June 1973 cover (Issue 1, Number 1)
|Editor in Chief||Nicole Caldwell|
|Publisher||Douglas Lambert (1973-1976)|
Ira Ritter (1977-1983)
|First issue||June 1973 (two "preview" issues, Jan. and Feb. 1973)|
|Final issue||Winter 2016|
|Company||Magna Publishing Group|
|Based in||Santa Monica, California|
Playgirl was an American magazine that featured general interest articles, lifestyle and celebrity news, in addition to nude or semi-nude men. In the 1970s and 1980s, the magazine printed monthly and was marketed mainly to women, although it had a significant gay male readership.
The magazine was founded in 1973 by Douglas Lambert during the height of the feminist movement as a response to erotic men's magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse that featured similar photos of women. In 1977 Lambert sold Playgirl to Ira Ritter who took over as publisher. The magazine covered issues like abortion, equal rights, and interspersing sexy shots of men and played a pivotal role in the sexual revolution for women. From March 2009 to February 2010, Playgirl appeared only online. The magazine returned to print as a sometime quarterly beginning with its March 2010 issue. The last print issue was for Winter 2016. As of 2016 the magazine was believed to have had only approximately 3,000 subscribers.
Playgirl from inception to recent years was intended to be a women's magazine and an outlet for women to explore their sexuality (very similar to the popular men's magazine Playboy) and to embrace the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During its height, publisher Ira Ritter took the magazine to an even more sophisticated arena which included political articles to strengthen the editorial content, and featured influential figures of that time. However, over the course of the last 30 years, Playgirl faced adversity and many obstacles of opposing opinions in the media that ranged from feminist sex wars to pornography, prostitution, and lesbian practices.
The magazine was published by Drake Publishers, Inc until 1993 when Drake was merged into Crescent Publishing Group, Inc. In August 2000 Crescent was charged by the Federal Trade Commission with over $180 million of online credit card fraud, much of which was alleged by the FTC to have taken place on the Playgirl.com website. In November 2001 for one of the then largest FTC settlements involving online credit card fraud, Crescent agreed to pay $30 million in refunds to settle charges of online credit card fraud and also agreed to post a $2-million bond before it could continue to operate its websites. As a further condition for the settlement Crescent principals Bruce A. Chew and David Bernstein were barred by the FTC from operating adult entertainment websites unless first posting bonds of $500,000 each. In December 2001 Crescent Publishing Group, Inc. changed its name to Blue Horizon Media, Inc. Following the FTC settlement, in 2003 then Crescent/Blue Horizon president Bruce Chew was indicted, along with alleged organized-crime figure Richard Martino and others on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, credit-card fraud and money laundering for illegally billing web users including for the Playgirl website. Pursuant to a plea deal Chew would later agree to testify for the government and against various of his co-defendants.
In August 2008, the magazine announced that it would cease publication of its print edition as of the January 2009 issue. After that point, the magazine planned to continue with an online-only edition. The last print issue was published in January/February 2009.
In February 2010, Playgirl announced it would re-launch issuing a print edition of the magazine. The first such issue would be the March 2010 issue available on newsstands as of February 22, 2010 carrying on its cover Levi Johnston, shot by longtime Playgirl photographer Greg Weiner. The magazine was issued approximately quarterly after that time.
Playgirl was published by New York City-based company Blue Horizon Media, Inc. until April 25, 2011 when Blue Horizon sold the print rights for Playgirl together with those of its other titles – High Society, Cheri, Black Diamond, Finally Legal, and Purely 18 – to Magna Publishing Group, Inc. of Paramus, New Jersey. The Playgirl.com website is owned and operated by BAOL LLC. In December 2015 Magna Publishing Group was acquired by 1-800-PHONESEX.
The magazine is mainly marketed to heterosexual women. Despite this, in 2003, Playgirl's then-editor-in-chief Michele Zipp admitted the magazine also attracted much gay readership. "It's 'Entertainment for Women' because there's no other magazine out there that caters to women in the way we do", she said. But she went on adding: "We love our gay readers as well, and the gay readership [of the magazine] is about 30%." In the same year, Mark Graff, President of Trans Digital Media, the brand management firm for Playgirl TV, stated that 50% of Playgirl's readership are gay men.
In a February 2010 interview with the Associated Press, Playgirl spokesman Daniel Nardico stated that he considers the magazine appealing to both men and women, although the audience is predominantly male.
Throughout the history of the magazine, Playgirl has featured male frontal nudity except for the early issues in 1973, and 1987 when John Paul became the year's first full frontal centerfold in November after ten months of non-nude photo spreads.
Apart from professional models, Playgirl features amateur models in a section called Real Men (formerly known as Snapshots). A Real Men of the Year contest is held, in which readers can vote for the best layout of the year.
In June of every year, Playgirl has its "Man of the Year" issue. In July, it is the "Country" issue and in November, Playgirl dedicates an issue to "Campus Hunks."
A nude centerfold calendar featuring the men of the previous year is usually included in the December or January issue of the magazine. Readers are asked to vote for the "Man of the Year" from the pictures of the calendar.
The magazine is well known for two major publicity stunts — one for offering Charles, Prince of Wales $45,000 to appear nude in a centerfold in 1990, and another for publishing a nude pictorial called "The Men of Enron" in its September 2002 issue in which some former Enron employees "lost their shirts."
Researchers Richard A. Leit, Harrison G. Pope, Jr. and James J. Gray, in a 2000 paper published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, examined 115 male centerfold models in Playgirl magazine from 1973 to 1997 and noted that the Playgirl centerfold models have become increasingly more muscular over time.
Playgirl is available in English and has been published in a number of other languages and international English-language editions during its history:
- Germany (1978–1980 and 1989–2003)
- France (1978)
- Australia (1985–88) and as Interlude in 1991
- Netherlands (1987–88)
- United Kingdom (1992–93, 2011)
- South Africa (1995)
- Brazil (2004–?)
- Russia (2004–2009)
When the Russian version of Playgirl was launched in June 2004, it contained photographs of nude, circumcised American men despite circumcision's being less common outside the U.S., being practiced mainly by Muslims and Jews in Russia.
Playgirl UK's brief 2011 relaunch was accompanied by an announcement that it would feature no below-the-waist nudity, and would focus on attractive male celebrities rather than models and pornography actors. It was a failure, and ceased circulation soon after it began.
A Spanish-language edition was published in 1992–1993.
Playgirl has a monthly section entitled "Celeb Nudes" featuring photographs of various celebrities from movie scenes, usually nude.
Man of the Month (centerfold)
Two preview issues of Playgirl were published with racecar driver Mike Hiss in the January 1973 issue; and the Hager Twins, Jim and John, from TV's Hee Haw in the February 1973 issue. Then Vol. 1, No. 1 appeared in June 1973, featuring Lyle Waggoner as the centerfold. Other early centerfolds included George Maharis, Fabian Forte, Peter Lupus and professional athlete Jim Brown.
Besides Shafer, other gay models to appear in the magazine included Scott Merritt, Playgirl's 30th-anniversary centerfold, who revealed in the August 19, 2003 issue of The Advocate that he is gay. Brian Dawson, April 1978's Man of the Month, would go on to win the title of "International Mr. Drummer", a gay leather title, in 1989, as well as winning a bronze medal in the physique competition at the 2002 Gay Games in Australia. Thom Collins appeared just one month after Shafer in January 1991, later using his infamous "Playgirl celebrity" to bring attention to his own long term battle and misconception of what it meant to be HIV positive garnering him the title HIV Positive Supermodel. Both he and Shafer grew up in the same town and also appeared in mockumentary titled Man of the Year written, directed, and produced by Dirk Shafer playing himself. Jim Waldrop, centerfold in the January 1981 issue, was better known as gay porn star J. W. King. Similarly, February 1979's "Man of the Month", David Grant, is better known as gay porn star Clay Russell. Randy Savino, January 2000 issue, was also a gay porn star who usually went by the name of Geoff Ashton. Talvin DeMachio, the September 2001 centerfold, was also gay. 21 year old model Geoff Minger displayed the magazine's first full erection as Man of the Month, in the historic January 1980 issue.
In the June 2004 issue, Playgirl featured its oldest cover model/centerfold in the magazine's 30-year history: Rick Dinihanian, a 54-year-old gay man. During the decline of magazine readership, executives boldly decided to use unknown Swedish model Markus Idstam; also known as The Bull to the underground leather industry, for its cover. This move helped launch Playgirl into the new millennium with a significant increase in online female readership.
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