Playboy holiday party introduces The Equality Issue with Playmates and friends

The Playboy Holiday Party was held at the Culver Hotel on December 11 and it was a little like old home week for me. I loved seeing some of the past Playmates there and it was great to get a first-look at the Winter 2020 issue, titled “The Equality Issue: Once a Playmate, Always a Playmate.”

The 12-page cover feature, written by Jamilah Lemieux and shot by Nadia Lee Cohen, included Renee Tenison (November 1989 Playmate and the first African American Playmate of the Year, 1990), Victoria Valentino (September 1963 Playmate and the oldest to ever appear in the magazine at age 77), Raquel Pomplun (April 2012 Playmate and the first Mexican American Playmate of the Year, 2013), Brande Roderick (April 2000 Playmate, PMOY 2013) and me (December 1979 Playmate and nine time cover-girl). (News of the issue has been featured in Forbes, People and the Daily Mail as it celebrates diversity, empowerment and 5 decades of Playmates.)

The party was the first Playboy party without any Hefners involved and I didn’t know quite what to expect as I’m a lifelong fan of the Hefner family and, of course, the man who started it all.

At first, it felt a little like a betrayal but then the incredibly welcoming Playboy staff made me, and everyone else, feel right at home. In fact, I felt like I was right where I belonged again. It was also great to finally put faces to the names of some of the relatively new staff at the magazine. I was thrilled to see that everything seems to be in very capable hands with the likes of Cat Auer, Erica Loewy, Kristi Beck and Micaela Leone, to name a few.

Playboy CEO Ben Kohn gave a short speech at the party detailing all of the magazine’s recent triumphs and plans for the future, which looks very bright indeed! He announced that “2019 was a hugely exciting year in our storied history with some phenomenal storytelling and grand moments such as building a world class team that is aligned for 2020, and beyond, and meeting our financial goals for the third year in a row!…We codified our mission which is not a departure from our 66-year history but rather a recommitment to the DNA that originally made this brand a force to be reckoned with…Our mission is to create a culture where all people can pursue pleasure.” He added, “some of the biggest talent on the planet has been pursuing us this year to find ways to work together because they believe in what we stand for. This affirmed, for us, that our role serving as a pleasure/lifestyle guide promoting free expression, sex positivity and fun is maybe even more important today that ever before.”

Kohn went on to speak about Playboy’s traction in the market. “Between two of Playboy’s partners, Pacsun [a California inspired clothing and accessories brand designed for teens and young adults] and Missguided [a global online fashion brand for women], consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. spent almost $50 million buying PB branded products this year. And, internationally, we expanded our business by almost $10 million in Asia and also laid the foundation to launch in India.

He closed his comments with, “We continue to champion for causes that are important to us through our storytelling, partnerships, events and charity involvements. These causes include reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, sex workers’ rights, free speech, freedom of expression and civil rights, among others. He proposed a toast to “our history, our present, our future and each other.”

This was the second time Chuck and I have been to the Culver Hotel for a Playboy party. The last time was for NYE two year’s ago when Cooper Hefner was still in charge. The hotel, established in 1924, is loaded with charm and is, in fact, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “The Wizard of Oz” was filmed a block away and, as the story goes, Judy, the Munchkins and several other cast members used to hang out here.

On this night, I saw Playmates Jeana (Tomasino) Keough (November 1980 Playmate, Real Housewives of Orange County), Michelle Drake (PM May 1979), Vendela (PM Jan. 2019), Bonnie Large (PM March 1973), Cathy St. George (PM August 1982), Raquel Pomplun (PMOY 2013) and Victoria Valentino (PM Sept. 1963), and so many more. We took lots of photos and chatted about what we were all up to. No matter how long I’m away from Playboy and the Playmates, our interactions always feel like we just left off yesterday. It’s a very unique sorority that I’m proud to be a part of.

It was a night I’ll never forget. The excitement over the success of the magazine combined with seeing myself featured 40 years after appearing as a centerfold seemed like a fairytale. Thank you Hef for creating such a loving, loyal and supportive family. I’m so happy to see his vision being carried on in such grand style. I think, and I hope, he like what he sees. I know I do.

(The GOOD party pics are by Kit Karzen, @kkarzen)

(More behind-the-scenes of the historic photo shoot coming soon!)

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