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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Playgirl Is Zipping Up

I can't pretend it is likely to be as widely regarded as momentous as announcements go as hearing not so long ago that the Christian Science Monitor was shutting down its print publication the better to direct its energies to the cyberspatial sprawl. But, as you see, hearing Playgirl is now doing much the same gets a post from me, while the CSM news went unremarked hereabouts. After all, the CSM story meant little more to me than the realization that we had little reason anymore to consider that perfectly likable and truly venerable journalistic outfit more respectable or influential than, say, TPM is in our deliriously changed and changing p2p-mediated landscape, which is something I already long thought anyway. But losing the crinkly palpable pages of Playgirl does feel like it means something to me. And so I do want to offer up a brief salute to Playgirl in its eclipse, especially the Playgirls of 1979-1982, which were incomparably more useful to me in what was an otherwise sludge-gray Hoosier adolescence than they ever were for my mother, who subscribed to the publication for roughly three of the four years I was in high school as a protest against my Dad's Playboy subscription. Dad didn't get the point, or didn't much care if he did get the point, and as far as I could tell Mom never did more than snicker at the photo-spreads with her sisters occasionally if they happened to be around on the day of the latest issue's arrival. But if it hadn't been for the Dune books, old screwball comedies on public television on Saturday nights, and Mom's trashed Playgirls under my mattress there would have been far less light in those last years before I broke out of Floyds Knobs, Indiana for College at last. GiggleSugar provides a snarky slideshow of classic covers in tribute to the passing legend, and that seems quite good enough for me.


jimf said...

> [M]y mother. . . subscribed to the publication for
> roughly three of the four years I was in high school
> as a protest against my Dad's Playboy subscription. . .

I'm speechless!

> Mom's trashed Playgirls under my mattress. . .

I can just imagine you staking out the trash,
making sure you didn't miss one. And then, of course,
sneaking out at 1 in the morning to "sort" the
garbage. What must the neighbors have thought?


jimf said...

BTW, I actually remember buying a few issues of Playgirl
when it first came out in '73. I was in college at the
time, but still living at home during part of that year.
I had to bear the humiliation of **buying** them at the
Newark (Delaware) Newsstand, at a cash register operated
either by an unpleasant older guy with a cigar, or by
a rather hunky guy who drove a jeep (and who might possibly
have been gay himself, it seems to me in retrospect).
There was another soft gay porn magazine from around the
same time -- After Dark (which was ostensibly an
"entertainment" magazine, but which was rather heavy
on the homoerotic imagery).

I seem to recall that Playgirl originally eschewed
full nudity -- there'd be, e.g., a photo with a hint of the
inner fold of a buttock visible up the leg of a guy's

And then, after they got rid of clothes, they'd print
letters from (or ostensibly from, ostensibly female)
readers begging them to show a guy fully aroused.
Which they always politely declined to do.
I can't remember when **that** particular
milestone was reached, sometime late in the 70's -- it
may in fact have been when Playgirl (whose editors
still claimed at that time to be producing a magazine
for women -- give me a break!) was superseded by
frankly-gay (but still intended for the newsstand,
not for the adult bookstore on the highway) glossies
like Mandate.

My father never had a Playboy subscription, but he
**did** have a collection, from before he was married,
of issues of the muscle magazine Strength & Health.
My favorite of these was the April, 1951 issue with
a cover pic of a guy named James Park, which got me
all hot and bothered before I knew what that meant.;195104;Strength+and+Health

Only 13 years before Playgirl went on sale, possession
of the kind of "beefcake" magazines that circulated in
the 50's cost 3 Smith College professors their jobs:
"Joel Dorius [was] one of three gay professors of literature
caught in a pornography scandal and forced out by Smith College
in 1960. . . in a celebrated case of sexual McCarthyism. . .

[H]is life at Smith, in Northampton, Mass., crashed on
Sept. 2, 1960, when three state troopers, a local police officer
and a United States postal inspector raided the home of a
colleague, Newton Arvin, 60, and found boxes of "beefcake" magazines
and pictures of men — illegal pornography then, but much of it
like today's Calvin Klein underwear ads — and diaries detailing
20 years of his closeted gay life.

Under interrogation, Mr. Arvin — a professor of American literature
at Smith, winner of the 1951 National Book Award for his biography
of Herman Melville, a friend of the critics Edmund Wilson and
Malcolm Crowley and a former lover of Truman Capote — named names,
including those of Mr. Dorius and Edward Spofford, both untenured
Smith professors. Their homes were raided, too — Mr. Dorius was
away at the time — and more materials deemed pornographic were found.

. . .

In an era when homosexuality was widely viewed as an abomination —
criminal, sinful and a mental disease — but accepted on many college
campuses as long as it did not surface publicly, the arrests crossed
the line, and Smith suspended the three professors. Mr. Arvin was
later allowed to retire at half-pay, but, despite faculty protests,
the contracts of Mr. Dorius and Mr. Spofford were not renewed.

jimf said...

Citizens for Decent Literature Presents. . .

BTW, in the You Tube "Great Pink Scare" trailer,
there are excerpts from a film that was produced
by none other than Charles Keating, "Perversion
for Profit", which is now part of the Rick Prelinger
archive of ephemeral films.

It's available for viewing in its entirety here:

("Boys Beware" is also worth a watch. Great idea
for a theme party -- watching high-school
guidance films from the 50s.)

Martin said...

Maybe the Feds should bail out CSM and Playgirl while they're at it.

Martin said...

I suppose now is a good time to trot out a YouTube video that I've had favorited forever. It's a 1960s anti-porn propaganda film. Pretty funny. It talks about the "muscle magazines" that were really used for homoerotica back in the 50s and 60s.

Martin said...

Nevermind, somebody already posted that video.