At that time I was assistant director for Playboy’s international publishing division.  The executive editor G. Barry Golson drafted me to hand carry the interview to Mexico and do whatever was necessary in trying to track down the suddenly disappeared author and get his seal of approval.  With then editor of Playboy’s Mexican edition, Miguel Arana, I drive over to García Márquez’s home in the ritzy southern suburb of Mexico City.  I encounter the maid face-to-face.  She is polite, but firm in telling us that she couldn’t indulge to us where we could find the master of the house.  After initial conversation, I tell her that I was going to park myself right outside the house in the fashion of a passive resistance, until she could tell me his whereabouts.  She just couldn’t.  But she promises  to mention to García Márquez of our being camped out at the front gate of his house,  when and if he calls in. An hour or so later, she hands me a piece of paper.  Written on it is a phone number of Hotel El Quijote in San Luis Potosi, a dusty town some 225  miles out of Mexico City, reachable only through mostly unpaved country roads.  After all day of calling the hotel and leaving messages that are never answered, I finally hear his voice on the other side of the line. He sounds congenial but tired.  He agrees to meet with me the next afternoon at his hotel in San Luis Potosi.  I leave very early in the morning to make it in time for our rendezvous.

He is not in his room.  Not in the hotel restaurant or the lobby bar either. I patiently pace the hotel property.  I circle the large swimming pool and admire his shiny BMW parked outside his room.  Eventually, I  plunk  myself down in the lobby bar overlooking the entrance to the hotel.  I sit there in excess of four hours, observing every single person entering or leaving the lobby — drowning beer after beer and munching on tortilla chips and salsa.  I don’t even once wonder why we had to go through what I am going through, just so our interview subject  can look at the transcript.  I think to myself  that’s one of the many reasons why Playboy Interview and its format and depth have become ultimate yardstick against which all the journalistic efforts in the question and answer format are measured.

***

Unlike the centerfold and the world class literature which was a part of the editorial mix from the issue number one, when the magazine was launched in December 1953, the Playboy Interview didn’t make its debut until almost a decade later, in September 1962.  Earlier in the year, editor-publisher Hugh M. Hefner strode into the office of  his editorial director, A. C. Spectorsky and communicated to him that he wanted to include an interview feature in Playboy that went beyond the idle chit-chat of run of the mill question and answer format.  He also mentioned that there maybe some material in the inventory of Show Business Illustrated, the magazine he had just folded.  Spectorsky assigned young editor Murray Fisher to pour through the material and see if there was anything promising.  What Murray came up with was an incomplete interview with the jazz musician Miles Davis, conducted by then struggling black writer by the name of Alex Haley.   What Fisher found peculiar about the interview was; there wasn’t much talk about music.  Instead, Davis talked incessantly of his rage against racism and what it meant to be black.  Murray assigned Haley to go back and finish the interview.  The candor and the depth of that very first interview laid the solid foundation to what was destined to become an institution.  The art director Arthur Paul gave it a visual identity by incorporating in his design three black and white close ups  of the interview subject that made eye contact with the reader, and the captions directly under them teased out  the most provocative quotes to highlight the text that followed.

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