In its first five years of existence, ToCo enjoyed stupendous success. From the first edition of Spick (pretty boring when you look back on it after seeing how things developed), the management of the company did something that is sadly lacking in modern marketing philosophy, and practically non-existent in modern politics – they listened to what the readers wanted and gave it to them.
Pictures of showgirls and articles about showbiz chat slowly evolved into the mouth-watering Spick and Span stuff that made them so popular. Each twelve months for the first three years saw the birth of a new title, each a link in the chain that allows us to see the gradual development and change – not just in fashions, hairstyles, lifestyle and even language (the front cover of Funfare 43 states “Diane McCall – Gay Girl”; in those days, it meant happy!) − but in the way the UK opened up to become what was dubbed the Permissive Society. But what we see on the pages of ToCo mags was the tip of the iceberg. By the early 1970s, much more daring publications were on the shelves of the newsagents; they were larger and bolder and made the company’s adventurous exploration of the balance between reader demand and legal risk appear prim and proper.
One of those changes that happened in the country, indeed the world, was the arrival of feminism and gender equality. Which makes an event that took place in the Croydon offices in the early months of 1956 nothing less than a bombshell.
As part of a management reshuffle to cope with the burgeoning growth of the young publishing company, a new member of the team that produced semi-smutty, fetishist, pin-up mags was taken on board – a woman. Her name was Marjorie Smith.
Within ten months, she was the deputy editor of all three main titles. And discussions must have taken place about how to cash in even more on the great popularity of and demand for their products. Publish fortnightly instead of monthly? Or weekly?
The decision made was to produce another new title – monthly, like the others, but with a different spin. Instead of several models between the covers there would be just one – very occasionally two. And instead of just a few snaps of a girl with descriptive texts, the new concept was a pictorial story, usually vaguely ridiculous, in which the texts provided the narrative for the photo sequences.
It was the same size and price as both Spick and Span – 1/3 (one shilling and threepence) and was called Fanfare; but only for the first three editions, after which the ‘a’ was replaced with a ‘u’ – and Funfare was born. Already here, you can begin to get a whiff of the amateurish management that was ultimately to be the cause of the downfall of the ToCo empire. It costs a great deal of time and money to introduce a new title to the market, and you have to go through all the market research, analysis and business plans to make the most impact. And they couldn’t even get the title right.
The magazine was in the experienced hands of Robin Brewster as Editor. He was Picture Editor of all the previous titles, but that role was now handed over to Marjorie Smith on Funfare. Smith made her mark from the beginning, with a full page towards the end of the mag that was hers entirely. Astoundingly, in the first edition she wrote, “this is almost going to be a woman-to-woman page because we’re going to talk about models”. This was going to be Marjorie Smith’s magazine and she let us – and Brewster − know it. Thereafter, she dropped tongue-in-cheek hints about how they got on.
She asked readers (and they were all over the world) to let her know which models they would most like to see and kicked off a recruiting campaign. She offered help and guidance about the world of modeling and how to get into it, announcing that she would “pay two guineas for every photo published”. She was true to her word, and the inside back cover of the first 30 or so issues introduced a new model (new to Funfare that is – most had recently appeared in the other titles) and some details about her. Unless she was telling porkies on that page, the idea was a winner – she was inundated with letters from wannabes and just-starteds. The back cover always featured the main model of the next month, but more often than not, the inside back cover girl would appear two or three months later.
The first model to make her debut that way was Joyce Dawson, whose photo and self-introductory letter appeared on Smith’s page in Funfare 6 of June 1958. Joyce never went on to get her own edition of the mag, but was featured a few months later in some great shoots in Span and Beautiful Britons.
The subjects (fetish objects, to be more precise) portrayed were fully-fashioned stockings, St.Trinian’s-style uniforms (including the great rarity of genuine navy blue knickers), directoire knickers – and, in Funfare 28, some of the best girdle shots in the history of ToCo.
In August 1961, the dream ended and the last Funfare, 43, hit the newsstands, though both Brewster and Smith would continue their ToCo teamwork. We are left wondering why this happened – ToCo still had 25 years of life left. Maybe it was the single-girl format (though the last edition was shared between Diane McCall and Tessa King) or the silly story-style pictorials that didn’t appeal – who knows. But it is a shame; there were some great photos in that title.