Monday, April 9, 2012

Rant #712: Bunny Hops to 86

Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner is 86 today.

He looks kind of silly today, having phony relationships with girls that can be his great granddaughters and wearing his sailor hat, but during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, this guy was a trailblazer.

There had been "girly" mags before Playboy, but when he started up that magazine, he added a touch of class to the big breasts that were featured in the magazine.

He took a real journalistic approach to the whole thing, figuring that since most men would buy the magazine for the pictorials, why not put something a little "heady" into the magazine for men to read before they got to the treasure trove of skin.

And he was right on the money.

Playboy's legacy is not only the beautiful women who have adorned its pages, but the interviews, stories, words and other material that has been featured in the magazine during the last 50-plus years.

Everyone from Martin Luther King to George Clooney has had his words and thoughts published, and you had to read those before you got to the good stuff, so to speak.

And he was smart. He used the magazine as his personal platform for everything from human rights to sexual rights to his own rights as a publisher of what some simply referred to as a skin mag.

And he allowed others to voice their opinions too.

He was a trailblazer.

And today, in this Internet-driven world where magazines are almost something of a relic of a prehistoric age, he continues to oversee the entity that his empire started from.

Playboy has branched out, first into men's clubs and records and now into subscription television, but it all comes down to the magazine.

And yes, Hefner does look like a dirty old man now, and yes, his phony behavior with young girls is pretty much appalling.

But he is still around, still kicking, still trying to keep viable as he comes closer to his ninth decade.

I still remember the first Playboy magazine I ever saw.

I must have been eight years old, and I had a friend who was one of about six kids, with him being the only boy.

We were in his room, and he asked me if I wanted to see something. He reached under his bed, and took out a Playboy.

He opened up the magazine, and actress Kim Novak was posing provocatively on the page he opened to.

She wasn't nude, but it was enough for these two eight year olds to snicker like any eight year olds would at the sight of a nearly naked lady who was old enough to have been our own mother.

We had our laugh, he shoved the magazine back under his bed, and that was that.

It's funny how vividly I remember that incident, but probably every male in America can recall his own story of the first time he saw Playboy magazine.

That's how vivid the magazine stands out in our culture, even to this day.

And for that, I salute you, Hugh Hefner, on your birthday.

Happy Number 86, and have many, many more birthdays.

But take off the sailor hat, please. We can all live without that.

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