Hef Rex?

Dan Stiffler calendar-girls@mindspring.com
Sat, 10 May 2003 11:21:32 -0400

If PLAYBOY is to survive Mr. Hefner's total retirement (he admits to not
editing the text anymore), it will need an editor who can lead the magazine
into a new cultural era without abandoning the timeless aspects that made
PLAYBOY the success it was during its nascent years.  This condition is
unarguable.  If Mr. Kaminsky is such an editor remains to be seen.  From my
point of view, he has made several false steps with his dismissive actions
and uniformed remarks about the PMOY, but I am also willing to acknowledge
that the learning curve may be more difficult at PLAYBOY than at other
magazines.  Few magazines have such an intensely loyal readership at the
core; if Mr. Kaminsky continues to disrespect the past, he will continue to
receive the criticism--at least until he drives away that loyal core.  I
genuinely hope that he is a quick learner, because Mr. Hefner apparently has
entrusted the future of PLAYBOY to him.

While I am hopeful that Mr. Kaminsky has the capacity and the desire to be
the successful editor of PLAYBOY (which is something different than being
the successful editor of Maxim), I have no hope that he will be able to
succeed Mr. Hefner as Mr. Playboy.  In fact, I do not think it is even
desirable.  As most of us here know, the success of PLAYBOY in the sixties
was built in part on the cult of Mr. Hefner's personality.  Once the Mansion
was purchased, once the clubs were opened, once the TV show was produced,
Mr. Hefner became an integral part of his magazine's appeal.  Mr. Kaminsky
may indeed find a way to lead PLAYBOY in the coming years, but he cannot
become Mr. Playboy.

I make this observation in response to Brian's suggestion that Hef is
royalty and that he needs a successor, an heir to his crown.  Other
magazines have survived the loss of their charismatic founders (The New
Yorker is an example), but it is the magazine that survives, not the
personality of the founder.  When I first started reading PLAYBOY, I was
introduced to not only its playmates and pictorials but also its editor.
Marya Carter was Miss May 1962, Cynthia Maddox was the featured (non-nude)
pictorial, and there on the Dear Playboy page was a photo of Hef with
Cynthia and Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.  Even as a boy on the cusp of
his fourteenth birthday, I recognized that the editor of PLAYBOY had a
unique position at the helm of his magazine.  He was rubbing shoulders with
the greats of jazz and also rubbing bellies with one of the prettiest girls
I had ever seen.

In the coming decades the same would hold true.  Mr. Hefner would deliver a
magazine of remarkable--if eventually lessening--quality while he became a
larger-than-life personality, one of the most recognizable people in the
nation.  Again, as most of us here know, Mr. Hefner's life-long ambitions
were based on the dreams he formed while watching Hollywood's silver screen
during the thirties--that and his attachment to the Esquire Petty Girl.  He
realized these ambitions on a grand scale and he also influenced his
country's culture, surely an unexpected outcome.  For Mr. Hefner's success,
we must credit his unrelenting drive, his articulate genius, and his
romantic personality.

The notion that Mr. Kaminsky (or any subsequent editor) might "inherit"
Hef's mantle is disquieting, if not revolting.  Mr. Kaminsky has been hired
to reshape the magazine for today's young man.  His decisions in that
process should be open to critique but, as long as he commits himself with
energy and integrity to editing the magazine, then the criticism is not
about the man but about his editorial decisions.  Mr. Kaminsky can no more
become Mr. Playboy than Marilyn Monroe could become Jean Harlow, or Bruce
Springsteen could become Bob Dylan.  It is certainly possible for Mr.
Kaminsky to become a successful editor of PLAYBOY, but if the Playboy
Mansion becomes Buckingham Palace, then the empire will most certainly


Dan Stiffler