‘More important is they offer a venue for everyone to come together and bond. Even though we do have a formal agenda, what is more important in my mind are the informal dinners and other social activities. For four nights and three days, they are all together 24/7, and the relationships formed and enthusiasm generated are priceless. They go home with a feeling of belonging to a close-knit global family with us at head of the table. But most of all, for me, this is our Thanksgiving, having them all under the same roof gives them a feeling of belonging. Something only parents can provide.’

Not exactly in the same words, but that was the gist of what I felt and said in answer to her question. It seemed to me that she was skeptical about reasons other than the ones I mentioned, but I could sense a trace of agreement and understanding about us being parents and the concept of Thanksgiving. My answer must have satisfied her, because I never heard anything more about the conferences as I continued doing them year after year I was with the company, and as I write this in 2014, twenty one years since I left, another conference was concluded in London last summer. And soon they would begin planning one for this year. Now completely organized by Mary.

But this simple question did put me on guard. She as the president of the company must have been thinking in terms of the cost-benefit ratio of +/- $60,000.- an average cost to us to host the event every year.

●●●

I first met Christie in February of 1977. She was then twenty four years old. Fresh out of school and in the process of learning the ropes of the business her father had built. Lee had set up luncheon for us during my short stop-over in Chicago, en-route to Mexico City.

Strange, I don’t remember where we had lunch, but must not have been that close by. Because what I remember is a spark of static cracking when she touched the back of my hand in a gesture of parting before getting off the cab. I don’t remember what we talked about or what we ate. What I remember is: I was quite taken by her. I saw her as a charming young woman. Attractive, still in process of shedding her baby fat. I perceived her to be simple, friendly, unpretentious and congenial. Warm and a likeable.

Five years later, at the age of 29, she was named president of PEI. In the meanwhile, I had re-joined the international publishing division as its Production Director. Depending on how the company was organized and re-organized over the next years, I was at least two, if not three rungs below Christie – leaving me not having to interact directly with her. Playboy was still headquartered at 919 N. Michigan Avenue in Playboy Building with its bold white PLAYBOY letters lighting up the Chicago sky up above the Drake Hotel’s outlined in red neon sign. Our offices there were spread out over several floors, our paths hardly ever crossed. Except at some company functions and at the international conferences, at which she would be our star attraction.

By then I had become the department head with the corporate title of Vice President. Even so, I never reported directly to her, it became inevitable that I attend many of the management meetings and be the voice of the International Publishing. Something I didn’t cherish, but it came with the territory. Up until then, I successfully operated under the radar, did my job happily and never had to worry about the politics of the corporate life. But no longer.

But that’s not why I am writing this. The thing is: how could anyone ever begin to write Playboy Stories sans Christie Hefner?

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5