I received a link to the official Playboy website recently, where it seemd Bunny Nation has uploaded its entire history, every last word, every last airbrushed nipple, every last cheeseball article on how to be a sophisticated man.
The answer is yes, I followed the link–right to a number of well written articles, including a rather predictable story about returning the Long Island Ice Tea to it’s 1970s mastery, as well as great short stories by David Foster Wallace and Chuck Palaniuk. There was some cheesecake, too, but I found it interesting–and indicative of our times–that Playboy is using literature and journalist to market it’s new all-access membership. And it’s tempting, too, but explaining why requires a story:
The first time I ever saw a non-maternal breast it was within the pages of Playboy Magazine, provided generously by a new kid in town, Mike LeBlanc, sometime around third grade. I thought to myself: hey, that’s not bad. If the opportunity presents itself, I would be open to the idea of inspecting similar subject matter again. Fate, it would seem, was on my side. New editions of Playboy magazine would appear at roughly one-month intervals, as if by magic, between the mattress and box spring of Mike’s parents’ bed. Thank you, Mr. LeBlanc–and thank you, also, to Former Miss Norway Ingeborg Sorensen. I owe you both an incalculable debt of gratitude for the richness you unknowingly contributed to my youth.
A few years later, Mike moved away, and my source for inappropriate “lite-core” mens’ entertainment went with him, along with my main source of camaraderie. We’d grown to be best friends, to the detriment of my other relationships, and the summer after sixth grade was brutally lonely.
Fortunately, I was twelve and the owner of a sweet Sears Free Spirit 12-speed bicycle–top of the line–for which I had saved and saved until I had the $89 necessary. For a department store bike, it was pretty nice–it’s 27″ size was perfect for my rapidly growing body–I would be 6’1 and 190 by the end of seventh grade. I rode that bike all over the county, sometimes 40 or 50 miles a day. My mother, to this day, has no idea that I roamed so far, but it was always the same: bored, I’d ride and ride and find myself in some town 15 or 20 miles from home, and say “Oh, shit.”
Aimless wandering around town was also a viable way to kill a day. It was on one of these adventures that I stopped at a yard sale, looking for “cool stuff” and maybe some comic books (I bought a copy of Fantastic Four #48–now worth about $400–for a nickel about the same time, and threw it away after reading it–doh!).
They had nothing good at this sale, except–a 10″x12″x24″ box of old Playboy magazines from the 1970s that was listed at $1. I had fifty cents in my pocket, but the lady cut me a deal: 45 cents for the box, since she didn’t want to take my last nickel.
Now, I have to ask: who sells 4 or 5 dozen playboys to a kid on a bicycle for what was then the price of soda?. Answer: Mrs. Anderson of Oakland Avenue. She wanted rid of those things. Badly. I was only too willing to lug that box home–it must have weighed 25 pounds–4 miles on my bicycle, and hide it away in my closet.
Years later, I spent a winter at my mother’s house taking care of her after an illness, and found the box in a closet full of my abandoned junk, and decided to steal a peek at my old childhood sweetheart, Monique St. Pierre. This was before the internet, let me remind you–1991. I opened the box, found Monique, smiled a little but shrugged too–you know, once you’ve got to the place in life where real naked women are readily available, perspective changes. At least it had for me.
I found myself, surprised though it made me, fascinated by the articles and interviews, none of which I’d ever looked at as a pimply pubescent–and I digested the box, top to bottom, glossing over the airbrushed glamor porn for the substantive journalism.
It was only later that I enjoyed a good laugh at myself–I’d devoted not hours but days to reading Playboy…for the articles. Afterward: when my mother recuperated enough to take care of herself, as prepared to depart, I hefted all those old magazines to a used book store and sold the entire box for $100 bucks–except for the carefully removed centerfold of ol’ Monique, which is still pressed neatly inside the cover of a large format picture book of renaissance artwork. Seemed fitting.
As for Monique, she became Playmate of the Year in whatever year that was–1979, I think, but I’m not going back to look. Not only that, she’s become one of the legendary models of Playboy history. They even made a statue.