Sunday, January 08, 2012

A Naked Quest

I've never been a regular "reader" of Playboy – it's too classy for me. But growing up, every few years someone very famous would agree to appear in the magazine – someone you weren't likely to see naked in this pre-TMZ, DeListed, X-Tube universe – and I would seek out that issue. I remember wanting to sneak a peek at Drew Barrymore, Demi Moore, and Madonna in the nude. I'm sure there were others over the years, though I can't really recall. I'm pretty sure Molly Ringwald never posed – I would have lined up like an Applista waiting for the next iThing for that one. (Who am I kidding, I still would.) In the end, the naked celebrities, and the "regular" women who appeared nude in the magazine, never made a lasting impression on me. No more so than the statues of Venus de Milo – they were, after all, "art."

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a beautiful naked woman as much as the next perv—person, but I never found the pictures to be particularly titillating. I'm far too depraved in the recesses of my mind for that. Thank goodness Al Gore invented the internet to help satisfy my wanton curiosity.

And then late last year I learned Playboy had landed a great "get." Lindsey Lohan. She was the Kurt RusselI of a new generation, launching her career in a number of Disney films and shows. I remembered her fondly from "The Parent Trap," "Freaky Friday," and the Herbie remakes. And when she flexed some mainstream acting muscle in Tina Fey's "Mean Girls" I remember thinking, 'this kid's going to make it.'

Then the wheels came off and I stopped caring.

But now, as this round of her legal troubles seemed to be ending, she was looking at a classic Hollywood reboot – the Playboy pictorial. I admit I was curious. And let's be honest, a former child star, someone who's implanted in your memory at an age when it's not appropriate to see her naked ("Freaky Friday" – LiLo aged 17), now that's titillating! She may be 25 and drug-addled now, but in my mind, she's still that rebellious teenager, with her satin choker, fighting with Jamie Lee Curtis and learning meaningful lessons about the importance of family. I decided to invest $5, $6, maybe even up to $8 in my somewhat morbid curiosity – to see Double L naked before she is nominated for an Oscar or dies from an overdose.

I heard the hype about how the issue was going to set sales records, but it never dawned on me that I'd have a problem finding the issue. Like Lindsey getting out of a sportscar, I was wrong.

I went to my local 7-Eleven – just tattoo and car magazines. The next 7-Eleven I tried had a slightly more refined clientele – they had Self and Men's Fitness, but no "adult sophisticate" as I learned the convenience trade calls them. The next 7-Eleven I went to didn't even have any magazines at all. Just three-day-old USA Todays – and now it became a matter of honor to find the issue.

My local Borders had been a cornucopia of periodicals, but they were no more. My local Barnes & Noble, the only game in town now, didn't seem to have room on the shelves for any adult-oriented magazine – sophisticate or otherwise.

I was at a loss. And it made me realize the newsstands I grew up with in New York have gone the way of the record store. Magazines, like music, were soon going to have to offend nobody if you wanted to find it in a big box media store. In fact, it may already be too late for periodicals.

There's a gas station near my house where cab drivers hang out between shifts and there's kind of a large store attached. I thought they'd be the answer. But the question wasn't, "do you have cologne and phone cards I can use to call Eritrea?" so that was a bust.

I didn't know if the magazine had sold out quickly or if vendors were afraid to carry it, but I was certain that at this point that I had lost interest.

A week later, I found myself at a different, enormous Barnes & Noble and decided to stalk the magazines. Current Events, General Interest, Women's Interest, Hobbies & Collectibles, Men's Interest, and wait – was that a magazine in a plastic bag up in the far right corner? It was. Could it be? I slowly reached out, took hold of the thick dull plastic, and pulled the magazine out from behind a misfiled copy of Esquire.


Seriously? Penthouse. The degenerate gateway periodical to the truly twisted Leg Shows, Black Tails, and Barely Legals, here in the formerly respectable Barnes & Noble?! Well good for you, B&N Tysons Corner. Good for you standing up to the Puritanically righteous – and with several mega churches just a scowl's throw away on Route 7 no less! So freedom of the press, yes, but The Hef and LiLo, not so much.

I quickly decided two things. First, I was just not going to see Ms. Lohan naked – at least not in a classy way. Second, the Mass Media Distribution Caliphate still had some cracks in it – we could still find things in media superstores that some people found objectionable. Hooray us!

Two weeks later, a neighbor – the one who taught me the term "adult sophisticate" – brought me his colleague's subscription copy of the January/February Double issue of Playboy with Lindsey on the cover. The Promised Land was within my grasp.

Though I didn't get to support the system by paying into it, I was satisfied with my efforts to legitimately acquire my own copy of the magazine, so I flipped to Lindsey's pictorial with relish.

I was more let down than Lindsey's self-respect.

It simply wasn't Lindsey – not the one I wanted to see anyway. They chose to remake the famous Marilyn Monroe photo spread from the very first Playboy, and so they hid LL beneath a ridiculous Marilyn hairdo and copied those silly pin up girl poses. It looked nothing like Lindsey. Nothing. She retained her freckles, but the rest of her was lost.

We know and love (or hate) Lindsey with her straight hair, wry smile, and obscenities painted on her fingernails. This uber-glammed out woman in the pictures has as much to do with Lindsey as the other women in the magazine have to do with women you know. It was just plain silly. A total waste of my time and considerable efforts.

What's next? Will Playboy finally land that Molly Ringwald shoot and put her in a jet black Elvira wig? Sounds like par for the course. In the meantime, seems like there are actually articles in Playboy, so I'm going to read some and see if they can't redeem the issue for me. Who knew?

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