Chris Napolitano on George Bush, the State of Porn, and Why Playboy is Still Hot

Playboy LogoCourtesy of Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

Last week, we solicited your questions for Playboy editorial director Chris Napolitano. You responded with vigor. And now, so has he.

This may be the longest Q&A in the history of the printed word. Unlike our previous Q&A subjects who picked five or ten of your questions to answer, Napolitano answered every last one of them. That’s fine with us: there’s a big bucket of electrons here at The New York Times, and they are free, and you are allowed to use as many as you want. Not like with paper and ink. My only concern is that while Napolitano was cranking out all these answers, who was minding the Playboy store?

Before you get to his answers, however, he’s provided a pretty exhaustive defense of his enterprise in general — a defense that I would interpret to mean that Napolitano hasn’t faced a feisty blog audience in the past, or perhaps that this blog audience is a shade feistier than average. Either way, thanks to you all for the questions, and to Chris for the spirited answers.

Guest Blog
Chris Napolitano, Playboy editorial director

I know I’m probably breaking the Q&A format, but in a feeble attempt to frame the conversation, I wanted to address certain issues before I answered specific questions. While I never show up representing the magazine and company expecting accolades — Playboy‘s demise has been heralded in some quarters for some thirty years now — I do like to start making a few points to accentuate the positives:

1) Playboy doesn’t suck. It’s actually quite great. Please pick up a copy of the latest issue if you haven’t seen one lately.

2) Playboy is huge. We’re one of a handful of the biggest magazines in the country, and the leader in the men’s field — and we’ve been so for most of our 54 years.

3) I’m used to it. With success comes all sorts of criticism. As deputy editor Stephen Randall (responsible for all those wonderful interviews and more) likes to say, “We’re like the rich guy in a convertible who’s smoking a cigar and has his arm around a beautiful woman who looks around and says, ‘why doesn’t everyone love me?’”

As for relevancy, what the hell does that mean? I’ve yet to see an accurate representation of how the magazine was perceived in the olden days. (If enlightenment is what you’re after, check out Reaching for Paradise, a 1977 book about Playboy by Thomas Weyr. Many of the so-called issues we face today were supposedly what we were struggling with then.) Or can someone truly say that a magazine with 10 million readers is irrelevant? Drop me in a cornfield with any other editor from any other publication, then ask the first person who walks by which one of us they’d like to meet first.

Or how about this: Next month a Paul Haggis movie, “In the Valley of Elah,” will hit theaters. There’s already Oscar buzz about it. It was based on an article written by Mark Boal (who also shares the movie’s writing credits) for Playboy called “Death and Dishonor” in May, 2004. How’s that for relevant? Our press coverage for the magazine dwarfs all others — what more do you want? Consider, if you will, Playboy Mansion in Macao, which will open in 2009. That joint follows in the wake of the Playboy Club and the Hugh M. Hefner Sky Villa at the Palms in Las Vegas. And we have the number one rated show on E!, “The Girls Next Door.”

Certainly the power of the ideas behind the magazine and the company has never been stronger. Cashing in on them would seem to be the challenge, as perceived by readers of a blog that focuses on economics, and I’ll try to speak to that, even though that isn’t my principal responsibility. (Keeping those ideas alive and vibrant is; but there isn’t an editor out there in this day and age who isn’t part huckster.)

Tagging Playboy‘s relevancy to its financial position is a sucker bet for an editor, for reasons I’ll describe below (mainly because we play by different rules). Still, if it’s my only cross to bear, I’ll take it. I work at a public company with sterling accounting ethics, and the magazine has spun off divisions that generate revenue that could arguably belong to the magazine’s bottom line at a private company.

Then there’s the overworked word: pornography. Anyone who thinks the photos in Playboy are pornographic should relinquish their membership cards to the Met. (C’mon, I know you have them.) Playboy is porn, while Maxim, Esquire‘s “Sexiest Woman Alive” and Cosmo are not? I consider pornography to be the depiction of sex acts. (And who doesn’t like that?) Playboy publishes nude photos, and I’ve seen harder stuff in fashion ads.

As for my erstwhile colleague, Kim Scarborough, I don’t believe we ever had the pleasure of meeting; perhaps she worked in the Chicago or Los Angeles offices. While I can’t argue with her assessment of whatever company office party she attended, I will say that, for a company that throws a hell of a lot of great parties, our offices parties are a bit anti-climactic. We’re all a bit worn out by that point. But in my 20 years here, I’ve been to some spectacular events.

As for her other comments, well, I think she’s perpetuating some stereotypes about [Hugh] Hefner, the feel of the magazine, its readership and our working methods that just don’t have a basis in fact or that don’t come from an informed sensibility about what our fans get out of the magazine. When you work at the magazine for any amount of time, you realize everyone (even your granny) holds an opinion about the book — and no two are the same.

Okay, on to the questions:

Q: To what degree is Playboy‘s circulation decline a magazine issue versus a pornography issue (i.e., the digital revolution has hurt most magazines’ circulation and advertising prospects while also greatly increasing the supply of pornography)?

A: It’s a magazine publishing issue. We’re not going to kill ourselves by supporting what is widely acknowledged as a broken newsstand system, so we manage our rate-base accordingly. Please keep in mind that, because of advertiser sensitivity, Playboy relies enormously on generated revenue from subscriptions and single-copy sales. That makes us unique among most magazines, and it’s something we’re thankful about when the magazine industry ad pendulum swings in the wrong direction. It gives us something to hang on during such challenging times for magazines as now (particularly in the men’s category: FHM folded; Maxim has new ownership, and Stuff has been folded into it).

So what to do? We know our brand is stronger than ever; we’re reaching more consumers than ever through our various media platforms. We’re aware of the changes in how and where media is consumed today, and we’re well-poised to take advantage of that. Last year we combined the publishing and online groups, and we’ve increased the overall audience for Playboy. Our goal is to continue effectively aggregating that audience for our advertising partners. Our free site has a large portion of material from the magazine, and we’re discussing ways of extending even more content online. The challenge for the magazine industry is in figuring out ways to adopt metrics that go beyond what’s shown on the ABC and MRI statements.

I’m so sick of being held up to our circulation spike in the 1970s. The world was much different then. All magazines had higher circulations. Cable TV and the Internet did not exist; VCRs were in their infancy. Look at CBS then, and look at CBS now. But even in this niche market, CBS and Playboy are pretty damn big. And here’s the thing: thanks to our early arrival on the Web (Playboy was the first magazine with a Web site, launched in 1994), our combined audience is bigger than ever. We’re offering Playboy-style content on advertiser-supported and paid subscription sites, and the combined advertising revenue year over year is up.

Today, magazines exist in a universe of expanded entertainment choices for men. Even in the magazine universe alone, the competition is intense — there are a lot of magazines out there! And now we’re competing with free and pirated material online. It’s a transitional period, and we’re certainly one company with the resources and product to ride it out.

Q: What sort of cultural/political maneuvering does Playboy engage in to have its magazine sold around the world? Is the magazine available, e.g., in places like Saudi Arabia, and if so, how does that happen?

A: The best explanation is contained in the current issue (September 2007) in our Forum section, which is a report on our experience in Indonesia. It’s also available here. Our approach on foreign editions is to license the magazine to a publisher already operating in that country. That said, I can’t wait for our troops to come home from Iraq. We’ve had a lot of subscription cancellations because our armed forces can’t receive the magazine in-country or on bases nearby.

Q: How does Playboy get around its image problem in Muslim countries?

A: There’s no getting around religious fundamentalism for us, though there’s probably a place for us in truly secular Muslim societies. I’m more concerned with addressing religious fundamentalism at home.

Q: Playboy‘s circulation has fallen by about half over three decades. Has that accelerated since the increasing availability of high-speed Internet? Or has it been a steady decline all along? If its decline does track tightly with the mushrooming amount of pornography online, what can we conclude about readers who used to say, “I only read it for the articles”?

A: See above. I firmly believe that the Internet has affected buying habits more than entertainment or reading habits. Magazines have been hit hard by the decline in foot traffic at the retail level. Once guys stopped buying CDs, Tower and other music stores went bankrupt or cut back. So our challenge is to make it easy for them to find the book online — in digital form, or on the Playboy.com platform, or by click-through sub offers — so they can buy it when they hear about Amanda Beard, say, or our upcoming interview with Keith Olbermann.

The magazine is not designed to be read just for the articles — that’s the beauty of it. Our photos embrace the time-honored tradition of girl watching, and we compete against other magazines and outlets that feature high end photography and beautiful women and celebrities in sexy, nude, or near-nude poses. And yes, we very much subscribe to the Tina Brown formula of designing a cover to attract the most people possible, then presenting challenging and fascinating articles inside. It’s the secret to keeping people subscribing to the magazine for years at a time, as opposed to books with a higher churn rate or Web sites with nothing but pictures — a guy can click through thousands of images very quickly, and once he’s done he doesn’t come back.

No single aspect of our magazine can survive on its own and bring in the numbers the magazine does — the secret is in the mix. If we were just articles, we’d have the circulation of an Esquire or GQ. If we were just pictures — hey! We do have something like that in our publishing group called special editions, which publishes 96 pages of Playboy-style nudes each month and sells about 75,000 copies.

Q: How is Playboy trying to stay relevant in the current adult entertainment industry? As Stephen mentioned, the supply of porn out there is overwhelming, and paying for it seems antiquated.

A: People still are happy to pay for Playboy images online. Our pay site generates tens of millions of dollars. Paying for it seems antiquated? They’re willing to pay for quality. Otherwise they’re stealing it. Are you telling me honesty is past its prime?

Q: How much have FHM and Maxim hurt you? By not showing as much skin, these magazines are able to get a higher number of celebrities to appear. Is Playboy considering PG-13 pictorials featuring more popular celebrities?

A: Actually, the lad book explosion helped us. It allowed advertisers and marketers to acknowledge that men liked to look at pretty women, and that was okay. As their newsstand numbers rose, so did ours. They were wonderful starter kits for men exploring the joys of magazine reading. As they wore thin and grew rapacious, foot traffic at the newsstand decreased (see above), and now it’s feeling like the ’80s all over again, when Esquire, GQ and Playboy defined the men’s market. (And yes to considering sexy pictorials of celebs — we did quite well this year with our Mariah Carey cover … stay tuned.)

Q: Can you discuss the degree to which the organization has discussed moving Playboy from what is now a relatively soft-core offering to a more hard-core genre?

A: I assume you’re talking about the magazine? If so, not us. Why would hard-core be the answer to anything? Does anyone know the economics there? Leave it to Larry Flynt, who will not be outflanked. (“There are always cheaper girls and there will always be cheaper paper.”)

Q: To what extent does the lack of a major star (e.g., Pamela Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith, or Jenny McCarthy) gracing the magazine cover hurt sales?

A: Celebrities sell, no doubt about it. They also command a lot in terms of fees and production expense. The trick is making it worth their while, and making it worth our while, too.

Q: Why hasn’t Playboy offered free content online? Wouldn’t advertisers and readers would flock to the site on name recognition alone?

A: Playboy is still something guys are willing to pay for — why give that up? Actually, we do have a robust offering of free content — you should take a look. We like the balance we have between paid and free.

Q: If sales have decreased in such “vertical” rates over decades, what are the new marketing strategies? Is expanding Playboy, or even branching it out to new genres, all while maintaining the soft-core tone, an option? How do you keep sexuality “up to date” with modern trends, and how does the new, less taboo concept of sensuality affect the magazine’s adaptability to customers’ wants/needs? How do you predict changes on the collective imaginary idealism and keep up with them?

A: Getting the magazine in readers’ hands is our best marketing strategy. With the decline of the newsstand, we’re exploring ways to pump up distribution online (see above), and we’re building up our college marketing. And I don’t see any other mass publication addressing trends in sexuality or the falling of taboos better than Playboy, do you? As for collective imagery, I’m fascinated by the rise in the amateur aesthetic (dare I say user-generated content?).

Q: What control do you have over the foreign editions of Playboy? Are they run differently? In Brazil for example, Playboy seems to feature a lot of celebrities.

A: We currently have 23 licensed international editions. The majority of the content in each edition is locally produced by a local publisher, based on the tastes and trends of the local market. I have very little control, though I like to see our material appear throughout the globe. Incidentally, U.S. fashion pages are the most frequently featured pages in our foreign editions, after the celebrity nudes.

Q: What is the success rate for Digital Playboy? I work in the music industry and we have watched digital sales climb over the last two years, to a point where they make up about 10-15% of revenue. What do the numbers look like for Playboy, and what else are you doing to compete in the digital market?

A: Our digital edition is growing. Subscribers now are given the choice to stick with the paper product or go digital; the majority have been choosing the traditional magazine, but we’re getting quite a lot of converts. Also, we recently announced a deal with Bondi publishing. Playboy Cover to Cover: The 50s gives readers remarkable access to the first decade of the sensational and genre-defining men’s magazine. In attention to the CD-Rom, the set includes a 200-page companion book, and an exact reprint of the first issue of the magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Every issue will be available to the public in one easily searchable database. And unlike databases such as Lexis/Nexis, the archive will be comprised of scans of the original pages, and the results will appear just as they did in the magazine.

Q: Given that the show “The Girls Next Door” has been a relative success, do you think Playboy‘s TV and magazine branches should be more integrated? For instance, you could determine which girls are featured in each issue through a reality TV competition.

A: We do it when we can. Lots of magazine material and shoots are featured on the show.

Q: Playboy, like MTV, has a target audience whose members “age out” of the target demographic segment. MTV made a conscious decision not to age with their original audience, but rather to stay focused on the demographic. As a result, MTV no longer looks anything like it did in the early ’80′s. Do you feel Playboy‘s customers can be characterized this way? Has your strategy been similar in this regard?

A: We’re mass, man. We have a lot of readers. And our median age has hovered around 32 for the past five years.

Q: It seems like a lot of successful Internet pornography is successful because it has “girl next door” participants. To me, the airbrushed supermodel type feels too distant and fake. Is this a widespread phenomenon, and has Playboy shifted to capture some of this market? If not, could it even shift, or would that compromise its distinctiveness?

A: Who you calling an airbrushed supermodel? I think you’re falling into stereotypes again. Check out Amanda Beard in the July issue, or the “Girls of Montauk” feature in the same. Variety is the key to success. I don’t know how we capture the amateur aesthetic of cell phone photos or MySpace pages, but we have our eye on it….

Q: If you could completely control the magazine and all of the content, what changes and general patterns would you create?

A: Huh? You’re talking to the editorial director, bub. I’m proud of the magazine we put out, and stand by it all. What would you have me change? What changes have our competitors (GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Maxim) made that I should marvel at?

Q: If you have to blame someone for Playboy‘s declining circulation rate, whom would you blame?

A: George Bush? Yeah, let’s blame him.

Q: Do you see the strength of the magazine in the photos or the articles? Do you use each to try and target separate demographics?

A: Well, the cheesy answer is: both. The reality is that in any given issue, there are things that I love, and other things that perhaps didn’t meet expectations. One month my favorite child may be photo-driven (I mean, look at “Girls of Montauk”), or text, such as September’s story by John Richardson on Redclouds. Or the Denis Johnson short story last February, or Tricia Helfer‘s photos in the same issue.

As for separate demographics, I try not to let the afflictions of marketers affect me. For example, Hunter S. Thompson is hugely popular among young men today. I believe Norman Mailer can provide entertainment for all ages. So can young writers like Chris Sorrentino or Sam Lipsyte. I never understood the idea that you attract young men by talking exclusively about skateboards or whatever … I give them more credit than that.

Q: Is Hef really the charming pleasant character all of the time, or does he have a bit of Martha Stewart in him?

A: Hef is pleasant, brilliant and demanding — but never demanding in such a way that you lose your motivation for wanting to do good work. What I love about him is that he is first and foremost an editor, and he supports me a great deal. I appreciate that level of understanding — having a boss who knows what editors go through.

Q: How much control does Hefner still have over the Playboy brand? Is his relationship to the brand strengthening or limiting? What corporate controls are in place to maintain the brand when he is no longer around?

A: Forgive my old-fogy frame of reference here, but Hef’s relationship to the brand is akin to that of jazz musician’s interpretation of a song. We’re all improvising at times to the same tune. We hear the same melody in our heads, we (meaning various people who work in various divisions) just express it in different ways. If someone’s off the beat or out of tune, sooner or later they’ll hear from Hef. Look at the rise in our licensed products, and the fact that we sell them primarily to trend-conscious men and women. Or look at the number of women who watch “The Girls Next Door.” We didn’t necessarily plan it that way from the start, but we certainly followed the music. I think Hef’s presence strengthens the brand. I don’t think we need to look at a time beyond Hef; he’s unique.

Q: First, how much have the failures of previous management continued to haunt current management? Second, has the company considered broadening the use of its brand into a new venture outside of its core audience, such as a magazine aimed at women?

A: Decisions made in recent years are bearing fruit (thank you, past management). The Palms Casino deal is the first of the company’s land-based entertainment initiatives. (Macao is next; there are also nine Playboy concept boutiques around the world; the flagship store in London is due to open in September.) And Playboy‘s branded line of licensed fashion and consumer products has experienced exceptional growth since 1999 — we offer men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, underwear, swimwear, outerwear, footwear, yadda yadda. The whole licensed products business now generates in excess of $800 million in global retail sales in more than 150 countries. (I got this from our PR VP.) And most of those products are bought by women.

Additionally, “The Girls Next Door” on E! is the number one rated show with females in the 18-34 demo. That’s a huge sea change for Playboy, and we’re going to ride the wave. To date, we’ve dedicated a portion of our Web site to fans of the show, and we’ll continue to build it out.

Q: I am curious how Playboy‘s recent decisions to branch out into other venues (clothing lines, TV, etc.) is different from its past business model, which caused the company to overextend and nearly led it to fold. What steps are being taken to keep history from repeating itself?

A: Christie [Hefner] knows this lesson well, as she was the one who reshaped the company when it had overreached and gotten into areas that she felt were out of our expertise. (Why the hell do we want to get involved in the day-to-day operations of a hotel?) Now our brand extensions are primarily license-based ventures, where we carry very little risk — low risk, but lucrative for us.

Q: Why are advertisers so much more uptight about advertising in Playboy today than they were in the past?

A: Why? The world is more cautious, corporate driven. And how about politics? Janet Jackson‘s nipple. That, ridiculously, was a watershed moment. Initially it was thought 25,000 called in to complain, but it was actually a handful of people working speed-dial programs.

Q: Shows like “Sex & The City” and “Desperate Housewives,” while not exactly pornographic, do have risqué plots, and yet the audience is largely female. Does Playboy see women as a potential area of growth for more TV ventures? Are modern women ready for more explicit sex in their entertainment, provided that there is good enough writing to go along with it?

A: I love the whole modern sense of female sexiness. Playboy TV is entertainment for couples, and it does quite well. So yes, women are ready for explicit language and depictions of sex — but we feel we’re best at crafting that type of material in the context of a shared experience, and not exclusively female-directed.

Q: How is Playboy planning on reaching the 25-35 female demographic (like myself)? I regard Playboy as a progressive magazine with fantastic articles that happens to have pictures of naked women in it. With your subscriptions declining, wouldn’t women like myself give you a new market?

A: Well, damn — you’re my favoritist poster! Thank you, thank you. (No, I really didn’t sneak on and write this myself.) Maybe I’m limited in my thinking, but it seems that what attracts you is Playboy‘s attempt to be emotionally honest about what it is to be an American male. I don’t know if we could be as convincing if we tried catering to a dual audience. And now for some insider-pool, some magazine industry truisms: it’s damn near impossible to use one magazine to reach a dual audience on lifestyle issues. Marketers and advertisers can’t comprehend this (like, why doesn’t Victoria’s Secret advertise in our magazine? Instead, they’re in women’s books). Vanity Fair is the only magazine I can think of that pulls this off, and its existence predates the current marketing-by-the-numbers, psychographic over-thinking that plagues the advertising industry.

Q: Has the rise in Christian fundamentalism in the last decade or so had any affect on the willingness of retailers to carry the magazine?

A: Ah, the Bible Belt. Where our retail for single copy is thin, we see a spike in subscriptions. Even so, Playboy is more evenly distributed throughout the country than our competitors. We’re like a news weekly in that regard.

Q: To what extent does the magazine’s concept of “beauty” reflect the target audience’s taste? How does Photoshop, for instance, help generate a likeable image to which a buyer can relate, and what is the criteria for the use of such gadgets?

A: I would hope our concept of beauty is in line with our audience. You don’t sell as many magazines as we do for as long as we have if it’s not in line. Photoshop, like air-brushing, in the strictest terms is not a factor. We do minimal photo-shopping — maybe smoothing away razor stubble, cleaning up the knuckles of someone’s hand, etc. Our hallmark style — call it glamour photography — calls for high production values in every respect. Our photos are so carefully crafted that people sometimes attribute their principal qualities to Photoshop.

Q: As an insider, do you think pornography is good for society?

A: Insider? I hardly know ‘er. Do I think porn is good? Kinda maybe sometimes. Everything in moderation. One thing’s for sure: Sexual repression is bad, bad, bad.

Q: I consider myself a normal, middle class guy. I can’t afford a lot of the cars, clothes, etc. featured in Playboy. Would you sell more magazines if you focused on intelligent, middle class men, rather than just the rich?

A: It’s a fantasy book, an aspirational book. There are lots of sources that can tell you whether or not the Honda Accord is right for you. But I still like looking at Lamborghinis. And fashion is a trickle-down industry — the looks and designs on the high end soon end up on the racks of your local department store. We fill you in on the trends, then you go out and buy the best version thereof in your budget.

Q: The style of Playboy‘s photography in the American edition does not seem to have changed in 25 years. How does this impact readership? How does this unwillingness to change affect Playboy‘s position in the marketplace? Why do international editions of Playboy feature much bolder, more creative photography?

A: I beg to differ, my good sir. There was a lot of Vaseline on the lens (soft focus) in the mid-eighties. As for the “same photos,” I think that relates to poses. You can only turn the human body in so many different directions. It’s up to us, the model, the photographer and the setting to produce something distinctive. And I think we do so more often than not. We feature a lot of international photography in the magazine, by the way, and will do so even more in 2008. So I don’t think we’re overlooking anything. However, when the Brazilian edition runs 22-24 page pictorials, the pacing and number of photos can give the impression of “bolder and more creative.”

Q: I don’t consider it a stretch to say that “religion major at Columbia” and “Playboy editorial director” do not necessarily go hand in hand. I am interested to know what spurred such a seemingly radical change in life direction for you, if you are please with your decision, and what advice you may have for young people just starting their careers.

A: I took the LSATs, and on the night before my [law school] applications were due, I was polishing up an application essay on why playing pool was like practicing law. It was then that I realized I was completely fooling myself. So I decided then and there not to use the common crutch of extending my education as a way of avoiding reality. My father told me to never accept a job where I typed someone else’s letters or made coffee. My first day on the job at Playboy I was doing both (okay, so I got a kick out of it because the letter I was typing was to John Updike).

So what can I tell you? My goal was to get a job and avoid working. I’ve been blessed. The only advice I can give you is to do what feels right — with the caveat that I don’t believe we should suffer much hardship for our passions. (Maybe the world is telling you to get another passion.)

As for the religion thing, I studied Comparative Religion — mostly early Christianity and the sources for the New Testament. Studying religious literature — the Bible — is important, I think, for anyone interested in writing and language. So I switched from being an English major once I got a taste. (Did you know Jesus had a brother? An older brother? I was raised Catholic, so I didn’t, and it fascinated me.)

Q: Is Playboy finding it more difficult to attract quality writers today than five or ten years ago? To what extent do you think Playboy competes with blogs and other Internet-based self-published works?

A: Actually, it’s never been better. We were nominated for our first ASME award in 15 years (it’s comical that we’re not nominated more often, but I won’t get into that) last year, and we’ve had an amazing list of writers in the past three years, including big names like Stephen King, Jane Smiley, Nadine Gordimer, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, John Updike — and I’m leaving out some highly respected but perhaps more commercially obscure names (Wole Soyinka, Ishmael Reed, Tony D’Souza). The list is huge, but this kind of self-promotion can get a bit tiresome, no? Web-based outlets don’t offer us much competition. We pay better, we have a bigger audience, and we have a better platform. For how long, who knows; but for now, it’s not even close.

Q: Do you have children? If so, when they ask you where you work, what will you answer?

A: I’ve already faced this situation in my life, and it’s fairly easy to handle. I make a magazine for adult men, not kids. It’s the same as me drinking wine at dinner and them drinking juice.

Q: When do we elevate the question of human sexuality to its next genesis? It is clear that, especially in this country, we no longer have the same types of fantasies, needs, and idealizations that we had forty years ago. For the average male, an idealized Pamela Anderson has been so worn out that it has desensitized the libido, and in turn, our energies seek out new frontiers.

A: We all have to pay attention to reality and each other. Where Playboy is a great user’s manual to the human experience, it comes down to each one of us finding ourselves and connecting with others. You can’t look to the media or pop culture to find you a soul.

Q: a) Does Hef have his silk robes custom-made? If so, where?
b) Why does he need all those wives? Nine! That’s a bit much, no?
c) If Hef had to chose between Marilyn Monroe or Anna Nicole Smith, which would he chose?
d) Is it not strange that both Smith and Monroe had other, much more plebian names before they became famous, both died tragically young, both were blond and both were rather awful actresses?
e) Can I go undercover and investigate the mansion?
f) Silicone. Why? Why so much?
g) Where are all the women over 60 in the magazine?

A: a) Yes, they are custom made for him.
b) He doesn’t have nine wives. Three girlfriends is what everyone’s talking about.
c) Marilyn Monroe. I don’t like to speak for him, but there’s no doubt in my mind on that one.
d) In my mind, there’s no comparing Anna Nicole with Marilyn Monroe. One had real talent (I beg to disagree with your assessment); the other did not.
e) Thanks to “The Girls Next Door,” the mansion is an open book. I don’t think there’s much more investigating one can do.
f) Silicone — look around. It’s everywhere. We’re a reflection of the culture. And take a look at our September issue. I’d say it’s 80% silicone free. There’s a lot of silicone in other magazines — you just can’t see it because clothes get in the way. Still, it’s a hard stereotype for us to dodge. We’re more varied than that, which means we have to do a better job of getting our message out. Perhaps there’s a blog that will run my thoughts … We’re a fantasy magazine (few magazines are not — look at those abs on the cover of Men’s Health). So there’s artifice in that, and that gets boiled down to “Airbrushed!” or “Look at those fake teeth!”
g) We’ve done women in their sixties occasionally (e.g., Joan Crawford and Nancy Sinatra). I don’t think our audience is clamoring for them on a regular basis, though.

Q: As an illustrator with work in the first issue of Playboy and for many years after, I see that the magazine is selling at auction the original art, and receiving in return a great deal more money than I was originally paid. Wouldn’t it be proper for the magazine to share in the largess?

A: I dunno. I don’t want to come across as a heartless corporate type, but I think precedent is well established here, no? When a Jeff Koons piece is resold by someone who bought it from him, he’s not getting a cut….

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  1. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    Hey, he answered my questions!
    Good show!:)

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  2. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    Hey, he answered my questions!
    Good show!:)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. John S. says:

    I am guessing the figure of 800 billion he used in revenue from playboy branded stuff is suppose to be 800 million. Regardless, its a lot of low quality stuff made in foreign countries and sold to 16-29 year olds.

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  4. John S. says:

    I am guessing the figure of 800 billion he used in revenue from playboy branded stuff is suppose to be 800 million. Regardless, its a lot of low quality stuff made in foreign countries and sold to 16-29 year olds.

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  5. Charles says:

    Great read, thank you for your time.

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  6. Charles says:

    Great read, thank you for your time.

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  7. mruizj@mac.com says:

    Dear Stephen,

    The questioning we had last week was about the declined of the business. Meanwhile, some people responded that they do not like the product, it was in reference to the amount of business they produce.

    Napolitano is getting the easy way out: “Look Sancho, the dogs are barking, it is because we are walking.” This quote is as old as “The Quixote.”

    If this is a business conversation and I am a CEO of company, I need to see the market share, then and now, some net present value of their revenue. It is not valid just to say, we are big in the magazine business, when all know magazine business sucks (do not take us wrong again, it is not a taste like, it is a business value statement).

    I have to give them credit to the announcement of the social network they are announcing. It is a risky bet. They want to capture the college people market that is tired to share Facebook with their parents; with spicy flavor.

    We do not know how exactly their web site is either. It would be very interesting to know in reference to the skills they would show to manage an online business and magazine.

    Mario Ruiz
    @ http://www.oursheet.com

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  8. mruizj@mac.com says:

    Dear Stephen,

    The questioning we had last week was about the declined of the business. Meanwhile, some people responded that they do not like the product, it was in reference to the amount of business they produce.

    Napolitano is getting the easy way out: “Look Sancho, the dogs are barking, it is because we are walking.” This quote is as old as “The Quixote.”

    If this is a business conversation and I am a CEO of company, I need to see the market share, then and now, some net present value of their revenue. It is not valid just to say, we are big in the magazine business, when all know magazine business sucks (do not take us wrong again, it is not a taste like, it is a business value statement).

    I have to give them credit to the announcement of the social network they are announcing. It is a risky bet. They want to capture the college people market that is tired to share Facebook with their parents; with spicy flavor.

    We do not know how exactly their web site is either. It would be very interesting to know in reference to the skills they would show to manage an online business and magazine.

    Mario Ruiz
    @ http://www.oursheet.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0