Magazines: Penthouse v. Playboy

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Dear Penthouse: I have been going steady with Playboy ever since it came out in 1953. And I want you to understand right off that we've had a lot of fun together. Like, when we were both young, it was refreshing to find somebody who dreamed about females the way I dreamed about females. What's more, Playboy wasn't interested only in sex. It was the sort of magazine you could read on the Long Island Rail Road because it also published stories by legitimate writers. But lately I have been attracted by your siren song (if full-page newspaper ads can be called that).

What can you offer me?—Interested.

Dear Interested: Among other things, the realization that women don't look like the Playmates of the Month. In the words of our editor-publisher, Bob Guccione, who has been married twice and has five children: "Playboy treats women like a child treats a doll. The basic difference between Hefner and me is that I genuinely like women."

As a result, you will notice that our nudes are more lifelike. They have moles and appendicitis scars, and sometimes their breasts even sag a little. So we suggest you drop Playboy and take up with Penthouse. We are only in our third issue in the U.S. but we have been going for 4½ years in Britain. By the way, you can read us on the L.I.R.R. too. We have lots of meaningful stories by meaningful writers. Why, our inaugural September issue carried a piece that McCall's might have run: "Sex and the Unborn Child."—Penthouse.

Dear Penthouse: I have read all three of your U.S. issues, and I must say you come on strong. Your paper is even glossier than Playboy's and, I suspect, a little thicker too. I guess it has to be, if you're going to make your 100 pages feel like Playboy's 300. I agree that your nudes look more real but I'm not sure yet whether I like that. Also, I was a little disturbed by some of your editorial matter. Like, do you really believe that Timothy Leary "might just have a chance of winning his campaign for the governorship of California"? But enough of heady political analysis. What really shook me up was your apparent stress on corporal punishment. ("Her eyes sparkled. 'We are in a birchwood. Perhaps you wish to birch me. Yes?'") I may be square, but frankly I don't get a charge out of whacking somebody on the bare backside. Incidentally, Playboy's September circulation was 5,624,000. How big is yours? —Not So Interested.

Dear Not So Interested: The press run of our first issue was 375,000, and we sold 71% of that. We expect to prosper because Bob Guccione can make a go of anything. Though basically an artist (he draws some of our cartoons). Bob once made a splash in British dry cleaning, introducing a 24-hour delivery service. And he's proved what he can do with magazines. He now has two others besides Penthouse in Britain, and is opening a Penthouse Club in London this month.

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