It’s one of those things guys know. Specifically, guys who who grew up near the woods.
America’s forests are teeming with Playboys.
I was reminded of this when Playboy.com deputy editor Marc Bernardin reported that Nathan Fillion and his childhood friends found a stash of Playboys in a tree-house in the woods. Then Wil Wheaton told Playboy.com that he hid a July 1985 Playboy in a tree behind his home. Patton Oswalt remembers a childhood spent chancing upon discarded Playboys in the wooded area behind his suburban Virginia development. Tig Notaro found herself some Playboys in the woods as well.
That’s four celebrities. Anything happening three times is a national trend, at least according to the New York Times. But four? And they’re all celebrities?
Aware that we were sitting on a major story, I did some good, old journalistic digging — and by digging I mean Googling.
Tucked in the comment sections of various websites are testimonials from men who recall the unbridled joy of finding naked women in the wild. The nerds who read Gizmodo found Playboys in the woods. The libertarians who read Reason.com found Playboys in the woods. The artsy entrepreneurs at Threadless found—you guessed it—Playboys in the woods.
That’s three more sources, which no longer makes this a Trend Story. That’s seven sources. Seven make something The Truth.
From coast to coast squirrels are scampering over Angie Everhart’s face, beavers are fortifying their dams with the hotness of Raquel Pomplun while deer are finding their sexuality challenged by our Girls of Canada spread.
To anyone who ever ventured out-of-doors for an invigorating hike only to have their bucolic reverie interrupted by unexpected knockers, we at Playboy sincerely apologize. (Or we say “You’re very welcome,” depending on your point of view).
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Just how did our nation’s 750 million acres of forests become overrun with adult magazines?
The prevailing theory here at Playboy World HQ in Beverly Hills is that generations of teen boys (as well as husbands who married poorly) have been stashing magazines in the woods for decades. We have a hunch it’s mainly the teen boys.
It’s a well-known fact that at age 13 the average American male is basically a walking erection in a baseball hat. Because he’s utterly lacking in the connubial arts, he spends most of his free time searching for images of naked women.
Before the Internet, computers and cell phones his search was limited to magazines, VHS tapes and pay cable. Maybe one kid in 100 million was lucky enough to live in a house with unscrambled soft-core TV. VHS tapes could be had, but they required a VCR, and they were no sure thing. Because the family VCR was usually located in the living room, the chance of being discovered “en masturbationas res” was perilously high. That left magazines as the easiest form to obtain and hide.
I have two brothers. We stashed magazines above the ceiling tiles in the basement. Also, some of the VHS tapes downstairs were not old “Friends” episodes. Years later my brother Tom summed it up best: “They say you’re never more than 10 feet from a spider. Spiders weren’t the only things you were always 10 feet from in our house.
We didn’t have woods near our home—or by God we would have used them—but my friend “Josh” did. I have not used Josh’s real identity here because when people Google Josh he’d rather his name not be followed by “hides nudie magazines in the woods.”
Josh grew up in Rhode Island, which remains one of our finest juvenile delinquent states. He hid naked ladies in the woods twice. The two events bookended an important epoch that spanned the glory days of adult magazines and the dawn of of digital age.
When Josh was 8 or 9 an adult neighbor gave him a Penthouse. It wasn’t a creepy move, Josh said, so much as it was irresponsible. Josh knew his friends would want to see it, and he knew his mother would kill him if she found it, so he took the magazine into the woods. He left it in a clearing where he and his pals hung out and did dumb stuff—pranks, dares, contests, looking at naked ladies, whatever.
I’m not sure this still holds true—what with helicopter parents, not to mention Xbox—but there was a time when boys spent a disproportionate amount of time in the woods. The main benefit of the woods was that everything that happens there occurs away from adult supervision.
You could not, for example, drink your first beer in front of your parents while you watched “The A Team,” as magnificent as that would have been. But you could drink that beer in the woods with your jackass friends. The woods were a rule-free paradise where, hey, sometimes there’s just a bunch of nudie mags over by a tree.
Josh’s Penthouse disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but he and his friends continued to find naked women in the wild, including the one time Josh found a copy of 60-Plus, which, to his amazement, was a magazine that existed. “I didn’t even know old ladies could do that,” he said, still with a hint of amazement. Josh once again shared the wealth with his friends because that’s the kind of solid American Josh is.
Josh’s second and final woods stash occurred when he was 13 or 14. By then Josh’s family had a computer. Maybe it’s because he’s old school (and we at Playboy say God bless you, Josh), but he actually preferred the look and feel of a printed lady as opposed to her digital rendering. So Josh — like so many of us from that generation — printed off pics of naked ladies on recycled printer paper from a dot matrix printer. The quality, as one can imagine, was not good. But, hey, boobs.
What followed next was a page ripped straight from the Male Teen Mind Conspiracy Playbook. I believe it cuts to the heart of our national woodland dirty magazine pandemic. Josh was afraid that if he threw the printouts away his mother would go through the garbage and find them and possibly murder him. “You know, because my mom was always going through the trash all the time,” Josh said in a tone of voice that indicated his mother had never once gone through his trash. “I was like, ‘I am not smart enough to hide this in the house from my mom.’ I knew I had to hide it.”
So he ventured into the woods near his house, walked down a path and buried his printed out dot matrix recycled printer paper photos of naked ladies under a rock. He never returned to find them.
With any luck, archeologists hundreds of years from now will discover them, dust them off, place them in a sealable plastic baggie and write, “WTF is this?” on their hologram tablets.
THE THRILL OF THE HUNT
As a kid I didn’t know there were dirty magazines in the woods, or I would have spent a lot less time playing “Mike Tyson’s Punchout” and perhaps given serious consideration to the Boy Scouts. For the purposes of continuing this story in a logical manner I tracked down a guy who more than once experienced the thrill of forbidden manna.
“Fred,” which is also not his real name, because no one’s real name is Fred, recalls discovering “adolescent gold” in the woods near his home in the western suburbs of Cleveland. He grew up on a plot of land that butted up against a river. He and his friends would go down to the river and surrounding woods to explore and get into general boyhood mischief.
On one occasion Fred and his pals came across magazines near some rocks on the river’s edge. Much to their delight the magazines were full of naked women. Fred and company did what any reasonable teen boys would do: They took the magazines and hid them so they could look at them again.
“Later we came across an even bigger find,” Fred said. “Some guy kept his entire collection—Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler—from the 1970s and early 1980s in his car near the river. We took those, too, and hid them in our fort in the woods.”
It was, I noted in Fred’s telling, one of the most cherished memories of his youth.
WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE
While it’s tempting to blame the last three generations of American males for the smut-ification of our woodlands, the truth is that men have been putting nude women in the woods long before Hugh Hefner ever committed nipple to cellulose.
For as long as there has been art, there has been erotic art—in Europe, Australia, Africa and anywhere else erstwhile Josh Ryan wannabes had access to a cave and drawing or carving materials.
America was no different. As recently as the 1970s Basque sheepherders in the Western United States carved erotic arborglyphs into aspen trees.
These naughty tree carvings are now legitimate subjects of historical study, a fact that would no doubt amaze the horny Basque shepherds who carved them.
According to Jose Mallea-Olaetxe’s “History That Grows On Trees,” women were the favorite subjects of Basque carvers, particularly prostitutes. Mallea-Olaetxe noted, probably for the first time in the history of arboreal scholarship, that “many nudes have high heels.” The Lonesome Picassos “strove to outdo each other in carving the most voluptuous-looking woman, the most explicit sex act.”
Before there was Pornhub, there was Treehub.
ENCOUNTERING PLAYBOY IN THE WILD
All of this raises a very serious question, one that we as a society have yet to address in a meaningful way. What should one do if one discovers Playboy or some lesser men’s magazine in the wild? What if you’re minding your own business, perhaps admiring a sparrow, when suddenly your attention is captured by printed images of the naked human form?
Former ranger Andrea Lankford is a woman who loves our nation’s forests. She brimmed with advice for nature-lovers who might stumble upon a Lynn Karol in the wild.
“The National Park Service encourages people to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs,” said Lankford, author of the book Ranger Confidential.
If the magazine is not too old, Lankford says campers should stuff it in their backpacks in case they run out of kindling, reading material or, heaven forbid, toilet paper.
“Or you can leave it for the bears to enjoy,“ she said.
If the material in question is 50 years old older, and it’s in on federal government land, and it appears to have some cultural value, leave it where it lies unless you want to go to jail for the stupidest reason ever. According to the Antiquities Act of 1906, taking any object of antiquity situated on lands owned or controlled by the government of the United States without permission from the government could lead to a fine of up to $500,000 imprisonment for a period of up to 90 days.
One more word of caution: If you find a grip of nudie mags deep in the woods, temper your joy with prudence. There is a chance that you are in the middle of a marijuana grow site. Where law enforcement officials uncover grow sites, they sometimes find heaps of illicit reading materials. Not to mention the criminals who would prefer to keep them.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
With the advent of the Internet and DVDs, it’s possible that our nation’s woods have reached peak nudie mag. If that is indeed the case, then much like the endangered Basque arborglyphs of the Western United States many precious biodegradable adult treasures could disappear in coming years.
I called the Sierra Club with an idea. By joining up with Playboy to preserve our nation’s forests, perhaps we could also preserve, by working together, our most cherished vintage woodland pornography. The pitch was met with good humor by Sierra Club spokesperson Marta Stoepker, who was kind enough to take valuable time from her workday to hear me out.
“Leaving any kinds of magazines in the woods is considered littering. Not to be the Debbie Downer here, but if you are going to leave something that would is not organic in a place that is supposed to be natural, that is bad,” Stoepker said, laughing both with and at me. “I would rather that conservation, in the traditional sense, live on. I don’t know that they can go hand in hand. I don’t know that there are a lot of parallels there.”
Undaunted, I reached out to Alan Muskat, CEO of No Taste Like Home, an ecotourism company in Asheville, N.C. Muskat is also cofounder of an organization called The REAL Center, which, unlike the boring Sierra Club offers an ecosexuality workshop. He gave me this very sensible proposal.
“Geocaching,” Muskat said. “It would be great if you could make geocaching boxes big enough to put magazines in.”
Environmentalists are unwilling to preserve woodland nudie mags, but maybe technology can. When our teen sons and their teen sons hide nudie magazines in the woods, they might use satellite coordinates on their smartphones, smartwatches or smartglasses to bookmark their stashes. Instead of the digital world bringing about the end of girly magazines in the woods, it may be technology that preserves this fine American tradition.
Adolescent gold - now and forever.
Joe Donatelli is Senior Editor of Playboy.com. Twitter: @joedonatelli. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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