Make sure you know how to pronounce shfanfanat. It means “Bunny,” and there are about to be a whole lot more bunnies in Israel. That’s right: Playboy is coming to the Holy Land.
The famed U.S. lad mag, founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, will be making its Middle East debut later this year. The project was the brainchild of Daniel Pomerantz, an American attorney who stuffed copies of the magazine in his suitcase when he made aliyah last year. He partnered with some businessmen from back home, and they spent time hunkered down with Hefner’s staff to get a sense of the magazine’s history.
An Israeli expansion makes plenty of sense for Playboy, which has been struggling financially for the last few years. Though the brand is still valuable, thanks to licensing deals that make everything from Playboy condoms to bunny-print clothing and beauty products, the magazine has followed industry trends and lost money hand over fist. The company reportedly earned more money from a reality show, “The Girls Next Door,” about Hef’s three then-girlfriends, than it did from traditional advertising sales. The brand clearly needs to support its flailing magazine division, and launching new international editions is one way to do that.
Up until a month ago, I had a pretty killer personal fact to whip out during games of “Never Have I Ever.” Time after time, without fail, fingers and jaws would drop as I announced that I had never watched pornography. According to my friends, it’s fairly shocking to have reached 22 years old — in the Internet age, no less — and not once seen a single skin flick. What’s far less shocking to them is that it was a 5’8”, 145 pound, witty and curly-haired Jewish porn star that led me down the path of pornographic depravity.
James Deen, a 26-year-old Jew from Pasadena, has made a career out of having sex on camera for the past eight years. I hadn’t heard of him until I Googled the cute guy in all the photos with Lindsay Lohan on the set of “The Canyons”. When I discovered said guy was both Jewish and a porn star, a proud smile crossed my face. Jews find it oddly exciting and rewarding when they realize there’s a member of the tribe in an atypical field for our people. To put it lightly, we’re known more for producing Supreme Court justices than porn stars. By his profession alone, Deen breaks the Jewish mold … except that he also doesn’t.
Deen’s popularity with women has been attributed to the attainable and non-threatening quality of his boyish looks and slim physique. But for me, there was something familiar about his self-deprecation and sarcasm. It’s not just that his physical appearance reminds me of that hot Hebrew School teacher I had a crush on. Evident in his personal Twitter feed, blog posts and interviews are his humor, honesty and wit; they’re all the things I find irresistible — and associate with Jewish culture. He even cleverly mocks porn tropes and ethnic stereotypes, tweeting “i have decided that since i have played a doctor so many times in porno’s and because i am a jew, i now have a honorary medical degree.” So the grammar could use some work, but there’s no denying that he’s funny.
James Deen has often been referred to as the guy next door who happens to be in porn; I’d say he’s the guy you’d meet during an implausibly good evening in Murray Hill who happens to be a sex worker. After obsessively reading his blog and exhausting all PG-13 images and interviews with him, I decided I was ready to cross the bridge into XXX.