Coffee With a Kick

With Playboy eager to photograph “The Women of Starbucks,” what is the coffee company to think? The magazine chases ambulances to put together these corporate-themed specials, as last year’s “Women of Enron” and “Women of WorldCom” issues proved. It has also used them as a weapon: When 7-Eleven stopped selling Playboy in 1986, it took Hef & Co. only a couple of months to unveil “The Women of 7-Eleven.”

But Playboy rep Theresa Hennessey says it’s different this time. “Starbucks is such an important part of American pop culture,” she says. “Playboy is staying on top of the trends, and it is naturally fitting to showcase the ladies who work there. There are a lot of beautiful women who work there.”

She says the issue will be “fun, lighthearted and kitschy.” And she managed, with a straight face, to suggest Starbucks could use the exposure. “They’re getting their name out there, too,” she points out.

As is customary when we have a Starbucks question, Shoptalk called on John Winter Smith, the guy who has visited over 3,300 of the company’s stores. “A writer friend of mine and I have joked about such a product, like in a calendar, for a while,” he says. “What I’m curious about is whether Starbucks will send out a memo to all employees instructing them not to cooperate or face termination, and how many will just do it anyway and take the money. Either way, I’ll buy that issue.”

Starbucks itself would say only this, in a statement: “Starbucks is not affiliated with this project and does not endorse it.”