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rolling stone and Playboy

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Growing up in the shadow of the sixties, I turned sixteen in 1970, two magazines ruled the media rack: Rolling Stone and Playboy.


Ten years later in 1980 two icons from each were murdered. John Lennon and Dorothy Stratten were both shot down in tragic style.


Rolling Stone and Playboy did a memorial issue of their stars. By their editorial choices both magazines were ruined forever.

The first Rolling Stone off the presses in 1967 featured John Lennon on the cover. A new music industry magazine using the image of one of the most famous music people on earth was a great catch.


After he died from a murderer’s bullet on the streets of New York, Rolling Stone published a memorial issue.


What I wanted to see was an issue dedicated to the man who gave the magazine it’s first push. If Rolling Stone could get Lennon for the cover, they were a heavy weight coming out of the gates.


Instead I got a John Lennon tribute issue that seemed like every other issue with the same format and ads. And it made me bitter toward Rolling Stone.


rolling stone and playboy

My early 80’s sad face. “C’mon man.”


They needed to make money of the death of one of the giants of pop music more than they needed my interest. Maybe I’m the lone voice here, but why not produce an issue for the ages, a collectors issue.


I didn’t expect anything like the Madonna Sex Book she released in 1992 with the aluminum cover, but something with an archival feel to it to show Lennon was more than just another dead rocker.


Maybe I’m too historical for my own good, but I feel the Beatles created an industry that didn’t exist before them. Their influence cut across all boundaries, and Johnny was one of the key drivers.


I hear the Beatles all over the first and second British Invasions from Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, to Pink Floyd. Punk and grunge show up in solo Lennon albums. How else to explain the primal screaming of the Plastic Ono Band? I’d like to hear Dave Grohl do a cover of Mother.


But Lennon wasn’t important enough to fill a Rolling Stone issue without the usual ads. After that, Rolling Stone wasn’t important enough to keep this fan.


The same year, 1980, a young woman from Canada showed up in Hollywood and became Playmate Of The Year. Dorothy Stratten was on the way up when her coattail riding husband figured the ride was over after she took up with a famous movie director.


So he killed her, then himself, in grizzly fashion.


Stratten had a Clarence the Cross-eyed Lion look that was so endearing it was easy to forget she was nude in photos. First time that ever happened. There was something magical about her. Based on her career plans I wasn’t the only one who saw the magic.



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Her death felt somehow connected to something the Manson Family might cook up, as if getting shotgunned by her husband/pimp wasn’t bad enough.


Playboy did a memorial pictorial in her honor and it was one of the creepiest things I’ve seen. They didn’t publish death images, but they might as well have. Instead of giving her the sort of send off matching her rising star status, they pulled naked pictures.


Once I noticed the issue, I was done with Playboy. Instead of lifestyle, literate, and funny magazine, they dipped into the tawdry and seedy side of magazine publications.


Rolling Stone and Playboy moved on without me, but left the creepy feeling.
About David Gillaspie


  1. What a great story. Makes me remember.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Memory is tricky. Riding John Lennon into the grave wasn’t helpful. Neither was a pictorial about a murdered playmate. To make it even funkier, top bunny Hef got exposed late in life, or after he died, as something lots less than the party boss with a houseful of women yearning for their moment in the sun, the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol promised.

      Good thing about blogging is the therapeutically value. If the Playboy lifestyle includes a pimp daddy, and a wife beater writes Imagine and Give Peace A Chance, why not raise the bar of better behavior. Thanks for coming in Randy.


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