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I got to know Christie bit-by-bit. Her corporate side was always on guard. Always watching her P’s and Q’s and jumping over every hurdle of tricky questions asked of her. Having graduated summa cum laude from the prestigious Brandeis University, she was equally as bright in her day-to-day dealings. Her answers were brilliant. Her spellbinding ability of public speaking would have even the most averse listener in the audience in awe, or like Bill (Stokkan) used to say, he would get goose bumps whenever he heard her speak. How can you not marvel at her saying something like my asset goes home in the elevator every night at five?

She would do it without notes and without any prompting. How else would you claim to be a feminist and get away with running Hugh M. Hefner’s empire with Playboy magazine as its flagship? How do you even begin to stand up and defend your father frolicking with women so young as to be his grand daughters? But she did, and did it with aplomb. Her well articulated answers un-armed the person asking those questions – if not to their satisfaction, to realize that to stay on the same track was futile. They saw something intimidating in her friendly but firm demeanor. So they would let it be for she commanded enough respect to have earned that.

I am not easily intimidated. But I must admit that I often felt uncomfortable in Christie’s presence for no apparent reason and whenever possible avoided any un-necessary encounter with her. So much so that it never even crossed my mind to invite her to the opening night dinner for the mini-conference of the selected editions I held at my home in Evanston. Soon as Gary (Cole) mentioned that Christie was quite miffed at not being invited, did I immediately realize what a faux pas I had committed, remembering that one of her most favorite Indian dishes was chickpeas curry? Not much I could do about it. Something I have always lamented.

Christie was an asset so invaluable to be ignored. It’s been said that if there were no Christie Hefner, Playboy Enterprises would have to invent her. For she was the public face of the PEI. Easily accessible and unpretentious. For what she signified, Christie lived just like anyone of us. She traveled by herself like the rest of us would, hail a cab off the street, dined in the neighborhood restaurants where you could run into her or have informal meeting over a lunch. She drove her own car in stark contrast to once being picked up by a limo from her school to bring her to the rendezvous with her dad. Every summer she would throw a party at her rooftop apartment in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast and invite her top managers and their companions. Let her hair down and be the most gracious hostess.

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