If you were under-aged and oversexed with six dimes
and a fake ID in August 1962, you could afford to plunder
the newsstand downtown for a freshly minted issue of
Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine.
You might admire the tasteful presentation of a bathing
beauty in the Ava Gardner/Rose McGowan tradition on
the cover, comparing its appeal to the turn-of-the-century
Gibson Girls in Harper's, or more likely you raced into
a closet with a flashlight and Jan Roberts' silver-blonde
gatefold, lensed by the legendary Pompeo Posar, and
rigorously pleasured yourself while dad mowed the lawn.
just what does the sexy side of square look like? Exactly
12 1/2 bare mammary glands in a 124-page magazine. After
that, you were free to congratulate yourself on what
a classy, informed less boring than Life!
magazine you just purchased. Talk about progress!
You could check out "The Thin Red Line,"
a WWII novel by James Jones (author of "From Here
To Eternity"), which would hit screens in 1964
and again in 1998. You also studied the now-classic
Vargas girl painting, some brilliantly morbid full page
color cartooning by Gahan Wilson, the inevitable Leroy
Neiman splashing paint in Vegas, plus panels of TV images
satirized by Shel Silverstein. It's clear there's a
pronounced resemblance between immortal publisher William
Gaines' 1950s EC/Mad Magazine empire and Hef's own use
of humor, color and graphics (and many EC artists like
Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman).
could puzzle over Arthur C. Clarke rhapsodizing about
a "A World Without Distance" or explore "The
Prodigal Powers of Pot" in an article so dry and
boring we were unable to finish it even after huffing
copious amounts of the demon weed.
Jan's 39-23-35 figure is most definitely the show-stopper.
Still, it's hard to believe this sort of thing led to
canings, shamings and brimstone-hellfire oaths on Sunday.
Nonetheless, this was something that couldn't be ignored:
the mass production of erotic images unprecedented
in the U.S.
Now of course the problem is you can't get away from
it. Naked & Greed have formed the ultimate corporate
contrast, check out actress Gesa Meiken, the 5'7"
German/Italian fox with a definite Mira Sorvino thing
going on, captured by photo-master Mario Casilli at
Cinecitta Studios in Rome.
Then there's the Chesterfield girls. Classy but not
too classy, if you follow my meaning. Yes sir, the Chesterfield
pimps pandering "pleasure too good to miss"
want us all to remember something. First, Chesterfield
is a blend of 21 great tobaccos. Second, these fine
tobaccos are too mild to filter. Third, smoking like
a chimney is the fastest ticket to promiscuous sex with
a desirable partner.
Just open a pack and a nicotine-crazed
sea nymph will have her hand down your trousers in a snap.
Say, a fellow could get to like that!
The weeks pass. By the September issue, you flip to
the center crease to find Holy cow, it's Elly
May Clampett naked in the hay! And 1962 was the year
the "Beverly Hillbillies" began running. Coincidence?
Jed! We told you not to let your daughter wander around
on Sunset near the Hustler store. Oh great! Now she's
swelling up from an allergic reaction she got from that
urine-soaked hay. Good Lord, everyone knows that barnyard
hay is about the most inhospitable place in the world
for the naked body, but somehow the myth persists about
having a good old time "rolling in the hay."
Still, you gotta give credit to Miss September Mickey
Winters, playing the role of Hef's "girl next door"
(she's the five foot lass with
the 36-18-34 figure) for making the farmer's daughter
routine play for the push-button age. Did we mention
Mickey digs "picnics, Cannonball Adderley, walking
barefoot, twisting, T-birds, Mort Sahl and helping herself
to huge strawberry sundaes"? Don Bronstein clicked
the shutter on this classic slice of vanilla cheesecake.
And you gotta love this Mickey's gatefold is
the only nude photo in the entire 208 pages! Inconceivably
stingy by modern standards, but hey, I guess you had
to be there.
Then there's the jazz, which Playboy covered more brilliantly
than anyone during its post-bop golden age. Check out
the intro feature on sax man Sonny Rollins, 32, who
warns off fancy-talkers with the quip: "Too much
praise can mix you up
worse than a lot of raps."
brings us to the first-ever Playboy Interview, and an
excellent choice: Miles Davis. "I get sick of how
a lot of (critics) write whole columns and pages of
big words and still ain't sayin' nothin'." Miles,
we're with you (from a safe distance) all the way down
the line, yes, even for those '80s albums where you
cover Scritti Politti tunes.
Taking readings from this issue you get the sense that
both sides of the sexual revolution were mobilizing
their ranks. Perhaps everything appeared normal, but
by the early '60s the times were definitely getting
away from the squares. Just at that moment the Beatles
were showing small clubs crammed with German hipsters
the time of their lives. Dylan was scribbling on napkins
in the Village. The President was humping a bipolar
movie star and facing down Castro and Kruschev. And
somewhere, Richard Nixon was wringing his hands like
the villian in a Republic serial and muttering curses
against all those damn teenagers ruining the country.
With liberty, justice and rising skirtlines for all.
just how long ago was 1962? For one thing, two freshmen
named Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson (right, under
Jack Paar) each started their chronic, decades-sprawling
nightly bombardments of TV rays upon the citizens of
Cronkite was the crotchety newshound. All he lacked
was the senseless Southeast Asian land war. Carson was
the instantly likeable Nebraskan taking over "The
Tonight Show." All he needed was a drunken Irish
sidekick and an upbeat honky bandleader trying to outdress
so a nation was destined to watch a glowing box filled
with good American boys the kind who fought the
'Cong with Playboy rolled up in their back pocket
expiring from gaping chest wounds followed by
the vaudeville one-liners of "Karnak."
Strange times, the 20th Century.
And this was throbbing, buttoned-down heart of it all:
the Sixties, the Hugh Hefner harem, and a 208-page magazine
featuring one bare boob that threatened the stability
of all America.