The next best thing to marrying a Playmate? Having your brother marry a Playmate.
Just ask Akron resident Randy Lipscomb, long known to WNIR (100.1-FM) listeners as “Handy Randy.”
In high school during the late 1950s, Randy’s brother, David, went to a dance sponsored by Y-Teens and met a girl named Gwen Wong.
He was attending Springfield and she was going to now-defunct Central. But they hit it off, eventually got married and in 1961 had a son, Brian.
David landed a job with Dow Chemical in Los Angeles, and the three of them jammed into a U-Haul and their little MGB and headed west.
In California, Gwen enrolled in El Camino Junior College, where she studied art and ceramics, and later took classes at UCLA.
In 1963, they added a daughter, April.
Only then did Gwen hook up with Playboy.
Her figure still very much intact, she answered an ad for waitresses at the new L.A. Playboy Club, which would open in December 1964.
She had no experience and struggled to learn, says Randy, but eventually was promoted to serving on Hugh Hefner’s private jet, zooming back and forth to his various clubs, some as distant as Miami and London.
Among her highlights: meeting the Beatles in London.
Today Gwen, 73, is seriously ill with a rare blood disorder. She declined a request for an interview.
(Randy says anyone wishing to send her a card can do so in care of her son: Brian Lipscomb, 2043 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach CA 90806.)
Gwen was born in Manila and moved here with her parents, Nan and Doreen Wong, in 1957. They lived on Oak Park Drive, right next to Glendale Cemetery.
Her father worked at B&W in Barberton, and her mother was a skilled pianist who, along with Gwen’s grandmother, ran Wong’s Restaurant on West Exchange Street.
When Gwen appeared as the centerfold in April 1967, the Lipscomb family wasn’t exactly embarrassed.
Says Randy: “My mother showed everyone the photo — even my 17-year-old girlfriend.”
Gwen and David divorced in 1966, before she posed, and she later married a wealthy stockbroker.
David died from an illness in 1985.
Their offspring are doing well. Daughter April, going by the name April Wayne, has been a successful actress, writer and model, once appearing in Victoria’s Secret ads. Son Brian is a computer programmer who spends a lot of time caring for his sick mom.
Gwen appeared in Playboy again in the fall of 1973 in a “where are they now?” feature on former bunnies. She was still working at the L.A. Playboy Club and also doing interior design work, having decorated three estates and two office buildings.
After getting remarried, she drifted away from Playboy and spent much of her time designing, gardening and cooking, Randy reports.
Her hometown paper was well aware of her centerfold appearance. Among the clips in the Beacon Journal archives is one written by retired wiseacre columnist Mickey Porter, who assessed Gwen this way:
“She looks like one of those wonderful girls out of Flash Gordon who were wrapped just once over in Baghdad pantaloons of clear polyethylene with only Flash between them and the insane red-eyed assaults of the minions of Ming.”
Calm down, Mickey.
When Gwen came home for Easter that year, she was surprised to find few people had seen her layout. Ironically, most of Akron wasn’t able to buy a copy because employees of the firm that distributed Playboy in our area were on strike.
Reader Marlin R. Brown managed to track one down. He also had a personal tie: “She was a friend of my oldest sister and visited my house on occasion. …
“It gave me bragging rights to my friends when she became a bunny.”
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31