The Millions

The Time My Grandma Was in ‘Playboy’

It’s the kind of startling revelation that seems a little too good to be true: that at some point prior to the mid-1970s, my grandmother—wife, mother, and pillar of her midwestern community—was featured in Playboy magazine.

Not as a centerfold, but as a writer.

I first learned of this a quarter century after my grandmother’s death, while visiting my parents’ home in Fort Wayne, Ind.

One minute I’m sorting through boxes of my grandmother’s writings—lamenting her lack of success, despite her lifetime of effort—and the next, my mother’s remarking, “Well, she did publish in Playboy.”

I lift my head from the sheaths of typed pages.

“Wait, where?”

Playboy,” my mother repeats. “At least I think so. You should really ask your aunt and uncle.”

I do ask my aunt and uncle. The former has no recollection, while the latter retains only the foggiest memory. As my uncle tells it, he was home from college in the early 1970s when his mother mentioned her publication in passing. He can’t recall the context, only the gist: that his mom published in the most popular magazine in his dormitory.

Which is to say nothing of its popularity nationwide.

In 1972, ’s circulation topped and subscribers combined. In those days, readers were middle-class, middle-aged, well-coiffed professionals who drove new cars, dreamed of travel, and knew how to sip a good scotch. That is, if the magazine’s 1960s era “What kind of man reads ?” ad campaign is to be believed.

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