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Marilyn Monroe, first issue of Playboy magazine, 1953

As Hefner puts it: ‘The sexual revolution began with the Kinsey Report. I’ve said many times that Kinsey was the researcher and I was the pamphleteer.’ (Hefner quoted in Mungo 1996: 115)


A man who is devoted to the pursuit of pleasurable activities. --American Heritage Dictionary


Playboy is a men's magazine founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner. Playboy is one of the world's best known brands. The magazine has a carefully crafted image which promotes a libidinous lifestyle for men, the main elements being beautiful women, expensive cars, and the various accoutrements of luxury, extravagance and quality.

The magazine is published monthly and features photographs of nude women, along with various articles on fashion, sports, and consumer goods, and often short fiction by top literary writers as well. Over the years, Playboy has published many interviews with celebrities from various fields by notable writers such as Alex Haley; these interviews are often of a high literary caliber and some have been reprinted in book form. These interviews are largely responsible for Playboy being available in certain university libraries, as well as the long-running joke quoted by many men: "I only read it for the articles!"

A few of the notable authors who have had works published in Playboy include John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming, Jack Kerouac, Alex Haley, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, and many more.

The "Playboy Interview", a monthly interview of someone well-known, has become famous for its confrontational style. Controversies arose over President Jimmy Carter's morality after his candid interview. The magazine has been known to express left-wing opinions on most major political issues.

The magazine is owned by Playboy Enterprises, a publicly traded corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange (trading symbol: PLA), having a market capitalization of $262 Million (December, 2002; Source: Yahoo Finance).

Playboy's use of "tasteful" nude photos is often classified as "soft core" adult reading material. More "hard core" pornographic magazines started to appear in the 1960s in response to the success of Penthouse.

Actually, the earliest photos of models for pictorials and centerfolds are best classified as risqué as full-frontal nudity did not appear in the magazine until 1969. The first "Playmate" whose pubic hair appear in a centerfold photograph was posed with her back to the camera, so that the innovation was subtly presented, being visible only reflected in a mirror rather than being part of the main focus of the shot.

The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, although the picture used had originally been taken for a calendar, not Playboy. Hefner purchased the rights to the photos of Monroe along with others.

The first issue, published in December, 1953, did not carry a date, as Hefner was unsure whether there would be a second issue. That first issue was an immediate sensation and sold out within a matter of weeks. Known circulation was 53,991 (Source: Playboy Collector's Association Playboy Magazine Price Guide). The cover price was 50¢. Copies of the first issue in Mint to Near Mint condition can fetch over $5000 in 2002.

The famous Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, was designed by art designer Art Paul for the magazine's second issue and has appeared on every issue since. Hefner said that he chose the rabbit as a mascot for its "humorous sexual connotation", and because the image was "frisky and playful".

Since reaching its peak in the 1970's, Playboy has seen a slow decline in circulation and success, in part due to a series of bad investments in men's clubs and casinos, and partly from increased competition in the field it founded - first from Penthouse in the 70's and more recently from the related area of more irreverent and socially acceptable "lad's mags" such as Maxim and FHM.

In response Playboy has attempted to re-assert its hold on the 18 - 35 male demographic it once controlled through slight changes to its content and focussing on issues and personalities more appropriate to its audience - such as hip-hop artists being featured in the Playboy Interview.

Christine Hefner, daughter of Hugh Hefner, became CEO of Playboy in 1988. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playboy [Jun 2004]


  1. Playboy: Fifty Years: The Photographs (2003) - James R. Peterson [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Playboy celebrates its 50th anniversary with this lavish collection of the very best of the magazine's photography. More than 250 full-color photographs, chosen from the ten million images preserved in the Playboy archive, chronicle five decades of brilliant, life-affirming art. Playboy: 50 Years revisits the girl next door, the sex symbols, and the gods and goddesses who shaped our culture. It visually tracks the changing politics, fashions, and mores through the frenzied peak of the sexual revolution and beyond - from the almost nostalgic eroticism of the 50s bachelor, a martini his secret of seduction, to the highly charged images of modern sexuality. Celebrity models such as Raquel Welch and Cindy Crawford, along with interview subjects such as Mohammed Ali and Salvador Dali, and infamous bunnies such as Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson reveal all. Portfolios devoted to the bachelor pad, the perfect cocktail, fashion, and sports cars celebrate Playboy as the ultimate wish book. From the history-making red velvet shot of Marilyn Monroe, "posed with nothing on except the radio," to the highly charged images of such masters as Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton, this book is a breath-taking photographic tour de force. The definitive gift of the season, Playboy: 50 Years is also the only book being published in the fall to coincide with the launch of the magazine's 50th anniversary.--amazon.com

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