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Is Playboy Magazine Over the Hill? Ask Lindsay Lohan

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Lindsay Lohan, in between smooching with gal pal Samantha Ronson and attending sister Charlotte Ronson's fur-free show during Fashion Week, broke with another old guard tradition this month: she said no to a Playboy proposition.

Of course it's possible Playboy's offer of $700,000 for nude photos of Lohan was too low--viz. "we've already established what you are; now we are establishing price."

Lohan probably doesn't get out of bed for less than $500,000.

But it's more likely that Lohan, like others born in the 1980s and 1990s, is ignorant of the Playboy mystique under whose shadow women lived in the 1960s and 1970s and not appropriately awed by the offer.

Why is this dirty old man--in a bathrobe no less, with a pipe--and his aged minion photographers stalking the nation for young hotties she might wonder. Why are they haunting college campuses, night clubs and rock concerts peopled with girls their daughters'--or granddaughters'--ages? Can anyone say sexual predator?

What could photos in an aging men's magazine do for my career that an appearance on TMZ couldn't?

And what's up with all the snickering, winks and rabbit costumes before a simple booty call? Middle aged kink? Something weirder?

From its first 1953 issue with a nude Marilyn Monroe, through Bo Derek, Suzanne Somers, Farrah Fawcett, Jenny McCarthy Cindy Crawford, Pam Anderson, Daryl Hannah and of course Anna Nicole Smith, Playboy magazine has collared some famous women.

But it was a non-posing woman, feminist leader Gloria Steinem, who cast Playboy founder Hugh Hefner as the nation's Pimp-in-Chief who commodified women as disposable sex objects and lifestyle ornaments in his magazine.

A characterization he retains today surrounded by a quartet of blond girlfriends in his 80's.

Steinem worked undercover as a bunny in a Playboy club in New York City in 1963 serving customers with the requisite back-arched, knees-bent "Bunny Dip" and donning a white tail and bunny ears. ("Always remember," said the job manual, "your proudest possession is your Bunny tail. You must make sure it is white and fluffy.") She wrote about her sexual tour of duty in Esquire magazine.

While some credit Playboy with helping the nation lose its prostitute/Madonna 1950s Puritanism--in which unwanted pregnancies ruined lives--and its joyless 1950s workaholism thanks to Hefner's leisure-and-recreational-drugs lifestyle, others say by elevating porn from its peep show context, it mainstreamed the sexual debasement of women.

They point to Playboy Enterprises CEO Christie Hefner, Hefner's daughter, as the ultimate casualty of its second class view of women; not pretty to enough to pose in the magazine but not worthy of Playboy stock either which dad unceremoniously bequeathed to his sons in 1997 even as Christie toiled away at the magazine. A hare not an heir.

But even before the Internet, Playboy's cachet was collapsing. Soft core "laddie" magazines, issues of Sports Illustrated and even Victoria's Secret catalogues stole its customers on one side--and newly available hard corn porn on cable stole them from the other. By the time the nation went online, it was Playboy who?

In fact Playboy stock has torpedoed so badly, many in Chicago are hoping tycoon Sam Zell will take it private the way he did the Chicago Tribune and end the Wall Street agony.

In its day, accepting the X-rated altar call known as Posing For Playboy could change your life, career and fortunes forever. Sure it was a last bullet and you couldn't do it twice. (Unless you were Pam Anderson.)

Sure you could offend middle America and lose important endorsements like Suzanne Somers who lost her Ace Hardware account after appearing in Playboy.

But fame outlasts ethics as everyone from Michael Milken to Janet Jackson knows.

Except that Playboy no longer confers fame.

Nor is it particularly salacious.

Or even exclusive.


In fact posing in Playboy today is like posing in one of the Got Milk mustache ads that the dairy industry runs in US magazines.

The only thing it does for your career is label you desperate.


 

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative pubic health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 
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