Yes, I worked for Playgirl Magazine
It's not what you think you dirty birds.
From the file, ‘Jobs you did to Pay the Rent’ and following on from a previous column about the time I worked as a Heineken girl purely by arse, I bring you my latest confession outlining my very salubrious entry into the world of publishing.
It’s early 90’s recession Australia, and after a jaded stint interning at State Parliament as a research assistant, I decided that political journalism was probably not for me. Despite the depressing unemployment figures I managed to secure a job working in magazine publishing in Sydney in the marketing department. Hmm okay, lucky I did study that Minor in Marketing and Business at university. So what were the four Ps again? Product, price, promotion and… oh sod it, no one will ask.
It was the world of high glossy magazines. Photographic essays, launch parties and tragically, pleated pant suits for women. I was 23 and had never lived interstate away from my family. I knew no one (loser) and was starting from scratch sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a share house with the cast of the Young Ones. That ever-present smell was not of youthful optimism but the skanky mole who lived in the front room under a bong and who attended political protests in the nude.
I, in contrast went about my new career with steadfast responsibility. I figured a few months of working in the marketing department was worth sucking up, in order to take up my rightful place as a sub-editor on Australian Country Style magazine. Unfortunately for me I didn’t completely suck at magazine advertising which is why they thought they would gift me a new magazine title that nobody else wanted; and with good reason.
Playgirl magazine was the redneck cousin to Australian Women’s Forum. It was a trend started by Cleo years before with their nude male centrefolds and Playgirl was designed to give women more of what they wanted apparently…pages of male genitals and the odd article about 'How to tell if your boyfriend fancies your mother'?
The very first cover of Playgirl featured a jaw-droppingly beautiful drag queen, so I was a trifle confused who the magazine was actually pitched at? I suspect with the raptors in circulation hovering overhead, the editorial team wanted to cover their bases. As a result this assignment created quite an unpredictable working week.
I remember heading off one day to meet with a new client. As I sashayed out of the office, my boss asked where I was going, to which I replied, ‘Off to see a madam about a brothel’. I had received a phone call from a lovely well spoken business owner who wanted to discuss how Playgirl magazine could expand her market. It was a confronting moment may I say, gawking up at a ramshackle non-descript house with blacked out windows in the brothely part of town. How proud.
I was disappointed, having never seen a brothel before. I suppose I was expecting something akin to a western saloon with ladies of the night dressed in corsetry, hanging out of the windows waiting for fallen men with wads of cash in their pockets to come stumbling past. This flaked and peeling weatherboard structure however was just a cover, as was about to be revealed.
I entered into a cloud of floral spice and heaving, burgundy velvet curtains, gold tassels and chandeliers. Madame Tussaud (her face was done up like a wax dummy) stood up and greeted me with her broad smile and draping black madamey garb and launched her big arms and boosies at me as if I was a long lost daughter. As I blew ostrich feathers out of my mouth and reached the surface gasping for air, I saw a warm twinkle creep across her face. I could see how this worked for her and why business was booming.
For the next 30 minutes she gave me the grand tour of her boudoirs anticipating we would interrupt people on the job. She explained that she wanted to promote the rooms in her ‘establishment’ to couples wanting to try role play. A bit like choose your own adventure but with crutch less knickers and nipple feathers. I tried not to stare like this was my first visit to a brothel, but it was my first visit to a brothel (and last, just in case you were about to ask).
It took me a while to process where I was and the complete inappropriateness of it all. Booby Galore kept prattling on about ménage au trois and hot wax while I thought, please don’t drug me and use me as a sex slave, everyone’s expecting me home for a roast at six!
The other repressed memory from this rather heady time involved the magazine's annual penis issue. Anna Wintour has the September Issue we had the Penis Issue, the same but not.
The annual penis issue, apart from giving me opportunities to write the word penis more times than thought possible, announced to the world (or the dodgy end of the newsagency), the Top 100 Penises (is there a collective noun?). I was not quite sure what the judging criteria was based on; looks, length or function.
Office etiquette dictated that we were not to use the word penis around the office. Apparently we could fill a magazine full of them but could not call them by name. So we resorted to abbreviations and nicknames. Hence when the proof page of penises came up from the studio we had to refer to it as the PPP. Now there was an afternoon around a light box with a magnifying glass and piccolos of Spumante you did not want to miss!
The weekly office WIP (Work In Progress) meetings soon became rather a coveted event with everyone hanging out for me to give my report to roars of laughter. Brothels: 3, drag bars: 4, penises: 100.
In the end the whole experience, while leaving me confused and immune to the sight of certain body parts (yes I am literally a doctor now), also taught me how not to take myself too seriously, I mean after that how could you? But sticking it out also landed me fair and square on Australian Country Style magazine and all its horse and hound glory. They figured I’d deserved it. It was then I finally got to learn from some of the most gorgeous editors, photographers and art directors and got to meet some amazing Australians.
And what of poor Playgirl? Well the raptors from the circulation department finally got their talons into her and she went off to the dunny room of dirty mags in the sky, never to be seen again.