The Men of Playgirl

posted by Madame Bubby

Playgirl magazine, often billed unofficially as the “magazine for women and gay men,” has undergone some changes in its presentation through the years (one can no longer obtain the traditional hard copies that were usually hidden under some gayling’s bed at some point).

Even the naked guys in the magazine have changed, and that change reflects some social trends. What is interesting is that as recently as last week, on a gay chat board, Datalounge, the subject came up, and it wasn’t just a retro/nostalgia discussion from the eldergays.

The original poster made a point that the models in the 1970s and 1980s generally revealed huge bushes, and that they were trim and muscular overall, not what one might term “gym-pumped” or, to be biased, “steroid” bodies.

Now, the first Playgirl centerfold was Lyle Waggoner, who gained fame by appearing as a regular on the iconic Carol Burnett Show. For her sketches, Carol needed a straight guy, and I bet she also knew she would attract a certain audience (the Playgirl audience) by showing off his easy, unaffected, yet indisputably, studly presence. The first issues of Playgirl did not show cock, though. That came later, when the previous censorship of such materials was finally letting up in the early 1970s.
 

Lyle Waggoner in the first issue of Playgirl
Lyle Waggoner in the first issue of Playgirl

Lyle Waggoner in a later issue of Playgirl
Waggoner in a later issue

When Burt Reynolds died recently, many remembered his moment in Playgirl. Of course the photographers hid his member, but there was plenty to fantasize about even if was not visible. And hair, so much hair. The poster I referred to on Datalounge mentioned hairy bushes as if that was a style of the past, and that observation brings up the issue of shaving. How much hair is attractive? Or the lack thereof?
 

Burt Reynolds on the cover of Playgirl in December, 1974
Burt Reynolds on the cover of Playgirl in December, 1974

And note that many of the models, especially in the eighties, loved showing off their luxuriant locks. This hair was not hippie long hair that evoked Woodstock dancing and shabby communes in the woods; it was more like the idealized long hair of medieval knights and cavaliers and the like, heroes and antiheroes of romance novels.

But the long hair encouraged even more muscles, perhaps a reaction to possible associations with effeminacy in the more conservative eighties. Thus, tight pants, pastel colors, and long hair were acceptable if your body wasn’t just buff, but pumped up.

And in 1992, a pumped up, hard-bodied stud with a tattoo (harbinging what is now a rather generic look among millennials) named Dirk Shafer appeared as Playgirl’s Man of the Year. And he was gay. He didn’t come out as gay until much later, and he died in 2015.
 

Dirk Shafer as the Playgirl 1992 Man of the Year
Dirk Shafer as the 1992 Man of the Year

Another Playgirl model, Bill Cable aka Stoner, apparently appeared with Christina Crawford (!) in a mysterious video which has disappeared from youtube, alas. He also died young, kiiled in a motorbike accident in 1992.
 

Bill Cable aka Stoner
Bill Cable aka Stoner

Now that gay for pay is prominent in the adult erotic world, one might assume that some of the current models in Playgirl’s online edition are gay. And perhaps, depending on their situation, they aren’t concerned about concealing their orientation. Still, this open fluidity seems to produce rather generic results.

The secret thrill of an actual print magazine that enticed because of its very danger, dangerous imagery, a dangerous situation for the reader, is missing.

I am not advocating for the closet, but one wonders if it’s time for Playgirl to reexamine its purpose and not just serve an Instagram page in a larger format accompanied by tips on fitness. Remember, this magazine actually dared to in its earlier years explore female orgasms and polyamory and reveal men as sex subjects and objects for women and gay men.

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Some Famous Male Nudes

 

posted by Madame Bubby

Yes, nudes. Nudies. And not just Greek sculptures. (In fact, one might think Tumblr would not block these images. Hmm … )

And famous Greek sculptures, like the Eros of Praxiteles (see below) enabled Chuck Renslow, the pioneering gay erotic photographer and pretty much the founder of the contemporary gay leather/BDSM community, to stay in business. In other words, a full-frontal male nude can be aesthetically beautiful. It's not “dirty” and, in line with the Romantic sensibility that correlated truth with beauty, not morally offensive.
 

Praxiteles' Eros
Praxiteles' Eros

The famous sculpture of Eros by Praxiteles was so lifelike and seductive, that according to one source, a visitor to Thespiae named Allketas fell in love with it and jacked off against it. Pliny, the famous historian, claimed he left “traces of lust” on it. Cum stains? Scandalous. Nero also fell in love with it, but it perished in the great fire of 64 A.C.E. Of course, now someone would end up doing something that Allketas did and put it on Pornhub.

The seventeenth century Italian artist Caravaggio, one of the LGBTQ family, was always in trouble with his prudish Counter Reformation employers for using hot models for his mostly religious paintings, including street hustlers (who frequented the streets around the palaces of the Cardinals). In fact, one of his patrons, the creepy Cardinal Francesco del Monte, cultivated young men (some things never change). Caravaggio's painting “Victorious Love” or “Amor Vincit Omnia” shows Cupid as a naked youth “trouncing various symbols of human achievement and sophistication,” according to Leigh Rutledge. Ouch.

In the eighteenth century, a nude marble statute of an obscure local saint, Guignole, was supposedly able to cure infertility and frigidity. Keep in mind that many of the medieval saints were closely tied in person and function with pre-Christian religious practices, which usually focused on keeping life forces going, that is sex. According to Leigh Rutledge, women took scrapings from the statue's big cock, mixed them with water, and then drank the mixture. The monks - yes monks, supposedly chaste males - who tended the statue ended up having to keep repairing the mutilated penis. Thus, they drilled a hole through the statue's groin and inserted a long phallus made of wood down through it. As followers of the big-cocked saint scraped the penis down to size, a blow with a mallet from the rear would cause the dick to regain its original length. Oh my. So much is going on there.
 

Statue of Saint Guignole pierced with needles
Statue of Saint Guignole pierced with needles

Jumping to 1972, in the wake of the age of sexual liberation, Burt Reynolds appeared naked for Cosmopolitan magazine. Well, not completely, his dick was covered … but still, wow.
 

Burt Reynolds in Cosmopolitan
Burt Reynolds in Cosmopolitan

Yes, the audience was women, but this spread paved the way for Playgirl magazine, the publication for women and gay men. In fact, Playgirl's first centerfold was the hunky Lyle Waggoner of Carol Burnett fame. Even the incredibly talented Carol needed some eye candy hanging about for the benefit of the ladies and her gay fans.
 

Lyle Waggoner in Playgirl, June 1973
Lyle Waggoner in Playgirl, June 1973

Overall, one can see an objectification of the male body, but at the same time, a complex relationship of that body to the surrounding culture. The big dick here may be the god or God here in these scenarios, but it's not just the dick itself, but what it does and what you can do with it. Nature is just the inspiration point for the creative process of the human imagination.

Source: Leigh Rutledge, The Gay Book of Lists

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“Poppular” Poppers: A Brief History and Photo Essay

“Poppular” Poppers: A Brief History and Photo Essay

 

Early ads for poppers in the late 1960s called them "aromas." At that time, aromatherapy was little known outside of France.

 

In 1969, outfits like JacMasters began to sell vials or "inhalers" containing isobutyl nitrite, and the first brand name was trademarked: Locker Room. Isobutyl nitrate, or amyl, is the original popper formula.

 

During the 1970s, poppers or "aromas" were marketed like a sexual incense to gay men. Rather than inhale the newly popular “aromas” of patchouli or sandalwood, gay men could inhale locker room or armpit scent, the smell of hot, rough, uninhibited sex. b2ap3_thumbnail_blacjackpoppersad.jpg

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_playgirlaugust1979.jpgPoppers had become so popular that, by 1977, The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine claimed that the use of isobutyl nitrite as a recreational drug had become a substantial $50 million a year business.

 

And even more brands such Bolt, Hardware, Thrust, Quicksilver (not thunderbolt) were first introduced around 1977-78.

 

The Bijou started selling them around that time because the company (Great Lakes Products) that was making these poppers was renting space from us to manufacture their poppers These name brands were owned by Rush (someone named Joe Miller).

 

By the late 70s, the popularity of the drug even extended to straight men and women.

 

In the August 1979 issue of Playgirl, a "cautious" user's guide to drugs and sex reports that amyl nitrate intensifies orgasms but also smells like glue. The article reports that amyl was banned by the FDA and replaced by butyl, "which smells like old tennis shoes and is sold as a 'room deodorizer.'"

 

Old tennis shoes? Could be quite stimulating in certain situations, depending on your fetish.  And that smell certainly does evoke the locker room, literally!

 

Some of the ads appealed to icons of masculinity: the traditional statue of David, harking back to pre-Stonewall gay bars, and the then-popular gay macho images of leathermen and cowboy.

  

The ubiquitous popper Rush was able to advertise in a plethora of gay publications; one famous add shows a giant bottle of “Rush” hovering over the “rush hour” of a city, which, in those days, didn't take place at the dusk of 5 p.m., but rather, in the late night and early morning hours (as implied in the image of the city) when the bathhouses and gay porn theaters were hopping.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_rushpoppersad.jpgThe popper bottle and the potent aroma one inhaled from it essentially powerfully rules from above but also, because it it releases an enveloping aroma, binds together the collective gay sexual culture represented by the titles of  gay magazines (as well as straight, looking at some of the magazine titles in the ad) of that time together. It was more than a powerful tool or symbol of sexual liberation; it became sexual liberation itself.

 

As the seventies progressed, the popper ads in gay magazines became more creative and catered to a variety of sexual tastes in this era of sexual liberation. For example, the ad for JacMasters in a 1976 Drummer Magazine shown below seems both campy and erotic.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_poppersad1.jpg

 

The bulging jockstrap on one of the action figures harks back to the physique magazines like Physique Pictorial. Yet the hand holding what vaguely looks like a bottle by the logo probably represents a handjob. Big bottle equals big cock. Inhaling the aroma will make your cock big and hard. Or even like a giant cock to the little men holding the big bottle of aroma!

 

And the imagery of fighting and bullets (in the ad above, the guys look like little G.I. Joes) often found in the ads featuring poppers was most telling; at one level, it fed into the archetypal sex-death trope, but it also could be read in hindsight as a frightening prefiguration of AIDS, when sex literally caused death. And now the gigantic brown bottle over the city in the Rush ad now becomes something a bomb or a missile.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_milwaukeecalendarpopperads.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_cowboypoppersad.jpg In the 80s, the AIDS epidemic swept away the sexually-charged gay culture of the 70s that created and responded to the popper ads, but poppers themselves went underground (unfortunately, in many cases, in fake, or non-amyl, formats). The mainstream gay press, because of the possible connection between HIV and the use of nitrate, eventually stopped running ads for poppers, but not after a struggle.

 

According to one source, “before the first official reports of AIDS in 1981, relatively few voices in the gay community had been raised to question what health problems poppers users might be causing themselves. A few attempts were made to curb sales, but the manufacturers always got around it by changing either the chemical formula or the product name. And the gay press, dependent on revenue from ads, did not care to blow the whistle on its own advertiser.”

 

Frighteningly, information linking popper use to karposi's sarcoma was apparently suppressed by both the gay media (because of the power of the advertisers) and by the right wing press, which of course saw AIDS as a deserved punishment for promiscuity.

b2ap3_thumbnail_statueofdavidpopperad.jpgThe FDA at first stood aside; as long as poppers were marketed as “room perfume for fags,” they would do nothing.

 

And one popper manufacturer even sent a letter to all the gay papers, reminding them just who was "the largest advertiser in the Gay press."

 

Then, upon the instigation of some activists and researchers in the mid-eighties, Congress passed a law outlawing the original amyl nitrate formulas; now the major ingredient is butyl.

 

There are numerous poppers being distributed under different names, and most people have their favorites: for example, Rush and Brown Bottle are old standbys for most people who first buy poppers (not taking away from long-time users that only like these brands); as time went on, people graduated to other brands.

 

Regarding false types of poppers,  for example, Can Opener, Private Stock, Platinum, and others, are truth are the same formula as Brown Bottle, but in different packaging, done to deceive people. Other current brands such D&E, Nitro, Zap, Man Scent, and Mr. Wonderful, will give people headaches; their manufacturers produce them to make money, not caring about quality and the intended purpose of the product.

 

About three years ago, the outfit that made the popper brand Rush was raised by the police. Supposedly, Joe Miller, the long-time manufacturer, committed suicide (this cause of death cannot be verified).

 

Six months ago, the story was circulating that someone had bought out the company. The outfit was back again selling its authentic product.

 

Will poppers ever become as “poppular” as they were in the 70s and 80s? As activities that were once part of the sexual underground become more mainstream in the 21st century, perhaps poppers in their true form will become once again become an exciting but now safe part of our diverse sexual culture.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_popperman.jpg


 

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