Thursday, September 28, 2017


Sculpture by Lana Cochrun

    The recent work by Lana seems an appropriate symbol of this post.The woman wears life and the cumulative affect of unseen forces and her manner is haunting.

Photo by Playboy 

     Hugh Hefner's passing at 91 is a moment to consider who we are and what we have become.
     It seems a mistake to consider only the lifestyle of Hefner who seemed to patent the idea of a playboy. There is much about how he portrayed and used women that people can find offensive and demeaning. But Hefner and Playboy made an impact on America that is to our benefit.
     He was an early advocate for racial equality and took bold steps to make an integrated society the norm.
     He was a tireless advocate of free speech and expression. He fought against censorship and a government's heavy hand.
    He was an advocate and supporter of feminism a maturing of his own sexual views.
    His early TV show was the essence of hip, cool and intellectual discussion and fostered a new format.
    Playboy brought sexual behavior and practice out of the bedroom and into the light of analysis, study and public discussion. 
     And as cliche' as it may have been, he provided a forum for writers, published excellent literature and journalism. It published scores of brilliant articles and probing interviews. 
     He advanced music, art and genuine scholarship.
     In a roundabout way he helped launch Gloria Steinem's writing career.
     Yes, he published pictures of naked women. But the naked human body is nothing to be ashamed of, it is a rather marvelous signet of life on this planet. 
      One's view, on possibly everything we consider, may well change over time and the arrival of heirs.
       I did not hope that my daughters would grow to be Playboy Bunnies, and there was a time when both of them thought the magazine was exploitative. As they aged they came to see modern sexuality in their own enlightened ways. Hugh Hefner contributed to America's maturation.
      As a high school and college boy I enjoyed the magazine, including the beautiful women. I make no apology for that. My hormones were kicking on, sexual experience was a very present motivation in my life and I enjoyed the slick and polished style of Playboy magazine.
     In college I was able to visit a couple of Playboy Clubs and enjoyed the experience. Later, as a journalist and speaking with "Bunnies" and Playmates I gained a broadened view about what those women experienced and the difficulties of it. I saw the truth behind the pretense.
     As a correspondent I profiled one of the magazines leading photographers and accompanied him as he and his crew shot for a feature on mid western women. Let me explain a moment that forever changed my attitude about the models.  
     I'll start with the finished photo. It featured a beautiful young women, partially dressed with a come hither seductive look on her face. The truth is she was an 18 year old kid who found poses only because the photographer's assistants helped her attain them. The seductive look on the page of the magazine was in real life a confused "what do you want me to do?" expression. There was nothing sexual in her mind or behavior and the "look" the magazine was trying to attain was an accidental moment that a skilled photographer was able to glean. The "sexiness" of the shot was nothing in that kid's mind or experience.
       I met Hefner and he was an endearing man, well read and highly intelligent.  Years later I interviewed his daughter Christie when she became CEO. She too was endearing, articulate and deep thinking. 
       In later years Playboy seem an anachronism and even a bit silly.  Hefner's lifestyle seemed the same and perpetually adolescent.  But that does not negate the innovation he brought or the good battles he fought. He was an original.

     It surprised some the NFL Owners and Commissioner lined up with the players in the battle of words with the occupant of the White House. 
      It would be nice to think these plantation owners firmly believe in the full benefits of free speech and expression. But consider another angle.
      The players and the league are locked in a battle over the NFL's policy of dropping player's medical insurance after a time. That time is usually about the time the players begin suffering the maladies of the game's brutality.
       The biggest concern now and one that some of the public is finally starting to pay attention to is CTE. The statistics of former NFL players with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is shocking. Many are wondering if it is not a matter of IF, but WHEN NFL players begin to experience the disastrous destruction of their brains and their lives.
       Getting locked into a battle with the twitter in chief is a great diversion from the CTE concerns. Remember this is a league that tried to prevent a popular movie about CTE from being made, released or advertised. Changing the subject is like an audible change made at the line of scrimmage. 

     See you down the trail


  1. And who better at changing the subject than the Twit in Chief.

  2. And by the way the Playboy Male was wholly a falsity created by Hefner (one f only, Thomas), who hated what it been foisted on him, if a lengthy piece about him in Rolling Stone is to be believed.

    1. Again this is a case of there being more than superficial "knowledge."

  3. and he gave a writer by the name of James Baldwin his start.

  4. I this editing of the magazine, especially through the 60's and early 70's was his best effort and legacy. But those TV show parties did look like fun! I mean, Lenny Bruce and some of Jazz's best.

  5. I'd like to know exactly who decided that kneeling during our National Anthem was disrespectful. It's too bad that a peaceful protest to draw attention to police brutality against black people has been stolen and converted into a protest in support of free speech, which of course I cherish.

    1. I agree. I think it is a respectful form protest and something consistent with our rights.

  6. "Playboy" was fun, and only in America is there any question about the appropriateness of showing the human body. (Well, maybe in some equally up-tight and isolated place.) Elsewhere, big deal.
    Hidden motives aside, it's good that the NFL is supporting players. Though I doubt if it will continue in our corporatist world. Anyway, if money is speech (a la Supremo Court), then kneeling certainly should be.

    1. It is important to support the rights, indeed. It is also important to respond to the goofy tweets and their author.

  7. In college (in the early 90s), I read a lot of stuff by 60s Zen-popularizer Alan Watts, and he had at least a couple books made up of material originally published in "Playboy." I was surprised by this because I'd always considered "I read it for the articles" to be a joke.

    I soon learnedthat the wonderful conspiracy theorist Robert Anton Wilson had worked at "Playboy" in the 60s (and met Watts through that connection) and Robert Christgau was a record reviewer for the magazine later on.

    It really changed my opinion of the whole institution at a time when I think most thought of it as being mostly an overly airbrushed anachronism.

  8. Harry, you are correct. There was a lot of serious intellectual substance to the magazine. It broke ground in several ways.

  9. A personal interest: In the mid '80s, Hefner gave my eldest son a chance to write reviews of video games and household/business computer programs. Son is senior editor at another publishing company now, but still turns out freelance work on occasion. He wasn't the only one --Hefner gave a lot of writers the chances they deserved. Of course, like all other guys,I only bought the magazine for its articles, but for this family and many other folks I appreciate what he did.

    1. p.s., Lana's excellent "gravity sculpture" has got me looking at how that fundamental force has been sending my epidermis down to all sorts of irrelevant places. Terrific and good-humored work!

    2. Your son's story is a case in point as to how the magazine had positive impact in publishing. Lana appreciates your thoughts re: Gravity. Thanks

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