Posts Tagged ‘short story’

March Madness: Marian Stafford, Miss March 1956

March 17, 2010

The lovely and talented Marian Stafford, Playboy‘s Miss March 1956, is adorable and also full of all kinds of noteworthiness.


Photographed by Ruth Sondak.

First, Ms. Stafford was the first gatefold model to get a three page pull-out centerfold: the real deal, the whole fold-out enchilada. This has obviously become a trademark of not just Playboy but a widely-copied staple of the porn mag world as a whole. Way to go, twinkie!

Unusually, as you can see from the above caption, the lead credited photographer of Ms. Stafford’s shoot was a woman. Ruth Sondak seems to have been an active New York photographer on whom I am having trouble finding complete biographical data.

I found this link to an interview about Greenwich Village anti-Vietnam War protesters, which had circa-70’s pictures credited as being taken by Ruth accompanying the article, and a 1993 NYT obit that included a picture of a famous educator that was photographed by Ruth in New York in 1972. The links to the photos in both the obit and the war-resisters’ page were no longer active, so I can’t even say I have seen other pictures by her other than these of Ms. Stafford. That’s about all I got on that angle so far. I’ll keep digging.

Okay, so you may be wondering why Ms. Stafford is ripping up a TV Guide in the two color shots of this spread. It’s not a Sinead O’Connor protest or anything — Ms. Stafford was first “discovered” on the boob-tube in the audience of a show, and became a main stage attraction herself not long after.


This month’s Playmate is a little girl with big television aspirations. Her name is Marian Stafford and she packs a lot of woman into 5’3″. She wants to be an actress, but so far most of her TV experience has been confined to smiling prettily in commercials for products like Tintair, Pall Mall and Jantzen; she has helped advertise Revlon on The $64,000 Question and RCA Victor on the video version of Our Town. She has had a walk-on in a Kraft Theater production and small speaking parts in two Robert Montgomery shows. (“Playboy’s TV Playmate,” Playboy, March 1956.)


But her most unique television experience is as a human test pattern for Max Leibman spectaculars, where she spends hours before NBC color cameras during rehearsals and is never seen by the audience. (Ibid.)

Ms. Stafford did make it back in front of cameras, regularly appearing on shows such as The $64,000 Question and Treasure Hunt. Her adorable pretty-princess looks and sweet nature also scored her the part of Mistress of Ceremonies on the 11-episode children’s story hour show The Big Fun Carnival in 1957. Get it, girl!

One of the coolest parts of this issue was a short story by Ray Bradbury titled “The First Night of Lent,” about a good-natured and laconic Irish driver named Nick whom a writer employs while he is working on a screenplay in Dublin. The driver gives up drinking for Lent and becomes a reckless maniac, incapable of sorting through the richness of life’s sensory overload and focusing on one thing at a time: he needs alcohol to make it through the day, because the Irish are such finely tuned, sensitive beings that sobriety is an innavigable misery to them. At the end, the screenplay writer gives Nick money and begs him to start drinking again. It’s a mainly classist and racist but still kind of fun story, and Ray Bradbury is my all-time favorite sci-fi writer of all time* so I let him off the hook, cultural pride notwithstanding.



excerpt from the googlebooks. give it a spin, dudes, and please consider writing to your congressmen urging them to protect free lit on the net! LIBRARIES FOREVER!

Marian Stafford is one of the few playmates to model both as the gatefold and cover girls. Do you get the cover idea? The bunny is a producer watching her do her NBC color-test job. Super-cute. Again — get it, girl!



*Nickel in the mail to the first person who gets the “all-time-favorite of all time” movie line reference.

Valentine Vixen: Barbara Ann Lawford, Miss February 1961

February 4, 2010

Miss February 1961 was the lovely and talented Barbara Ann Lawford. This shoot (with a few exceptions) has not got much of a story but it does have a really crisp, consistent feel to it, with some great colors and a stark simplicity that dovetails nicely with Ms. Lawford’s clear, elegant Black Irish features.


Photographed by Mario Casilli.

The textures of the garments in the pictures are really, really clear — look at the weave on that sweater — and their kind of warm nubbiness makes a nice constrast to the simple lines and cool, white-and-beige color scheme of the shoot. The red of her lips also stands in contrast to the ambient colors and light in the pictures, contributing to the overall unity of effect. Also, there are breasts.


TURN-ONS: Dogs, hot fudge sundaes.
TURNOFFS: People who judge without knowing.

(Playmate data sheet)

One of the features in this issue of Playboy was a short story titled “Come On Out, Daddy,” written by Bernard Wolfe. Wolfe was quite an interesting guy — he was a war correspondent for several science magazines, a Merchant Marine, and the personal secretary/bodyguard to Leon Trotsky during his time in Mexico. A prolific writer, he covered both fiction and non-fiction topics, and collaborated with jazz legend Milton Mesirow on Mesirow’s autobiography Really the Blues. Like a real-life version of Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout,* Wolfe was best known for his reams of genre-busting speculative fiction.

His most famous and significant contribution to the literary world is his science-fiction novel Limbo (1952). Set in the 1990’s, Wolfe’s novel is the first book to describe a dystopian futureworld where cybernetics mean that humans and machines not only interact, but are symbiotic, with the limbless having robotic enhanced prosthetics, the aim being the creation of a superior hybrid species which would be overlords to the unenhanced.


This is my favorite picture from the shoot.

Pretty next-level shit for 1952, eh? Penguin Books wrote on the jacket of Limbo’s reprint in 1961 that it was “the first book of science-fiction to project the present-day concept of ‘cybernetics’ to its logical conclusion.” According to the wiki,

Wolfe added heavy doses of Reichian sexual psychology, Trotskyite sociology, and Conradian literary themes like exile and primativism. Thus, Limbo is an early example of the New Wave movement in science fiction.


Of recent years there have been some signs of a raise of interest in Wolfe who is now being read as a precursor of cyberpunk. The dustwrapper to the U.S. first edition promised the reader that Limbo was “a novel of action, suspense, adventure, science fiction, and sex.” For once this description does not overstate the case. [Limbo] includes with intself among other genres the novel of espionage, journal, dystopia, and narrative of scientific experiment. It covers an extraordinary range of texts from ribald jokes up to summaries of brainmapping and the origins of game theory.

(Seed, David. “Deconstructing the Body Politic in Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo.” Science Fiction Studies 24.2 (July 1997): 267-288.)


Am I crazy or is that all-covered-up cover model the ONLY lovely and NOT talented little looker Joni Mattis, Hef’s special lady and social secretary for Mansion West who is infamous in the Empire for not baring all in her November 1960 gatefold appearance?

Besides appearing as the gatefold model in February of 1961, Barby Lawford returned to cover model for September of the same year. I’m not sure if she did more modeling work after that or not: so far I am coming up goose eggs on my “what is she doing now” searches. I will come back and edit if I find out!




*The real Kilgore Trout was named Theodore Sturgeon, and he died in 1985; I know that. I am just sayin’.