Perhaps the staff thought it prudent to start the run of fleshy covers with the most incendiary concept conceivable, thereby numbing our faithful to the future. Or maybe they were just on a ’70s high. Whatever the motivation, the result was our July 1973 cover, the one in poorest taste, or perfect taste, depending on your taste. A string of later covers tried to match that legendary look — from a wild-eyed Fred Griffith on a bicycle in hot pursuit of a naked tush (our genius attempt at wrapping three cover lines into one picture), to the kitschy bathtub shot — but none could ever climb quite that high. The “Group Sex in the Suburbs” remains, at least in our opinion, the most interesting cover of all time.
A high school English teacher was allegedly fired as a result of appearing on our July 1973 cover. ... Alas, he had no affiliation with the Sexual Freedom Movement but had merely been supplementing his meager teacher’s income by moonlighting as a model.
The cover proved a disaster in one other respect. United Airlines, which had just concluded an arrangement with us whereby it would distribute free copies of the magazine to passengers on Cleveland-bound flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles, got one look at it and returned all 5,000 copies with a note. The issue sold briskly, however, on the newsstands.
— “Turning Five,” April 1977 (anniversary story)