Ellen Stohl and David Lubnow live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Northridge, about a 45-minute drive from Los Angeles. A brick walkway disappears behind a matching planter and makes a gradual incline to the front porch of their modest home. David opens the front door lugging a basket full of laundry and shows me into the kitchen. Ellen is seated at a table in the dining area adjacent to the kitchen, engaged in a Scrabble game with her visiting nephew. It’s a casual Saturday, and Ellen is dressed comfortably in jeans and a loose-fitting sweater. I get the feeling that just about any day is a casual day in this household.
Ellen and I move into the living room and David brings little Zoe and hands her to her mother, who instantly smothers her with kisses. This is my first meeting with Ellen, and I am struck by the contrast between the woman I have read about, the photogenic 21-year-old so intent upon making an impression — the first woman with a disability to pose nude for Playboy — and the cooing mother whose attention is held by a 4-month-old baby. At 39 she is still attractive, but seems open, unassuming and, at least for the moment, unconcerned with the image she projects. It’s all about Zoe.
“When you talked about posing in Playboy,” I begin, “you described it as something you weren’t doing for men, but for yourself, like a celebration of yourself. It almost sounded like a high, being in front of the camera. I’m wondering how things are different now.”
“You know,” she says, “when you get to be that pin-up girl, you go woo-whoo, but what happens as you change and grow and how do you maintain that sense of pride and self and feeling sexy and beautiful? And can you maintain it, and is it