2009 Leather Hall of Fame Inductee
John Alexander Scott Coutts (1902 –1962)
known as John Willie

 
John Willie was a major figure in the development of the imagery and culture of BDSM in the mid twentieth century. His water color paintings, bondage photographs, and erotic cartoons became a template for most subsequent visual representations of heterosexual BDSM, and many were lesbian themed as well.

Willie's birth name was John Alexander Scott Coutts. He was born into an upper-middle-class family in Singapore, and grew up in England. In 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst and in 1923 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scotts. He was forced to resign his commission in 1925 after marrying a nightclub hostess without the permission of his regiment--whereupon he moved to Australia, the marriage ending in 1928 or 1929. In the mid-1930s he began working for a Sydney-based fetish club as an illustrator and photographer. He married a second time in 1942, to one of his models.

He first started publishing his own erotic images in the early 1930's under the name John Willie. His frustration with the "conservatism" of the publishing industry led Willie to decide to publish his own kink magazine.

By the time Willie had saved enough money to start his magazine, World War II began and his plans were delayed until his period of service in the Merchant Navy finished at the end of the war. In 1946 the first of 20 issues of Bizarre magazine was published. The first printing of 5,000 copies sold out in two weeks. The next issue of Bizarre included many photographs, drawings of costume designs and many letters from readers which covered interests such as high heels, bondage, amputee fetishism, sadomasochism, transvestism, corsets and body modification. From 1946 to 1959, Bizarre set a standard for kink publication that has been imitated ever since but rarely matched for its visual sophistication, intelligent commentary, and wry humor. In 1957 Willie sold Bizarre and moved to Los Angeles where he continued to produce photographic and cartoon material. Willie was one of the first to disseminate written information on the technical details of SM and bondage, and he was willing to challenge the legal restrictions that hampered SM publication in the 1950's.

As a bondage artist, Willie is best known for his character Sweet Gwendolyn, which he drew in a clear anatomically correct style that influenced later artists such as Eric Stanton. Other characters include U69 (censored as U68 in some editions) the raven-haired dominatrix. In 1961 Willie became ill with a brain tumor. With his illness and postal inspectors nipping at his heels, he was forced to stop his mail order business whereupon he destroyed his archives and returned to England where he died in 1962.

Willie's approach to BDSM representation managed to be simultaneously charming, funny, and intensely erotic. He was a pioneer not only in his imagery, but in his unapologetic and joyous engagement with everything kinky. He fought against censorship and was a pioneer BDSM entrepreneur. Much of his artwork is in private hands, although there is a substantial collection at the Kinsey Institute. He richly deserves to be celebrated for his foundational role in the making of the modern world of kink.