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Candy Loving Then And Now: Whatever Happened To Playboy's Girl Next Door?

Written by Jacob Shelton

For many men of a certain age, the name "Candy Loving" brings back a rush memories from 1979: big hair, short shorts, a certain rabbit-head logo, and the "girl next door." Candy Loving was plucked out of obscurity to become Playboy magazine's 25th anniversary Playmate, and she quickly became one of the most popular centerfolds in the history of the magazine. But after a few more photo spreads with Playboy, Loving shied away from the public eye, leaving many fans to wonder what happened to this sexy girl next door.

After a few years of modeling and traveling, she more or less disappeared. Unlike many popular Playmates, she didn't become a go-to poster girl for Hugh Hefner's empire or make a serious run at a career in Hollywood. The Candy Loving story is a short one, but it’s full of fascinating twists and turns. Here's what she did, and where she is these days, this is the Candy Loving story: then and now. 

First Up: Fake Or Not? The Story Of Candy Loving's Name

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It's a perennial guy question: Who's the Playboy Playmate you remember from your youth? Candy Loving is a common answer. She had that girl-next-door look and curves for days -- these are important traits for a Playmate. But she also had that name. That name! Candy Loving -- even if she wasn't a guy's absolute #1 favorite from his youth, he might still say she was, just because of the unforgettable name, which is practically a synonym for "adolescent fantasy."

In 2000, Playboy ranked its top 100 Playmates to date -- and Candy Loving came in sixth place. Candy fans would say that such a low ranking casts doubt on the entire list. On the other hand -- Candy Loving didn't go the route of Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Shannon Tweed or the E! network's Girls Next Door (who weren't technically Playmates). Candy Loving wasn't Marilyn Monroe (Playboy's first centerfold) or Bettie Page (a Playmate who was also one of the most photographed glamour models of her day) or Barbi Benton (Hugh Hefner's girlfriend for years, and also not technically a Playmate). Candy Loving was famous without being a celebrity -- in fact, she gave stardom a good look and decided she didn't want it. Thanks, but no thanks. She made a swift and fitting exit -- fitting considering how suddenly she had risen to national prominence, from modest beginnings in America's heartland.

Candy Loving's Real Name Is...

The sex symbol later known as Candy Loving was born Candis Loving on September 4, 1956 in Oswego, Kansas. That’s right, folks -- Candy Loving is not a pseudonym dreamed up by some magazine editor for its adult-film-ish overtones. It's her real name. Candis/Candy moved with her parents to Ponca City, Oklahoma when she was three and grew up there with three siblings: an older sister named Cassi, a younger sister named Cari, and a brother, Kevin. After graduating from Ponca City Senior High, she was off to college at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman. Throughout her youth she was focused on getting a good education, and even after her modeling career took off she went back to school and made sure that she had something to fall back on after her star waned.

After exiting the spotlight, Candy went back to being Candis. With an "s." No "e."

It Was Playboy's 25th Anniversary, And They Picked A Winner 

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When the 25 year mark came around for Playboy, the magazine wanted to celebrate with something special, so they launched a nationwide search to find a special girl to be their silver-anniversary Playmate. Loving submitted some swimsuit shots to the magazine and she beat out over 3,500 applicants to win the honor of being one of the biggest Playboy centerfolds of all time. The spread not only made her a household name (for those men who noticed the pictures when they weren't reading the articles), but it netted her $25,000. Not bad for a laid back college girl from Ponca City. 

Why Candy Loving Didn't Get The Cover Of Playboy's Anniversary Issue

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Candy Loving was an immediate sensation -- she's the rare Playboy Playmate who became an icon without really ever doing much else. Yet despite all that star quality, Candy wasn't featured on the cover of Playboy's 25th anniversary issue. In fact, no woman received the honor, because the magazine elected to go with its rabbit-head logo flanked by a stylized "2" and "5." It was a tradition at Playboy: The tenth anniversary issue featured the rabbit head, and the 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th, and 50th followed suit. (The 45th anniversary issue's cover featured Marilyn Monroe.) Was using the ubiquitous logo instead of a beautiful woman -- like Candy Loving -- smart branding or a missed opportunity? If the latter, Playboy made amends soon enough, putting Candy on the cover of the August 1980 issue. She was pictured signing the cover of the anniversary issue.

Is This The Hottest Oklahoma Sooner Of All Time?

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Even though Loving dropped out of the public eye almost as quickly as her modeling career began, she remained steadfast in the minds of Playboy readers. Not only is her photo spread classy, she’s also a regular person. This not only entices readers, but it gives a peek inside the secret life of that girl on the block who they never spoke to but always fantasized about.

It’s likely that her disappearance from the public eye is why so many readers are still enamored of her. If comments on a University of Oklahoma sports message board are to be trusted, a consensus of Sooner fans believe that she's the hottest OU graduate of all time.  

It's A Myth That Candy Loving Turned Her Back On Playboy

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It's true that Candy Loving chose to live her own private life in Florida rather than continue to appear in the magazine or hang around the Playboy Mansion for years and years. But don't take that as an expression of ill will or regret. Loving has been known to show up -- once in a blue moon -- for Playboy events or reunions. Blogger Candace Collins (who was Playboy's Miss December, 1979) documents one such occasion, a Candy Loving sighting at the Playboy Mansion New Year's Eve 2010 party. It went as follows:

Some Playboy Playmates or models do end up regretting their involvement with the magazine, or Hugh Hefner -- that's been documented. Others remain lifelong advocates, seemingly willing to defend the rabbit-head empire to the grave. But Candy Loving's example reminds us that it's possible to move on to a new chapter without hard feelings about the previous one.

Candy Loving Made The Choice To Stop Being Famous On Purpose

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Once she was the centerfold for Playboy's biggest issue to date, Loving capitalized on her popularity and tried to move through the ranks of modeling and acting. First, she appeared on the talk and dance show circuit with an appearance on Dance Fever, and then she switched to acting in an episode of The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. Her biggest role was a brief appearance in the 1980 Woody Allen film Stardust Memories.

She was giving it the old college try -- as she told the Boca Raton News, "A lot of friends told me, ‘You’re only young and hot once.'" But after a while she tired of the experience. She told the Oklahoma Gazette, “In 1979, I went out to California and I lived and modeled and did a little acting. And it took me a couple of years to go, ‘You know, this just really isn’t me.’”

The Police Broke The Law To Peep On Candy Loving

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As with anyone who’s experienced a modicum of fame, Candy Loving has had to deal with fans trying to figure out where she is at all times. As creepy as that sounds, most of them just want to say hello or perhaps "thank you" to their favorite Playmate. But one of her creepier fan episodes occurred early on in her career. Directly after her spread in the silver anniversary issue of Playboy, local law-enforcement officials in Oklahoma had to deal with dudes coming out of the woodwork in search of their favorite babe. At the time, Lt. Bob Carlton said that a group of police officers (yikes) found the model’s address through an “unfortunate abuse” of the system. Yes -- cops had used the law-enforcement resources supposed to help keep her "safe" to learn where she lived out of, um, personal curiosity.

You're Playboy's 25th Anniversary Playmate. What Do You Do Next?

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After she left Hollywood in 1981, Loving went back to Oklahoma and returned to school. She was 25 when she finished her degree -- which was in either journalism or public relations, the sources aren't clear -- from OU. She then went to grad school for human relations (don't get confused, human relations and public relations aren't the same thing), but as she told the OK Gazette, “It took me a year of that to realize I didn’t want to do that with my life, either. ... A lot of starts and changes, and I guess that’s how all young people do, don’t they?” 

Candy Loving's Signature Is Still Worth Money On eBay

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As the nostalgia wave of Candy Loving washes over you, you may be wondering, “How can I, a lowly internet reader, get my hands on a signed photo of this sexy girl next door?” Like all good things, you’ve got to spend a little money. In fact, a signed photo of Loving is going to run you just over $200 on eBay. That may sound expensive, but it’s much cheaper than tracking her down and getting her to sign whatever Playboy page you’re keeping around.

If you really want to get a signed pic of this down-home Playboy model, keep your eyes peeled, you never know what kind of deals you’re going to find online.

Candy Loving Still Gets Fan Mail To This Day, Even

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Decades after her fame faded, Loving still receives the occasional fan mail, which is simply testament to how much she was able to affect fans with just a few photoshoots. Loving doesn’t think it’s weird that people are still thinking of her, in fact, she’s proud of her work. 

She said, “The other day, I received a letter from a guy in the armed forces. He said I had gotten him through the Gulf War. He was quite the gentleman, and it really brought tears to my eyes. There are a lot of people in other countries working for our country for who Playboy is a link to home for them.”

Candy Loving Never Even Had An Unhealthy Diet

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According to the writeup from her first Playboy pictorial, Loving isn’t the kind of model to shy away from a big meal when it’s placed in front of her. She explained to the magazine that she gets hangry if she’s not eating three square meals a day. (And this was before "hangry" was even a word.)

Loving said, “I absolutely cannot go on an empty stomach for any length of time. I have to eat. Three evenly spaced full meals a day, with maybe a snack now and then, and I'm OK. And if I can't eat, I do best with a glass of milk. Milk is one of my favorite foods. White or chocolate, I love milk."

Candy Loving Achieved Her Goal -- And It Wasn't Playboy

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A lot of people who find themselves working in the world of erotica can go down a dark path. But not Loving -- from her own (rare) statements, it's clear she’s truly pleased with how her life has worked out, which is something that many people might not believe.

Loving recently said, “My main goal was to raise a good, healthy, happy child, and I’ve done that. I’ve gotten her into adulthood,” she said. “So now I’m just going to take it one day at a time and see where I want to go. I’m in a pretty good spot. I can be flexible.”

She Was The Playboy Playmate Who Made The 'Girl Next Door' Sexy (Again)

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One of the reasons that Loving made such a huge impression on Playboy’s readers was her classic, approachable looks. By the mid '70s, so many models were adopting Farah Fawcett waves and turning their bodies a sun kissed shade of tan, but Loving looked like someone you could bump into on the street. She might be the hottest person on the street, but still -- she wasn't an intimidating alien from the planet Glamazonia. Hefner even said that Loving brought the "girl next door" look -- which had always been the idea behind his Playmate concept -- back into fashion.

You Should See Candy Loving's Test Shots

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Candy Loving’s beauty is undeniable. Even though she was just a college student when Playboy came knocking at her door, she already had the model "looks" to intrigue every man in America. In fact, even Loving's test photos are remarkably magazine-ready. Dwight Hooker’s test shots of Loving show her lounging in a very '70s hotel room in some simple lingerie and it's absolutely bonkers how professional the whole thing looks.

It’s obvious why she was chosen to be Playboy’s centerfold for their silver anniversary. The most striking thing about the pics is how the only thing that looks dated in the test shots of Loving is the decor in the hotel room. 

She Had To Have That Awkward Mother-Daughter Chat

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Even though she remains unmarried, Loving has one daughter who, like her mother, has stayed out of the public eye. Still, it has to be weird to explain the whole Playboy thing, right? Not so says Loving. 

She explained the process to the Oklahoma Gazette, “She thinks it’s pretty cool since she found out Jakob Dylan [of The Wallflowers] had a Playmate mom, too,” Loving said. “My daughter’s very much her own person, and [posing nude] is not something that she would ever consider doing, but she’s pretty wise for her years. She understands that it was a pretty cool experience for me.”

Important note: It should be noted that Jakob Dylan's mother, Sara Lownds, inspiration for a few of Bob Dylan's songs, was not technically a Playboy Playmate. She worked as a Bunny at the New York Playboy Club.

We Have Candy Loving's Ex-Husband To Thank

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As wild as it might sound, Loving’s first and only husband, Ron Prather, suggested that she submit her swimsuit pictures to the magazine’s model search. (Yes, this means Candy Loving was not just a married Playmate but also a married woman while an undergraduate in college -- people did that back then.) Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t survive her transition from small town girl to Playboy centerfold. 

Prather has stayed out of the spotlight, and it’s unclear what happened to him. At the very least hopefully he got a free issue of Playboy’s 25th Anniversary issue.

Candy Loving's Beauty Was Captured By Playboy's Top Dog Photographer

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If you wanted your photos to really pop, you hired Dwight Hooker to put your girls on film. Playboy brought Hooker on to shoot centerfold collections and covers for 10 years, from 1969 to 1979, and Loving was his penultimate shot. Hooker was the man behind the lens for many of Playboy's most popular '70s centerfolds, including those of Collinson Twins, Marilyn Cole, and Marilyn Lange, as well as Nancy Cameron's two-sided gatefold. One of Hooker's saucy centerfold shots (that of Miss November 1972, Lenna Sjooblom) even became the go-to picture for calibrating scanners and testing digital imaging algorithms.

The photos of Candy Loving (as if you don’t remember) capture her in the soft, natural light Playboy favored in that era, letting her effortless beauty shine through the pictorials without any extra work, which is a testament to both photographer and subject. 

Why Candy Loving Is The Face Of Selah, Washington

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When you’re a massively popular Playboy model, you can’t control where your images end up or whom they inspire -- your face and figure are just out there. Loving ended up serving as the model for a welcome sign outside of Selah, Washington after the artist, Dean Rainey, took her August 1979 Playboy cover as inspiration. 

He told the Yakima Herald, “I needed a model to get that image of (someone) looking back at you. Plus, she’s an all-American looking chick, kind of like the girl next door.” Well, the girl next door is now welcoming people to the apple juice capital of the world.

Candy Loving Was An American Girl, Happy With Her Life, And Stayed That Way

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When she first went out to California in search of sun and fame, Loving was just a regular person with regular tastes. Her love of the simple things is on full display in the write up that ran with her first pictorial spread. She told Playboy that when she was in high school she spent most of her time driving down the main drag jamming Edgar Winter and The Beatles. As the article said, in what was a compliment, she’s “a lady of uncomplicated tastes.”

Maybe she’s got those same tastes, but as someone who works on health care packages, she’s probably not knocking back cold ones in her green Ford Maverick anymore. 

What Candy Loving Had In Common With Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

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Before entering the Playboy spotlight, Loving studied to be a journalist at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. It’s interesting that prior to her rise to the top of erotic culture, she was thinking about actually working in print media. Had things gone a different way, Loving could have ended up an editor or writer... for a men's magazine perhaps... assembling the profile of a different young starlet from Oklahoma.

After leaving school for a brief period to try her luck as a model and actress, Loving returned to school, but quickly found that her passion for journalism had faded.

A 2-14 Record Is Easier To Swallow If Candy Loving Is Your Girlfriend

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Loving's first marriage dissolved as her showbiz aspirations were fading, and she lived the single life for a few years. But eventually, she was ready to settle down again – if only for a short while. In 1983 she was judging a beauty pageant with Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Dave Reavis, she liked his judging skills so much that she stuck it out with him and moved to Florida. The Bucs were 2-14 in 1983, tied for the worst record in the NFL, so Reavis was probably happy that at least one thing seemed to be going his way. The relationship ultimately didn’t pan out, but she did decide to stay in the Sunshine State. 

Candy Loving Is All About The Benefits...

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Loving’s life has had a series of twists and turns, but she finally found her bearings after moving to Florida and switching things up for a third time. Loving moved into the health care field, where she works with huge insurance companies designing benefit packages for their employees.

She told the Oklahoma Gazette, “This isn’t interesting or sexy at all, but I’ve been working in the health care industry for 27 years. I actually was able to transition very easily into a good job. I had the attitude that I had used my looks to do some fun things and see the world. I’m glad I did it, but I thought, ‘There’s more to me than that. I want to use my intellect, too.’”

Once Was Not Enough For Candy Loving

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Readers responded so well to Loving’s initial run in the magazine that she returned again and again to give audiences what they were dying to see. After her Playmate pictorial, Loving popped back up in the magazine a few months later in “Another Loving Look,” and she bowed out of her nude modeling career with “Playmate Roommates” a feature that saw her posing with Sondra Theodore and Terri Welles.

It’s not a bad run for a model who got her start as a journalism major in Norman, Oklahoma, but her fans would no doubt agree that it's a shame that she didn't make a few -- or even a few dozen -- more appearances in the magazine.

Playmate Candy Loving -- Body By Nautilus

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How does Candy Loving keep her fit bod, even after drinking upwards of three glasses of chocolate milk a day? According to the profile alongside her first run in Playboy, she was a fitness nut, working out regularly on a Nautilus Machine back in the '70s. Even though those bad boys are still around (look closely the next time you hit the gym), hopefully she’s made the switch to something a little less mechanical. That being said, whatever she’s doing is probably great. 

Candy Loving Is Alive And Well And Living In Florida

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People die. And when it comes to public figures who are incredibly memorable, when they leave the public eye -- some might say "disappear" or "vanish" -- people are bound to reasonably wonder whether they've left not just the public eye, but the realm of the living. And though some people assumed Candy Loving's apparent disappearance was due to her death, that's not the case. This is a myth.

Candy Loving is alive, and -- based on the birth date in her Playmate data sheet -- recently celebrated her 62nd birthday.

After her intense, if brief, dalliance with celebrity, Loving finally settled down in Florida to raise her daughter and make a life for herself out of the public eye. It’s unclear if she was in Florida before 1983, when she started dating offensive lineman Dave Reavis, or if she followed him there. But judging from the rest of her life, whatever decision Loving made was made out of common sense, something that she’s done time and time again.

Guys all over the greater Florida area have claimed to see her while picking out new insurance plans in their office, but who knows if that was just wishful thinking?

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.