Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book-A-Day #101 (10/25): Playboy: The Celebrities

Presumably, Playboy: The Celebrities was edited or compiled by someone, but you can't figure that out from the book itself; it credits an introduction by Hugh Hefner and an afterword by Gary Cole (Playboy's photo editor for the past thirty years), but nothing else. I imagine Cole probably put the book together, with Hefner having veto power, but it could easily have been someone completely different, or a shadowy cabal of Playboy functionaries. (Can a magazine have shadowy functionaries, by the way?)

From the title, you've already figured out the point: this is a collection of naked pictures, mostly tasteful, of supposedly famous women, mostly blonde. The standard of fame here is quite variable, and the book seems to be skewed to the last decade. So we have Brooke Burke, a minor cable TV personality, prominently featured, along with others of her ilk. The book opens with someone named Jamie Pressly, who is a fine example of the standard '90s Playboy blonde -- you know, the kind that Hefner needs to have six of in all of his creepy recent publicity photos? -- but whom I've never heard of.

I seem to recall that there are women who were much more famous in their day who appeared naked in Playboy than the ones who appear in this book, but it's possible memory is playing me false. (It's also possible that Playboy didn't secure adequate reprint rights for those hazily-remembered photos at the time, and so couldn't include them here.) In any case, the women here break down into several categories:
  • now-forgotten "European" actresses: Dominique Sanda, Marissa Berenson, Jane Birkin, Elke Sommer
  • minor pop stars trying to create a comeback: Jody Whatley, Samantha Fox, Deborah Gibson, LaToya Jackson, Belinda Carlisle
  • celebrities who posed naked long before they were famous: Vanna White, Madonna, Deborah Harry, Lauren Hutton
  • people current college students will recognize (though why anyone would expect college students to buy a $40 book is beyond me): the aforementioned Brooke Burke, Carmen Electra, Denise Richards, Gena Lee Nolin, Charisma Carpenter
  • people current nursing-home residents will recognize: Dian Parkinson, Nancy Sinatra, Carol Lynley
  • Playboy Playmates who went on to minor acting careers: Donna D'Errico, Pamela Anderson (whose original face, I am reminded, was actually quite cute), Erika Eleniak, Brande Roderick, Jenny McCarthy, Kelly Monaco, Anna Nicole Smith, Barbi Benton (from back in the days when Playmates could have authentic smiles rather than bad porn-movie come-hither looks)
  • John Derek's wives: Ursula Andress, Linda Evans, Bo Derek
  • supermodels trying to pretend they're not entirely skin and bones: Stephanie Seymour, Angie Everhart, Cindy Crawford, Rachel Hunter, Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell
  • actresses trying to sex up their careers with classy black-and-white shots: Joan Severance, Farrah Fawcett, Robin Givens, Brigitte Nielsen
  • the old standbys: Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield
  • women who got naked because, apparently, it was the '70s: Melanie Griffith (looking younger than you can imagine), Suzanne Somers, Raquel Welch, Valerie Perrine, Kim Basinger
  • people I have never heard of: Kylie Bax, Teri Polo, Kiana Tom
  • and young women trying to get out of their families' shadows: Rae Dawn Chong, Mariel Hemingway, Sheri Belafonte
There is also a movie still of Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct (you know the one), which, of course is a cheat -- the movie had nothing to do with Playboy.

If you'd like naked photos of some appreciable fraction of those women in your own home -- and the pictures are all professional and many of them are very nice -- this is a book for you. If you would like words to explain or contextualize the nudity, you are out of luck -- this book has short bits of text at fore and aft, but otherwise is just captioned.

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!
Edited 1/2/07: the huge list of links was getting annoying, and screwing up my Book-A-Day searches, so I've killed them in these posts that had them.

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