40 Years Ago During the Sexual Revolution: A Man on a Rug

Looking fine in 1991. Photo by: Alan Light

The April 1972 cover of Cosmopolitan magazine looked like any other under the editorial leadership of Helen Gurley Brown.  It was designed to appeal to young and not-so-young women, promising tips on health and beauty and advice on love, life, and, of course, sex.  An attractive model in a low-cut dress took center stage, and teasers of the topics inside ran on the side.

“A Sure Way to Win a Man – Zap Him When He’s Down and Unsure of himself” declared one blurb.

Another announced, “You Don’t Have to be Popular or Beloved to be Happy – Au Contraire.”

For the politically-minded, one story described “What a Woman Can Do in Congress,’” featuring Bella Abzug.

But the star of the issue was 36-year old Burt Reynolds, who had just received rave reviews for his macho, but vulnerable, performance in Deliverance, splayed on a bear skin rug in all his glory, his arm casually covering his privates.  The photograph spoke volumes about the Sexual Revolution.  If women weren’t interested in men the same way men were interested in women, it wouldn’t have happened, pill or no pill.

Brown had been contemplating a male nude centerfold for quite some time, but she just hadn’t found the right guy.  One night on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson she shared the couch with Reynolds.  His deprecating wit and good-natured teasing were a turn-on, and she thought, “He’s cute. Why not him?”

Burt thought it would be a kick, and he readily accepted, but he was nervous during the session.  Photographer Francesco Scavullo remembered giving him something to drink, so he’d be more comfortable and take off his robe.  Whatever. It worked.

“There wasn’t one bad picture of him,” Scavullo later recollected. “I photographed him with a hat in front of it, a dog in front of it.  I photographed him with his leg crossed so you couldn’t see it, I photographed him with his hands, his arms, and we photographed him also, completely, everything showing.”

Upon its release, there was a stampede on newsstands, and all 1.6 million copies of the issue sold out.  The foldout was hung in college dormitories and taped on refrigerator doors to the dismay of boyfriends, husbands, and lovers.

Reynolds wasn’t the only newsmaker to bare his soul.  Later that year Henry Kissinger appeared nude in the Harvard Lampoon.  It was a parody, however.   The editors had attached the face of the National Security Advisor to the body of a 50-year old taxi driver.  Oh, well, we can always fantasize.

It’s not too late to get in on the action.  Copies of the special edition can be bought on Ebay.  Or, if you’re interested in the articles, Cosmopolitan is still available wherever fine monthlies are sold.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


To see how the covers of Cosmopolitan evolved from 1896 to 1976, go to:


Will the Real Movie Star Please Stand Up.

Photo by: bigdmia

Marilyn Monroe wanted nothing more than to be a serious actress.  And she struggled for her art.

When Monroe first went to Hollywood, she was bounced from studio to studio and cast in bit roles in forgettable movies.

In 1949 just twenty-three years old, she was broke and needed to pay her rent, so she posed nude, not something nice girls did, for fifty dollars.  The resulting image of her lying on her side on red velvet and looking over her shoulder with her mouth slightly open was pure eroticism.  The photographer sold it for nine hundred dollars, making a nice profit.

Two years later  Collier’s magazine featured her as “1951’s Model Blonde.” It was wonderful publicity for a young woman who hadn’t yet appeared in a starring role, but it exposed her as one of the models in a popular pin-up calendar that hung in garages and barber shops around the country.

Studio publicists told Marilyn to deny it was she, but she told the truth.  “Why deny it,” she told a reporter.  “Beside, I’m not ashamed of it.  I’ve done nothing wrong.”

When pressed for details as to what she had on during the photo shoot, Marilyn answered, “The radio.”   She knew how to handle the media, and everyone was crazy about her.

I’m looking forward to seeing Michelle Williams as Marilyn in My Week with Marilyn.  The movie is  based on the diary of a young assistant on the London set of The Prince and the Showgirl starring Marilyn and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Scarlett Johansson had once been considered for the part.   She might have the looks, but she doesn’t have the attitude.

When leaked cell phone photos of the current A-list actress cropped up all over the Internet, she called her lawyer.  “The highly personal and private photos at issue capture our client self-posing in her own home in a state of undress and/or topless,” he wrote in a cease and desist letter to infringing websites, “If you fail to comply, you will be acting at your own peril.”


Now hacking is a serious issue, and the FBI is on the case.  But wouldn’t it be better to lighten up?  If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen and take one layer off at a time.

Smile and say “cheesecake”.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved