My wife's in the other room, working on crafts, so I'm free to address a concern I have about Playboy models, especially those of the 1960s (although my concern really includes Playmates of every year). What's my beef? The absurd conditions or situations under which the magazine's photographers expect Playboy “readers” (read “voyeurs”) to believe (or to pretend not to disbelieve) woman—or Playmates, at any rate—are likely to doff their clothes.
As a critic, I've laid in a good supply of examples—too many, my wife might say—of Playboy's ludicrous pictorials. A writer cannot have too much material from which to work, after all, especially when it is of a pulchritudinous nature. In the interests of time and space (and because my wife could walk in on me at any moment), I will limit my observations to only a few of the many possibilities.
The first offender with whom I shall take umbrage is "Miss May” (1955). A ballerina, she stands at the horizontal pole (no, not that horizontal pole), wearing only a pair of ballet slippers, her left arm cocked that she might lay the palm of her hand over her spill of of blonde locks. She has a meditative air, as if she might be trying to remember the step she's supposed to rehearse. There's nothing ludicrous about such a pose, one who is familiar with ballet may say. Ignorant as I am about the subject, I might well agree, were not Miss May starkers (her slippers excepted). Unless it's typical to rehearse ballet dances in the nude, the situations under which she has gotten naked is ridiculously unbelievable—erotic and alluring, certainly, but absurd, nonetheless.
Next up: “Miss April” (1956) a redhead. Judging by the claw hammer protruding from the rear pocket of her jeans, the cuffs of which are rolled midway up her calves, she has apparently just hung a picture. It's not much of a picture: some wastepaper arranged against a framed black background. Whether the work of art is a collage or a painting of more or less abstract design is anybody's guess, as is the reason for Miss April's topless state of undress. Barefoot, she smiles at the camera as she attempts to straighten the picture on the wall. Two suitcases on the floor beside her, one doubling as a tabletop whereupon sit an ashtray and an incandescent light bulb, suggest, perhaps, that she has only recently moved into a new home and is setting about decorating it to her questionable taste. How likely is it that a woman, in such a situation, would have opted to go topless? If you'll indulge me just a moment, I will ask one. (A moment passes.) I asked, and my wife assures me that it is highly doubtful that any woman would adopt such attire (or lack thereof) under such circumstances. Then, my bitter half asks me why I am asking, and I tell her I am "just curious." She gives me a curious look, but I escape without further ado. There you have it, then: not only I, but my wife also, concludes that this photo of “Miss April” is yet another example of farcical irrationality, despite “Miss April's” own considerable assets.
I have saved the most preposterous example of the idiotic of Playboy photographers for last: that of “Miss December” (1957). A stunning brunette, she lies, absolutely naked, on her right side, looking, expressionlessly into the camera. (Her expressionless expression is remarkable among her ilk; most Playmates are all smiles, all the time, whether they are scrubbing a toilet bowl—not that any ever have, I'd bet—or passing gas, if such heavenly bodies are capable of such an act.) She is framed by either side of the opening to a brick fireplace, and the fact that she lies atop fiery logs, among raging flames, behind a pair of brass andirons, suggests, quite clearly, that she is in the fireplace, not before it. Unless “Miss December” is a fire salamander, a phoenix, or a tropical squid, disguised as a human female, it is impossible that she could survive being roasted alive on a fire. This photograph is, therefore, even more implausible and, in fact, laughable, than the others which I've mentioned as offending one's intelligence by virtue of their lunacy.
Why would as esteemed a literary periodical as Playboy engage in such nonsense? Perhaps the photographers were animated by a juvenile sense of humor. To them, such pictures might have seemed amusing, but it's inconceivable that anyone else, especially the magazine's publisher, the late Hugh Heifer, would have found such situations even remotely amusing. What, then, could be the cause of the appearance of such photographic twaddle?
I submit that the cause is a sheer absence of imagination among the photographers. They were not creative enough to envision any more suitable circumstances for their models' nudity than those they depicted; as a result, readers were annoyed with the asinine pictorials that these “artists” foisted upon the publication's put-upon readers. It would be better by far simply to have presented the models in the altogether, without any pretense for their nudity. Such lame excuses for the women's presentations of their charms as a ballet dancer's contemplation of her next step, the straightening of a picture on a wall, and relaxation in, rather than before, a fire are patently obscene!
After all, even as early as the 1960s, red-white-and-blue-blooded American men were ready, willing, and able to ogle naked Playboy Playmates, no excuses being necessary.