Remember Lyle Waggoner? He was the ridiculously handsome co-star on The Carol Burnett Show back in the day. He was also the first centerfold in Playgirl magazine in 1973. He is shown reclining au naturale in a kitchen chair; we see his inviting grin, his shapely chest, the ridges of his abs, and a peek of pubic hair. But his “equipment” is discreetly obscured by his leg.
This was a big deal at the time, supposedly an answer to the years of sexism perpetrated by the likes of Playboy and Penthouse. Fight fire with fire, seemed to be the thinking. For a while Playgirl, whose tagline was “Entertainment for Women,” had a good run, even though, let’s be honest, the full-frontal male anatomy is just not that photogenic. Mixed in with the pecs, porn-star mustaches, and penises were serious articles by important writers—Maya Angelou, for instance, if you can believe it.
The magazine changed hands several times, and grew increasingly popular with gay men. In fact, in the early 2000s, the gay readership was estimated by Playgirl execs to be between 30 and 50 percent. In 2016, the magazine folded, and our only question is—with the massive fall out going on in the publishing world—how did it last so long?
The Reincarnation of Playgirl
Even though no one seemed to be asking for it, Playgirl is back. A new version launched this month, with 45-year-old Chloë Sevigny showing off her naked pregnant body on the cover. (Yeah for the NextTribe age group making an appearance!) No, it’s not a sexualized look, but it seems like getting off on the wrong foot to start with yet more female skin.
The person behind the relaunch is Jack Lindley Kuhns, which is a disappointment. The original Playgirl was run by a man, and can we just say that it’s long been baffling that men ever ran women’s magazines. The famed Seven Sisters, including McCall’s and Good Housekeeping, that reigned through much of the 20th Century were more often than not helmed by men. At this point in the 21st Century, it’s down-right irritating. (At least Playgirl has a woman, Skye Parrott, as editor-in-chief.)
We’re in for a lot of nudity, based on promises from Kuhns and teasing photos on the Playgirl Instagram account. It’s all very artsy and faux decadent and no penises in sight.
But why do we need Playgirl now? The magazine’s pr says it “represents an open message that eroticism has no gender right now, and no sexual tendency, and Playgirl is pure eroticism on paper to take home. It’s a fantasy. The magazine was focused on the idea of desire, but desire in every topic they touch—in the environment, health, politics. It’s a magazine about desire.”
Though we salute anyone who tries to make it in the publishing world today, what we really desire is good writing and visuals that deal with people, both the male and female variety, as real human beings, not as graphic elements in someone’s wet dream.