Inside the September 1981 issue of Playboy magazine, the photo under the article headline “The Girls of the Southeastern Conference – Part 1” offers no hint of the work it took to produce. Two female students, in long flowing dresses, are pictured in front of a Southern mansion, picnic spread and centerpiece ham.
But as Columbus, Mississippi historian Rufus Ward revisits this weekend in local newspaper The Dispatch, there was a lot more to it. Ward spoke to Robert Snow, owner of the historic refurbished Waverly home shown in the photo. From Ward’s column:
The photo shoot was set up. The girls would be fully clothed in (low-cut) antebellum dresses around a fabulous picnic spread, including a special ham brought from New York. My wife Karen recalls [Robert’s late wife] Donna [Snow] having been quoted as saying that when all was ready for the photos to be made, she stood beside the photographer to make sure no clothes came off.
What did happen though was that the Snows’ dog ran up, grabbed the ham and took off with it. Because it was some kind of special ham, the whole photo shoot was stopped and held up until the next day so that another “special ham” could be flown down from New York… When he tells the story, Robert still grins from ear to ear with a twinkle in his eye.
The original plan for this part of the Playboy pictorial (the magazine’s first ever “Girls of the SEC” feature) was to have photographer David Chan shoot some students nude in a Waverly bedroom. One half of the household (Robert) thought this was a great idea, while the other half (Donna) vehemently objected. Following some national furor and newspaper debate, the revised ham picnic plan was devised.