From USF to Sun City Center, Playboy has ties to Tampa Bay

In a Pinellas courtroom in 1983, an exotic dancer bent over in front of Judge David Demers to defend her outfit in a trial charging her with violating the county's nudity ordinance. The photo appeared in Playboy later that year. [Times files]
In a Pinellas courtroom in 1983, an exotic dancer bent over in front of Judge David Demers to defend her outfit in a trial charging her with violating the county's nudity ordinance. The photo appeared in Playboy later that year. [Times files]
Published Oct. 13, 2015

It's a little harder to recognize America's cultural landscape after you read this headline: "Playboy to Drop Nudity as Internet Fills Demand."

(Which might also be read as "Playboy to Drop Nudity Blah Blah Blah.")

But the words mean what they say. The venerable men's magazine announced it will stop publishing photos of naked women, its response to the ubiquity of Internet pornography as well as the evolving habits of news consumers.

The changes roll out in March.

The Playboy of old, though, has some ties to the Tampa Bay area.

In 2000, models were recruited on the University of South Florida campus for the annual back-to-school issue. Those who were chosen visited Bubba the Love Sponge's radio show, and had (fully clothed) pictures taken at landmarks such as Egmont Key and Ybor City.

One recruit, a junior marine biology major, defended Playboy against its competitors, before the Internet muddied such distinctions: "It's not Hustler. It's not Penthouse. It's art. It's not porn."

When the Super Bowl came to Tampa in 2001, Playboy was part of the party scene, hosting an event at Channelside. A Times story noted that the magazine first considered the Florida Aquarium as a venue, its planners enchanted with the idea of "Playmates in mermaid gear," but opted for the Channelside bar Rain's "mansion away from the mansion" feel.

A longtime judge in Pinellas County can count Playboy as part of his legacy. In 1983, Judge David Demers was presiding over a trial of three exotic dancers charged with violating Pinellas' anti-nudity ordinance.

During the trial, according to a 2001 Times profile of Demers , a dancer bent over in front of the bench to show the judge that her outfit did not expose anything too anatomical. The photo of the scene was republished around the country, including Playboy's "The Year in Sex."

In 1994, the magazine sought the services of noted bagpipe player Robert Sheldon, who later lived in Sun City Center. In its Playmate of the Year photo spread, Sheldon, clad in a kilt and toting his bagpipe, appeared with Jenny McCarthy in a Scottish-themed photo set in a Chicago pub.

Sheldon called the experience one of the highlights of his life.

Clearwater twins Karissa and Kristina Shannon made it all the way to the Playboy Mansion to live with Hugh Hefner himself, and were featured as Playmates of the Month in 2009's July/August double issue. Their impression: Hef was "laid-back" and "very, very smart." But despite the glamor, they were homesick for Clearwater Beach.

And this wouldn't be Florida if we didn't have a Playboy model tangling with law enforcement. Rebecca Reyes, a former model who posed under the name Reby Sky, ended up bruised, jailed and facing a misdemeanor criminal charge after she mouthed off to Temple Terrace police during a traffic stop in 2007.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Reyes made news again two years later as an athlete in the Lingerie Bowl, a full-contact football game played by scantily clad women during the Super Bowl halftime. Reyes and others objected to the game being held at a Pasco County nudist resort.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist once went on a date with a former Playboy model. But perhaps unsurprisingly, Crist is not the only Florida governor to be mentioned in the same breath with the magazine.

In 2010, PolitiFact Florida examined Mostly False a claim that Gov. Rick Scott had business ties to Playboy in running a gay dating website. The rating: Mostly False.

Before you scoff about the inevitable end of the magazine that launched in 1953, drink in these facts. Playboy stopped posting fully nude photos on its website more than a year ago, and its web traffic has spiraled. Playboy officials say their audience data tells them to focus more on investigative journalism and profiles, aimed at young, urban men — in particular, ones who have jobs. They will produce content that can be shared on social media and safely viewed at work.

Insert the tired "I read it for the articles" line we tried so hard to avoid, because it's about to be true.