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Eva Maria graces the cover of my March, 1975 issue of Playboy

Here I review all the material not deemed suitable as a Cover story.

Playboy Interview: Billie Jean King

“If a woman wants to have a career, I say fine, don’t put her down for it. But if she wants to be a housewife, right on; if she wants to be a mother, that’s beautiful. I want every woman to be able to be what she wants to be. That’s what the women’s movement is all about. All we want is for every woman to be able to pursue whatever career or personal lifestyle she chooses as a full and equal member of society, without fear of sexual discrimination.” ~ Billie Jean King

Joe Hyams’ interview with Billie Jean King is a very interesting read and I highly recommend it. It is entertaining and filled with insight on sports and women’s lib in a way only someone as passionate as Billie Jean King could express. It’s especially heart-wrenching to read if you’re aware that she had a secret homosexual relationship shortly before this time but has to deny her lesbianism during the interview (her homosexuality would be publicly revealed in 1981). An excellent article which echoes many of my opinions on feminism/equalism.

Up Out Of Zoar – I generally find the “people in a post-apocalyptic world have to make tough decisions” genre tiresome. I won’t fault Ben Maddow’s tale of a father and daughter surviving after the “Half Hour War” for the year it was written in, as perhaps the set-up was not so well tread in 1975.

But I can fault it for being rather boring and not really seeing through on the more significant issues it hints at before degrading into a gunfight between father and the newly-found military survivor. There are attempts at thematic juxtaposition with the characters battling in a Disney Land-esque theme park while automatons spout great quotes from the Revolution, but it doesn’t really come together cohesively for me. Nor is it as exciting as that scene sounds. In the end I don’t feel like the story really went anywhere.

All of that and the possibility that the splash at the story’s start may be a topless (artistic) illustration of the main character’s 14 year old daughter leaves me to suggest you just quickly flip past pages 72 and 73…and any others that display Maddow’s text.

Shaping Up – This 4-page pictorial illustrating the various items one may attain for a home gym is worth a perusal. Two lovely (mostly) unclothed ladies, sweaty from a long work-out, illustrate various ways to use the exercise equipment – not in the proper ways, however. On occasion they are joined by an equally sweaty – but not as vividly nude – man. Take a look, and let me know if you find the socks at the top of page 78 as amusing as I do.

Holy War on 34th Street – Norman Spinrad’s spin on religious street-level “outreach” in New York is an entertaining yarn, and the narrator’s own curiosity had me following it along with a grin all the way to the end. Written in a time when someone could say that Scientologists have “eyes that seem too close together” without getting sued (although even I think that’s kind of mean) it outlines the tale of what happens when L. Ron Hubbard’s followers take to competing with Hare Krishna practitioners for tourist money/converts.

Slowly the religious competition starts to snowball like a katamari traveling through the history of religious sects and leads to a satisfying and fairly hilarious ending. However, if you are particularly sensitive to religious jokes and commentary you may not appreciate it as much as I did.

Cassoulet – Thomas Mario’s article expounds on a delicious-sounding recipe that I will be trying to cook some day. Just know it involves goose, a pound of pork loin, some kielbasa and bacon. There’s a little bit of history on the dish but the article is mostly recipe. If the ingredients I just listed have your mouth watering then I have little more to say on the matter. I’ll report in if I make it. If the parts of the dish don’t appeal to you then just skip it entirely.

Margot – If you ever wanted to see Margot Kidder (cast 3 years after this issue as Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie) nude there could not be a lovelier selection of images of her, and even the actress is quoted as saying the Playboy photos are “the prettiest ever taken of me.”

The images are accompanied by an insightful article about Ms. Kidder’s young life when she bought Playboy every month and put herself through all sorts of horrible things to try and look like Miss January (stating at one point that she bought Playboy for everything in it EXCEPT the articles). Her conclusion to the text, explaining why she posed for Playboy and why she approved the images she did, is a great window into human psychology.

And it is an even better message.

Norse Star – Ingeborg Sorenson, Playboy’s Miss March for 1975, hales from Oslo, Norway and does nothing to dispel the horrible stereotype of blonde Scandinavian attractiveness. There are some interesting tidbits in the pictorial – that she “borrowed” equipment from a nearby construction site for a photo shoot and came to America from Norway via Japan – but overall we don’t learn all that much about who Ms. Sorenson really is. But the images are varied and very well done, so there’s that.

Chariots of the Gods? – John Hughs’ spoof article on “historical” records of past alien visits is amusing, and each person will find it more or less so. Citing imaginary events and relics – my favorite being the triple-zippered tweed pants worshiped by the South Pacific peoples of Tacki Tacki – I ranged in my reactions from droll groans to head-shaking chuckles. Worth perusing, and be sure to check out the detailed splash art.

Traveler’s Aids – Three pages of 1970s travel products. Just that and some art, not even any models holding them. I’m surprised by how little hair-drying technology has advanced. Nothing much else to say about it.

The Jail – Jesse Hill Ford’s short fiction piece caught me by surprise. I went into it assuming it fell into a few tired genres and as I read on I got caught up in it – actual nervous energy built in my chest as the narrator uncovered more and more information. I won’t say much, as I wouldn’t want to ruin it, but definitely find page 124 and have a read.

the Vargas Girl

“And you say it’s called hot-dogging?”

Perhaps the passage of time has caused the phrase and the accompanying image to seem unrelated. But the painting is still just as lovely as any other work by Mr. Vargas, coherent caption or not.

essay on woman – Ribald Classic – The contemporary intro to this long poem explains that while it was signed by a “Pego Borewell” it was possibly written by the fourth Lord of Sandwich (yes, THAT Lord of Sandwich) as a very dirty spoof of Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man. If true I have to say I’m far more fond of Lord Sandwich’s culinary trailblazing than his poetic ventures. I little too “ribald” for my tastes.

Who’s Afraid of Hard Times? – William F. Rickenbacker and Larry L. King’s dual article/memoir is a good way to depress yourself about the cycles of economic depression and political ineptitude. Informative but tightly packed, read at the risk of your positive state of mind.

Sex Shoppe – Five pages of Raymonde’s adorable and titillating cartoons are time well spent. My favorite is the plain-brown package delivered by the flashy-painted truck.

On the Scene – The small pieces on Robert Towne (writer of Chinatown), Edward Hanna (mayor of Utica, NY), and Jose Silva (proprietor of mind control) are interesting snapshots from the time, each with their own quirks.

Little Annie Fanny – Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder’s series is always filled with amazingly sexy, lush, and detailed art. Of course, you have to be okay with the fact that Annie gets manhandled by everyone she meets, and this edition includes a pretty awful Asian stereotype. But the art is can’t-miss quality.

Dear Playboy, Forum, and the rest – The usual amount of ribald reporting, odd discovery, and by-gone manners and practices. I recommend turning to the Playboy Adviser and reading the letter and response to Autofelatio on pg. 45.

Single Panel Funnies & Ads

“If it wasn’t for Winston, I wouldn’t smoke.”

Somewhere there is a lawsuit going on that would benefit from this ad. Probably the most ridiculous of the ads to be found. The Single Panel Funnies are their usual range of quality, from Gahan Wilson’s wonderfully macabre imagination to odd bits of nudity and quotation that make New Yorker comics seem elementary.

THE FINAL VERDICT: It’s a great cover, but the great stuff within doesn’t seem to outweigh the rest.

I want to recommend this issue, I really do. There are some high quality parts to be found (Holy War on 34th Street, The Jail, Billie Jean King Interview), and some that so much so echo our current times (Elmer Gantry For President, Who’s Afraid of Hard Times?) that they must be read to be believed. And I must mention that part of Ms. Kidder’s piece goes a long way to illustrate why I respect the journalistic integrity of Mr. Hefner and Playboy; they will print material that doesn’t cast them in a good light.

But the overall package is unfortunately tainted by pictorials saying men want to be raped, illustrations of characters perhaps not old enough to be topless, stereotype molesters, and overall stuffed with mediocre material (three pages dedicated to pictures of travel supplies? Really?). It just weighs down the issue far too much.

If you love the cover as much as I do and think the gems of the issue are worth a read you’ll be happy displaying this in your collection – if found for an acceptable price. But if the cover does nothing for you I think only Margot Kidder/Lois Lane fans will probably be the ones who get real satisfaction out of this issue.