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.
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!