May 21, 2018

Why I subscribed to Playboy.

For the interviews!

Specifically, I wanted to read the interview with Allen Ginsberg in the April 1969 issue, and that's something I'm doing right now. But I also loved the idea of getting access to all of the back issues, including all the issues that were available to me to read (or otherwise gaze upon) when I was growing up in Delaware and New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s.

I love the old ads too:

79 comments:

gilbar said...

how much did it cost ?

rhhardin said...

I've forgotten when they went pubic hair, and then pink. Surely the Playboy milestones.

chickelit said...

How do they digitally present the centerfold? Does it expand in page view to a double page or does it condense to half size?

Asking for a friend

Jupiter said...

I was thinking about Playboy this AM, in the context of the "incels". It occurs to me that one very powerful effect of the social acceptance of pornography is that it explodes the myth of female chastity. It used to be possible for men to believe that the reason we weren't getting any was that women weren't providing any. To anyone. Outside of marriage, women were mostly chaste. So, if you want sex, you'd best seek a wife, or pay for it.

But pornography demonstrates, perhaps falsely but nonetheless graphically, that there are very attractive women who give every sign of being highly interested in sex. Just not with you. To a young man, this is a very depressing notion to contemplate.

wwww said...

"including all the issues that were available to me to read (or otherwise gaze upon) when I was growing up in Delaware and New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s."

Althouse had mentioned it once before, and I was taken aback. What!? Really? Your parents were OK with that? They left pornography lying around the house for their elementary age daughter to read? Wasn't this seen as odd in your neighbourhood?

I'm trying to imagine this with either set of grandparents or parents. My head is exploding. Did other parents leave out pornography on the coffee table in the late 60s? And the 50s and early 60s? Among people who weren't doing key parties or living in communes?

How did the other parents react? Were they ok with your friends coming over to play? Was anyone not allowed to be friends with you because of this? Was this normal for a certain crowd in the 50s and 60s in your neighbourhood or was this a fringe group of people?

wwww said...

"But pornography demonstrates, perhaps falsely but nonetheless graphically, that there are very attractive women who give every sign of being highly interested in sex. Just not with you. To a young man, this is a very depressing notion to contemplate."

Jupiter,

But prostitution was not new in the 50s or 60s. There were guides to brothels in NYC in the 19th century. Young men have always known that some people will pretend to be interested in sex for $$$.

Darrell said...

Was the FBI watching your house?

pacwest said...

"For the interviews!"

Sure you did.

chickelit said...

Althouse: But shouldn’t you have subscribed to Playboy when your sons were younger and at home? And left copies out for them to see??

Curious George said...

Me too! I really enjoyed the Interview of the Year issue, as well as the Interviews of the Big Ten Conference.

Big Mike said...

@chicklit, double size wouldn’t work. The centerfolds covered three full pages. Or so I have been told. Never read an issue myself.

Darrell said...

The best car ad--

https://speedblur.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/mg.jpg

Darrell said...

Sorry, but the above won't work in a hyperlink.

Bay Area Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bay Area Guy said...

Althouse was one wild and crazy chick in the 60s!

Humperdink said...

The Triumph GT6, with the Lucas electrical system, affectionately known in automobile repair community as the Prince of Darkness.

AllenS said...

All I remember about Playboy, is that there were a lot of pages between the good stuff.

Hagar said...

Prior to 1968 Playboy was pretty much just Joe College naughty.
Hugh Hefner supposedly got radicalized when a Chicago cop smacked him across the kidneys with his nightstick during the Democratic National Convention riots, but I suspect Bob Guccione out competing him with the raunchier Penthouse had more to do with it.

Big Mike said...

@Jupiter, there was another side to Playboy. It implied that if you were suave and sophisticated, if you liked jazz, if you were relaxed and confident around women, if you were well dressed and well groomed, then women would be eager to be your, er, playmate. And there’s a lot to that. The incels I’ve known from work were not confident around women, not well groomed, and dressed like they got their clothes from the rejects pile at Goodwill. Has there ever been any mammalian species where the female did not wish to mate with a winner? If so, that species went extinct a long time ago.

Jupiter said...

"Young men have always known that some people will pretend to be interested in sex for $$$."

I doubt that. I suppose that one understands, as an intellectual proposition, that there are women who pretend to be interested in sex so as to obtain money. Hell, men too. But the impression one receives from pornography is that women are eager to have sex. But only with certain men. And it is not difficult to discern whether you are one of those men.

iowan2 said...

Playboy was in our house growing up. Nudity in the house was present, but not flaunted. We also watched pigs engage in intercourse! I had no idea until young adulthood that we were maybe outside the bell curve on such things. Now as adults, I had no idea of my spouse and I blase attitude toward such things until the kids and grandkids showed up to spend a couple of nites. My daughter in law asked if I might re-hang the bathroom door. It had been off for a project for weeks and it never occurred to me that something was missing.

Mike Sylwester said...

I have been watching a PBS series called Poetry In America, which analyzes a series of poems.

The first episode -- about Emily Dickinson's poem "no man instructed me" -- was superb.

I watched only the first parts of the second and third episodes.

Last night I began watching the fourth episode, about Allen Ginsberg's poems "Hymmnn from Kaddish" and "Hum Bom!" I intend to watch it from beginning to end, maybe tonight.

The fifth episode will be about Carl Sandburg's poem "Skyscraper", and the sixth episode will be about Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem".

Another six episodes are planned but still have not been broadcast.

https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/Public-Televisions-12-Part-POETRY-IN-AMERICA-Series-Debuts-on-PBS-Stations-Nationwide-Online-VOD-sites-20180405

Jupiter said...

"It implied that if you were suave and sophisticated, if you liked jazz, if you were relaxed and confident around women, if you were well dressed and well groomed, then women would be eager to be your, er, playmate."

Well, exactly. The idea that what women want from a man is to be a good husband gives a man a clear direction that he can hope to follow. The idea that while you are struggling up the corporate ladder or whatever, to make yourself marriageable, the babes are all screwing guys with great stereos, is a real buzzkill.

Oso Negro said...

@Jupiter - yep, that’s right. At 19, my average girlfriend was aged 24. At 61, my average girlfriend is aged 24. I have also reproduced with two different fierce and beautiful women who LOVED sex. I am working on a third. You may think this is genetic smack talk, but the average young man has even less game than he had in the early 1970s. I, on the other, made a study of it. And for informed conversation with brainy experiences women, there is always Althouse. :)

gilbar said...

"with the Lucas electrical system"
my sister (who has a TR-8, and whose hubby has a TR-3) always says this:

why do the English drink their beer warm?
Because they have Lucas refrigerators

Oso Negro said...

@Jupiter - I never had a good stereo. It would have been wasted on me. My ears were shot from rock and roll.

FullMoon said...

Hugh Hefner supposedly got radicalized when a Chicago cop smacked him across the kidneys with his nightstick during the Democratic National Convention riots,
Maybe.
What really changed his attitude is when the government attempted to force a secretary to testify that Hefner was involved with cocaine. Under pressure, she killed herself.

Far as I know, nobody responsible was ever held responsible.
Same as nobody involved in Trump frame will be held responsible/

Bay Area Guy said...

In the 70s, I greatly preferred National Lampoon to Playboy. There was much less nudity in Lampoon, but much more laughter.

That combo of hot chicks and rollicking laughter always made me swoon.

tcrosse said...

A buddy of mine restored an old Triumph TR3. He said it wasn't a Triumph but a Pyrrhic Victory.

tcrosse said...

I always got a laugh out of the What Kind of Man Reads Playboy page. Of all the guys I knew who read Playboy, none of them were like that. And none of them were retired Law profs.

gspencer said...

I never tried to fool anyone. Whenever I got a Playboy it was never for the articles, but for the pictures of naked females.

mezzrow said...

Humperdinck beat me to the Lucas electronics comment.

"fancy a spark, Luke?"

"not bloody likely..."

Do you have any idea how tiny that car was? Built by bitter, angry socialists.

William Chadwick said...

Re what Hagar said, I've read that what really changed PB was Hefner moving his HQ from Chicago to Hollywood. If you look at the Playmates from about 1960 to about 1980, there were more of the true Girl Next Door types that the magazine was supposed to be about; but that changed about 1980, when the Playmates became the Starlets Next Door; then in the 1990s the Hef Girlfriend Next Door, the Stripper Next Door, and the Hooker Next Door. The 1960s Playmates seemed to be thinking, "Whee, this is naughty!" while as the Millenium drew to a close, the Playmates projected, "My agent had better be right about this helping my career!" Or: "Ok, I blew that old man so I can get through this and get my check. Fake smile!"

Donald Douglas said...

Donald Trump's interviewed back in the mid-1980s, if I recall. I used to subscribe -- for the interviews, of course!

Teller said...

The Playboy Advisor was a highlight. A question about the best lube for anal sex would be followed by an issue with the speaker load impedance of the McIntosh 4275 Receiver.

YoungHegelian said...

Actually, some of those interviews are quite good. If I remember correctly, there are interviews with both Jean-Paul Sartre & Bertrand Russell. Not to mention all the rock-n-rollers of the time.

I also remember a forum on homosexuality from the 70's that was a virtual who's who of activists & psychologists in the field at the time. It's an amazing read to see how different were the views, even of homosexual activists, as recently as the 70s from what is the dominant dogma now.

YoungHegelian said...

My father was politically very conservative when I was growing up, & I was very lefty. We had our share of disagreements, but I really made him laugh one time when I was talking to a buddy about Playboy, and I sarcastically told my buddy that ".. in Playboy, one could read about the advantages of socialism stuck between all the ads of the largest-selling men's magazine in the world."

My dad thought that was a real hoot coming out of his Lefty son, ranking up there with my characterization of the "Billy Jack" movies as "I'm a pacifist, goddammit, and if you don't believe it, I'm gonna beat the shit out of you!".

EDH said...

Dear Althouse Forum,

You won't believe this, but this really did happen to me just last fall, all by a delicious happenstance...

bagoh20 said...

This post offends me!

Etienne said...

I had a 67 MGB. It was positive ground on the battery. I opened my door and it was touching my brothers negative ground truck.

They tried to weld themselves together.

My old Plymouth and Dodges were positive ground as well.

I think in 69 everyone was on the same page, and negative ground won out.

They say that some women are positive ground, and some are negative. My wife luckily is positive ground, because when we hug and kiss there are big sparks.

Big Mike said...

@bagoh20, you're offended by an ad for a Triumph GT6+? Did you happen to own one?

wwww said...

"But the impression one receives from pornography is that women are eager to have sex. But only with certain men. And it is not difficult to discern whether you are one of those men."

I'm confused by why a Playboy magazine or porn would communicate this idea to boys. Is this a gender difference? I gotta say that Playboy or other porn never communicated this idea to me as a kid or an adult.

First time I saw a playboy was about 6th grade. If my parents had any porn it was hidden well enough we couldn't find it when searching for Christmas presents under the bed. A friend showed a group of us her older brother's Playboy.

Our consensus impression was women taking off clothes for money. I can't say that impression changed when I got into Jr. high or high school, except understanding that some women were doing it for fame and their careers. Still later I got that Playboy was "selling" the idea of wealth, upscale cars, AND nekked beautiful women. If you read Playboy you can be one of "those" guys -- driving around with a expensive car and eye candy on your arm.

I got it was kind of like "buying" an image and of course the women were there for their careers. Money, fame, career. Why would that mean they wanted to have sex? It's purely transactional. Like the women who looked happy washing the dishes in TV ads. It's an advertisement.



Caldwell Titcomb IV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caldwell Titcomb IV said...

What Sort of Man Reads Playboy?


37% of all Playboy readers own credit cards and 100% of them have at least one stalker-chick who follows them around and stares at them.

Etienne said...

That magazine had zero chance of survival when they legalized sodomy.

Today, 99% of the old content has been condemned as hate speech against homosexuals, and hormone therapy shemales.

Anyone who reads that magazine is a terrorist.

Ok, Ok, Sun's over the yardarm...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

One of your more endearing quirks is the pride you take in your parents' open display ofPlayboy in your childhood home. You mention that, it seems, every time you read and blog something about the magazine.

I'm surprised you are not more bothered by the presentation of women as accessories and playthings that come with the good life, along with stereos, etc.

wwww said...

"Playboy was in our house growing up. Nudity in the house was present, but not flaunted. We also watched pigs engage in intercourse!"


My parents would have been worried if we had come across a Playboy at a friend's house in an older brother's room.

But if they knew adults had left it out, I don't think we would have been allowed to play with the kids. My Mom would have been scandalized if adults left it out in public. My Dad would have been worried and possibly angry if adults had exposed his daughters to porn. All of my four grandparents would have been scandalized if they knew their granddaughters were playing at a friend's house with porn on the table. They would be upset in different ways, but all would be tremendously scandalized.

In elementary school, I remember us kids looking up "dirty" words in the dictionary. Maybe we saw animal sex on a nature special at some point, although I don't remember it. Once when my grandparents were baby sitting us they turned off a soap because of a kissing scene.

Howard said...

Can't look at Playboy once the girls had boob jobs.

Anyone who buys an English vehicle must have Uber on speed dial

wwww said...

"I'm surprised you are not more bothered by the presentation of women as accessories and playthings that come with the good life, along with stereos, etc."


I'm genuinely confused why it didn't upset the neighbours who had elementary aged kids in the 50s and 60s.



bagoh20 said...

I did have an MGB back in the 80's. I loved it. It was like driving a 4-wheeled motorcycle. A friend of mine totaled it for me. What are friends for?

Bay Area Guy said...

We used to steal Playboys and smuggle them out of various relatives' houses.

That was thrilling too. Felt like you were getting away with something.

I wonder what would have had happened if Uncle Bill had simply said, "Stop sneaking around, Boys, just take 'em."

tcrosse said...

It's nice the Mazda Miata came along to make those Limey shitboxes obsolete.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

Sex as recreation for the privileged Playboys of the Western World. Suddenly everybody could play a part in the Aristocracy in their imagination. More than anything this brings to mind the series Mad Men, where Madison Avenue showed us that our dreams were OK and they were for sale for a price.

langford peel said...

I thought it was because you are a lesbo and wanted to see naked pussy.

Hagar said...

Whatever. It got to be a race to the bottom between Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.

wwww said...



My takeaway from the past few days:

Playboy is Good & you can put it out for elementary school girls and boys to flip through on the coffee table. The Royal Wedding was awful and scandalous and harmful to society. I got a chance to watch the recording last night, and Harry did not seem tormented to me. He looked nervous before his bride walked to his side.

Don't get the Playboy approval and wedding disapproval. gotta admit I'm curious!

William Chadwick said...

Two of the interviews from old-time PLAYBOY that stick in my mind were the ones with Sammy Davis Jr and Mike Nichols. Both were circa 1966 and both seem quaint now. Davis said that the Negro doesn't want to take anything belonging to the White Man but wants only to compete fairly with him in the marketplace (a far cry from the Marxist rhetoric of the Black Power and Radical Chic era); while Nichols, at that time transitioning from comedian to director, said about homosexuals: "It used to be the love that dared not speak its name
Now it won't shut up." Nichols would be pilloried for that sentiment now.

Curious George said...

"tcrosse said...
It's nice the Mazda Miata came along to make those Limey shitboxes obsolete."

Read on a Land Rover forum: "MY check engine light hasn't come on in the last week. How do change the light bulb?"

DKWalser said...

I wonder how long it will be before someone will leak the fact that a politician is, or was, one of Playboy's subscribers? That wouldn't be tolerated in today's #metoo environment. Would it?

BudBrown said...

Don't forget the Jimmy Carter interview. Lust in the heart.

tim in vermont said...

Whatever. It got to be a race to the bottom between Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.

Don’t forget Oui!

tcrosse said...

Whatever. It got to be a race to the bottom between Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler.

And what a lovely, pink bottom it was.

Fandor said...

I too loved the interviews. Sinatra, Brando and Ayn Rand. The women were beautiful. I always looked forward to the annual pick of the Playboy All Star Jazz Band, which was a primer for who was who in the music world.
A little known venture of Hugh Hefner was his collaboration with Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. Anyone who knows the classic MAD magazine is familiar with their work.
The magazine was called TRUMP and was a high quality satire magazine.
It was wonderful and showed great promise. Unfortunately, it proved to be too expensive to continue in the 1957 reccession and Hef pulled the plug after two published issues.
Recently, Kitchen Sink Press published TRUMP The Complete Collection that includes issue #3 that never went to press.
Hefner was quoted years later about the experience and said, "I gave Harvey Kurtzman an unlimited budget, and he exceeded it."

Amadeus 48 said...

I was good friends with the late Asa Baber, who used to write the "Men" column in Playboy. He'd send us comp copies every month. He was a great guy, but ALS got him way too young.

I knew the humanities were headed for a crash when the Chicago Humanities Festival (a week of talks, reviews, plays, performances, panels, lectures, and art shows on a unifying theme) did "He/She" in 1998 and didn't put Asa on a panel. I asked him about it, and he laughed out loud and said, "[Amadeus], they wouldn't let me anywhere near a platform at that thing. Men have been written out of the Humanities. Tell me if they have any panels involving manly virtues." Well, they didn't.

We'd have lunch a couple of times a year. Once, when I was going through a tough time, he asked me a question that changed my life for the better forever. He was a wildly disparate mix of tough and tender.

Asa was a street-wise kid from the South Side whose grandmother plucked him from trouble with the law and sent him off to the Lawrenceville Academy and then Princeton. He joined the Marines after college and went to Laos in the late 1950s as a military adviser. He taught at the University of Hawaii, and later moved back to Chicago. He raised two sons. He was a good and brave man who stoutly defended the right to live your own life as you saw fit. I miss Asa all the time.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I learned to drive in a 49 MG-TC. It was sold to a collector in about 74 when the right front wheel fell off after a joy ride.
Later I owned a 74 MGB. 1. It NEVER leaked oil. 2. I always carried, and used, spare ignition system parts.
That car did the BEST four wheel drifts on freeway offramps!

Rob McLean said...

Perhaps the most startling thing in the April 1969 issue of Playboy is this phrase on page 16: "Tim McCarver goes to a hairstylist."

Christopher said...

I was good friends with the late Asa Baber, who used to write the "Men" column in Playboy. He'd send us comp copies every month. He was a great guy, but ALS got him way too young.

That's a great remembrance, thanks for sharing.

swierczekml said...


Blogger Etienne said...
I had a 67 MGB. It was positive ground on the battery. I opened my door and it was touching my brothers negative ground truck.

They tried to weld themselves together.

-------------
Not bloody likely...unless you were trying to jump start one of the cars...

Teller said...

Had a '67 MGB. The one with the flip-switch for overdrive. Drove it through every western state. Flat roads, the best. Moved to SF, burned through two trannies, the mechanical kind.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse had mentioned it once before, and I was taken aback. What!? Really? Your parents were OK with that? They left pornography lying around the house for their elementary age daughter to read?"

My father subscribed to Playboy and enjoyed it, and it was left out on the coffee table with the other magazines (Life, Look, etc.) and there was never anything said about whether we could look at it or not, and we did, in front of my parents.

"Wasn't this seen as odd in your neighbourhood?"

Not that I noticed.

"I'm trying to imagine this with either set of grandparents or parents. My head is exploding. Did other parents leave out pornography on the coffee table in the late 60s?"

I didn't notice.

"And the 50s and early 60s? Among people who weren't doing key parties or living in communes?"

Yep.

"How did the other parents react? Were they ok with your friends coming over to play? Was anyone not allowed to be friends with you because of this? Was this normal for a certain crowd in the 50s and 60s in your neighbourhood or was this a fringe group of people?"

I never saw any objections. It's just a magazine.

Quaestor said...

gilbar wrote: my sister... who has a TR-8, and whose hubby has a TR-3...

Your sister drives the automotive equivalent of a Stalinist gulag. The TR-7/8 was a product of British Leyland. The Triumph badge was just Potemkin-style windows dressing. In reality, the whole glorious history of the affordable British sports car ended on the
smoldering commissariat trash heap of commie-pinky mismanagement and commie-pinko quality control down on the factory floor.

wwww said...

"I never saw any objections. It's just a magazine."

Were the models in Playboy in the 50s and 60s not naked? Or is this something that happened later with Playboy?

iowan2 said...


My parents would have been worried if we had come across a Playboy at a friend's house in an older brother's room.

Mom and I were discussing "my generation" vs hers. I think I was about 18. I was explaining to her about how my generation was so much more sexual. Mom just looked at me, and said, "every snot nosed teenager thinks they discovered sex, but you don't have a clue until you get past 40. If you're lucky" That shut me up.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Teller,
Oh man. Nightmares. My B had overdrive in third and fourth. The slave solenoid eventually failed, and the Ferrari guy who did the repair was so shocked by the cost of the part that he gave me a discount.

wwww said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David53 said...

I had forgotten, Ginsberg was a proud member of NAMBLA. Because free speech.

GRW3 said...

My Senior Class High School English teacher ('69-'70) recommended Playboy for the articles. Some of the girls were shocked (and the boys surprised there were articles). The naked girls were hot but I also liked the cartoons, particularly those by Gahan Wilson. The teacher moved to a bigger school district the next year and one of the girls from my class moved in with her after she turned 18. We talked about it but we weren't particularly shocked.

Ann Althouse said...

"but I also liked the cartoons, particularly those by Gahan Wilson"

Yes, I think that's the main reason I looked through it when I was young -- because there were cartoons. It was a challenge to understand what was supposed to be funny, and funny now to look at the cartoons and see the conventions of the humor, which is so creaky now, often with the idea that a pretty young woman didn't understand how something was sexual, which would have been particularly weird for me, the young child, to try to understand.