Hugh Hefner’s personal playmates are being given the boot – from the pages of Playboy, that is. The magazine is moving from Chicago to New York, and it has a new editorial director who is making a lot of changes. Among them, reportedly, he has ordered "no more of Hef’s girlfriends". For years, pictures of the magazine’s 76-year-old founder with a seemingly endless parade of blonde playmates have shown up in Playboy’s pages. The new editorial director, Jim Kaminsky, who takes over in the new year following the magazine’s 50th anniversary celebrations, wants to target a younger audience, the sort that reads Maxim – where he used to work. He doesn’t want any more fake blondes and is even prepared to abandon nudity in order to get big stars to pose for the magazine and at the same time lift the tone with perhaps more features. Although it still sells more than three million copies a month, that’s way down from its peak of seven million in the Seventies. Whether it can ever
re-achieve its old fame and sales is debatable. As Kaminsky admits, the men’s magazine world has changed. Whether anyone will ever buy Playboy for its articles though is still unlikely.
Turning the clock back, Hefner’s biggest old-time rival, Bob Guccione, the London-born creator of Penthouse, is opening a chain of strip clubs – the first of them in Cleveland. Called Key Clubs, they are a straight take-off of the old Playboy Bunny clubs whose members back in the Sixties carried silver keys. Guccione hopes to open a second club in New York by next spring. He insists launching the clubs has nothing to do with the failing fortunes of Penthouse.
That other big men’s magazine publisher, Felix Dennis, has found a new captive audience. He is planning to send copies of The Week free to prisoners across America. Not to every jailbird, just those convicted of white-collar crimes. He is sending Christmas gift subscriptions to people who are serving time for non-violent offences. Among the prospective recipients: the 15 or more disgraced former executives of Enron now behind bars. Since it was launched a year ago the US edition of The Week has reached a circulation of 150,000.
The ruckus the New York Times provoked when it spiked columns by two of its leading sports writers because they criticised the paper’s editorial policy, continues. For months the Times has campaigned against the refusal of the Augusta National Golf Club to admit women members. It even suggested that Tiger Woods should boycott next year’s Masters Tournament. Two of the papers sports writers took issue. One wrote: "Let Tiger Woods play golf. It’s not his fight." The other suggested there are bigger issues for women to fight than seeking membership of ritzy golf clubs. After a week of intense criticism the Times agreed to run the columns – with revisions agreed, it was claimed, by the writers. Despite this, many journalists – especially sports columnists – were still upset and publicly criticised the Times. One critic, the chairman of the conservative Media Research Centre echoed the feelings of many American journalists when he commented: "You would think a newspaper would encourage debate within its columns. Especially the Times." Others wrote to the paper that their confidence in the Times as a bastion of true journalism had been destroyed.