Playboy and Penthouse had the most attractive models of all the jerk mags when I was a kid. Penthouse won out as masturbation fodder by a mile because of the far more explicit pictorials with, again, usually very attractive models. If you think I'm being a bit raw about all of this, you should read National Lampoon from the mid-to-late seventies up to the early eighties, because what I'm saying is nothing to how eloquently they could rhapsodize about the models in Penthouse and what all they would do while gazing upon yon lovely visages.
Penthouse's value as masturbation fodder greatly waned with the advent of, first the home video, and then the internet, to the point where, as explicit as Penthouse may be now, it is even more of an obsolete anachronism than the mac daddy of the mens' mags that started it all: Hef's Playboy. Playboy still has the interviews and the articles. Right? All Penthouse had even in its heyday was articles about alien abductions and whatnot.
The models were always very attractive in Playboy, what was a drag for me was the insistence on featuring large-breasted women. As breast augmentation became more commonplace in the culture, one would see slender models in Playboy with large breast implants. It got so bad that it seemed as if the art directors, Hefner being chief among them, seemed to prefer the models with breast implants over all the others. It was as if Hef had to compromise in the sixties and early seventies, in that he had to feature women with some curves to have his large breasts, and with the coming of the Reagan Era eighties, the old mummy felt like he had the best of both worlds with slender, primarily blond models with large breast implants. The most famous of these were Anna Nicole Smith, Jenny McCarthy, and Pam Anderson. I think they were all Playmates of the Year, too. For variety Hef would toss out a token Black model with large breast implants (Rene Tennyson), or a token Latina with large breast implants (Stacy Sanchez), and make them Playmates of the Year. Whoop-dee-doo! It got so bad during the eighties and nineties that I remember reading a letter from a male reader that went out of its way to praise Playboy for featuring a very attractive model with small breasts.
Another beef I had with the pictorials centered around the use of primarily artificial indoor lighting. This made the pictorial seem, as a raunchier skin mag my brother had in the seventies put it, "antiseptic." The models had virtually no definition of shadow to their forms. It's as if they were laid out like particularly appealing confections in a box rather than a real human with a real body occupying a definite space. A Brazilian edition of Playboy I bought in 1988 had "Sonia Cumbia" in sunlight, and the difference in showing the beauty of that woman was amazing compared to what one would typically get in the American version.
In recent years it seemed as if Hef loosened his grip on the choice of models, if not the choice of Playmate of the Year, and the general art direction of the pictorials, and one saw a noticeable improvement. Also gone was the "Girl Next Door" ideal, for the most part, and the models seemed to be LA based professionals who were willing to do the lucrative nude pictorials, so no complaints from me. These models would typically be really slender, but as often as not have proportionally sized breasts, and hey, let's get a few shots of her out by the pool or on the beach in the sunlight- this ain't fuckin' rocket science guys.
A couple of years ago, the new management at Playboy, one of his son's (Probably the genius behind the Playboy Energy Drink. Remember that one? Anyone drink that?), anyway, Cooper Hefner decided to do away with the nudity in the pictorials. I still got the mag, and each month the pictorials would show more and more skin without quite showing ALL of it. Pretty funny. The models were all young, slender, beautiful, small breasted pros, so I had no real complaints, but I let the subscription run out anyway. Earlier this year I got a card in the mail saying the nudity in Playboy was back, and to prove it they showed a little picture of a young woman with huge, natural-looking gazongas. I don't know if I'll subscribe, though.
All the articles that excoriate his personal life are out there to see, but I'l just say this: Hugh Hefner cites his first wife's confession in 1949(?) that she'd been unfaithful to him as a hugely formative episode that shaped his future direction in life; meaning his founding of Playboy and the pains he took to his dying day to project the fantasy image of himself that attempted to reflect what was portrayed in the magazine. Maybe he could have come to more meaningful terms with this one episode, his wife's confession of infidelity, if he hadn't forged his own key to the proverbial candy store that was previously accessible only to the Frank Sinatras and the John F Kennedys of the world. I mean, as traumatic as that one episode must have been, it was only one episode. Maybe the rest of his life and his relationship with women consisted of making damn sure nothing like that would ever happened to him again.
Maybe Hefner and I think along these lines more than I'm willing to admit. There's a lot of painful stuff from my relationship with women that I don't care to repeat. Maybe the only difference between Hugh Hefner and myself in this regard is that I have long ago admitted to myself this: if I'm attracted enough to someone, and I like them, and I trust them enough to let my guard down, and they've decided it's their mission in life to do some vicious takedown of me, AND they are really good at doing that sort of thing, then hell yeah, someone could totally take me for a ride, just like in the old days. No question.
I personally don't have any problem with looking at naked ladies in magazines in principal. If anyone wants to say bad things about me for this, go ahead. I think the condemnation of that practice in any form is just Puritanism, whether from the Left or the Right. If I were art director of Playboy, I would go with whatever types of models shot in whatever way I thought was most erotic and beautiful, while adhering to the Playboy ethos of not going nearly as far as Penthouse. Yeah, someone would probably have a problem with what they would consider my ideal in beauty, but I don't think it would be as narrow a definition as the ideal models of Hugh Hefner's imaginings seemed to embody.