Throughout its publication history, Playboy magazine has always attracted celebrities. A sampling of the wide variety of these famous women who have posed for the magazine is collected in Playboy: The Celebrities, a coffee-table book with over 150 photos of these celebs posing for the world's most renowned men's magazine. "It is a powerful combination," observes Hugh Hefner in the introduction, "celebrity and naked skin. Enjoy."
Playboy: The Celebrities is something of a time capsule, collecting naked and semi-naked photos from Marilyn Monroe (the first centerfold) in 1951 to the Girls Next Door of today. There are supermodels (Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell), musicians (Debbie Harry, Belinda Carlisle, Deborah Gibson), television stars (Farrah Fawcett, Linda Evans, Charisma Carpenter), movie stars (Pamela Anderson, Melanie Griffith), and other iconic people featured.

The quality of the photographs is breathtaking. While there are plenty of nudes -- so many photos I couldn't use in the review -- there are plenty of lingerie and, er, carefully posed shots. Many of the subjects have multiple images used (notably Pamela Anderson and Dita von Teese), and the differences in posing, photo texture, and other features display what was sexy at the time the photos were taken.

When (if?) you get past the images, Playboy: The Celebrities does have its flaws. Apart from Hefner's introduction (and an afterword from Gary Cole, Playboy's director of photography), there's no information on the photos beyond the name and date the photo was taken. Considering almost all of these women did interviews to go with their photos, a bit more information would have been useful. Which people wouldn't pose fully naked? What drew them to do their photo shoots? We can but wonder.

Then there's the selection. Some of these are people I've never heard of (Janet Jones? Valerie Perrine? Kelly Monaco?), while there are lots of other celebrities who were left out of the collection (such as Sherilyn Fenn, Tricia Helfer, Kim Kardashian and Joan Collins). But this sort of selection is a necessary evil, as over five decades of celebrities have to be compressed to fit in one collection. And going with fewer celebrities but multiple photos of each does showcase the people that made the final collection. I just hope there's a volume 2 somewhere down the line.

Playboy: The Celebrities may be incomplete (by necessity with quantity, unfortunate with the lack of information) but it's still an impressive look at the combination of the famous and the famous men's magazine. This coffee-table book provides a visually fascinating trip through time, to see what and who were hot then, and now.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

P.S. For those wondering, the photos are, top to bottom: Pamela Anderson, Debbie Harry, Vanna White, Raquel Welch, Cindy Crawford, and Mariel Hemingway.

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