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June 1973 cover (issue 1, number 1)
CategoriesWomen's magazines
FrequencyMonthly (1973–2009)
Quarterly (2010–2016)
PublisherDouglas Lambert (1973–1976)
Ira Ritter (1977–1986)
Drake Publishers, Inc. (1986–1993)
Crescent Publishing Group, Inc. (1993–2001)
Blue Horizon Media, Inc. (2001–2011)
Magna Publishing Group, Inc. (2011–2016)
First issueJune 1973
Final issueWinter 2016
CompanyMagna Publishing Group
CountryUnited States
Based inParamus, New Jersey

Playgirl was an American magazine that featured general interest articles, lifestyle and celebrity news, in addition to nude or semi-nude men. In the 1970s and 1980s, the magazine printed monthly and was marketed mainly to women, although it had a significant gay male readership.[1]


The magazine was founded in 1973[2] by Douglas Lambert during the height of the feminist movement as a response to erotic men's magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse that featured similar photos of women. In 1977, Lambert sold Playgirl to Ira Ritter who took over as publisher. The magazine covered issues like abortion and equal rights, interspersed with sensual shots of men, and played a pivotal role in the sexual revolution for women.[3]

From March 2009 to February 2010, Playgirl appeared only online. The magazine returned to print as a sometime quarterly beginning with its March 2010 issue. The final print issue was Winter 2016. As of 2016, the magazine had only approximately 3,000 subscribers.[4]

In 1986, Playgirl filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection[5] and was subsequently acquired by Drake Publishers, Inc.[6] The magazine was published by Drake from 1986 until 1993 when Drake was merged into Crescent Publishing Group, Inc.[7][8]

In August 2000, Crescent was charged by the Federal Trade Commission with over $180 million of online credit card fraud, much of which was alleged by the FTC to have taken place on the website.[9][10] In November 2001, for one of the then largest FTC settlements involving online credit card fraud, Crescent agreed to pay $30 million in refunds and to post a $2-million bond before it could continue to operate its websites. As a further condition for the settlement, Crescent principals Bruce A. Chew and David Bernstein were barred by the FTC from operating adult entertainment websites unless first posting bonds of $500,000 each.[11] In December 2001, Crescent Publishing Group, Inc. changed its name to Blue Horizon Media, Inc.[12]

Following the FTC settlement, in 2003 then Crescent/Blue Horizon president Bruce Chew was indicted, along with alleged organized-crime figure Richard Martino and others on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, credit-card fraud and money laundering for illegally billing web users including for the Playgirl website.[13] Pursuant to a plea deal, Chew would later agree to testify for the government and against various of his co-defendants.[14]

In August 2008, the magazine announced that it would cease publication of its print edition as of the January 2009 issue. After that point, the magazine planned to continue with an online-only edition.[15] The last print issue was published in January/February 2009.[3]

In February 2010, Playgirl announced it would re-launch issuing a print edition of the magazine. The first such issue would be the March 2010 issue available on newsstands as of February 22, 2010, carrying on its cover Levi Johnston, shot by longtime Playgirl photographer Greg Weiner.[16] The magazine was issued approximately quarterly after that time.[17][18]

Playgirl was published by New York City-based company Blue Horizon Media, Inc. until April 25, 2011, when Blue Horizon sold the print rights for Playgirl together with those of its other titles – High Society, Cheri, Black Diamond, Finally Legal, and Purely 18 – to Magna Publishing Group, Inc. of Paramus, New Jersey.[19][20] The website is owned and operated by BAOL LLC.[21] In December 2015, Magna Publishing Group was acquired by 1-800-PHONESEX.[22]

Target markets[edit]

The magazine was mainly marketed to heterosexual women. Despite this, in 2003, Playgirl's then-editor-in-chief Michele Zipp admitted the magazine also attracted much gay readership. "It's 'Entertainment for Women' because there's no other magazine out there that caters to women in the way we do," she said. But she went on adding: "We love our gay readers as well, and the gay readership [of the magazine] is about 30%."[23] In the same year, Mark Graff, President of Trans Digital Media, the brand management firm for Playgirl TV, stated that a large percentage of Playgirl's readership are gay men.[24]


Throughout the history of the magazine, Playgirl has featured male frontal nudity except for the early issues in 1973, and 1987 when John Paul became the year's first full frontal centerfold in November after ten months of non-nude photo spreads. In 1980, 21-year-old model Geoff Minger became the first centerfold to display a full erection in the magazine's historic January 1980 issue.[25]

Apart from professional models, Playgirl features amateur models in a section called Real Men (formerly known as Snapshots). A Real Men of the Year contest is held, in which readers can vote for the best layout of the year. In June of every year, Playgirl has its "Man of the Year" issue. In July, it is the "Country" issue; in November, Playgirl dedicates an issue to "Campus Hunks".[citation needed]

In a 2000 paper published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers examined 115 male centerfold models in Playgirl magazine from 1973 to 1997 and noted that the Playgirl centerfold models have become increasingly muscular over time.[26]

Other versions[edit]

Playgirl is available in English and has been published in a number of other languages and international English-language editions during its history:

  • Germany (1978–1980 and 1989–2003)
  • France (1978)
  • Australia (1985–88) and as Interlude in 1991
  • Netherlands (1987–88)
  • United Kingdom (1992–93, 2011)
  • South Africa (1995)
  • Brazil (1985)
  • Russia (2004–2009) Japan 1986 2015

When the Russian version of Playgirl was launched in June 2004, it contained photographs of nude, circumcised American men despite circumcision's being less common outside the U.S., being practiced mainly by Muslims and Jews in Russia.[27]

Playgirl UK's brief 2011 relaunch was accompanied by an announcement that it would feature no below-the-waist nudity, and would focus on attractive male celebrities rather than models and pornography actors. It was a failure, and ceased circulation soon after it began.[citation needed]

A Spanish-language edition was published in 1992–1993.[citation needed]

Celebrity nudes[edit]

Playgirl has not been generally successful in persuading many prominent male celebrities to disrobe, nor have any of its nude models risen to major stardom in films. The magazine was somewhat more successful in getting the Hollywood actors to disrobe for layouts in its first years of publication. Those who have posed nude or semi-nude include:

The magazine has a monthly section entitled "Celeb Nudes" featuring photographs of various celebrities (including Leonardo DiCaprio) from movie scenes, usually nude. In the case of the infamous nude Brad Pitt photos, candid shots of him appeared in another celebrity-oriented section named "Tabloid." The magazine has often used photographs of movie stars and celebrities on the cover, but due to publicity agents' restrictions on male nudity for their Hollywood clients, these stars are usually just interviewed or profiled and do not appear in a nude layout.

Man of the Month (centerfold)[edit]

Two preview issues of Playgirl were published with racecar driver Mike Hiss in the January 1973 issue; and the Hager Twins, Jim and John, from TV's Hee Haw in the February 1973 issue. Then Vol. 1, No. 1 appeared in June 1973, featuring Lyle Waggoner as the centerfold. Dirk Shafer, one of the gay men featured later produced a comic mockumentary titled Man of the Year in which he discusses balancing being gay with working as a sex symbol. Besides Shafer, other gay models to appear in the magazine included Scott Merritt, Playgirl's 30th-anniversary centerfold, who revealed in the August 19, 2003 issue of The Advocate that he is gay.[23]

Brian Dawson, April 1978's Man of the Month, would go on to win the title of "International Mr. Drummer", a gay leather title, in 1989, as well as winning a bronze medal in the physique competition at the 2002 Gay Games in Australia. Thom Collins appeared just one month after Dirk's in January 1991 later using his infamous "Playgirl celebrity" to bring attention to his own Long term battle and misconception of what it meant to be HIV+ garnering him the title HIV Positive Supermodel. Both he and Shafer grew up in the same town and also appeared in mockumentary titled Man of the Year written, directed, and produced by Dirk Shafer playing none other than himself. Jim Waldrop, centerfold in the January 1981 issue, was better known as gay porn superstar J. W. King. Similarly, February 1979's "Man of the Month" was better known as gay porn legend Clay Russell. Randy Savino, January 2000 issue, was also a gay porn star who usually went by the name of Geoff Ashton. Talvin DeMachio, the September 2001 centerfold, was also gay.

In the June 2004 issue, Playgirl featured its oldest cover model/centerfold in the magazine's 30-year history: Rick Dinihanian, a 54-year-old gay man.

Since 2011[edit]

The Magna Publishing Group "secured the print rights" to Playgirl magazine in 2011.[28]

In 2015, Playgirl asked Miguel Pimentel, a "bulging New York City Sheriff's deputy", to pose nude and offered $10,000 to any one who could get frontal nudes of Anderson Cooper.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rettenmund, Matthew (June 24, 2017). "The Rise and Fall of Playgirl". Esquire Magazine. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  2. ^ John David Ebert (2011). The New Media Invasion: Digital Technologies and the World They Unmake. McFarland. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7864-8818-6. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Cara Buckley They couldn't get past the 'Mimbos' Archived September 30, 2017, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, November 14, 2008.
  4. ^ "How did 'Playgirl' magazine go from feminist force to flaccid failure?". May 19, 2016.
  5. ^ "Playgirl Magazine Files for Bankruptcy Protection". Associated Press.
  6. ^ "A Penis on Every Page: The Rise and Fall of Playgirl". June 24, 2017.
  7. ^ "A Penis on Every Page: The Rise and Fall of Playgirl". June 24, 2017.
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Lori, Enos (August 24, 2000). "U.S. Cracks Down on Net Porn Fraud". E-commerce Times. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016.
  10. ^ Playgirl Web Site Faces FTC Charges Archived October 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Federal Trade Commission, August 23, 2000.
  11. ^ Shiver, Jube (November 6, 2001). "Porn Web Sites to Pay $30 Million in Refunds". LA Times. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016.
  12. ^ "Blue Horizon Media, Inc". Archived from the original on February 7, 2017. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  13. ^ "Porn Sites Charged With $230 Million Scam". Wall Street Journal. March 19, 2003. Archived from the original on March 16, 2017.
  14. ^ Brunker, Mike (February 15, 2005). "Alleged mobsters guilty in vast Net, phone fraud". NBC News. Archived from the original on July 27, 2016.
  15. ^ Rafat Ali, "Playboy Enterprises Shutting Down Playgirl Mag; Online Only" Archived November 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, CBS News, August 3, 2008.
  16. ^ David Caplan Finally! Levi Johnston's Playgirl cover revealed Archived January 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine People magazine, February 8, 2010.
  17. ^ "Levi Johnston Bares All for Playgirl". CBS News. February 9, 2010. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016.
  18. ^ "How did 'Playgirl' magazine go from feminist force to flaccid failure?". May 19, 2016. Archived from the original on July 26, 2016.
  19. ^ "Playgirl (Sold to Magna Publishing on April 25, 2011)". Investing Answers. June 6, 2013. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016.
  20. ^ Johnson, Bob (April 25, 2011). "Magna Publishing Acquires Blue Horizon Titles, Internet Rights". XBIZ Newswire. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  21. ^ "Beautiful Men Since 1973".
  22. ^ "1-800-PHONESEX Acquires Leading New York-Based Adult Publisher". PR Newswire. December 29, 2015. Archived from the original on March 11, 2017.
  23. ^ a b Michael Rowe, "Great Scott: After years of struggling with his sexuality, Playgirl centerfold Scott Merritt is coming all the way out. To his surprise, so is Playgirl", Archived June 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine The Advocate, issue 895, August 19, 2003.
  24. ^ R. Thomas Umstead, "A 'Playgirl' for Adult TV", Archived February 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Multichannel News, November 17, 2003.
  25. ^ Awl, The (May 13, 2016). "Playgirl's First Hardon". The Awl. Retrieved June 4, 2023.
  26. ^ Richard A. Leit, Harrison G. Pope, Jr. and James J. Gray, "Cultural expectations of muscularity in men: The evolution of Playgirl centerfolds," International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 29, Issue 1 (December 19, 2000), pp. 90–93.
  27. ^ Carl Schreck, "Playgirl's men are a cut above," Archived May 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine St. Petersburg Times, Issue 978 (46), June 18, 2004.
  28. ^ Bob Johnson,, Magna Publishing Acquires Blue Horizon Titles, Internet Rights Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, April 25, 2011.
  29. ^ "Playgirl will pay big if hunky sheriff's deputy poses nude". NY Daily News. June 8, 2015. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]