Well, I think of a lot of women might answer, “A very sad one.” While those who work in media market research – or may just own a laptop – might answer, “Not many. Playboy can’t compete with the internet. Dude, porn is free now.”

But that’s contemporary thinking. People from a different time – say, the Lyndon Johnson administration – may remember the phrase “What Sort of Man Reads Playboy?” from Playboy magazine itself. It was placed in the magazine to encourage businesses to buy advertising space in Playboy. One from 1965 shows a chemist working in a lab with two unusually gorgeous women casting him longing looks. A chemist. And the ad tells us that the sort of man who reads Playboy is a “young man who combines acumen and ability to produce a formula for personal success.” Then you were advised that guys who read Playboy make money and spend money. “Want a positive reaction to your product? Tell the PLAYBOY reader all about it.”

We can snicker at it now. But Hugh Hefner sold a lot of Playboys back then. And what was it he was selling? The formula was pretty straightforward: pictures of a few naked young women (usually in their early twenties), a lot of ads for cigarettes, cars, clothes, and stereo equipment (a lot of that), some “naughty” cartoons which are almost never funny, and, yes, some very good writing. The contributing writers included some of the best of their time: Irwin Shaw, James Jones, George MacDonald Fraser, Arthur C. Clarke, Ken W. Purdy, William F. Buckley etc. All in all, not a bad product.

Yeah, I know: Hefner was selling a fantasy. The notion that if you buy the right stereo equipment and clothes and adopt whatever it is they call the “Playboy philosophy”, you too will be surrounded by beautiful, willing, naked young women. But . . . didn’t we all sort of know that life doesn’t really work that way? And no reasonable person would envy Hefner these days. You cling to that “philosophy” too long, you’re bound to look ridiculous.

All that said, I’ve been reading Playboys from the 1970’s myself. For research purposes. (Really!) I’ve written two books set in the 1970’s: “Severance” and “The Detective”, both of which will be released in the next few months. The 70’s was a rich, gritty, and somewhat sleazy decade and makes a great setting for a crime novel. And the magazines are a fascinating time capsule.

Look at the December 1972 issue. Look at the ads. “Tis the season for Jantzen 100s.” And there’s a guy wearing red and white checked pants, a white belt, white shirt and a red cardigan. As Grandpa Simpson would say, “That was the fashion at the time.” Nunn-Bush shoes set atop a woman’s bare tummy . . . a hint of bosom above. Viceroy cigarettes. Vantage cigarettes. Camel Filters – “They’re not for everybody.” Magnificent 54 volume set of Great Books. The new Schick Flexamatic. The 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, still priced at $1999.00. And loads and loads of ads for stereo equipment. (Maybe it did work.)

Then we have the Sex Stars of 1972. Revealing shots of Barbara Hershey, Cybill Shepherd, Joey Heatherton, and Victoria Principal. And then photos of the “Young Lions” of Hollywood: Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal, Dustin Hoffman, and Jon Voight. Says Playboy: “In recent years, the not-so-handsome hero category has been inhabited mainly by Lee Marvin and James Coburn; lately, Bronson, Gene Hackman and George C. Scott (and, on television, Peter Falk as well) are climbing aboard.” An age that’s sadly gone now, Lee Marvin and George C. Scott having been replaced by prettier fellahs who just aren’t that interesting to watch.

And, okay, while you’re at it, go ahead and look at the pictures of the girls. Yes, they did look better then. A lot better. No implants, no waxes. Natural. They were beautiful because they were real. As God and Hefner intended them to be.


~ by jamespatrickhunt on April 12, 2012.

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