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1966_04_23--096_SP Playboy Western World

MIL Pajama-clad Hefner checks proofs of Playmate of Month. He likes girls with a sulky-pouting, Bardot-like look, humor (cartoons, jokes, satire) and time-tested fiction (Hefner had discovered that copyrights ex- pired after 56 years, which made a lot of good stories available free of charge). It would also provide generous servings of girlish anatomy, and in this area Hefner had an inspired idea. It was then 1953 and Marilyn Monroe was a big star. The nude calendar photograph she had posed for in her early days had become part of her growing legend. But few people had actually seen the photograph. Hefner tracked down the firm that had published the calendar, and for $200 secured permission to reproduce it. He raised the $200 by getting a bank loan on his 1950 Studebaker. Hefner spent all his free time on the new magazine. Dissatisfied with his own efforts, he finally took the rough dummy to a young free-lance designer named Arthur Paul, asked him to redesign the layouts, and offered to pay him in shares of stock in the magazine. Paul is not quite sure why he took on the job. Hefner's layouts were awful, he says, and the textual material was a far cry from the sophisticated charivari that Hefner had in mind. But Hefner struck him at the time as a man with "tremendous dedication—something you couldn't dismiss easily," and the idea of becoming art director of a new magazine was tempting, and he accepted. Hefner's total working capital then came to $600, raised mainly by getting two banks to lend him money on the furniture in his apartment. He managed to sell $2,000 worth of stock to an old friend named Eldon Sellers (now Playboy's special-projects editor). and a few smaller blocks to other acquaintances. The magazine in its final form was put together on the kitchen table in Hefner's apartment. When it came out in December, 1953, the first issue bore no date because Hefner and Paul were not at all sure there would be a second. They needn't have worried. With Marilyn clothed on the cover, waving cheer- ily, and Marilyn nude inside, the first issue sold 51,000 copies at 50 cents apiece, earned nearly $26,000 (with no advertising), and put Hefner and Paul on the road to affluence. As the money rolled in, a lot of it went right back into the product. Layouts improved and so did graphic work. In 1956 Hefner hired A. C. Spectorsky, an experienced magazine man and the author of a best seller called The Exurbanites, as his editorial director. Playboy stopped carrying reprints and soon raised its pay scale for original articles and stories to such a high level that more and more "name" writers began appearing in its pages. To those who sneered at the magazine's continued reliance on the buxom nude Playmate at the centerfold, Hefner and his associ- ates had a ready answer: Less than 10 percent of the magazine was devoted to such material, and anyway, what was wrong with pretty girls? The answer rather begged the question. No matter what percentage of space the girls occupied, they have always been (and still are) the magazine's salient feature. But they, too, have improved in quality over the years, in part because Playboy it- self has helped to make the idea of posing in the nude more widely acceptable. They have also passed through an interesting evolution. Marilyn, the first, was unique—a joyous and unrepeatable inspiration. For the next two years, though, the Playmates did not really seem to be enjoying their work, and many of them displayed the bored expression and weary pose of the pro- fessional stripper. One characteristic they all had in common: enormous, gravity-defying, sometimes freakishly overdeveloped breasts. The archetypal figure of this period was Jayne Mansfield, who was relatively unknown when she first appeared in the magazine in February, 1955, and who then went on to theatrical fame and fortune and six more appearances in Playboy, each time revealing a larger area of her topography. But the Playmate underwent a striking change in 1955. According to office legend, it all began when Playboy's comely subscription manager, Janet Pilgrim (36-24-36), walked into Hefner's office and asked for an Addressograph machine. Hefner (29-30-31) had been having trouble finding suitable candidates for the centerfold, and he told her "half-jokingly" that she could have the machine if she would pose for Playmate of the Month, and "half-jokingly" she accepted. Miss Pilgrim's picture, which adorned the July issue, became the model for Hefner's concept of a Playmate as the "fresh, wholesome" girl who lived next door or worked in the adjoining office. No more daydreaming about inaccessible starlets; here was down-to-earth fantasy to arouse even the most sluggardly imagination! A chick in every pot ! But what sort of chick? Miss Pilgrim, whose first appearance drew so many breathless letters that she kept turning up in the magazine at regular intervals for the next seven years, established the image. She was a big girl, with blue eyes and chemically blond hair and milk-white skin and, inevitably, a pneumatic bosom. And in addition, no matter what the photographer caught her doing—spending Christmas Eve at home, taking a bubble bath on her vacation—she maintained an attitude of friendly yet innocent decorum. Although she is still listed on Playboy's masthead (JANET PILGRIM reader service), Miss Pilgrim is no longer with the magazine. She lives far away in Texas, married, a housewife and mother. Her image doubtless lives on in the hearts of countless readers, but the Playmate herself has passed through another transformation. Since about mid- 1962 the major influence has been Brigitte Bardot. Sulky, hot-eyed and distinctly provocative, the sex kitten has rudely supplanted the girl next door, and the centerfold is accordingly a good deal sexier than it used to be. Although Mlle. Bardot herself has never consented to pose for Playboy (it has had to make do with studio stills), other film stars seem to welcome the opportunity. Kim Novak, Susan Strasberg, Carroll Baker, Ursula Andress and a galaxy of comparable supernovae have exposed their assets in the magazine. Like the nubile maids who attend James Bond and other current heroes, the Playmate is, above all, compliant. She exists only to give pleasure, she makes no demands that a growing boy cannot imagine himself gratifying, and the sex she proffers is, quite literally, skin deep. To the frequent accusations that this is a puerile and insulting attitude that reduces women to the status of a commodity, Hefner invariably replies that such criticism simply reveals the critic as having a "sexual hang-up" of some sort, a pathological bias against healthy sex. (Hefner believes he would have made an excellent psychiatrist; "I'm good at understanding people's motivation," he says, "and I find the hang-ups of Americans very interesting.") His answer, which is quite sincere, is understandable. Like everything else in the magazine, the Playmate has always been a direct reflection of Hugh Hefner s personal tastes and predilections. Hefner often refers to himself as "a very romantic guy," and since his divorce in 1959 he has been linked romantically, as the columnists say, with a succession of "special girls," most of whom have worked for the magazine and none of whom has been very long out of high school. "I like freshness,' Hefner said, when asked to describe his requirements for the ideal girl. "Sophistication doesn't mean much to me. I like honesty, none of that competitive thing. And I like her to be attractive— ycu know, long-legged, well built. I'm very attracted to the Brigitte Bardot kind of thing, the sulky-pouting, youthful-fresh sort of look." Girls aren't everything though, in The Mansion or Playboy. This is a serious magazine ! Interviews with Albert Schweitzer, Dr Martin Luther King, Bertrand Russell ! Probing articles by James Baldwin, Jean-Paul Sartre and J. Paul Getty! Important fiction by Vladimir Nabokov, Lawrence Durrell, James Jones, Bernard Malamud ! The PLAYBOY PHILOSOPHY ! More than any other feature, THE PHILOSOPHY, as it is referred to around the office, embodies Hefner's bid for editorial respectability. Begun in December, 1962, as a threepart series of editorials by Hefner to defend the magazine against its critics, THE PHILOSOPHY has blossomed into a full-fledged, seemingly endless crusade against censorship, obscenity laws, sexual repression and American puritanism in general. "Once I started I was hooked," he said recently. "And then the response has been so fantastic. You'd be hard put to find a single piece of writing that's more influential with college kids today. They talk about it, they write us—we've had thousands of letters on the subject—and I couldn't even count the number of requests I've had to come and speak at different colleges. Nobody else is talking about these things, that's why." It is only natural that there should be conflicting opinions about a man such as Hugh Hefner. His Playboy staff seems genuinely to admire him, although very few feel they know him well. "There's something wonderfully informal and unstructured about Hef, which gets reflected in the magazine," Spectorsky said recently. "He's a complex kid, one of the most questioning and impatient people I've ever met. He can be brutal in a meeting; he's a terrifically quick thinker, he usually knows what you're going to say before you finish saying it, and if there's any fumbling he'll get restless and say 'Come on, come on. With people he doesn't know so well, he can be the soul of patience. He's a perfectionist—nothing goes into that magazine until he's completely satisfied with it—and at the same time he s a fantastic businessman, although he really doesn't like to think of himself as one." But those who have parted company with Hefner tend to draw a different picture. Frank Gibney, the man whom Hefner hired to edit Show Business Illustrated—the magazine Hefner started 100


1966_04_23--096_SP Playboy Western World
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