That’s exactly why you’re a good writer.’ I liked that.
JR: That contrast of styles made for a great combination. Peter used to write most of the photo fantasies didn’t he?
VB: No he didn’t! It was 50/50 again. Sometimes he’d start writing the photo fantasy and ask me to finish it for him because he’d have a lot of sub-editing to do. (He’d often end up re-writing stories for the magazine that had been badly written.) He may have done the first five or six paragraphs but he’d have set the characters up so I’d take it and finish it. We did that a number of times.
JR: So it was a collaboration?
VB: Yes, and not always Peter first and me second. Sometimes Peter would ask me to start it and he’d finish it.
JR: There was one other thing that I wanted to ask about the photography itself because obviously we talked about the impact shot that you created earlier but one of the things I noticed when I was looking at the 8×10 black and white prints is that in some instances, and I’d never picked this up when reading the magazine, you had created a way of putting cane marks on the photo which I would never have known unless I’d actually seen the original prints.
VB: Yes, invariably when magazines have tried to do that in the past it just looked fake. Remember this was Janus – if we’re going to fake anything it’s going to be done properly. We tried all sorts of things to perfect it and used a couple of techniques. There were some photos where you could actually use a china graph pencil and that would work as long as you knew how a tramline was formed. It had to taper at both end and so on and that was one way of doing it. The best way was to use some lipstick on the cane and then press the cane onto the bottom.
JR: As far as the marks you added with the china graph pen are concerned the only way you can tell is if you catch the original photo in the light and you can see the marks on the print. I don’t think anyone would realise otherwise.
VB: The beauty of that method is that you’d never see it in reproduction. When you look at the result in the magazine you wouldn’t know. We didn’t do it that often because if we could get it right on the shoot it was less work for me! I didn’t want to spend all my time in a dark room getting the prints just right – but they had to be right.
JR: Do you remember much about your time working above the shop?
VB: I remember the first time I met Peter. I went up to the little office above the shop and they had a Jewish tailor half way up, we were on the second floor I think and we had a small office and Peter was ruling that little roost. I’ll tell you one thing, you won’t believe this. The door opened one night, no knock, we were both sitting there, it must have been about 6pm and in walked Tina Turner!
JR: She wasn’t there for a Janus photo shoot?!
VB: She’d come to see the Jewish tailor!
JR: What a shame you couldn’t convince her to pose for Janus! That would have been a real coup.
VB: I know! She said, ‘Oh sorry, I’ve obviously come into the wrong place.’ I said, ‘Yes, you have, who are you looking for?’ and she explained. I said, ‘You’re Tina Turner aren’t you?’ She said, ‘Yeah’ but she looked like a scrag-bag, she had her hair all covered up, no make-up on at all. It was when she was recording that first album in England. Being a music freak I immediately recognised her but that’s about the only thing I remember about the period when we had offices above the shop.
JR: We’ve obviously talked a lot about Peter but I wanted to ask you about your working relationship with St John North who took over as editor from Peter.
VB: St John and I, in the end, got on well. I was obviously very sad to see Peter go but I wanted Janus to continue and by now I was steeped in Janus. I wanted it to be as good as when Peter was editor. I knew that if St John listened to me, which he did, then we could do something. We did a few issues together and I enjoyed working with him. Again, he trusted me and I could feel that and he used to ask my advice. I like him a lot. I think he’s a great guy.
JR: You would have first met him when he came in for his staring role with Sophie Fennington in Janus 53. What do you remember about her and that shoot?
VB: Not a lot to be honest. I’m amazed at how much I have forgotten! Especially when you emailed through those pictures. It brought back a few memories but some of the shoots I couldn’t remember at all.
JR: One of the most interesting characters in Janus history, and perhaps the most difficult to pin down was Gordon Sergeant. What involvement did you have with him?
VB: I only ever spoke to him on the phone. I never actually met him in person. I think Peter may have met him once or twice.
JR: Few people ever seem to have met Gordon. I think he was a bit like the banker in ‘Deal or No Deal’!
VB: That’s a very good description of him. Every time we spoke I used to encourage him to come in and see what we were doing but he used to back off. Now and then we’d get a directive signed by Gordon and we’d have to jump to it. I remember Peter telling me about this hilarious conversation he’d once had with him. To put this in context, Gordon was a man of means and quite the philanthropist and he’d had this idea to open a retirement home for elderly spankers! Honestly! He was dead serious about it, he described in detail the uniform that the young, all female staff would have to wear and he was talking about placing an advert in the magazine for potential residents to apply!! We laughed a lot about that. I was so sad to hear he had died – he was a one off.
JR: Absolutely. I wanted to talk a little bit about censorship. In the early days Janus was obviously able to feature ‘schoolgirl’ fantasies and then there came this interpretation of the law that marks couldn’t be shown and certain fantasies were off limits. I wondered what your memories were of that time and how you and Peter dealt with it?
VB: It was really difficult for Janus because we had to stay within the law. We knew the restrictions and we wouldn’t step over the boundary. We did everything we could to push the envelope in terms of creativity and take it to the edge. Peter and I knew exactly how far we could go. We were meticulous with our detail as well. Even when we were doing shoots Peter would say, ‘As much as I’d like to do that Vic, I don’t think we can.’ We had to keep within the law.
JR: I know that you were involved in the production of some of the Janus videos and I believe that ‘The Disciplinarian’ was one that you actually shot?
VB: That’s right. ‘The Disciplinarian’ photographically is not very good. It was the first time I’d ever used a video camera. I hadn’t quite got the balance at that time between the cut away and the various aspects of cinematography that I know now. There are a couple of jump cuts in ‘The Disciplinarian’ that I’m not proud of but we couldn’t get round them. ‘Moral Welfare’ was a lot better, by then I’d started to learn how to use a video camera.
JR: And presumably you shot the stills on both videos as well?
VB: I did yes. They were the only two I was involved in.
JR: ‘The Disciplinarian’ is very notable because of course it was Antonia du Bois’s star performance (below). What are your memories of her?
VB: A lovely girl. Very genuine and very feminine and heavily addicted to the cane! She was very much into the subject.
JR: She’s punished quite severely in the photo shoot and video. Did she request that?
VB: She did, but nobody ever took advantage of Antonia du Bois. Of course the name is a deliberate joke. I can’t remember what her real name was now but it doesn’t matter, as she will forever be Antonia du Bois. She’s an icon isn’t she?
JR: Absolutely. I don’t believe she ever appeared anywhere else.
VB: No she didn’t. She was a Janus fanatic.
JR: What is there to say about the German Director of the Academy, Dr Weltscheim?
VB: He couldn’t remember his lines at all. I had to hold them up on bits of paper for him!
JR: Oh god, he was reading off cue cards was he?
VB: Probably the beginning and the end of his acting career I suspect.
JR: Did you do the Janus 20 photo shoot for Antonia at the same time as the video?
VB: No they were done separately. I think we had to wait for the marks to clear after the photo shoot. I can tell you she went home with a sore bottom on both occasions!
JR: She came back and did a lovely interview a few issues later in Janus 24. Did you take the photos on that occasion as well?
VB: Yes, Peter did the interview. She loved working for Janus. I mean that front cover of Janus 20 is fantastic. A lovely girl, great to work with. Our favourites were like that. Nicola Redway, she was the same, gorgeous girl.
JR: Are there any other Janus girls apart from Nicola and Antonia that stand out for you?
VB: Those two certainly do and of course Natalie (from Janus 132, 133 and 138). Lovely girl, she looks young, behaves young, talks young. I love the front cover of Janus 132 – every expression is perfect…it’s a good front cover.
JR: It’s amazing and it’s got two of the most popular Janus models from later in the run on it.
VB: Look at Hilary (Hanbury-Boyce). Fantastic.
JR: Tell me about Hilary because she came into Janus through you didn’t she?
VB: She was one of my acquisitions. I met her on a shoot – she was a foil for one of the models. She asked me what else I did and I told her I did Janus magazine and she said, ‘If you want a mature model for any reason or an actress just give me a ring I’ll be glad to do it.’ We used her quite a lot and she was great. She’s got this wonderfully stern expression, great profile, but she’s such a gentle soul in real life. I think the little blonde on the cover of Janus 132 looks absolutely stunning!
VB: Natalie though – what a naughty little thing! She did quite a lot of porn. You know I see these pictures now and I’m proud of them. I just can’t remember doing some of them. I know I shot them but I just don’t have a memory of some of the individual shoots.
JR: You have every reason to be proud of them Vic. Having taken so many it must be hard to remember individual ones?
VB: I guess after 130 issues with two shoots an issue it’s not surprising!
JR: The magazine maintained a very traditional feel inside but I suspect readers were comfortable with that.
VB: Readers really liked the layout. There was a debate in one issue early on about the front cover and we got so many letters coming in to say ‘Don’t change it, don’t change it’. So we didn’t.
JR: Where did you find most of the models that appeared in Janus?
VB: We advertised in ‘Girl About Town’ and we got a lot of girls applying to model through that. Occasionally I’d bring in a professional model I’d worked with before, who I knew from talking to that she was either slightly into it or she would do it because we paid a normal model rate and she wasn’t going to get ripped off. I used to bring in one or two professional girls who were interested in it. Most of the girls said ‘I’ll do it but you have to be gentle because I’m not into this’ and they may have had another shoot the next day. We always respected this – that’s why so many came back to work for us again because they knew they could trust us. The trust we established with our models was more important than anything else.
JR: Well, lets have a look at some highlights from the early days. We’ve got some of your original 8×10 prints here…
VB: Ah, the lovely Paula – showing her arse!
JR: Working with Paula as a model, what was she like?
VB: She was great. She was already an experienced model so she was very comfortable with it. A very intelligent woman, Paula. You talk to Paula you had a conversation. She was a very good model. She was a very good person.
JR: We’re looking at some photos for Punishment Ballet from Janus 22 (below). Do you remember much about that shoot?
VB: Well the location is in Chiswick; it’s a dance studio. I knew about it but I didn’t know if it was open for hire until I went down there. We went in and bear in mind we were paying between £25 and £40 for a location for the afternoon, which was very cheap they said £35. We told them we would be shooting semi-nude and they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll leave you alone.’
JR: You had four models as well, which would have made it a slightly more expensive shoot?
VB: Well, yes, it was. I think when we shot that Janus had already picked up a lot. We weren’t quite there, but we were getting there. I think we got there around the end of the 20s. But I remember that shoot. It was a pleasure to do. None of the girls could dance. We didn’t bloody know either! We just posed them like that and hoped no one would notice.
JR: I think you got away with it. I don’t recall paying that much attention to the actual dancing! Although you used the house in Greenwich a lot at that time almost every magazine seemed to feature a different location. I think it was another feature that set Janus apart from its rivals at the time. Was it easy to find these places?
VB: Well, another secret. There were a lot of aspects of the Greenwich house that were different from each other. Sometimes we were using Greenwich and you wouldn’t have known it was Greenwich. We’d sussed that location out. We knew we could use a corner there and it would look like nothing we’d ever shot. We used that place a lot.
JR: We’re looking at some photos of Nicola and Priscilla’s first appearance in Janus 23. What memories do you have about this shoot?
VB: I remember they both loved the idea! They loved doing it, both of them. There was a lot of laughing. They were good friends. I remember we took quite a lot of film. Back then I had to develop it and print it but it was all worth it because the end result was very good.
JR: I think in most instances Janus excluded out-takes where people were laughing but somehow with these two the laughter seems very appropriate.
VB: They completely bought into what we were doing, both of them. Nicola more than Priscilla, in fact Priscilla needed a bit of a kick up the arse every now and again. But Nicola got right into it straight away, that’s why she kept coming back. We realised we had a good thing there. She was just a pleasure to work with. She was probably about 20 or 21 when she first worked with us and perhaps looked a little younger.
JR: Which puts her maybe in her early 50’s now!
VB: I know – frightening isn’t it.
JR: We’re looking at some photos from the Moral Welfare shoots (below). Where did the idea for that theme come from?
VB: I’m not sure. I think it came out of a discussion I had with Peter about institutions and things like that. We were talking about the way standards were slipping now. There wasn’t any discipline anymore. We were thinking about that and said we’d have to persuade parliament to pass some law and then we thought – that’s a great idea! I can’t remember who came up with the specific concept from that conversation but one of us did. We developed the idea immediately. It was all done in the studio with a black backdrop.
JR: Here are two rather cheeky little girls from Janus 35, Andrea and Josie in ‘Command Performance’ (below). What memories do you have of these two?
VB: Oh yes! They were a handful. Josie would do absolutely anything you wanted – she’d done a lot of porn. You could never tie this girl down. She travelled all over Europe to film porn. I first met her on another shoot, I talked about Janus and she said, ‘I’ll do that for you, you can cane me.’ I did point out that the cane could leave marks for a few days. She said, ‘If we do the shoot on a Friday I’ll make sure I’ve got no work on the Saturday and Sunday, take Monday off – should be fine.’
JR: This is another lovely shot of Nicola and Priscilla from Janus 46.
VB: Wonderful. I remember saying to Nicola, ‘ We’ve got some lovely pictures – I’ll print a couple up for you where you’re not showing your bum. This was one of them.
JR: This is a shot of Sheena from Janus 66.
VB: Oh yes, with Stephen Sims.
JR: A lot of people may not know that Stephen Sims played Roger Storing in a number of Janus photo fantasies. Stephen was a prolific contributor to Janus over the years and went on to edit Privilege Club and Privilege Plus.
VB: Stephen is a fantastic writer. This is shot in the bathroom of the Greenwich house, which hadn’t appeared before. I like this model.
JR: This was Sheena McBride. She’d appeared earlier in Janus 62 in a kilt.
VB: I think she actually was Scottish, nice arse! I think we caned her lightly and added the marks afterwards.
JR: I wanted to ask you about the ‘page two bottoms’. There was supposedly a famous page two bottom that couldn’t show her face because she would be recognised. Was that true or was it just a story Peter and you came up with?
VB: It may have been a story. We did shoot the odd girl that went on to greater things. One or two had careers in modelling or appeared in the background of a James Bond film, that sort of thing.
JR: Someone told me that one of Peter’s favourite sayings was that Janus girls don’t have genitalia. Is that right?
VB: To a certain extent yes. We didn’t want to put the magazine in the Mary Whitehouse bracket. Peter always said that the people who buy Janus are first and foremost deeply involved and interested in CP. There are plenty of other magazines that cater for an audience who want to see more explicit images.
JR: What did you get out of the experience of working for Janus?
VB: Well Janus really opened the world up for me. Photo production became a real interest. How it told a story and the attention to detail that is required. All these things helped to make me a better photographer because the photography in Janus had to be of a certain type. I gradually learnt this and I adapted myself to the way the magazine should be done photographically. To see it develop over the years the way it did was so pleasing. People can say, ‘You’re only talking about a tacky little spanking magazine,’ but the fact is we’re talking about a serious magazine that was a leader in its field. I believe Janus was the best magazine it’s genre has ever seen and I’m proud of that.
JR: We still get emails from people who remember your work with great affection. It also still resonates with people discovering the magazine for the first time.
VB: Well it amazes me to hear that – it’s a good feeling. I’m not ashamed of the work I did for Janus, I never will be.
JR: As you look back on your time with Janus what stands out for you?
VB: The incredible rapport that Peter and I had. That’s how we managed to produce what we did. It was a great partnership.
JR: You were the Lennon and McCartney of the spanking world!
VB: I like that! We knew it was good. We also knew we had to keep the standard up. We’d made a rod for our own backs.
JR: Vic, your wonderful photography and everything you and Peter achieved with Janus, it very much lives on. I’m sure there are thousands of people out there like me who would like to say thank you for creating these amazing images.
VB: Thank you for saying that. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I used to look forward to Janus shoots. They were like nothing I’d ever done before. I continued to do plenty of other work because I thought it was important not to get obsessed with Janus. I was always into a lot of things, especially motorcycling. It was a good tonic to get away from Janus and go and spend five days doing bikes. It was great for me. In the ‘Motorcycle Review’ magazine I gave you, you’ll find an article I wrote about three guys on three bikes. We went up to Scotland for a long weekend and we covered 1,700 miles. I wasn’t as good a writer then as I am now but I’m pretty pleased with it.
JR: Thank you Vic for giving us the permission to make the article available alongside this interview. I’m quite sure a number of Janus readers will be very interested to read about the other side of your working life.
VB: My pleasure.
To read Vic’s article Taking the High Road click on the highlighted link.
(The final accompanying photo appears courtesy of Crossbow Calendar and the text and photos in the article ‘Taking the High Road’ are ©Vic Barnes)
We recently did an interview with a wonderful lady called Melanie about her spanking experiences.
Janus Worldwide: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Miss Melanie
Miss Melanie: You’re welcome
Janus Worldwide: So, first question – for the benefit of our readers, please can you tell them a little bit about yourself? …
Welcome to Janus – home of the longest running spanking magazine in the world and featuring the largest collection of vintage spanking magazine scans from the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Last week I received my first caning for over twenty years, and it was suggested that I write to you about my experiences and how I discovered that spanking was just so erotic. …