If you haven’t yet checked out New York Magazine’s The View from a Centerfold, you should. Reporter Noreen Malone and photographer Nadav Kander caught up with Playmates Dolores Del Monte, Laura Aldridge, Marilyn Cole Lownes (pictured above), Helena Antonnacio, Candace Jordan and Janet Lupo for interviews and a fresh photo shoot decades after each appeared in Playboy.
The Playmates shared their stories, and they’re all worth reading. Cole’s 1972 pictorial was the first full-frontal spread in the magazine’s history, coming 19 years after Playboy launched. It was, as the article points out, a more innocent time.
“The photographs didn’t feel like they were about getting men off so much as they were about celebrating women,” writes Malone. “Cole Lownes’s father told her the photograph that ran in Playboy was like a Rubens painting. Using the language of the era, she now describes the whole experience ‘liberating.’”
Cole Lownes was a bunny girl at a Playboy Club as well.
“A big advantage of being a bunny girl was the fact that we had enough money to put in our purses to get on a plane if we felt like it,” Cole-Lownes told New York. “We could buy our own drinks at Trader Vic’s and go to any club we wanted to, and we did it all with our money, and that gave us a sense of power and liberation. We were all promiscuous. And we were all very much our own people.”
Cole Lownes was named Playmate of the Year in 1973. Today she is a journalist.
Playmate Aldridge addressed the old concern that Playmates are exploited.
“My ex-husband (Alan Aldridge, who did graphic design for the Beatles) might be the only person who didn’t think Playboy was cool,” Aldridge said. “He thought Hugh Hefner exploited women. When my oldest daughter, Lily, was 10, she found a Playboy in her dad’s room, so I told her I was a Playmate. She asked if she could see it. Thirty minutes later I knocked on the door. She was watching TV. I said, ‘What do you think?’ She said, ‘Oh, it’s great.’ Both my daughters are supermodels—Lily is a Victoria’s Secret Angel. They’ve done it with confidence and a feeling of entitlement.”
The theme of women taking control resonates throughout the article.
Along with the new photos, New York produced this video.
Joe Donatelli is Senior Editor of Playboy.com. Twitter: @joedonatelli.