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Claim That Exposure Will Help Their Sport Isn't the Naked Truth

Scott Ostler

November 19, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

Before we all start heaping abuse on Jan Stephenson, the golfer, for her cheesecake calendar, let's understand one thing. Jan willingly posed for a 1986 Jan Stephenson calendar, sure, but she had no idea the Dunlop golf ball people were going to use the pictures where she seems to be wearing no clothing.

Such as the shot of Jan in a bathtub, her body strategically covered by golf balls.

"When I saw the calendar I said, 'Surely this is a joke,' " Jan said. "I couldn't believe it."

I pause here to allow readers to roll their eyes.

"What happened to all the pictures with my clothes on?" Jan asked, incredulously.

Maybe they'll turn up on the '87 calendar.

"When we first started off (shooting), I was in full golf clothes, like the line I represent," Stephenson said. "Then we got word that Dunlop wants sexy pictures."

Imagine that.

Jan Stephenson was in town Monday promoting a tournament, the GNA tournament next March. Stephenson is 33 years old. She is one of the 10 or 15 best women golfers in the world, but she is more widely known for her provocative photos.

Normally, a Jan Stephenson calendar would not be news, but I think her latest set of photos, her most daring to date, cry out for comment as part of a larger sociological phenomenon in sports, a phenomenon I refer to as getting naked.

In the last five years or so, many famous athletes have been taking off all or most of their clothing and posing for magazine layouts and advertisements. Jim Palmer and Pete Rose have modeled men's skivvies. Dozens of male athletes have posed for women's magazines. The roster includes Dan Pastorini, Dan Ford, Steve Yeager, John Matuszak and Hector (Macho) Camacho.

The current issue of Playgirl magazine features a photo layout of Eric Dickerson. Eric doesn't reveal anything you wouldn't see at the beach, at least at a beach where the men wear flimsy bikini underwear. Still, the photos are not your standard football posed-action shots, even though in a few of the photos, Eric is holding a football.

This kind of thing didn't happen in the old days. Red Grange and Babe Ruth didn't do nude modeling, that we know of.

Personally, I've seen enough, of men and women athletes in their underwear or less. I'm sure many of them pose for artistic reasons, to more fully express themselves, but usually they turn out looking sleazy or silly.

This is not how I want to remember my heroes and heroines. There is a dignity and nobility to seeing a great athlete in his or her uniform. Let normal people get naked or run around in public in their underwear, but I want my sports heroes in uniform, please.

Someday Jim Palmer will retire from the public eye, but his name will come up in baseball talk, and mental images will be conjured. How will we remember Palmer? On the mound, gracefully winding up? Or in an underwear ad, modeling the latest maroon bikini Jockeys?

And Jan Stephenson is a fine golfer, but a lot of Maxfli users no doubt will always picture her down on all fours, breasts mostly exposed, lining up a putt.

Somebody tell me, why do athletes do this? Is it for the money?

Did the Rams force Eric Dickerson to sell his buns to Playgirl by refusing to meet his salary demands?

Or is it ego? Steve Yeager said he posed for Playgirl because he felt he owed it to his female fans.

Or are some of the athletes victims of trickery? Do they pose for innocent fashion spreads, only to find out that the 10-minute break between shots, when they were relaxing in a bathtub full of sporting equipment, was part of the live shoot?

Jan Stephenson has said all along that her motivation in posing for sexy photos is to promote the sport of women's golf. It's good for the game, she says.

This is a subject open to debate. Certainly it's good for Jan Stephenson, and for Dunlop. The calendar is already in its second 100,000 printing.

When Jan appeared Monday at the Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, six TV crews and representatives of several newspapers turned out. At a similar press conference last year, for Hollis Stacey, one broadcaster and one sportswriter showed up, each doing a favor for the promoter.

Speaking Monday before a gathering of club members and tournament sponsors, Stephenson opened by saying, "You'll have to excuse me, I have a cold, so I have this terrible red nose."

She's lucky she doesn't have pneumonia. Or at least a chest cold.

In fairness, Stephenson is wearing clothing in most of the calendar shots, although in a few of them it's a close call. Asked about the bathtub shot, Stephenson said she was actually wearing a bikini, and that the shooting was no picnic. "The balls were very heavy and it was very uncomfortable," she said.

I can imagine. It probably took days for the dimple marks to go away.

Stephenson said she turned down an offer from Playboy magazine to pose without her golf balls. She said, "I would never do a nude picture. That would take away from the class of golf."

Amen.

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