Figge, Hef, Playboy & The End of An Era
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Thursday, September 28, 2017
By Figge Photography, Inc.
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The Figges & Playboy...

It often comes as a huge surprise to some of our clients that Bill and Melba shot so many centerfolds for Playboy in the 1960's and 70's. We even tend to forget that the Figges & Hefner were way ahead of their time. They were kindred in that way.

The 1950's and early 60's was a particularly buttoned down time in American culture with many taboos surrounding sexual expression and nudity. For Figge and Hefner, the rules, just did not apply. During this period at Playboy, Hefner had all of his photography done in-house. Bill and Mel Figge, whom Hef initially believed to be a duo of brothers from Glendale California, was introduced through great friend and fellow professional photog- Ed DeLong (pictured in the pool with Bill). Hefner was inspired by WWII era pin-ups with a wholesome twist. They quickly became one of Hef's favorite and most productive teams. Bill and Mel would recruit many of the beautiful brides that they would shoot who had the "girl next door" quality that Hef liked so much. They would submit their tests to Playboy and Hefner would personally approve each shot the magazine used. In addition to their work as master photographers, the Figges found great success, as husband and wife team which made the playmates feel at ease. They created long lasting relationships with many of these young women who became like part of the family. Their work had the right mix of sexy and sweet..., just the look that Hef was after. 

“Nice girls can like sex too." Hefner would often say. 

All of the centerfolds that Bill and Melba took are still just as timeless, tasteful and beautiful today. They parted ways professionally with Hefner in the 1980's but remained in contact. Hef even sent his condolences to our family after Melba's passing in 2015 which was truly touching.

' Many of the playmates became like big sisters to me. They'd hang out at our house and take me to the beach. Gloria, (Allison Parks) was one of my very favorites! One of the playmates is even wearing my Brownie sweater in her centerfold shot!! I have been to the playboy mansion with my mom for parties and once ended up running into Mick Jagger in the bathroom... I have the greatest memories from this era! Hef is a legend... What a kick to look back on all these memories now! '    -Leslie Figge

A Shared Vision...

The Figges and Hugh Hefner were artists and visionaries who created their careers based on years of devotion to their respective crafts. Hefner was a talented cutting edge journalist. Pushing the envelope to provide edgy writers an audience they otherwise wouldn't have had; Jack Kerouack, Malcom X, Miles Davis are a few who come to mind. During the late 60's when the Feminist Movement was gaining momentum, Hefner and the magazine were accused, by some, as objectifying women. Suffice it to say, that this is subject to each person's own opinion. What is undeniable, is that Hef tested the boundaries of free speech, and promoted civil rights during a heavily segregated time in America. He will be recognized as one of the great cultural icons of our time. It is with great pride that we share a small piece of the Playboy legacy!


'My mom and dad were shooting this gorgeous girl at a home in Flintridge, in the backyard of an estate.  She was nude,  obviously,  leaning against an old oak tree. They had to put black cloth over some hot spots that reflected onto the playmate from boulders, other trees and such.  There was one more hot spot to baffle and they had run out of cloth, so my mom (Melba) took off her top and carefully laid it on the offending hot spot.  My dad, seeing this told my mom, “Melba, put your top back on you are getting me excited!”  LOL.'     -Greg Figge

Stephen Figge (and the leaded-glass window!) makes a cameo in an issue of Playboy as a poker dealer. (pictured below)

On behalf of our family we would like to express our deepest sympathies to Hugh Hefner's family and all those whom he will be missed by. 

With love,

The Figge Family

Leave a comment:
Andrea Gunn - What a legacy, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful memories.
Another reminder why you and your family are so special.
Deepest sympathy to the Hefner family.
Susan Bowen - My mom had her portrait done at the studio on Glenoaks about 1970. At the time, I had no ideas that Figge Studios were famous for making women look, beautiful. I just knew my mom was. It is my favorite picture her of all time.
Lois Jacobs - What great memories.......
Lisa Gustafson - Not many people can share memories like you experiened.

Thank you!
Marcia Brashier - Leslie and all Figge Family,

You all are just fabulous and I can't think of any photographers of people better than you are. I loved your Mom and she made joy out of every situation. You all do well by her and I am privileged to know and to appreciate all of you as people and LOVE your extraordinary talent as photographers !
May the beat go on !!
Marcia and Jim Brashier
Jill Lindsay - Thank you for sharing this history. I am so grateful to you all for carrying on the talent and high standard of excellence that was passed on to you by your mother and father.
Jack Reisbeck - Micheal...the picture on the blog with the famous leaded glass window featured in Playboy. As you know all our kids are photographed in front of the same window. Do you know what issue of Playboy this was? Thank you!
Rick Chatillon - The Best!