Page 5


Playgirl and Viva More is, after all, more By Steve Barthelme Austin What is going down, of course, is the same old transfer of dirty pictures. Transfer is effected under the rubric: “quality skin magazines.” For 15 years there was only Playboy. Then Penthouse, with less quality and more skin, and photographs of women who displayed more wants, a more active interest. They didn’t spend quite so much time listening to Bach. A stroke of genius or luck at least, this brilliant new view of coincided with a similar one breaking sociohistorically during the same period, so that Penthouse was hugely successful. There was also a big ad campaign, which helped. Most men responded happily to the concept of women with wants; it is no fun to be involved in an enterprise with another person and have them dragging their feet all the time. Ten similar magazines quickly threw themselves into the struggle to make money out of the cultural breakthrough. Some did, and some did not. Seizing the principle Women Actively Interested, some women’s quality skin magazines arrived, notably Playgirl, Viva and several which seem to have vanished. Playgirl originates for failure of the imagination in titling itself. Viva originates in New York and is published by the man who publishes Penthouse. Playgirl circulates around two million copies, and Viva has a circulation around three quarter million. Both are organized 18 The Texas Observer A review principle. WAI may look a little feeble in comparison with principles in other disciplines \(the Heisenberg Uncertainty all we’ve got and considerably more than we had before. Viva is raunchier and better looking, but has something of a masochistic tendency. Perhaps as a result of its heavily male editorial staff. Viva is skillfully photographed, aggressive, slick and cliquish. It is very successful at what it does, but it doesn’t do very much. Joe Dallesandro and James Caan are interviewed, Wolfman Jack profiled, Andrew Prine pictured. Sexual bravado is displayed macho and bitcho. A lot of talent goes into Viva, but because of its defensive manner and narrow point of view, not much comes out the other side. It is a magazine which invites you not to read it more bisex, and orders for orgasms. Playgirl attempts more, has the larger circulation and more likely future, and has problems with consistency and quality control, so that it is the more interesting of the two. The first problem, a basic one, has been selecting and posing naked men. The exhibitors tend toward middle Americans of the sensitive jock variety: Larry Creamcheese. Marlon Potash. Either that or “stars” who are already too familiar from weekly exposure on TV. They stand or sit or surf, looking, in most instances, mechanical, awkward, unconvincing. No one quibbles much in the skin trade about borrowing features from competitors, and so Playgirl has freely stolen from the men’s magazines. Playboy set the style and bits of Oui and Penthouse are also visible. The review material in the front of the book looks like Penthouse and the graphics are a hybrid from several other magazines. Advice, letters, travel, and ads for liquor, stereo equipment and satin sheets are all here. Playgirl’s nudes traipse idyllically through the same blue-green forest and along the same white-hot beach. Easily recognizable by the line of Porsches parked at the gates. Water, water, everywhere. If Oui shows a girl spilling Coca-Cola all over herself in the backyard on a summer afternoon, Playgirl has a guy romp on the shore with his Doberman. Missing something of the spirit of the thing. Sometimes a horse is used in place of the Doberman. In any event, horses and dogs play a large part in Playgirl’s image of desirable men, perhaps in response to longings buried deep in the female psyche. Someone has a dog and pony problem, that’s for sure. The text. Well, the quality of the text in Playgirl is erratic. In the June first anniversary issue, Judith Rascoe writes about solitude, Clifford Irving about prison, John Simon about avoiding children each with a degree of grace and wit. At the same time, there’s a piece about “streaking,” God save us all. A music review in contention for world’s worst. Telly Savalas is profiled idiotically; paradoxes roll by like Volvos. There is also a long piece on a painter living near Santa Barbara in which may be found a great many life of the artist cliches. The woman remains an unknown quantity, the article we could have lived without. One has already heard that artists feel bad. Lastly there is a goodly component of how-to, self-help material, a regular feature of women’s magazines, which is okay in dangerous in the spiritual one \(how to feel, Playgirl pretty well avoids the authoritarian style of liberation, taking the you could do this or this or this or nothing who cares approach. In an age of oppressive ideologies, drinking a wallbanger is a small price to pay for a little diffidence. The text is, of course, slightly to one side of the point. The point is that now women can buy pictures in their drugstores just as men have been able to, thus correcting a gross inequity and advancing civilization. Quantity does have a certain unassailable logic. More is more, after all. THE FINAL REPORT ON IMPEACHMENT by the House Judiciary Committee The Texas Observer Bookstore will have this Bantam paperback in stock as soon as it is printed and shipped by the publisher. Discounted price to Observer subscribers: $1.56 plus, for Texas residents, 8d sales tax. No charge for postage if remittance accompanies your order. THE TEXAS OBSERVER BOOKSTORE 600 W 7 AUSTIN 78701