"You don't have to be a policewoman or a former president's daughter to want to be a sex symbol."
So says Gary Cole, Playboy magazine's photography director, referring to the magazine's last two cover subjects. Out on the newsstands is the August issue with what Playboy calls the "arresting" New York policewoman Carol Shaya. She is seen in some photos apprehending suspects on the mean streets of the South Bronx and in other photos . . . well, off-duty.
Ms. Shaya succeeds the celebrated cover subject of the July issue, Patti Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Cole says Ms. Shaya is only the most recent example of the magazine's continuing coverage of what he calls "real people." He notes that Ms. Shaya came to the magazine; it didn't go after her.
"The policewoman found us," he said of Ms. Shaya.
Ms. Davis was a different story. The magazine went after her, and she was talked into it.
"We contacted Davis. I saw a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) ad with Patti Davis saying, 'I'd rather be nude than wear a fur.' So I called her and asked her, if she'd rather be nude, would she consider being nude in Playboy? She finally agreed if we paid her a modeling fee and donated 40 percent of it to PETA."
But Mr. Cole says that the magazine has perhaps been focusing more on "people from real life rather than the entertainment industry" for the past few years. And that the real-people motif originated 40 years ago after founder Hugh Hefner was looking for a follow-up change-of-pace from Marilyn Monroe, whose photos launched the publication.
"We started out with Monroe, and then our Playmates were professional models until we decided to use a secretary from this office, a real girl with a real job, not someone who was made up," Mr. Cole says.
"It had a revolutionary impact. Her name was Janet Pilgrim. She was such a hit that we used her three times, in July and December 1955 and October 1956. She's still the only Playmate we've had three times."
The magazine is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a "Women Over Forty" issue in December, which, Mr. Cole says, is being put together from photographs submitted by "real-life" women.
"We've had 2,500 submissions so far," he says.
"They're from women who say, 'I've thought about this. I wanted to do it before but my [husband/boyfriend/children] didn't want me to. Now I feel more liberated. I have a second chance.'
"You don't have to be a professional beauty to want to have that side of you noticed," Mr. Cole says. "Hefner said everyone wants to be a sex symbol some of the time. The women seem to be agreeing with him."
Ironically, another view is contained in the July/August PhotoPro, a magazine of the photo industry.
Internationally known photographer Phillip Dixon, in an interview with Neil Okrent about Mr. Dixon's ascent in the world of fashion photography, harks back to his days as a Playboy centerfold photographer.
Here's Mr. Dixon on Playboy then and now:
"Very dull. Nobody's home. It's very old. . . . [When I was working there] I was the same age as the girls. I was one of their contemporaries. I wanted to show them the way they really were, and not cosmetically altered with makeup and hairdos and matching lingerie, which I thought was kind of vulgar -- and not really contemporary. But they still do that -- they do that to this day. So they look plastic . . . the guys that read those magazines must like that sort of stuff."
Then there's the summer issue of Hysteria, a magazine of women, humor and social change.
The best thing about Hysteria is Sylvia, Nicole Hollander's droll cartoon character. In this issue, she thinks "if only I'd known" while her TV announces that "Women have always come to Kmart to get what they need."
But there are some other drolleries to be had, including Colleen Kilcoyne's "I Killed June Cleaver: Toward a New Model of Mothering."
"I have not been a bad mother; I've been a bad June," Ms. Kilcoyne writes, referring to the intimidating TV mother in the "Leave It to Beaver" series.
Ms. Kilcoyne enumerates the ways in which she's been trying to break her June Cleaver impulses. They include giving in to her dislike of baking and "crying out loud when [my children] really hurt my feelings."