John Alexander Scott Coutts (1902-1962), also known under the pseudonym John Willie, was a British artist, fetish photographer, editor, and the publisher for the first twenty issues of the fetish magazine Bizarre, which featured his characters Sweet Gwendoline and Sir Dystic d’Arcy, who were often tied up by U69 (censored to U89 in some editions), a dominatrix. Sir Dystic d’Arcy was probably a parody of Coutts himself. The magazine ran irregularly from 1946 until 1959, though it was suspended completely from 1947 to 1951, and Coutts sold it in 1956 to to someone known only as R.E.B. Though distributed underground, Bizarre magazine had a far-reaching impact on later fetish-themed publications. For example, the femdom theme, photos, and artwork of the magazine Exotique published by Leonard Burtman mark it as a direct descendant of Bizarre. Bizarre itself experienced a resurgence in popularity beginning in the 1970s.
Coutts’ character of Sweet Gwendoline also appeared in a serial in Robert Harrison’s mainstream girlie magazine Wink from June 1947 to February 1950 and later in several other magazines over the years. The character Sweet Gwendoline was drawn in a style that influenced later fetish artists such as Gene Bilbrew and Eric Stanton. As well, Irving Klaw was inspired by Coutts to commission and distribute illustrated adventure/bondage chapter serials by fetish artists Eric Stanton, Gene Bilbrew, Adolfo Ruiz, and others.
Influence on popular culture
In 1984, the Sweet Gwendoline stories were loosely adapted in The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak, a film by Just Jaeckin starring Tawny Kitaen in the role of Gwendoline.
In Germany, the punk band Die Ärzte recorded the song “Sweet, Sweet Gwendoline”, released in 1986, that introduced the character Sweet Gwendoline to a large part of the population that otherwise had no contact with the BDSM subculture.
German gothic rock band Umbra et Imago, famous amongst the fetish goth scene, recorded a song about the character Sweet Gwendoline, called “Sweet Gwendoline” and released in 2006.
Coutts was portrayed by Jared Harris in the movie The Notorious Bettie Page (2006), which featured a fictional meeting between him and Page.
In 2009, Coutts was inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame under his pseudonym John Willie.