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Michelle Urry, 66; cartoon editor for Playboy magazine

October 30, 2006|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Michelle Urry, who was the cartoon editor for Playboy magazine by day and a regular at women's liberation meetings by night in the early 1970s, has died. She was 66.

Urry died Oct. 15 of cancer of the eye at her home in New York City, her son, Caleb, said.

She remained the magazine's cartoon editor until her death.

In her youth, Urry was passionate about comic books and had a vast collection by the time she was a teenager, but comics and cartoons were a sidelight.

After high school in her native Canada, she moved to Los Angeles and opened a women's clothing boutique in the early 1960s. She later moved to Chicago and was hired at Playboy headquarters in 1964.

For a while her job was to answer letters from teenage girls who wanted to become Playboy bunnies, Urry said in a 1971 interview with The Times. By the time of that interview, Hugh Hefner, Playboy magazine's founder and editor, had appointed her as his assistant on cartoons. She worked with him, helping to choose cartoons for every issue.

"My feeling about cartoons is that they are truth-tellers," Urry said in a 2004 interview with the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. "The better the cartoon, the more truth is in it."

She became Playboy's cartoon editor in 1972, working with both famous and fledgling talents. She is credited with helping launch the career of the late B. Kliban, best known for his cartoons of vivacious cats.

"Michelle was sophisticated. She had a good sense of humor," Hefner told The Times last week. Besides, "she said she was blessed with a dirty mind."

The choice of a woman for the job created waves at the time, Hefner recalled, but Urry was one of several female executives in the Playboy empire during the 1970s.

Hefner said he promoted her to cartoon editor because "she was good at it."

Urry rose to prominence at Playboy while the women's movement of the 1970s was gaining steam. She led a women's group in the early '70s that focused on child-care services for working mothers and other such issues.

"A lot of people wonder how I can reconcile my job with women's lib," Urry told The Times in 1971. "I don't see their reasoning. Playboy is no more chauvinist than any other company."

Born Michelle Kaplan on Dec. 28, 1939, in Winnipeg, Canada, she married sculptor Steven Urry, who died in 1993.

In addition to her son, Urry is survived by her husband, screenwriter Alan R. Trustman; and a brother, Michael Kaplan.


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