Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1966: GQ’s First Nearly-Naked Cover Girl Is a Shocker

Who was the first celebrity to bare almost-all on GQ magazine? Read on.

GQ, or Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine, used to be considerably more … well, gentlemanly. Today it’s as if the staff has decided that, hey, we’re not actually a quarterly anymore, let’s just dispense with the being gentlemen part too while we’re at it. Take a look at some recent articles, if you want evidence. “Supermodel Chanel Inman Knows Her Way Around a Stripper Pole” is a good start. “Are You the Office Sexist” is a good follow-up, especially as it's a humor piece. Sexism = hilarity.  (And for the record, if you have to ask, it’s you).

GQ Magazine in more gentlemanly times.

GQ today. Style alert: Popsicles and boobs are in fashion.

Kate Upton's Bomb Pop was more outfit than Rihanna was given.

The earliest issues of GQ (which morphed out of Apparel Arts, a trade mag for fashion retailers) display a savoir-faire that evokes the charm of a lost era. While we know there was plenty of misogyny in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was to be found at home (and in the office) rather than on the cover of the magazine, which was firmly committed to fashion and style. Though the male cover models or fashionable celebrities sometimes appeared with women who were clearly used as mere photo props, the ladies were always plenty clothed and never more sexualized than their male companions.

"I'm grinning because I've seen the future, and it has more nekkid ladies."
Looking good, taking care of his bitches.

Imagine the difference if JFK had modeled in a Speedo with an ice cream cone.

Cary Grant. Pure class. Even the font is to dig.

The first hint of a more blatant sexism came with the Winter ‘65-’66 edition of GQ. The image of a woman’s face with a bow tied across her mouth and the words “Do Not Open Until Christmas” are jarring. The woman in question was Barbra Streisand, one of the first female celebrities to appear on the cover (though Carol Channing beat her to it), so while it’s possible the cover designer may have meant to suggest that Streisand’s voice is a gift, the overt imagery of a woman silenced is hard to ignore. (Don’t open your mouth until Christmas, Babs. You get a ten-minute set, then shut your trap again.)

And no talking during Hannukah, either.

It was a full year later that GQ featured a nude celebrity on its cover for the first time, and despite my aversion to some of the modern clothing-optional covers, I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s Phyllis, Phyllis Diller, wearing naught but a bow and a big grin. No one’s telling this lady to keep it quiet till Christmas. 

Phyllis Diller: GQ's first nude cover model.

Diller herself used to quip: “I once wore a peekaboo blouse. People would peek and then they'd boo.” In this case, I peeked, and then I cheered. Featuring the gawky body of a joyful comedienne is such a far cry from Kate Upton having her way with a Bomb Pop that I wish there were more covers like this. I know GQ won’t be ditching the sleazy covers anytime soon, so I’d like to plead with them to add more non-traditional (in the cover model sense) body types to the mix. If Phyllis Diller’s naked body sold magazines, anyone’s can. I vote for Lisa Lampanelli. 

Who would you like to see baring it all on the cover of GQ? With a Bomb Pop or a bow?


  1. I'm not the target audience of GQ. But seems like they COULD go back to showing elegant men: George Clooney, Terrence Howard - without losing their panache.

    Love that Phyllis Diller cover. What a dame!

  2. Wasn't she on H.R. Puffin Stuff? And I think she had a dog sidekick. They would always mess stuff up. It was great!

  3. It's good to see you back. I totally missed the post before this, but that's not too unusual these days.

    I don't think I've ever looked at a GQ magazine, but the historical overview you've presented is interesting. I would never have guessed any of those three women. My first thought was someone like Jane Fonda or Brigitte Bardot. Diller is a great choice.

    I'm going to Maryville this coming Sunday for 10 days. My stepfather has liver cancer and is going fast so I wanted to see him before the end. My girls are all coming as well and bringing the granddaughters. It will be one of those sad visits that will have a happy element as well. I live too far from all of my family.

    Tossing It Out

  4. LOVE the Diller cover! I'm not a GQ reader, but I'd like to think the 'gentlemen' audience would like to see some fuller-figured women in their plus-sized bows instead of the usual underfed models.

  5. I'm not really a GQ fan but the edition where Kate Upton made cover was a hot one.

  6. I have just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.