Monday, July 3, 2017
The Story of Playgirl Magazine
Playgirl was an American magazine that features general interest articles, lifestyle and celebrity news, in addition to semi-nude or fully 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 in a period in which gay male erotic magazines were few.
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 to date 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 1960's and early 1970's. 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.
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 other of its 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 Trans Digital Media, LLC. In December 2015 Magna Publishing Group was acquired by 1-800-Phonesex.
The magazine had been published earlier by Drake Publishers, Inc. In 1993 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 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, 2000, 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 several prominent members of the Gambino Crime Family 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 22nd, 2010, carrying on its cover Levi Johnston, shot by longtime Playgirl photographer Greg Weiner. The magazine has been issued approximately quarterly since that time.
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 gayreadership. "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 was 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 dense and more muscular over time.
Images from Playgirl