The magazine Playboy was a big influence on my wanting to become a writer. Just like in the cliché, “I read it for the articles,” after I got done looking at the pictures I did indeed read the articles. Mostly the fiction, but the interviews too. The many finely wrought short stories that Playboy published inspired me to learn the craft of fiction, and the interviews taught me how to talk to people to get their stories, a skill that came in handy when I interviewed about a thousand porn stars and strippers from the 1980s through the mid-2000s for mags like Black Tail and Leg Show.
I went to the flea market in Chelsea today on my unending search for inspiration in print, and I found a lovely Playboy from January 1956.
This slender (72 pages including covers) but jam-packed issue has, among its charms, a recap of the first two dozen Playmates (including Marguerite Empey aka Diane Webber, Jayne Mansfield, and Diane Hunter (whom I interviewed decades later for Pat Reshen’s Over 40 magazine); cartoons by the legendary and tragic Jack Cole, creator of the comic book character Plastic Man and a frequent Playboy contributor, as well as fiction by Robert Bloch, Erskine Caldwell, and Herbert Gold. Probably the one name that most resonates with contemporary readers is that of Bloch, who of course was one of the great masters of horror fiction and created the original novel on which Hitchcock’s Psycho was based. And Caldwell was one of the biggest selling writers of all time with the paperback editions of his rural tales of lust and human folly.