PLAYBOY: The Beatnik Issue

Playboy founder and editor / publisher Hugh M. Hefner was an early and dedicated champion of the writing and hipster culture of the Beat Generation. But he was not above exploiting the faddish nature of the movement when it suited the commercial interests of his magazine.

So it was that in the July 1959 issue, B-movie actress and “beauteous bohemienne” Yvette Vickers appeared as the “Beat Playmate,” or more officially, “Miss July.” The accompanying text for the feature claims that the Playboy people found Ms. Vickers at the Cosmo Alley café in Hollywood, California. The reader is also informed that Ms. Vickers is interested in “serious acting, ballet, the poetry of Dylan Thomas, classical music (‘Prokofief drives me out of my skull!’).”

The text goes on to say that “she has strong opinions and is more than a bit of a rebel, frowning prettily on conformity. She is also reckless and uninhibited enough to race a Jag in the desert for kicks. And she confesses to being ‘somewhat of a nut’ about health food: she’s often to be seen stowing away vitamins and minerals at an ‘organic food restaurant’ called The Aware Inn. That is when she’s not digging the Scythian Suite in the dim light of a coffee house.”

The centerfold itself shows a semi-nude Vickers draped over an orange couch with her right hand picking up a phonograph stylus. The record that is on the turntable appears to be “Zen, the Music of Fred Katz” (Pacific Jazz PJ 1231, 1956). At her feet are other jazz LP covers, an open book of poetry, a bottle of Pinot noir wine, an ashtray and sandals. We would be remiss if we did not highlight the fact that the photography for the Vickers feature (including the centerfold) is by none other than film auteur Russ Meyer (VIXEN, FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and many more)!

To balance out the Beatsploitation in this unusual issue of the magazine, Hef also included poems by genuine Beats (though Playboy labeled them with the term they hated, “Beatniks”): Jack Kerouac (“To Harpo Marx”), Allen Ginsberg (“To Lindsay”) and Gregory Corso (“Made by Hand”). There was also a report on bohemian java joints (“The Coffee Houses of America”). In other words, in addition to the “Beat Playmate,” there was something in the issue for that much joked about demographic that reads Playboy “for the articles.”

Ms. Vickers’ main claim to fame as an actress is her role as the conniving “other woman” (Honey Parker) in the cult classic THE ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958). She also has a minor role in Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950). As of this posting Ms. Vickers is still engaging in creative pursuits. In recent years she recorded a CD in honor of her jazz musician parents entitled "A Tribute to Charlie and Maria" and, along with film historian Tom Weaver, she provided a commentary track for the 2007 DVD release of THE ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN.

PLAYBOY: The Beatnik Issue
By the Editors of Playboy magazine
July 1959
Vol. 6, No. 7


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