The real reason Playboy’s in trouble

Playboy may be looking a little tired. But it's not the internet that's to blame.


Nudity has become pass, says the Playboy CEO

The news that Playboy is to stop publishing pictures of fully nude women makes the FT's Gary Silverman "a little sad". It's not that he's going to miss "all that photographically retouched female flesh". It's the fact that there was something enjoyable about the magazine's "serendipitous streak", first "laid bare" in the inaugural issue back in 1953, featuring the curious threesome of Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso and Friedrich Nietzsche. "Their roles, of course, differed." Monroe was the first centerfold. Picasso and Nietzche were there "for the US male who really wanted to swing, or at least devote his off-hours to thinking about it".

Playboy's chief executive says that nudity has become "pass" now that internet users are just "one click away from every sex act imaginable for free". Instead of trying to compete, said one report, the company would now behave like "the racier sections of Instagram".

There are no racy sections of Instagram, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. The truth is that Playboy is a brand with little going for it. Long spent a morning in Soho trying to track down a copy, but as one retailer told her, trade on top-shelf magazines is down 90% since the arrival of the internet most newsagents nowadays don't even have a top shelf. The retailer isn't hopeful about Playboy's new direction. "What is the point of a topless magazine if there are no nudes?"

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What's the point of the whole Playboy empire come to that, wonders Long. Visiting the Playboy Club in Mayfair, she thought: "Blimey, they look tired. Not just the ancient clients, but the Bunnies. Drooping, plastic, careworn, sad, threads hanging, ears sighing, heels clacking." The staff look like "nursing-home assistants who have ended up in a casino by mistake". The whole place feels fake.

As for the magazine Hugh Hefner has produced an "aesthetic that is hard, charmless and unsexy". In a collectors' edition the girls all look much the same. "Nearly everyone has terrible boob jobs, menacing, fake, square slabs of chilly jelly The internet didn't kill Playboy; silicone and square boobs did."

The curse of the crockery

It's interesting that scores of conscience-stricken tourists have been returningpilfered artefacts to Pompeii. The reason many of them give is interesting too: they've come to believe in the "curse of Pompeii" and think the mosaic tiles or bits of decorated pottery they've pilfered have brought them bad luck. One American, returning a piece of stone, wrote that his family had suffered "trauma after trauma" since taking it.

The legend of the curse holds that the eruption of Vesuvius was a divine punishment for the destruction of holy buildings. If so then it's an odd way for the gods to have shown their displeasure, says Tom Utley in the Daily Mail, since the eruption itself destroyed several temples. But perhaps Roman deities, like the God of the Bible, moved in mysterious ways. And what does it matter if the legend is true or false? It's a brilliant way of encouraging the return of stolen artefacts.

Tabloid money: who wants a Bond who empties the dishwasher?

Actor Daniel Craig says he'll only do another Bond film "for the money", writes Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. And he whines that Bond "is a bit too misogynistic for modern tastes. You'd think the chiselled wretch would be on his knees with thanks to have been given this lucrative, gold-plated role which will make him a bankable star for the rest of his life. Instead he wants to recast Bond in the image of, why himself: a right-on metrosexual man who takes his turn at emptying the dishwasher."

Saudi Arabia is "a repulsive and savage Islamic rathole", says Rod Liddle in The Sun. It's back in the news because British pensioner Karl Andree is locked up in a squalid prison and may be about to receive 350 lashes. "His crime? He was found with a bottle of wine. Yes: Bottoms up!" The British government is trying to secure his release.

"We've made protests to the ambassador and have just cancelled a five million quid contract to train Saudi prison staff. Well, big deal We have billions and billions of pounds in trade partnerships with these extremist lunatics. We flogged them a bunch of fighter jets for $4.4bn only a few years back." And yet while we're right to try and get Mr Andree back you can't go to Saudi Arabia and expect it to be "a bit like Godalming except with more sand". If we traded only with countries with "flawless human rights records we'd be left swapping the occasional pack of bacon with Denmark".

Does Camila Batmanghelidjh, formerly of Kids Company, not understand the seriousness of the claims against her charity? wonders Carole Malone in the Daily Mirror. "Doesn't it bother her that £30m of public money has been pumped into it and for what? Isn't she ashamed that cash meant to help disadvantaged kids was used to rent a £5,000-a-month mansion for a senior aide?" Now she says she's going to open a food kitchen. "Well good luck getting funding for that, Luv, now you've done for charity work what Gerald Ratner did for jewellery sales!"