She was our secret weapon, the flesh and blood persona. To Hugh M. Hefner’s illusion, she was our reality. Often perceived of as an all business and no fun, she would let her hair down during my international conferences, be it at Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or Corfu, Greece to New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. She would get up early and not unlikely to be found in the meeting room while I’m testing the sound system in Lake Geneva and everyone still remembers fondly how she blended-in in New Orleans and swung to the crazy Laissez Faire Cajun Band – lifted up in the air by our German advertising director, late Wolfgang Robert and charm the skeptic Dutch during the sight-seeing boat ride in Amsterdam. The Dutch hosted a wonderful meal in her honor at… you guessed it: de Hoefslag.

When we launched the Chinese language edition in the spring of 1986 to come out of Hong Kong, our local publisher Albert Cheng, came up with the idea of beaming Christie Hefner live from Chicago to his press conference in Hong Kong. What’s today a child’s play, back in 1986 was an elaborate and expensive undertaking. Just the technicality of the multiple satellite uplinking and downlinking between downtown Chicago and the center of Hong Kong in itself was awe inspiring. And because of thirteen hours time difference she would have to be in the studio a little after three in the morning and be ready to greet the citizens of Hong Kong at seven in the evening their time. Fully aware of the possibility of hundreds of things going wrong. Fortunately, the transmission at both ends and in-between went well without a hitch. And the Chinese loved it. Probably even more so than had she been there personally. And Christie must have felt a pioneer of the sort for being able to demonstrate the dawn of the new technology. The first time I ever heard of the concept of pay per view, was from her. I must admit, I was quite skeptical about it. But she was our new generation.

I got to know her really up close when she so gracefully agreed to take a long trip to Taiwan to help us boost Playboy’s image. Even though I personally wasn’t totally convinced of the merits of dragging her along on a day long journey, each way; when I hesitatingly asked her, she said yes with I know how difficult it must have been for you to ask. And it was. But my Taiwanese partners felt strongly that her sheer presence would make all the difference.

At the personal level this gave us an opportunity to be together practically 24/7 for six days. During which she graced several meetings, held a press conference, partook in the celebration of the first anniversary of the edition, sat through twelve course Chinese meals, played tourist visiting Chaing Kai-shek Memorial, Taipei Concert Hall, National Palace Museum and even Taipei’s Huaxi Street Night Market popularly known as the Snake Alley. And one night after dinner, joined a group of us hit a Karaoke and let our talents shine. We posed together in the front of Madame Chaing Kai-shek Soong May-ling’s shiny black Cadillac. And she even photographed me in front of a Taiwanese Barber Shop.

The day we were to return to Chicago, the city of Taipei was a big mess. It’s the beginning of Qingming Festival – a long holiday weekend and the traffic arteries of the city are clogged to its limit and beyond. We’re on our way to the airport for our flight back home. Inbound, she had to travel by herself because I was flying in from Brazil. This is our first trip together and with the change of planes in San Francisco it would take us almost a whole day and a night.

With all the traffic to the airport moving at snail’s pace or not moving at all, it wasn’t starting out too well. While I’m not that easy to succumb to anxiety, especially over something that I have no control over, I could sense Christie getting a bit anxious as we were getting closer to the checking-in time. But with intermittent moving forward we make it to the airport and have checked in more or less on time. We’re standing in the very slow moving immigration line. Irritated, she is visibly nervous.

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