Paige Young, December 1968
Time (alright, past time) for our monthly review of Playmate centrefolds through the years. Now we have had a number of suggestions as to who should feature in these posts but we must emphasise that we are purely looking at the quality of the centrefold photograph not the girl in general. For example, November contains Veronica Gamba, one of our favourite Playmates of all time, but her centrefold is dull so she doesn't make the cut!
Peter Gowland photographs an earlier Playmate, Jean Jani, in 1957
Another rather weak month this time but just sneaking in to our number one spot is Miss November 1968, Paige Young. Her pictorial was the last of the ten photographed for Playboy by Peter Gowland who was a top fashion photographer who originally started out as an actor (he had a small part in Citizen Kane). Gowland shot over 1,000 magazine covers (including six for Playboy) in his six decade career and had worked with Playboy since the fifties. He invented the twin lens Gowlandflex camera which used 4" x 5" film for very high resolution and has been used by photographers such as Annie Leibovitz as well as the FBI, US Army and US Navy. He died in March 2010 at the age of 93. Gowland was one of the best photographers who ever worked for Playboy and his pictures often show interesting and well thought out composition. What makes this picture is the tip of Miss Young's tongue just peeking out. It makes her look rather naughtier than most! Paige was a talented artist but, tragically, died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1974 at the age of thirty.
Joni Mattis, Novenber 1960
Next we have the petite (5'2" and 33-18-32!) Joni Mattis from 1960. She was a Chicago resident and was a regular on Hugh Hefner's short-lived Playboy's Penthouse TV show. She was one of Hefner's many girlfriends but remained friends with him afterwards and embarked on a forty year career with Playboy, as Hefner's West Coast secretary and model booker.
Joni with Hefner on the set of Playboy's Penthouse in 1961
Her centrefold picture was photographed by Jerry White and was his only Playmate shoot, although he had done a couple of covers for the magazine in the late fifties. Mattis herself reckoned it must have been one of the most unpopular centrefolds ever because she "didn't show anything" and only got one fan letter. We have to say that she is wrong. She exudes a lovely rumpled sensuality and looks good to go for a second session. The striped sheets are interesting without being distracting and the fact that one is stuffed between her legs helps the auto-eroticism no end. Mattis died in 1999 at the age of sixty.
Terre Tucker, November 1963
Next, from the Mad Men era we have the fabulosly named Terre (pronounced "Terry") Tucker. She was originally a stewardess but went to Chicago to become a Bunny Girl at the Chicago Playboy Club.
Terre in Bunny mode in Chicago
This was one of only four centrefolds shot (although he shot 13 covers) by Stan Malinowski who would later become much more associated with Penthouse. What makes this shot is the fabulous chiaroscuro lighting and the neutral, unfussy background. Terre died in 1990.
Lisa Baker, November 1966
Also from the sixties, we have leggy (5'8") Texan Lisa Baker from 1966 in a centrefold by Bill Figge who would go on to shoot her again when she became Playmate of the Year for 1967. This centrefold is really the encapsulation of what Playboy was about in the early to mid sixties. The two glasses hint at the ever popular "unseen male presence". The cheesboard is there to look all hip and European. The shag pile carpet and fur hint at potential floor-level naughtiness and the strewn jazz records sum up the sound of Playboy. Definitive.
Baker by Figge with her Playmate of the Year prize car in the tasteful shade of pink the poor girls had to put up with
Figge, who worked with his wife Nicaraguan born wife Melba on many of his shoots, discovered Baker whilst she was working as a barmaid at a wedding they were photographing. Figge, who had been a combat photographer in World War 2 (he was the first American photographer into Hitler's bunker in Berlin), shot 27 Playboy Playmates before his death in 1976.
Jeana Tomasino, November 1980
Finally, we have Jeana Tomasino from 1980 photographed by Richard Fegley who shot over 90 Playmates over a thirty year career at the magazine which began with Miss July 1972, Carol O'Neale. When he applied for the freelance job at Playboy in 1972 he had never shot a model in his life but the magazine liked his artistic style. Fegley died in 2001 after a long illness. Fegley drapes Tomsino's long, elegant form over a piano but what makes the shot is the hand mirror reflecting her beautiful face whilst we can also see her perfect profile. Hypnotic!
Fegly shoots Tomasino for the centrefold
Jeana had a minor TV and film career before marrying a professional baseball player. Recently she was recently seen appearing on the US TV reality show The Real Housewives of Orange County.