Harvard Playboy Models Autograph Magazines

Hundreds Attend Signing Sessions At Out of Town News and Christy's

A sheepish student moved up in the line and adjusted his baseball hat before presenting his copy of Playboy's October issue to Kelli M. Keller '97. She opened it to her picture, and with a fat felt-tipped pen scrawled. "To Wilson, with love," across the shiny page.

Keller, along with Amanda S. Proctor '97 and Kelly K. Johnson-Arbor '96, were all featured in Playboy's recent Ivy League spread. The three autographed more than 150 copies outside of Out-of-Town News between noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Male students and workers, undeterred by the afternoon drizzle, waited for signatures, sometimes for more than fifteen minutes. At one point, the line extended past the edge of the newsstand.

First-years in line said they were surprised and excited to know that Harvard women had posed for Playboy.

"The girls who are in it are beautiful girls, and it's cool to say they're going to my school. I can pick them out when I'm walking around the campus and stuff," Aaron M. Davis '99 said. "Harvard is so much different than I thought it would be. It seems more interesting."

Davis said he did not think the magazine was exploitive. "Playboy is a classy porn magazine. Hustler is more of a dirty magazine," he said. "Playboy shows beauty in women's bodies."

Others waiting in line agreed.

"It's all in good fun," Jason C. Gelles '96 said. "Everyone has their own extracurricular activities."

Women onlookers, standing on the curb or around the fringes of the crowd, held different perspectives. Lillian C. Lew Hailer '99 said she was bemused--and saddened--at the irony of Playboy's Ivy League issue.

"I feel that [the models] should have the choice. At the same time, I think it's pathetic," Lew-Hailer said. "The fact that [Playboy has] an Ivy League issue just continues the notion that women's bodies are still valued above their intellect."

"The issue says that what's really important is how they look, not what they think," she added.

"I feel like they are capitalizing upon the Harvard name. It's their business, but I feel like they are kind of robbing the place of some of its reputation," said Irit Tau '97.

Nadia Boulos '96, who did not attend the autograph session but posed for the Ivy League issue fully clothed in a group shot, said yesterday that she had a different opinion.

"I think doing an Ivy issue is a great credit to the institution of Playboy," Boulos said.

"Personally, I felt that they were trying to show that even beautiful women can have some sort of intelligence," she added. "There were lots of quotes in the issue about what these people wanted to do. They mentioned your concentration. Basically, they said that these women were a force to be reckoned with."

Milling around the long line of signature-seekers Wednesday were the magazine's promoters and the media. The occasion even merited visits from a Time-Warner representative and Playboy Eastern Division Manager Robert J. Cermak.

"Sales generally double in areas where they are autographing," Cermak said.

Such signings are standard for college and celebrity issues in order to increase sales and media exposure, he explained.

And when there's a protest, Cermak said, the rewards are even bigger.

"Protests usually bring bigger crowds and more fun," he said.

Even without a protest, the event attracted extensive media attention. Local college newspapers, Channel 7 News and New England Cable News all attended the signing, thrusting microphones in the faces of the three models and struggling to write down comments on damp paper.

Seated under the shade of a large, green umbrella, the models nodded, smiled and politely commented for the reporters.

Keller, who posed nude for the publication, said she felt the attention was "positive, exhausting in a way...I don't know, fulfilling."

The three models agreed that, for the most part, the media and the autograph seekers were courteous.

"I was surprised because I thought people might be obscene, but they were very nice," Johnson-Arbor, who posed semi-nude, said.

After a while, all the attention became old hat, she added.

"It's the same thing over and over," she said. "They wanted autographs mostly because we're from Harvard--I think it's the novelty of it. People would come up and talk about our SAT scores and our careers."

But all three say the attention has had a down side. Proctor, who posed in a sheer sweater, and Johnson-Arbor have received e-mail from men ranging from complements to obscenities. All have received telephone calls from middle-aged and older men regarding breast size.

Johnson-Arbor said she found many of the messages amusing.

"Guys send me messages saying how jealous they are of other guys who have e-mailed me before. There are some guys from the military academics who have invited us to Homecoming," she laughed.

"They try and make their messages all personal, saying "You are the most beautiful one' and everything, but they send it to all of us, and don't even bother taking the other addresses off the top," she added.

Johnson-Arbor and Proctor both expressed frustration with Harvard's response to the recurring phone harassment.

"University directory is not letting us make our phone numbers unlisted, so random people are calling and saying obscene things. They can get our room numbers," Procter said.

"Harvard's been really uncooperative," said Johnson-Arbor. "I'm concerned for my safety."

Amidst all the tumult, many wonder what inspired the Harvard students to pose for Playboy. For Keller and Johnson-Arbor, the publication's presence in the household prompted the decision.

"One of my childhood memories is walking across the playground with a friend and talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I said, "Well, I want to be a Playboy model.' I had seen my dad's magazines around," Keller said.

Johnson-Arbor's exposure to Playboy enterprises came from her mother.

"[Being in Playboy] always seemed mysterious. My mother was in it, and my godmothers worked at the club. Pretty much all my mother's friends were affiliated with Playboy," Johnson-Arbor said. "When I talked to them about this, they all said it was a really positive experience."

Proctor's decision, however, was influenced not by her home but by the environment she found at Harvard.

"It's nice to be able to succeed at something. It's nice to be able to stand out somehow," Proctor said. "Everybody was a star in high school and it's nice to find one little way to be a star here, because I'm certainly not a star in academics."

Throughout it all, the models say they have looked to their friends and family for support. For Johnson-Arbor, that support took a tangible form during the autographing session on Wednesday. Her boyfriend, J. L. Abernethy '96, brought her flowers.

"I told Kelly I'd come and visit her to show my support, and I thought it'd be nice if she got a dozen roses," he said. "She's been through a very stressful week."

Abernethy said he had no qualms about Johnson-Arbor's decision to pose. "I think [the picture] glorifies her. I think she looks absolutely gorgeous in the magazine. The layout they did of her was very tasteful."

Proctor found her peers were not always so supportive. She said that not only did her boyfriend break up with her, but she also received pressure to step down from her position as co-chair of the campus Native American association.

"[My boyfriend's] a senior and he was supportive of me in the beginning. He took my audition pictures," she said. "But as I started to get more attention, people started teasing him and he couldn't take it."

All three women said they under went a lengthy photo shoot for the Ivy League issue.

"Mine was on a yacht in Boston Harbor. It was about 7 or 8 hours. I guess I tried on 5 different outfits and a bunch of different poses," Keller said.

"The photo shoot lasted 10 hours and it was very painful," Johnson-Arbor said. "I had to hold my body in these contorted positions, point my toes and arch my back for four or five hours at a time. I was really sore afterwards.