Playgirl is an American magazine that features general interest articles, lifestyle and celebrity news, in addition to semi-nude or fully nude men. In the 1970s and 1980s the magazine printed monthly and was marketed mainly to women, although, as the magazine knew, it had a significant gay male readership, in a period in which gay male erotic magazines were few.
The magazine was founded in 1973 by Douglas Lambert during the height of the feminist movement as a response to erotic men's magazinessuch as Playboy and Penthouse that featured similar photos of women. In 1977 Lambert sold Playgirl to Ira Ritter who took over as Publisher. Under Ritter’s leadership, Playgirl had an annual readership of over 20 million. It was the sixth most profitable newsstand magazine for women and 16th most profitable of all magazines in the 1970s. The magazine also covered issues like abortion, equal rights, and interspersing sexy shots of men and played a pivotal role in the sexual revolution for women. From March 2009 to February 2010, it appeared only online. The magazine returned to print with its March 2010 issue.
Playgirl Magazine from inception to recent years was intended to be a women’s magazine and an outlet for women to explore their sexuality (very similarly to the popular men’s magazine, Playboy) and to embrace the Feminist Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During its height, publisher Ira Ritter took the magazine to an even more sophisticated arena which included political articles to strengthen the editorial content, and featured influential figures of that time. However, over the course of the last 30 years, Playgirl faced adversity and many obstacles of opposing opinions in the media that ranged from Feminist Sex Wars to pornography, prostitution, and lesbian practices.
The magazine had been published earlier by Drake Publishers (later renamed Crescent Publishing Group, Inc). Crescent was charged in 2000 by the Federal Trade Commission with over 180 million dollars of online credit card fraud, much of which was conducted on the Playgirl Magazine site. All Crescent/Blue Horizon titles, including Playgirl, were prevented from conducting any business on the web for five years. Then-president Bruce Chew was subsequently indicted, along with several prominent members of the Gambino crime family.
In August 2008, the magazine announced that it would cease publication of its print edition as of the January 2009 issue. After that point, the magazine planned to continue with an online-only edition. The last print issue was published in January/February 2009.
In February 2010, Playgirl announced it will re-launch issuing a print edition of the magazine. The first such issue would be the March 2010 issue available on newsstands as of 22 February 2010 carrying on its cover Levi Johnston, shot by longtime Playgirl photographer Greg Weiner. The magazine has been issued approximately quarterly since then.
The magazine is mainly marketed to heterosexual women. Despite this, in 2003, Playgirl's then-editor-in-chief Michele Zipp admitted the magazine also attracted much gay readership. "It's 'Entertainment for Women' because there's no other magazine out there that caters to women in the way we do", she said. But she went on adding: "We love our gay readers as well, and the gay readership [of the magazine] is about 30%."
Also, in 2003, Mark Graff, President of Trans Digital Media, the brand management firm for Playgirl TV, stated that 50% of Playgirl's readership are gay men.
In a February 2010 interview with the Associated Press, Playgirl spokesman Daniel Nardico stated that he considers the magazine appealing to both men and women, although the audience is predominantly male.
Throughout the history of the magazine, Playgirl has featured male frontal nudity except for the early issues in 1973, and 1987 when John Paul became the year's first full frontal centerfoldin November after ten months of non-nude photo spreads.
Apart from professional models, Playgirl features amateur models in a section called Real Men (formerly known as Snapshots). A Real Men of the Year contest is held, in which readers can vote for the best layout of the year.
In June of every year, Playgirl has its "Man of the Year" issue. In July, it is the "Country" issue and in November, Playgirl dedicates an issue to "Campus Hunks."
A nude centerfold calendar featuring the men of the previous year is usually included in the December or January issue of the magazine. Readers are asked to vote for the "Man of the Year" from the pictures of the calendar.
The magazine is well known for two major publicity stunts — one for offering Charles, Prince of Wales $45,000 to appear nude in a centerfold in 1990, and another for publishing a nude pictorial called "The Men of Enron" in its September 2002 in which some former Enron employees "lost their shirts."
Researchers Richard A. Leit, Harrison G. Pope, Jr. and James J. Gray, in a 2000 paper published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, examined 115 male centerfold models inPlaygirl magazine from 1973 to 1997 and noted that the Playgirl centerfold models have become increasingly dense and more muscular over time.
Playgirl is available in English and has been published in a number of other languages and international English-language editions during its history:
When the Russian version of Playgirl was launched in June 2004, it contained photographs of nude, circumcised American men which created an unfamiliar sight to Russian women as circumcision is less common outside the U.S., being practiced mainly by Muslims and Jews in Russia.
Playgirl UK was briefly relaunched in 2011. However, it declared it would feature no below-the-waist nudity, and focused on attractive male celebrities rather than models and pornography actors. It was a failure, and ceased circulation soon after it began.
A Spanish-language edition was published in 1992-1993.
A limited Canadian edition is in the works.
Playgirl has a monthly section entitled "Celeb Nudes" featuring photographs of various celebrities from movie scenes, usually nude
Two preview issues of Playgirl were published with racecar driver Mike Hiss in the January 1973 issue; and the Hager Twins, Jim and John, from TV's Hee Haw in the February 1973 issue. Then Vol. 1, No. 1 appeared in June 1973, featuring Lyle Waggoner as the centerfold which was in the 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds movie and the stole his car. April 1985 issue Days of our Lives star Michael Leone that played "Pete Janning" was the "bad boy" was a centerfold. Boxer Hector Camacho was also a centerfold, shortly after his victory over Jose Luis Ramirez.
Besides Shafer, other gay models to appear in the magazine included Scott Merritt, Playgirl's 30th-anniversary centerfold, who revealed in the August 19, 2003 issue of The Advocate that he is gay. Brian Dawson, April 1978's Man of the Month, would go on to win the title of "International Mr. Drummer", a gay leather title, in 1989, as well as winning a bronze medal in the physique competition at the 2002 Gay Games in Australia. Thom Collins appeared just one month after Dirk's in January 1991 later using his infamous "Playgirl celebrity" to bring attention to his own Long term battle and misconception of what it meant to be HIV+ garnering him the title HIV Positive Supermodel. Both he and Shafer grew up in the same town and also appeared inmockumentary titled Man of the Year written, directed, and produced by Dirk Shafer playing none other than himself..Jim Waldrop, centerfold in the January 1981 issue, was better known as gay porn superstar J. W. King. Similarly, February 1979's "Man of the Month" was better known as gay porn legend Clay Russell. Randy Savino, January 2000 issue, was also a gay porn star who usually went by the name of Geoff Ashton. Talvin DeMachio, the September 2001 centerfold, was also gay. 21 year old model Geoff Minger displayed the magazine's first full erection as Man of the Month, in the historic January 1980 issue. In the June 2004 issue, Playgirl featured its oldest cover model/centerfold in the magazine's 30-year history: Rick Dinihanian, a 54-year-old gay man. During the decline of magazine readership, executives boldly decided to use unknown Swedish model Markus Idstam; also known as The Bull to the underground leather industry; for its cover. This move helped launch Playgirl into the new millennium with a significant increase in online female readership. It was also Playgirls most downloaded digital issue since Lorenzo Lamas' full frontal scene in Snake Eater 69: The Return of The Mack.