History of Berth Milton's Private Magazine
The history of Private magazine started with censorship and led Berth Milton to become a media company mogul.
Berth Milton Senior, founder of Private magazine, was the first in the world to start a full color sex magazine. The year was 1965. An aunt gave Berth Milton Sr. his first camera when he was six years old and he demonstrated a precocious faculty for persuading women to shed their clothes when he took a girl called Carol and his baby Brownie into the nearby countryside: "I was nine years old and Carol was twelve. It came out just natural; She wanted to show herself off."
Milton was already a famous name in Sweden. For 40 years, young Berth Senior’s father operated Milton's Tivoli, the country's biggest traveling fairground.
By the 1960s, Mr. Milton Sr. was making a mark in what might be called another branch of show business as a car salesman for Volkswagen.
"I made more money than the managing director of the company. I was selling a hell of a lot of cars." His success in such a traditionally tough selling job was a major factor in Milton's ability to provide the seed capital he needed to start a sex-shop in Stockholm.
Without a doubt, Berth Milton Sr. was a man of his times, with a nonconformist attitude which covered what was of interest at that time and the forthcoming changes in the future. He had a true businessman's vision, a person that reflected that genuine American prototype of the "self-made man," but European style. Along with that enterprising character, Mr. Milton Sr. also had a refined and uninhibited attention towards sex.
Milton had tried to produce explicit sex before even thinking about Private, but his project failed right away. His first erotic productions were super-8 movie tapes which he marketed with unusual success at the beginning. But certain pirates' made a multitude of bad copies of these films, ruining the still budding business.
One day he made a collection of his photos with naked Swedish girls and sold them in "Six-Packs" in his shop. The high quality photos were a great success from the start and soon the rumors made it possible to sell them by mail-order in Northern Europe.
The success abroad was also due to the world-wide perception of the liberal Swedish people and the Swedish sin, and slowly the idea of making a publication with erotic photos came about. "When I saw all the rubbish published and sold for a tremendous amount of money, I said: I can do better than that," Milton remembers.
"Everybody was printing thirty-six black-and-white pictures in thirty-six pages. I started with a well-designed layout, with text and with color. That was the reason I started the magazine."
Beginning of Private Magazine
The first issue of Private was printed in 1965 and presented a great challenge. Mr. Milton Sr. created it all by himself. He did the photo-sets, developed the film, the layout, the editing, as well as the paperwork. Eager to get through with it, it is not hard to understand how many times he had to improvise. The cover girl to Private No. 1 was Sylvia, his own secretary! Mr. Milton also bought his own printing press with the intention of having complete control over his "newborn baby." At the time, Mr. Milton Sr. was 39-years-old and had a ten-year-old son, Berth Milton Junior.
Already a skilled photographer, Milton's first step was to find models prepared to pose for the risky material he needed, "It was more difficult at that time than now."
The first issue with intercourse was confiscated by the police. In the middle of the 1960s, the decriminalization of pornography in Sweden was not yet complete. Before going to press, he slipped the photographs for the first issue into an envelope and climbed into his car: "I went up to the Ministry of Justice to find out what I could publish. "You tell me," I said. "If I steal a bicycle, you can tell me that's against the law. Look at this picture and tell me if I can publish it." And they said, "Oh, we don't know! You publish it, then we'll see what happens."
"Jesus Christ!" I said, "I am asking you—you are the Ministry of Justice, you should be able to tell me."
Milton's biggest risk was gambling on the customer's willingness to pay extra for the quality he was so proud of. "At that time, no magazine in black and white sold more than five thousand copies. I had to sell over ten thousand copies to get my money back."
Milton wanted to do more than set new standards with the latest color litho techniques. He also wanted the photosets to show the detail of sexual acts.
The first issues of the magazine included, basically, photographs of models in everyday scenes, and naked, as well as lesbian scenes. The first intercourse was shown in Private No. 6 in 1967. Soon, the police confiscated all cases with issue No. 6. Next time when the police arrived to confiscate Private No. 7, they just took some cases. When Private No. 8 were published, the Swedish police just took one case.
People started to talk about it and soon after that, they changed the law. Once the constitutional change had taken effect, Milton was free to make the breakthrough. It had come with Private No. 8. "Now they could say what was legal and what was illegal," says Milton. "Those shots, my pictures, were on the desk of the Minister of Justice."
Milton had been in the right place, at the right time, and with the right motivation. Since the early days of the so-called Swinging 60s, it had been clear that Sweden's "Signpost Society" was likely to be the first to make hard-core pornography legal. His determination to take the quality of pornography up-market was just what was needed to place a glossy finish on the sheen of respectability applied by the change in the law. The circulation of Private soon exceeded 40,000 copies per issue. The reputation of the magazine spread and by the end of the 1960s, a curious world was clamoring for copies.
Berth Milton's Photography
In the 70s, the project had become something real, with a solid foundation. At that time, the publishing house already had an internationally acknowledged name: Private Press AB. The magazine had become a milestone for freedom and good taste in defense of healthy and uninhibited sex. Milton started to differentiate his product, and did everything possible to avoid the habitual rooms full of human flesh. He shot his sequences in open, exciting, and provocative places that were revolutionary for an activity, such as sex that must not be, above all, boring and a routine.
In Berth Milton's hands, the camera did not quiver, although the lens, equipped with an orange colored filter (to give a more desiring tone to the skin), got closer and closer to the pubic area of the girl sitting in front of him. An exciting photograph that didn't hide anything - absolutely nothing; that is the speciality of the man who has already become a genius. The girl was naked, despite her silver silk stockings, that went above her knees. This scene wasn't shot in a secret studio. No. It took place on a bench, behind a bush, in a public park in Stockholm.
This created an additional incentive for the reader that enjoyed the most lustful interpretations: everything is as natural as life itself. The risk of someone discovering that naked girl enjoying her frivolous games always exists. But, actually, this happens very little. Berth Milton was in constant contact, by radio, with his team. "If things started to get complicated, we cut and disappear."
Smiling, Berth Milton remembers the sequences he shot with two girls and a guy at the shoulder of a busy highway, behind a brand new Jaguar. "I was encouraging the three of them to get into new games," and they were all really into it when we hear a tremendous impact on the highway. A driver that was going rather slow realized what was going on and stepped on the break. Another car hit him from behind. The noise impressed the actor so much that he couldn't go on. It was total chaos. The two girls lost their orgasm and were rather upset. The curious driver was furious and wanted to call the police. "Come on, we're getting out of here," I yelled, and then we all ran (the models were nude) towards the helicopter, and disappeared in the sky."
In 1978, Milton published another magazine which he cynically called Pirate, as a typical example of the continuous imitations of Private. The goal of this magazine was to offer even more daring actions, although addressed to a more limited public. This magazine was developed in two very specific stages: from 1978 to 1983 (when Milton Sr. decided to stop publishing it), and another period that goes from 1991 (when Berth Milton Jr. decided to resume the publication) and its contents were similar to those of Private.
Berth Milton Sr. Retires
Until 1979, Milton took all his own photographs and became famous world wide due to his magnificent reports, turning Private into the most original magazine. At the beginning of the 80s, he was still working almost in the same way he had started 15 years prior. Up to then, he had taken all the photographs himself because he knew he was the best. Later, he had to delegate jobs to other photographers. Nevertheless, he was still in control and supervised the entire process.
There are many examples of Senior's perfectionism (on the border to stubbornness) and a classic one was to get the right props to a photo-set. The planned location was outdoors near the Royal Swedish Castle in Drottningholm, Sweden. According to Senior's script, the talents were going to screw in front of the Castle and his orders were: "Give the guy a blue T-shirt with yellow stars on, because he has to look Swedish." Later, when Senior saw the photo-set, it was great except for the T-shirt, since it was yellow with blue stars on it. The poor photographer had to find another T-shirt and redo the whole photo session.
In this decade, Private became the greatest and most important publication of its kind, despite the hard core competition that had appeared on the market. The other publications multiplied, but few of them achieve the success and public recognition of Berth Milton's publications.
The publishing house moved its production to Spain, while keeping, in Stockholm, its distribution, accounting, and marketing office. In this period, all models appeared sun tanned and happily relaxed in the magazine. The reason is simple: Milton Sr. bought an enormous villa on the Costa del Sol and, before shooting a set, the models would rest and enjoy the sun for a week so as to be physically and psychologically prepared. Here, he shot photographic sequences of a great graphic and artistic quality, launching to fame such models as Andrea Klark, Sarah Young, Solange, etc.
The technical aspects advanced quickly, and Milton took advantage of these to improve his product to levels that set a high standard. Milton is not the man who has earned more in the hard core field but, without a doubt, is one of the masters of the contemporary sex photographers.
Nevertheless, towards the end of the 80s, Berth Milton Sr. decided to retire, leaving Private in the hands of the only person who could continue the project with the same quality and self demanding level. His son, Berth Milton Jr.
Berth Milton Jr. Takes Over
Berth Milton Jr. inherited a very characteristic trait from his father: perfectionism. Although it is said that they are similar in very little more. Once Berth Milton Junior got the question what he had in common with his father. He didn't hesitate to give the answer: "Nothing!" But, this is not quite true. Like him, he was never satisfied with what is good; it must be better.
Milton Senior seemed satisfied with a slow but sure growth of his magazine. But his son had other ideas and when, in 1990, he turned the business over to young Milton, the company began to expand incredibly.
Private was a great challenge for Berth Milton Jr., since, when he took charge of the publishing house, he knew nothing about the adult publication industry.
There was a great difference in his way of running the business. He delegated most matters to his staff and he trusted them as long as they did their best. Berth Milton Junior could not accept losing in a competition, which was a very good quality when you are running a company the size of Private. But, this was just a part of what Berth Milton Jr. has created in his years as editor. He relaunched Pirate magazine and also created a totally new magazine: Triple X.
But indisputable is the fact that the company is expanded in all imaginable directions—a real change for a company that, at the beginning, had no more than four employees and published four magazines a year.
Private's history could not have been written without the concurrence of the spirit of a saga of men such as the Berth Miltons, open and nonconformists, with the sensibility and willingness necessary to put onto paper the most beautiful sex images ever published, even in the most absolutely difficult times.