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Playboy Enters the Interactive Era

January 14, 1994|BARBARA SALTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you've started taking your first baby steps down that highly touted information superhighway, you may bump into some familiar figures.

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And depending on your viewpoint, you may be salivating, or cursing.

Playboy, which plunged into the market early in the game via a pay-TV channel, audio and video tapes and CDs, has jumped into the laser disc video revolution with both feet, and most other body parts.

The empire, founded by a man whose wardrobe was defined by silk pajamas, is now presided over by his daughter, who has found even more imaginative ways to bring all those provocative--some would say licentious--images in the vaults into the '90s realm of laser discs, CD-ROMs and other interactive formats.

If you thought the Philips CD-1 was a machine designed just to teach your kids how to spell and count, think again. "Playboy's Complete Massage" ($25), made exclusively for the interactive Philips CD-I Digital Video, provocatively promises to draw "upon the therapeutic and sensual expertise of the masters, unites timeless techniques with new age technology for a truly erotic experience." The CD-I program promises to "inspire you to explore and enjoy new sexual possibilities by arousing your intimacy and heightening your ecstasy." You might want to put the kids to bed first.

The less tactile "Playboy Electronic Datebook" ($40) includes 50 nude or partially clothed "girls" from the 1950s to the 1990s. A click-and-drag formula lets you organize your meetings, vacations and appointments around your favorite Playmates: that famous Marilyn Monroe nude calendar photo, or others named Debra Jo, Candy, Erika, Jessica or . . . LaToya.

Playboy Video offers laser discs featuring everything from the Playmate of the Month to the documentary on Playboy founder and editor, "Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time" ($20), put together by "Twin Peaks" producers David Lynch and Mark Frost. The film, released to theaters before its video release, includes home movies of Hefner as a kid, glimpses into the Playboy Mansion, hokey clips of Hefner's first TV appearances and interview statements from close and not-so-close friends.

Playboy's "Inside Video" series (around $35) offers ribald tales. Playboy calls them "unusual sexy tales of haunting passion and obsession, of intrigue, sensuality and eroticism." Others might characterize them as boring soft porn.

It seems every time technology moves forward, adult entertainment gets in line first. The laser revolution is no exception. These electronic adult titles are just the beginning. Penthouse already is providing raunchier offerings. And various computer software companies are producing such best-selling titles as "Virtual Valerie" with contents impossible to accurately describe in a family newspaper. Not to mention video games well-bashed elsewhere.

No matter what the technology, though, the viewing and purchase pattern may well stay the same: Men will rush out to buy new toys (laser disc and CD-ROM players) to savor age-old fantasies, then justify the purchase by buying educational programs for children and women.

Playboy even hooked up with IBM to create one product that could prove to be illuminating for the entire family. It's a new CD-ROM called "The Playboy Interview, 1962-1992" ($70). When Miles Davis appeared as the first "Playboy Interview" in 1962, Playboy says that the idea of storing entertainment on a spinning disc was something out of an H.G. Wells novel. But now, 32 years later, we get not only the full text from interviews with 352 personalities ranging from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr., from Orson Welles to Woody Allen, but also 1,000 photos, video clips from a 30th-anniversary party, a tutorial and library.

Maybe we are in gear for the 21st Century.

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