Oliver Frey Adman

Few at the time would disagree that Oliver Frey's style of illustration began a revolution in advertising — laser beams, figures in action, sophistication and style all added to a massive demand for his services.

Oliver Frey Adman

Recognition of the Pink Pound even reached the odd Bognor or Blackpool landlady — suddenly there were options of hotels and B&B establishments for gay men and women (though the men had to remember that the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality allowed for “consenting adults in private” and privacy did not include anywhere outside the “home”, so no dirty weekends away in a gay hotel.

Not that that stopped many, and if you were worried about the law… well it was off to Amsterdam. Nevertheless, demands for half and quarter-page ads for use in the gay press came thick and fast, all looking for that inimitable Frey look and feel.

This emergence of commercial enterprises hoping to serve the gay market needed exposure. The straight press was neither targeted nor helpful and so they began advertising in the new gay magazines Like HIM and ZIPPER, further “legitimising” what had previously been viewed as little more than pornography.

As commercial confidence in a gay market grew during the later 1970s, pubs converted – or held “gay nights of the week”— clubs and discos opened their doors up and down the country. London’s “super club” Heaven quickly recognised the attractions of Oliver Frey imagery and commissioned several ads both for general consumption and for special theme nights. With slave auctions, a gladiatorial fight to the death in a cage, a cohort of legionaries under the command of a brutal centurion (Oliver himself), and numerous other Roman-related happenings, the HEAVEN-HIM Roman Night in 1980 was the event of the  London gay calendar.

It used to be said that Hammer Films designed a poster and then made a film to match. In the case of the Roman Night at Heaven Oliver Frey’s great temple had to be built so it could be made to collapse as the climactic finale. Sadly, it was never filmed, not even photographed, for its 40-foot façade crumbled spectacularly, dumping scores of empty TV packaging boxes filled with fuller’s earth and coiled corrugated carboard column drums on top of hundreds of sweaty clubgoers. His work for Heaven soon led to further commissions for the likes of Bolts and Hero’s.

Holidaying in Britain might be one thing for the average gay couple in the 1970s and 1980s, but Mediterranean venues such as Mykonos were opening up, welcoming the Pink British Pound with open arms, and holiday travel agencies appeared, such as Uranian and Travel Young, which started to cater for men with a yen for the warmth. And if you were missing a companion to vacation with, there was always the dating agency Gayway, for who Oliver did many ads and brchure covers.

Published by Zack Art on

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