Levi Johnston: Meet The Ghosts of Playgirls Past

Geraldo Rivera2Blogs and news sources are all a-flutter about Levi Johnston’s plan to appear nude in Playgirl Magazine… My initial reaction is, “He knows mostly gay men read that, right?” I mean, assuming anyone at all is still reading/looking at it (there were announcements in 2008 that Playgirl was going away; now it seems to be readying itself for online-only existence).

Not that there’s anything wrong with this (although there are plenty of other, better sources for gay porn and I can’t imagine any self-respecting gay man reaching for Playgirl first but probably more as a, “Oh, well, wtf, I’ve got some time to kill” moment), but I get the impression that Levi Johnston prides himself on being the “All-American Beefcake Hunter Dude from Alaska” who doesn’t take shit from his baby’s granny. The kind of guy who tells and laughs at jokes about “homos” as a way to assert his heterosexuality. So does he realize he’s going to bare all for a largely gay audience? According to Wikipedia, “In 2003, Mark Graff, President of Trans Digital Media, the brand management firm for Playgirl TV, stated that 50% of Playgirl’s readership are gay males.”

But, moving past my initial reaction, I started to wonder if anyone has ever posed for Playgirl early in their career and then gone on to big success. I mean, is this really the smartest move to make – starting with something that’s kind of tainted as a last resort? Usually, celebrities try to grab the Playgirl cash before their name recognition and looks fade and they’re still worth something to the magazine. The word is that Johnston wants to have a modeling/acting career – whatever, he’s 19 years old and has no idea what he’s doing – but this might not be the best first move. But what can we expect from someone who’s represented by a guy named Tank Jones? [What will people in Alaska do if they run out of male names beginning with the letter “T” that also sound very Cabela’s/militaristic? I mean, we’ve already got Tank, Tripp, Track and Trig.]

So who has posed for Playgirl (I mean naked, not just on the cover wearing a Santa hat a la Burt Reynolds or in a leather jacket a la Alan Thicke)? Most issues throughout the years rely on themes and anonymity for the centerfolds – The Bachelors of Beverly Hills, The Nude Aerobics Instructors Who Wanna Make You Sweat and Southern Gentlemen – and then pull in readers with sexy interviews with male stars who only talk about sex and maybe appear in pajama bottoms or underwear (the most disturbing of the celebrity interviews I came across while browsing old covers was from 1990 – Yakov Smirnoff: From Russia With Lust) Let’s look at some Ghosts of Playgirls Past.

Christopher Atkins – Was on the cover and was nude in some pictorials in two issues, although apparently not fully exposed. Did not appear as a centerfold and for that, I am truly sorry. It would be a great feather in the cap of the guy who starred in Blue Lagoon (with nude scenes!), The Pirate Movie, A Night in Heaven (as a male stripper!) and had a recurring role on Dallas.

Keith Urban – posed in just a thong (really? he bothered with the thong?) in 2001. OK, he’s a country star and he nabbed an “A” List wife but that really seems to be in spite of his decision to pose. According to the magazine Marie Claire, he has said, “”I wasn’t embarrassed at the time, but obviously in hindsight, no pun intended, I wish I hadn’t done it.” Another country fave who posed is Darryl Worley, except he hasn’t been able to nab an “A” list wife. He has, however, “not wavered on his support for those who put their lives on the line for democracy.” So maybe his photos were a dedicated to gays in the military, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and feeling lonely and out-of-place within the “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture.

Christopher George – a guy who starred in some TV show called The Rat Patrol from 1966 to 1968 in the lead role of Sergeant Sam Troy. I’m sure The Rat Patrol meant a lot to some people out there, but it sure didn’t lead to much else for Christopher George. Hopefully he received a handsome pay-out from Playgirl for his efforts (he posed in 1974).

Biff Manard – an actor who appeared in a lot of TV stuff – everything from Bonanza to Night Court to Star Trek: The Next Generation but all for only one episode or at four to five episodes max. Was in a feature film called Shanks (1974), in which, “A mute puppeteer uses a deceased scientist’s invention to control dead bodies like puppets.”

Fabian – teen idol, singer, actor in 1950s, 60s. Meteoric rise, slow fade (although he did appear in Disco Fever in 1978, so props to Fabian for that). Now does his act in Branson, Missouri, the place where former singing successes go to recapture lost glory before they die.

Big Daddy Kane – Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Big Daddy K, the rap artist known for “fast-rap” and fashion trends like high-top fades, velour suits, and four-finger rings, as much as the next person. I mean, “I Get the Job Done?” Come on! I’m a bit loathe to put BDK on the “C” List. He appeared in the magazine in the 1990s though, after his star was waning a bit, so he fits the bill for the “grab-the-cash-and-go” Playgirl poser. Also appeared in Madonna’s Sex book around the same time. I wonder how much each gig paid?

Peter Steele – singer for Goth metal band Type O Negative. I guess he got kind of pissed off when he later figured out that most of the magazine’s readers are gay. This from Wikipedia: “Steele notoriously appeared as a nude centerfold of Playgirl in 1995. After finding out via bandmate Kenny Hickey’s contacts that only 23% of the magazine subscribers were female, Steele somewhat regretted the decision and later made light of it… with the song “I Like Goils.” In a 2007 interview, Steele reflected on the posing as merely a naïve publicity stunt. Steele was Playgirl’s first model to appear with an erection. Until that issue, all nude male models in PlayGirl were in a flaccid state.”

Levi, take notes!

As if these examples aren’t enough, there are some notable lawsuits filed by very famous men who did not want to be associated with Playgirl at all, among them Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt and model Tyson Beckford, all of whom claimed Playgirl put them on the cover or published unauthorized photos. And the list of “celebs” who seemed have turned Playgirl down include Mario Lopez, Kanye West, Eliot Spitzer and Brad Paisely. Not sure whether or not the ‘Girl is going to come through with photos of Larry Birkhead, Spencer Pratt or Jon Gosselin but they should really be pursuing Rod Blagojevich to answer questions about what that full head of hair means for the rest of his bod.

One thought on “Levi Johnston: Meet The Ghosts of Playgirls Past

  1. I was convinced that I read somewhere that Burt Reynolds was the first Playgirl Centerfold. And then I went so far as to run a Google Image Search for “Burt Reynolds Playgirl”.

    And then I asked myself, what have I become?

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