History of Playboy Magazine Part 2

About the history of Playboy magazine, how it was founded by Hugh Hefner, modern operations, and controversy around it.



Hefner's dedication to Playboy cost him his marriage in 1959, but during the 1960s he was consoled by the unparalleled growth of his magazine and by numerous girl friends. In 1964 Playboy was selling 2 million copies a month, and by 1968, 5 million. The 1960s were Playboy's golden age. Playboy Enterprises' "private key" clubs, staffed by "bunny" waitresses in skintight costumes complete with ears and tails, opened in major American cities and abroad. The company built hotel resorts and soon added not only modeling agencies but film, book, and record companies to the empire. Hefner traveled the world in the Big Bunny, his private jet, and divided the rest of his time between a mansion in Chicago and one in Los Angeles. By 1972 circulation had hit 7 million copies a month, earning $12 million in profits for the year.

Then, in 1973, disaster struck. The U.S. experienced a recession, and in addition Playboy faced stiff competition owing to the proliferation of more explicit men's magazines such as Penthouse. Circulation plummeted 2.5 million a month within a year, while Playboy clubs and resorts went seriously into the red. What followed has been nicknamed the "public wars." Accustomed to constant success, Playboy executives panicked. As Hefner later admitted, "We went through a period when we lost our bearings and started imitating the imitators." The June, 1973, issue featured the first Playboy centerfold showing public hair. After that, suggestive poses introduced eroticism as standard policy. Two covers in 1975, one implying lesbianism and the other masturbation and both reflecting the new trend, backfired. Conservative advertisers rebelled, and some withdrew their accounts from Playboy.

Modern Operations: By 1976 Playboy Enterprises was in trouble. Realizing this, Hefner hired a professional newspaper business manager named Derick Daniels to run the empire. Daniels recognized quickly that Playboy Enterprises' rambling diversification was losing the company millions. He closed several unprofitable Playboy clubs and hotels; reduced budgets, especially those of the film and record companies; and cut the payroll by firing 100 employees--70 in one day--including five vice-presidents. The purges were effective and Daniels led the company back to concentrating on magazine publishing, meanwhile encouraging one other profitable sector: Playboy's London gambling casinos.

With Daniels in charge of Playboy Enterprises, Hefner zeroed in on Playboy magazine's problems. Photo essays now are centered on such "wholesome" subjects as the "Girls of the Big Ten," while renewed emphasis has been placed on high-quality written content.

In a few years, the Hefner-Daniels team has successfully revived Playboy Enterprises. Circulation of the magazine has stabilized, and company profits have risen because of increased advertising at higher rates and large profits from the London gambling clubs. 75% of which are petrodollars lost by Arab high rollers. Also, Daniels is approaching Playboy with a new business professionalism. Recently he remarked dryly: "I spend more time with balance sheets than with bunnies." The latest Playboy Enterprises innovation is a casino being constructed in Atlantic City, N.J., at a cost of over $50 million.

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