Interview with Lyle Waggoner

Interview with Lyle Waggoner

Back in bed with Playgirl’s first centerfold

Fifty years ago, the sexy and debonair thirty-eight-year-old Lyle Waggoner, costar of The Carol Burnett Show, went au natural for PLAYGIRL magazine’s debut issue. Every last copy was sold. Although Lyle’s coy, cross-legged pose left a little for the imagination, it marked the start of something very exciting for women (in every sense of the word). In 2003 then-Editor in Chief Michele Zipp played catch-up with PLAYGIRL’s first love: it was the magazine’s 30th anniversary.

PLAYGIRL: In the original 1973 interview, you were described as a man who “digs sweet smelling women, motorcycles, and bullwhips (but only to cut weeds with).” Does this still hold true?

Lyle Waggoner: Yes. I’ve got a wonderful wife, Sharon. We’ve been married for a long time, it’s actually been forty-two years and we’re still very much in love. And we have Harley Davidsons, so that hasn’t changed. And she still smells sweet. As far as the bullwhip goes, well, that’s kind of fallen by the wayside. That was just a hobby, a pastime while I was waiting around for the cameras and lights.

PLAYGIRL: You have two sons, Jason and Beau. Do they know you posed for PLAYGIRL?

Lyle Waggoner: Yes, of course. A lot of people don’t realize that I was the first Centerfold and when they find out about it, it’s a big surprise. Usually, they are intrigued by it and they say ‘Really? My gosh!’ But the picture that I did was pretty innocent and so when they hear I did pose for PLAYGIRL, they assume that it was full-frontal-hey baby. I got a lot of reaction, especially from relatives. They went out and bought dozens of magazines as keepsakes or to give them to friends. They were very proud of it. It was all pretty positive. I also have about twelve original copies.

PLAYGIRL: Did your sons ever think about following in dad’s footsteps and posing for PLAYGIRL?

Lyle Waggoner: [Laughs] No. I don’t think so. You’ll have to ask them!

PLAYGIRL: Is it true that you were the mayor of Encino, California in 1976?

Lyle Waggoner: Well, that was just kind of an honorary position that they put celebrities in from time to time. You really had no duties, except just to show up and make personal appearances.

PLAYGIRL: What made you decide to pose in 1973?

Lyle Waggoner: The wife of the owner of PLAYGIRL at that time was a fan of mine and suggested my name. When they asked me to do it, I said ‘Hey, Burt got a lot of publicity from it [Burt Reynolds was featured in the buff in a cross-legged pose in Cosmopolitan] and if it’s a tasteful photograph, I don’t see anything wrong with it.’ I was already married and had a family and I didn’t want to do anything that they would be ashamed of and so they agreed and I thought it was a good publicity trick. I was still acting then and was interested in keeping my name out there.

PLAYGIRL: Do you think it in fact did help your career?

Lyle Waggoner: I don’t think it hurt it. It did keep my name in front of the public there for a while.

PLAYGIRL: How do you think views of sex have changed over the past thirty years?

Lyle Waggoner: Is it more promiscuous? That would depend on the individual. I don’t think so—maybe in certain groups it might be. Is it a moral issue? No. I don’t think it has changed that much. Sex is sex. I think the safe sex issue is certainly different back then. It wasn’t as prominent and critical as it is today. We didn’t have AIDS back in those days and so in that respect, I think people are being a lot more careful, which is a very good thing.

PLAYGIRL: Is your sex life as good now as it was back then?

Lyle Waggoner: Without question. I think that if you have a good sexual relationship with someone, that really doesn’t go away unless you have something physically wrong with you. As far as the mental aspect of it, and the attraction, and the ability to perform, I think that stays with you a long time.

So I guess the fantasy is reality, the PLAYGIRL Centerfold gets better with age!

Well, I really can’t compete with a Lyle Waggoner in 1973 on several levels. As far as patience and maturity and decision making, I think that I am much better now than I was at that time. Our interests changed—things that I enjoyed accomplishing changed. Back then, I was very oriented towards the success in acting and business. Now that I’ve accomplished that, I just like to maintain a good circle of friends, keep my wife happy, and enjoy life with all of them.