Not long after Nicole Caldwell became editor in chief of Playgirl magazine, she realized that looking at photos of naked men all day was not everything she had imagined it would be. When she would meet them, there was often a curious vapidity to the men, who Ms. Caldwell took to describing as “mimbos.”
Readers, Ms. Caldwell decided, deserved more.
So she and her fellow editors, all women in their 20s and all relative neophytes to the world of magazines — and pornography — resolved to fill Playgirl with something different. They aspired to bring Playgirl back to its roots, back to a time when the magazine covered issues like abortion and equal rights, interspersing sexy shots of men with work from writers like Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates.
All the while, the editors juggled the demands of the publisher, Blue Horizon Media, which they said pushed to fill Playgirl with even more nudes and fewer words.
“It always felt like this uphill battle,” said Jessanne Collins, 29, who was Playgirl’s senior editor.
The women’s dreams crashed when Blue Horizon Media, which also puts out hard-core magazines, announced it was shutting Playgirl. The last issue, dated January/February 2009, recently arrived on newsstands.
Although the Playgirl Web site is still running, the graphic content is geared more toward gay men. None of the magazine’s editors are involved.
Ms. Caldwell said Playgirl magazine suffered from the twin malaises of rising costs and declining sales; Blue Horizon Media did not return repeated calls for this article.
Playgirl’s passing certainly will not be lamented as would the death of a more respected, or even a mildly respected, magazine. Yet for its writers and fans, something tangible has been lost in its closure.
“It was almost a way to get back at Playboy,” said Pamela Des Barres, the famed former rock groupie, who wrote a music column for Playgirl. “It was a great idea, and it could have been done better. It did offer women a way to see some gorgeous hot, young, sexy guys, and nothing’s wrong with that.”
Playgirl was started 35 years ago as a feminist response to Playboy and Penthouse. (Playboy sued Playgirl in 1973 for trademark infringement; the suit was settled amicably.) Over the years, the magazine changed ownership, began catering more to gay men, and whittled its operations down. Still, the magazine drew an avid readership, Ms. Caldwell said, selling 600,000 copies per issue in more than three dozen countries.
Read the full story from the New York Times.