An MIT graduate Physics student runs into her thesis adviser in a Boston convenience store. They don't exchange platitudes, or discuss the recent discovery of a new sub-particle. Rather she signs his Playboy and puts her head on his shoulder for photographers.
Valerie Coel, of Lexington, Ma., came to MIT with excellent credentials: a B.S. from Vassar, an I.Q. of 163, as well as a membership in Mensa, the international "genius society."
Now she can add "nude model" to her already impressive resume.
The Massachusetts native and six other members of Mensa posed in the buff for the pages of the November Playboy. Last Friday two, Coel and JoAnn Harjes, came to a Boston Store 24 to sign autographs and plug the magazine.
"The whole lab knows about it now," a smiling, enthusiastic David Jolly tells the woman to whom he has given advice in the writing of "Anodes and Cathodes: Phenomenon of Arcs Burning to Electrolytes."
The 12-page spread of brainy nudes, sure to be dog-eared in one of MIT's numbered buildings, includes a mini-I.Q. test for readers interested in matching wits with the seven naked genuises.
"I couldn't think of a better group to pose with than my fellow eggheads," says Harjes, who boasts an I.Q. of 150 and majors in mass communication at the University of Minnesota.
"I never subscribed to the theory that beautiful women are all airheads," said JoAnn Selig, Playboy's publicist, explaining the reasoning behind the feature. But she stresses that Mensa approached Playboy with the idea. For Coel, the opportunity to pose nude may lead to a new career in show business. "Physics is pretty much out of the picture," the computer expert explained.
Friday, she seemed able to attract the attention of the more than 20 men, some wearing suits and others t-shirts, who lined up in Store 24 to meet the two women who had bared all for the camera.
Media also crowded around the Mensa models, whose makeup had already begun to crease and who looked nothing like their Playboy photos. A photographer from the Boston Herald guided the two around, using for props various magazines, notebooks and glasses to achieve exactly the right pose.
In addition, a camera team from the public television station WGBH squeezed between refrigerators full of soft drinks to get footage for a report on recent anti-pornography movements.
While at this venue the Playboy publicist directed the models poses, Mensa specimen Selig says the seven intellectuals chose their own fantasy for their pictorials in the famous men's magazine.
The pictures range from Coel's aggressive, erotic nude rock star to the subdued Southern Belle created by Elizabeth Rogers, whose 135 I.Q. is the lowest of the seven. One married genuis posed as a big cat, arrestingly bedecked with flourescent stripes.
"It's a very unusual feature," Selig admits.
Proposed by the woman with with the highest I.Q., 174, a 20-year-old who is a radio reporter and host on a cable television show, the idea received 100 queries from Mensa members.
Playboy, which is well-known for pictorials of college students, then auditioned the genuises to see if they had what it takes to be a nude model. They somehow pared the group down to the seven best-looking Mensa members.
"Sales will be up," says Bob Cermak, eastern division manager of Playboy. He even predicts November's edition will be bigger than the Madonna issue that was released this past summer.