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From then on, he aimed Playboy straight at the libido. Since sex is part of the whole man, he reasoned, why not devote part of a whole magazine to it? "Would you put together a human being that is just a heart and toenails?" he asks. So he put together a magazine that was largely bosom and thigh and not especially distinguishable from other girlie slicks. But he added more substantial content as he went along; today's Playboy is a well-stuffed product, bulging with intellectual ambitions and self-confidence. It even includes some tips from John Paul Getty on how to succeed in business. The humor, however, remains on a fairly primitive level. A typical cartoon shows a playboy in bed with a bunnyesque girl, asking: "Why talk about love at a time like this?"
To begin with, fiction published in
Playboy was spicy but hardly shocking —long-forgotten efforts by John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, Somerset Maugham, Robert Ruark. Playboy also dipped into the ribald classics; despite constant mining, the Boccaccio and De Maupassant vein is still running strong. In the early days, name writers shunned Playboy. Today, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Herbert Gold, Ray Bradbury and Ken Purdy regularly provide respectable material. This upgrading of fiction is largely due to Auguste Comte Spectorsky,* 56, who was hired from NBC by Hefner to bring some New York know-how and sophistication (a favorite Playboy word) to the magazine. "Spec" has done that and more. Last summer he hired as fiction editor Robie Macauley, who had been running the distinguished Kenyon Review. "I was familiar with Playboy," says Macauley. "The students at Kenyon read it—so did the clergy. Besides, a magazine like this matures as it goes along."
Dream World. Maturing or not, Playboy still exists in a rather special world. Partly it can be seen in the ads, some of them for Hefner products. A four-color promotion for the 1967 Playboy calendar reads: "Make a date with these twelve Playmates. You won't want to miss a day with this delicious dozen . . . Provocative ... in captivating new poses. SHARE THE JOY!" Perhaps nostalgic older readers can hear an echo in these lines of the candy butcher during intermission at the burlesque show, peddling the latest "pictures direct from Paris with each and every luscious pose guaranteed the way you gentlemen like it."
In general, though, Playboy ads are discreet—no stag movies, no sex manuals. "Playboy takes the reader into a kind of dream world," explains Advertising Director Howard Lederer. "We create a euphoria and we want nothing to spoil it. We don't want a reader to come suddenly on an ad that says he has bad breath. We don't want him to be reminded of the fact, though it may be true, that he is going bald."