No one, not even the interview editor G. Barry Golson could define the tone of Playboy Interview as clear as Arthur once did during a conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in the early Eighties: over and above Playboy Interview tries to bring out the human face of the person being interviewed. If we were to interview Hitler, he would come out to be a sympathetic figure. You could hear the silent gasp from the editors. Absolutely admirable, considering this coming out of the mouth of the born during the war time Jew. And he said of the anyone who still had any illusions about the magazine reflecting the current lifestyle of its publisher and therefore the young American males: No one aspires anymore to Hefner’s lifestyle. And I said to myself, right you’re, why would I want to live like Hefner in the self created gilded cage, if I could be sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris and sipping on my pastis, watching the world go by?
He was just brilliant when he spoke. He would be the star attraction of all of our conferences. And our personal relationships or lack thereof apart, I often said to myself that he never once hindered my ability to get closer to the people like Tom Staebler or Gary Cole, or any of his other top editors from devoting as much time as I needed of them. Why then not Arthur himself?
Well, one of those anomalies of life. Something you just accept. Things you accept about your dad or someone you respect, and resign to that’s just the way he is. And yet, I hated to be alone with him face to face. Because he would go without saying a word for the longest time. If not for the entire duration you are sitting across from him. Once I ran into him at my favorite fast food restaurant, Mama San, located in the Water Tower Place. Turned out to be his favorite as well. Seeing how crowded the place was and there was only one booth open, we end up parking ourselves across the table from each other.
‘The damn best fast food Japanese place in the city!’ Is the only thing I remember him saying during the whole twenty or so minutes it must have taken us to do justice to our food. We may have exchanged a couple of uncomfortable sentences at the very best. Realizing that he would not be the first one to blink, I somehow managed to live through those most uncomfortable moments.
The other time I found him towering over me on the other side of the partition in the bathroom of Playboy’s corporate offices. While we are both peeing, I sense his face turn over to mine and hear him utter:
‘You know, with the nose like that, you could be Jewish!’
‘I don’t think so, because my dad’s nose is much flatter. Perhaps I should check with the good old mom!’ I try to be humorous.
That’s as close as I ever got to Arthur.
On my last day at Playboy, Mary organized a going away party for me and invited everyone she could, especially from Chicago office. While everyone else had something to say; be it funny, sympathetic or just wishing me luck, I don’t remember Arthur having said anything that stuck with me. And yet, in the photos that Mary sent me afterwards, Arthur and I are posed together, he has his arm around me and both of us have on our faces the matching happy laughs. Uncharacteristically, Tom is standing next to us, looking a bit removed and looking sad and confused. I put the photo in my personal scrap book, the caption underneath reads: Is that a genuine smile Arthur?