During my early days in Chicago, one of my most important tasks was to do major in-house PR. International Publishing, then referred to as the Foreign Editions was tucked away on the ninth floor, which most everyone must have passed on their way to the production department without giving much of a thought to our existence. Some of the U.S. Playboy people may even have looked at us if not with some disdain than with indifference. To the most of them, we had become just THEM, the people who came bothering them wanting something or the other.
It took a while, but over a period of time, I was able to establish close working relationships with most of the top editors on the 11th floor. That is, except with Arthur. As much as I would have liked to have a pleasant and friendly working relationship with him, it wasn’t any consolation to be aware of the fact that neither of my two bosses, Lee Hall and Bill Stokkan were able to crack the hard shell that was Arthur. While Lee was quite reticent and tight lipped about it, I know that it frustrated Bill not being able to communicate with Arthur with both of their hair down and over a couple of drinks. I didn’t know anyone else who did. Bill once told me that on one occasion, he even went as far as approaching him at a party thrown by Christie Hefner for her top executives aboard a boat cruising Lake Michigan. Hi, my name is Bill Stokkan, I run the Merchandizing and Licensing division of the company. Unfortunately, to no avail.
‘Are you kidding me? Him and Ed (Wattlington) get along famously. They even play tennis together!’ Tells me Karen (Abbott), my first heart throb in the U.S. when we worked together at Time, and coincidentally who now worked at Playboy along with Ed, both as photo lab technicians. Similarly, my assistant Mary had absolutely no problems communicating with Arthur. This was a sign of relief for me, because even though as a matter of protocol I would make the first call, Mary would take it over from there, sans any difficulty. And of all of my international editors, he got along famously with Holland’s Jan Heemskerk. Most every time that Jan came to Chicago or during the conferences, they made it a point to get out and hit some tennis or golf balls. I envied them, because I was never included in those soirées. I would often share with Jan my “conversations” with Arthur. He would find them funny. Somewhere along the line, we both came to refer to Arthur as Mr. Speak. And so it continues even today.
I have often wondered why? Because other than his exterior demeanor that can make you feel totally uncomfortable, when the time came, he always came through. He met with the editors, and once we were in his office, he never rushed us out. During the conferences, when he took the floor, he would be the most fascinating and precise speaker of them all. He knew Playboy inside out, from cover to cover. He would define for you the purpose and the philosophy behind every single page, rubrics, the graphic style, the focus of each article and fiction, the illustrations. Now that I think of it, even better than Hefner (Hugh M.) himself did. I have heard hours and hours of tapes of Hefner speaking to the first set of editors that came for the orientation, and spent a couple of days at his mansion in Chicago. Of course, who would know the magazine better than its creator? He was good and he was precise. But seemed a bit bashful when imparting the information. While Arthur was clearer and more emphatic, passionate even.