Dear Athena poster girl (playing tennis with no knickers)

Your bare-faced cheek was once a symbol of teenage rebellion. Now it is synonymous with bad taste and the classic boom and bust stories of the Eighties
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The news is bad: you have played your last set, netted your last ball, exposed your last cheek. Athena, the poster company that thrust your knicker-free rear view on to the walls of rented accommodation the world over, has gone into receivership. No wonder: last year 131 Athena shops managed between them to contrive a loss of £5m on a turnover of £16.2m. And apparently, it's all your fault.

Once you were a bit like gloating Australians: we could happen across you everyday, everywhere we went. You were the apotheosis of poster power; whole industries grew around you, such as Blu-Tack and those funny little plastic gutter frames which trappedfingers and tore paper. Terry Maher, for 18 years the boss of Athena until he was ousted in a boardroom coup last year, earned a fortune on your back - or rather your backside. Now, nobody wants you any more.

Posters, like a lot of things which were jolly, harmless and thus ruthlessly pilloried 30 years on, were a creature of the Sixties. At first they were political statements - Che Guevara's face, Frank Zappa sitting on the loo - a short-hand which allowed the owner to advertise which side they were on.

They soon became players in a more localised revolution, the perfect expression of teenage rebellion, the things we put on our bedroom walls to express our individuality and distaste for our parents' choice of interior design. Importantly, like all attempts at adolescent individuality, these posters had to be the same everyone else had. And when we grew up a bit and moved off to college, posters were there to personalise dreary lodgings and hide the damp patch on the bathroom wall. Where I liv e d, we needed a lot of posters.

Which is where Athena came in. At first, we could only buy our supplies mail order from the Pace company, or rely on the shabby centre-page efforts given away free in Sounds.

Athena offered untold choice in the high street, all rolled up in an elongated lavatory roll. Oddly, though, everyone seemed to buy the one with you on it.

For a while, the poster kept up with the times. Through theSeventies there were the dreamy, soft-focus pictures of girls in Laura Ashley by David Hamilton, there were Roger Dean's ludicrous sci-fi landscapes, and the sentimental gush of Susan Polis-Schulz doggerel: "My friend is to me, what you are to me."

In the Eighties, to reflect the changing times, there were muscular new men cuddling tiny babies, there was the black and white sophistication of Robert Doisneau's "Kiss" and Ronald Reagan cradling Margaret Thatcher in a parody of the Gone With The Wind poster.

However, none of them were quite as ubiquitous as you. That was the problem, you became a cliche, a joke, a by-word for lack of taste which in turn became synonymous with the word Athena. The youth of Britain reacted against the poster, which was once the vehicle of youthful reaction.

People stopped buying posters, people stopped going to Athena. The company, in a paradigm of Eighties business practice, over-borrowed, over-stretched, and went under.

And one last thing. As you faced your demise, nobody at Athena's parent company knew your name.

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