Last of the Playboys

Today I had another spinning class, and although I was slow and weak (recovering from a troublesome night with La Serpiente needing to be comforted through her coughing, and from my own cold) it was good to get some exercise. More importantly, there’s a good half hour journey on the train from the spinning studio back to town, ample time to catch up on my unread London Review of Books articles.

There was an interesting article about Playboy magazine and Hefner’s initial pretentions toward architectural criticism. No person is completely reprehensible; Hefner might be a delusional loon stuffed full of Viagra who insists on surrounding himself with pneumatic ladies, but he also took a stand against franchisees of his Playboy club who wouldn’t allow black performers on stage. I suppose that could also be considered as Hefner’s wanting women of all races to get stared at by men, rather than anything enlightened; it depends on your interpretation. (Given that another rule of the Playboy clubs was that the bunnies had to acquiesce with the demands of rich customers, we can’t accord too much enlightenment to Hefner, however much he might have editorialised about hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. The ideal cocktail cabinet, after all, had secret buttons to make the sofa lay flat when it was time to swoop upon your lady guest.)

The other thing that struck me was that there was once a Braille edition of Playboy: was that intended as proof that some people really were buying the magazine for the articles, not the pictures? Or is there an unanswered question about how you properly serve the blind with pornographic depictions? The LRB doesn’t go into such detail…

Playboy has now given up on the nudes – there’s too much free stuff to compete with, although other industries have managed to accommodate the digital threat – and the Playboy Mansion has now been sold to am investment banker, and in years to come, it may seem a strange anomaly. I don’t know enough about the periodicals of the 1930s to understand what things we thought were important then, vs what we do now, so I wonder if La Serpiente would even believe me if I told her about Playboy’s existence. It would sound as strange as a national newspaper in the UK printing a pair of bare breasts on page 3 every day. That’s something that could never happen, right?

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