great American painter”)—is it possiblenthat he reads Playboy? (Is the PopenPoHsh?)n”Yes, of course I read Playboy. Insay ‘of course’ because I’ve beennreading it for so long. It, morenthan any other magazine I knownof is involved in the mainstreamnof our culture and values. It’s alsona way of keeping up with the peoplenwho are shaping and changingnthings in this world. Besides, thenPlayboy cartoons are great.”nWhat.-^ What.’* No, he couldn’t havensaid that! With this blow to the solarnplexus the mind reels, the eyes refusento focus. We are staggered; but squinting,nwe look at the words again. Surenenough, they are all there, in the propernorder: “Besides, the Playboy cartoonsnare great.”nThe cartoons. He buys it for thencartoons.n1 he mind’s eye sees Mr. Sargentnrelaxing in his solar-heated living roomn—having a Dewar’s, probably. Foxynlady at his side, four or five Brubecknalbums stacked up on the new turntable,nhe peruses the latest issue of Playboy,nwhich has come in the mail today. Havingnstudied the Andy Young interviewn(very heavy), he stops to jot down anfew notes for his next novel, takes anlong, contemplative draft on his pipe—nSutliff Private Stock, probably—pauses,nthen returns to his magazine. Graspingneach page with moistened thumb andnforefinger, he turns them, resolutely,none by one—flip, flip—past the RaquelnWelch spread (No. Can it be.-*)—flip,nflip—his face impassive, inscrutable,nhe scans the stills from the latest RussnMeyer movie—flip, flip, flip—fumblingnonly momentarily (Damn! Clumsy centerfold!)nover the Playmate of thenMonth, and maintains his composurenuntil finally, emitting an audible moannor two, he comes … yes, yes, at last. . .nto the Buck Brown cartoon! And now,n… oh ecstasy,.. . Gahan Wilson! And,n… John Dempsey (sigh).nNo, the naked ladies of Playboy donnot arouse Bill’s prurient interest; hisnsubscription doesn’t turn him into anpervert, drooling and panting over thengirls with their legs spread all over thencamera lens. Uh-uh. The message of thenad is so reassuring: “the same kind ofnmen who read Time and Newsweeknread Playboy. Only a lot more of themnread Playboy . . . The Playboy reader.nHis lust is for life.” And stereos, andnPorsches, and yachts, and cartoons, andnCarlSagan, and …nWhich brings us to the point of thisnreview: Playboy would seem to be ankind of inflight magazine with boobs.nNow there are worse things, to bensure. Playboy is not genuinely vulgar,nfor one thing. It never has been, notneven during the worst convulsions ofnits several identity crises. The mostnviolent of these came in the early ’70s,nwhen only the Playboy casinos werenmaking money. The company was overextended,nbadly managed, embroilednin scandal, and editorially schizophrenic.nSomehow Hef had lost his touch. Thenfeminists were at his throat—and nonwonder; this was the man who hadnhumiliated women by showing us theirnbodies (or was it because he stuck littlenbunny tails and bow ties on them.^ Inforget.) In any event, the beleaguerednPlayboy empire looked for a while as ifnit might be devoured by the sexualnrevolution it is supposed to have begun;nby what Hefner rather grandiloquentlyntermed “the Playboy Philosophy.” Hefner,nwhose original success was inextricablynbound up in his posing as thenchampion of human rights, of an expansiveninterpretation of the FirstnAmendment, found himself in mortalndanger of being outraunched by his lessninhibited imitators, Penthouse andnHustler, which exploited the new licentiousnessnand precipitated the War ofnthe Split Beaver.nThis subject is a bit gamy, but it mustnbe addressed. I will try to do so discreetly.nA “Ziegler” cartoon (you seenBill Sargent and I share a fetish) in annnrecent issue of The New Yorker proposesnto depict the “History of Rock.”nThe cartoon consists of six pictorialnrepresentations of the same person—nsame features, same expressionless face,nsame posture, same guitar in hand. Thensix pictures are distinguished only byntonsorial and sartorial considerations.nRock music is shown in its chronologicalndevelopment, so to speak, from 1956n(close-cropped hair, narrow lapels,npegged pants: an utterly conventionalnJohnny Tillotson or Tommy Sands)nthrough 1961 (flashy sport shirt, hairna little longer: Jan and Dean, perhaps),n1964 (long hair combed forward, moddishnsuit, spiked heels: John Lennonnbefore he got religion), 1968 (sandals,nlonger hair, moustache, flower: Sgt.nPepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band),n1974 (bizarre, frizzed hair, tatterednzoot suit: Jerry Rubin with a guitar), tonfinally, 1979 (close cropped hair, narrownlapels, pegged pants, . . . ). Puttingnit more economically, the cartoon portraysnthe “evolution” of rock from NeilnSedaka to Neil Sedaka. In a way this isnthe thesis of Thomas Weyr’s thoroughlyncompetent book on the history ofnPlayboy. To wit: Playboy owed its originalnsuccess to the fact that it was anslick, consumption- and status-orientednman’s magazine that exploited the hugenmarket potential that lay in the intersticesnbetween Esquire and Argosy; itnwas thrown for a loop by the ’60s, triednto appeal to the counterculture butnfailed because Hef was too much of anprig; and then saved itself in the laten’70s by once again becoming a slick,nconsumption- and status-oriented man’snmagazine—an inflight magazine withnboobs.n1 his “full-circle” theory of socialnchange, the idea behind Ziegler’s cartoonnand implicit in Weyr’s book, isnappealing, but it is wrong. The fact isnthat while Playboy (like rock music) is,nin 1979, very much the same thing thatnit was during the 1950s, it is not exactlynthe same thing, and the difference, innthis case, is crucial. During the ’50sn• H M M M a M M B M l QnSeptember/October 1979n