Haresh Shah

 How I Managed To Put My Foot In My Mouth

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About a year in my job, my bosses Bob Gutwilig and Lee Hall come down to Munich. Other than the three of us, sitting around the dining table are Franz Spelman, our local editorial consultant, Heinz van Nouhuys, editorial director of Playboy’s German edition and Fred Baumgärtel – the man really in charge of it all. And not to forget Rainer Wörtmann, the art director wunderkind. Of the group, Rainer is the  youngest and I am the second youngest.

Playboy Germany in it’s over a year of publication had taken off like a rocket. The time had come to look back and look forward instead of resting on the laurels of success. Among other editorial matters,  the subject of the Playmates came up again. The basic concept of the young woman who would adorn the centerfold as defined by Hefner was that she couldn’t be a professional model, an actress or a celebrity. She had to be the girl next door. Playmate is not just another pretty face with near perfect vital statistics. She has certain personality traits. She is smart, she is articulate, she is confident and she is gracious.  At the same time, she is down home wholesome and unpretentious.  The kind of girl the readers can relate to and not be intimidated by  in the way most attractive women could be.

Now with three European editions of Playboy dotting the western Europe, that included Italy and France, it was becoming imperative to expand the scope of their local editorial contents.  Even though a lot of editorial material such as Playboy After Dark, Playboy Interviews, Playboy Advisor as well as most of the non-fiction and fiction pieces covering the local scene were already produced by the respective editions,  missing glaringly from their pages were the local Playmates.  By now I too had become a true Münchener and as many pretty things as I saw walking Stachus, Schwabing and the pedestrian zone of Marienplatz, I  could well imagine one or more of those home-grown beauties becoming the girl next door to grace the German centerfold.

Technically, I was “just” their production manager with the primary function of overseeing the printing quality and shouldn’t even be included in that night’s dinner at the trendy Neuer Simpl,  breaking bread with the top brass. I was invited perhaps because I was a part of the very small American team of three in Munich, perhaps because after the initial coolness and apprehension,  I had succeeded in endearing the Germans to my presence among them. So after they were done talking text and illustrations, Bob once again brought up, something we had already touched upon during their visit a couple of months earlier.

‘When are you going to start producing your own Playmates?’

‘I don’t think we are ready to take that step yet. I am quite content with the American Playmates. Besides, to produce our own Playmates would be prohibitively expensive. I would rather use my budget in trying to get good authors at this time than put the money into Playmates,’ responded Freddy.

‘Yes, but that’s not the same,’ said Bob.

‘And they aren’t exactly girls next door for the German readers,’ I quipped.

‘How do  you mean it?’

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