Naked Levi Johnston Is Not Alone

Sarah Palin’s worst nightmare, Levi Johnston, just did his Playgirl shoot, flaunting some of his body parts as unselfconsciously as he tried to show the world the flaws in Palin’s family values. The ex of Palin’s daughter Bristol, Levi’s the one who earlier this year carried out a p.r. campaign labeling Palin a hypocrite and an opportunist who stepped down as Alaska Governor partly because she could make more cash on the lecture circuit.

And where does Levi go from there? Making more cash on the nude magazine circuit! Tacky? Maybe, but it was an inevitable step on the road to reality shows and Seth Rogen movies. And Levi will be thrilled to know that the history of celebrity nudity and semi-nudity reveals that he’s in really good company.

Traditionally, a lot of stars have loved nothing more than playing doctor with the camera, though most of them did their photos pre-fame, not when they were at their most Tyra-ready. Either way, the nudies managed to help their careers.

Most famously of all, it was in 1949 that unemployed Marilyn Monroe needed $50, so she posed for a nude calendar that documented the passage of time and clothes. The item resurfaced in ’52 when Marilyn was the blonde most gentlemen preferred, and the studio immediately refused to admit the thing even existed. But Marilyn took the offensive, declaring, “I’m not ashamed of it,” adding it wasn’t true that she had nothing on for the shoot. “I had the radio on,” she cooed, brilliantly.

An eerily similar turn of clothesless events happened in 1985, when Playboy ran bare shots that a then-unknown Madonna had done six years earlier because she needed—get this–$25! When the scandal hit, Madonna—who had just been seen aping Marilyn in her “Material Girl” video—echoed the siren’s words: “I’m not ashamed.” The career damage was zero. Don’t cry for her, Argentina.

Naked moving pictures have come out too, like the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee honeymoon tape that made it to the web in 1998, and 1 NIGHT IN PARIS, the 2004 video of sex between Paris Hilton and Rick Salomon captured with grainy camerawork that makes PARANORMAL ACTIVITY look like AVATAR. “I so didn’t do it for attention,” said Paris as the lawsuits raged, but she totally got it—and it helped make her the legend we know and love today.

Even Carrie Prejean benefited from having topless photos come out this year, not to mention buzz about that sexy solo tape. I mean, can you even name the woman who won that pageant? I didn’t think so. And if J. Lo’s currently-in-litigation honeymoon epic comes out, she might get hot again—her career, I mean.

So congrats, Levi. You’ve joined a very well-undressed group of stars. And you’re smart to go the Playgirl route because that kind of thing is supposed to get out to the public and you can totally control the publicity around it. Besides, the extra cash is always lovely. Considering it, Mrs. Palin?