Posted by Abe Sauer on April 20, 2011 06:30 PM
Playboy needs some good press.
A month after Hugh Hefner, with the aid of investors, took the brand private again, the Playboy name has appeared most often in the news with regard to the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at its namesake mansion in Los Angeles.
Providing what some might call symbolism others just plain bad luck, the source of the illness has been traced to the hot tub at the hotspot's famed grotto — something of a PR headache on the eve of the octogenarian's June wedding.
Now, rumors are saying it's "inevitable" that the Playboy brand will abandon its hometown Chicago for the sunshine of L.A. And while the brand denies any such plans, the magazine's editorial director has already made the move.
Despite Playboy PR's statements to the contrary, in a memo sent out after he confirmed the relocation on his Facebook page, Playboy Editorial Director Jimmy Jellinek didn't deny that a bigger move was afoot.
Jellinek wrote: "I want to be clear that at this moment no definite plans have been made to relocate the rest of editorial. That we will be in Los Angeles in [sic] inevitable. When and what that time table will be I do not know but will endeavour to give you as much information as possible as it becomes available."
Like the Legionnaires flap, a move from Chicago to Los Angeles may be largely meaningless in the scheme of things, but is highly symbolic for the brand. Such a move exemplifies a break with the brand's roots. Playboy was famously founded by Hefner in Chicago in 1953 and was the site of the first Playboy Club, which opened in 1960.
Playboy's break with its hometown couldn't come at a worse time.
A Mad Men-like TV show based on the heyday of the Chicago Playboy Club is currently shooting in the Windy City. The series, Playboy Club, is focused on one woman's dream to be the first African-American Playboy centerfold.
The show also stars rising Hollywood star Amber Heard. It's exactly the kind of smart revisiting of Playboy's origins that the brand desperately needs. Instead, Playboy appears more focused on embracing the substancelessness of the LA brand.
In other Playboy news, it seems that while the American version of the brand becomes increasingly free of its once strong intellectualism, the German edition of the magazine is taking a leadership role in driving the social conversation.
Turkish German actress Sila Sahin is causing a stir for bucking her family's Muslim values to appear topless on the cover of the latest magazine. Germany, like much of the EU, is coming to terms with a battle over "values" with Muslim immigrants.
Back at home, Playboy also appears to be battling its own values, however symbolic they may now be.