The Magazine

Hef's Cold War

On the trail of Warsaw Pact pulchritude.

Sep 1, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 47 • By CYNTHIA GRENIER
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In any case, having seen more than a few films from Iron Curtain countries featuring naked young women, and wanting to get to see more of those lands myself, I wrote to Hef suggesting it could make for a different sort of "Girls of" feature. He agreed, and we were off, starting at the Moscow Film Festival.

Having the festival in Moscow meant that all the attractive young actresses from Eastern Europe would be available to us--although we were on our honor to take no nude shots of any daughter of the Soviet Union. We knew none would be condemned to the gulag for posing, but life could be made exceedingly uncomfortable for a long time. So we settled for scantily clad or bikini shots.

It was interesting to observe how the young women responded to our copy of Playboy. It was equally interesting to deal with customs officials. (One uniformed Russian at the border, turning its pages, staring goggle-eyed at the riot of material goodies on display, asked, "Playboy? Is for boys who play?") The young women, however, thoroughly enjoyed studying the photographs of the Playmate of the Month: "Oh look! She's making cookies with her mother!" or "What a darling little puppy!" To a woman, however, they were knocked over by the abundance of products: automobiles, record players, tape recorders, and radios--all inaccessible to the average Soviet citizen in 1964.

All 12 of our pages of Eastern European pulchritude were pictures of totally nonprofessional women from a fairly wide range of activities, with a decent share of actresses, students, and airline hostesses. Of course, we got lots of offers of help from young (and not-so-young) males eager to get acquainted with our lasses, and we met mothers and sisters and aunts, were served innumerable glasses of tea, fed all manner of cookies, and for a decade or more would receive greeting cards. We were later told that our Czech cover girl, Olga Schoberová, had married a vice president of Warner Brothers and was embarrassed when the director Jean-Claude Tramont recognized her from the Playboy spread on a yacht trip.

Today, of course, just about all the onetime Iron Curtain countries have their own editions of Playboy, so the task of rounding up models for this latest issue was surely simplified compared to our adventure. "The Women of Putin's Russia"--they're "women" now, not "girls"--ran to 10 full pages of undeniably attractive young females, all shot by photographer Marlena Bielinska. Minimal identifying information was furnished to readers.
Say what you will, and with all due respect to this year's crop: Looking over our collection, I can't help feeling that, while some may be grandmothers now, they look more spontaneous and, well, happier, even if their homelands were decidedly less pleasant 45
years ago.

Cynthia Grenier is a writer in Washington.