Gentlemen, your attention please! The votes have been tabulated and we have a winner. And she is (dare we say it?) as sweet to the eyes as her name is on our own lips: Candy. Candy Loving.
Playboy was almost three years old when Candy was born in Oswego, Kansas. The Playmate for September 1956 was Elsa Sorensen (remember Elsa, all you collectors?) and Dwight Eisenhower was running for election to his second term.
When Candy was still a baby, her parents moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma, where she lived until four years ago, when she left for the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She's now a senior, majoring in public relations.
Ponca City's main industry is the Continental Oil Company. Candy's mother, Rosemary, has worked there for years, along with a sizable portion of Ponca City's population; there are oil tanks all around. The odor of oil permeates the air. The main Saturday night activities are dragging Grand Avenue and drinking copious amounts of beer. When Candy was a student at Ponca City Senior High, she had a green Maverick with an ice chest in the back and a tape deck that played mostly Edgar Winter and The Beatles. She was then, and is now, a lady of uncomplicated tastes.
For example, she began reading her boyfriends' copies of Playboy while in high school, and has a surprisingly good recall of the past six years' Playmates. She was jealous of the gatefold girls, of course ("I used to think, 'Oooh, they make me so sick!"), but time heals all wounds.
On or about March 31, 1978, Candy, encouraged by her family and friends, arrived alone at nine A.M. at the Ramada Inn in Norman, where Assistant Photography Editor Michael Berry was helping conduct the 25th Anniversary Playmate Hunt. Candy was Berry's first appointment of the day, and from the way Candy describes it, he knew right away he wasn't meeting just any old Okette.
"When Mike came to the door, I didn't know what to expect, but there he was, this cute guy with his hair slicked back because he'd just stepped out of the shower. He was kind of sleepy, like he'd just gotten up. He asked me in for coffee and I asked him if he had chocolate milk. He ordered some and we sat and talked for about 40 minutes before he photographed me." (Oh, Mike, you are a wily one. It was supposed to be ten minutes per girl, Mike, ten minutes.)
As soon as we received the Polaroids of Candy, we flew her to Chicago for what was to be the first of eight shooting sessions over a three-month period.
Staff photographer Pompeo Posar, who was the first of our photographers to shoot color slides of Candy, noticed two things from the start. The first was that she was a very good model, considering that she had no previous experience, and the second was that she had to be fed regularly.
"I absolutely cannot go on an empty stomach for any length of time," she says firmly. "I have to eat. Three evenly spaced full meals a day, with maybe a snack now and then, and I'm OK. And if I can't eat, I do best with a glass of milk. Milk is one of my favorite foods. White or chocolate, I love milk."
Obviously, fat is not a problem for Candy. What she doesn't burn up, she works off twice a week in 40-to-60-minute workouts on Nautilus fitness machines, followed by vigorous swimming. But if food has a special meaning for her, it probably reminds her of her family, the people she says give her the greatest joy.
Her parents were divorced when she was ten, and her mother often worked at two jobs to supposrt Candy and her three simblings: older sister Cassi, 28; Kevin, 27; and younger sister, Cari, 20, who's also a student at OU. But Candy's warm, cheerful personality is ample evidence that she grew up in a loving environment.
"My mother treated each of us as though we were special," she says. "I had to learn to share early. I had to accept the fact that I couldn't always have new shoes when I wanted them. I learned a lot from my brother and sisters, and I love them very much."
Candy's background didn't prepare her for the luxuries of Playboy's hospitality she's enjoyed since becoming a finalist. She admits that when she arrived at Playboy Mansion West for a week-long stay and an introduction to Hefner, she could hardly adjust to the royal treatment she received. "I couldn't believe the service," she says. "I'm not used to having my meals cooked for me -- and whatever I wanted, at that! The first time I got hungry I went to the kitchen and started browsing in the refrigerator. One of the kitchen staff politely told me to take it easy, get out of the kitchen and let him serve me. It was marvelous."
When Candy was told that she had been chosen for our 25th Anniversary issue, she immediately called her mother from Playboy Mansion West, where she was staying with a number of other finalists. "Mom said, 'Congratulations, beautiful! I'm glad you're doing what you want to do. I'm proud of you and I love you.'" With a mom like that, it's easy to see why Candy's so secure and confidant.
Levelheaded lady that she is, she intends to use some of her prize money to pay her tuition for the balance of her senior year, then "put the rest in a savings account so I'll have some security until I get settled into a profession." If things work out as she'd like, she'll take a job in public relations for a national magazine soon after she graduates.
Until then, she'll be traveling, meeting people all over America, and, we hope, enjoying herself immensely. "I feel so lucky, so fortunate to have been chosen," she says. "Why, if it weren't for this, I'd just be another girl from Oklahoma."
Not necessarily, Candy. We think someone would have discovered you eventually, but we're awfully glad it was us. You make us want to say, in the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, "How sweet it is!"
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