Cats gone wild

Amy Rushlow

It was like the start of a bad porn flick. An innocent youngjournalist wandered through the long hallways of the Omni OrringtonHotel in Evanston. The only noise? A cleaning cart creaking ever soslowly past the dim lights and empty rooms. At the end of the hall,the door to the “Playboy Suite” slid open. The reporter was being”interviewed” by a former Playmate and professional Playboyphotographer. “Can I record this?” was about to take on a whole newmeaning.

The encounter was, shall we say, anticlimactic. Like a badhookup, it took less than 10 minutes and ended with an ominous,”I’ll call you sometime.” When something ends like that, you knowit’s probably for the best that you’ll never hear from themagain.

But some women had bigger … chances … than I did. More thanfive Northwestern students modeled April 30 through May 1 forPlayboy’s “Girls of the Big Ten” special section. At least one NUstudent who posed, and possibly all of them, will appear in theOctober issue. Some women also may be featured in a special issuethat will come out in early 2004.

College Girls editions are some of Playboy’s biggest sellers,said Playboy photographer George Georgiou.

The College issues’ appeal is “the average American girl nextdoor” image for which the magazine is known, said Playboyrepresentative and stylist Cynthia Kay.

“Girls that go to college are generally like that — not girlsthat have already modeled and done their boobs and everythingelse,” Kay said. Of course boob jobs are sort of out of the picturewith $30,000 per year tuition, I told her.

NU’s participation was comparable to other Big Ten schools onthe tour, according to Kay, who helped to conduct interviews April28 and 29. Fifty to 100 women usually try out at each campus, shesaid.

“Behind the glasses and the turtlenecks, there are some greatbodies here,” said Medill freshman John Tsarouchas, who volunteeredto promote the Playboy auditions.

THE AUDITION … ER, “INTERVIEW”

My heels clicked along the sidewalk as I scurried to myinterview April 29. With my stretch jeans and pound of mascara, Ifelt like someone who was about to take off her clothes and to posefor incriminating photos.

Oh wait, I was.

Kay, along with her 20-year-old daughter and Boston Terrier withpink-painted nails, greeted me at the “Playboy Suite.” Kay handedme an information form while she, Georgiou and another Playboyemployee discussed settings for the weekend’s photo shoot.

The form was simple, though begging sarcasm on my part. Chest:Too small. Waist: None of your business. Hobbies: Keeping myclothes on and going to church.

I perused the suite’s decorations as I waited to bephotographed. Playboy shirts hung on the walls near a NU banner anda collage of past College Girls pictorials covered a window.

After a couple of minutes, Georgiou told me to go into thebedroom and “change.” The bedspread was crumpled in a heap on thefloor. The room smelled of perfume, makeup and smoke. I slippedinto my swimsuit and practiced a few positions I stole out of J.C.Penney catalogs the night before.

But Georgiou had slightly more explicit poses for me to try.Pose No. 1: Knees apart on the bed, facing the camera, back arched.Pose No. 2: Knees to the side, facing the camera, back arched. Theother poses were variations on the back-arched motif. But the wholesession took no more than three minutes, and the Polaroids were inthe envelope before they developed.

I stuck around for about 15 more minutes, expecting to answer afew questions. But none ever came. Women filtered in and out, andwe introduced ourselves and made small talk. I shuffled outawkwardly once I knew I had overstayed my welcome.

Other women who auditioned reported similar experiences — atactful demeanor combined with porn star poses.

“I never felt uncomfortable; I never felt like I was beingviolated,” said Charla Scott, a Weinberg junior who auditionedApril 28. “The photographer was very professional.”

But Scott said she was slightly taken aback by the room’sdecorations.

“To never have looked through a Playboy before, then to walkinto the room and see half-naked women all over was like, ‘Wow,'”Scott said. “I always thought that Playboy was kind of like boobsand that’s it. I was like, ‘Wow, this is porn, like, realporn.'”

For those who have never seen a Playboy College Girls spread,let me fill you in — they’re naked. Not”reading-through-my-boyfriend’s-Maxim” naked, either. More like,”doing Internet research on Judeo-Christian history and misspelling’gentiles'” naked.

Georgiou said he and Kay try to make the women as comfortable aspossible.

“We try to be their friends,” he said. “We just want to make itfun for them, make it an experience that they’ll remember. Most ofthe girls want to be here, so it’s not like we’re forcing anybodyor anything like that.”

BUNNY FOR A DAY, MINUS THE EARS

“Tara,” whose name has been changed at her request, heard withinan hour and a half of her audition that she was picked to model forPlayboy. Because she is slightly over five feet tall, she didn’tthink they would even consider her because she is too short, shesaid.

“I was really really shocked because I wasn’t anticipating it atall,” Tara said. “I thought it would be fun just to see what theprocess was and just to satisfy some curiosity.”

Tara, a sophomore, ended up posing in a corset for one scene andlacy lingerie in another.

“What was really surprising to me is how much work it was,” shesaid. Tara said she was sore the next day after having to holdposes without tensing her muscles.

The NU models said they filled out paperwork, chose theirwardrobes and spent about two hours on their hair and makeup.Georgiou took some test shots that the women were allowed to keepand then shot between two and 10 rolls of film, the modelsreported.

“Everything is made so perfect,” Tara said. “The photo anglesthey use for shooting, the poses they had you do, facialexpressions.” Tara also said she isn’t worried about peoplerecognizing her in October because of all the makeup she wore, andbecause she will be studying abroad.

Corianne Markowski, a Weinberg freshman, modeled Friday in agroup shot.

“I was really surprised how relaxed it was,” she said. “I wasafraid I would be a little uncomfortable, but everybody was verynice and I was totally comfortable with everything.”

Kay, a former Playmate, styled hair and makeup for the shoot andhelped the women with wardrobe.

“Cynthia’s really good at creating a rapport with the girls,”Georgiou said. “She’s sort of like den mom, mother hen. She’ll getall the girls in here trying on wardrobe and before you know itthey’re just having a blast.”

The women picked their own outfits with Kay’s advice, and modelswere not instructed to show anything more than they wished. Tarasaid she was very specific about what she did not want to show inthe photos and that her request was honored.

Past issues have featured a variety of clothing options.

“Whether it be clothed or seminude or nude, it doesn’t reallymatter to us,” Kay said. “They are here to have a good time andthey know they’re going to get their makeup done and styled andtaken care of, and they all leave very happy and feeling like theywere a beauty queen for a day.”

Excuses, Excuses

But being pampered wasn’t the only reason women wanted to pose.While some decided to model as a statement of independence, othersjust wanted to check out the hype.

“(Posing) is saying, ‘Hey, I’m beautiful, my body’s beautifuland I’m not afraid to show it off,’ and that’s something womenaren’t really allowed to do in our society,” Scott said. “The womenin Playboy are the most beautiful women in the country and to beone of them would just be amazing. I don’t know if I could turnthat down.”

Georgiou said most women want to pose because they said it hasbeen a lifelong dream. Other women cite encouragement fromboyfriends and fathers, dares from friends and desires to bepampered for a
day, Kay added.

“I thought it would make for a good story and never in mywildest dreams did I think they would choose me,” said “Ashley,” ajunior.

Ashley sang Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It” in her head to prepareherself. She wore a pink thong and matching heels for the auditionbecause, “I figured if I was going to go for it, I had to go allout.”

Ashley was picked to pose but declined the offer. “I thought itwould make a funny story. I was just doing it for kicks and for theright to say that I interviewed for Playboy,” she said.

“Amber,” a freshman who was selected for the shoot, said shewanted the experience of trying out.

“When people go to college, they want to try new things,” shesaid. “This is something I’d want to be a grandmother and nevertell my kids and one day pop it out and have them be like, ‘Oh, myGod, grandma, that’s so cool that you were hot.'”

Because of editorial decisions and layout, some models’ picturesmay not be in Playboy when it hits newsstands. The women will notbe notified until August if their pictures were selected, accordingto Playboy publicist Karen Ring.

Before Amber’s photo shoot on Friday, she had not decided howmuch she was going to show in her photos, because if her picturemade Playboy, it would disappoint her mother, she said.

“I wanted to do it for the experience, just to say I didsomething crazy in college, but I don’t think it’ll be worth it inthe end,” she said before the photo shoot. “It’s not that big of adeal to be that crazy and hurt my family and hear (my mom) tell meshe’s not going to pay for my tuition any more.”

Amber posed Friday wearing a mesh shirt, skirt and jacket.

When that morning’s paperwork asked for one interesting factabout her family, Amber wrote, “Yeah, my Mom is going to kick meout of the house when she gets this, so I’m apartment shoppingright now,” she said. “I don’t know if it was worth it yet, butwe’ll see.”

For Scott, it’s her dad who won’t know about his daughter’saudition, though her mother was not thrilled, either.

“(My mom) was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to explain thisto your uncles, they’re all going to kill me,'” Scott said. “Andfinally she just said, ‘Hey, if I had your body at 20 years old, Iprobably would have done it too.’ … I don’t think we’re going totell my dad unless I make it because then there’s no avoiding itbecause he’ll find out anyway. But other than that, I don’t thinkwe see any reason. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”

Ashley said she was not comfortable with the idea of having herpictures in the magazine and on the Internet.

“I wasn’t ready for my high school teachers to see me naked andfreshman boys jerking off to me,” Ashley said. “My only regret isthat I want a really nice naked air-brushed picture of myself …Other than that, I’m very happy with my decision.”

Ashley’s boyfriend supported her trying out because it “wouldmake a good story,” she said.

“He didn’t care either way, but he knew I would freak out afterI posed for photos and would be naked all over the Internet and themagazine,” she said. “If I was really into it, he would havesupported that.”

But for the lucky few who ended up posing, their families andboyfriends might not be the only people they have to worry about.Although the women currently are supposed to remain anonymous, theywill give NU students a new view of that girl in the front row oflecture when the issue hits newsstands Aug. 25.

Before the October 1991 Girls of the Big Ten issue was released,Cythia Lane, Weinberg ’93, was worried that her Playboy appearancewould follow her around later in life. It didn’t, she said. Lanecurrently is married and works in the health care industry.

“Looking back at it, I’m not ashamed of it,” Lane said. “(But)it’s not something I tell people the first time I meet them.”

Lane has a baby girl and is expecting a second child in August.If either of her daughters decides to pose for Playboy, “I wouldhave mixed feelings,” she said. “I would probably discourage her,at first, but if she had her mind set on it, I’d say, Well, thenI’ll support you 100 percent.'”

FEMINIST DEATHMATCH ROUND I

Vickie Cook, the director for NU’s Panhellenic women’sorganization emPOWER, said she doesn’t have a problem with womenposing as long as they assess all of the consequences of theirdecisions.

“If she’s really weighed the decision — ‘What are my parentsgoing to think if they see this? What are my children going tothink if they see this? Could this negatively affect my future inany career I want? If they go through all those things and no one’spressuring them to do it and they still want to, they can go rightahead,” said Cook, a Weinberg junior.

Playboy’s visit has sparked little controversy compared withother colleges and universities, Kay said. Last year a BaylorUniversity fraternity was suspended for one year when about 50 menand four women posed in the magazine. Baylor is a Baptist school inWaco, Texas.

But not everyone at NU was thrilled with the visit.

Weinberg senior David Nyweide was walking with a female friendwhen they saw a Playboy flyer on the ground. She ripped it up “in asymbolic gesture in what she thought about it,” he said.

“I really think that speaks to the fact that a lot of women onthis campus aren’t very pleased with the fact that you have Playboyon campus,” Nyweide said.

According to Nyweide, a gender studies major, the visitillustrates two schools of feminism: one that rises against makeupand other “stereotypically feminine” rituals and another group ofwomen “who want equality and yet want to do whatever they want,even if that has been traditionally looked down upon ascontradicting a feminine perspective of the world.”

“I think a lot of women on this campus would consider themselvesfeminists, including girls who posed for or just tried out for thePlayboy gig,” Nyweide said.

Tara looked through books about feminism at the UniversityLibrary before she posed and found that some views “were almost asuppression of sexuality.”

“I don’t see myself moving forward as a female if I’m not goingto be able to have equality with males,” she said. “For me it was acelebration of my body and how I am right now.”

“I’m very much an advocate of a woman’s body is her own and amatter of choice,” Markowski said. “This is my choice to doit.”

But Cook was weary of the exposure the models might get inOctober.

“(Whoever is picked) is going to be walking around campus andpeople are going to be like, ‘Dude, it’s the naked girl!” Cooksaid. “There are probably going to be some guys who are not goingto be so nice to her because she’s ‘The Naked Girl.’ Like, ‘Oh Isaw you naked, that means I can grab your ass at The Keg (ofEvanston).’ There are guys out there like that.”

Tsarouchas said magazines like Playboy do not put women in anegative limelight and cannot be blamed for any individual man’sinappropriate actions.

“I think magazines like Playboy celebrate the power and nobilityof the female figure,” he said.”If I were a hot chick and someonewanted to give me $500 to take my clothes off, I would do it in aheartbeat.”

Amber said she felt comfortable posing for Playboy because it isthe most tasteful of all the magazines in its genre. The magazinehas more articles than photographs, there are no pictures of sexand most women are photographed with some clothing on, shesaid.

Still, Cook said she would be hesitant to display her body nomatter how “tastefully” the pictures were taken, she said.

“If I want people to know who I am, it’s going to be forsomething other than what I look like naked,” Cook said.

And, walking home after too much back arching for one lifetime,I realized I agree with Cook. I respect all of the women whodecided to model because NU women are intelligent enough to maketheir own decision about their bodies and recognize theconsequences.

But as for me, pass the turtleneck and give me back my glasses– it’ll be years before I can afford that boob job, anyway.nyou

The Daily’s Jodi Genshaft contributed to this report.