The undisclosed location turned out to be StagePort, a rentable production space for film, video and photography in downtown Kansas City's Crossroads arts district.
On the day of the casting call, it was positively crawling with beautiful women. Like those American Idol auditions, there were a few women at the casting who have perhaps overestimated their charms. Generally, however, most were smoking, ranging from prom queen pretty to nightclub sultry, to eyeball-popping, make-cartoon-steam-come-out-of-your-ears, die-a-little-inside sexy.
Why would these women travel so far and go to so much trouble for just a slim chance of being asked to pose? Money, certainly, is a lure. Playmates are paid $25,000. Not a fortune, but a fair chunk of change. Others hope posing will be a springboard for Hollywood success. Pamela Anderson started her career in Playboy. Jenny McCarthy was a Playmate in June 1994. Ola Ray, Miss June of 1980, played Michael Jackson's date in the Thriller video—something to tell the grandkids. Sure, your average Playmate-turned-actress won't be fighting Meryl Streep for roles, but a few seasons of reality TV stardom like Kendra Wilkinson, for instance, has got to beat slinging Dilly Bars at the Dairy Queen back home.
Most of the women, though, have different motives. Surprising ones, sometimes.
As Jeff says, "With a lot of the girls it's a singular statement. Posing is a one-time event. This is not a career direction for them. They aren't going into modeling or fashion. Being recognized by Playboy is something they have always aspired to, but it doesn't define them."
Many, frankly, don't seem all that fired up to appear in the magazine. Posing at the casting call itself is the point—a sort of self-dare to meet, like skydiving or running with the bulls. At least two women in Kansas City used the phrase "bucket list."
Having their picture taken by a really top-notch photographer once in their lives is a treat. Even if they don't get chosen, their photos of from the casting call don't necessarily go to waste. The women can buy a package that includes an "I Posed for Playboy" shirt and six of the best images taken at their audition as keepsakes. Or, possibly, gifts.
But for all the good things a woman can get from coming to a casting call—from ego boost to five-figure paycheck—the audition process necessarily involves a ruthless dissection of a women's bodies. Which is when the big, fat, honking paradox inherent in Playboy smacks you in the face.
On one hand, there's no question that the magazine played a crucial role in the sexual revolution, helping to liberate America from the straight-laced repression of the Eisenhower era. Playboy, in their use of lighting, make-up, and especially fresh-faced, smiling models, communicated the radical notion that Nice Girls, wonder of wonders, might like sex.