Janet's Date at Dartmouth
an ivy weekend with playboy's office playmate
What happens to an attractive young office girl when she suddenly becomes a favorite pin-up of several hundred thousand men across the country?
Janet Pilgrim, our subscription manager, found out soon after her Playmate appearances in the July and December issues of Playboy last year. There were a number of professional modeling offers, two TV proposals and a chance at a Broadway show, but these were easy to turn down because Janet likes her job at Playboy. More difficult to decline were the dozens of invitations from college men across the country to various dances, hops, balls, carnivals, beer-busts and other assorted formal and informal student functions. Janet couldn't accept them all, so one school was selected to represent the many.
Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, is one of the oldest colleges in the country, steeped in tradition, with a history dating back to pre-revolutionary days. It is the winter sports center of the Ivy League, famous for its annual Winter Carnival that served as background for Budd Schulberg's novel, The Disenchanted. When this stately institution requested permission to build a campus show around a Playboy theme, we were flattered and, in granting the request, waggishly inquired if Janet Pilgrim might not be valuable as a supervisor of the proceedings. The Dartmouth men called our bluff and responded with a ringing Yes!
With a movie star or Broadway celebrity, this eagerness might have been expected, but when such campus commotion was caused by the anticipated arrival of a Chicago office girl, this was news -- and Life decided they'd better cover the event, assigning a photographer and correspondent to stay with the young lady throughout the trip.
It had been decided in Hanover that Janet should have a student escort, so the college paper, The Dartmouth, ran an "I Would Like Janet Pilgrim For My Playmate Because" contest. Leonard J. Clark, president of the local chapter of Beta Theta Pi, won the honor -- not by completing the sentence in 25 whistles or less, but by painting a Cole-like picture of himself plucking the petals from a daisy. The simple caption: "Pilgrim . . . because."
Janet arrived early Friday and was escorted first to a press conference in the offices of the school paper, where a corps of some 50 "correspondents" had gathered. They asked about her job. Yes, she really was subscription manager of the magazine. Had she ever done any professional modeling before becoming a Playmate? No, she'd never been interested. Did Playboy raise her salary when she started becoming famous? She received a raise, but only because her subscription job had grown; she had a single girl working for her when she posed for her first Playmate picture and now there were 18 women in her department. Janet discovered that The Dartmouth had been printing stories and pictures of her on the front page all week, and now they wanted a photograph of her being kissed by her date. She obliged.
Janet was hustled from the press conference to a lecture hall where English 96 was scheduled. The hall was a large one, with a gallery in addition to a sizeable main floor, but for some strange reason it was completely filled. An instructor, Severn DuVall, stepped forward to dismiss the class because the scheduled lecturer was ill, but changed his mind and introduced Janet as a guest lecturer instead. She talked about the operation of her subscription department -- a dry topic, one might think, but almost everything she said was greeted with wild cheers: when she confessed she had never quite "made" college, the walls shook with laughter. Instructor DuVall remarked that Professor Robinson was certainly going to be sorry he missed class.
On Friday afternoon a brief rehearsal of the variety show was held and that evening Janet and her escort ate in Thayer Hall, the freshman dining room. Janet was practically mobbed when she entered -- students cheered and stood on their chairs for a better view. One presented her with a gift: the top half of his pajamas (a Playboy article on Janet had mentioned she likes to wear men's PJ tops to bed). After dinner, she was guest of honor at a meeting of a senior secret society, The Casque and Gauntlet, where a strict rule against picture-taking on the premises was understandably, relaxed. At 11:30 p.m. Janet was interviewed on WGDS, the college radio station, and read the midnight news from the UP wire service.
The next morning, Len Clark took Janet shopping and bought her one of the ankle length green-and-white scarves Dartmouth men traditionally give their dates. Lunch followed, then a session of Playmate autographing, more rehearsals, and a faculty tea at which Janet met faculty members, their wives and the Dean.
After a quick cocktail and dinner, she dressed for the variety show, appropriately titled The Playboy Playbill. Janet was introduced and thunderous pandemonium reigned. She apologized for not being able to sing or dance and doubted that anyone would care to watch her enter subscriptions on the stage. She said she had brought along some Party Jokes submitted by Dartmouth students, however. These were all too off-color for publication, but if the audience wanted her to, she would read some aloud. Len Clark then hustled her off stage, but she returned to clown with the show's m.c., Jack Upham (a young man who looks and talks incredibly like the late Fred Allen), help two magicians with their act and be serenaded while sitting atop a grand piano. For the finale, an elephant pulled a Dartmouth banner from her sweater, she produced another, and they both waved them while the band played a campus favorite, Dartmouth's in Town Again.
As the weekend came to a close, the Dean remarked that he had never met anyone "from the outside" who had comported herself more creditably or better represented her organization than our girl Janet. It was a mighty milestone in Pilgrim's progress: one that Janet -- and a lot of guys -- will never forget.
Photography by Mike Shea