The New Yorker/Hef Rex

Dan Stiffler
Thu, 15 May 2003 13:41:41 -0400

On 5/13/03 2:46 PM, "David Reeves" <> wrote:
> I think the PMOY non-cover controversy can be explained this way.
> "Joe Millionaire" was a ratings blockbuster (30+ million viewers for
> the finale), while "Who Wants To Be Playboy Playmate?" was dead last
> (4 million viewers, IIRC) in its time slot among the major networks.
> Since the PMOY choice was effectively a spin-off of the latter show (I
> wasn't enthusiatic with Ms Santiago's choice as a PMOM, FWIW), even
> the least media-savvy person would know who to put on the cover.

Are you being ironic?  If not, does this mean that PLAYBOY needs to follow
the TV ratings in order to decide who should be on its covers.  As I
mentioned in my "dangers of celebrity" post, this kind of thinking is simply
abdicating control of the magazine to outside forces.  Might as well let FOX
executives run the magazine.

And look at your comparison more carefully.  The Joe Millionaire was a
series.  The Playmate show was a one-time shot.  A series can build its
viewership.  How many of those 30+ million were there from the beginning?
Well, probably more than I want to know, but the point is that the
comparison is not fair.  The Joe show was hyped so often that even I could
figure out what was going on (and I never saw a single episode).

How many of those 30+ million were women?  Women who couldn't care less what
Sarah's nipples look like?
> Who's to say Playboy won't gain many subscribers because of the
> presence of the "Joe Millionaire" cast-off on its cover?

And who's to say it will?  From most early reports, people have already
forgotten Sarah, which was obviously the fear that Kaminsky had when he
rushed her onto the June cover.  But he had already dropped 500 G's to get
her to take off her bra, so what's an editor to do?

I have already complained about this decision enough, but let's go through
it just one more time.  Sarah is a girl who is so desperate for a husband
that she joins a TV reality show.  Not only that, but she is a gold-digger:
she wants a millionaire husband.  She loses out (sniff, sniff) and gets
rewarded with a half a mil (which would have been her property settlement if
Joe had been for real in the first place), and who pays the bill?  PLAYBOY.

Does this really make sense to anybody out there?

> My
> enthusiasm for buying/back-collecting Playboy surged with the Farrah
> Fawcett-Majors and Raquel Welch NON-nude celebrity issues.  But Farrah
> and Raquel (and later a very nude Bo Derek) have and had careers and
> fan recognition which Playboy could (and still can) exploit.  Poor
> Sarah will be a footnote.

Well, you have just made the point I think.  Sarah and Farrah, hardly a fair
comparison do you think?  It's interesting to note that Farrah first
appeared on December covers (issues that sell well, no matter what); her
last appearance was on the cover of one of those dead months (7/97) and
PLAYBOY even used a gimmick cover to increase sales then.
> But, quite honestly, how many PMOY's can average people name?  And
> Pamela Anderson does NOT count!  What about "just" naming Playmates?
> Depending upon where the interviewee lives and how much TV that person
> sees, the answer will likely include Shannon Tweed, "Jimmy Connor's
> ex", the Baywatch babes (eg. "Pamela LEE Anderson"), their hometown
> Playmate and Anna Nicole Smith.  I'm not being cynical; that really is
> how the "average" people I've talked to relate their anwers.

PLAYBOY was never intended for the *average* person.  If that is whom the
magazine is now aimed at, then that is why some of us have a problem with
the direction it is taking.  I don't care if an average person doesn't know
the names of playmates.  PLAYBOY built a readership (and a big one at that)
on people who did know playmate names and who looked forward to the Playmate
Review in January, the PMOY in June, and the calendar in September.  I've
got friends who have long since stopped buying PLAYBOY but who can name
playmate names and describe playmate layouts and they do so with a fondness
that only a PLAYBOY reader can understand.  PLAYBOY was intended for the
"sophisticated and urbane" reader.  It was intended to be a club (remember,
you needed a membership to get in).  It was not intended for the average.
It was not a magazine aimed at the dumb and dumber, or the

Have you seen The People vs. Larry Flynt?  Great movie.  I love the way
Flynt stands up to Jerry Falwell and the Reagan justice department.  But
remember that scene in Flynt's living room, when they are all sitting around
and Flynt is reading a PLAYBOY and he gets all worked up because the dreams
depicted in PLAYBOY are not his dreams, not really available to him.  Well,
Flynt knew that PLAYBOY was not intended for the average guy and he took
advantage of that.  He built a publishing empire based on the dreams of the
average guy (mainly, pink).  More power to him.  But his audience is not,
and should not be, PLAYBOY's audience.

I have made a lot of friends on the PML and I number you, David, among them.
You know what?  There is not an average person in the bunch.  In fact, some
of them are very smart.  The average people on the PML come and go real
fast.  They are looking for binaries and explicit talk.  They are looking
for the kind of cheap thrills that Joe Millionaire and Hustler offer.
> Will Sarah save the magazine?  No.  But I like her a lot more than
> Sandra Bernhard, Chyna and that OJ crack ho.  I've remained a
> subscriber to Playboy because it's cheaper than buying it at the
> newstand, because I can take 1-2 editorial "bad decisions" per year
> and because the overall product has very few genuine competitors.  But
> watch out if the USA editions of FHM, Maxim, Field & Stream etc ever
> adopt the nude female centerfold as a monthly feature.  Could we tell
> the difference?

Well, I don't know what Field and Stream is doing in your mix, but I must
say that I am confused about where you stand.  Sandra Bernhard at least had
a career.  I didn't like her cover, but at least it had something to do with
PLAYBOY.  Comparing Sarah to the other two does her no favor but Chyna did
at least have a following.  I can take a few editorial "bad decisions"
myself; I have been doing it for years and most of those times I have been a
happy defender of the magazine.

But when I read on the PML about the money offered a Hilton, when I know
that a PEI house cleaning has taken place so that a "celebrity wrangler" can
be hired, well, times have changes, haven't they?


Dan Stiffler