Top-heavy

Playboy's Miss August tips the scales of centerfold history.

By Jenn Shreve
July 13, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Rebecca Scott is 26 years old. She was born in Kenosha, Wisc., and dreams of being a rock star and having her own holistic practice. At 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, she's what you'd call healthy and average.

Which is why it was so shocking to find her round, voluptuous, airbrushed body gracing the centerfold of the August 1999 Playboy.

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Granted, at least 20 of Scott's 140 pounds seem to be shared between her extremely large hooters. In many ways -- the platinum blond hair, the pug nose, the ripe, parted lips -- this "Anna Nicole Smith look-alike," as Playboy dubs her, certainly is typical of centerfolds past.

But she also has a few things you don't see that often: thick legs, a rounded belly, a complete lack of jutting hip and collar bones. And her age: At 26, Scott is older than any centerfold I can recall in my year or so of reading "Entertainment for Men."

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What is this? Is Playboy saying, Enough to anorexic models with silicone enhancements! Enough with the barely legal aesthetic! We want real women -- guts, hips and all?

A far-fetched notion, to be sure, but I had to investigate.

I spoke with Bill Farley, the chief Playboy flack, about Miss August's unusual size and age. "The truth of the matter here is there is no mystic formula. We have had people of all shapes and sizes over the years, all colorations, ethnicities," Farley said.

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Ah yes, we all remember the infamous Kate Smith spread in January 1965. Let's face it, Playboy hasn't exactly pushed the envelope when it comes to
centerfold diversity. But he was, after all, a
publicist. What was he going to say: "You're right, no aging fatties allowed!"? I pressed on.

"I looked at Rebecca Scott. She does seem to be a little heavier," he conceded. But try as I might, I couldn't pry from him any real explanation of Scott's unusually hefty proportions. "Playboy is an equal-opportunity employer when it comes to beauty," he said.

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But Farley also passed along some information that was, if not useful, at least interesting.

Each year, between 8,000 and 10,000 women vie for the 12 Playmate of the Month positions. Submissions come through agents, via photographers and in the mail. Would-be centerfolds can also be snapshot at Playboy's studios in Los Angeles during the week. From this abundance of nudie pictures, the magazine's photo editors pick the best, which despite Farley's claims have been over the years consistently hourglass-shaped.

Farley acknowledged that those who are chosen will not only have gravity-defying breasts, but also will be good with the public; successful candidates are "not going to be complainers, not going to be troublemakers, not going to be problem children."

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But the ultimate arbiter, to this day, is still Hugh Hefner, Farley told me. I asked whether some deduction about Hefner's personal preferences might be made based on the average centerfold's proportions. "It's not so much preference as it is eye," Farley replied.

Whatever it is, Playboy's centerfolds have traditionally been American boys' first introduction to the female form, and in some cases the cornerstone upon which future likes and dislikes are formed. In the four-decade history of Playboy magazine, Rebecca Scott's 140 pounds are an anomaly. Here are some statistics: The average Playmate is 5-foot-6, 115 pounds, 22 years old, proportioned 36-23-35 and was born in September. The oldest Playmate was 33 and had two kids. The thinnest weighed 93 pounds.

Over the decades the average proportions have changed little. Playmates have gotten slightly taller -- the average height in the '90s is 5-7, two inches taller than in the '60s. Her breasts have shrunk an inch from their, uh, peak of 36 inches in the '60s and '70s. And her weight has fluctuated a little: In the '60s and '70s, she weighed 115, dropped to 113 in the '80s and bulked up to a strapping 116 pounds in the '90s. That average will no doubt be helped along by Ms. Scott's impressive heft.

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Given these averages, my expectations for more Rebecca Scotts are low. The days of woman-shaped women like Playboy's first centerfold, a small-time actress named Marilyn Monroe, have been snuffed out like a candle in the wind. In all her soft-focus, blond-haired, three-page, immaculately coifed beaver glory, Playmate of the Month Rebecca Scott, despite her 140 pounds, will never look like the rest of us.


Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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