Thursday, December 09, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: 50 Years of the Playboy Bunny

It’s no secret that the Empire that Hugh built has been struggling of late. And it’s not just the recession. After all, porn has gotten to be somewhat mainstream. In a world where the harsh stuff is as close as your computer screen and the type of titillation that arrives with readable articles comes in the form of a magazine you can take to the office or read on the subway without embarrassment (think Maxim), the idealized and bared titties of Playboy seem a little camp and out of place.

50 Years of the Playboy Bunny (Chronicle Books) seems almost to celebrate these ideas. Even the cover is a terrific example of classic 1970s design. What the book is really about, in a way, is the world of Playboy beyond the magazine. In a foreword, Hugh Hefner writes, “This book is a celebration of half a century of Playboy Club and Bunny culture. A celebration of a certain mystique.”

Bunny culture. Words that would invite controversy in some quarters but which, here in context, make a certain, nostalgic sense. You see inside “Disneyland for Adults,” the start and rise of the famous Playboy Clubs. You see, also, the “Making of a Bunny” including reference to the famous Bunny Manual which helped fledgling bunnies become part of the bunny army. Interesting, also, to see some famous alumna in full bunny regalia, including Debbie Harry and Lauren Hutton as well as Gloria Steinem, undercover for the magazine article that would make her career, but looking every inch the part.

50 Years of the Playboy Bunny is like an especially good issue of the magazine during its heyday: fantastic, well reproduced photos and some really great written material. This would be a terrific gift for the person on your list who enjoys the campier part of mid-century nostalgia. And boobs. ◊

David Middleton is a graphic artist and the art & culture editor of January Magazine.

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