The biggest scandals in Playboy Magazine history


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Playboy is maybe the most controversial magazine ever published, racking up scandal after scandal since Hugh Hefner founded it in 1953.

But earlier this year the magazine made perhaps its most controversial decision so far - ditching nude images from its pages and reinventing itself as a lifestyle magazine for men.

It was not the brainchild of editor-in-chief Hefner, but he agreed to the move that would change Playboy forever.

Now that the magazine doesn’t feature nudity, is it the end of years of controversy for the magazine?

The Controversial Covers

One of the biggest cover controversies is about a star who didn’t even want to be on the front of the magazine.


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Step forward Jessica Alba. The actress was chosen as the publication’s Sex Star of the Year for their March 2006 issue (above), but didn’t fancy being on the cover, so Playboy used a bikini-clad pic of her from one of her Into the Blue movie promotional posters.

But the actress was not impressed. She released a statement saying Playboy had “violated my personal rights” and “blatantly misled the public” into thinking she had given her consent to appear on the cover.

She was so angry she filed a lawsuit against Playboy claiming the publication had done “immeasurable harm” to her reputation. Hefner managed to calm things down when he donated some cash to two charities of her choice, Keep A Child Alive and Until There’s A Cure.

In October 1971, Darine Stern became the first African American woman on the cover and it was deemed controversial by some, despite coming eight years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech which called for an end to racism in the US.

Another first came in 2012, when news that Bollywood star Sherlyn Chopra was going to be the first Indian woman to appear on the magazine’s cover, and nude inside. It did not go down well in India, where the publication is banned due to the country’s strict modesty insistence.

A more unusual grievance came off the back of the February 2008 cover when feminist comic book fans were up in arms at the sight of Tiffany Fallon appearing body painted as Wonder Woman. Some thought the sight of the heroine in such form would spoil her image for young girls.


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That Jimmy Carter Interview

Playboy has also had its fair share of political controversies. Back in 1976, then US Presidential Candidate Jimmy Carter gave an interview to freelance journalist Robert Scheer for the magazine, in which he said he “looked on a lot of women with lust” and had “committed adultery in my heart many times”.

But Carter’s honesty didn’t go down so well with US voters.

Following the outrage across America, Carter - who had previously pledged to “never lie” - attempted to defend himself by saying his comments were “just part of being a human being”.

Despite the faux pas, his comments didn’t affect his bid for office and he became President of the United States a year later.


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The Congressman’s Wife

Another Playboy political mishap occurred four years later in the April 1981 issue of the magazine.

Rita Jenrette, the then-estranged wife of John Jenrette, a Democrat and regular in the US House of Representatives, appeared nude in the magazine and wrote in an accompanying piece that the pair once had sex on the steps of the US Capitol after an all-night House session.

In the article, entitled The Liberation of a Congressional Wife, Rita descriptively claimed that she and John “made love on the marble steps that overlook the monuments”.

The piece was particularly bad timing for John as it came a year after he had been convicted of taking a $50,000 bribe - what was known as the Abscam scandal.

But Rita’s controversial comments didn’t put Playboy off inviting her back though and she appeared on the cover of the May 1984 issue.

Speaking about the revelation afterwards, Rita, who also insisted in the article that she “never looked like a Congressman’s wife”, told the New Yorker: “It was a firestorm - everybody was asking about it.”

Tragic Playmates

Sadly, Playboy’s history has seen the passing of several former Playmates in tragic circumstances.

One of the most shocking was Dorothy Stratten, a former Playmate of the Month, who was murdered by her estranged husband Paul Snider at the age of 20 in 1980 after she started seeing film director Peter Bogdanovich. He later committed suicide with the same gun he used to kill his one-time lover.

More recently, Playboy model Katie May passed away on February 1 after suffering a “catastrophic” stroke aged just 34.


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One of the most well-known of all Playboy models, Marilyn Monroe, sadly passed away well before her time from a drug overdose when she was 36.

Monroe was known for being the publication’s first Sweetheart of the Month and was the original cover and centrefold star, chosen by Hefner, for the magazine’s first issue in December 1953.

Like Monroe, Anna Nicole Smith was another Playboy Playmate-turned movie star who died in her 30s.

Smith shot to fame on the pages of Playboy in 1992 and went on to be honoured with the magazine’s Playmate of the Year award in 1993 before enjoying a movie career until she was found dead from a prescription drug overdose in February 2007.

Smith was dubbed the “Jayne Mansfield of the ‘90s” due to her resemblance to the former Playboy Playmate, who also went on to become a Hollywood star before perishing in her 30s - killed in a car crash in 1967 aged just 34.

The Tell-All Book

Another Playboy model who came close to being added to that list of tragedies is Holly Madison.


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The blonde beauty, 36, was one of Hefner’s official girlfriends from 2001 to 2008 before calling time on their relationship and quitting the Playboy Mansion. She left because working with him after their break up felt “awkward”.

In her tell-all book, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny’, Holly revealed she had contemplated ending her life in a bath in the infamous abode in 2002.

She wrote: “Maybe it was the pot and the alcohol, but drowning myself seemed like the logical way to escape the ridiculous life I was leading.”

While admitting her family would’ve been “devastated” at her demise, the model insisted she rarely saw them at the time for it to matter.

Life In The Mansion

Holly is not the only Playboy model to have talked about the strangeness of living in the famous Mansion.

Kendra Wilkinson starred alongside Holly and Bridget Marquardt, 42, all three were Hef’s girlfriends at the same time, in reality TV series The Girls Next Door, which documented their lives in the house.

In 2009, Kendra, 30, revealed the trio used to receive a $1,000 allowance a week - but were not allowed jobs.

She said: “I hate putting my hand out, but we couldn’t have jobs other than getting appearance fees.”


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Former Bunny Izabella St. James also wrote about the allowance in her book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, claiming Hefner “used it as a weapon” at times and wouldn’t want to give the girls the cash if they’d been out of town or “missed one of the official 'going out’ nights”.

Despite this, former I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! star Kendra insisted she only used to see Hef around “once a day”, mainly when he was walking to his office.

At times she was intimate with the Playboy boss, but insisted in her memoir that she had to be “very drunk or smoke lots of weed” to “survive” having sex with the adult magazine publisher, and claimed the sessions would last around 60 seconds.


Copyright [Rachel Worth / WENN]

She wrote: “At about the minute mark, I pulled away and it was done. It was like a job. Clock in, clock out. It’s not like I enjoyed having sex with him.”

Despite Kendra’s negative omissions about the Mansion, she has also admitted Hefner was her “best friend”, and made her feel “beautiful” at times in her life.

The Cosby Allegations

The Mansion was linked to further controversy recently when comedian Bill Cosby - a good friend of Hefner’s - was accused of allegedly molesting a woman called Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion in 1974.

A lawsuit was filed in 2014 alleging that Cosby molested Judy, and earlier this month a judge ordered Cosby to give a second deposition.

After the lawsuit was filed in 2014, Hefner insisted he would “never” had tolerated such behaviour in the Mansion.


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He said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter: “Bill Cosby has been a good friend for many years and the mere thought of these allegations is truly saddening.

"I would never tolerate this kind of behaviour, regardless of who was involved.”

Former dancer Chloe Goins, 24, has since alleged that Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.

The actor was told in January this year that he wouldn’t be prosecuted in Los Angeles for the alleged incident, but Chloe told Daily Mail Online: “I’ve not given up yet.”