You can’t help but respect their daring and tenacity. Even so, the first thing I do is to try to dissuade them, because as Jorge Fontevecchia of Editorial Perfil in Argentina once put it: only to your enemies do you suggest publishing as a business. Another argument I make is that asking for Playboy’s hand is like wanting to marry a rich man’s totally spoiled daughter and it takes more than money to keep her in the style she is used and aspires to. I have gotten some laughs out of it, but you can’t dissuade someone who has hopelessly fallen in love with the idea.

In such cases I try my best to avoid meeting face-to-face with such prospects. What if I end up liking him or her? But when he sets his heart on something, Rolf is not that easily dissuaded and he is not the kind to give up that easily. After some months of fax correspondence Rolf seems to have understood that doing a serious magazine was a different ball game altogether. Not too long after, he calls my office in Chicago and casually mentions that he is in Florida, and wouldn’t mind flying to Chicago and talk with me personally. During his visit, we have a pleasant Indian lunch at my favorite of the time, Bombay Palace. Even though I had forgotten all about it, Rolf still fondly remembers that meal.

A month earlier, I had hosted the Czech team in Chicago and over that beautiful fall week sat down with them at my home around the dining table and taken them through the nuts and bolts of making of Playboy magazine – with as Ivan (Chocholouš) still remembers, Beethoven’s Symphony #9 playing in the background. Ivan couldn’t help but ask: whether there was any significance behind me playing that particular music? Not really. But it gave me an idea to use it as an example for what I was just then trying to communicate. I was taking them through the making of Playboy, page by page, and one of the things I always want to hammer into the minds of a new team is the concept of pacing.

To make it simple, you don’t place a cartoon behind a cartoon, non-fiction doesn’t follow another non-fiction, ditto the pictorials. You can’t have every illustration as a two page spread or a single page opening. The magazine, like a symphony has to have a certain rhythm which segues from one note to another. The fan of classical music, Ivan immediately understood it, something he still brings up in conversations. At the end of our weeklong orientation and the brain storming, we had agreed on the next steps. For them to go home and begin to put together the first few issues. I would take several trips to Prague and work with them and we would shoot for the early 1991 launch.

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Well before the Berlin Wall crumbled on November 9, 1989, Hungary was already wiggling out of the tight ropes of the Soviet Union. Popping up were many young entrepreneurs and starting up private businesses. Among them, Dezsö Futász, the suave and dynamic publisher of the Hungarian edition of Scientific America and ComputerWorld.

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