Petra Verkaik, Playboy’s Miss December 1989, is a native Californian. The 22-year-old celebrated the signing of her Playmate contract in an unusual fashion: by running herself over with her own van. The venerable ‘76 Volkswagen had a habit of not starting, so Petra climbed under the chassis armed with a screwdriver to get things going. In her excitement about becoming a Playmate, she neglected to check whether or not the transmission was in gear. When the motor turned over, the van lurched onto her chest and perched there for about 30 seconds.
“A very long 30 seconds,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.” With a mighty effort—“I’m not Hercules or anything, but it’s a light car”—Petra managed to free herself, sort of. “I pushed it up and slid under it. Then it landed on my hair, pinning me.” Fortunately, the episode took place in the parking lot next to Playboy’s West Coast offices, and rescue was soon at hand.
Cassie Gould, a Playboy publicist, was the first to happen by and see two legs sticking out from beneath the dilapidated van. Her call for help was answered by two security guards who quickly got the van off the Playmate; paramedics and sheriff’s officers arrived seconds later. At the hospital, Petra was X-rayed and got the good news that she could go home immediately. The bad news was that now that Petra was obviously out of danger, everybody was cracking jokes about the accident. When a Playmate, particularly a well-endowed Playmate, is saved from serious injury by her breasts, people smile. It’s not unlike the story of a preacher being saved from a stray bullet by his Bible. And Petra is by nature a rather shy person.
“God, I was so embarrassed,” she recalls. Still, when she heard that West Coast Photo Editor Marilyn Grabowski had dubbed her the “the retread Playmate,” Petra good-naturedly responded, “Well, I did have tread marks on my shirt. What else can I do but laugh?”
Petra and her misbehaving van go way back. “My mom bought it new, and we used it to camp at the Grand Canyon and everywhere.” Since her mother gave Petra the van, its trips have most often been to the mechanic. Still, it provided reliable-enough transportation to get Petra to modeling assignments. She did some promotional work for Pepsi.
Petra’s first Playboy appearance was as part of the February 1989 Great Playmate Hunt. After being named Playmate of the Month in December 1989, she appeared in many Playboy videos and Special Editions. In 1997 Petra won the Playboy Reader’s Choice Model of the Year Award. She told Playboy her ambitions are to “make my dreams come true and be the best model/actress I can.” Petra has acted in the movies Pyrates, Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies, Love Potion No. 9, and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, and her TV appearances include roles on Talking Blue and Married with Children.
What turns Petra on? “Water, the outdoors, lingerie, love, and success.” She’s turned off by “negative people and uncleanliness.” Petra revealed her favorite compliment to Playboy: “When they say they want me to have their baby. Is that a compliment, though? I think it’s a little suspicious. I think I know what they really wanna do.” (Rescue her from van accidents, obviously.)