Former Playboy Editor Sues; Awards Show Slated for Monday

Rhett Pardon
CHICAGO – In Playboy’s search for younger readers ages 18 to 34, a former editor alleges he was tossed from the publication because of age.

John Rezak’s suit against Playboy Enterprises filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Wednesday seeks unspecified damages, including back and future pay. The journalist had been with the company more than 30 years.

Rezak, 54, was an associate managing editor when he was fired last November.

Executive Vice President Howard S. Shapiro said in March 2003 that the company believed the only way to change the "demographics of the magazine was to change the demographics of the people who put the magazine out," the complaint said.

The company told the Illinois Department of Employment Security that Rezak's position was relocated to New York.

Rezak said in the lawsuit that he offered to moved to New York, but the company told him he was not invited, citing a "difference in sensibility and a duplication of skill sets." The lawsuit claimed Rezak's duties were then assigned to someone much younger.

Meanwhile, the Playboy Foundation said it will recognize winners of the 25th Anniversary Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards at a Monday dinner at New York’s Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers.

The host committee for the evening includes James Caan, Chevy Chase, Cuba Gooding Jr., Marcia Gay Harden, Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Modine and Steven Tyler.

The awards program honors individuals who have made significant contributions to protect and enhance First Amendment rights.

Each winner will receive $5,000, as well as a specially designed plaque describing their achievement in defending the First Amendment.

The 2004 winners are:

– Bill Maher (arts and entertainment), host of HBO’s Real Time for speaking out at a time when Americans were being encouraged to abandon the Bill of Rights in exchange for the false comfort of “national security.”

– Molly Ivins (lifetime achievement), author and syndicated columnist for nearly 25 years for keeping the First Amendment alive through her unflagging dedication, energy and humor while informing the public of erosions to freedom.

– David D. Cole, Esq. (book publishing), constitutional law scholar and professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center for his book “Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism” (New Press, 2003), a masterful and compelling book about the discriminatory and abusive treatment of non-citizens in the wake of Sept. 11 and the Patriot Act.

– Ronald K. L. Collins and David Michael Skover (book publishing), co-authors of “The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon” (Sourcebooks Mediafusion, 2002), which laid the groundwork for the posthumous pardon of Lenny Bruce’s obscenity conviction in New York City.

– Trina Magi and Linda Ramsdell (education), for organizing a grassroots campaign to eliminate Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which undermines Americans’ right to read and access information without governmental intrusion or interference.

– Steven Aftergood (government), senior research analyst and editor of Secrecy News, a newsletter of the Federation of American Scientists which keeps Americans apprised of the inner workings of government secrecy and promotes reform of its secret processes.

– Nate Blakeslee (law), reporter for the Texas Observer for chronicling prosecutorial misconduct in Tulia, Texas, forcing the issue of racial and economic disparity in drug sentencing into the national spotlight, and educating the public about much needed judicial reforms.

– Talia Buford (print journalism), editor-in-chief of Hampton University’s Hampton Script for serving as an inspiration to student journalists everywhere when she won the promise of an uncensored student newspaper.

For ticket information on this year’s award ceremony, please contact The Creative Coalition, which cosponsors the event, at (212) 614-2818.