Lainie Kazan – Body & Soul
Lainie Kazan may be the only woman who launched a business career by posing in the all-together for Playboy magazine! By 1970, she was a headliner who had already had a vast experience in a wide range of entertainment media – from three shows on Broadway (The Happiest Girl in the World, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl), starred in nightclubs (like the Persian Room), had recorded five long-playing albums of her own, and starred on top-rated TV variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dean Martin Show; in fact, in her December 1968 Sunday night appearance (in which she sang her famous Judy Garland medley of “The Trolley Song” and “Gotta Have Me Go with You”), Ed Sullivan took a particular delight in telling his vast audience that her father was Russian and her mother was Turkish (both parents were Jewish). Lainie herself was not only exotic, but as many observers have pointed out, whether on TV, in a club, an album, or even in a photo, she always seemed a little bit dangerous.
Lainie launched a long relationship with Playboy enterprises when she posed nude in the October 1970 issue of the magazine; the result of a photo session that transpired in the illustrious Plaza Hotel—Lainie performed at the hotel’s legendary Persian Room as well as living at the hotel. (In the tradition of the time, there was no full-frontal nudity yet, but she wasn’t hiding much.) That one particular modeling job would launch a vast cause-and-effect. It cemented her ongoing, very productive collaboration with the Playboy brand – as she told us, within five years, she would be the only artist – impresario to open her own room-within-a-room in the Playboy Club circuit – that happened when “Lainie’s Room” opened in the Los Angeles Playboy in 1975 and then again in the New York club a few seasons later.
Lainie Kazan – Lainie Kazan
Another collateral benefit was for comic book readers and fans of the superhero auteur Jack Kirby; not long before, the widely-praised artist and writer had switched allegiances from his long-standing job at Marvel comics (where he had played a key role in the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, and dozens of other iconic creations) to the company’s arch-competitor, DC comics. His most dramatic creation was a whole universe of new characters, which he called “The Fourth World,” at the centerpiece of which was a “super group” he called the New Gods. The first of these New Gods to star in his own title was “Mister Miracle” (aka “Scott Free”) and in issue four of that series, Mister Miracle’s love interest was introduced; rather than a demure gal Friday like Superman’s Lois Lane, the new girl god on the block was “Big Barda,” a highly imposing six feet of both pure muscle and sheer sex appeal. She went around pummeling bad guys in Asgard-ian like body armor, but Kirby went out of his way, in her first two appearances (Mister Miracle #4 October 1971 and #5 November-December 1971) to show her in a bikini-like get up as well. It was no surprise to anyone when Kirby eventually admitted that he was a Playboy reader and the physical image of Big Barda was directly based on Lainie’s image from the October 1970 issue.
Liza Minnelli with her husband and Lainie Kazan
Thus the image of herself in the buff would have vast consequences and many rewards for Lainie. But, ironically, those rewards were not monetary – at least not immediately so. Lainie told us that it simply never occurred to her to ask for any kind of payment for her services in posing. To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the Lainie we know, but then of course, we didn’t know her back then. From the looks of those images – both in Playboy and Mister Miracle – we wish that we had!
Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan
You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents