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Published: Sunday, 7/5/2009

Toast to a 60s icon; Cynthia Myers, Toledo native and 68 Playboy cover girl, is Gusto Girl today

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

There was a time when guys never let the voluptuous Cynthia "Cindy" Myers out of their sight. She was in college kids dorm rooms and soldiers tents. Thanks to someone at NASA, she even was in outer space.

It s been a long time since then, when Myers graced the cover of Playboy in 1968, but it turns out that guys haven t forgotten. Neither has Schlitz beer, which is celebrating the Toledo native as an icon of the 60s in a marketing campaign related to the return of its 1960s formula.

"She s definitely the official Schlitz Gusto Girl," said Kyle Wortham, director of marketing for the Chicago-based Schlitz Brewing Co.

The company went looking for symbols of the 60s the cars, the beer, the girls and found the 1968 Woodward High School graduate, whose popular Playboy debut was accompanied by the headline: "Wholly Toledo!" As part of Schlitz s effort, a more family-friendly version of Ms. Myers centerfold image is being splashed across billboards and displayed in grocery stores and bars in more than 60 markets, including Toledo. She s also making appearances at events for Schlitz and blogging about her experiences for playboy.com.

To Ms. Myers, all of this is a happy reminder of the impact she s had on people over the years. It s nothing she ever would have anticipated growing up in Toledo s North End, fishing with her grandfather and dreaming of riding horses professionally, but her life took a turn when she started turning heads.

"When I went out to Centennial Quarry swimming, everyone said, Oh Cindy, you should be in Playboy magazine, " she said. "When I heard it about 500 times over that summer I thought: Well, gee, that sure would buy me a nice horse and a car."

There were a few obstacles, however. It wasn t easy winning over her mother (her father had died in a car accident years earlier), and when she wrote a letter to the magazine asking to be considered, she was still too young according to its policies. Eventually, everything worked out and the photos were published after Ms. Myers was of legal age.

The petite brunette said she was "scared to death" but at the same time confident the photos would be tasteful. She has no regrets about how things turned out.

"It was a very innocent time compared to today, but still risque," she said. "I m sure I still raised a few eyebrows and stirred up a little dust."

The result was an instant hit. Her picture even was sent with the astronauts on the Apollo 12 mission in 1969.

She followed it up with a small role in the Sydney Pollack movie They Shoot Horses, Don t They? and, later, with a much larger role in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, co-written by film critic Roger Ebert and directed by the controversial Russ Meyer.

But Ms. Myers said she tired of the Hollywood scene and of repeated inquiries by movie makers who wanted her to do nude scenes. So she eventually faded from the spotlight, fell in love with the West, and married an Air Force pilot who met her fishing one day and asked what she was using for bait.

Still, an impression had been made, one that lasts to this day. Ms. Myers was voted No. 10 among the best centerfolds of the century in 2000 in a supplement to Playboy, and fans still write to invite her to events.

"You d think that 1968 was a long time ago, that she d be long forgotten, and while some have been ... she hasn t," said Rocky Rakovic, associate editor at Playboy.

Part of the reason has to do with timing and the fact that Ms. Myers December issue was embraced by soldiers during the Vietnam War.

"Cynthia Myers pinup was one of the few things keeping them company in the jungle," Mr. Rakovic said. "It was almost like their girlfriend on the go."

A lot has changed about society s notions of beauty since then, but Ms. Myers is content to be from the old school.

"Forget from the 80s on because everything turned plastic," she said. "All the ladies, it seemed, wanted to clone one another, which is not a good thing to do. People can go and get artificial things now. I m proud to be in the era where all the ladies were naturally beautiful."

Ms. Myers, who now lives in California, says she gets homesick for Toledo and continues to follow its goings-on. So maybe it s appropriate that being tagged an "icon" by Schlitz has brought her thoughts back home again, back to the time all those years ago when everything started.

"I don t think of myself as being an icon from the 60s," Ms. Myers said. "[Then Playboy founder Hugh] Hefner will say, You are, and the soldiers write and say, You are, and now the Schlitz Brewing Co. said, We would love to have her in the campaign. I guess it s like being back in Centennial Quarry."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103



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