Darlene Aubrey, a sultry brunette with nut-brown eyes, ran her tongue over her glossy bottom lip as one perfect teardrop hung on the tip of her nose. o
"If I get punished," she sniffed, "I'm taking all the brass at the Pentagon down with me."
Last Tuesday, 25-year-old Yeoman Aubrey was formally charged with violating three Navy regulations; to wit, baring her 36-24-36 figure in the pages of Playboy magazine (below a snapshot of her in uniform) "thereby compromising her effectiveness as a second class petty officer in the United States Navy to the prejudice of good order and discipline."
"For the first time in my life, I have something to fight for," Aubrey vowed. "And I think I'm going to win."
She lit a Salem and turned to page 130 of the thick magazine. There, in living color, is Darlene Aubrey reclining in the sunlight, two supple breasts peeking out from a purple robe, her left hand resting between her thighs.
"I think it's an honor to be picked, not a shame," she said, flipping through Playboy's November spread on "The Women of the U.s. Government" -- 20 federal employes who were chosen from a field of 400.
"In a way, I kinda wanted all the other girls to get into trouble, too. I thought we could fight together on this," she said, taking off her Navy blue beret and shaking loose a cascade of thick chestnut hair. Over her left breast was a tiny crimson bar.
"Oh," she said dryly, "that's the good conduct medal." Election Selection
Playboy magazine: 5 million readers, a flotilla of flesh, the sexual stamp of approval, U.S. prime for the U.S. male.
Four years ago, Playboy photographer David Chan arrived in the nation's capital to shoot a feature on "The Girls of Washington." ("These girls have brains!" Chan said at the time.) Among the magna cum lovelies was Liz ("I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone") Ray, perhaps the ultimate Washington Girl who became a New York Girl and was last seen -- after an uninspiring go at acting -- disco roller-skating.
Jeff Cohen, Playboy's associate photography editor, said they came back to Washington "because of the election year and all the hoopla that goes on in November."
"To the women, it's a big deal," explained Playboy executive Dan Sheridan, whose magazine paid each of them from $100 to $300 to pose. "It affects lives. It really means something." He paused, incredulous. "Playboy is a tremendously powerful force. Whether you like it or not."
They like it, they like it. Even Darlene Aubrey, unceremoniously transferred from her Pentagon office to a basement in Anacostia last week, said she still liked it. People recognize her. she gets fan mail."It's a real Cinderella story for me."
In the aftermath, none of the other women have gotten into trouble. In fact, at least five of them left their federal jobs before the magazine hit the stands. As for the others:
Several took annual leave immediately following publication.
One had her phone number changed.
One's father isn't speaking to her.
One started demanding resumes and photographs from potential suitors.
One hasn't been bothered at all, since the magazine misspelled her name.
Years ago, it would have been a minor scandal for upstanding young career women to appear nude in the pages of a soft-porn magazine, usually filled with anonymous airbrushed starlets named "Honey Dew" or "Candy Cane."
Now, in the jaded '80s, it's considered a bit naughty -- a pictorial personal ad, complete with real names, "turn ons" (which used to be called hobbies) and place of employment. It's also quite a coup in some circles. ("I didn't know whether I was Playboy quality or not," said one of the chosen.)
But above all, it means being plucked from obscurity for a month or two, a chance to give fuddy-duddy Washington the final heave-ho.
"I'd hop at the chance to become a Playmate," said 20-year-old Jeannette Wulff. "Not so much for the money, but for the exposure."
Wulff, an administrative assistant at the Joint Maritime Congress who has already exposed much of her voluptuous 37-25-36 figure for readers of Playboy, has received a half-dozen offers so far. Some of them even sound legitimate.
"There's one from a trade show to model in a booth surrounded by swimming pool apparatus," she said. "That pays $100 a day. I'm thinking about that one."
She's also been contacted by several amateur "photographers" in town who claim to have a cousin/brother-in-law/ex-roommate in New York who's in the entertainment/advertising/modeling business. "I also got a call from a guy in Las Vegas who said he wanted to hire me as his personal secretary. I said 'Very personal, right?' He laughed."
Another man wrote and said she could live in his Los Angeles home if she makes it to Playmate.
How does it feel to be a not-so-obscure object of desire?
"It's fate," said Wulff. "It feels very natural. I've been modeling since the third grade. I'm proud and happy."
What doesn't make her happy are the obscene letters that have been trickling into the office. "One is really vulgar. He gave his Washington address and everything." The letter read: "I'll get right to the point. I want to ---- you."
"It's not really shocking," she said. "I kinda expected it." Sorry, Wrong Number
Sandy Funkhouser, where are you?
There she is, on page 128, a Suzie Wong look-alike in black lacy bra and garter belt. An office assistant in the Department of the Army, the magazine says. A check with the Pentagon.
"What department is she in?" the operator asks.
"I don't know. How many are there?"
"Seventy-five, no, closer to 100."
Check the telephone book. There it is, in Virginia; "S. Funkhouser." A man answers. "WHO IS THIS SANDY FUNKHOUSER ANYWAY," he shrieks. "Our phone's been ringing off the hook for days. What did she do? Who IS this woman?"
The caller explains. The man calms down. His wife takes over."We got a call at 2 a.m. last night," she says wearily. "Some of them get quite explicit."
A call to Playboy headquarters in Chicago. "Yeah," says Dan Sheridan, "I've got her number. It's 301-844-6305."
The phone rings twice. A familiar voice answers. "At the tone, the time will be. . ." Office Reactions
"It's the chance of a lifetime," said Marcia Jordan, a 25-year-old honey blond secretary at the State Department. "I was honored, to tell the truth. It does add a little bit of glamor to your life."
Jordan said 90 percent of the reaction from her colleagues has been favorable. Her boss, however, received an anonymous letter, saying she should be fired. She also received one nasty note. "It said, 'How could you stoop so low?'"
Actually, Jordan is not so much stooping as kneeling, wearing black ankle-strap heels and a Coppertone tan. "You know something funny? There's another Marcia Jordan at the State Department. She supposedly got a lot of phone calls last week from people looking for me."
Her mother liked the picture. Her father "looked at it and got real quiet," said Jordan. "He hasn't spoken to me since."
Theresa Reuss, a 23-year-old computer operator in the office of Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb.) posed in a diaphanous blouse, because, she said, "I had my job to think about.
"I haven't had any problems," she said. "But it also helped that I had my clothes on." Her boss, she said, loved the picture. "Zorinsky went out and bought a copy," Reuss said. "He told me to take it as a honor."
Some ended up fending off the phone freaks.
"The worst thing that has happened are all the sickies calling," said Freda Cox, 27-year-old statistical clerk for the Census Bureau. Freda (pronounced Fred-ah) appears on page 131 wearing a dainty calico peasant dress unbuttoned to the navel. "Some guy called me up and said he was really lonely and wanted to meet me. I kept putting him off. Finally, I told him I had a boyfriend. He got very angry. 'Couples make me sick,' he said. 'I could kill them.'" Mum and Moving
Not everyone wants to talk about the experience.
Paula Parkinson, 29-year-old champagne blond Washington lobbyist, won't be giving any more interviews, her husband Hank said. Wearing a see-through garter belt and a strategically placed scarf, Parkinson told Playboy, "Washington is basically a very horny city."
Hank Parkinson did say his wife "has gotten so much publicity from this thing," including one article which, he said, made her sound "trite and hollow-headed."
Actually, he said, Paula is moving on to bigger and better things. "I don't think she'll be doing any more lobbying," he said. His wife is going into the appetite-suppressant business. "She's going to appear on Cleveland television next week," he said. Pentagon vs. Playboy
Several fellow models expressed shock that Darlene Aubrey had been disciplined. "After all," said one, "if Jimmy Carter can be in Playboy, why not Darlene?"
Aubrey herself said it was "common knowledge" at the Pentagon that she was planning to pose for Playboy. She said several officers even gave her props to pose with, including a Japanese kimono and fan. Her superior officer, she said, signed the leave chit the day she posed and endorsed the project.
Her superior, Cmdr. J.R. Brooke, declined to comment last week. A Navy spokesman said its official policy, enacted last year, forbids posing nude or semi-nude for a magazine where the poses can be identified as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Aubrey claims she was unaware of the policy.The American Civil Liberties Union has decided to defend her at an upcoming court martial.
"They're going to have to prove I didn't get permission," she said. "I can prove I did." The military, she said, is "a very undemocratic organization, sometimes unconstitutional."
She took out a sheet of paper, marked "Performance Evaluation Report". Her superior officer cited her excellent work record, and gave her overall performance on the job high marks. "Her personal appearance both in the military uniform and in social attire," he also noted, "is excellent." 'Just Jealous'
Danita Bolden was the only black woman featured in "The Women of U.S. Government." She and Jeannette Wulff, a Playboy spokesman said, have received the largest reader response.
"My only problem is being hassled by my co-workers -- mostly women," said the 30-year-old assistant to the U.S. Patent Office. "Maybe they're jealous."
The tawny brown beauty who appeared in Playboy wearing garters -- on her arms -- said she didn't tell her co-workers she had posed. "When the magazine came out, my supervisors went into an office and had a conference about it," she said. "When they came out, they congratulated me."
Bolden is blase about all the attention. "I can handle it," she said, noting that the strongest reaction thus far has been a male caller who told her she had "a great set of b--bs."
Bolden laughed. "After all," she said philosophically, "it's only a picture." Picture Worth 1,000 Woes
But every picture tells a story, not all of them with happy endings.
"It's been so long ago," said the ghost of playmates past, a Washington woman who posed for Playboy four years ago. "I just don't want my name connected to it," she said icily. "It's not been a pleasant thing. I want to wash my hands of the whole thing."