On Being Rejected By “Hef”
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, when I was trying to become a magazine cartoonist and having only moderate success at venues such as the Saturday Evening Post, TV Guide, and Writer’s Digest, the publication I really wanted to crack was Playboy. Next to the New Yorker, (which rejects just about everybody) Playboy was and is one of the highest paying magazines still in the gag cartooning game. The problem was, I had no idea how to write a sexy caption or draw a sexy woman—especially not a sexy naked woman. But the money was good, so I decided to try anyway and hope that Hugh Hefner, the magazine’s founder and editor, would find my subtle attempts at fleshy humor appealing. After all, I thought, the man’s not just a booty-hound, he’s also an intellectual—all you had to do was read his essays in the magazine to know that. But as it turned out selling him one (or more) of my cartoons was not to be. (Click once or twice on the rejection letter for a larger view.)
Prior to receiving that letter I had been encouraged when the long-time cartoon editor of Playboy, Michelle Urry, “held” some images from three “batches” of ten cartoons that I submitted each month. So I knew that Hefner’s gatekeeper appreciated my indirect take when it came to the subject of male lust, liked them enough to show them to the boss. But several additional months went by before I heard the final verdict, which you see above. Just for laughs I showed the no-sale notification to a feminist-Marxist friend of mine. She promptly displayed her sharp radical-chic sense of humor by scrawling the note you see in the upper right hand corner of the “damning-with-faint-praise” letter. Her joke alone almost made the failed efforts worthwhile.
Below are three rejected cartoons from one 1997 batch. Now you be the judge—are they Playboy-worthy?
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