Playboy is an American men's lifestyle and entertainment magazine. It was founded in Chicago in 1953, by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. Notable for its centerfolds of nude and semi-nude models (Playmates), Playboy played an important role in the sexual revolution and remains one of the world's best-known brands, having grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with a presence in nearly every medium. In addition to the flagship magazine in the United States, special nation-specific versions of Playboy are published worldwide.
The magazine has a long history of publishing short stories by notable novelists such as Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Chuck Palahniuk, P. G. Wodehouse, Roald Dahl, Haruki Murakami, and Margaret Atwood. With a regular display of full-page color cartoons, it became a showcase for notable cartoonists, including Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Cole, Eldon Dedini, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Erich Sokol, Roy Raymonde, Gahan Wilson, and Rowland B. Wilson. Playboy features monthly interviews of notable public figures, such as artists, architects, economists, composers, conductors, film directors, journalists, novelists, playwrights, religious figures, politicians, athletes, and race car drivers. The magazine generally reflects a liberal editorial stance, although it often interviews conservative celebrities.
After a year-long removal of most nude photos in Playboy magazine, the March-April 2017 issue brought back nudity.
By spring 1953, Hugh Hefner—a 1949 University of Illinois psychology graduate who had worked in Chicago for Esquire magazine writing promotional copy; Publisher's Development Corporation in sales and marketing; and Children's Activities magazine as circulation promotions manager—had planned out the elements of his own magazine, that he would call Stag Party. He formed HMH Publishing Corporation, and recruited his friend Eldon Sellers to find investors. Hefner eventually raised just over $8,000, including from his brother and mother. However, the publisher of an unrelated men's adventure magazine, Stag, contacted Hefner and informed him it would file suit to protect their trademark if he were to launch his magazine with that name. Hefner, his wife Millie, and Sellers met to seek a new name, considering "Top Hat", "Gentleman", "Sir'", "Satyr", "Pan" and "Bachelor" before Sellers suggested "Playboy".
The first issue, in December 1953, was undated, as Hefner was unsure there would be a second. He produced it in his Hyde Park kitchen. The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, although the picture used originally was taken for a calendar rather than for Playboy. Hefner chose what he deemed the "sexiest" image, a previously unused nude study of Marilyn stretched with an upraised arm on a red velvet background with closed eyes and mouth open. The heavy promotion centered around Marilyn's nudity on the already-famous calendar, together with the teasers in marketing, made the new Playboy magazine a success. The first issue sold out in weeks. Known circulation was 53,991. The cover price was 50¢. Copies of the first issue in mint to near mint condition sold for over $5,000 in 2002.
The novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, was published in 1953 and serialized in the March, April and May 1954 issues of Playboy.
An urban legend started about Hefner and the Playmate of the Month because of markings on the front covers of the magazine. From 1955 to 1979 (except for a six-month gap in 1976), the "P" in Playboy had stars printed in or around the letter. The legend stated that this was either a rating that Hefner gave to the Playmate according to how attractive she was, the number of times that Hefner had slept with her, or how good she was in bed. The stars, between zero and 12, actually indicated the domestic or international advertising region for that printing.
From 1966 to 1976, Robie Macauley was the Fiction Editor at Playboy. During this period the magazine published fiction by Saul Bellow, Seán Ó Faoláin, John Updike, James Dickey, John Cheever, Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, Vladimir Nabokov, Michael Crichton, John le Carré, Irwin Shaw, Jean Shepherd, Arthur Koestler, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, John Irving, Anne Sexton, Nadine Gordimer, Kurt Vonnegut and J. P. Donleavy, as well as poetry by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Macauley also contributed all of the popular Ribald Classics series published between January 1978 and March 1984.
Since reaching its peak in the 1970s, Playboy saw a decline in circulation and cultural relevance due to competition in the field it founded—first from Penthouse, then Oui (which was published as a spin-off of Playboy) and Gallery in the 1970s; later from pornographic videos; and more recently from lad mags such as Maxim, FHM, and Stuff. In response, Playboy has attempted to re-assert its hold on the 18–35 male demographic through slight changes to content and focusing on issues and personalities more appropriate to its audience—such as hip-hop artists being featured in the "Playboy Interview".
Christie Hefner, daughter of the founder Hugh Hefner, joined Playboy in 1975 and became head of the company in 1988. She announced in December 2008 that she would be stepping down from leading the company, effective in January 2009, and said that the election of Barack Obama as the next President had inspired her to give more time to charitable work, and that the decision to step down was her own. “Just as this country is embracing change in the form of new leadership, I have decided that now is the time to make changes in my own life as well,” she said.
The magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary with the January 2004 issue. Celebrations were held at Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, and Moscow during the year to commemorate this event. Playboy also launched limited-edition products designed by a number of notable fashion-houses such as Versace, Vivienne Westwood and Sean Jean. As a hommage to the magazine 50th anniversary, MAC Cosmetics released two limited-edition products, namely a lipstick and a glitter cream.
The magazine runs several annual features and ratings. One of the most popular is its annual ranking of the top "party schools" among all U.S. universities and colleges. For 2009, the magazine used five considerations: bikini, brains, campus, sex and sports in the development of its list. The top ranked party school by Playboy for 2009 was the University of Miami.
In June 2009, the magazine reduced its publication schedule to 11 issues per year, with a combined July/August issue and on August 11, 2009. London's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Hugh Hefner had sold his English Manor house (next door to the famous Playboy Mansion) for $18 m ($10 m less than the reported asking price) to another American Daren Metropoulos the President and co-owner of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Also that due to significant losses in the company's value (down from $1 billion in 2000 to $84 million in 2009) the Playboy publishing empire is up for sale for $300 million. In December 2009, they further reduced the publication schedule to 10 issues per year, with a combined January/February issue.
On July 12, 2010, Playboy Enterprises Inc. announced Hefner's $5.50 per share offer ($122.5 million based on shares outstanding on April 30 and the closing price on July 9) to buy the portion of the company he did not already own and take the company private with the help of Rizvi Traverse Management LLC. The company derives much of its income from licensing rather than the magazine. On July 15, Penthouse owner FriendFinder Networks Inc. offered $210 million (the company is valued at $185 million), though Hefner, who already owned 70 percent of voting stock, did not want to sell. In January 2011, the publisher of Playboy magazine agreed to an offer by Hefner to take the company private for $6.15 per share, an 18 percent premium over the price of the last previous day of trading. The buyout was completed in March 2011.
In October 2015, Playboy announced that starting with their March 2016 issue, the magazine would no longer feature full frontal nudity. Playboy CEO Scott Flanders acknowledged the magazine's inability to compete with freely available Internet pornography and nudity; according to him, "You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture". Hefner agreed with the decision. The redesigned Playboy, however, would still feature a Playmate of the Month and pictures of women, but they would be rated as not appropriate for children under 13. The move would not affect PlayboyPlus.com (which features nudity at a paid subscription). Josh Horwitz of Quartz argues that the motivation for the decision to remove nudity from the magazine was to give Playboy Licensing a less deviant image in India and China, where the brand is a popular item on apparel and thus generates significant revenue.
Among other changes to the magazine included ending the popular jokes section and the various cartoons that appeared throughout the magazine. The redesign eliminated the use of jump copy (articles continuing on non-consecutive pages), which in turn eliminated most of the space for cartoons. Hefner, himself a former cartoonist, reportedly resisted dropping the cartoons more than the nudity, but ultimately obliged. Playboy's plans were to market itself as a competitor to Vanity Fair as opposed to more traditional competitors GQ and Maxim.
Playboy announced in February 2017, however, that the dropping of nudity had been a mistake, and furthermore for its March/April issue reestablished some of its franchises, including The Playboy Philosophy and Party Jokes, but dropped the subtitle "Entertainment for Men" inasmuch as gender roles have evolved. The announcement was made by the company's chief creative officer on Twitter with the hashtag #NakedIsNormal.
In early 2018, and according to Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times, Playboy was reportedly "considering killing the print magazine," as the publication "has lost as much as $7 million annually in recent years."
The best-selling Playboy edition was the November 1972 edition, which sold 7,161,561 copies. One-quarter of all American college men were buying or subscribing to the magazine every month. On the cover was model Pam Rawlings, photographed by Rowland Scherman.
Perhaps coincidentally, a cropped image of the issue's centerfold (which featured Lena Söderberg) became a de facto standard image for testing image processing algorithms. It is known simply as the "Lenna" (also "Lena") image in that field.
In 1970, Playboy became the first gentleman's magazine to be printed in braille. It is also one of the few magazines whose microfilm format was in color, not black and white.
Playboy's iconic and enduring mascot, a stylized silhouette of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, was created by Playboy art director Art Paul for the second issue as an endnote, but was adopted as the official logo and has appeared ever since. A running joke in the magazine involves hiding the logo somewhere in the cover art or photograph. Hefner said he chose the rabbit for its "humorous sexual connotation", and because the image was "frisky and playful".
In an interview Hefner explained his choice of a rabbit as Playboy's logo to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci:
The rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning; and I chose it because it's a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping - sexy. First it smells you then it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like caressing it, playing with it. A girl resembles a bunny. Joyful, joking. Consider the girl we made popular: the Playmate of the Month. She is never sophisticated, a girl you cannot really have. She is a young, healthy, simple girl - the girl next door . . . we are not interested in the mysterious, difficult woman, the femme fatale, who wears elegant underwear, with lace, and she is sad, and somehow mentally filthy. The Playboy girl has no lace, no underwear, she is naked, well washed with soap and water, and she is happy.
The jaunty rabbit was quickly a popular symbol of extroverted male culture, becoming a lucrative source of merchandizing revenue for Playboy. In the 1950s, it was adopted as military aircraft insignia for the Navy's VX-4 fighter-evaluation squadron.
Besides its centerfold, a major part of Playboy for much of its existence has been the Playboy Interview, an extensive (usually several thousand-word) discussion between a notable individual and an interviewer (historian Alex Haley, for example, served as a Playboy interviewer on a few occasions; one of his interviews was with Martin Luther King Jr.; he also interviewed Malcolm X and American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell in the April 1966 issue, then coauthored Malcolm X's autobiography). One of the magazine's most notable interviews was a discussion with then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in the November 1976 issue, in which he stated "I've committed adultery in my heart many times." David Sheff's interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared in the January 1981 issue, which was on newsstands at the time of Lennon's murder; the interview was later published in book format.
Another interview type section, entitled "20Q" (a play on the game of Twenty Questions), was added in October 1978. Cheryl Tiegs was the first interviewee for the section.
"Rock the Rabbit" was an annual music news and pictorial feature published in the March edition. The pictorial featured images of rock bands photographed by music photographer Mick Rock. Fashion designers participated in the Rock the Rabbit event by designing T-shirts inspired by Playboy's rabbit head logo for each band. The shirts were sold at Playboy's retailers and auctioned off to raise money for AIDS at LIFEbeat: The Music Industry Fights AIDS. Notable bands who were featured include: MGMT, Daft Punk, Iggy Pop, Duran Duran, Flaming Lips, Snow Patrol, and The Killers.
Many notable photographers have contributed to Playboy, including Ken Marcus, Richard Fegley, Arny Freytag, Ron Harris, Tom Kelley, David Mecey, Russ Meyer, Pompeo Posar, Suze Randall, Herb Ritts, Stephen Wayda, Sam Wu, Mario Casilli, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, and Bunny Yeager.
Many celebrities (singers, actresses, models, etc.) have posed for Playboy over the years. This list is only a small portion of those who have posed. Some of them are:
The success of Playboy magazine has led PEI to market other versions of the magazine, the Special Editions (formerly called Newsstand Specials), such as Playboy's College Girls and Playboy's Book of Lingerie, as well as the Playboy video collection.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has published a Braille edition of Playboy since 1970. The Braille version includes all the written words in the non-Braille magazine, but no pictorial representations. Congress cut off funding for the Braille magazine translation in 1985, but U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan reversed the decision on First Amendment grounds.
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The growth of the Internet prompted the magazine to develop an official web presence called Playboy Online or Playboy.com, which is the official website for Playboy Enterprises, and an online companion to Playboy magazine. The site has been available online since 1994. As part of the online presence, Playboy developed a pay web site called the Playboy Cyber Club in 1995 which features online chats, additional pictorials, videos of Playmates and Playboy Cyber Girls that are not featured in the magazine. Archives of past Playboy articles and interviews are also included. In September 2005, Playboy launched the online edition of the magazine Playboy Digital.
In 2010, Playboy introduced "The Smoking Jacket", a safe-for-work website designed to appeal to young men, while avoiding nude images or key words that would cause the site to be filtered or otherwise prohibited in the workplace.
In May 2011, Playboy introduced i.playboy.com, a complete, uncensored version of its near 700 issue archive, targeting the Apple iPad. By launching the archive as a web app, Playboy was able to circumvent both Apple's App Store content restrictions and their 30% subscription fee.
On January 14, 2004, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s (PEI) trademark terms "Playboy" and "Playmate" should be protected in the situation where a user typing "Playboy" or "Playmate" in a browser search was instead shown advertisements of companies that competed with PEI. (The decision reversed an earlier district court ruling.) The suit started on April 15, 1999, when Playboy sued Excite Inc. and Netscape for trademark infringement.
Many in the American religious community opposed the publication of Playboy. The Louisiana pastor and author L. L. Clover wrote in his 1974 treatise Evil Spirits Intellectualism and Logic that Playboy encouraged young men to view themselves as "pleasure-seeking individuals for whom sex is fun and women are play things."
In many parts of Asia, including India, mainland China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei, sale and distribution of Playboy is banned. In addition, sale and distribution is banned in most Muslim countries (except Lebanon and Turkey) in Asia and Africa, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Despite the ban on the magazine in these countries, the official Playboy brand itself can still appear on various merchandise such as perfume and deodorants.
While banned in mainland China, the magazine is sold in Hong Kong. In Japan, where genitals of models cannot be shown, a separate edition was published under license by Shueisha. An Indonesian edition was launched in April 2006, but controversy started before the first issue hit the stands. Though the publisher said the content of the Indonesian edition will be different from the original edition, the government tried to ban it by using anti-pornography rules. A Muslim organization, the Islamic Defenders Front (IDF), opposed Playboy on the grounds of pornography. On April 12, about 150 IDF members clashed with police and stoned the editorial offices. Despite this, the edition quickly sold out. On April 6, 2007, the chief judge of the case dismissed the charges because they had been incorrectly filed.
In 1986, the American convenience store chain 7-Eleven removed the magazine. The store returned Playboy to its shelves in late 2003. 7-Eleven had also been selling Penthouse and other similar magazines before the ban.
In 1995, Playboy was returned to shelves in the Republic of Ireland after a 36-year ban, despite staunch opposition from many women's groups.
Playboy was not sold in the state of Queensland, Australia during 2004 and 2005 but returned as of 2006. Due to declining sales, the last Australia-wide edition of Playboy was the January 2000 issue.
In 2013, Playboy was cleared by the Pentagon of violating its rule against selling sexually explicit material on military property, but the base exchanges stopped selling it anyway.