Burt Reynolds' Nude Cosmopolitan Spread: Photos And Why It's Iconic
When Burt Reynolds posed for the centerfold of the April 1972 Cosmopolitan magazine, it was a risky move. He wasn't the legendary star we remember him as now -- he was a TV actor, known for Gunsmoke, Hawk, and Dan August, who had been trying to break into movies for a few years. Deliverance, a film that would make him a movie star, was slated to come out later in the year. And male nudity was taboo -- the male body, naked as a jaybird, in all its hairy glory, was not something the public seemed to want. That was the conventional wisdom, anyway -- naked women were beautiful and deserving of admiration, but a naked man just wasn't. Those were the rules of the man's world. But Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Helen Gurley Brown liked nothing more than breaking the rules.
The Right Guy For The Job
Brown had made a career out of challenging assumptions about what women do or don't want, ever since the publication of her book Sex And The Single Girl a decade earlier. Reynolds was willing to bare his bushy altogether for the magazine -- "I have a strange sense of humor," he explained. In fact, Reynolds occupied a strange place in Hollywood at the time. He was a beloved personality, a popular guest on talk shows hosted by Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, despite not having had a hit movie. He'd been asked to take over James Bond from Sean Connery, and he'd been offered his own talk show, but turned both down. Brown wanted to debut her male centerfold concept with a star, and had initially picthed it to Paul Newman, who said no thanks. But Reynolds was game, and Brown seized the moment. A banner on the cover of the issue boasted, "At last a male nude centerfold - the naked truth about guess who!!"
Breaking The Mold
Thanks to male conceptions about nudity at the time, the “visual appetites” of women everywhere were woefully underserved. Reynolds' flair for exhibitionism helped whet the appetites of females everywhere and turned him into an instant celebrity. The photo also opened the door for other publications to make a buck displaying the male form in the same way they had done with females for years!
Reynolds Was Never Seen The Same Way Again
Reynolds noticed a change in audiences from "polite to boisterous.” In his autobiography, he wrote, "Standing ovations turned into burlesque show hoots and catcalls. They cared more about my pubes than they did about the play.” Doesn’t feel so good when the shoe is on the other foot, eh? Brown contended that "He had been a movie star, now he was a celebrity."
The Photo Became A Pop Culture Meme
Reynolds' bare naked body not only changed the game on male nudity but also spawned a pop culture motif that still runs to this day, whether it’s Ryan Reynolds paying homage to Burt by replicating the pose in Deadpool or the unforgettable Seinfeld episode, "The Package.” In it, George similarly parades his fuzzy figure in hopes of catching the attention of the girl at the photo development store.
Why Do We Get Such A Kick Out Of A Naked Burt Reynolds On A Bear Skin Rug Today?
In the years that followed, the camera fell in love with male bodies -- eye candy took the form of hairy-chested Tom Selleck posters or Richard Gere as a hairless lover in American Gigolo. Even a degree of homoeroticism showed up in the movies -- think of the volleyball scene in Top Gun. The giant hair, the dead seriousness of males engaged in pseudo-softcore porn while completely lacking in self-awareness of how ridiculous they look; the unintentional comedy is off the scale.
Today, due to how hyper-aware we are, scenes like an oiled up Tom Cruise playing volleyball in jeans and a wristwatch just don’t happen anymore. Back in the day, thanks to massive amounts of cocaine and no social media, insane ideas like a Sylvester Stallone movie centered around arm wrestling could happen in complete seriousness. Today, Reynolds' confident sex appeal, nude on a bearskin rug with a cig hanging out of his mouth, just brings a smile to your face.
What Happened Next
In hindsight, many things from the past offer hilarity that wasn’t present at the moment. For instance, Reynolds was the one who actually chose the photo. The picture also led to the creation of Playgirl magazine, which hit newsstands the following year. And Reynolds became Burt Reynolds in full, thanks to his performance as Lewis Medlock, a weekend warrior who wears a very sleek wetsuit, in Deliverance.
Tags: A Brief History Of... | Burt Reynolds | Cosmopolitan | Helen Gurley Brown | Photography | Remember This?...
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