Excerpt from BESS AND BEN
Photographs by Earl Miller
Viva!, November 1973

Ben Murphy is young; ruggedly individualistic; handsome in a manner that is modishly attractive to some women; boyishly honest in his zeal to acquire the good things in life; doggedly involved with his work and his career; determined to succeed and remain successful; and determined--above all--not to lose touch with the real Ben Murphy.
At thirty, the real Ben Murphy has earned the right to be called a Star. With television's "Alias Smith and Jones" under his belt and the role of Lorne Green's co-star in "Griff" happily under way, Ben is increasingly aware of his status as a new, highly marketable personality and, equally, of the transient quality of the system that sustains him.

Stardom is rarely forever. Ben digs. And he works at it like a watchmaker works at maintaining the tiny, fragile mechanism that records the passage of time. The real Ben Murphy is relentlessly earthbound. The mechanism is neither mysterious nor alien. It is the simple technology of controls and balances. An engine, however exotic, is ultimately adjustable.

In life, as in work, the irreducible Murphy quantum is control--control of self, control of the environment, of people and relationships. Sex requires the most sophisticated controls of all. The alternative is uncool. You are young and loose and moving effortlessly in and out of complex human relationships; getting it on with one or two or a multiplicity of females; showing your macho colors with the subtlety of a tumescent bull; challenging the whole world to look upon, examine, and admire the awesome proportions of your young and irrepressible manhood.

"The first woman I loved set the pattern for all the others since then. She taught me that all the little things--the touches and caresses, all the gentle, tender things--are what's really important.

"I know intellectually that sexual variety is okay--it's healthy, in fact--and yet emotionally I yearn for one lady that I can be totally faithful to and who can be all things to me--lover, friend, companion, etc. The problem is, this woman may come along once or twice in a lifetime and what do you do in the meantime--join a monastery? No, man, you've got to go out and let it rip--sex is an enjoyable human function and you can't bottle it up waiting for the perfect person to come along.

"I even find myself being used at times by a woman as a sexual object, in much the same way I have sometimes used women. It's a real mindblower to have a lady jump out of your bed and say, 'Wham-bam, thank you sir,' and prance off never to see you again. That's something we guys always did to them, and now they're doing it to us--all I can say is, 'Right on, ladies, I guess we deserve it.'

"But if two people are honest and open with their emotions, it's amazing what can happen in twenty-four hours--you can meet for the first time, make love, argue, make up, make love again, wake up together and face each other, and feel genuinely warm for having had the experience. That's what happened with Bess and me--we enjoyed each other while we were together and we didn't feel that the relationship should last forever--the important thing was that we did enjoy it while it lasted.

"I do a lot of traveling and there have been several occasions when I have met a lovely lady in some town who had never gotten it on before, but the time was right, I guess, and we made it together. Those were great experiences. Someone has to break the ice, so to speak, and invariably, after I leave, they settle down with a local guy and enjoy a good sex life.

"I am really no different from the guy next door, but because of my celebrity status, I am elevated to the position of sexual executioner. I become a shining knight who gallops into Podunksville on a white charger to rescue the local maiden from her own virginity. In this case, the happy ending comes after I leave town and the now sexually liberated lady settles down with the boy next door to live happily ever after.

"I never met a virgin that I didn't like!"
Viva introduced Bess Cofield, lead singer in the W. W. Fancy rock group, to Ben expressly for the production of this pictorial love essay. The weekend they spent together--during which period these photographs were taken--constituted a brief, authentic, and thoroughly shared relationship for them both. Among the locations used for the photography were Butterfield's restaurant, Casa De Pets, and Valley Garden Supply.



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