Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Playboy vs. Penthouse

I was at Cappy's Convenience a few weeks ago, though that's not exactly news. I forget what I was buying...maybe ice but probably not; was it warm enough for a cold drink in September? Whatever it was, while I was paying I spied the 'gentlemen's magazines" discretely arrayed behind the register, inconveniently out of reach and wrapped in plastic. The wrappers were opaque except for the top where the masthead showed through.

I mentioned to the proprietor that I didn't realize Playboy is still around. "Does anyone buy it?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he answered, "I still sell a few copies every month." Curious, I told him I'd take one. I think it was $5.99. It featured a story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. so that sweetened the pot.

I'm not sure what Playboy's target demographic is. I found the whole thing rather dull, including the fiction. There were some product reviews, two advice columns I think, an article on fashion that didn't make much sense but revolved around movie stars from the 60s, and the pictorials. If I recall there were traditionally three photo spreads of pretty girls when I was a kid. I'm thinking in this issue there were two, but there may have been three. I wasn't paying that much attention.

Leroy Neiman did the art on the back of the centerfold. Is he still alive? Has he been drawing these same pictures for 40-odd years? If they decided to recycle the old ones would anyone notice? The 'jokes' on the back of the centerfold were bawdy enough, if not particularly funny. The same goes with the cartoons that were sprinkled throughout. These dealt mainly with prostitutes and strippers and seemed to be of the same vintage as Mr. Neiman's drawings.

Playboy did at least try to cover a variety of topics even though it did so in a pseudo-hip, winking way that made me embarrassed for the authors. A week later I decided to sample the distinguished competition so I purchased a copy of Penthouse. "Yeah, we still sell a few of those a month, too," the proprietor told me.

Penthouse is pretty much about one thing and in the most superficial and juvenile way I could think of. Playboy wasn't funny. Penthouse was stupid. From the centerfold: "Q: Would you give up your right arm or the ability to have orgasms? A: My arm, then I could make some hot amputee porn. " Really? Someone really said this?

The problem is there is nothing about Penthouse that is believable or even remotely interesting. There was an article on Satanism that was so superficial I could have written it. Regular readers of the Dot Matrix know that rigorous research is not my strong suit. There was another article about having a bachelor party in Boulder, Colorado. Q: What's the best strip club in Boulder? A: The Penthouse Club. Really? Is that an unbiaseed opinion? Who said that? The owner? The owner of this magazine?

Playboy may be dull but that is because its obsession is on a faux sophistication that has aged about as well as Burt Reynolds. Penthouse likewise has an obsession and it isn't about being sophisticated. It makes Playboy look like the New Yorker.

You may argue that no one buys these magazines for the articles. That may be. I bought them out of curiosity. Maybe some people buy them for the pictures. I saw a few more body parts in Penthouse, but I don't need any anatomy lessons. I haven't made my purchasing trifecta yet by buying the latest Hustler. I'm sure it will be at Cappy's when I'm ready to stare with bewilderment at how I wasted another six bucks.

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