playboy50: Let's begin (Steve Sloca)
Mon, 11 Nov 2002 02:22:42 +0000

Although I'm a little late with this post, I did want to add my
response to the "what Playboy has meant to me" topic, because I think
that I have had perhaps greater involvement with Playboy than anyone
who has previously posted.

Like most of those who have contributed on this topic, Playboy has
been an important part of my life from my youth.  I was 15 years old
when I saw my first issue.  My parents had to rush out of town to
attend a funeral; and they had parked me in the house of a friend, a
suave, independently wealthy history professor who lived in the most
expensive house in town.  Bored by TV one evening, I started leafing
through the magazines the prof had left in the nightstand in his guest
room.  On the bottom of the stack was the June 1960 issue of
Playboy--with Delores Wells as the centerfold and a pictorial on PMOY
Ellen Stratton.  It was like being hit with lightning, that first look
at Delores' fully nude curves, laid out so casually on her beach
blanket, with a look in her eyes that said to me, "why don't you join
me!"  In one moment that lives forever in my mind, the female gender
stopped being a gaggle of silly, giggling girls and began to be
alluring objects of both sexual desire and a newly-found need to hold,
protect and care for them.  I could not put that issue down or bear to
part with it; so when I returned home, it was with that stolen Playboy
in my suitcase.

After reading that issue cover to cover, word for word, I desparately
wanted more.  In those days, as Peggy has noted, it was illegal to
sell Playboy to minors--and Bible Belt Iowa was pretty rigorous in
enforcing this edict.  But my local drugstore occasionally employed
some of my high school classmates as sales clerks during busy periods;
and I used to hang around the store at those times, waiting
breathlessly until the other customers had left, until I could finally
sidle up to the counter and get my buddy to slip me a copy from the
stack kept hidden away from public view.  In that way, Miss July 1960
(Teddi Smith), Miss October 1960 (Kathy Douglas), Miss March 1961
(Tonya Crews), Miss June 1961 (Heidi Becker), Miss December 1961 (Lynn
Karrol) and Miss May 1962 (Marya Carter) joined Delores in my
carefully hidden collection.  Reading and re-reading these issues
(always late at night, when all the rest of the family was asleep), I
got a sense of what it might mean to be a sophisticated man of the
'60's: the clothes, the home and apartment furnishings, the ideals and
principles of an enlightened male, and, of course, the kind of women
who would be my companions in this life.

When I arrived on the Dartmouth College campus in the Fall of 1962,
the first purchase I made in the College Bookstore was the Playmate
calendar.  That calendar and its successors through the years has hung
near my desk in every place I have lived since that first day I hung
it up in my dorm room.  The second purchase I made that day, after
paying for my calendar and books, was a subscription to Playboy--a
subscription which has remained unbroken for over 40 years (it was
even delivered to me in Vietnam!).  One of my deepest regrets is that
in my college days, I could not afford the $125 it took to get a
"lifetime" subscription to Playboy, not only because it would have
saved me a lot of money as it turned out, but also because Playboy
promised that Lifetime Subscribers would get their first issue
personally delivered by a Playmate!

In those days, Playboy totally captured the ideas and aspirations of
the Eastern liberal arts college male.  We were passionate about civil
rights and gobbled up the interviews with Dick Gregory and Malcolm X.
We believed in free speech, free love and "liberal" politics and
identified with the Playboy Philosophy.  (As you can imagine, I really
identify with Dianne's account of her relationship to the Playboy
Philosophy.)  We desired the "good life" of fast cars, free-flowing
alcoholic beverages, and casual clothes; and Playboy told us what to
buy.  And we wanted our women to be "bunnies" in bed, but educated and
worldly companions out of bed; and the Playmates--or most of
them--were portrayed as fitting that description.  Playboy was as
significant a mirror of our lives and times as youth of the '60's and
early '70's as Life or Time Magazines were for our parents.  Indeed,
when I was interning in Washington, D.C., for Missouri Congressman Tom
Curtis and he wanted to publish an article that would reach the
majority of young people, I said, "You have to get it into Playboy!"
(He agreed, so my ghost-written article under his by-line appears in

Like many others, my dorm room at Yale Law School was decorated in
Playmate centerfolds (Gwen Wong, DeDe Lind, Dianne Chandler, and
Surrey Marshe most prominently); and I carried that decorating ideal
with me to Vietnam.  When I fell in love with my Vietnamese
wife-to-be, it was there beneath the walls covered with the
centerfolds of 1970-71; and I think I won her over by telling her
(truthfully) that I thought she was beautiful enough to be a
centerfold herself.  She was only 4'10" and had a figure more like
Elisa Bridges, but her delicate heart-shaped face, sparkling black
eyes and long black hair would have easily qualified her for
Playmatehood.  Both my wife and I were regular readers of Playboy in
the 1970's; and we kept the current issue on our coffee table, as it
was often a stimulous for discussion with friends.

Some years after returning from Vietnam and settling in LA, I happened
to run across a copy of a "Price Guide" to back issues of magazines
and was shocked to discover that my older issues of Playboy were worth
many times more than their cover price.  The next time I visited my
parents, I rushed to the basement where they had stored my
college-days possessions and was horrified to see that many of my
'60's issues had become mildewed or water damaged.  I then started to
frequent used book and magazine dealers, at first to replace the
issues that been damaged, but then to acquire those I didn't have,
including the earlier '50's issues.  In short, I became a collector,
and developed the passion for finding the rare issues and in making
big deals in dingy, dusty storerooms.

My biggest triumph of those early days of collecting was in getting an
issue #1 in good condition for only $800 (the centerfold had come
loose from its staples, so I convinced the dealer it was defective).
By 1986, I was down to one issue left to acquire--issue #2, January
1954.  I never will forget that day in July, 1986, when I entertained
an out-of-town dealer over lunch at an upscale Beverly Hills
restaurant; and over the crystal and silver handed him my check for
$1,500 for a mint condition issue #2.  But completing the collection
of every issue of Playboy (which remains complete to this day) was not
enough, once I had gotten the "bug."  There were those older pre-1963
calendars--and I got them all, in their original sleeves.  There were
the "flats" as they were called, the early NSS's; and I got all of
them too.  In the process, I also acquired most of the Playboy books
that dealt with the magazine or its contents, most of the
V.I.P. Playboy Club magazines (I am missing only one issue), the
majority of issues of Oui when it was owned by Playboy, and a few
other Playboy items as well.  By 1990, the only thing left (I thought)
to collect were the foreign issues of Playboy; and those are now my
current collecting passion.  I have over 2,000 foreign issues,
including all but 3 issues of Playboy Hong Kong (the pre-1993
version), all but 6 issues of Playboy Australia, all but 12 issues of
Playboy Germany, all of the Croatian and Slovakian issues, and a
majority of the rest of the Playboy editions.

In 1997, with my youngest son off to college and my marriage falling
apart (my now ex-wife developed paranoid schizophrenia and became
impossible to live with), I saw an ad in the LA Times Sports Section
for a collectors' show called "Glamourcon" where Playmates would be
signing autographs for fans.  Ahah, I said to myself, something else
to collect!  I don't remember what number that Glamourcon was (it was
the one where the Playmates were behind a big U-shaped table in the
center of the room), but I will always remember meeting some of my
youthful fantasies face-to-face, like DeDe Lind, Gwen Wong and Lisa
Baker, and finding them as absolutely charming and gracious--and
sexy--as I had imagined them to be.  That was the beginning of my
Playmate autograph collection, which has now reached over 100
centerfolds (40 of them framed) and numerous other photos, cards, and
the like (I have 220 signatures in my Playmate Book--anyone have
more?).  I also have all the card sets (including autograph, chase and
box cards).  My collection is insured for $60,000, but to me it is
worth much more, as it represents 25 years of collecting.

But this is only background for what was to follow.  At the G-con in
the Fall of 1998, I especially wanted to get the autograph of Victoria
Zdrok, who seemed to me to be the only Playmate of the '90's that
exemplified the "ideal" woman of the earlier years of Playboy with
which I had grown up.  She was not only beautiful in her way (I am not
particularly partial to blondes or tall, busty women, but she is a
good representative of the best of that genre), but more importantly,
she was highly educated (or becoming so), articulate, and determined
to succeed, and thus fit the "bunny in bed and a brilliant
conversationalist out of it" fantasy more than any of the Hollywood
wanna-be's that seemed to be dominating the CF in the mid- to
late-90's.  I did get to meet her then; and while she threw me off a
little by her wild, super-sexed outfit (not the look I expected from a
Ph.D./lawyer), her conversational skills were every bit up to my
expectations.  She convinced me to take a look at her web site which
she had recently started; and so I did--and joined that very night!
Her pictures there were very amateurish, but their was nothing
amateurish about her philosophy: with "senseless acts of random
kindness" among her "turn-on's," her insistence on being "an uncommon
person" willing to think for herself rather than to follow the crowd,
and her ambition "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of
people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest
critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate
beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, an artistic expression, or
a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier
because I have lived."

I could tell just from her own self-expression on her site that
Victoria was a kindred soul; and I told her as much in an e-mail I
wrote the day we met.

Because Victoria was then in the habit of answering all of her
members' e-mail (as she still does today), she answered mine; and that
began a long series of e-mails about everything from Playboy to
feminism to the state of affairs in the former Soviet Union.  Then
there came a night in late February, 1999, when I received an almost
tearful e-mail from Victoria, saying she would have to take her site
off the internet because her ISP was hitting her with an $8,000 bill
for "excessive" bandwidth use, as a result of a sustained hacker
attack on her site (someone had posted a password to her members area
on a hacker board and every hacker in the world was trying to download
every picture on it).  My law firm, however, specialized in high-tech
and internet law, so I was familiar with such things as servers and
bandwidth.  I wrote her back, saying she should get her own server,
one that might give her some protection from hackers and big ISP
bills.  She replied that she didn't have the money for such a
solution.  Well.....I did.

A few months later, we formed Cybermate Webservices and became
partners in an ISP which specializes in Playmate, Pet and model sites.
She introduced me to her Playmate friends, many of who became clients;
and I started helping her with her site, enlisting my older son--who
grew up on a computer--as our company webmaster.  I learned not only
to create web pages, but to arrange photoshoots, hire photographers
(and take pictures myself), and represent Playmates in dealing with
the riff-raff that constantly try to take advantage of them.  On
January 1, 2000, I took early retirement from my law firm and now
devote full time to this business.  My friendship with Victoria has
grown through the years, despite the differences in our ages, until I
can say she is the closest friend I have ever had and she says the
same about me.  I was honored recently to be at her bedside when she
was recovering from the birth of her first child Silvana (a future PM
for 2024, if I ever saw one!).

So now I have come full circle, from the naive 15 year old staring at
his first Playmate, to the somewhat jaded 57 year old who works with
Playmates on a daily basis, helping with their websites, their legal
problems, and their relations with Playboy.  We defend our clients
against Playboy's somewhat high-handed attempts to curtail their
efforts to make a living from their Playmate status; and so I have had
numerous occasions to deal with Playboy's legal department, its
outside counsel (whose lead lawyer in LA is a former partner of mine)
and its promotions department.  I was even present during Hefner's
deposition in the Terri Welles case and so heard first-hand his
concept of the magazine and the role of the Playmate in it.

So when I address the "wither goes Playboy" questions before this
group, as I hope to do, it will be from one perspective, as an
advocate for the Playmates--at least those of whom have the
intelligence and drive to achieve something from their Playmate status
beyond bimbo movie roles and Mansion invitations.  From another
perspective, it will be as a man who once thought Playboy stood for
the ideals that I most cherish--free speech, racial and gender
equality, tolerance towards new and different ideas (the true
definition of "liberalism"), sex as an openly discussed and
appreciated part of human life, and beauty defined as the whole person
and not just in terms of the size of a woman's breasts or a man's
cock.  I believe that Playboy is failing on both counts these days,
both in its selection and treatment of its Playmates and in its
adherence to the ideals which endeared it to a generation....but that
is a subject for another time.