The first one to come home with me was Barbara Corser, (German Playmate, July 1975). I hadn’t seen Barbara in a while since my Santa Barbara days. By now she had also become Penthouse Pet of the Month and happened to be in Chicago on a promotional assignment from the magazine. It wasn’t until late in the evening that I could meet up with her. As close as we once were, I wanted her to see my new home, say hello to Carolyn and get a peek at Anjuli who certainly would be asleep by than. Must be after ten when we climb up to our third floor condo in Hyde Park. Having worked all day long, Barbara had not gotten around to eat anything all day. Carolyn, though already in her pajamas, if not happily, was gracious enough to fix her a sandwich.  This late night visit probably set the tone of how our life together would be.

Then came Sylvana Suarez (Miss World 1978) from Argentina . She spent a weekend with us, we all went to see Gandhi and had dinner at Bombay Palace. And not only Carolyn, but other friends too realized that Miss World or not, she too was just like any other young women, aspiring wives and mothers, that they had boyfriends/husbands back home waiting for them to return.  Whatever their stories, they certainly weren’t after your man. When the Dutch twins Karin and Mirjam van Breeschooten (June 1988) came to Chicago for their playmate shoot for the American edition, they had just turned eighteen, having appeared in the Dutch Playboy a year earlier. Only ten at the time, Anjuli remembers them as two young girls who chose to go eat a pizza instead of going to a fancy restaurant. When she was in her early teens, Anjuli got to spend some time with Playmate Elke Jeinsen (May, 1993) when she traveled with me to Brazil. On the day I was busy with back-to- back meetings, the photo editor practically kidnapped Anjuli and put her in the makeup chair, made her up and had their fashion photographer do some flattering headshots of her. That gave her a chance to see that being photographed with all that glitz and glamour was a job like any other. Knowing some of those women helped ease Carolyn’s apprehensions about my job at Playboy.  But still…

Its difficult, if not utterly impossible to change and modify people’s opinions about things. The most everyone who has strong opinions about Playboy, have never as much as even attempted to read the magazine. They blow you off the chair at the mere mention of the excellent interviews, fiction and non-fiction.

‘Yeah right! You read it for the interviews! Hahaha.’ End of the story.

Similarly the most people have a certain image of Hefner, the one I must admit he himself has helped create and hasn’t done anything to dispel. So when in the spring of 1989, my brother Suresh (Shah)   and his family came to visit, I arranged for us all to visit Playboy Mansion West, in the similar vein as them visiting: Disneyland and the Universal Studios. Suresh was obviously excited and so was my cousin Dhiru who lives in Los Angeles. I am not sure how my sister-in-law Aruna felt, but that question was promptly preempted by Carolyn, who decided that the women and the kids would go to the beach instead. By then she had been to Bombay three times and must have known that us Indians avoid the sun and the sand like plague. But she sloughed off the idea of visiting the mansion like the fly swatted flat. In retrospect, I could see in this defiance the early seeds of what was to come – not to mention the re-awakening of her dormant feminist hostility.  We never spoke about it, but I can imagine some of it had to do with whatever disdain she might be harboring about the chauvinist of a man who made objectifying women glamorous. Nothing I could do. Us boys went to the mansion, the girls to the beach.

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When I met Gina, I was no longer working for Playboy, but as hard as we had fallen for each other, to justify any of my behavior, especially when it concerned women in particular, and that I was such close friends with so many of them, her mind right away interpreted it as: no wonder he worked for Playboy for so long. And there was nothing I could say or do that would change her perception. Never mind the fact that I started out in book publishing that published classics of Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Marie Corelli and a whole list of well-known self-help books. That I also worked for Time Inc. with their portfolio of family oriented magazines, among them Time and Life and that at the time I was doing Florida Sportsfan.

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