As usual, we’re breaking up the Playboy review into two parts. The first concentrates on the articles singled out on the cover, and the next will delve into the rest of the issue. For the first time with a Playboy review I will also be using the hit/miss ranking system for each article. You can read more about that here.

I’ve said it before; I buy stuff based on covers. I’m a sucker for packaging, and will willingly admit that. So I think it will come to no surprise that I immediately purchased Playboy‘s August 1976 issue after seeing it’s cover by Dennis Michael Magdich;

The cover to my copy of Playboy's August 1976 issue.

The cover to my copy of Playboy’s August 1976 issue.

Even the $1.50 stamp can’t ruin this; a lovely lovely painting of a lovely lovely woman (fairy?) with butterfly wings and antennae…and sunglasses! The fact that the Rabbit theming of the wings came about entirely from a reader’s letter and sketch makes it all the more amazing.

And, as I would quickly learn, that little tidbit about the origin of the cover art was not the only incredible find waiting to be discovered between this issue’s pages.

Cover Stories

A SIZZLING PICTORIAL: SEX IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
photography by R. Scott Hooper

Ranging from Death Valley, to Lake Tahoe, to the Redwood Forests, these are 9 pages of photos capturing a few usually-fully-nude man/woman pairs (and one man/woman/woman tryst) getting it on in nature.

First, I have to mention that if you want to know exactly what decade these pictures were taken in, what you should do is look at the facial hair on the male half of the first page’s copulating couple. That ‘stache is something. Of course, people who prefer a smoother shave over a woman’s lower lips should also be aware that the curly fluff between each female model’s legs also dates the pictorial almost as accurately as the mustache.

Anyway, beyond the body hair, I’d say the images presented here are a mixed bag. Some photos, like one with a couple dwarfed atop a cliff while the Grand canyon spreads out through the rest of the page, or another with a pair standing beside a waterfall in Oak Creek Canyon, are very impressive and beautifully shot.

But most of them, like four pictures from the Lake Tahoe set that take place in a tent, could have been done anywhere. Even the large two-page spread from the Redwood Forest set fails to include any trees that come close to the size I expect when I hear “redwood” (although, perhaps to temper such disappointment, that may be why that set has the threesome).

I’d be hard pressed to find fault with any of the individuals photographed (save for your personal preference of pubic hair style), but be warned; if you have an issue with man ass you may want to gloss over the Death Valley two-page spread. It’s small, but it is there.

I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by the execution, but the images do deliver on the theme advertised; nowhere did it say “Sex By Amazing Natural Wonders!” It says “Sex In the Great Outdoors” so I suppose I should be happy R. Scott Hooper didn’t just rent and curtain off the local park for a day, which would still qualify as “outdoors.” Because of this I’ll back off complaining about the usage of the famous locations.

Besides, everyone photographed is easy on the eyes, which is a pretty solid accomplishment, and since that is mostly what the average reader is really concerned about;
Swing and a…hit.

PLAYBOY’S PRO FOOTBALL PREVIEW
by Anson Mount
Although I enjoy watching football, and my world does stop for the Super Bowl each year, I’m not going to pretend I have any ability to judge this article. It lists the upcoming season’s Top Rookies and predicts which teams will reach – and which will win – the upcoming Super Bowl.

But I don’t know enough about football to tell if this is all truly insightful, or if that year everything was pretty simple to predict. The easiest way for me to judge this article is simply to compare who Mr. Mount predicted would achieve and/or win Super Bowl XI, and who actually did.

Playboy’s Picks: AFC Champs: Oakland Raiders, NFC Champs: Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl Winner: Dallas Cowboys
Reality’s Results: AFC Champs: Oakland Raiders, NFC Champs: Minnesota Vikings, Super Bowl Winner: Oakland Raiders

I’m going to rate this one well on behalf of those interested in football, because Mr. Mount did predict one team’s placement correctly (and the Vikings were listed as NFC Central leaders), and that is damn impressive…at least, to me.
Swing and a…hit.
(Or perhaps, Kick and a…field goal!)

ISRAEL’S SECRET TEAM OF EXECUTIONERS
by David E. Tinnin
This article, titled “The Wrath of God,” is absolutely edge-of-your-seat gripping.

Whichever side of this Geo-political issue you sit on, I don’t think it can be argued that Mr. Tinnin doesn’t do an excellent job of laying out the technical details of real world espionage, while also being able to develop nail-biting drama as events unfold in his narrative.

I don’t want to say much about what transpires in the article and risk spoiling this tragic part of history, but I highly recommend reading it.
Swing and a…hit.

A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THREE-WAY SEX
by Kathy Lowry.
Before I get to the article itself, this entry was one of the “holy crap!” moments I had when flipping through this issue. The reason for that? The opening paragraph is framed by a two page spread of…awesomeness.

Imagine a river has cut through a desert, and we are treated with a view of the lush jungle that has cropped up around it. Green ferns and palms spread out before us, with a marble staircase leading up from the riverbank to an unseen platform. It is gorgeously painted.

Now, imagine if it had grown from genetic material spliced with women’s DNA and chromosomes.

Many of the palm trunks give way to the thighs of an armless and headless women’s torso. The palm fronds grow from the shoulders and neck. Each one also has on a black leather corset which cup their breasts.

Instead of railings, the steps have sexy legs which form the banisters, each growing from the marble mid-thigh, with black stockings and red heels adorning them.

Three pairs of calves and feet with black heels stick out of the middle of the river upside down in a row. Atop one stands a full woman, wearing similar heels and a white toga. The toga is being pulled from her by another woman’s teeth. This second woman is also complete, and fully nude, and seated by the water’s edge.

The river seems to get its water from a pair of breasts which grow from the riverbank. There is a faucet handle beside each, and water flows from the nipples. One nipple is being suckled by a maidmer – a creature with the legs and hips of a woman but the upper half of a golden carp. We can see beneath the water’s surface that her lower half is indeed all woman.

Amidst the ferns two pairs of women hide and passionately kiss, while atop the steps one final woman – standing full bodied and fully nude save for red heels – watches over everything.

Yeah, that’s how this article starts. With this amazing painting, which crams in more metafeminine material than I ask for in most commissions, signed only “Thoman.”

Ms. Lowry’s article itself, titled “ME AND THE OTHER GIRLS – on a bisexuality built for two”, is presented as a true account of three threesomes she took part in. It manages to not be overshadowed by the opening artwork, with her honest input on her own body and thoughts, coupled with great descriptions of the women (and activities) that were invited into her bed, giving it a grounded-but-still-erotic feel.

Overall it is an amazing and sexy article dealing with the realities of balancing such complicated relationships. It has a minor blemish near the end, thanks to the use of a negative lesbian stereotype, but the usage is clearly a product of the time and not truly intended to denigrate. Despite that, it is a great read, which I briefly got lost in again as I was reviewing the pages in preparation for this article.

Honestly, it would have taken an absolutely horrendous tale for me to give this entry anything lower than a HOME RUN. The amazing image practically guarantees such a rating, and the enjoyable and sexy tale told by Ms. Lowry is just icing on the cake.
Swing and a…HOME RUN!

ROBERT ALTMAN INTERVIEW
by Bruce Williamson
Playboy’s interview with Robert Altman is quite engrossing…for anyone interested in Robert Altman.

Interviews are capable of touching on subjects that most anyone might be interested in, even if the reader cares little about the interviewee themselves. Sadly, there isn’t a lot being discussed here beyond a droll back-and-forth about Altman’s own films and process, although it was funny to hear him call Gene Hackman a “nonstar” – despite Mr. Williamson mentioning Hackman’s ability to demand $1,000,000 a film may imply otherwise.

Although I have seen an eclectic selection of Altman’s repertoire – MASH, Popeye, and Gosford Park among them – much of what is discussed was beyond my film knowledge. Between the narrow focus of the interview and some language I’d rather not repeat, and I really can’t recommend this portion of the issue.
Swing and a…miss.

The Count So Far:
Hits: 3
Misses: 1
HOME RUNS: 1

Check back for Part II, which will delve into the issue’s smaller articles!