As it turns out, you haven’t really ‘arrived’ in today’s world unless the Internet has declared you dead, defunct or ‘discontinued’ at least once. The reportage of death –or some other rite of passage — on the ‘Net is mostly unreliable. Often an Internet obit is a hoax.
So when I first hear the latest rumor about PLAYBOY, it could only be that some digital-age scamps – some knuckle-brains — were screwing around on the Internet. You will remember the times ‘they’ killed off Willie Nelson and Betty White. I don’t know what gets into people sometimes.
A few years back, the Internet killed off Jerry Mathers, the child star of Leave It to Beaver though I swear to God, the Beaver had it coming just on ‘G.P.’ -General Principles. (Beaver Cleaver was the most galactically gullible kid in the history of TV humankind.)
Nevertheless, the people behind this latest obvious, hideous PLAYBOY hoax sweeping the Internet and Twitter were just ‘wrong”. It was another obvious hoax. Except that it wasn’t. It was true: PLAYBOY is removing nude women from the magazine, effective March, 2016.
No more completely nude women in PLAYBOY can only mean one thing: the terrorists have won!
It also means the world as I knew it has changed forever. And while “questioning” is not one of the Official Five Stages of Grief, dammit, it’s one of mine. So I beg the question (in fact, several of them): (1) Just what the hell IS the problem over at PLAYBOY? (2) Have we depleted the Amazon rain forests so badly the folks at PLAYBOY can’t afford the plain brown mailing wrappers anymore? (If this is the case, then f*ck Al Gore! I’m as much a believer in climate change and preserving the rain forests as any tree-hugging liberal, but if it means no more plain brown wrappers to hide stuff, then maybe we need to rethink this whole thing! (3) What is Obama going to do about this crisis? This is a REAL red line — one that matters. (I am SURE Obama read PLAYBOY even when he was a boy living in Indonesia. Maybe he had even read it when he was a boy growing up in Kenya.) (4) Does Hef (the ninety-year old founder of PLAYBOY) know about this? Sure doesn’t sound like something the Hef I knew would do, but then the kids are minding the store these days.
(As a result of asking these questions, some switch in my brain trips and ‘prodigal memories’ come straggling in. Prodigal memories are ones you haven’t seen in years. You don’t know where they have been, who they’ve been with or what they have been doing because they sure as hell haven’t been with you. Their clothes are wrinkled and disheveled and they are in need of a good delousing. Nevertheless, you’re glad to see them. Well, mostly.)
Anyway, at the time I see my first PLAYBOY, ENTERTAINMENT FOR MEN, I am couple of months north of twelve. This is in the late 1950’s and in these days, a twelve year old boy is TOTALLY out of the loop when it comes to matters of sex, the opposite sex, and what people called matters of the heart. Some of us twelve year olds had heard ‘things’ though – rumors — about what a full-grown-naked-anatomically-correct-female body looked like … but few of us knew for sure. Few of us had any real answers. PLAYBOY magazine did though.
Thing was, in those prudish days, you couldn’t just waltz into a store and plop down a sawbuck and walk out with change and the latest edition of PLAYBOY. The magazine was kept under the cashier’s counter from where it was sold. It was more or less kind of a controlled substance, definitely contraband in the hands of a tween. Getting a hold of one was always a bit of a caper, such as when one of the Yarborough twins —Ronald or Donald— smuggles the January, 1960 PLAYBOY into a Boy Scout meeting of Troop 999 on a cold wintry Saturday afternoon. (Say one thing about those Yarborough twins, they might be idiots in school, but they were resourceful idiots.) Quickly, me and the other seven members of the Screaming Eagles Patrol huddle together and stare in stupefied awe as the other Yarborough unfurls Miss January 1960, Stella Stevens. Lord-love-a duck! We were transfixed. In one fell swoop, we got answers to questions we had and a bunch we hadn’t even fathomed.
In a scene that could have been straight out of Leave It to Beaver — if the Beaver stumbled upon the contraband magazine — a Yarborough twin reads in hushed tones:
“Miss December says her Turn-Ons are men who are comical. Miss December’s Turn-Off’s are men who are bad in bed.”
“I heard my Mom yelling at my Dad that he was bad in bed. What does that mean? Does Dad still wet the bed,” asks another Boy Scout?
“It means he steals the covers, you dolt” says still another ‘Screaming Eagle’ in a most confident manner
After that initial Stella Stevens sighting, ogling the latest, current Playmate of the Month was a ritual of my boyhood, adolescence and even into my twenty-somethings. From that time, through the rest of Junior and Senior High, like some guys collected baseball cards, I collected PLAYBOY magazines, centerfolds and could even recite the Turn-Ons and Turn-Off’s of my favorite Playmates.
I also collected magazines, trading the Yarborough twins Superman comics for PLAYBOYs. By age fourteen, I had a stash of 27 issues of PLAYBOY and 50 issues of DC Superman comics hidden in plain sight, camouflaged in the perpetual –and purposeful– clutter of my room. For the last two and a half years of high school, you couldn’t have found a herd of wildebeest in the jungle of my room. There were a couple of times when my Mom came close, so I reconnoitered my library to the squalor and junk under my bed, a place where angels and fools did not rush in and even Moms feared to tread. They remained under my bed until I went off to college.
With the PLAYBOY announcement, there is one great rumor surrounding PLAYBOY that can now be dispelled —the rumor which said the PLAYBOY articles and interviews with celebrities were excellent. The truth is that no one knows if they were excellent or not. No one knows what –if anything — was in those articles, certainly no male Baby Boomer knows. Any Boomer male who says he does is either a liar –or just gotten caught by his wife ogling Miss October. I can’t be persuaded otherwise. You trying to do so would be as futile as trying to convince anyone on Facebook to change their minds about anything at all!)
One can hope that the people at PLAYBOY will come to their goddamn senses and change their collective mind. I still wonder Hef knows about all this? The truth is that he probably does, which means, I guess that the ’emperor has clothes’. Sadly, Miss April does too. A higher truth –and I suspect that it is a significant part of ‘my PLAYBOY dismay’ — is that I too have reached that stage in life where almost all of us look better with our clothes on.
 Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance