When Playboy Enterprises, Inc. went public in 1971, its share certificate featured a nude image of a reclining Willy Rey, that year’s Miss February. The Playmate was to have appeared bare breasted until concerns from financiers resulted in the strategic placement of her long auburn locks. By the time Playboy redesigned its certificate in 1990, an estimated 14,000 people held just a single share—apparently more than six times the norm for companies of equivalent size. This enthusiasm for owning “novelty” shares was reported to cost Playboy some $100,000 a year in investor relations and postage.
Like many global brands, Playboy has enjoyed its share of parody. In 1966 The Harvard Lampoon published a spoof entitled Pl*yb*y. Printed with assistance from Hugh Hefner, the magazine featured a “J*m*s B*nd” satire, the parodic comic strip “Little Orphan Bosom” and a Centerfold whose tan was inverted, giving her milky white skin and dark, bronzed breasts. According to the college paper The Harvard Crimson, 545,000 copies of Pl*yb*y (priced at $1.25 each) sold out within two weeks.
Seventeen years later, the American Parody and Travesty Corporation published Playbore, hoping to sell a million copies at $2.95 a pop. Playbore featured an exclusive interview with Jesus Christ, a John Updike spoof (“Rabbit Is Dead”) and a girls of the PLO pictorial.
Playboy has been published in braille, at the American taxpayers’ expense, since 1970. In December 1985, the Library of Congress removed the title from its roster of 36 braille magazines after Congress voted to cut $103,000 from the library’s annual budget. (It is no coincidence that this sum was precisely what it cost to produce 1,000 braille copies of an annual Playboy subscription.) In August 1986, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ruled this decision violated the First Amendment and ordered braille production to resume. The Library of Congress still publishes braille versions of Playboy—albeit just the text.
The Oxford English Dictionary quotes Playboy to define some 150 terms, including: beer goggles, cockmanship, come shot, gazillionaire, needledick, orgasm, pointy head, postmodernism, schwag, skeezy and zing. Moreover, the dictionary credits Playboy with first publishing backassward (1971), base (free-basing cocaine, 1984), disco (1964), mono-brow (1987), pimpmobile (1971), promo (1966) and snarfle (1985).
“I didn’t believe in reincarnation until I read Playboy.
Now I want to come back as a staple.”
From Playboy’s first edition, the staples puncturing its Centerfolds were almost as notorious as the girls. Thus the decision in October 1985 to replace stapling with “perfect” glue-binding made headlines:
“Staple-Free Playboy Bound to Be Better”
“Playboy Plans No More Punctured Navels”
“Cheer for the End of Playboy Staples”
Hunter S. Thompson noted the power of even a forged Playboy photographer press card: “I bought it from a pimp in Vail, Colorado, and he told me how to use it. ‘Never mention Playboy until you’re sure they’ve seen this thing first,’ he said. ‘Then, when you see them notice it, that’s the time to strike. They’ll go belly-up every time. This thing is magic, I tell you. Pure magic.’”
In January 1972, the Reverend Joseph Lupo sought new recruits for the Roman Catholic Order of the Most Holy Trinity by advertising in the East Coast edition of Playboy. Despite criticism damning this decision as “one of the most disgraceful acts of any member of the church in this century,” the order accepted 28 young men for “testing and processing.” As Father Lupo told The New York Times, “I do not feel that Christ’s message is out of place anywhere.”