The moderation of capitalism and secure elections

 

Hefner, via Wikimedia Commons

Our esteemed Gary McVey recently wrote an outstanding piece about Hugh Hefner and his multi-billion dollar enterprise of Playboy Magazine.  Mr. Hefner famously intermingled his, um… smut with pop philosophy, interviews of respected celebrities, and other high-brow content.  He sought to convince his readers that his powerful intellect, understanding of cultural trends like jazz and fashion, reading of great literature, and insight into the human condition led him to believe that men are likely to enjoy looking at pictures of naked women.  Mr. Hefner is, if nothing else, a visionary.

You might wonder, “Why bother?  Why must I page through 140 pages of pseudo-intellectual sludge to get to Miss September?”  Our esteemed James Lileks suspects that it’s because Mr. Hefner was born of a 1950s sensibility, was naturally drawn away from mere smut, and found more existential fulfillment in mere smut surrounded by 140 pages of pseudo-intellectual sludge.  Feel free to correct my admittedly ham-fisted summary of your comments, Mr. Lileks.

Anyway, as you might imagine, my thoughts on Mr. McVey’s column became even more engrossed by the recent elections in Europe.  Many “far-right” political parties in Europe did better than expected in their recent elections.  Some of these parties had ties — some recent ties, and some distant ties — to unsavory reactionaries.  But these parties have become more mainstream and more broadly acceptable over time.  You might wonder, “Why bother?

These political parties had gained some degree of power for simply opposing uncontrolled immigration, for opposing the destruction of their economy for green fantasies, and for opposing willful cultural suicide.  So why bother to temper their reactionary fervor with policies that are likely to appeal to a wider voter base?

Meloni accepting the task of forming a new government, via Wikimedia Commons

Elections.  That’s why.

Mr. Hefner understood that mere smut would sell much better if he could broaden its appeal to the masses with 140 extraneous pages of pseudo-intellectual sludge.  And the European right-wing parties understand that they’ll gain more power if they can distance themselves from unsavory reactionaries and become more widely acceptable via more moderate policies.

Mr. Hefner understood capitalism, and European right-wing parties understand democratic political systems.

And it’s good for everyone.

I may not care for hard-core pornography, but I might find Playboy more palatable.  Not desirable, necessarily, but acceptable.  Pretty much.

And the stereotypical European leftist may not care for anything labeled as right-wing, but they might find the more moderate versions of political parties who share their concern about cultural issues to be more palatable.  Not desirable, necessarily, but acceptable.  Pretty much.

We all come out ahead.

Bill Clinton dutifully taking notes at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Wikimedia Commons

In the comments of Gary’s outstanding post, Scarecrow pointed out that politicians tend to be followers rather than leaders.  And it’s certainly true that democracies tend to elect weak leaders.  Because those “leaders” must follow the will of the voters.  Or else they will not be in power for long.  So our “leaders” are constantly reminded who exactly they work for.

Without capitalism, of course, we get Soviet grocery stores, with reasonable prices but nothing on the shelves.  And without elections, of course, we get Soviet politics, with the right to vote but nothing to choose from.

Once businessmen are freed from pleasing customers, and once politicians are freed from running for election, then they are free to lead.  They no longer need to follow the will of the voters.  They are now free to lead as they see fit.  To lead their ‘citizens’ even to places they don’t want to go.  What options do those ‘citizens’ have?  I guess an electric car is good enough.  And I guess open borders are a good idea – after all, President Biden says so.

Our only protection from oppression and tyranny is capitalism and secure elections.

Without those safety systems, we lose.  We lose everything.  We’ll try to make the best of it.  But we’ll lose everything.  Including our self-respect and our desire to improve our situation.

If one of our political parties has gained control of our election systems, then we’ve lost.  We’ve lost everything.

We’ll try to make the best of it.  But we’ve lost everything.

You may not like Donald Trump.  I may not like Playboy.  But surely we can agree on our shared needs, if we have capitalism and secure elections to allow us to cooperate in achieving our shared goals.

Surely.  There is hope.  If we have capitalism and secure elections.

Which we do.  Surely.

Right?

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Surely.  There is hope.  If we have capitalism and secure elections.

    Which we do.  Surely.

    Right?

    I don’t know about capitalism, but we don’t have secure elections.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Mr. Hefner understood that mere smut would sell much better if he could broaden its appeal to the masses with 140 extraneous pages of pseudo-intellectual sludge.

    Oh now, it wasn’t that bad. Not to a green-as-grass college freshman, anyway. It provided a patina of sophistication. Fake it ’til you make it.

      And the European right-wing parties understand that they’ll gain more power if they can distance themselves from unsavory reactionaries and become more widely acceptable via more moderate policies.

     

    The parties in Europe seemed to be divided into the sort-of-center Left and the hoo-boy-are-they-ever Left. Immigration reform and environmental moderation were off the table, and anyone advancing such positions was tarred with the oh so wide “far right” brush.

    A little moderation on the part of the elites might have kept this from happening.

    • #2
  3. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    A few years ago, I bought two books, hard-cover and well produced. They were fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Playboy magazine. One of the books was just interviews while the other was a sort of history of the magazine. Two thoughts: 1) the interviews were good and still hold up, 2) the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities. 

    We mucked it up. 

    • #3
  4. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    “My name is Candy and my turnoffs are teetotalers and men who read those stupid, snooty articles.”

    • #4
  5. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Percival (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Mr. Hefner understood that mere smut would sell much better if he could broaden its appeal to the masses with 140 extraneous pages of pseudo-intellectual sludge.

    Oh now, it wasn’t that bad. Not to a green-as-grass college freshman, anyway. It provided a patina of sophistication. Fake it ’til you make it.

    And the European right-wing parties understand that they’ll gain more power if they can distance themselves from unsavory reactionaries and become more widely acceptable via more moderate policies.

     

    The parties in Europe seemed to be divided into the sort-of-center Left and the hoo-boy-are-they-ever Left. Immigration reform and environmental moderation were off the table, and anyone advancing such positions was tarred with the oh so wide “far right” brush.

    A little moderation on the part of the elites might have kept this from happening.

    Mark Steyn used to say – and probably still does – that a “fair and balanced” panel of 3 people on some BBC show would be one person from the left, one person from the far left, and one person from the lunatic left.

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Thanks, Dr. B! Coming from the longtime king of the Main Feed, those are kind words indeed. 

    Yes, there’s common ground here. I’m not libertarian or a libertine, but I like to be realistic about keeping young men pure. There’s an eternal question in every teenage boy’s “heart”: what will the girls let us get away with? Sometime in the late Fifties, a sufficient number of wives and girlfriends sighed and decided that his copy of Playboy was, if not optimum from her point of view, a reasonable compromise with his naturally beastly nature. 

    Then, gradually, that consent started to recede, like a slow tide. 

    • #6
  7. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Django (View Comment):

    A few years ago, I bought two books, hard-cover and well produced. They were fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Playboy magazine. One of the books was just interviews while the other was a sort of history of the magazine. Two thoughts: 1) the interviews were good and still hold up, 2) the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities.

    We mucked it up.

    We’ve got Hef’s signature on a gift copy of the 40th anniversary book.

    • #7
  8. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Django (View Comment):
    the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities. 

    I think Penthouse and Hustler helped move the needle on that dimension.

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):
    the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities.

    I think Penthouse and Hustler helped move the needle on that dimension.

    I think the needle needed some moving and was going to move anyway. That doesn’t mean we had any obligation to let the needle keep moving until it wrapped around the limit pin. 

    • #9
  10. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):
    the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities.

    I think Penthouse and Hustler helped move the needle on that dimension.

    I think the needle needed some moving and was going to move anyway. That doesn’t mean we had any obligation to let the needle keep moving until it wrapped around the limit pin.

    Slippery slope arguments are sometimes overwrought.  They are also sometimes correct.

    • #10
  11. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Surely.  There is hope.  If we have capitalism and secure elections.

    Which we do.  Surely.

    Umm, well…not so surely.

    • #11
  12. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The thing about markets and elections is that (for better or worse) they accommodate change. 

    The immediate post-WWII culture offered rising wealth and education-driven opportunity. There was a brief (one-generation) period in which women entered the office workforce in very large numbers in largely subordinate roles, subject to sexual advances relieved only by marriage and departure from the workforce.  A significant number of women likely entered college in that era to find a college-graduate husband.  The Mad Men era and the environment described in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (recall the song “A Secretary is Not a Toy” in the musical) represented peak objectification and Hef surfed that wave. Even if the great majority of men were responsible husbands and fathers, the bunny iconography was everywhere.

    Playboy served prurient interests for men told that being successful at doing what they make you do to make money entitles you to indulge in compensatory pleasures.  Competence or wealth should entitle one to access to bunnies or Bond girls. Inertial but not removed Judeo-Christian culture and rising female economic empowerment made this an unstable development. 

    Playboy magazine peaked at almost exactly the same time women outnumbered men in college and presumably became more focused on career opportunities:

    Undergraduate enrollment numbers in the United States from 1970 to 2031, by gender(in 1,000s)

    The female career focus carried its own instability–feminist hostility to marriage & family combined with the illusion that there was self-fulfillment and joy in pickup culture had to crash as a trend even more unstable than that of the model of women as entertainment for Don Draper.

    The barrier to continued natural American cultural and political adjustment and evolution is the new, peculiar, monolithic elite control over communications, entertainment, and academia.  The bizarre mandates regarding trans identity and the  frozen-in-amber leftist habits of thought are a Procrutean attempt to block and distort American societal evolution and the natural effects of choices and consequences.

    There were popular choices at work to enable Playboy then to discard it. The “culture wars” are not about whether Playboy returns but whether our preferences and freedom to act upon them still matter socially and politically.

    • #12
  13. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The thing about markets and elections is that (for better or worse) they accommodate change.

    The immediate post-WWII culture offered rising wealth and education-driven opportunity. There was a brief (one-generation) period in which women entered the office workforce in very large numbers in largely subordinate roles, subject to sexual advances relieved only by marriage and departure from the workforce. A significant number of women likely entered college in that era to find a college-graduate husband. The Mad Men era and the environment described in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (recall the song “A Secretary is Not a Toy” in the musical) represented peak objectification and Hef surfed that wave. Even if the great majority of men were responsible husbands and fathers, the bunny iconography was everywhere.

    Playboy served prurient interests for men told that being successful at doing what they make you do to make money entitles you to indulge in compensatory pleasures. Competence or wealth should entitle one to access to bunnies or Bond girls. Inertial but not removed Judeo-Christian culture and rising female economic empowerment made this an unstable development.

    Playboy magazine peaked at almost exactly the same time women outnumbered men in college and presumably became more focused on career opportunities:

    Undergraduate enrollment numbers in the United States from 1970 to 2031, by gender(in 1,000s)

    The female career focus carried its own instability–feminist hostility to marriage & family combined with the illusion that there was self-fulfillment and joy in pickup culture had to crash as a trend even more unstable than that of the model of women as entertainment for Don Draper.

    The barrier to continued natural American cultural and political adjustment and evolution is the new, peculiar, monolithic elite control over communications, entertainment, and academia. The bizarre mandates regarding trans identity and the frozen-in-amber leftist habits of thought are a Procrutean attempt to block and distort American societal evolution and the natural effects of choices and consequences.

    There were popular choices at work to enable Playboy then to discard it. The “culture wars” are not about whether Playboy returns but whether our preferences and freedom to act upon them still matter socially and politically.

    It’s odd what can find in the memory vaults after reading this post and some of the comments. There was an anthology series called Insight. One episode from 1967 featured Jeffrey Hunter and Vera Miles. Miles played someone who sold “adult magazines” and Hunter played the part of the person paid to persuade young women to pose. IIRC, one of her lines involved a reference to a competitor, probably Playboy magazine. She said that the genius of her competitor was that he realized that the average American man “doesn’t want to go to bed with a whore . . . he wants the sweet girl next door.” I haven’t looked at a copy of Playboy in probably a quarter of a century,  but I’d guess it doesn’t feature the girl next door today.

    • #13
  14. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    The recursive sarcasm here confuses me. I’ll have to read it again.

    • #14
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The barrier to continued natural American cultural and political adjustment and evolution is the new, peculiar, monolithic elite control over communications, entertainment, and academia.

    As always happens with narcissistic people like those in our current communications, entertainment, and academic fields, they talk only to each other, and therefore they believe they have wielded and achieved some “monolithic elite control.” But as the gatherings of families across the country this Fourth of July holiday demonstrate, family life is still alive and well. :)

    • #15
  16. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Thanks for the @garymcvey link on Hefner.  I missed that one.

    I first subscribed to the magazine in 1975 when I first went to college.  I did read the articles, though of course I looked at the pictures too.

    A favorite part of the magazine was the interviews, and I was subscribed when Jimmy Carter, running for president, did an interview that made headlines.  It was the “I committed adultery in my heart many times.”  That got him in trouble with his Evangelical base.

    Other interviews I read were John Wayne, and Alex Haley (author of Roots).  In the case of Haley, he used to work for Playboy, and the interviewer referenced that a few times.

    I was more of a libertarian than I am today, and another thing that attracted me was their coverage of police arrests for “sodomy” which at the time could mean any kind of sexual “devience”, including gay sex.  But in some jurisdictions it could include heterosexual sex that wasn’t missionary.  The local newspapers wouldn’t cover that.

    Hefner continued to act that playboy way too late into his life.  He should have done what Jay Leno has done.  Gone into something else, like cars.  Somehow as he ages, Leno doesn’t look undignified with his public hobby.

    • #16
  17. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There were popular choices at work to enable Playboy then to discard it.

    Entertainment businesses are supposed to anticipate technological, demographic, and cultural change then evolve or diversify to capture new audiences while retaining maturing ones, reinventing along the way. This one didn’t, despite a brand identity compatible with an increasingly sexualized society.

    Playboy would make an interesting case study for future business historians. Generational attitudes, changing perspectives on  gender roles, the decline of print, the emergence of several new media in which erotica was frequently a pivotal bellweather, conflicting class aesthetics about sex, emerging international media markets, demographic changes, and more come into play.

    A small company in which the founder has an iconic role creates all kinds of problems, including stasis and succession planning. Then there’s staying ahead of the competition in a unique selling environment with variables like airbrushing vs. body hair, and gauzy-girl-next-door vs macro close-up apertures.

    Playboy had a conspicuous presence on the West Side of Los Angeles, but back in the ’80s did Hef ever ask someone like Michael Ovitz to advise on the direction of the company?

    Probably not. Maybe their production company and cable channel could have crossed over and become thriving small studios if they had rebranded while embracing certain aspects of feminism instead of remaining its easiest (and unmoving) target. 

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Fame/money/power combinations can be deceptive. They tend to blur together and are often associated with each other, but they aren’t the same things. To take one non-Playboy example, we used to think of CBS and NBC as equals. In the entertainment sense, they were. But CBS, a company with a nationwide brand, was never the financial equal of NBC, which was in effect the trust fund baby of the vastly larger Radio Corporation of America. 

    Right now, Paramount Global is an example of a web of companies that has long been a half-size smaller than the truly big studios (Disney, Warner, Universal) and much smaller than streamers like Amazon, Netflix, and Apple. Compared to other studios, it’s not particularly woke and its on-deck management has been pretty good. So why has it turned into a rapidly melting ice cube? Because its owner took on too much debt. It’s as simple as that. So did the big boys, and it’s hurting them badly. But they’re better able to survive the long payoff of all that streaming start up debt. (Dis and Warner each owe a stunning $39 billion. But they’re each paying it down, Iger more easily than Zaslav can)

    Now let’s turn back the clock to Playboy’s situation. They were highly profitable as they entered the Seventies but they didn’t invest it well. They were never a giant media company. They didn’t have the scale, and Wall Street wasn’t eager to get into bed with them. Resorts and gambling didn’t work out for them. Cable TV did, for a while. 

    Once Hefner turned 50 or so, he seemed to run out of new ideas, and by the time he was 60 he turned management over to his daughter Christie. 

    • #18
  19. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    Playboy’s situation. They were highly profitable as they entered the Seventies but they didn’t invest it well. They were never a giant media company. They didn’t have the scale, and Wall Street wasn’t eager to get into bed with them.

    Yes. Still, size wasn’t everything back in the day. Before the fin-syn sunset indy production outfits disgorged vast geysers of profits from TV series.

    Just not for those wearing their jammies. 

    Playboy got lazy, too comfy in porn paradise. The magazine was the pride and joy, but the joy of sex, their actual core franchise, is bigger than that.

    With a stronger edge-of-mainstream production arm Playboy could have worked the same side of the street as Three’s Company, Seinfeld and Sex and the City. Did they even try?

    Drama, too, and international. The world didn’t watch Baywatch for the rescue floats. A naughtier, scripted take on the Real World/Big Brother genre could have hit globally with the right writers.

    All this time what was Hef doing? I think we know. Hey, I’m all for hedonism but from 1971-2011 Playboy was publicly traded. Business opportunities were also among the blown at 10236 Charing Cross Road.

    • #19
  20. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Jim, you raise excellent questions. To relate them to the OP, there’s a time when any large business has to figure out if it’s outgrown the abilities of its charismatic founder. It happened to the Ford Motor Company; it happened, for better and worse, at Apple; it’ll happen someday to Tesla. It only sorta-semi-happened at Playboy.

    Christie Hefner taking over has been like today’s Shari Redstone taking over at Paramount–nice try, kid. Too bad the old man had the vision and you don’t. But as long as they had the authority, nobody else could.

    Capitalism-wise, once the barriers of propriety and censorship (as they saw them) were vanquished. Playboy could never figure out what their Unique Selling Proposition was in filmmaking. They were known for naked women, but by the late Sixties, so was everyone else. They didn’t really want to get into outright hardcore either–a brand killer for them–so their channel and tapes and discs were what might be called couples-friendly. But that’s the same type of thing that mainstream cable like HBO and Showtime were running at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

    But you’re right. Under the Kearney Formula, they would have been the ones to make relatively mainstream films relating to romance and sex.  When Harry Met Sally. Basic Instinct. Sex and the City. None of these would have required any repudiation of the male-oriented themes that always worked for them, and could work still, but they could have opened it up a little.

    But they were not able to make sense of the market signals. Capitalism, conservatism. and Hollywood make a volatile mix at the best of times. What makes money doesn’t always please us.

    On the other hand, the more centrist films that could have made them a great deal of money are often culturally invisible to them.

    • #20
  21. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    they would have been the ones to make relatively mainstream films relating to romance and sex.  When Harry Met Sally. Basic Instinct. Sex and the City. None of these would have required any repudiation of the male-oriented themes that always worked for them

    I suppose it’s too much to ask that a knuckledragger fixated on airbrushed girl-next-door pin-ups might evolve to appreciate a talent like Nora Ephron.

     

     

    • #21
  22. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    they would have been the ones to make relatively mainstream films relating to romance and sex. When Harry Met Sally. Basic Instinct. Sex and the City. None of these would have required any repudiation of the male-oriented themes that always worked for them

    I suppose it’s too much to ask that a knuckledragger fixated on airbrushed girl-next-door pin-ups might evolve to appreciate a talent like Nora Ephron.

     

     

    As a writer?  Or as a centerfold?

    • #22
  23. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):
    Playboy would make an interesting case study for future business historians. Generational attitudes, changing perspectives on  gender roles, the decline of print, the emergence of several new media in which erotica was frequently a pivotal bellweather, conflicting class aesthetics about sex, emerging international media markets, demographic changes, and more come into play.

    If the core product and corpporate identity is artsy pics of naked women it’s tough to significantly shift the product line if that is no longer profitable combined with the decline of magazines in general. 

    Stone Age flint mines in Britain (with narrow little side tunnels probably chipped out by women and kids) were lucrative for generations until some guys showed up with bronze weapons.  Was there some new use for flint worth the hassle to mine it? Nope.

    • #23
  24. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    If the core product and corporate identity is artsy pics of naked women it’s tough to significantly shift the product line if that is no longer profitable combined with the decline of magazines in general. 

    They (1) misunderstood the core product; and (2) failed to see what was growing while magazines went into shrinkage mode.

    (1) the nude photos in each issue were elevated and mainstreamed by Playboy’s surrounding content. The product came as a lifestyle package: the jazz festival, smart in-depth interviews with important people, and the reassuring presence of high end advertisers inaccessible to mere porn rags. The pix alone were soon outpornified by Guccione and Flynt. 

    Playboy symbolized an affirmation of the sex drive, acknowledging a philosophy of sexual indulgence that underlied the brand. There was dozens of skin magazines, but only one Playboy. Sexuality, not nudity alone, was the core product.

    Their “girl next door” ideal also needed to grow into an adult woman with her own sexual needs acknowledged. Female authored diary entries (a la Penthouse’s “letters”) might have helped. Content like Bridget Jones’ Diary to 50 Shades of Grey could have followed.

    (2) Diversifying the brand by buying Escapade from Rainbow and transforming it into the Playboy Channel was a logical first step beyond print. A wider aimed ad-supported basic channel could have followed along with its production company.

    The glitter/cash flow draw of casinos and clubs drew away from a potential media pivot. Mainstream entertainment was more adjacent and cable carriage a big steppingstone if you aggregated the right content niche. What was getting laid in the late 80’s and early 90’s was cable broadband. In retrospect it’s plain that pumping content into that pipe would have been a smarter move than watching a magazine shrivel.

    • #24
  25. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    If the core product and corporate identity is artsy pics of naked women it’s tough to significantly shift the product line if that is no longer profitable combined with the decline of magazines in general.

    They (1) misunderstood the core product; and (2) failed to see what was growing while magazines went into shrinkage mode.

    (1) the nude photos in each issue were elevated and mainstreamed by Playboy’s surrounding content. The product came as a lifestyle package: the jazz festival, smart in-depth interviews with important people, and the reassuring presence of high end advertisers inaccessible to mere porn rags. The pix alone were soon outpornified by Guccione and Flynt.

    Playboy symbolized an affirmation of the sex drive, acknowledging a philosophy of sexual indulgence that underlied the brand. There was dozens of skin magazines, but only one Playboy. Sexuality, not nudity alone, was the core product.

    Their “girl next door” ideal also needed to grow into an adult woman with her own sexual needs acknowledged. Female authored diary entries (a la Penthouse’s “letters”) might have helped. Content like Bridget Jones’ Diary to 50 Shades of Grey could have followed.

    (2) Diversifying the brand by buying Escapade from Rainbow and transforming it into the Playboy Channel was a logical first step beyond print. A wider aimed ad-supported basic channel could have followed along with its production company.

    The glitter/cash flow draw of casinos and clubs drew away from a potential media pivot. Mainstream entertainment was more adjacent and cable carriage a big steppingstone if you aggregated the right content niche. What was getting laid in the late 80’s and early 90’s was cable broadband. In retrospect it’s plain that pumping content into that pipe would have been a smarter move than watching a magazine shrivel.

    Where were you when Hef needed you?

    • #25
  26. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    This is Biden’s America:

    At least 6 ‘underperforming’ Hooters restaurants close in Texas, 40 nationwide

     

    • #26
  27. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    If the core product and corporate identity is artsy pics of naked women it’s tough to significantly shift the product line if that is no longer profitable combined with the decline of magazines in general.

    They (1) misunderstood the core product; and (2) failed to see what was growing while magazines went into shrinkage mode.

    (1) the nude photos in each issue were elevated and mainstreamed by Playboy’s surrounding content. The product came as a lifestyle package: the jazz festival, smart in-depth interviews with important people, and the reassuring presence of high end advertisers inaccessible to mere porn rags. The pix alone were soon outpornified by Guccione and Flynt.

    Playboy symbolized an affirmation of the sex drive, acknowledging a philosophy of sexual indulgence that underlied the brand. There was dozens of skin magazines, but only one Playboy. Sexuality, not nudity alone, was the core product.

    Their “girl next door” ideal also needed to grow into an adult woman with her own sexual needs acknowledged. Female authored diary entries (a la Penthouse’s “letters”) might have helped. Content like Bridget Jones’ Diary to 50 Shades of Grey could have followed.

    (2) Diversifying the brand by buying Escapade from Rainbow and transforming it into the Playboy Channel was a logical first step beyond print. A wider aimed ad-supported basic channel could have followed along with its production company.

    The glitter/cash flow draw of casinos and clubs drew away from a potential media pivot. Mainstream entertainment was more adjacent and cable carriage a big steppingstone if you aggregated the right content niche. What was getting laid in the late 80’s and early 90’s was cable broadband. In retrospect it’s plain that pumping content into that pipe would have been a smarter move than watching a magazine shrivel.

    Where were you when Hef needed you?

    He didn’t yet have the 20/20 hindsight.

    • #27
  28. Jim Kearney Member
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    kedavis (View Comment):
    He didn’t yet have the 20/20 hindsight.

    Exactly.

    Though in fairness to my prescience, in my 1978 slightly comedic novel Prime Time*, set in the TV business, I did posit a Playboy-like company (Playperson Productions) as an important provider of racy scripted series to the network. 

    *Prime Time (an LB paperback with a cover not dissimilar to the key art of the movie Network thanks to the shameless publisher) is rarely or never available on Amazon or eBay. According to the author’s LinkedIn page, copies “may turn up in used books stores or buried deep in the ruins of long abandoned small town bus terminals.”

    Additional note for posterity: pages 144-164 were not written by the author, but added as a dream sequence by the publisher in order to make the book longer and presumably more saleable in those bus terminals. Rare autographed copies had those pages removed, and replaced with the following copy:

    A chapter here, the publisher added
    To make the volume thicker.
    The author has remov-ed it
    To make your reading quicker.

    • #28
  29. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    He didn’t yet have the 20/20 hindsight.

    Exactly.

    Though in fairness to my prescience, in my 1978 slightly comedic novel Prime Time*, set in the TV business, I did posit a Playboy-like company (Playperson Productions) as an important provider of racy scripted series to the network.

    *Prime Time (an LB paperback with a cover not dissimilar to the key art of the movie Network thanks to the shameless publisher) is rarely or never available on Amazon or eBay. According to the author’s LinkedIn page, copies “may turn up in used books stores or buried deep in the ruins of long abandoned small town bus terminals.”

    Additional note for posterity: pages 144-164 were not written by the author, but added as a dream sequence by the publisher in order to make the book longer and presumably more saleable in those bus terminals. Rare autographed copies had those pages removed, and replaced with the following copy:

    A chapter here, the publisher added
    To make the volume thicker.
    The author has remov-ed it
    To make your reading quicker.

     

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/335452813703

     

    If you’re James R. Kearney, they also have some copies of “Anna Eleanor Roosevelt” for sale.

    • #29
  30. Macho Grande' Coolidge
    Macho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    A few years ago, I bought two books, hard-cover and well produced. They were fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Playboy magazine. One of the books was just interviews while the other was a sort of history of the magazine. Two thoughts: 1) the interviews were good and still hold up, 2) the early editions were almost innocent compared to today’s sensibilities.

    We mucked it up.

    We’ve got Hef’s signature on a gift copy of the 40th anniversary book.

    Epic.

    • #30
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