When Italian Playboy clone, Playmen, launched in 1967 Playboy was actually banned in Italy but given the former magazine's success, Hugh Hefner wasn't going to let that opportunity go and so he launched the official Italian edition of Playboy, in partnership with veteran Italian publisher Rizzoli, in 1972. This was the second foreign edition of Playboy, following the German edition which had launched a few month earlier in August. Here, in the first of several posts, we look at some of the early covers and content from Playboy Italy, which featured a lot of lovely home-grown ladies
The first issue launched for November 1972 and featured the famous cover of Darine Stern, which had graced the US edition in October 1971. The Playmate was also a throwback: Vicki Peters from April that year and, as in her US layout, no pubic hair was on view as it wasn't in the whole magazine.
Not everything was transported from America, however, and up and coming actress Agostini Belli stripped off and got soaped up as the first Italian girl in the magazine, beginning a tradition at the magazine of featuring just about every Italian starlet for decades to come.
The second issue used the rabbit head on the cover but it was a unique version for Italy. Inside, a pictorial of photographs by David Hamilton provided Playboy Italia's first glimpse of fluff, which was added to by the use of Deanna Baker's May 1972 pictorial which also had a few subtle shots.
January 1973's issue used a version of the American January 1972 edition cover but used slightly different girls. In particular, Liv Lindeland, and her visible golden curls, is missing but just getting nipples on the cover was bold enough for Italy at this time. America's Miss October 1971, Claire Rambeau, gave the Italian edition its first (slightly obscured) pubic centrefold.
The next issues had to cover two months: February and March. Coming up to date, they used the same cover as the US March edition. In fact, it appeared in Italy a month earlier than in the US. There was a notable back tracking on the fur flashing inside. Another combined issue followed for April/May using the cover from the US April 1972 issue.
June's issue also used the same cover as the US edition that month, with Marilyn Cole providing the Italian issue with the most naked skin to date. Inside, Bonnie Large, the Playmate in the US edition from three months before, provided the greatest pubic hair exposure too.
The next five covers were all from the US edition but in December they had an original for Italy. Although Playboy in the US had shown some hints of nipple on the cover they hadn't had anything as bold as Italy's December cover, where the (unknown) girl's baubles are completely on display. This was also the first cover which featured the Italian flag flash on the corner, thus distinguishing it from the US edition even more.
Obviously not following Playboy's nervousness about ethnic girls on the cover, after using US covers for January and February 1974, the Italians had the delicious actress and Miss Ethiopia 1969, Zeudi Araya fronting up March's issue.
April's cover was unique to Italy as well and had actress Mita Medici, who is still active on Italian TV, giving us a nice side elevation.
Another original cover featured Argentine-born Italian showgirl and, later, actress Sabina Ciuffini, then appearing on the conservative RAI TV, channel where her mini skirts had caused a sensation, This was nothing to the reaction to her topless poses inside. She later changed her mind about the pictorial and tried to sue the magazine but was soon appearing naked in films.
The fourth Italian-only cover that year, for June, was their most naked yet, with actress Eleonora Giorgi showing nearly all (that does appear to be a few curls by the handlebar grip) as she would in both Playmen (in fact a couple of full frontal film stills of her had already appeared in Playmen that year) and Playboy Italia (and indeed many other magazines) in the future.
August's nearly naked Italian cover girl was Loredana Bertè who had been a model but had just recorded her first album as a singer (the first of more than twenty - the last only a few years ago). She would also appear again in Playmen and Playboy Italia over the next few years.
Although Silvia Dionisio looked very fetching in her wet tee shirt on the cover, like all the other Italian stars to date she had only appeared topless inside (although she would be back, full frontal in 1976). Beginning her acting career at just fourteen she had already appeared in ten films at this point.
Also in that issue was a pictorial on actress Nicoletta Machiavelli (and yes, she was descended from the famous one) who at the age of thirty was happy to display her bush in a first for the Italian-born girls in the magazine. The other ladies from 1974 who appeared on the cover were all born around 1950 or later but Nicoletta was born in 1946 and, sadly, died in November last year aged 71.
September's issue featured a topless Brigitte Bardot, which trailed a new set of photos inside, taken by her boyfriend. Playboy Italia were quite happy to run this picture featuring not only Bardot's nipples but also her pubic hair. Hefner couldn't have risked this in the US!
German-born, but more well known in Italian cinema, actress Solve Stubing is just popping out of her top in October's cover shot.
More ethnic loveliness for November with half Eritrean, half Italian actress Ines Pellegrini, who had just got her big break in Pasolini's Arabian Nights (1974).
Ines wasn't shy about appearing full frontal for Playboy Italia regular photographer, Angelo Frontoni (1929-2002) who, after famously getting his big break photographing Gina Lollobrigida in 1957, photographed pretty much all the top continental stars and models of the sixties and seventies.
Femi Benussi wasn't really a starlet, as her film career was starting to wind down by 1974 as she had appeared in her first film in 1965 at the age of nineteen. She also showed that the Italian women in Playboy were keeping up with the exposure of their American cousins, who were still providing all the Playmates.
Finally, in December, Playboy had singer Patty Pravo freeing the nipple after ten original covers that year, most of which were far more daring than their American equivalents,
January 1975's cover featured the singing, dancing, acting Kessler twins, who, although German ,made their careers mainly in Italy at this point. Almost from a different generation compared with most of the other Playboy Italia cover girls, they were born in 1936 so were thirty-eight at the time.
They were Bluebell Girls at the Lido de Paris in the fifties and represented Germany at the Eurovision song contest in 1959 (they came eighth). They even appeared as dancers in Robert Aldrich's Biblical epic Sodom and Gomorrah (1962). They were so popular in Italy that they made this issue Playboy Italia's highest selling one to date.
February's cover girl and starlet of the month was Anglo-Burmese actress Rosemarie Dexter, who was born in what is now Pakistan. She started working in films during a holiday to Rome when she was nineteen and carried on appearing in Continental movies until her retirement in 1974. She died in 2010.
Stefania Casini was just another starlet when she bared her pert behind on the cover of the March issue. She had already racked up a good number of TV and film performances before moving to the US in the late seventies where she appeared in Andy Warhol's Bad (1977). She later had a role in one of Agent Triple P's favourite Peter Greenaway films, The Belly of an Architect (1977). While in the US she moved behind the camera and became a respected director of films, TV and hard hitting documentaries. From 2000 until 2002 she was the director of the Siena Film Festival. Now 67 she still writes, directs and works s a journalist.
Barbara Bouchet was probably the biggest name, other than Bardot, to show all in Playboy Italia to date. She had already appeared in a host of TV shows and films not just on the Continent but also in US shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Virginian and Star Trek, as well as a memorable role in Casino Royale (1967). Largely retiring in 1982, she took a few roles in the nineties and after, appearing in Gangs of New York in 2002.
Actress Stella Carnacina hadn't yet started her singing career when she posed for the May 1975 issue. She dropped the singing but carried on with acting into the eighties before making her way as a high end estate agent.
You have to give Playboy Italy full marks for not being ageist. Sylva Koscina was forty one when she graced the June 1975 cover. Physics graduate Koscini was pretty much at the end of her film career by this point, getting her first acting role in 1958. Interestingly, given some of our recent posts, she had also been the equivalent of the madrina of the Giro d'Italia in 1954.
More noteworthy that month was the inclusion, in this issue, of the first Italian Playmate of the Month. Up until this point all the Playmates had come from the US edition. Playboy didn't take any chances and had Pompeo Posar shoot her pictorial.
Loretta Persichetti had been Italy's entrant in the 1974 Miss Universe competition. No doubt this helped her get a role in Tinto Brass' Salon Kitty (1976), one of six films she appeared in which were released that year. She made just two more films, in 1977.
Thirty-three year old actress and TV presenter Gabriela Farinon was, unusually, covered up on the July cover but was shown topless (only) inside. As was often the case during this period, all the other content of the magazine came from the US edition.
American actress Sydne Rome was completely naked for the August cover and inside. Rome's first film had been the Bulldog Drummond, Jame Bond pastiche Some Girls Do (1969) where she appeared with Dahlia Lavi, Yutte Stensgard and an uncredited Joanna Lumley. A busy actress during the seventies, she became a European aerobics queen in the eighties. She is the sister of US Playmate of the Month for August 1977, Julia Lyndon.
One thing that became a staple for Playboy Italia was its reports from the sets of forthcoming films that involved sexy scenes. In this issue they looked at Tinto Brass's forthcoming Nazi drama, Salon Kitty (1976) and had this shot of actress Marlisa Longo looking ecstatic.
Also featured in the pictorial was Playboy Italia's first Italian Playmate from that June, Loretta Persichetti, seen here in the centre of the shot.
If Sylvia Koscini had been Playboy Italia's oldest cover girl so far then Claudia Marsani was the youngest, as she was born in 1959. She had been Miss Teenage Italy in 1973. She made a few films and then disappeared from public view.
Elsa Martinelli was 24 years older than the previous month's cover girl but still looked magnificent at forty. She is probably best know for her luminous performance in the African adventure Hatari (1963) but had a fifty year film and TV career, making her first screen appearance in 1954.
Another Italian Playmate for October, in the elegant shape of Annarita Graputto.who appeared in eleven films from 1975 until 1982.
November saw the second most famous bust to appear on Playboy Italia's cover in the shape of thirty-nine year old Ursula Andress, still looking utterly magnificent.
That month's film preview was for La Principessa Nuda (1976) based on a true story and set in Idi Amin's Uganda. These shots from the film were the magazine's first girl/girl ones.
Not Italian, but a noteworthy centrefold, in that the magazine had more recent shots of Mary and Madeleine Collinson, who had been the first twin (pre-pubic) Playmates in October 1970.
In this sensuous double page spread of Brazilian model Ruth, Playboy Italia has its first self-caressing shot.
December's cover highlighted a pictorial inside featuring photographs of a host of starlets by Angelo Frontoni,who appeared in the pictorial himself, with a wet Barbara Bouchet in the pool. Florinda Bolkan's dress was see through enough to reveal her bush, on the cover.
The final Playmate of 1975 was, appropriately, another Italian, Barbara Musci. Musci wasn't as successful as other Italian Playmates on the screen and only has one credit, for a film in 1975, starring Sylva Koscini
So an unusual selection of magazine girls from the seventies for Venus Observations. The women in Playboy Italia were often older than their American sisters and the cover girls for 1975 varied if range from 16 to 41. There are noticeably smaller busts than in the US edition and a higher proportion of actresses. In our next post in this short series we will have a look at Playboy Italia's rival and predeccessor, Playmen.