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Playboy's New Playmates

The magazine heads underground in search of tomorrow's audience.

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Once the site of martini-soaked soirées for the cocktail crowd and gregarious greet-and-gropes for the swinger set, the Playboy Mansion was tarnished as an A-list destination when parasitic types like Playmate-murderer Paul Snider (of Star 80 infamy) crashed Hugh Hefner's party. But now, thanks to the presence of Young Hollywood tastemakers like Leo, Cameron, Ben, Matt, and Gwyneth, the mansion has been restored to its former glory. With its hipster cachet on the rebound, the company is attempting to seize the moment by sending out the bunny ears to mix with a new, untapped
audience: underground-dance-club denizens.

Playboy has been a sponsor at the industry's Winter Music Conference in Miami since 1998, and recently the magazine's marketers have been infiltrating New York's trendiest nightlife parties, sponsoring French-house-oriented "Respect Is Burning" nights at Twilo, the underground house party "Rendez-Vous" at the tiny East Village spot Izzy Bar, and one-off events with celebutante D.J. Mark Ronson (pictured, with friend). Later this year, the magazine will release a CD by brand-name D.J. Dimitri From Paris called Dimitri From Paris Presents . . . A Night at the Playboy Mansion.

"Club culture is very similar to the cocktail culture of the fifties and sixties," says Alison Raleigh, Playboy's college- and youth-marketing manager. "They're both about hanging out, listening to cool music, and just having a great time." Wouldn't rock and roll, with its beer-and-babes ethos, be the obvious soundtrack to Playboy-style hedonism? "A lot of rock music has politically correct overtones," Raleigh says disapprovingly. "And dance music serves a much younger, trendier demographic."

Neil Aline, nightlife bon vivant and promoter of the "Rendez-Vous" party, is enthusiastic about the magazine's involvement in his events. "Playboy has been really cool to work with," he says. "They bring a lot of big spenders to my parties, media people -- even some Playmates." But Aline admits that Playboy's club conquest is not yet complete. "The reaction is mixed," he reports. "Half the people think it's cool. The other half are, like, 'Why are they here?' "


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