Friday, September 29, 2017

What kind of “man” read Playboy? Young boys searching for titillation

It was a scene towards the end of the 1978 film “Animal House” that seems to be all too appropriate as we note the death this week of Hugh Hefner – the man who gave us Playboy as a magazine and lifestyle, and took the concept of girlie mags away from the ancient images of nudists playing volleyball on the beach.
A four-decade old cinematic moment ...

That scene was the one where the Homecoming parade at fictional Faber College was being thrown all awry by the vengeful Delta House fraternity that had just been closed down by the venal Dean Vernon Wormer.

ONE FLOAT IN the parade got slammed into – and a girl onboard the float dressed in a Playboy bunny costume got tossed into the air, where she went soaring through the sky and into an open window of a nearby house.
... that somehow seems relevant today

Where she came to rest in the bed of a young boy who, from the looks of it, had been sneaking peaks at a Playboy magazine.

“Thank you, God” was his response at the thought of a real-live girl to accompany the photographic images he had been checking out just moments earlier.

An image like this may well be the perfect visualization of the Playboy legacy. Not that I’m saying every kid who ever checked out a magazine suddenly got a real girl thrown into his midst.
Playboy Building and Mansion still stand in Chicago ...

BUT WHILE HEFNER himself liked to claim some sort of high-minded image for himself as a sexual liberator who even made women themselves free to enjoy sex, I wonder if throughout the years Playboy, the magazine, became something that young kids went out of their way to sneak peeks at in order to try to figure out what the big deal was.

Which, of course, meant the generations of kids who got caught, and got punished, for “sneaking a peek” at daddy’s copies of girlie mags.

Just the other day, I saw a rerun of a “Friends” episode – the one in which Courteney Cox’ “Monica” character was obsessed with finding out why she didn’t get invited to her cousin’s wedding.

When brother “Ross” (played by David Schwimmer) tried defending the cousin, Monica got him back on her side by informing him that the cousin had been the one who, as a child, snitched to their mother that Ross had been sneaking peeks at Playboy.
... but their hedonistic days are long past

PERSONALLY, MY MEMORY of first seeing Hugh Hefner’s creation came when I was about 8 (I think). It was something I stumbled across (and inspected) when the parents weren’t around. Because I’m fairly sure my mother, in particular, would have disapproved. I also remember around that same time seeing an episode of "The Odd Couple" in which Hefner himself appeared.

I do recall one other time when a copy of Playboy stirred up some attention – it would be the summer I worked for the Cook County recorder of deeds. The magazine had a feature on Marla Collins – whom hard-core fans of the team remember as the one-time ball girl who on-field worked in short shorts and a tight Cubs pullover jersey.

But for the feature, she appeared in various pieces of lingerie – which is what got the Cubs management all riled up to where she got fired.

Which is why a group of county employees (fairly low-ranking) felt compelled to pass around the magazine copy we had obtained so we could see what the big deal was. A tad too prudish on the Cubs part, was our reaction. Although I'm sure our boss, then-county Recorder Harry "Bus" Yourell, would have had a fit if he had caught us goofing off with Playboy when we were supposed to be working.
Generation of Cubs fans see Marla as glamour girl

I HAVEN’T SEEN a copy of Playboy in years – yes, I’m too cheap to pay the $12.99 newsstand price, and don’t feel compelled to get a subscription. The articles that allegedly are of such a high quality that you want to actually READ the magazine aren’t what they used to be.

Then again, many printed word publications aren’t what they used to be. Too much trash available on the Internet, where the written word somehow loses something in translation.

Besides, I wonder if the younger generation thinks of Hefner as being something more of a “dirty old man” who appeared on television living with various incarnations of three girls at a time. Something more to be pitied than envied.

So as we note the passing Wednesday of Hefner at age 91, it should be pointed out that future generations of youngsters will figure out ways to get at websites their parents don’t want them to see. But somehow, the computer screen and downloading some explicit, trashy video doesn’t offer the same experience as that glossy-paged centerfold, while listening for the sound of parental footsteps off in the distance.


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