Monday, June 29, 2009

#1 - Karen McDougal

It's definitely been a while since I last left my long-running countdown of the Greatest Playmates of All-Time. It's been a thorough and comprehensive list, and although fans may have been waiting for their favorite gal to pop up without any result, there's been speculation about who the number one model would be. She's been identified with lots of accuracy, and for good reasons. The leading lady is a girl who I think is the most complete Playmate, and model, ever to appear in Playboy, on any level. She transcends the norms and raises the bar when it comes to true beauty in the world of nude modeling.

I refer to the late 90's and early 2000's as my "Golden Era" of Playboy. With such consistency in the quality of models, it's no wonder I refer to it in these words. The girls of these years were some of the all-time greats, as is reflected by my countdown, and it all was kicked off at the end of 1997...

'97 was a turning point for Playmates. There were many milestones before the year, but there was something special about this one. The year took the shape of a typical 90's era collection of Playmates - and had its fair share of great Playmates, such as Lynn Thomas, Kalin Olson, Nikki Schieler, and Inga Drozdova. However, this was all just a precursor for December, which brought about a turning point in the way Playmates were perceived and photographed.

I'm talking, of course, about Karen McDougal, Miss December 1997 and Playmate of the Year 1998. She easily won the title after a rather weak class of Playmates, but would have dominated in any other year, easily. She set a new standard for the way Playmates were shot: with a classy but strong presence, with a new standard of curviness and strength, and a sense of bodily conditioning and posing talent that could put any other girl light-years behind. Karen could easily exist in any Playmate era and overshadow the competition, no matter who it could be. That is why she is my #1 - there is no question that she is head and shoulders above anyone in terms of sheer quality. Karen was unlike any other, and it would take pages upon pages to truly describe just how special a Playmate she was.

Karen emerged from blue collar Gary, Indiana, a midwestern schoolteacher who was a smash-hit beauty from the very beginning. With rounded, modest measurements: a 34-24-34 frame and a busty 125 lbs, the numbers on her sheet don't do her justice. Karen's exotic traits come from her Native American heritage and Irish mixed background, and show in each and every photo. Her unique looks are understated to just the right level, and never take over her shots and become the focal point over her pointed, highly effective posing style. Her grace is impeccable, and she doesn't have a single shot that falls short of expectations. Truly a momentous Playmate.

It's hard to peruse Karen's material without going over her centerfold first. Possibly one of the great centerfold photos of all-time, Karen's is an iconic pose that doesn't go all-out with a frontal assault on the senses, but instead holds back just the right amount, showing off Karen's beautifully built backside. Her feminine shoulders shimmer in the soft lighting, and the wintry setting makes for a very memorable sight. With a pretty red ribbon to tie back those lustrous locks, you've got a centerfold that is extremely well-shot, and accomplishes exactly what all centerfolds should do: be something that can stand as a work by itself, aside from pictorial material, taking on a life of its own.

One always has to begin describing Karen with her most eye-catching feature: her body. It was not just another hot and stacked figure that set Karen apart from all the others, but it was the way it became an icon for the Playmate world. Karen's figure is a temple, a shrine to feminine perfection. Not only was it soft and accented in its curviness, which set the bar for voluptuous and sinewy models of the era, but it was also as hard as a rock. She is known for her athletic, muscular build, and it showed in her pictorials, with every single pose being complemented by her tight form and exquisite posture.

Karen's figure was also one of incredible feminine balance: while she had a rough and tough exterior that allowed her to strike contorting, innovative poses, she also had a glowing softness to her skin and face that truly made her cute and endearing.

I always say that the most important asset of a Playboy model is her material, as well as her posing talent. Karen was the consummate professional in this category, providing stunning montages and incredible sights to behold. She had an almost poetic flow to her pictorials, always changing her gaze and shifting through with ease of motion. In the snowy hills, she shot an iconic set, ingrained in the memory of many a fan. Throughout her pictorials, she also boasted incredible production value by her editors, something which has not ever been matched in a model's pictorial. The quality is unbelievable, with thematic layering and a textural feel to each and every one of her pictures.

Her pictorials are almost of a storytelling nature, and the Christmas-tinged wintry themes are spot-on. The sets and lighting cater to Karen's unique skin hue, and her playfulness is never forgotten, and always highlighted when the time is right. The outtakes never even seem as such, often creating a sense of sexual innocence that draws the audience even closer to its alluring nature. All-in-all, Karen was never overbearing in her posing, always taking her time and having a level of patience that I had never seen elsewhere. She always knew how to time her photographs perfectly, never seeming like she was trying too hard to get that perfect pose. She is an example that all Playmates and Cyber Girls alike could learn quite a bit from.

Karen McDougal's ultimate impact on the Playboy world cannot be easily described. To a new generation, she was an icon and a trendsetter. To a legion of dedicated readers, she was a breath of fresh air and an usher for a new era of revival and greatness. Indeed, "revival" is the best word to describe Karen's influence. She created a new image of the Playmate as a strong, intimate woman who was fearless and always in control of the way she would come off.

Karen greatly influenced the way in which Playmates' range of skills were evaluated. In other words, girls were put into "niche" posing styles and categories that would limit their abilities and close them in, but Karen always found new ways to expand and grow her talents. Even when she was selected as Playmate of the Year 1998, Karen found incredible ways to "wow" the crowds, with shots like this unforgettable mountain vista. Her PMOY pictorial, in fact, contains some absolutely breathtaking photos that define professionalism in nude photography, like this silhouette and this follow-up, which truly highlight just how perfect Karen's body was.

Karen was not only a prolific Playmate, but she truly had a sense of quality, and what made a great pose and what did not. She was consistent, had a wholesome presence, and natural photogenicity that is incredibly rare. She stood head-and-shoulders above all others in Playboy's history, and should be remembered as such. In crowd circles, it can be widely debated as to who is the greatest Playmate ever, since there have been hundreds who can qualify and compete. However, a Playmate is something more than just a naked girl. There are three billion women on this planet, and many millions of gorgeous ones. However, it takes a certain intangible to truly be a fantastic nude, and Karen McDougal proved that she absolutely had the greatest body and set of talents in Playboy's history.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sisterly Lust

Playboy is trying something this month that they've never done before, but it's not in the way you'd think. They're not trying to outdo themselves in any way... actually it's quite the contrary. They're downsizing. Blame it on the economy, or the lack of talent (I'll go with the former). The bottom line is, Playboy is consolidating the titles of Miss July and Miss August. Yes, the Playmate titles. They're giving them to two separate girls, but they happen to be twins. I believe the format will be a double issue for the two months, so we'll have to wait until September for the "next" Playmate in line.

At this point, many fans are saying "to hell with it." The idea of Playmate twins is starting to wear thin with some, especially after the debut of the Campbell twins last December. We thought the commemorative twins would close out the year, and that's the last we'd see of the gimmick in quite a while. Now, we've got twins taking up two entire issues! Let's just say, these ladies better live up to it.

The essence of what makes twins great in a pictorial is their chemistry, plain and simple. If we wanted to see two of the same girl, we'd grab a photocopier. With twins, we want to see some kinky fun. Obviously, the chemistry of sisters is different from the chemistry of two friends... it's going to be less sexual and more playful. They convey their sexuality through lighthearted physicality, but nothing that crosses that taboo barrier. So, in the history of Playboy magazine, who are the twins (or triplets) who did it best? Where are the upcoming Shannon twins going to fit into the mix? How about a ranking!

#6. The Campbell Twins (2008)
The young, spunky twins that closed out last year were undeniably the worst twins to appear in Playboy's pages. Jennifer and Natalie were a pair of cookie cutter copies of one another, with absolutely zero chemistry. In every photo, they seemed as if they just didn't want to be there, and were afraid of even coming near each other. That's an F in my book any day. Definitely not Playmate material.

#5. The Van Breeschooten Twins (1989)
Dutch twins Karin and Mirjam were cute, and that European charm carried them to a certain extent, but they simply did not have a whole lot of material. With seven very tame, very passive photos with little creativity whatsoever, it's the goods that make these Holland hotties a very forgettable duo.

#4. The Collinson Twins (1970)
Madeline and Marie Collinson were the very first Playmate twins, and they get a bunch of nostalgia points for that, without fail. But it's a bit more than that... their debut was done well, and with plenty of talent. They were absolutely adorable with those engaging eyes and that soft, mily skin. Times two. It was a concept never before seen, and it definitely got the point across. It's a problem that's been improved upon, but the Collinsons started it off right.

#3. The Dahm Triplets (2003)
Misses December 1998 gives you the impression that you're going to see a double feature. No one saw this as possible: the first Playmate triplets, Erica, Nicole, and Jaclyn. Obviously, what puts them at #3 is the fact that there's three of them. However, they also have identically sexy and well-built bodies. What are the odds of that? Three blonde goddesses that are exactly the same in terms of build. It's just a marvel on its own. Combine that with some very, very good posing and decent photography, and the Dahm sisters definitely knew how to leave an impression.

#2. The Teles Twins (2003)
This is a pair I never thought got the credit they deserve as excellent models. A pair of busty Brazilian twins might be every man's dream, and when Sarah and Deisy made their debut in December of '03, the hype wasn't what I'd expected. However, they delivered, and they delivered well. Their bodies were immaculate, their dispositions were sunny and cheerful, and every single photo was sexually charged to the bone. Great chemistry, and even greater rear ends! When you mix that up with a royal soap-down and a bit of clawing each others' clothing off, you have a recipe for brilliance, not to mention some exotic South American flair.

#1. The Bernola Twins (2000)
To commemorate the new millennium, Playboy introduced a set of twins that made their mark as perhaps the best twin Playmates ever. Carol and Darlene were a curvy, tanned duo of goddesses from Cali who really knew how to shake it. A pair of Latina twins is exactly what the flavor is in the atmosphere for every single photo. And when it all comes down to it, Carol and Darlene set the bar for chemistry in photos. They were wildly playful, and always complemented each other in their posing styles. Always trying something new, always being daring and adventurous. You had to admire their sexually charged photos while still staying tame and comfortable as sisters. You could feel the sisterly bond, something that you can't get out of two unrelated nude models. It was somethin to behold, not to mention that it produced one of the finest centerfolds in Playboy.

After all these fine ladies, how can two young ladies like Kristina and Karissa Shannon compete? Well, it's really surprising how well they're doing, in my eyes. They may not be the hottest girls ever, but they have that certain "it" factor, as I can see from their preview pictorial. They have a brilliant, hot chemistry that is truly engaging, and if their final product keeps up with their current momentum, they could seriously take off. This is a pair of girls who truly know how to interact... just see for yourself! (Fingers Crossed!!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Tough Gets Tougher

In this post, I'll debut my new "PB Critic Model Scorecard," which is my standardized way of rating models (both Cyber Girls and Playmates, and all in between). Instead of arbitrarily choosing scores for the women I rate, I decided to put a bunch of parameters together, and rate based on all of them. The parameters take into account physical features and material and posing talents. Then, I put weight on each of the categories, with more important aspects getting more importance. I calculate the final score, and relate that to a letter grade, as I did before. Maybe this way, there will be some rhyme and reason to what I do! I'll include scorecards with each score I give, and recap them whenever I go through my annual year-end reviews. Enjoy!

What we're seeing so far in 2009 is one excellent year of Playmates in general. We've got an excellent lineup already, with girls like Dasha, Jessica, and Hope leading the charge for 2010's leading lady. We've had a wonderful class of Playmates already, and this year is stacking up to be one full of depth and talent. The professionalism by the ladies is staggering. And, with May and June, we've just added to this excellent lineup.

Crystal McCahill was selected as May's gal, for the most part because she's part of a Playmate lineage: her mother was Gale Olson, Miss August 1968. That's no big reason to select a Playmate, and it can often happen that the daughter Playmate is simply not talented enough to make it in the end. I have to say, though, that Crystal is a deserving Playmate with a moderate amount of talent of her own, but not enough to truly make a big impact on 2009.

Crystal won't make major waves either way, but she's a pleasant addition to the 2009 class. She isn't always the most eloquent poser, and doesn't always put a whole lot of variety in her photographs, and can appear a bit stiff at times (and I'm not just talking about her rather silly boob job). However, Crystal still does a pretty good job of keeping that sexy focus and doing what nude models do. Although it's not the most interesting of material, Crystal does have a very nice body, curvy and smooth. She's not the most photogenic girl, but puts on a good show with a good amount of talent towards the end of her pictorial, taking a couple risks and getting to show off what she's got.

All in all, Crystal is a middle of the road Playmate who's a fun addition to 2009, but not a girl who truly has a shot at the PMOY race. She just doesn't have the "it" factor needed to really break through. But, with a voluptuous body and sharp curves, she's worth a second look.

When I learned last month that Miss June would be former Cyber Girl of the Month Candice Cassidy, I was honestly less than enthralled. Candice didn't really make a big impression on me upon her CG debut, so I didn't really give her much of a chance. Her preview pictorial didn't really take it to another level, either. But then, I took a look at her official pictorial as soon as it came out a couple of days ago, and it really took me by surprise. Candice is a wonderful addition ot the Class of '09, and could definitely be considered as a strengthener for the overall depth of the year.

Candice's pictorial is excellent, with a really sexy rural American theme, tried and true by the likes of Jaime Bergman and others. The rustic theme fits Candice beautifully, with shots in tight jean shorts and and excellent production value. The costuming is just perfect, and everything, including the lighting and setting, just makes Candice a model that's ten times improved from before. Obviously, the producers saw this potential in her way before I did. Although she's not the buxom, voluptuous girl that sets the modern bar, Candice is a radiant blond with lots of striking camera presence. Her cute face captures your imagination, and her slender body is tanned evenly to perfection. Although she's not the most consistent poser, she's very, very sexy, and does a great job varying her talents and showing what she's capable of. Definitely Playmate material right here.

Candice may not be remembered even in the top five of 2009 when all is said and done, but that says more about the depth of 2009 than it does about Candice's talent. In most other years, she's probably be a very realistic Playmate of the Year contender, but her competition holds her out of the running. Still, she is amazingly attractive and very talented, with her material being extremely engaging when she gets it right. She has the intangibles it takes to be a star, and that's what she deserves.

Here's what I think the current running for 2010 Playmate of the Year looks like as of now:
6. Jennifer Pershing
5. Crystal McCahill
4. Hope Dworaczyk
3. Candice Cassidy
2. Dasha Astafieva
1. Jessica Burciaga
With a girl like Crystal still being at the bottom of the pack, you can tell just how deeply talented this class is!