In British English, Page 3, or Page Three (also with lower-case initials), denotes a feature which appeared daily on page three of the British tabloid The Sun (London), and included a pin-up picture of a topless or nude young woman; this feature first appeared on 17th November 1970 (see below).
The Sun is the red top ‘par excellence’, founded in 1964 and owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International.
The earliest mention of this feature that I have found is from The Times (London) of Tuesday 23rd November 1976:
Partial eclipse of ‘Sun’
Page three of The Sun newspaper, normally occupied by glamour pictures, appeared largely blank in the first edition of today’s issue because of an industrial dispute involving block makers on the paper.
The following article about the short-lived pop group Page Three, from The Guardian (London) of Thursday 25th August 1977, mentioned the fact that both the name Page Three and the Page Three logo are protected by copyright:
Lesley Adamson on the Sun models who stepped out of line
Turning on to Page Three
Who says you can have too much of a good thing, the Sun asked on the day it sent three of its regular models bouncing across the famous page 3? Well, on second thoughts the Sun thought you could.
The girls—Clare Russell, Felicity Buirski and Stefani Marrian*—had turned themselves into a pop group called Page Three and were peddling their first single, Hold On To Love. Their name, says Warner Brothers, the record company that signed them up, was all their own idea. No, says the Sun: Page Three was ours, and what’s more we’ve taken out a copyright on it.
“Page Three is obviously a name that has grown out of the Sun’s Page Three features,” said the managing editor, Dick Parrack, “and we are anxious that it shouldn’t be misused by other people.” The paper was likewise worried about the record cover copying its Page Three logo—the familiar title block bearing those words. That, too, is copyright and that, too, shouldn’t have been used.
But any fear of legal action was quickly dispelled when the penitent pop group and their manager got together with the men at the Sun.
(* Stephanie Marrian (born Stefanie Khan, 9th October 1948) was the first Page Three model in The Sun of 17th November 1970.)
Peter Hillmore’s column Guardian Diary, published in The Guardian of Wednesday 27th April 1977, caused controversy between this newspaper and The Sun:
Making hay—if the Sun shines. A small rock magazine has just found itself the victim of a curious case of censorship by the Sun newspaper. The magazine called Zigzag celebrated its eighth anniversary last week, and with a circulation of about 18,000 decided to mark the occasion by launching a promotional campaign. Part of this campaign was a small ad in the Sun.
The ad was booked two months in advance, and prepaid. It was to feature the cover of the current issue of the magazine (a not terribly pleasant picture of a lady punk rock star from America, Cherry Vanilla) and some blurb about the quality of the music coverage that Zigzag contains.
The ad was due to run last Friday; last Thursday the editor refused to carry the advertisement because it was suggestive. What is strange about the decision is that the magazine had been stocked on the shelves of the custodians of Britain’s morality, W. H. Smith, for a long time.
Before we all go to press, it is worth mentioning that the issue of the Sun which didn’t carry the “suggestive” ad, carried a front page headline “My nights of love with a mad rapist. It’s scary, it’s sexy, it’s true.”
The following day, Thursday 28th April, The Guardian published this response from Albert ‘Larry’ Lamb (1929-2000), then editor of The Sun:
Obscene pictures and the Sun
Sir,—Your readers should know that there is nothing “curious” about the Sun’s refusal to accept an advertisement for Zigzag magazine (Peter Hillmore’s column, April 27).
The cover of the current issue which was featured in the proposed advertisement is not, as Mr Hillmore puts it, “a not terribly pleasant picture.”
It is an obscene and nasty picture. It is not the only obscene and nasty picture in the issue. Furthermore, an alleged “interview” with the lady pictured opens with an account of how she used to masturbate with her “mom’s” plastic banana.
This magazine addresses itself to young people. The Sun has more young readers than any newspaper in the country. Unlike the Guardian, it also has a sense of responsibility.
It may have escaped Mr Hillmore’s notice, but we do not carry obscene pictures. Or stories about plastic bananas. But then, unlike the Guardian, we do not carry pictures of copulating pigs, either.—Yours faithfully,
30 Bouverie Street,
Larry Lamb was referring to the following photograph from The Guardian of Wednesday 27th April, illustrating an article about the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which helps to preserve primitive domestic breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs:
On Saturday 30th April, The Guardian published several letters from readers in reaction to Larry Lamb’s response; here are two of them:
Mr Lamb […] asserts that the Sun, unlike the Guardian, has a sense of responsibility. To be sure the Sun is the only newspaper to have the backbone to discuss in depth, with lavish illustrations the vital question of what exactly a young female, clad only in a sun-hat and cricket gloves and holding a cricket bat in front of her genitalia actually looks like. Responsible, Mr Lamb?
5 Greenwell Street,
Sir,—I am provoked to reply to the bleatings of Larry Lamb. I sometimes see Page 3 of the Sun, wrapped round an ice=cream block from my village shop. This I find objectionable for its exploitation of women. I would not like my grand-children to see these pictures and get the idea that this is what being a woman is all about.
But the pigs in the Guardian I thought a superb picture, and of course, apposite to the feature they illustrated. Ideal for leaving around for the enlightenment of the young.
(Mrs) A. M. Brown.
Great Missenden, Bucks.
The Page 3 girl
from The Guardian (London) – 30th April 1977