Hef and Auguste Comte

September 28, 2017
Posted by Jay Livingston

One tiny fun fact that you probably won’t find in the Hugh Hefner obituaries this week: The brains behind Playboy was a sociologist, A.C. Spectorsky.

Spectorsky did not have a sociology degree. He had a BS in physics from NYU, and he worked in media. But his writing had a sociological bent. His 1955 book The Exurbanites (he coined the term exurbs) was reviewed by C. Wright Mills.

Spectorsky (left) and Hefner, 1956.

In 1956, he became associate publisher of Playboy, and I suspect that it was Spectorsky’s ideas that transformed Playboy, surrounding the photos of bare-breasted women with pages that proclaimed the cultural sophistication of the magazine and its readers. With Hef, he moved Playboy from the nudie-mag periphery to a more central place in the culture, with circulation numbers to match.

His byline was A.C., and most people called him Spec. But the initials stood for Auguste Comte.He was named after the man often credited with coining the term sociology.

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