The New Yorker
this week has, somewhat unbelievably, an illuminating essay on the history of the Playboy centerfold
. Illuminating, of course, not just in what it says about Playboy
but also what it says about the culture that both feeds and consumes it.
Not surprisingly, however, many of the Playmates, once they passed their twenties, fell back into regular life. One is a dental hygienist for dogs and cats, two are cops, one taught creative writing at the City University of New York. Several have become artists. Miss September 1998 is a “traditional Aztec dancer”; Judy Tyler, Miss January 1966, creates “Fronds by Judea—original art from palm trees.” Miss July 1999 is making “hip-hop action sports videos” with her boyfriend. “I want to be taken seriously,” she says, “because I intend to be a good producer one day.” Quite a few of the ex-Playmates, in keeping with the book’s insistent claim of normality, list their families as their sole and beloved project. At the same time, the text is very forthcoming about how many divorces these women have had, and how a number of them are no longer eager to have a man in the house. Several Playmates have found God. Debra Jo Fondren, the gorgeous Miss September 1977, who now does temporary secretarial work, reports that she finally stopped participating in Playboy promotions. There was “too much emphasis on sex,” she explains.