What makes a Playboy interview so unique is its depth and thoroughness with which they are conducted.  In its no holds barred questions, asked pointedly of the famous and notorious people of the world, it  takes you under the skins of many of those otherwise impenetrable personalities.  Whereas most interviews are conducted in one sitting and at one location, Playboy interviewers are known to follow their subjects around the country and if need be  — the world, and come home with hours and hours of tapes — and then go back for more.  This grueling process is aptly summed up by then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter when he said to the two journalists from Playboy, “You guys must have some kind of blackmail leverage over Jody Powell (his campaign manager).  I’ve ended up spending more time with you than with Newsweek. Time and all the others combined.”  He continued after a pause. “Of course you have an advantage the way you do your interviews, coming back again and again with follow-up questions.  I don’t object, but it sure is exhausting.” Hours and hours of tapes are then transcribed, edited, cut and pasted like splicing together film strips of a movie, to give the printed version of the conversations a smooth flow and coherency.  The facts are checked and re-checked, the copy edited for grammar and spellings, bringing it to near perfection.  And it gives its interviews maximum space in its pages — way more than any other quality mass market publication.

Sitting in the lobby bar of El Quijote Hotel, waiting for the Nobel laureate to surface in my line of vision, I am thinking of the whole slew of people the magazine has put through the unrelenting scrutiny of  its interviewers.   Following the landmark Miles Davis interview, the list of musicians that sat down for candid conversations with Playboy journalists include the Beatles, Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti. Even though most politicians are reluctant to appear in the middle of the pages containing pictures of naked women, not only did Jimmy Carter, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega used Playboy interview as platform for their messages, but so did civil liberties leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the extremist black Muslim leader Malcolm XGloria Steinem refused an invitation to be interviewed, but the feminists Germaine Greer,  the author of The Female Eunuch  used Playboy’s pages to criticize the magazine and Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique as well as the co-founder and the first president of NOW,  used the same pages to retrospectively put the women’s movement in perspective.  The artists and writers include Salvador Dali,  Tennessee Williams, Henry Miller, Jean Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand and Salman Rushdie. Actors Jack Nicholson,  Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Betty Davis, Susan Sarandon and Sharon Stone.  Computer wizards Steven Jobs and Bill Gates and even convicted murderers James Earl Ray and Gary Gilmore got to confess and be cross-examined within the format of a Playboy interview.  And  yet, I will always remember Playboy’s long time editorial director Arthur Kretchmer once defining Playboy Interview to the editors of the magazine’s international editions as “over and above Playboy Interview tries to bring out the human face of the person being interviewed. If we were to interview Hitler, he would come out to be a sympathetic figure.” 

It is getting to be late.  I am beginning to lose my patience. I am exhausted and have consumed all the beer I could manage that day.  And I am absolutely famished!  I am trying to decide whether I should order something to eat when I suddenly notice short and stocky frame of Garbriel García Márquez entering the lobby.  With him is a young lady I perceive to be in her mid-thirties, who I find out later is Marilise Simons, the Mexican correspondent to The New York Times.  I rush to greet him.  He apologizes for making me wait so long, while Marilise comes to his aid with  “it was all my fault. My car broke down on the way over.” Doesn’t matter. Like an answered prayer, Gabriel García Márquez  is standing in front of me face-to-face.  He asks  me and Marilise to accompany him to his suite.  The front room is littered with the magazines, newspapers and loose manuscript pages piled next to a manual typewriter perched atop a cabinet in vertical position.  He is in San Luis Potosi to help with the screenplay of his book Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother, being filmed there with Greek actress Irene Papas in the leading role. And also following him on the location the French television crew, making a documentary of his life. Now at last he has a moment to pause and catch a breath.

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