I haven’t tried to hide the fact that overall I’m a fan of Playboy Magazine. Although I like to believe I can honestly say when I think an issue shines or shames, generally I have a very high opinion of the magazine’s standards and it’s attitude on culture and the women who model within it.

But what does that mean? What type of scale am I talking about? To help put my praise in perspective I also have a few vintage “girly” magazines which are contemporary to the era of some of my completed Playboy reviews. I feel knowing how Playboy‘s competition went about things helps illustrate why I feel they are a cut above the rest, and I want to start my reviews of their contemporaries with the August 1968 issue of Follies.

The cover to my copy of Follies, August 1968

I will approach this just like my Playboy reviews. Specifically, this review will first highlight the material deemed worthy of a cover headline, and then I will delve into the other parts of the issue in page order.

But most importantly, I am NOT reviewing the looks of these women. This isn’t about whether Playboy has more attractive women or not; everyone is beautiful and sexy in their own way and I’m not here to judge these women’s bodies. This is about quality of work. This is about content. This is about the magazine respecting the models and the readers. This is about the production value of the item they expected you to buy. This is what I’m judging.

Cover Stories:

Swinger’s Version: The Three Bares on a Hitch-Hike!

Three pages of disappointment. This supposed sexy riff on The Three Bears tells the tale of three nudie movie models walking down a highway unable to hail a ride. Oh, and they’re topless. In an industry of preposterous plots this one is just dumb, with a fourth-wall breaking attempt to wrap it up on the third page that simply further flabbergasts the entire thing. Add the fact that the models are usually staring off in three different vacant directions in each image and the photos aren’t even compelling.

Exclusive Pix: A Fotog’s Crash of a Nudies’ Bash

Problems with this article: 1) No one was nude. At least don’t false advertise. 2) The article claims that women, when partying with other women, just get naked. While a salacious idea, there was no better reason for the pictorial? 3) The captions barely make sense (little did I know that would be a recurring theme through the magazine). 4) Whether or not the supposedly candid camera photos were faked, the “fotog” gets thrown out before the girls could “…dial up to Flame On!” because they caught him dropping film negatives out a window after he promised they could first see and review them. Did we have to make the man sound like a COMPLETE skuzzball?

The only benefit to this pictorial is that, since the photos are supposed to have been taken on the fly, at least no one looks bored, confused, or waiting for instructions…or if they do it can be attributed to “LSD” – oh, wait, I’m sorry, the nonsense captions define that as “Lush & Sexy Dolls.” Really? No one thought of “Lovely Sexy Dolls?” Or “Luscious Sexual Darlings?” Or “Living Sensual Dreams?” All you could think of is something that required an ampersand? Really?

Ten Beauties Tell: How to Put Art in Sex, & Sex in Art!

Of the cover stories this is the one that offends me the least. But that’s on a generous sliding scale. There’s a serious lack of beauties telling anything. There are some pictures of classic art that feature nudes, and there are pictures of some women painting on each other or posing nude for an art class. But that’s about as far as the theme goes.

While I do agree that the beauty of a woman’s body is akin to a fine work of art, the article goes a little far and starts to make the women sound like they are nothing more than objects to be stared at. How to describe the appreciation of a willing woman’s body is a fine line that I understand gets tread with some difficulty, but it feels as if the line was specifically sought out and passed by here.

Non-cover Stories:

Okay, let’s be straight here – Follies has no “stories.” These are all random pictorials (purely topless, no vaginal imagery). Since there’s so little written material it was very hard for me to actually review them all. But here’s what I found;

Starlet and Starlit – The selection of pictures of Trudy Mack is not complete crap. Add to that the decision to theme the photos around Ms. Mack’s very academic hobby of astronomy and we have a neat little piece that nicely highlights both Ms. Mack’s impressive physical and cerebral qualities. That’s how this should be done.

New Outdoor Styles – Just prepare for the puns now – Follies loves them. “Styles” in the headline refers to the pictorial’s model, Linda Styles. Here we learn very little about our model, and the photos seem to be set in the first random backyard the photographer could get permission break into for use. There are also some shadows that fall across Ms. Styles and obscure entire body parts.

A Byrd is a Chick is a Bird – More “wordplay,” this time at the expense of Robin Byrd’s name. The photos have too much shadow and a few aren’t in focus. Many of the captions at least try to stick to the bird theme, and we do find out a little about Ms. Byrd’s aspirations, but it’s hard to ignore the fact we can’t see the model.

Heat Wave With Frost – If you guessed that the model’s name is “Frost” you’re right. Sandy Frost’s photos are generally clear and lit. but once again we learn nothing about this woman beyond one caption that mentions she is going to Majorette School.

Helmet Honey – A reprieve from name play this time, the theme for model Inge Bjorndahl doesn’t go much further than a bunch of poor military puns. Absolutely no info on Inge is provided other than her measurements. The photos are some of the best lit so far, but that alone can’t save this bit.

Un-clothesline! – The photos of Kim Athas were supposedly taken at her apartment – which I’d believe if I thought her apartment was a black void with nothing more than a clothesline. Ms. Athas is shot entirely from behind with a confused or angry look on her face, which echoes my own reactions thus far.

Striking it Rich – Back to the name puns. Model Ruby Rich is the headline’s victim subject this time, and while the photo work is decent all we are told of Ms. Rich is that she has secretarial skills and dreams of something bigger. Beyond that the captions treat her like little more than eye-candy.

Party Line – At least this one picks an actual theme and really runs with it. Viv Mallory’s gallery is actually quite light and lively as she mocks being a phone-sex operator, and even the captions match the action. If we had truly learned anything about Ms. Mallory as a person it would have been a good piece.

Some Like It Hot – Kathy Price is literally referred to like a common noun at one point, but we do actually learn a little about Ms. Price’s preferences, life, and aspirations. The photos are all in focus, but in a couple of them shadows completely obscure her eyes. It’s a shame.

High Rank – Jean Officer’s name plays a part in the headline, and we get more military puns which somewhat repeat the ones in Helmet Honey. Since the images look to be studio pieces they came out competently lit, but we learn little more about Ms. Officer than that she likes men who like water sports and fast cars. Very useful information, I’m sure.

What a Program – This piece seems to celebrate that model Jean Hollingbury went from computer programming to appearing on the program of the local cabaret. There’s a short bit about how Ms. Hollingbury wanted a job that would maintain her independence from a man and tested “so well” that computer programming was recommended which almost gives me hope for the editorial team, but Follies‘ gleeful claim that she is now a dancer shatters that. Technically the photos are some of the better shot examples, but the set leaves a lot to be desired; what the hell does a wagon wheel have to do with any of this?

Meet Two Sisters Who Are Brothers – This blonde and brunette pairing are claimed as sisters, and if you guessed that their last name is “Brothers” you win a slow clap. Kitty and Rhonda Brothers get four full pages to share…but no photos to do the same. Not a single image shows them in the same place, and only one outfit they each wear in separate shots implies there might actually be any connection between them. The captions never let up on the “Brothers sisters” shtick. We actually do learn a little about Ms. and Ms. Brothers, although it’s little more than you’d find in a dating ad. The lone true “insight” at first seems to be that the sisters want to model so they can pay for college, but its then revealed that their education is really just a holding pattern until they can each get married and go domestic. The competency of the photography is the best – and most surprising – part of this piece.

When 100 Inches Makes a Foote… – Follies can do math. This pun is brought to us by model Alice Foote’s last name and the fact that her dimensions, 38-26-36, add up to 100. Unfortunately, Ms. Foote’s photos swing from over-lit to under-lit, and Follies revels a little too much on how “…math was not Alice’s strong subject” and that Ms. Foote claims, “…the proper study of woman [sic] is how to make men happy.” The fact that Alice is an award winning chef and make-up artists is something to celebrate, but Follies sullies it by implying the only good thing about her talents is how much it will benefit a man some day.

Repris on Pat – Here’s a woman who has it figured out; Pat Gregory is a part time model, part time fashion designer. “I enjoy modeling […] but I can’t figure on keeping my figure forever – and fashion is a field with a big future.” If only the photographer had been as smart and focused as Ms. Gregory.

Not-So-Plain Jane – Model Jane Howard is a secretary and a party girl in Washington D.C.. Even if her boss had an issue with her modeling the shadows pretty much assure Ms. Howard’s identity would be secret (assuming that’s not her real name).  Given that she’s being photographed at a pool with lots of reflective surfaces I’m not certain how a photog with an ounce of ability could screw up the lighting so much.

Zip & Zap – Model Sandy Cobb is a swimmer – or at least that’s what the captions tell me. You’d be hard pressed to figure it out from this awful photo set.

What A Waste Of Talent – I laughed when I read this headline. The two models – Donna Howard and Jutka Goz – split three photos. Yeah, three. One image is so dark I have to rely on the caption to tell which model it’s supposed to be. Oi.

Compact by Chrysler – Although the images aren’t bad it would have been nice had Follies included model Carol’s last name. Chrysler gets mentioned twice – and there’s not even a car in the pictures.

Boise Will Be Boise – Follies seems to enjoy their headlines that subtly suggest their models are men. They just won’t give up on the…I don’t even want to call it “wordplay” any more. Model Sally Boise is minoring in math at college and makes abstract statues, but all Follies wants to do is make puns using “math figures” and “abstract figures.” At least Ms. Boise has a set of photos somewhat viewable, but the decent lighting may have been helped by her very shiny pants.

King’s Ransom – Model Betty Ransom gets one photo, and it’s slightly over exposed. Let’s face it, she was probably accepted so Follies could get another pun in under their belt. I’m sure there’s a chalkboard with another hash mark on it somewhere.

Wood Nymph – I actually like model Lisa Collins’ photo, which is good since she only got one and it came out acceptable. Instead of talking about the lovely woman the caption drivels on about “inferior” divinities in an attempt to justify the frivolous title, seemingly ignoring Ms. Collins’ humanity.

Roamin’ Roman – When you can’t make a pun at least go with alliteration and homophones. Model Virginia Roman is an Italian film starlet come to NYC for  a “big role in [a] sensational new underground movie.” I hope for Ms. Roman’s sake the film has better quality lighting than Follies, although her particular set of images are done pretty well. Maybe she used some of that Italian film experience and took over the shoot…

Well-Stacked Deck – Follies claims that model Tommie Jones wrote the folk-rock song “Hippie In Love” but I can’t find it anywhere. Instead of concentrating on her musical talents, though, the captions just keep making gambling puns. Of the three images on hand there’s only a pair that are lit well.

What’s Their Line? – Models Marie Saylor, Irene Snell, and Cosette Cousins (what, no pun, Follies?) each get a single “meh” photo and a pointless caption.

Heather Report – Model Heather Christie is, from what I can gather of the captions, some sort of Follies mainstay that came back for a follow-up shoot. I guess having some sort of cred with the magazine gets you a photog who knows what he’s doing, but all I know about Ms. Christie from the piece is that she’s been in Hollywood.

Prettying Up! – The captions talk about how model Jan Fisher – posed in fishnets and garter in a bathroom in three photos – is busy making herself pretty for the BF. But the only image that shows her face has her looking down with her shoulder partly obscuring her, so I’m not sure why her make-up application was used as the article’s theme. Plus, what we can see of her is over lit.

Paging the U.N. – Model Camilla Halgrinsson studied language in Copenhagen, so I hope she was trying to tell the photographer “more light” in every language she could think of. I would have liked to have learned more about her abilities but the captions just kept making “no undeveloped areas” jokes.

ads – The sad thing is that the advertisements in Follies may be the best thing about the magazine. When the content is so awful even alcohol and cigarette companies won’t buy page space one has to take whatever they can get.

The art of the Lili St. Cyr advert at the beginning has a really fun and sexy style as the illustrated women model the various nighties. Another ad is for an odd item advertised as a “mink keyhole cover” for one’s car ignition – intended to replicate certain unshorn female anatomy, I’m sure.

What makes the ads most interesting, however, is how much they remind me of the ads on today’s modern sexy websites. Instead of clicking on links for self-shot galleries of amateurs, you can mail away for some random girl’s glossy “unretouched” photos. Are you interested in videos of women fighting? We’ve got an 8-millimeter film for you! Do you want to exchange dirty messages with a complete stranger? One woman wants to be naughty pen pals…if you enclose $1 in each letter for “expenses.” It’s amazing proof that all the vices that the internet gets blamed for are in no way new – just adapted.

One upsetting part of the ads is that this was during a time when lesbianism and bisexuality was treated like a perverted sideshow act. Most of the descriptions of the material available don’t treat or describe these performing women with the respect their heterosexual peers get. It’s a sad reminder of the age, but does show how the internet has effected our society positively by helping repressed individuals find friends, gain strength, and help shatter the old opinions of non-heterosexual society.

The Final Verdict: Not generally recommended.

When the best part of your magazine is the illustrated underwear ads there’s a problem. I’m sure that at the time it was published, when the concept of the internet was as much a fantasy as rocket cars,  Follies was the best thing since the Renaissance for men who just wanted to see nude women in any format.

What Follies most seriously lacks behind Playboy – other than having articles of any kind – is respect for their models. Not only aren’t the women lit properly 50% of the time, there’s no acknowledgment of their aspirations or who they are as human beings. We hardly learn anything about them, and what we do learn is always skewed in regards to how it would benefit a man. Follies is a far cry from claiming the education of women spells the doom of civilization, instead embracing a sort of ignorant expectation that a woman’s personal dreams won’t disrupt the status quo of marriage/babies/homemaker. Although it’s nice to think Follies is simply blind to what they’re doing many won’t see it as any better than actively repressing these women’s individuality. I’m not sure which camp I fall into.

But I do know I’d rather go reread Playboy‘s interview with their aspiring-astronaut Playmate than flip through this sexist crap again.