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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:03 pm 
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Nudes Are Old News at Playboy
By RAVI SOMAIYA
October 12, 2015

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Playboy's 1953 debut, with Marilyn Monroe.

Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.

In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Mr. Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: the magazine, a leader of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.

Mr. Hefner, now 89, but still listed as editor in chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude. Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.

Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Many of the magazines that followed it have disappeared. Though detailed figures are not kept for adult magazines, many of those that remain exist in severely diminished form, available mostly in specialist stores. Penthouse, perhaps the most famous Playboy competitor, responded to the threat from digital pornography by turning even more explicit. It never recovered.

Previous efforts to revamp Playboy, as recently as three years ago, have never quite stuck. And those who have accused it of exploiting women are unlikely to be assuaged by a modest cover-up. But, according to its own research, Playboy’s logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, along with those of Apple and Nike. This time, as the magazine seeks to compete with younger outlets like Vice, Mr. Flanders said, it sought to answer a key question: “if you take nudity out, what’s left?”

It is difficult, in a media market that has been so fragmented by the web, to imagine the scope of Playboy’s influence at its peak. A judge once ruled that denying blind people a Braille version of it violated their First Amendment rights. It published stories by Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami among others, and its interviews have included Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter, who admitted that he had lusted in his heart for women other than his wife. Madonna, Sharon Stone and Naomi Campbell posed for the magazine at the peak of their fame. Its
A look back at what made Playboy magazine and the lifestyle Hugh Hefner represented so prominent for decades.

Even those who disliked it cared enough to pay attention — Gloria Steinem, the pioneering feminist, went undercover as a waitress, or Playboy Bunny, in one of Mr. Hefner’s spinoff clubs to write an exposé for Show Magazine in 1963.

When Mr. Hefner created the magazine, which featured Marilyn Monroe on its debut cover in 1953, he did so to please himself. “If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you,” he said in his first editor’s letter. “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex ...” He did not put a date on the cover of the first issue, in case Playboy did not make it to a second.

Mr. Hefner “just revolutionized the whole direction of how we live, of our lifestyles and the kind of sex you might have in America,” said Dian Hanson, author of a six-volume history of men’s magazines and an editor for Taschen. “But taking the nudity out of Playboy is going to leave what?”

The latest redesign, 62 years later, is more pragmatic. The magazine had already made some content safe for work, Mr. Flanders said, in order to be allowed on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, vital sources of web traffic.

In August of last year, its website dispensed with nudity. As a result, Playboy executives said, the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30, and its web traffic jumped to about 16 million from about four million unique users per month.

The magazine will adopt a cleaner, more modern style, said Mr. Jones, who as chief content officer also oversees its website. There will still be a Playmate of the Month, but the pictures will be “PG-13” and less produced — more like the racier sections of Instagram. “A little more accessible, a little more intimate,” he said. It is not yet decided whether there will still be a centerfold.

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Cory Jones, chief content officer of Playboy, presented Mr. Hefner with the idea of eliminating nudity from the magazine last month. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Its sex columnist, Mr. Jones said, will be a “sex-positive female,” writing enthusiastically about sex. And Playboy will continue its tradition of investigative journalism, in-depth interviews and fiction. The target audience, Mr. Flanders said, is young men who live in cities. “The difference between us and Vice,” he said, “is that we’re going after the guy with a job.”

Some of the moves, like expanded coverage of liquor, are partly commercial, Mr. Flanders admitted; the magazine must please its core advertisers. And all the changes have been tested in focus groups with an eye toward attracting millennials — people between the ages of 18 and 30-something, highly coveted by publishers. The magazine will feature visual artists, with their work dotted through the pages, in part because research revealed that younger people are drawn to art.

The company now makes most of its money from licensing its ubiquitous brand and logo across the world — 40 percent of that business is in China even though the magazine is not available there — for bath products, fragrances, clothing, liquor and jewelry among other merchandise. Nudity in the magazine risks complaints from shoppers, and diminished distribution.

Playboy, which had gone public in 1971, was taken private again in 2011 by Mr. Hefner with Rizvi Traverse Management, an investment firm founded by Suhail Rizvi, a publicity-shy Silicon Valley investor, who has interests in Twitter, Square and Snapchat among others. The firm now owns over 60 percent. Mr. Hefner owns about 30 percent (some shares are held by Playboy management).

The magazine is profitable if money from licensed editions around the world is taken into account, Mr. Flanders said, but the United States edition loses about $3 million a year. He sees it, he said, as a marketing expense. “It is our Fifth Avenue storefront,” he said.

He and Mr. Jones feel that the magazine remains relevant, not least because the world has gradually adopted Mr. Hefner’s libertarian views on a variety of social issues. Asked whether Mr. Hefner’s views on women were the exception to that rule, Mr. Flanders responded that Mr. Hefner had “always celebrated the beauty of the female figure.” “Don’t get me wrong,” Mr. Jones said of the decision to dispense with nudity, “12-year-old me is very disappointed in current me. But it’s the right thing to do.”

Source: New York Times.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:29 pm 
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Playboy magazine publishes last issue featuring naked women
by Adam Gabbatt
11 December 2015

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Playboy magazine’s January/February 2016 cover features Pamela Anderson. Photograph: Reuters

The last issue of Playboy to feature naked women went on sale on Friday, with the magazine stating it will now switch to being “non-nude”.

The January/February 2016 issue, which features Pamela Anderson on its cover, draws a close to 62 years of nudity. It is likely to become a collectors’ issue among fans and magazine aficionados. “The question everyone will likely be asking is, ‘Why?’” a statement in October said, announcing the change. “Playboy has been a friend to nudity, and nudity has been a friend to Playboy, for decades. The short answer is: times change.”

The magazine was founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, who remains its editor-in-chief. The first issue featured Marilyn Monroe. Other celebrities to have posed include Ursula Andress, Kim Basinger and Drew Barrymore. In the last nude issue, Anderson is interviewed by James Franco – who played Hefner in Lovelace, a 2013 film about the porn industry in the 1970s. The back-and-forth between the two, typical of Playboy’s interview style, only covers one page. True to form, Anderson is also photographed in a series of revealing poses.

Playboy relaunched its website as non-nude in 2014 and claims to have tens of millions of readers each month. The question now is whether the non-nude version of the magazine can increase sales, or even maintain the same level. The New York Times reported that Playboy’s circulation had dropped from 5.6m in 1975 to about 800,000 currently.

“I have my doubts,” said Dr Samir Husni, director of the University of Mississippi’s magazine innovation center. “Mainly because of the name Playboy. Playboy is as old as I am. I was born in 1953. So your perception of what Playboy is is not going to change.” Husni, who is also known as “Mr Magazine”, said Playboy had been claiming for years that people bought the magazine for its in-depth articles, interviews and reviews, “and that the pictures were just like the icing on the cake”. The problem with that, he said, is that “if the cake is not good, which Playboy has not been for some time”, then the magazine will continue to struggle. “When was the last time you heard anyone talking about Playboy content, about an interview on Playboy?” he said.

In its heyday, Playboy featured interviews with Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Jimmy Carter. A famous interview with John Lennon, published just before his death, saw him defend his relationship with Yoko Ono.

Husni predicted there would be an uplift in sales for the last nude issue and the first non-nude issue. But he said the magazine was still unlikely to be sold in mainstream retailers, and would this continue to struggle with sales, given its reputation. “Will I ever see Playboy at my Walmart?” he asked. “No, because the name, the perception, is much bigger, no matter what’s in it.”

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:35 pm 
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Penthouse magazine axes print edition
by Mark Sweney
Wednesday, 20 January 2016

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Penthouse magazine is to scrap its print magazine and go online-only.

Adult magazine Penthouse is to end its print edition after 50 years and go online-only.

The closure of the print edition of the magazine, which was founded in 1965 by Bob Guccione, follows the announcement last year by Hugh Hefner’s rival Playboy that it will no longer feature naked women.

FriendFinder Networks, the magazine’s parent company, said that subscribers to the print edition will be converted to digital. “This will be a new way for its readers to experience the world’s best adult magazine,” said FriendFinder chief executive Jonathan Buckheit in a statement. “Reimagined for the preferred consumption of content today by consumers, the digital version of Penthouse magazine will combine and convert everything readers know and love about the print magazine experience to the power of a digital experience – giving people an open-ended reading experience, available anytime, anywhere.” The magazine will also relocate its New York operations to the Los Angeles offices of FriendFinder Networks.

The rise of freely available content on the internet forced a string of magazines to close. In November, FHM and Zoo followed Loaded and Nuts in folding marking the end of the lads’ magazine era as men turn to mobile phones and social media.

Besides publishing Penthouse, FriendFinder Networks operates a number of adult-oriented social networking sites including AdultFriendFinder.com, Amigos.com, AsiaFriendFinder.com and SeniorFriendFinder.com. The company has faced financial difficulties in recent years. FriendFinder Networks filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013. The company was cleared to exit bankruptcy later that year.

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:20 pm 
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Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner dies aged 91
September 28, 2017

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the pipe-smoking hedonist who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television, symbolized by bow-tied women in bunny costumes, has died at age 91.

Hefner died of natural causes at his home surrounded by family on Wednesday night, Playboy said in a statement. As much as anyone, Hefner helped slip sex out of the confines of plain brown wrappers and into mainstream conversation. In 1953, a time when states could legally ban contraceptives, when the word "pregnant" was not allowed on "I Love Lucy," Hefner published the first issue of Playboy, featuring naked photos of Marilyn Monroe (taken years earlier) and an editorial promise of "humor, sophistication and spice." The Great Depression and World War II were over and America was ready to get undressed.

Playboy soon became forbidden fruit for teenagers and a bible for men with time and money, primed for the magazine's prescribed evenings of dimmed lights, hard drinks, soft jazz, deep thoughts and deeper desires. Within a year, circulation neared 200,000. Within five years, it had topped 1 million.

By the 1970s, the magazine had more than 7 million readers and had inspired such raunchier imitations as Penthouse and Hustler. Competition and the internet reduced circulation to less than 3 million by the 21st century, and the number of issues published annually was cut from 12 to 11. In 2015, Playboy ceased publishing images of naked women, citing the proliferation of nudity on the internet.

But Hefner and Playboy remained brand names worldwide. Asked by The New York Times in 1992 of what he was proudest, Hefner responded: "That I changed attitudes toward sex. That nice people can live together now. That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex. That gives me great satisfaction."

Hefner ran Playboy from his elaborate mansions, first in Chicago and then in Los Angeles, and became the flamboyant symbol of the lifestyle he espoused. For decades he was the pipe-smoking, silk-pajama-wearing center of a constant party with celebrities and Playboy models. By his own account, Hefner had sex with more than a thousand women, including many pictured in his magazine. One of rock n' roll's most decadent tours, the Rolling Stones shows of 1972, featured a stop at the Hefner mansion.

Throughout the 1960s, Hefner left Chicago only a few times. In the early 1970s, he bought the second mansion in Los Angeles, flying between his homes on a private DC-9 dubbed "The Big Bunny," which boasted a giant Playboy bunny emblazoned on the tail.

Hefner was host of a television show, "Playboy After Dark," and in 1960 opened a string of clubs around the world where waitresses wore revealing costumes with bunny ears and fluffy white bunny tails. In the 21st century, he was back on television in a cable reality show - "The Girls Next Door" - with three live-in girlfriends in the Los Angeles Playboy mansion. Network television briefly embraced Hefner's empire in 2011 with the NBC drama "The Playboy Club," which failed to lure viewers and was canceled after three episodes.

Censorship was inevitable, starting in the 1950s, when Hefner successfully sued to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from denying him second-class mailing status. Playboy has been banned in China, India, Saudi Arabia and Ireland, and 7-Eleven stores for years did not sell the magazine. Stores that did offer Playboy made sure to stock it on a higher shelf.

Women were warned from the first issue: "If you're somebody's sister, wife, or mother-in-law," the magazine declared, "and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to Ladies Home Companion."

Playboy proved a scourge, and a temptation. Drew Barrymore, Farrah Fawcett and Linda Evans are among those who have posed for the magazine. Several bunnies became celebrities, too, including singer Deborah Harry and model Lauren Hutton, both of whom had fond memories of their time with Playboy. Other bunnies had traumatic experiences, with several alleging they had been raped by Hefner's close friend Bill Cosby, who faced dozens of such allegations. Hefner issued a statement in late 2014 he "would never tolerate this behavior." But two years later, former bunny Chloe Goins sued Cosby and Hefner for sexual battery, gender violence and other charges over an alleged 2008 rape.

One bunny turned out to be a journalist: Feminist Gloria Steinem got hired in the early 1960s and turned her brief employment into an article for Show magazine that described the clubs as pleasure havens for men only. The bunnies, Steinem wrote, tended to be poorly educated, overworked and underpaid. Steinem regarded the magazine and clubs not as erotic, but "pornographic."

"I think Hefner himself wants to go down in history as a person of sophistication and glamour. But the last person I would want to go down in history as is Hugh Hefner," Steinem later said.

"Women are the major beneficiaries of getting rid of the hypocritical old notions about sex," Hefner responded. "Now some people are acting as if the sexual revolution was a male plot to get laid. One of the unintended by-products of the women's movement is the association of the erotic impulse with wanting to hurt somebody."

Hefner added that he was a strong advocate of First Amendment, civil rights and reproductive rights and that the magazine contained far more than centerfolds. Playboy serialized Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and later published fiction by John Updike, Doris Lessing and Vladimir Nabokov. Playboy also specialized in long and candid interviews, from Fidel Castro and Frank Sinatra to Marlon Brando and then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, who confided that he had "committed adultery" in his heart. John Lennon spoke to Playboy in 1980, not long before he was murdered. The line that people read Playboy for the prose, not the pictures, was only partly a joke.

Playboy's clubs also influenced the culture, giving early breaks to such entertainers as George Carlin, Rich Little, Mark Russell, Dick Gregory and Redd Foxx. The last of the clubs closed in 1988, when Hefner deemed them "passe" and "too tame for the times."

By then Hefner had built a $200 million company by expanding Playboy to include international editions of the magazine, casinos, a cable network and a film production company. In 2006, he got back into the club business with his Playboy Club at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. A new enterprise in London followed, along with fresh response from women's groups, who protested the opening with cries of "Eff off Hef!'"

Hefner liked to say he was untroubled by criticism, but in 1985 he suffered a mild stroke that he blamed on the book "The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980," by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. Stratten was a Playmate killed by her husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself. Bogdanovich, Stratton's boyfriend at the time, wrote that Hefner helped bring about her murder and was unable to deal with "what he and his magazine do to women."

After the stroke, Hefner handed control of his empire to his feminist daughter, Christie, although he owned 70 percent of Playboy stock and continued to choose every month's Playmate and cover shot. Christie Hefner continued as CEO until 2009. He also stopped using recreational drugs and tried less to always be the life of the party. He tearfully noted in a 1992 New York Times interview: "I've spent so much of my life looking for love in all the wrong places."

Not surprisingly, Hefner's marriage life was also a bit of a show. In 1949, he married Mildred Williams, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1958. In July 1989, Hefner married Kimberley Conrad, the 1989 Playmate of the Year, who was then 27. The couple also had two children. On the eve of his marriage, Hefner was asked if he would have a bachelor party. "I've had a bachelor party for 30 years," he said. "Why do I need one now?" They separated in 1998 but she continued living next door to the Playboy mansion with their two sons.

The couple divorced in 2010 and he proposed in 2011 to 24-year-old Crystal Harris, a former Playmate. Harris called off the wedding days before the ceremony, but changed her mind and they married at the end of 2012. "Maybe I should be single," he said a few months later. "But I do know that I need an ongoing romantic relationship. In other words, I am essentially a very romantic person, and all I really was looking for, quite frankly, with the notion of marriage was continuity and something to let the girl know that I really cared." He acknowledged, at age 85, that "I never really found my soulmate."

Hefner was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, to devout Methodist parents who he said never showed "love in a physical or emotional way." "At a very early age, I began questioning a lot of that religious foolishness about man's spirit and body being in conflict, with God primarily with the spirit of man and the Devil dwelling in the flesh," Hefner said in a Playboy interview in 1974. "Part of the reason that I am who I am is my Puritan roots run deep," he told the AP in 2011. "My folks are Puritan. My folks are prohibitionists. There was no drinking in my home. No discussion of sex. And I think I saw the hurtful and hypocritical side of that from very early on. "

Hefner loved movies throughout his life, calling them "my other family." He screened classic films and new releases at the mansion every week. Every year on his April 9 birthday, he'd run his favorite film, "Casablanca," and invite guests to dress in the fashions of the 1940s.

He was a playboy before Playboy, even during his first marriage, when he enjoyed stag films, strip poker and group sex. His bunny obsession began with the figures that decorated a childhood blanket. Years later, a real-life subspecies of rabbit on the endangered species list, in the Florida Keys, would be named for him: Sylvilagus palustris hefneri.

When Hefner was 9, he began publishing a neighborhood newspaper, which he sold for a penny a copy. He spent much of his time writing and drawing cartoons, and in middle school began reading Esquire, a magazine of sex and substance Hefner wanted Playboy to emulate. He and Playboy co-founder Eldon Sellers launched their magazine from Hefner's kitchen in Chicago, although the first issue was undated because Hefner doubted there would be a second. The magazine was supposed to be called Stag Party, until an outdoor magazine named Stag threatened legal action.

Hefner recalled that he first reinvented himself in high school in Chicago at 16, when he was rejected by a girl he had a crush on. He began referring to himself as Hef instead of Hugh, learned the jitterbug and began drawing a comic book, "a kind of autobiography that put myself center stage in a life I created for myself," he said in a 2006 interview with the AP.

Those comics evolved into a detailed scrapbook that Hefner would keep throughout his life. It spanned more than 2,500 volumes in 2011 - a Guinness World Record for a personal scrapbook collection. "It was probably just a way of creating a world of my own to share with my friends," Hefner said, seated amid the archives of his life during a 2011 interview. "And in retrospect, in thinking about it, it's not a whole lot different than creating the magazine."

He did it again in 1960, when he began hosting the TV show, bought a fancy car, started smoking a pipe and bought the first Playboy mansion. "Well, if we hadn't had the Wright brothers, there would still be airplanes," Hefner said in 1974. "If there hadn't been an Edison, there would still be electric lights. And if there hadn't been a Hefner, we'd still have sex. But maybe we wouldn't be enjoying it as much. So the world would be a little poorer. Come to think of it, so would some of my relatives."

Source: AP

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