Archives for category: Playmates

The Reverse Migration To El Sur

Haresh Shah
fiercelatina

Had she submitted today, a polaroid wearing only a tan and mascara, just to see if I could make the cut, she certainly would have been considered seriously and most probably made it as Playmate of the Month in the U.S. Playboy. In the year 2015, with the dramatically altered demographics and with the both political parties wooing the ever growing Latino population, what could be better than to have a born in Glendale, California of Mexican parents, a natural beauty, raven haired, five feet tall with voluptuous hourglass figure, the dark brown eyes, seductively and invitingly looking back at you? At 24, she is in her prime and has already been a part of a study program at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and has earned her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Whittier College. A perfect fusion of beauty and the brain – an ideal girl next door.

But thirty five years ago her chances of being approved were slim to none. Even to the casual observer it would be obvious that the basic attributes of the majority of the published Playmates up until then could be summed up with Blonde, Blue Eyes, Big Boobs. Not that there were no exceptions. Once in a while an ethnic Playmate would sneak in, by and large, Playboy’s Eliza Doolittles shared the above three attributes. The girl next door, turned into My Fair Lady in the image of Henry Higgins of Playboy empire’s Hugh M. Hefner himself. And yet, when an exotic beauty showed up at one of the magazine’s studios, the photo editors couldn’t resist the urge to try her – just in case. She could turn out to be the one of those few and far in-between. Often times, after the initial internal voting, she wouldn’t even be presented to the MAN! Most of them would end up in their slush files, never to be looked at again.

Editors felt not so good about having to reject someone outright – someone who could have been a promising candidate. By then they would have also known the girl and may even have liked her at personal level. But not much they could do. There were other limitations: a sign tacked on the cork wall of Chicago based Playmate editor Janice Moses said: BUT WE ONLY NEED TWELVE A YEAR! Alluding to the fact that hundreds of girls presented themselves at Playboy’s door steps in hopes of maybe, just maybe being picked to become the next month’s Playmate. Perhaps even Playmate of the Year. But now with the Foreign Editions having firmly established themselves, they had an option for such an exotic beauty, especially the  ones with foreign ethnic backgrounds.

One of the first such candidates to land on my desktop was a pile of 35 mm slides of Elda Mareea Lopez, sent to me from our Los Angeles studio chief, Marilyn Grabowski. The brief hand written  note on the inter-office pink memo paper said: perhaps you can use her. I think she is gorgeous and is absolutely delightful in person. Judging from those hundred or so frames, she certainly is gorgeous. And when I first meet her, she is beyond being delightful. She is down home muy simpatica!

What strikes me oddly intriguing about her even before I put the Lupe to her slides is the way she has spelt her middle name in the Playmate Data Sheet. She has spelt it Mareea instead of usual Maria. I guess, she is looking for her very own identity, distinguishing herself from practically every female of the Latin origin with virgin Mary squeezed in somewhere in to their names.

To Marilyn’s perhaps you can use her, I immediately think, she could be our first Mexican Playmate! Now they won’t have any excuse not to have one. It’s been almost three years that we have been on the tails of our Mexican publishers about the need for us to have some authentic Mexican Playmates, which would allow us to promote the edition in a way we couldn’t by inviting American Playmates to the south of the border. Finally we are able to convince Ricardo Ampudia, how important it is to have a local girl next door Playmate to grace the pages of our Mexican edition.

Over a weekend while both Al Debat – our Chicago based departmental manager and also a professional photographer and I were in Mexico City, Ricardo tells us that he has just the right  Playmate candidate. Al and I agree to a quick test shoot and take it from there. Ricardo invites us to his house for breakfast on a Saturday morning and we are to do the shoot in his garden. Al and I together shoot eight rolls of films.

Ricardo’s backyard is fairly private with tall and dense bushes. It is a well tended garden with gleaming tropical plants and colorful flowers. The grass is lush and well manicured. The sun is shining bright and it’s warm, but being February not too warm to be hot and humid. The name of the girl he introduces us is Blanca. She is probably in her early twenties with the body that’s fresh and well proportioned and vibrant. She is pretty and she is naturally blonde of the original Spanish stock. And she is far from being shy. Especially considering that she is surrounded by not just the two of us – as it usually would be, but by several people milling around.

The whole tabloid looks like a scene set for a comedy waiting for the curtain to rise. There are two maids constantly walking in and out crossing the grounds, bringing us fresh juices and refreshments. There is the gardener pretending to tend and trim the floras. His teenage son is trying his best not to look at the naked Blanca prancing around, and yet he can’t help but steal a glance whenever he thinks nobody is watching. Fortunately, Blanca seems comfortable in her bare skin. As adorable and beautiful as she is as a young girl, both Al and I think she would one day turn into drop dead gorgeous. She is natural, almost animal like in the way she moves so unconsciously and happily humming to herself. Her smiles are contagious and seductive. She is more like a cuddly pet who you want to hold close and hug. And she is game for anything you ask her to do and pose so naturally without any inhibitions. She is the kind who would do anything to please you and be pleased by it herself. Neither Al nor I spoke any Spanish at the time, so we couldn’t communicate one on one – but we do. Our non-verbal or interpreted communication works just fine. At some point, you can’t help but feel parental and protective of her. That night I write in my journal: Wish you always could stay as happy. Keep singing and smiling.

As unprofessional and as unplanned as the shooting, it is fun. We spend a very pleasant weekend day. Now I am trying to think whatever happened to that shoot and Blanca? I am just  imagining. She probably changed her mind. Or ran into the trouble with her parents. Or Ricardo decided against it. But most likely because not too long after, the magazine changed hands. She just got lost in the shuffle. With the new publishers, I would start all over again, pushing for local Playmates. They would always agree with me, but give me the same excuse: but we can’t find anyone qualified enough willing to pose in the nude, you know how conservative our society is?. By then I knew Mexico well and also spoke Spanish, and knew better how it would be easier to take to bed one of the society girls, but almost impossible to convince them to pose in the nude.

But now we had an option in Elda. Not that she didn’t have any family concerns. But as she herself tells it: I had already been very independent. My mother I’m sure was surprised and being a good Catholic woman had her doubts, and was perhaps privately fervently saying prayers for my soul, yet she accepted it without protest. My father at one point said, “Mija, it’s not a bad magazine”. He seemed calm about it, but again, privately not so sure. 

Excited, I pick up the phone and call Eduardo Gongorra – our new publisher in Mexico City.

‘I’ve found ourselves a Mexican Playmate!’

And other than the obvious, I go on to tell him how I envision it happening. We can build a story around her Mexican heritage and have her reverse migrate through her photos and the presence in flesh and blood in Mexico. We could stage a promotional event for the invited VIPs and the media. Present her as our first Mexican Playmate. That Playboy’s  test shoot was good enough for us to use and would cost us nothing. All we needed was to shoot the cover and the centerfold, which I could produce in Chicago, have her photographed by our star photographer Pompeo Posar.

Soon as I hang up, I call Los Angeles. I introduce myself and tell Elda what I was thinking. She sounds so sweet and absolutely delighted. During the conversation, I find out that she doesn’t speak much Spanish. That creates bit of a problem. But I am too far gone with the idea and in the meanwhile, so is Eduardo. We agree, we would build her story around her being the USA born full blooded Mexican. After several phone calls between Mexico City and Los Angeles, I invite her to Chicago, and schedule the cover and the centerfold shoots.

Everything goes according to the plan. With big fanfare the first Mexican Playmate travels from Los Angeles to Mexico City. She is received warmly and enthusiastically. She is presented to the invited guests at Hotel Camino Real, standing in the front of the bigger than life size image of her in the backdrop is the April 1981 cover of CABALLERO con lo mejor de Playboy – as the magazine was then called. As it turns out, our fears were unfounded. If not fluent, Elda did have some command of the language – that mixed with English, she does just fine.

She feels pampered and loved in the Mother Land. They host a dinner  in her honor, it was a good feeling. And Elda joins the ranks of a very few Playmates, she gets to write her own text to accompany her layout. Even though she didn’t make it in to the pages of the mother edition in el Norte, she got a real taste of the world of Playboy. Thanks to her appearance in the Mexican edition: I met Hef, silk pajamas and all. He was gracious, kind and hospitable. The home and grounds were lovely. I had many a fun time at the mansion! Happy ending!

But this is a Mexican story, so it doesn’t end there. Soon, perhaps also because of all the press coverage generated brouhaha, the authorities decree that name of a magazine cannot be a  common noun. Never mind that Caballero has been around and officially registered for a dozen some years even before joining forces with Playboy – the name long been officially banned in the country.

Panicked, Eduardo calls. But in a country like Mexico, you don’t just walk away from the table just because the rules of the game have arbitrarily changed mid stream by the powers that be. You try to beat them at their own game. Eduardo needs an immediate approval from Chicago to change the name of the magazine from Caballero to Signore, which also means gentleman, but in Italian – not to confuse with Spanish Señor. So Signore it becomes overnight and so it remains up until June 1984, when the authorities finally relent and allow the magazine to be called Playboy.  We re-re-launch, this time with the Mexican born and grown starlet/singer Elizabeth Aguilar as the Playmate.

In the meanwhile, to lend the magazine authentic continuity, Elda makes an encore appearance in May 1982 on the cover of Signore. Now at 58, she looks stunning as ever, not a girl any more but a very attractive grown woman. Over a telephone conversation, I compliment her on her well preserved looks: you still could drive some honest man to cheat on his wife. To which, I got a chuckle out of her with funny! Because it’s the subject very close to her heart in that she has written an entire book titled The (In) Fidelity Factor – Points to Ponder Before You Cheat. But like the good old German saying goes, spass muss sein – fun must  exist. The most important is: We have remained close friends over the decades and have become shoulders for each other to cry on.

© Haresh Shah 2015

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Related Stories

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR 

HUNTING FOR THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

MY SWEET LORD

THE TALES OF TWO PLAYMATES

BEAUTY AND THE BREASTS

Next Friday, February 13, 2015

FRIENDLY SKIES NO MORE

Not only because what I did for a living required extensive amount of flying around the world, but even otherwise I love to fly. The excitement and the adventure of it, the feeling of being totally disconnected from the world, being able to kick back and relax. And being pampered – not only in the First and the Business Classes, but all across the cabins. And airports were the civilized places from where to leave and arrive at. Sadly, no more. And I can’t help but feel soooo nostalgic about those truly good old days!

Haresh Shah 

How Can You Not Fall In Love With Them?

parachute

‘And now ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the home of one of the most colorful characters of our country: Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, the adventurer and the author of the Republic of Venice and the autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of  My Life), which is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century. But as many of you certainly know, he is mostly known as the great lover of women. Yes, the great lover and the great liar.’ We are on a gondola site seeing tour navigating through the narrow canals of Venice. On our right is a long curving three story flaming rust colored brick building with elaborate balconies protruding out of the walls and huge windows overlooking the the canals down below.

I am crisscrossing Europe with my friend Ranjan from Bombay, and of the cities in Europe we have seen so far, Venice certainly takes us to a dreamland like no other. I notice a self-congratulating chuckle on the face of the gondolier for having said something so clever as to pair the great lovers with the great liars. Perhaps more true of the Latin lovers than the others. The reputation they must have earned from the speed with which they move forward, totally infatuated in pursuit of the objects of their desire.

My friend Irene in Chicago is head over heels in love with Bruno – a  handsome singer guitarist playing at a Lincoln Park venue around the corner from her apartment.  He is good looking for sure, soft spoken, charming and a smooth operator. Irene believes in whatever lies he tells and the promises he makes. And before any of us realizes, Bruno has moved in with her. We actually like Bruno and are even charmed by him. But we are protective of Irene. She is particularly vulnerable and we don’t want her once again to be hurt. We suspect all along and tell Irene that he is probably happily married with kids back in Mexico. But something as trivial as that never stopped Irene from her amorous escapades. And then he is gone. As we had suspected, before departing, Bruno confesses to Irene that he indeed has a family in Mexico and is in Chicago to  make a few fast bucks. Whether Irene expected him to leave his family and stay with her, I don’t know. But she is devastated nevertheless. Like others before Bruno, Irene manages to move on with time. Though I know, he was for her more than just a fling.

Fortunately, in most cases, it’s just that. A fling. Short and sweet. Just like one of the two American Playmates I had invited to come to Mexico some years earlier to help us promote the local edition. We are in Acapulco and have an afternoon off.  We linger at the beach front bar restaurant long after lunch. While one of them decides to waddle through the sand with a juicy paperback in her hands and stretches out on her stomach, baking under the sun, the other decides to be adventurous and signs up for parachute jumping. So off she goes with an instructor. Young, svelte, gleaming bronze tan and of the body toned like an iron statue – Roberto is certainly handsome. He speaks reasonably good English and is probably tickle pinked that he gets to help this American beauty – a Playmate, no less. He is vivacious and charming as he buckles her up and snaps in the parachute. Gives a little push on the small of her back, she taps her feet on the sandy ground and struts towards the approaching waves. The parachute unfurls and she is airborne. Roberto shades his eyes and watches her pulled up and away.

By the time she comes back down on the earth, she is exhilarated and giggly. Roberto unsnaps her and helps her undo her gear. Free of constraints, he gives her a congratulatory hug and like a true galan, escorts her back to us. All of these couldn’t have taken more than total of ten minutes. But for a true Latin lover, that’s more than enough time to hook his prey. I can just imagine his squeezing in hola guapa, que bonita eres and don’t you want to have a drink with me? along with other phrases of endearments that Latin languages are so rich with and come natural to them. How can you even begin to compete with te amo and eres mi corazon, or ma chérie amour and j’taime in French or ciao bella and bellissima in Italian?  In comparison, you’re beautiful, i love you and ich liebe dich sound absolutely hollow.

The next morning, we meet again at the same table and are waiting for the Playmate to join us for breakfast. As punctual as she normally is, it seems a bit strange that she isn’t there already. She is about half an hour late when we see her making her way towards us, swinging on the arm of, who else? Roberto. They part with a quick peck on cheeks and as she approaches us and as if in answer to the big question mark on our faces, she is all smiles. No need for her to elaborate. Her smile and how radiant she looks tells us all. We all smile back the knowing smiles. Thinking: Good for her. Knowing well that it’s just a passing fling and there is nothing for us to worry about. And so it was. Some months later she is married to a good American boy back home.

So when during the Mexico World Cup shoot in Puerto Vallarta, Jan (Heemskerk) and Michaela (Probst) are stood up by Alfonso, because he was busy with our Pat (Tomlinson), none of us actually gives it a second thought and we immediately write it off as a vacation fling south of the border. This was the first week of March. We all return home towards the end of the week. Pat and some others may have stayed over the weekend before coming back. But little did we know, from there on, things must have progressed at the speed of a bullet train.

Barely three weeks later, Pat stops me in the corridor and hesitantly but happily tells me that she was getting married that weekend, on the Easter Saturday on the 29th. The groom to be? Alfonso! I don’t know whether it’s the shock that I feel, but it certainly jolts me a bit. It makes me feel quite uneasy. Alfonso was brought in by our Mexican publisher to help us with logistics of our photo production but was not a part of the regular staff. I didn’t know much about him, if anything. Handsome, tall, dark hair, tanned skin and a fast talker. I didn’t really think much of him, also because as charming and affirmative as he was with his always positive si como no! attitude, things that he would promise or said he would take care of, he didn’t or didn’t quite.

The speed and urgency with which it’s planned feels like a shot gun wedding. It’s not going to be in a church or anything. It is to take place at her sister’s home in the north western suburb of Barrington. I am not sure whether it would be her sister or someone else would perform the ceremony. And then there would be small toast to the newly weds followed by dinner at home.

Even though Pat has worked with me on several projects over a period of years, we are not exactly close enough for her to invite me to her wedding. ‘I know what you might be thinking. But it all happened so fast. I never thought I could fall in love at first sight, you know! We’re both very happy.’ She pauses and continues, ‘It’s just my immediate family. I would love it if you and Carolyn could come. To have someone who was there when I met Alfonso.  It would mean a lot to me for you to be a part of it.’

When Carolyn and I arrive at her sister’s home the night of the wedding, there is a distinct cloud of doom covering everyone’s face. I say perfunctory hola to Alfonso, who looks petrified and distressed. The place itself looks helter-skelter as if a bunch of rambunctious kids having turned it upside down hunting for the hidden Easter eggs. Everyone frantically looking for the missing wedding band Alfonso has brought along to slip on his bride’s ring finger during the ceremony. He swears to have carefully tucked it away into a small pocket of his carry on duffle bag. Could it have fallen down and rolled away somewhere in the house as he unpacked? It was also likely that it fell off when the customs officer opened it to inspect its contents? The room is filled with the cacophony of multiple possibilities on the fate of the dainty little wheel of the precious jewelry meant to bind them for life for the better and the worst. Pat is besides herself and is on the verge of breaking down with a cry. Before things get any gloomier, someone suggests that we should just go ahead with the wedding ceremony anyways, the ring’s got to be somewhere around, and must show up sooner or later. Rest of the evening is blurred in my memory.

Fast forward to me running into Pat once again in the corridor of our offices. That marriage didn’t last too long and as it turns out, Alfonso was already married in Mexico and there was never a ring.

Something to be said about the wisdom of the Venetian gondolier having described the great lover Casanova to be also a great liar.

The good news is: Whatever suffering Pat may have endured, she flashes a pragmatic smile and tells me that since then she has found herself a true soul mate and is now happily married.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

The Related Stories

TEMPTATIONS…TEMPTATIONS…

MY SPRING VALENTINE

BEAUTY AND THE BREASTS

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK

The Site

ABOUT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Next Friday, February 7, 2014

PORK, DUMPLINGS AND CABBAGE

I was one of the early ones to enter the countries of the former Eastern European countries almost as soon as the Iron Curtain was lifted and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first three editions to be launched in the region were Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. In the early years, my predicament always remained, what to eat?

The Patch Of Recognition

Haresh Shah

sauna3

As I hurriedly cross the Maximilianstrasse at the intersection of Residenzstrasse, to go back to the office, I walk past a couple of young and pretty fräuleins. I can’t help but stop in the middle of the street and take a double take to look back. I think I recognize the brunette with the tanned skin, but can’t quite place her. Could be attractive, but she looks a bit disheveled and distracted. The other, your all German blonde with milky skin and rosy cheeks, and I presume blue eyes looks quite attractive, despite a couple of popped up pimples on her face. A possible Playmate even. Quite a turn on. From the other side of the street, I stop briefly to look back again. I see them cross Max Josephplatz and entering the restaurant Zur Kanne. One of my most favorites  in Munich. At the time I am in the phase of hunting Playmates for the German edition. But I am late for a meeting and  control the urge of turning around and following them.

Soon, I promptly forget all about them, until the last week, when I am having a lunch at Zur Kanne, with Heinz (Nellissen). He has come in from Essen with the first proofs of the next issue for us to work on. We are sitting at the corner table at the farthest end of the room when I see the door open and the same two girls entering the restaurant – this time accompanied by a young man. They are seated diagonally opposite from us. I have a clear view of the two women. This time, my impression of them is quite the contrary. Though the blonde is attractive, not attractive enough to be a Playmate. Up front, she looks puffy and a bit plump even. Other than the zits, her  skin looks sort of sandpapery. While her brunette companion is slender and her face looks more streamlined. She possesses silky smooth skin with the well rounded figure distributed proportionately over her skinny frame. She certainly is a possible Playmate material. The more I look at her, the more I am convinced of her prospectus.

And then there is that feeling that I have seen her some place. Not just in passing, but up front, may even have had a conversation with her. When and where, totally escapes me. While talking with Heinz, I can’t help but steal glances at the brunette. The young man sitting next to her looks as if cut somewhat in her image. Probably siblings. Even though the brunette and I make a couple of perfunctory eye contacts, there isn’t anything that indicates us recognizing each other. She too is probably thinking that she has seen me somewhere, but not quite be able to put her finger on when and where, or if at all.

On our way out, I stop at their table and ignoring the other two, approach the brunette. Singling out someone like that in a group is always a hard thing to do, especially if there is another woman sitting right next to her. There is always that small moment of discomfort and a feeling of being rebuffed for the other, but then it fades away. I fish out my business card and hand it to her.

‘I was wondering if you would ever be interested in posing for Playboy?’

A smile crosses her lips.

‘Interesting, you’re the second person to ask me in a week’s time.’

‘You mean someone else beat me to it?’

‘I am afraid so!’ And she allows herself a self-conscious smile.

Susi (Pletz), our photo editor perhaps?’

‘No, it was man. A photographer. He said he often works for the magazine. Peter something.’

‘Could it be Peter Brüchmann?’

Ja, that’s him.’

I don’t think I have ever met Peter. May have said hello to him in Susi’s office but honestly can’t quite place him. After I did Barbara’s test shoot, even though I arranged for her centerfold to be shot in Chicago by Pompeo Posar, Susi had assigned Peter to do her story pictures around the city and also some additional nudes. Curious how you cross paths with someone not only once, but twice, and yet never really cross them.

‘Yes he does. Then you’re in good hands. Are you going to do it?’

‘I don’t know. He said he will call me.’

‘I’m sure he will. Just in case, you have my card if you ever need to contact us.’

‘I’ll’, she says.

And I walk out of the place with Heinz. The name she gives me is Marion Jaspers. It rings the bell, but the more I try to conjure up the memory of when and where I may have heard it or to confirm that nagging feeling that I have seen her some place, the more I am lost.

●●●

Couldn’t have been that long. Probably a couple of weeks or so later, I am sitting in our apartment complex’s communal sauna, sweating all the toxins off my pores – having reached my maximum tolerance for the heat and the steam, and am about to rush out of there and under the ice cold shower when I see Marion walking in with the young man. Sure we both must have thought what are the odds of running into someone three times in a short span of  a few weeks? If it were a fiction, I would have attributed it to the author’s lack of imagination. After all, Munich isn’t that small a town. It’s a big German city with a population of more than a million. We simultaneously smile the smiles of a certain familiarity. But I am boiling and must get out of there immediately. I exit with a hurried excuse and throw myself under the ice cold shower and then clutching my towel, rest on the bench outside to catch my breath.

When I re-enter the steam filled sauna a few minutes later and settle myself again, with them seating on my right of the C shape sauna benches, and take in her gorgeous naked body, almost flawless silky smooth skin, her slender but curvaceous and tall frame with long legs parted slightly to the air and propped up above the lower stoop of the benches, her firm and conical breasts and dark tuft of pubic, not your untended big bush of sprouty curls grown out in each every direction, but a carefully groomed and manicured slim black patch laid down like a narrow runway, did I have a sudden déjà vu.

Must have been over a year or even two ago, perhaps not too long after I had moved into my apartment complex when I frequented sauna on a regular basis that I had encountered three women entering the cabin, of what I perceived to be three generations. Still pretty and dignified, the oldest one must have been in her late fifties or even well preserved early sixties, with still firm breasts, if drooping ever so slightly, flat stomach and her pubic area not so shiny and smooth, but dry and brittle like dark saffron. Sitting next to her was Marion. The youngest one I thought to be possibly her daughter first, turns out to be her older sister’s daughter. The girl in her early puberty with mosquito bite of breasts and just a furry fuzz between her legs. The image I have never forgotten. A classic study in the generational evolution of the human female anatomy. I was amazed at how natural and comfortable they were in their nudity and unconscious sitting there together in the middle of mix company. I remember even having had a conversation with them, and the oldest one having introduced herself along with her daughter and the grand daughter. And I remembered the name Marion Jaspers.

No wonder it rang the bell. But for the life of me, since the earlier encounter while crossing the street, I just couldn’t remember where and when I had seen her. But now that she sat there in direct line of my vision, that slender body, the conical breasts and a long strip of pubic confirmed that it was the same Marion Jaspers I had met and talked to. For some reason, neither of us mention the encounter of a year or two a go. She tells me that the young man with her is her brother, and that it’s their sister who lives here in Munich but they are actually from Holland and are just visiting. That answered her permanent and natural tan and that of rest of her family’s. Probably the result of some frolicking between the Dutch and the colonial Indonesians of some generations past.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks     

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

  

Related Stories

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

HUNTING FOR THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

MY SWEET LORD

THE TALES OF TWO PLAYMATES

The Site

ABOUT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014

WHO’S EVER SEEN GOD?

One thing I always shy away from during all my travels is visiting churches, let alone actually attend a mass. Even though our real destination that Sunday is to spend the afternoon at Cuernavaca’s world famous Las Mañanitas garden restaurant, our publisher in Mexico, Carlos Civita wants us to first attend the mass at Catedral de la Asunción de María. And I am glad we did.

Haresh Shah

The People, The Pride, The Passion And The Philosophy Of Making California Wines

winelabels2

His desk is huge and cluttered and we’re face-to-face with an unkempt and eccentric looking vintner wearing the wine stained sweatshirt bearing the logo of one of his creations, Le Sophiste.  With shoulder length long black hair, he looks like a cross between Tom Jones and Abbe HoffmanBonny Doon‘s President for Life and the founder, Randall Graham is known in the industry as the Rhône Ranger as in the Lone Ranger, a.k.a Crazy Randall, because of his refusing to succumb to what he calls the terror of Cabernets and Chardonnays. Instead, he devotes his energy and resources to growing  exclusively the Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Cinsault and Syrah. His response to the industry’s perception of himself: when your foes believe that you are insane, you have a great technical advantage.

Life is too short to keep drinking the same wines, Graham philosophizes, I have a soft spot for ugly duckling grape verities, he adds with a wry smile. Randall studied philosophy at the University of California in Davis, prior to getting into the making of wines in 1983.  Realizing hat he wasn’t a good philosopher, he decided to blend his love of philosophy with that of wines he would make.

He believes wines need certain raison d’etre, and he has made Bonny Doon’s mission to make wines that complement California’s emerging fusion cuisine, which is closer to the Mediterranean and south of the border than it is to the American meat and potatoes.

His is a loft office in what once must have been a barn. I see a cat scurrying in the background and also a couple of young women busily hurrying back and forth across the hall carrying stack of papers. The cackle of the wood burning fire place makes you fell warm and cozy on this cold, gray and rainy day

The looks and the ambience of the place reminds me of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic of the early Seventies.

            Our house is a very very very fine house

            With two cats in the yard

            Life used to be so hard

            Now everything’s easy ‘cause of you.

Randall’s eccentricity and the courage of his conviction shows in his demeanor and the pride in his going “solo” against the wind in the wines he chooses to make. Bonny Doon wines are hand crafted and produced with tender loving care. The philosophy and the character of those wines is  apparent in their creative labels illustrated with unusual, if not controversial images of Alcatraz prison, a flying saucer beaming up above a Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyard, a portrait of Marcell Proust, and in the contents of those bottles described by the RG himself, sounding scholarly with a tongue in cheek humorous twist. Here is how he describes Le Sophiste: Sophism: from Gk. sophistes sage (def): A spacious argument for displaying ingenuity in reasoning or for deceiving someone. And then throws in some Italian just for the fun of it. Like on the label of Moscato del Solo; stampatore o’dell.  incisore c. casa. DOONOMINAZIONE DI ORGINE CONTROLLATA 1993. DA SERVIRE FRESCO.

●●●

My first awareness of California came when I met Ann (Stevens) at Positano restaurant in Munich. I became instant friends with Ann and her husband Mark. It was because of them that three years later I ended up moving to Santa Barbara, California.  And it was them who first introduced me to California wines and what has now become known as California cuisine.

Mark introduced me to the Fetzer Zinfandel, which was so good, but a bottle cost $3.50. A hefty sum in the early Seventies. We decide to buy a case instead, for $36.00. Certainly the first of many we would continue to acquire and consume.  Little did I know, twenty years later I would  be sitting in Hopland in Mendocino County with Ken Boek – the Master Gardener at Fetzer Valley Oaks Food & Wine Center, who would introduce us to the basics of making of the wines. True to its creed of from earth to the table, Fetzer has committed itself to the organic farming. As Jimmy Fetzer, the oldest of the eight Fetzer children and the winemaker tells it: the first step in making wine is growing grapes.

Fetzer is the largest mainstream winery in Mendocino County. The business no longer belongs to the family – though they still till the land and make their wines. Personally heart breaking for me is that under the corporate umbrella of Brown Foreman, Fetzer family too has succumbed to the terror of the two Cs, and they no longer make the Zin that introduced me to good American wines. Apparently Zinfandel is an extremely low yielding grape. Another reason Cabernet Sauvignon claims competitive advantage. Small comfort that there is still a strand that bind us. Jimmy Fetzer, is married to one of our own: September 1974 Playmate Kristine Hanson. At the time of publication, a student of communications at California State University in Sacramento and working part time as a black jack dealer at Harrah’s Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We run into jeans clad Jimmy at Boonville’s Pinot Noir tasting. He is soft spoken, tall and handsome, a proud wine maker who is equally as proud of his beautiful centerfold wife; she looks sexier now than when she appeared in Playboy more than twenty years earlier.

●●●

As we crisscross the wine country, I realize that eventual corporate buy outs or not, the business of making wines is basically tied to the soil and the farming, which at the end of the day is a family affair. Dry Creek is the father/daughter team of which David Stare is the owner wine maker and his daughter Kim takes care of the marketing. Kim’s husband Don Walker too is enlisted and is now in the process of learning the ropes.

Business should never get too big for its britches,

David Stare tells us as we are having a lunch at Bistro Ralph in downtown Healdsburg. Here is the man with degree in civil engineering from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and MBA from Northwestern University. Academically oriented, he looks the role of his preppy self, dressed in his khakis and crew neck sweater – a tedious nerd.  But as he puts it, from early on he was becoming a cork dork. This leads him to add yet another degree in enology from University of California at Davis. An article in  The Wall Street Journal talking about the bright future of the wine industry in the U.S. prompts him to combine his business acumen with his “cork dork” passion and take a plunge by buying 55 acres of land in Sonoma County in 1972.  Twenty three years later, Dry Creek wines are considered to be some of the best values for the everyday wine consumers.

He believes, Wine should not be an investment.  It’s something you buy because you enjoy it at the time. So do 90% of Americans who consume their purchases the same evening on which it was bought.

The morning, we cross the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Dry Creek, I feel a certain affinity for their wines. I couldn’t help but think of the evening almost fifteen years earlier, my colleague Donald Stewart and I had killed two bottles of their Fumé Blanc over a dinner – which helped us resolve some work related conflicts the two of us were experiencing. Just what good wines are supposed to do.

In the early days, Dry Creek produced predominantly white wines, among them Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Fumé Blanc. So did most of the California wineries.  It all changed almost overnight when in 1992, the sales of red wines sky rocketed in the aftermath of the highly watched CBS program 60 Minutes aired a segment called The French Paradox, crediting red wines for the longevity and good health the French citizens enjoyed.

●●●

Later that afternoon we meet with Bob Levy, the winemaker and one of the partners of Merryvale Vineyards.  Bob had joined University of California in Davis to study medicine, instead he got interested and switched to enology. We spend fair amount of time in Merryvale’s barrel room, tasting and talking wines.  Lightly bearded and balding Bob is a serious man, even looking a bit sad and melancholic at times. He gives you a feeling of being more of a doctor or a professor than the man in such intimacy with his wines. He shares with us some of his best along with his deep passion and philosophy of wine being the beverage most conducive to romance.

I see wine as romance, like raw oysters.  Blend  good wine with good food and think of intimate things that can happen.

His thoughts are centered around romance even when he speaks of the technical aspects of wine making.

Timing for picking grapes is extremely important. Harvesting is the most exciting time.  We work 18 hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s a multiple orgasmic feeling

In that barrel room filled with the pungent aroma of the wines aging, listening to Bob Levy talk about them makes Omar Khayyam come alive:

             A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

            A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

●●●

How could one even begin to talk about California wines without talking about the Mondavi family and the invaluable contribution made by the patriarch Robert Mondavi for putting American wines on the world map? He not only makes some of the best California wines but he is also the ambassador at large for the entire wine industry of the United States. Robert Mondavi will also go down in the history as having forged the joint-venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Mouton-Rothschild and establish Opus One winery right across the street from his own.  In the true family tradition, working with him are his wife Margrit Biever, his sons Michael and Timothy and his daughter Marcia.

His striking mission style winery complex leads you in through an imposing archway flanked by the wine tasting room, a souvenir shop and the administrative offices. Inge Heinemann of public relations gives us a quick tour of the winery before we settle down for leisurely tasting of their wines paired with some exquisite dishes created specially for us by Margrit’s daughter, Annie Roberts, who is the chef at their elegant, airy and spacious Vineyard Room.

During the course of the meal, we are joined by the younger Mondavi son. Lanky, debonair, tall, brooding, gaunt and bearded with full head of black hair, Timothy is the family winemaker – though he prefers to be called the wine grower.  He differs slightly with his father’s philosophy of making good wine is a skill, fine wine an art, to making good wine is a skill, growing good wine is an art   Because; the three most important things that give its personality and noblesse to an artistic wine are; soil, climate and philosophy of the people involvedOne needs to grow grapes in synchronization and harmony with nature. As he talks to us about wine and good life, he turns his head in a circle and looks around the room; this room is about celebration of good life.  Wines are civilizing aspects of being a part of a meal and therefore of  good life. And then he continues: artistic wine’s purpose is to express its personality in a pristine way. After all, life is too short to drink bad wines”. Timothy Mondavi somehow seems to echo the sentiments of the wine country’s madman, the Rhône Ranger, Randall Graham.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Related Story

MY WINTER VALENTINE

Other Food And Wine Stories

BOY’S NIGHT OUT WITH PLAYMATES

MY INTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH EROTIC OYSTERS

THE DUTCH TREAT

The Site

ABOUT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2014

UNEMPLOYMENT BLUES

It wasn’t until after more than a  year later that I show up at the unemployment office to apply for the benefits I was entitled to. This in itself was enough for David M. to wonder about during our initial interview. There were other things about my application that he couldn’t quite put in the standard slots. What followed was enough to drive him up the wall.

Haresh Shah

Taking A Stab At Respectability

imperfectbound

When Celia – the young woman who so beautifully interprets and illustrates Playboy Stories week after week, returned the copy of my July 1988 issue of Playboy featuring Cindy Crawford on the cover, she had secured the pages with a little yellow and pink binder-clips. Apparently the pages of the issue had come apart at the perfect bound stiff spine, just like that of the cheap paperbacks from the Fifties. The issue was never before opened and was in mint condition. Quite unsettling for an avid fan and the collector of the magazine.

When the first issue of the perfect bound Playboy dated October 1985 landed on my desk, sometime around the first week of September, with the cover blurb proclaiming: COLLECTOR’S EDITION / THERE IS A BOLD NEW LOOK UNDER OUR COVER, I felt disoriented like never before. Devoid of the staples and lying there flat as the thick Dutch pancake, it felt akin to me returning to the little town of Schutterwald in Germany to visit my old landlady Frau Lipps – fully expecting, as in the past for her to have prepared my favorite Wiener Schnitzel with pommes frites and a small side of butter lettuce salad – instead to find a plate of a salmon filet with boiled potatoes and green beans. It threw me completely off balance.

Even though there were talks in the air for a while to switch to the perfect binding, deep down in my heart I still held out hopes that Hefner would never agree to such a move. But he did and now I was holding in my hands something I had thought would never come to pass.

On the Playbill  page the editors wrote: As you know by now PLAYBOY is a tremendously well put-together magazine. And for the past 381 issues, the thing that has held it together, through thick and thin, through Marilyn Monroe and through Venice Kong, had been a humble underappreciated yet respectably old-fashioned staple. What you have in your hands right now is the first spanking-new tough spined staple-free PLAYBOY. So much for the tough spine.

Playboy began and remained saddle stitched for more than thirty years – the standard magazine binding format used by the majority of large circulation consumer magazines around the world. It’s flexible, it’s reader friendly and cheaper than perfect bound magazines, such as National Geographic, Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair and now Playboy – the stiff unbending coffee table books.

First and foremost, Playboy’s identity has always been its centerfolds, so much so that Hefner himself  has famously said at one of the Playmates reunions that without you, I would be a literary magazine. The centerfolds were defined by the young women who occupied the specially printed three page gatefold, inserted and stapled near the naval of the Playmate of that month. And because of the way the magazine was bound, it was easy to find her with your finger tips even with your eyes shut. Open your eyes and find her there with her enticing eyes staring at you and the rest of her laid out bare in all her glory. Not to mention how easy it was to lay it flat when open and feel its soft and smooth bulge and the curvaceous spine. You could fold it, you could bend it, toss and turn while lying down on your sofa and reading thousands of words of its interviews and in-depth articles comfortably without having to keep forcing those pages open.

These kind of decisions are not taken lightly. To change even a layout of a single page in a well established magazine requires very serious considerations. Because more than anything else, even the slightest deviation from the standard format can disorient the loyal readers.

As I am writing this in October 2013, The New Yorker has changed radically its front of the book section Goings On About Town to the point where it’s totally unrecognizable from its classic, albeit stale version. Even though I think that the new design is more contemporary with lot of white spaces, new elegant type face and all, now several weeks later, I still feel lost and disoriented and can’t seem to navigate my way around those pages. But I am sure, I’ll get used to it and even forget the old design. Alas, no such luck with Playboy’s perfect binding even after twenty eight years.

●●●

When I worked for Time, the editors decided after forty years of retaining the same look with which the magazine had debuted back in 1923, time had now come to give it a fresh new look. Change the design, change the typeface. Change the philosophy of the covers. That’s a giant step, especially within Time Inc. family. It was Life that glowed with flashes of colors inside its snappier articles – sort of prelude to the video clips with narrative text. But Time magazine remained black and white for the longest with its mini-newspaper look and the format, wrapped inside its red bordered covers framing some of the most alluring illustrations.  It wasn’t up until in the Seventies that the first photographs began to appear within those red borders. When Time introduced color photos inside its editorial pages, they were sparse and limited to a four or eight page signature printed on higher quality coated paper. Even discounting that the color pages cost more to reproduce and print, that wasn’t why they hung onto its black and white origin. The biggest concern in their hanging onto the original mono color format as long as they did was the shock of switching to the color would give its readers. I am not a hundred percent sure now, but I faintly remember their instituting minor design changes in the late Sixties – I believe with the help of one of the most celebrated and creative designers, Milton Glaser.

But it wasn’t up until 1977 that the magazine was completely redesigned by the legendary Walter Bernard.  And not until well into the Eighties that more and more color pages began to crop up in Time. But not before discussing endlessly the pros and the cons of introducing photographs on the covers and changing their inside look from staid mini-newspaper like black and white pages to its current contemporary, bold and colorful layouts.

The second most popular feature in Playboy has always been its interviews. Even though the magazine was launched in December 1953, it wasn’t up until September 1962 that Playboy interview made its debut with Miles Davis talking to the journalist Alex Haley. Since then Playboy interviews have become the standards against which all other interviews are measured. And its simple three columns, three iconic black and white photos format has become an immediately recognizable graphic identity. So much so that to this date, it remains unchanged, though as of  February 2009 issue it has replaced the black and white with the color photos. And yet to an old aficionado like me, those color photos seem more pasted than they look natural. Some international editions tried out different formats including full page photographs or illustrated profiles of the personalities, but at the end of the day, the only image that conjures up in one’s mind at the mention of Playboy interviews is that of the three head shots with the quotes underneath them.

Then why you would think Playboy eventually succumbed to such a radical physical makeover as switching from its loyal tried and tested saddle stitch binding to the pretentious perfect binding? This much I know:

Back in January 1983, Playboy Italy changed hands from Rizzoli to Mondadori. In an effort to transpose the edition’s perceived readership from the truck drivers to the sleek and sophisticated, Mondadori approached my boss Lee Hall, asking for the permission for them to go perfect bound. We had internal meeting and concluded swiftly; that would no longer be Playboy. Even so, Lee in his practical wisdom, sent out a memo, I think to the US edition publisher Nat Lehrman, Editorial Director Arthur Kretchmer and the President Christie Hefner, requesting their input. It was probably circulated among other top executives. The response from the most was NO. Except a scribble at the top of the first page from Arthur, which said something to the effect, are we sure we want to say no?  From what I understood, the logic behind his question was that let one of our editions try it out and then see what happens. What I also understood was that some were in favor, probably the advertising bunch. In the end, Hefner must have been sold the idea of the advantages of giving his baby an “upscale” look.  But I or even Lee weren’t privy to any of that information. So I decided to ask Gary Cole – now the retired Photography Director, who has been a friend and with whom I have remained in touch. Here is what he had to say:

“The push to switch the magazine to perfect binding came almost exclusively from the Ad Department. Most magazines were already perfect bound. Ads had to be created just a little differently for a saddle stitched magazine. You realize that the outer pages of a saddle stitched magazine has to be wider to be able to wrap all the way around the inner pages. So the Ad Dept. convinced Hef.

“As you know, Hef was very, very resistant to change. One of his favorite axioms was “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Another was “Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?” He didn’t like perfect binding. He liked the more open look that saddle stitch gave him. And he was very married to the idea of the centerfold being in the center of the magazine. Everything was built around that. Of course, when ad sales began to falter, when money became tighter, when he continued to hear from the Ad people that they could sell more ads if the magazine switched to perfect bind, he finally relented.  I honestly don’t believe that it gained us one page of advertising. The reluctance of advertisers was based on the growing sensitivity in the business community to the subject of nudity. As long as Playboy had nudes in it, there were lots of advertisers who were afraid to come near us regardless of how we were bound.”

All true. And yet, something kept gnawing at me. In my mind, I still remembered that tiny scribble at the top of the memo, initialed AK. Since I left Playboy at the end of 1993, I had seen Arthur Kretchmer only once. I wasn’t exactly comfortable approaching him, but that’s what I had to do. I shot out an e-mail to Arthur. He was most gracious and forthcoming.

“As for perfect binding. I remember the meeting with Hefner very well. It was not an editorial meeting. It was a business meeting. After the full business presentation was made — and it was made mostly from an advertising sales point of view — Hef said, “The reasoning sounds all right, but you’re asking me to re-invent the wheel. This is a gamble that I’m very reluctant to take.”

“He asked my opinion, and I said something along these lines: I thought that getting rid of the staple would move the magazine into the category of classy mainstream magazines — a psychological shift that I thought the magazine was ready for.

“He considered that. There was more conversation. I’m not sure that he went on to approve  the change in that meeting, but I think he did. I think he said yes before that meeting was over.

“In the name of complete honesty, sometime after we made the change, I thought we’d made a mistake. Not right away, but certainly within the year. All the business people were happy. Even the newsstand guys liked the way the magazine stacked. But I became uncomfortable.  Obviously we never seriously considered going back.

“I don’t remember the circulating memos that you describe, but your telling of the story rings true. You have chosen the right words with ‘upscale look.’ I think once Hefner saw that as part of the conversation, he became a convert.”

I got my answer with that gnawing feeling now subsided.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

You May Also Like

THE COMPANY POLICY

PLAYBOY ON THE COFFEE TABLE

THE STORY OF MY TUXEDO

ALL ABOUT THE WILD PARTIES AT PLAYBOY

The Site

ABOUT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Next Friday, November 1, 2013

IN PRAISE OF MY BUICK

As of now, I’ve had seven cars. The first one, a Chevy Nova practically killed me many times over. But I missed her so when sold it to a couple of neighborhood kids. The second, an Oldsmobile Cutlass was stolen, requiring me to buy my first brand new set of wheels, a Buick Skylark. It went with me from Chicago to Munich to Santa Barbara and back to Chicago and many other exciting places in-between and had become as much a part of me during those ten most dynamic years of my life. It was loyal, it was reliable and it never let me down. The least I can do is to pay a little tribute to her

Haresh Shah

The Rituals Of Wine And Women And All That Jazz

boysnightoutcolor2

Imagine this: If you have ever been to Tokyo and cruised Ginza after hours – the people, the traffic, the shuffle crossing at multiple cross roads where the traffic comes stand-still at every street corner and hoards of shoppers and revelers crossing streets this way and that in each every direction, and the crowds of salarymen making ruckus, drunk out of their minds, some carried by the group up above their heads like a soccer player having just scored the winning goal, and the roaring loud cacophony of it all. It’s a different world, nothing you have experienced anywhere else on the planet. Otherwise straight-laced and well behaved like poor little lambs, after-hours the Japanese let themselves loose. No one you would recognize the next morning when you walk into the office for your long drawn out meetings.

Imagine then, that twelve of them having won Playboy Japan’s reader contest are transposed to the Lincoln Park Playboy Club in  Chicago, sitting around the tables pulled together side-by-side with the bustling Bunnies making fuss over them, serving drinks with their smooth seductive Bunny Dips, big sparkling smiles on their faces, being as sweet as they can be. They   know that these young men have won Playboy Japan Reader’s contest and that their role is also to play gracious hostesses to our guests from the faraway land. The young men are all around twenty five – self-conscious and shy and in awe of the VIP treatment they are afforded. Far from being their drunken and rambunctious selves in Ginza, they are extremely well behaved, amazed and feeling like kids in the candy store.

And they still have ahead of them the highlight and the finale of their trip, a night out with two Chicago based Playmates.  They have already seen photo spreads of sultry Suzi Schott (August 1984), and Carole Ficatier is scheduled to appear in the center pages of the year-end holiday issue of December 1985. Also accompanying them are me and some of my charming female staff. We are dining at Tony Ramo’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, or was it Andy’s Jazz Club? Don’t hold me to his one, because my memory about the exact venue is a bit fuzzy.

Earlier in the week, they have spent some days in Los Angeles and have been treated to the Dodgers’ game, with hot dogs, beers and all and are given a grand tour of Playboy Mansion West. Following my trip earlier in the year to Tokyo, we have embarked upon an ambitious push to regain some of our lost readers and acquire some new ones.

Connecting Jazz with Playboy  and its Playmates is a well thought out itinerary to showcase the Americana and the World of Playboy. Jazz has always been a part of Playboy in that Hefner (Hugh) himself has been a serious aficionado since his youth. So much so that in addition to  having featured many a jazz musicians on his earlier television show, Playboy’s Penthouse and in-house performances at Chicago Playboy Mansion, the magazine sponsored its first Playboy  Jazz Festival in 1959 to celebrate its 5th anniversary. Come Playboy’s 25th birthday in 1979, it  has become an annual cultural phenom, now permanently housed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, something that invariably gets Hefner out of his self-contained Mansion and out in the front row of the open air concert hall. In a recent interview to coincide with the Festival’s 35th anniversary, he said to Jeff Weiss of Bizarre Ride blog: “I would hope my championing of jazz will be remembered in a connective way with what’s unique about Playboy and my own legacy. As a musical form, jazz represents the same liberation and freedom that America represents in its most ideal form.”

And if not exactly co-incidental, Japan has been one of the most passionate Jazz countries outside of the United States. One of mine and the world’s most favorite Japanese scribes – Haruki Murakami, often links Jazz with his characters and at one time even owned and ran a Jazz bar of his own in Tokyo.

●●●

At Tony Ramo’s, or Andy’s,  the tables are set up in a way that each one of us could face the Jazz band to play that night. My staff and the two Playmates interspersed between the readers. Tonight’s dinner is planned to be more informal than the one at Playboy Club. Keeping up with the general theme of the Americana as portrayed in the magazine’s lifestyle features,  we want the contest winners also to have a real taste of the newly emerging California wines – in 1985, still something of a joke for the wine snobs of the world.

We have assigned Suzi and Carole to order wines for the group. Suzi, the younger of the two at twenty four, has grown up in Chicago’s western suburb of Addison, Illinois and is more likely to have ordered,  as she puts it herself:  “I will go into a restaurant and order a root beer or Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda” than vintage wines. She is not of the wine know-how and is coached by me and the sommelier about the wine list and the rituals of ordering and approving a bottle of wine.

Carole, a bit older at twenty seven, born in Auxerre, France, scant twelve miles (20 km) from the wine region of Chablis, has been a professional model and for her work has traveled and worked in not only Paris, New York, Zürich, Hamburg and Milan, but also in Tokyo. This adds something to the mix in that both Carole and I are able to sprinkle the conversation with Ohayo Godaimazu, Arigato and Domo Arigato Godaimazu, to get a bit of amusement and a chuckle or two out of them.  And Carole knows her food and wines and is as familiar with the California wines as she is of the French.

As the bowed waiter holds the slanted bottle of the California Chardonnay for Suzi to approve,  she fakes earnestness in  scanning and reading the label. Her eyes moving sideways and up and down the label to make sure that it reads the same as what she remembers to have ordered.

‘Yes. That’s it’. She nods.

The waiter stepping back, swiftly but stylishly drives in the cork screw and out comes the cork with a pop. He carefully and delicately places it in front of her, while balancing the bottle in his other hand. She picks it up as previously instructed, lifts it up to her nose ever so slowly, sniffs it with her eyes dreamily closed, as if she is savoring the fragrance and can really tell the difference. Puts down the cork and signals  for the waiter to pour. With a thimble full, she delicately picks up the glass from its stem, holds it up against the light, twirls slightly the liquid, turns the stem in her fingers, tilts the rim of the glass to take in the bouquet and touches the glass to her lips. The taste of wine swirling in her mouth, she gulps it down and gently puts back the glass on the table, and deftly raises her head.

‘Its delicious!’ Like a connoisseur. We all applaud.

Now it’s Carole’s turn. Still partial to the French wines, she picks a particularly good California Cabernet Sauvignon. The same routine. Waiter standing there holding the slanted bottle. She looks at the label and nods. And the waiter goes through the motions of opening the bottle, pulling out the cork with a pop and placing it in front of her. She looks down at the cork, and then up at the waiter – trying to hold back the laughter wanting to burst out on her face, she lets a slight smile of amazement escape her lips.

‘Just pour Honey. We don’t do this back home!’

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

You May Also Like

THE TALES OF TWO PLAYMATES

SEX EDUCATION  À LA JAPONAISE

BEAUTY AND THE BREASTS

SCENES FROM MISS PLAYBOY INTERNATIONAL BEAUTY PAGEANT

Next Friday, August 2nd 2013

STRANGERS ON THE PLANE

We have all joked, wondered and wished about what it would feel like to join the Mile High Club. As much air traveling as I have done throughout my life and through my Playboy years,  something’s got to have happened during one or more of my trips. No? Well! 🙂

Haresh Shah

Painting Devils On The Wall

devilwall2

‘Do you think Playboy exploits women?’ Asks Jennifer. I have just entered the northbound Lake Shore Drive off Michigan Avenue ramp and we are driving home, instead of having stopped some place for a drink following the concert. The question hangs in the air exacerbating the silence that has dawned upon us.

‘I have an 8:30 meeting. Can’t stay out tonight.’ If not exactly distraught, it has put me in dark mood. It seemed too good to be true. I am thinking to myself. It had made me so happy when Jennifer sat in my living room a week earlier, flipping the pages of that week’s Evanston Review, while her two kids and Anjuli occupied elsewhere in the house. She casually mentioned that Carole King was going to be in town.

‘You wanna go?’ I ask.

‘Do you?’

Suddenly I had felt euphoric at the remote chance that after all, it wasn’t yet over between us two. Whereas I have given up all hopes, it was her who had initiated barbecuing and spending that beautiful spring day at my place with her kids and visiting Anjuli. My spirits lifted, I couldn’t have been happier.

And now this! As if she has found out for the first time that I happen to work for the magazine called Playboy and go all hostile feminist on me. I am chewing on her question like one would a piece of sugarcane wrung dry into a stringy pulp. The standard corporate answer and the one Hefner (Hugh) himself had given in one of his interviews : “Playboy exploits women the way Sports Illustrated exploits athletes” Ironically, when I worked for SI, no one ever accused us of exploiting athletes.  Instead this is what I say:

‘Well, what the magazine does is to reflect the way men think. Men not only aspire to a well paying exciting jobs, nice places to live in equipped with the latest in the audio-visual, flashy cars, have his liquor cabinet filled with premium brands and so on. At the end of the day, he also wants young and beautiful women to be a part of his world. And one thing us men do is to immediately begin to undress the ones we may desire.’

‘You do?’

‘Certainly. Like right now, as you sit next to me I am undressing you in my mind’s eye. We never get tired of wondering, what does she look like underneath her clothes. So Hefner decided why not make this a part of his editorial mix?  My Rights manager Jean Connell sums it up aptly and justifiably that this is because men are visual and women aural. The reason why the readership of both Playboy and Playgirl is predominantly men.’  If she was trying to divert my sadness at how the evening was ending, she had failed utterly. Soon we withdraw within ourselves for rest of the way.

●●●

One of the most frequently asked questions of me was: How does your wife feel about your working for Playboy? My immediate instinct is to answer: How should she feel? How does a pilot’s wife feel about her husband flying and salesman’s wife feel about his selling and an accountant’s wife feel about his nose buried in the books? But I don’t. I do my best to hold back answering their question with questions of my own. However annoying I may have found them sometime, I realize that in their perception, working for a product like Playboy has to be different. More than working for movie productions or television channel. The product sexually charged with all that glamour and glorified women – yes, women. Naked women for Christ’s sake.

What they don’t realize is: That like any other businesses, first and foremost, Playboy Enterprises, Inc. too is a business. And like in any business what matters most at the end of the day is the bottom line, showing the hard profit and loss figures and not the soft curvaceous kind. Not any different than when I worked in production quality. To give the best example, when I did Sports Illustrated, other than getting the colors of the uniforms and the team logos right, the real challenge was always to acquire color balance in the skin tones of the athletes, especially that of the black ones. Just a few percent off in one of the basic color balance and you could end up with Michael Jordan looking like the Green Giant. Similarly, when working with the naked skins of all those beautiful ladies, you could easily cause them to look hot pink like lobsters. And  I would never have anything at all to do with the sexy hot bodies in the photos whose skin tones I was trying to match.

Okay, so I ended up not doing production quality as my main job  for rest of my life and did get into the editorial and the photographic aspects of the magazine and also in to the business of it all, with P & L responsibilities. And was involved intimately with the pictorial parts of the international editions as well. So fair enough. Once in a while I would have such conversations with Carolyn, mainly about what we called her painting devils on the wall. An expression I had picked  up from the American singer of the 60’s, Peggy March singing German schlager  of the Seventies: Male nicht den teaufel an der wand – don’t paint devil on the wall. And sometimes, she would be jealous. Or more like insecure. And I would do my best to communicate to her that for what I did for a living, it was all in the day’s work.

Since my job brought young women from all over, I would also be in charge of taking care of and entertaining them during their stays in Chicago.  Often, I would make it a point of bringing them home for dinner or tag them along and include them in our family lives.  Include them into the day-to-day  activities such as going to the movies, going picnicking and listening to the music under the swaying trees and the open skies of the Ravinia Park.

The first one to come home with me was Barbara Corser, (German Playmate, July 1975). I hadn’t seen Barbara in a while since my Santa Barbara days. By now she had also become Penthouse Pet of the Month and happened to be in Chicago on a promotional assignment from the magazine. It wasn’t until late in the evening that I could meet up with her. As close as we once were, I wanted her to see my new home, say hello to Carolyn and get a peek at Anjuli who certainly would be asleep by than. Must be after ten when we climb up to our third floor condo in Hyde Park. Having worked all day long, Barbara had not gotten around to eat anything all day. Carolyn, though already in her pajamas, if not happily, was gracious enough to fix her a sandwich.  This late night visit probably set the tone of how our life together would be.

Then came Sylvana Suarez (Miss World 1978) from Argentina . She spent a weekend with us, we all went to see Gandhi and had dinner at Bombay Palace. And not only Carolyn, but other friends too realized that Miss World or not, she too was just like any other young women, aspiring wives and mothers, that they had boyfriends/husbands back home waiting for them to return.  Whatever their stories, they certainly weren’t after your man. When the Dutch twins Karin and Mirjam van Breeschooten (June 1988) came to Chicago for their playmate shoot for the American edition, they had just turned eighteen, having appeared in the Dutch Playboy a year earlier. Only ten at the time, Anjuli remembers them as two young girls who chose to go eat a pizza instead of going to a fancy restaurant. When she was in her early teens, Anjuli got to spend some time with Playmate Elke Jeinsen (May, 1993) when she traveled with me to Brazil. On the day I was busy with back-to- back meetings, the photo editor practically kidnapped Anjuli and put her in the makeup chair, made her up and had their fashion photographer do some flattering headshots of her. That gave her a chance to see that being photographed with all that glitz and glamour was a job like any other. Knowing some of those women helped ease Carolyn’s apprehensions about my job at Playboy.  But still…

Its difficult, if not utterly impossible to change and modify people’s opinions about things. The most everyone who has strong opinions about Playboy, have never as much as even attempted to read the magazine. They blow you off the chair at the mere mention of the excellent interviews, fiction and non-fiction.

‘Yeah right! You read it for the interviews! Hahaha.’ End of the story.

Similarly the most people have a certain image of Hefner, the one I must admit he himself has helped create and hasn’t done anything to dispel. So when in the spring of 1989, my brother Suresh (Shah)   and his family came to visit, I arranged for us all to visit Playboy Mansion West, in the similar vein as them visiting: Disneyland and the Universal Studios. Suresh was obviously excited and so was my cousin Dhiru who lives in Los Angeles. I am not sure how my sister-in-law Aruna felt, but that question was promptly preempted by Carolyn, who decided that the women and the kids would go to the beach instead. By then she had been to Bombay three times and must have known that us Indians avoid the sun and the sand like plague. But she sloughed off the idea of visiting the mansion like the fly swatted flat. In retrospect, I could see in this defiance the early seeds of what was to come – not to mention the re-awakening of her dormant feminist hostility.  We never spoke about it, but I can imagine some of it had to do with whatever disdain she might be harboring about the chauvinist of a man who made objectifying women glamorous. Nothing I could do. Us boys went to the mansion, the girls to the beach.

●●●

When I met Gina, I was no longer working for Playboy, but as hard as we had fallen for each other, to justify any of my behavior, especially when it concerned women in particular, and that I was such close friends with so many of them, her mind right away interpreted it as: no wonder he worked for Playboy for so long. And there was nothing I could say or do that would change her perception. Never mind the fact that I started out in book publishing that published classics of Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Marie Corelli and a whole list of well-known self-help books. That I also worked for Time Inc. with their portfolio of family oriented magazines, among them Time and Life and that at the time I was doing Florida Sportsfan.

It was beyond her to comprehend  the unconventional way in which I thought about balancing  relationships and personal freedom.  That it was something I had begun to struggle with when as young as nineteen and when I still lived with my family in Bombay. The pages of my journal from those days are filled with me agonizing over and questioning the norms of male-female relationships.  But the answer for her always was my Playboy years. I often wished, if only she could read Gujrati!

●●●

Coming back to Jennifer. In aftermath of the Carole King concert, our relationship/non-relationship trudged along. I have practically written her off but still carry bit of a pang in my heart. I have just returned from a trip to South Africa. And when my phone rings on that long labor day weekend and when I hear her voice, my heart jumps.

‘Hi, Haresh’  it is Jennifer’s old cheery voice.  ‘you know, yesterday, when Clive woke from his nap, the first thing he said was ‘let’s go to Hanesh’s house.  Isn’t that something?’ Hanesh is as close as little Clive came to pronouncing my name.

‘You should have brought him by’

‘Really!’

And its back to as if nothing had happened between us. The months haven’t passed. As if we just parted the night before. But there is a pause:

‘You know, I called.’ She says. Her voice is a hushed whisper. Sort of a mild apology.

‘I know, Mary (Nastos} dropped off my stuff from the office.’

‘I feel bad about the way things ended between us two.’

‘Ya?’ is how I respond, but in smoother tone. ‘May be we can talk about it some other time?’

‘Yes.’ And her cheery voice returns.

‘What are you doing today?’

‘Oh, I have this South African Playmate (Nikki Peterson – January 1994, SA PB) in town and I would have to feed her, so we may go out for dinner. How about you?’

‘I am not doing anything.  I was going to call my friend Carrie, who works with me.  Was also thinking maybe you can come over and I can grill some chicken.’

‘I would love to, if you don’t mind me bringing along the Playmate.’

‘It depends on how threatened I will feel.’

Is she serious? Feeling threatened of a nineteen year old model trying to make it in the world?’

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

*The “naughty doodles” on the wall adapted from the images burned in the copper plates by Janette Newton.  

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Related Stories

PLAYBOY ON THE COFFEE TABLE

MY SPRING VALENTINE

ALL ABOUT THE WILD PARTIES AT PLAYBOY

 

Next Friday, July 19, 2013

FACE TO FACE WITH HUGH M. HEFNER

I can’t claim to have known the man closely or even casually. But yes, I have had a couple of face to face encounters with the capo dei capi. Quite pleasant actually. And long enough to form a certain impressions of my own about the man with the initials HMH.   

 

Haresh Shah

Glamour And Glitter,Trials,Turbulence,Tears And Joy

junkbabes

If anyone, it had to be Albert Cheng – our dynamic publisher in Hong Kong – to pull it off as swiftly and smoothly, the Herculean task of the first and the only Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant within a little over a year of launching Playboy’s first Chinese language edition  on this city state of the fragrant harbor.

It all began over an elaborate lunch with Hong Kong’s TVB executives, Bernard Cheung and Sophia Chan. The thing I remember the most about that lunch now twenty six years later is the table-side preparation of the tiger shrimps tossed live in the hot frying pan and them shooting up above our heads, some even higher,  before landing back into the sizzling hot pan to meet with their instant demise and immediately turning into the most delicious dish sautéed in the restaurant’s exquisite sauce. I must confess that as tasty as they turned out, I found it hard to swallow them. It certainly gave a new meaning to the culinary tradition of from farm to the table. Thanks to the excellent Chablis pairing that helped washing them down while hiding my apparent discomfort from showing on my face in front of my most gracious hosts.  Albert and I had met them to discuss the possibility and the logistics of staging the beauty contest in which the contestants would come from then existing fourteen international editions of Playboy.

Albert has done his part of conceiving and selling the idea. TVB executives had done their numbers, and now it was upon me to agree and get excited about and have all the editions enthusiastic and then have my superiors back in Chicago buy into it. TVB would bankroll the project and will do their part in producing and broadcasting it live as one of their prime time  pre-Christmas offerings.  Albert and his staff would take care of the logistics and the organizations in Hong Kong. And I would have to be the one to  deliver the fourteen most beautiful women hand picked by the editorial teams of each one of our editions.

Our meeting took place on 22nd of May of 1987. We all had a little over six months to bring the project to life. Soon as I had gotten Chicago’s approval, each one of our editions went to work. This is the kind of a project, if you stop to think of the enormity of the task, overwhelmed, you never would do it. So the best was to just begin. I am not quite sure how the idea of tying-in a major pictorial came about, but I believe it had to be Jan Heemskerk, the editor-in-chief of our Dutch edition. We had partnered a year before in producing of Mundial ’86 – the soccer world cup in Mexico, and now we would work together to do the same with the Beauty Pageant. Gary Cole – the photography director of the mother edition loaned us his star editor and producer Jeff Cohen, we got Tom Staebler – the art director as a bonus. In addition, Gary hired and made available to us the renowned British photographer Byron Newman, who as it turns out, also went to London College of Printing to study photography, probably around the same years as I was studying Photolithography also at LCP, and his wife/stylist, the French actress Brigitte Ariel, who played Edith Piaf in the movie, Piaf: The Early Years. And  he would contribute substantial sum towards the expenses of the photo production. My division and the editions would pick up the rest.

●●●

The infrastructure in place, on December 2, 1987, Jeff, Tom and I, accompanied by Playmate Lynne Austin (July 1986) – who is to represent the United States – board Tokyo bound Japan Airlines Flight 009, which would connect us with an onward flight to Hong Kong.

Us four are sitting in the middle row – happy to be pulling away from our respective day-to-day grinds, we are looking forward to our two week long adventure in Hong Kong. Half way through the flight, Jeff and Tom have either drifted away, snoozing or have withdrawn within themselves, while Lynne and I are quite animated, chatting away. I love her down home southern  natural self. And her Texas twang. We talk about things and the conversation veers towards the beauty pageant. She asks many relevant questions about the contest and its organization. I tell her what I know and then she asks.

‘Who will be the judges?’

‘Albert Cheng, our Hong Kong publisher for one, and other local dignitaries.’

‘Will they all be men?’

‘I am not sure, but of the group, I think one or two are women.’

‘Hum!’ She grunts and then looks at me with an impish smile on her face.

‘Do you think Chinese men like blow jobs?’

She is of course kidding. Or is she?  Anything to win? The more I get to know h, the more I like the real woman that she is and I am charmed by her natural beauty and her sense of humor.

●●●

There is absolutely no rest for the wicked. We left Chicago the day before at around noon, arriving in Hong Kong at three in the afternoon the next day. Soon as we check into Hotel Prince, the instant meeting breaks out and lasts until one in the morning. Already there or arriving  simultaneously are Byron and Brigitte, Jan and Lucienne Bruinooge of Holland. There is no time to waste, so we get into the production of the pictorial the very next day. Most of the themes are conceived by Byron and Brigitte and are discussed among us. The concepts basically present  the stereotypes of each country, which makes their nationalities easily recognizable.

Lucienne is photographed as the cellophane wrapped bouquet of Tulips who among the real colorful dozen tulips is the prettiest centerpiece. Similarly, Shannon Long in the outback Aussie gear, Jenny Vergdou of Greece dressed in blue with a pile of plates for her to smash, Spain’s Nuria Posariza Dobon as the torero, Marta Duca of Italy in a glittery green dress pulled by paparazzis posed by Jan and me, Lynne in her American West cowboy garb complete with the Stetson hat and Luma de Oliveira of Brazil in all her Samba School gold and glitter. The fun fantasy stuff. Except that editors of Germany and Japan are upset at the way we have planned to portray their girls. The German girl is decked out in all black leather, the bustier with three straps, a leather scarf and thigh high leather boots and her entire arms covered with tight leather gloves. There are rhinestone studs and she is wearing dark sinister looking sunglasses. The only image the props conjure up is that of a brutal Nazi officer. The Japanese girl is propped up on a chair with red ribbons sprouting out from a spoke, symbolizes The land of the Rising Sun. They are more than offended and the German editor Bernd Prievert even threatens to pack up and leave with his girl. Don’t ask me how I was able to pacify and convince them that those were meant to be funny and not meant to communicate anything else.

When I look at those photos today, I must confess, there is nothing funny about those two concepts. However inadvertently, in the place of Bernd and the Japanese editor, whose name escapes my memory, I too would have not only been upset, but would have forced the creative team to change the concepts. Probably put the German Fräuline in Dirndl and the Japanese girl in a revealing Kimono.  I would have not threatened to up and leave, because that would be against my nature and the team spirit. If anyone, me having lived in Germany, I should have known the sensitivity of what even a remotest hint at Nazism would make me feel. But I am glad that however I was able to resolve the conflict, the harmony and the spirit remained in tact. Perhaps the readers too saw those props as self-mockery instead of symbolizing anything so grave. Because as far as I know, there was no negative reaction to those shots.

●●●

Not withstanding minor day-to-day crisis, the major crisis erupts when the waiter in the Royal Garden Hotel’s atrium (We have now moved to Royal Garden) where I am having drinks with the editors, informs me that I am wanted on the phone. Its almost two in the morning. On the line is Holland’s Lucienne.

‘Stella and I need to talk to you urgently.’ Now what? I look at my watch and walk over to the elevator.

‘We girls had a meeting earlier, and we won’t do it. Wear those ugly one piece swimming sacks they want us to.’

And I thought we had resolved the crisis that threatened cancellation of the pageant. The Christian Theological Society of Hong Kong had made waves about the Playboy show allowed to be aired in the prime time. They had threatened to protest outside the Queen Elizabeth Stadium from where the show would be broadcast live in the presence of Hong Kong’s 2000 who’s who audience. TVB would stand its ground by going ahead with the show live as planned, but was sufficiently worried about the aftermath and it was decided to tone down the presentation by having girls wear hastily made white single piece swimsuits with its flimsy conservative cuts that would make nuns look racier. Only distinguishing element among them would be different colored satin bands wrapped around their waists tied in large bows dangling in the back. This was the compromise nobody liked, but we had to defer to the decision by TVB. It seemed the only way to quell the fire the show could otherwise cause.

The girls were obviously devastated. They were there for a beauty pageant and nothing can allow them to show off their wonderful figures as much as their own handpicked bikinis. They had grumbled and registered their displeasure at this change, but seemed accepting it however reluctantly. But obviously not.

Stella and Lucienne are sitting on one of the beds. I am sitting across from them. We are like forty-four hours from going live on the air and from the tone of Lucienne’s voice, it becomes clear to me that the girls had long and serious talks about it. They are angry and they are adamant. After all, they were not competing to show which one of them looked most homely and unattractive.  If they indeed go on strike and even one of them don’t show up, that would spell disaster of a major proportions. Something I cannot allow to happen.

‘Okay. You girls are absolutely right. This is the beauty contest and the routine has to include you to parade in your bikinis. After all, each one of you is beautiful with near perfect bodies and they are going to read out your vital statistics when you’re presented. That’s what was planned and that’s what we want. I want. But the situation we’re facing is not about being right or wrong. When you are dealing with the religious zealots or hostile feminist groups, the logic goes out of the window. Believe me, they are in mini-minority at the very best. But they have apparently made enough noise to be noticed. And what they are demanding is to cancel the show. TVB is determined to go ahead with the show, at the risk of perhaps even losing their broadcasting license. But have come up with a compromise, should it come to that, they would have a convincing argument. Now if us from Playboy family cause the cancellation, I don’t even want to imagine what the cost of that would be to each one of our editions.

‘As for taking all the glamour out of the swim suit routine, look at it this way. You will all have the same handicap. The judges are well aware of that. And each one of them would have seen the special issue we have put out containing your original nudes as they appeared in your country’s edition. So they would know. We would ask them to pay closer attention to those’

I see expressions on their faces soften a bit. As angry and disappointed as they are, we have been working together and living under the same roof for now almost two weeks. We are a team and we are becoming a family. Plus, we still have the opening spread to shoot. We are to shoot it on the classic Chinese Junk while sailing around Hong Kong harbor. There is likely to be the press, and even television coverage. ‘You can show off your bikinis in the bright daylight. Fuck those bastards!’ The prospect of having the last word and to end it with the fuck you moment before returning home puts a smile on theirs and my face.

‘Look, I can’t force you to do anything. But we are in this together. And I need  you to not let those disgruntled few to force us into a devastating defeat.’

Lucienne and Stella still unhappy, but seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. They agree to talk it over again with the girls in the morning and ask me to be there with them. I pretty much repeat what I had said the night before. Nobody is feeling really hot about it. We all understood what we had to do and left for the rehearsal.

Bikinis or not, the show went on the air promptly at 9:30 PM on the night of Sunday, December 12th 1987 and kicked off TVB’s special Christmas offering.  And 95% of Hong Kong’s television viewers tuned into TVB’s Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant. There were some protestors outside the stadium, mostly ignored and the show concluded without a stitch. Good times had by all. TVB and Playboy crew exhausted and elated met for the midnight dinner at the Royal Garden.

To add bit of a drama to it, earlier in the day, Jan had landed at the Adventist Hospital with a sudden swelling in his foot and was subjected to watch the show on TV from his hospital bed. The Japanese editor loses his briefcase containing lot of cash, his passport, credit cards and all.  And soon as the lights dim on the specially built outdoor set and all the girls have walked off the arena, France’s Nathalie Galan remains at the edge of the stage, tears rolling down her eyes, utterly devastated at not even making it as one of the two runner ups, let alone winning the title. She refuses to go have dinner with us. I put my arm around her and hold her while she breaks down in sobs. We stand like that when rest of the stage lights are turned off and when the crew arrives to dismantle the set. In excitement and in hurry, everyone has rushed back to the hotel, having totally forgotten about the two of us missing. Streets are dark and deserted outside the stadium. We stand there for a while. Confused, when a lone cab slows down in front of us.  There is an applause when we walk in to the dining room.

●●●

THE WINNERS

Luma de Oliveira – Brazil – Miss Playboy International 1987 & Editor’s Choice

Marta Duca           – Italy – First Runner Up

Lynn Austin          – USA – Second Runner Up

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Related Stories

TIMES THEY’RE A CHANGIN’

BEAUTY AND THE BREASTS            

Next Friday, July 12, 2013

PLAYBOY AND WOMEN IN MY LIFE

No one, even the women in your life understand that working for Playboy is like any other job – just making a living. That its not any different than working for Time or Life magazines. Personal anecdotes about working for living and matters of the heart.

 

 

Haresh Shah

Let A Pencil Be The Judge

penciltest

‘How can you tell if someone has firm breasts?’ Asks Marie.

Just a couple of hours earlier we sat at the riverside Marina City Restaurant in the Marina Towers. During the course of the evening, I happen to mention to Marie how bummed I was that at the last minute my friend Jena  had backed out on me. At the time I was still working for Time & Life and getting into some serious photography, to an extent that I had not only bought myself the Pentax Spotmatic, and several lenses, flesh unit, filters, tripod and all, but had also set up the dark room of my own in the storage closet of my South Shore Drive apartment. I was better at doing close ups and headshots. I had natural aptitude for it. But now I had gotten into my head like most every artist and photographers that one of the things I would also like to do was to do some female nudes. Jena and I had been good friends  and she offered to pose for me, but had gotten cold feet at the last minute.  Even I didn’t realize how sad I must have looked as I was relating this to Marie – whom I had just started dating.

‘That wasn’t nice of her!’ says Marie in a tone of a little mother comforting her child. And we resume our dinner.

‘I’ll pose for you!’ I hear her say while we are waiting for our coffee and the deserts. I feel her gentle gaze fixed on me as she offers to be my model.

We finish our dinner and rush to my apartment. I am nervous as can be and Marie is too. Doing the nudes is the first for me – it is for both of us and we are not working on being just friends. We have already shot a film or two and now taking a short break. We are sitting on the floor on the generously padded wall-to-wall rug, relaxed enough for Marie to feel comfortable sitting in front of me in the nude.

Marie is not the most beautiful girl on the earth. But not bad looking either. Just  your regular girl next door. Going for her is her youth, she is only twenty three. Not that I am much older either. And she is built like a brick shit house.

‘How?’ I ask.

‘Do you have a pencil?’

‘Sure.’ And I get up and fetch one from the desk in my bedroom. She gets up and stands in the middle of the room, stretches her frame vertically and brings her feet together, as if at attention. Takes the pencil from my hand and levels it against the lower curve of one of her breasts and lets her hand go. The pencil comes tumbling down and lands at her feet. I pick it up and am now standing face-to-face with her.

‘You see?’ She asks. But I’m afraid, I don’t.

‘Let me show you again.’ And she snatches the pencil from my hand and levels it under the other breast and lets go of it. Again it comes tumbling down.

I still don’t get it.

‘You see, my breasts are as firm as can be. The reason the pencil falls down. But if there were even a tiny bit of sagging, they would hold the pencil right where I placed it.’

And then I see her cupping her breasts and slightly cradle them, as if saying good girls! I suddenly feel jealous of her hands.

Now I see. ‘Wow!’ I’m in awe of her proven firm breasts.

Fast forward sixteen years. It’s the spring of 1986. We are in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, shooting a multi-girl pictorial containing of the girls from the countries participating in Mundial ‘86 – the Soccer World Cup – hosted by Mexico that year. We have a private bungalow within the complex of Hotel Krystal Resort.  Secluded and complete with its own outdoor swimming pool. While the crew is busy setting up details of the group shot, the girls splashing in choreographed harmony, the girls are clustered around the shaded patio that connects the house with the pool. Seems like there is some commotion going-on on the patio. The girls are in the different stages of undress, just standing around, sipping on their drinks, talking and surrounding Brenda.

‘Really? They’re beautiful. They sure look real to me!’ I hear one of them say while her gaze fixed on Brenda’s breasts.  As I walk towards the girls to find out what the commotion is all about, they part to let me in.

‘Did you know that she have had a boob job?’

‘Who?’

‘Brenda here.’

‘Is it true?’ I asks Brenda.

‘Yup!’

‘When did you have it done?’

‘Oh, not long ago.’

I look at the proud and pleased expressions on her face and then at her firm-as-boulders pair of breasts. Not long before I had looked at the set of her test shots. And her breasts looked just fine, but when I mention them, she tells me how she had decided to have them enhanced after having looked at those photos.

‘I just wanted to have them bigger and firmer.’ She tells us.

‘They sure look great, wow! I thought the surgery would leave visible cut marks under them?’

‘Not really. Yes, they do, but barely.’ And she lifts both of her breasts with her hands and all I could see underneath them were teeny-tiny incisions.

‘That’s incredible. Do they still feel the same? I mean, to touch?’

‘Of course they do. I sure don’t feel any difference. Neither does my boyfriend. You want to touch them?’

‘No,, its alright!’

‘I don’t mind, really.’ She says and moves closer, as if presenting me two giant scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with cherries. Sure enough, as far as I can tell, they are firm and they feel as natural as any other set I have ever touched.

‘See?’ And I see a smile of satisfaction on her face.

‘That’s great. Now it’s  time to get back to work.’ As I walk back, I couldn’t help but wonder whether they would pass Marie’s pencil test?

A year and a half later. We are doing another multi-girl pictorial. This time in Hong Kong. Its rather late in the night. Must be past eleven. I no longer remember what it was that I needed to communicate to the girls urgently, I knock on Lynne (Austin) (Playmate July 1986) and Shannon’s (Long) (Playmate Australia – September 1985 and US October 1988) door. Unlike in Mexico where each girl had a room of her own, in Hong Kong we have them sharing rooms. Lynne opens the door. They are wide awake and having a glass of wine. Probably one before calling it a day. They are already in their pajamas. Nothing out of ordinary, except that they seem to be holding back something – a smile. A big laugh even.

‘Uhm! What’s going on?’

‘Oh nothing. Just girl talk!’ Shannon chirps coyly and then gives a mischievous sideway look to Lynne.

‘Come on, you can tell me!’ I prod.

‘Should I tell him?’ Asks Lynne.

‘If you want to!’

‘Alright. Why not? Haresh is one of us. Well, Shannon and I were trying to figure out which one of us got the bigger ones? I was convinced that I did.’ That made sense. Lynne is taller and looks proportionally bigger at 5.6 ½” (1.68m) compared to compact Shannon at 5.3” (1.60m).    

‘Don’t tell me  you guys were going to measure them before I knocked on the door!’

‘We were going to, but then Shannon points me to that…’ I follow Lynne’s eyes  moving in the general direction of Shannon’s bed. Pitched on the top of it is what I can only describe as giant twin tents of a bra.

‘She does!!!’ Concedes Lynne.

And I thought it was just us deprived and depraved male of the species that obsessed over the female mammary glands.

Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

You May Also Like

TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN…

PLAYBOY ON THE COFFEE TABLE

 Next Friday, May 31, 2012

DEVIL IN THE PARADISE

Sometimes that’s what you have to be perceived as to forge a close bond. Another story of a unique friendship.

Haresh Shah

Yes, It Happens

bubbleblowing2

Don’t lie. I know you’ve been dying to ask me – no matter in what form and the words – but have been afraid to or are just being too smug or polite to ask. And I have been knowingly ignoring or just stringing you along, instead of just come out and get it over with. But the time has come for me to face up and come clear. The answer is: YES, in bold CAPITAL letters.

It is the New Year’s day in the year 2000. The first day of the new millennium. Jan (Heemskerk) and I are taking a walk in the woods of the Dutch countryside. Not too far from his home in Alkmaar. It’s wet and it’s muddy and it’s bone chilling cold. But we are bundled up and the crisp cold fresh air does us good. I don’t remember what lead him to ask, but out of a clear blue sky, I hear his words amble in the air.

‘Shah, have you ever regretted having slept with someone? ’Almost in the exact words that I remember an author asking another in an article in The New Yorker – I think the question was directed at John Updike, but I am not sure.

‘Nope! But I certainly have regretted not having done so when I could have.’ I repeat pretty much what Updike or whoever it was had answered. My response puts us in reflective mode. We continue walking in silence. I don’t remember much being said about it. We probably drifted away talking about something else – or more likely picked up the thread of whatever conversation we were having.

Had we stayed on the subject, it probably would have become the hour of truth as is known to happen on any given New Year’s day. What could have been more appropriate than the first day of the new millennium? Had we gone on, this is what I would have liked to share with him.

‘Do  you remember the Dutch starlet you sent to Chicago to be photographed? What was her name? Yeah, her, right. Ans. I think it was the second or the third day of the shoot. We had built this elaborate set for her. Sort of Spanish Colonial arch in the background, and a huge king size bed perched atop the specially built stage. There are potted flowers, pastel pink and the bed is covered with usual props to selectively and enticingly hide and reveal the languishing shapely female form. During a short break, everyone was dispersed off the set. No one had gone far. Pat (Tomlinson), the stylist was in the props room, futzing around. Pompeo (Posar) was probably talking to his wife at home. Do you believe he calls his wife at least a dozen times every day just to tell her I love you? Steve (Conley), the assistant was somewhere else. And then I walk in on the set. Ans has climbed down the bed and sitting at the edge of the stage, relaxing with her legs dangling. Other than her turquoise choker and the matching earrings and the bracelets and a long shawl loosely hanging from her arm, she has not bothered to cover herself.’

‘So how is it going?’ I approach her.

‘Oh, good! They are taking a little break!’ And we indulge in small talk. I am standing in front of her, her face and my waist parallel to each other. And suddenly, like the head of a cobra springing  up from the snake charmer’s basket, she drops the shawl and her hand is cupping my crotch and affectionately squeezing my family jewels. I back up. She looks up at me with a wicked smile. Nothing is said. We just exchange looks. Amazement on my face, lust on hers.’ I know, Jan would have given me a knowing smile at the mention of family jewels, because as good as his English is, when we first started preparing for the Dutch Playboy, scheduled for the US edition was an article titled Family Jewels by Roy Blount Jr.. Everyone in the department would remember the hilarious telex traffic between him and our rights manager Jean Freehill (Connell), trying to explain to Jan what the family jewels meant. To keep it simple, everyone in the department got a copy of all the incoming telexes. So Jean had to be extra careful in answering, oh so delicate a subject matter.   

‘And remember Nicole?  When we were doing 1986 World Cup pictorial  in Mexico and staying at Krystal in Puerto Vallarta? It was about seven in the morning when Pat calls me.

‘Haresh, can you please do me a favor and call Nicole and Emily and make sure they come in for makeup as soon as possible. I am waiting for them. Pompeo wants to get in as many shots as possible before ten so the light is still soft?’

Obviously Pat could have coaxed them out of bed herself, but at times chemistry between the makeup artist/stylist and the models is not the most congenial. Instead of wasting my time calling, I just pull up my shorts, put on a T-shirt and walk over to their rooms. First I knock on Emily’s door. She is already up and about, dressed only in her undies and the Krystal t-shirt, having huevos rancheros for breakfast. We brush cheeks. As beautiful as she is, the whiff of scrambled eggs wafting from her mouth is disillusioning.  But okay. I put her on alert, telling her to be in Pat’s suite for make up no later than in fifteen minutes. Leaving her to get ready, I strut over to the different building of the complex to Nicole’s room.

It takes a few knocks and some sleepy grunts from inside the room before I sense her getting out of bed and shuffle over to open the door. She is similarly dressed or undressed. Shouldn’t really matter. When you have seen them in the nude, day in and day out for several days. But it does. They are their most attractive and the most seductive when they are dressed. When they show up in the evening for dinner in their “street” clothes, squeezed into their tight fitting  jeans and the tops or wrapped in their revealing evening dresses. And when they are not modeling. Just being their own natural self makes them ever so alluring and dangerous. Ditto, when they are scantily dressed like Emily was while ago and Nicole is right now.

Her eyes half closed, she flings her blonde tresses – twists her entire body like a cat waking up from a snooze. ‘I’m so tired. Let me sleep just a little more,’ she says and climbs right back into bed and curls up like an escargot. Pulling up the blanket, bottom of which is squeezed between her legs.

‘Let me sleep just a little more, pretty please!’ She repeats herself and gives me a poor little girl look.

‘I’m sorry Nicole. Come on. Get up. Pompeo will be waiting for you on the beach promptly at eight. All ready to roll. ‘ I sit down at the edge of her bed and prod her more.  She slowly and seductively uncoils herself, sits up and leans slightly towards me and gives me a hurt look. Her cloudy green eyes darted into mine like a double arrowed bow pulled by multiple cupids hovering up above our heads. She seems lost in deep thoughts for a moment and then twirls her torso in the most languid slow motion.

‘I was wondering what would it feel like to make love to you?’ The sentence comes out seamlessly – in a drawl, like a streamer unfurling in a slow billowing motion . And even before I have time to process what she said, her lips are precariously close to mine – fluttering.  Our eyes blend together. And I am pulled on the bed. Or was it me who nudged her down? Doesn’t really matter. Just a small detail. And I am on top of her. Squeezed underneath me, and our lips locked, cradling in my arm is Nicole. Beautiful, beautiful Nicole. And then as suddenly I untangle myself and jump out of bed with; ‘come on Nicole. Get up and get ready!’ She gives me a hateful look. I give her my hand, look into her eyes. ‘Please Nicole!’ I plead.  She lowers her gaze and as she climbs down the bed, looking hurt, I hear her subdued grouse: ‘you’re so cruel!’

Was I thinking of Carolyn back home? Yes. Is that why I peeled myself away before she could find out what it would feel like to make love to me? Or me finding out how sweet would it feel to have made love to her? No.

There were other reasons. The guilt I would feel and the lies I may someday tell. But trickier yet, in my position as the leader of the project, I just couldn’t afford to get involved with one of the twelve girls of the team. It would change the complete logistics and the attitude not only that of   Nicole, but of every girl. And Nicole would suddenly  feel and behave like the queen bee. That was very apparent that very evening. Normally aloof, that night during the dinner, she makes it a point to sit next to me, if not exactly snuggling up, but with a bit more familiarity than up until then.

Let’s  pause here for a sec to consider: What if? Most probably the answer would be: Nothing. I knew that both Nicole and Ans had boyfriends back home. Both of them Europeans; probably had kinds of relationships in which they could include a bit of frolicking in their narration, get a chuckle or two at having seduced a Playboy editor. None of us would have followed up or tried to keep in touch and would be cordial if and when we ran into each other.  Never uttering a word about our little secrets. And for me, had Carolyn asked me, I probably would have told her. Or not. Because at the early stages of our relationship, we had brushed upon the subject and she had said: I would rather not know.

But in nutshell, these liaisons happen only in the moment. Like delicious little bonbons and the bright little rainbows floating off a bubble wand, or the dazzling bouquet of light rays sprouting out of the sparkler. But soon, the bubbles burst, the blinding rays of the sparkler die and the sweetness of the bonbons dissolve on your tongue. So do those short sweet moments fade into the past and then they are gone. Puff!

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Next Friday, May 24, 2013

BEAUTY AND THE BREASTS

What is this with women and their breasts? And why are we so obsessed with them? Help, Herr Dr. Freud. Because all I feel qualified to contribute is to report on the state of affairs vis-à-vis, you know?

 

 

 

 

Haresh Shah

The Beauty That Only Mothers Can See

momknows3

‘How about Terry?’  Bill asks. The question is directed more to his wife Irene than to me. And then looking at me, he adds: ‘You’ve got to see Irene’s daughter Terry. She is such a knockout!’

‘Bill!!!’ Goes Irene.

‘What? I think Terry is beautiful, don’t you think?’

‘Yes, she is, but…?

‘But what? I think she would make a perfect Playmate! She is just what Haresh just described. An all American pretty girl next door. What could be more American than a girl from Park Forest?’ He adds and smiles at his own clever connection – certainly a proud resident of southern suburb of Chicago.

‘She probably would, but…!

‘But what? Come on Irene. You’re just being modest. Let our friend Haresh here decide!’ Irene gives me a help me look.

‘Do you have a problem with that?’ Now excited, Bill continues.

‘Not really.’

So it went for a while between husband and wife.

Irene looks intrigued and seems comfortable with her daughter posing for Playboy.

‘Let me talk it over with Terry first.’ She says finally.

Encouraged, I put in my bit: ‘If Irene doesn’t mind and if Terry would be comfortable posing for me, I will be happy to submit her photos to Playboy here in Chicago.’

I have just returned back to the States and am spending some weeks in Chicago as I drive cross country to my final destination of Santa Barbara, California. Bill (Houston) is an old bowling buddy of mine. Both him and Irene work for Time Inc., my previous employers. We are having lunch near Time & Life building in near north side of Chicago. Catching up.  Bill is Irene’s second husband and we are talking about Irene’s daughter.

About future plans, I’m telling them that even though I may eventually look for another job, for the time being I was enjoying my freedom and intended to concentrate on my writing – something I had always wanted but never had enough time to do. And continue pursuing the nude photography for a while, especially since I had eyes and ears of the people at Playboy.  And I tell them about the test shootings I have done so far and how two of them had already made it to the pages of Playboy in Germany. And who knows? I might just be able replicate the same in the US.

Irene calls me a couple of days later to tell me that she had spoken to Terry and invited me over for lunch at their home on Saturday. She sounded quite enthusiastic and thrilled at the prospect of her daughter becoming a photo model, pretty as she was.

On Saturday, I get into my Buick and drive down to their home in Park Forest, a thirty miles ride (48 kilometers) south of downtown Chicago. Its your typical ranch style three bedroom family house, with the living areas down below and the bedrooms several steps up above.  Sitting at the kitchen table are Bill and Irene and Irene’s mother, having coffee. They call Terry down from her room. She is pretty for sure in an all American way. Straight dark hair hanging down below her shoulders, parted in the middle to frame her face like that of Joni Mitchell. She doesn’t wear any makeup that I can detect.  Looking unpretentious and simple, down home un-intimidating  beauty that one would have seen walking the isles of a local supermarket. She is probably nineteen or twenty and lacks that sparkle and the spunk that would make her sexy and desirable. Basically, she is Eliza of My Fair Lady, who can be transformed into a sophisticated and sexy young woman. We talk as I munch on my sandwich. She is soft spoken and probably a bit intimidated in my presence. Her smiles come easy, but shy – precisely what I find quite seductive as much as her hesitant and sparse eye contacts. Nothing to be concerned about, she would perk up once we are alone.  I know, there is a forest preserve not far from where they live and even though its mid-October, its warm enough for us to do the shoot outdoors in the nature. And she is  up for it.

‘You can use our bedroom upstairs. There is plenty of light in there.’ Offers Irene.

I am not so sure, with her parents and grandma around how she would feel about prancing around in the nude.  Even I myself feel a bit ambivalent. But seeing that none of her family in the room seem to have any reservations; why not?

‘You’re not inhibited because I am here, are you?’ Grandma chides her granddaughter. To which Terry goes, grandma!!  And that breaks the ice.

I tell Terry to go upstairs and undress and call me when she’s ready. When I walk up and enter the bedroom, she is lying on the bed, in a pose similar to the famous Modigliani reclining nude. The expressions on her face passive and somewhat timid.  Seen through my lens, there is no denying that she is a real beauty. Her figure is near perfect and as alluring as is her pretty face. Her skin is smooth as silk devoid of any blemishes. She has followed my instructions to Irene about making sure to remove her bras and panties hours before so that the elastic marks from the either wouldn’t show on her body – something I had learned from Pompeo Posar, while assisting him in Munich.

There is enough light coming through the bay windows. The room is furnished with a king size bed and a couch against the wall and ample space on the carpeted floor. The couch has large plaid and the rug irregular patterns on them, not the most ideal backdrops. But the first session is normally meant for the model and the photographer to get acquainted and comfortable with each other, build a certain rapport and let the resulting photos later show what poses and camera angles work better than others. She relaxes after a few sips of wine and the session goes well. I still want to shoot outdoors and she too is up for it. One of my strengths as a photographer is the head shots and this is something better done with a longer lens and in an open space that gives you shallow depth of field. So we get out of the house. I don’t remember on that very afternoon or a few days later – and go to the forest preserve. Terry and I are happy with the results.

Beyond that I drop off a selection of her photos to Alfred DeBat, who works as #2 to Lee Hall in Chicago’s Foreign Editions, and serves as a liaison between our group and the US editors.  I get into my car and continue driving west until I finally reach Santa Barbara, exactly  three months after I had landed in New York.  I lived with Mark and Ann in their farm house for a month and decided it was as good a place as any to settle for a while. I found myself a spacious two bedroom apartment not far from UCSB campus and the tar covered Pacific shore in the valley of San Ynez mountain range. Knowing that unlike in Germany, selecting a Playmate in the US was a long drawn out process with voting among editors and then still subject to Hugh M. Hefner’s seal of final approval. I leave it at that, but working with Terry further inspired and encouraged me to give my photographic ambition a serious push.

Luck would have it that the German Playmate Barbara too was now living in Southern California. Even though when still in Munich, we didn’t quite hang out, but when I called her in San Clemente, it was as if we  were long lost friends reunited. We decided to do some projects on spec and see if we could get them accepted, if not by either German or the US Playboy then probably by Oui – the American edition of highly successful Lui – the  magazine which Playboy had cross-licensed from the French publisher Daniel Filipacchi. I had done some small writing and contributed some pix to Oui, thus knew some of the editors.

Forming a creative partnership with Barbara further encouraged me to expand my technical abilities.  Whereas up until then I used only natural light, I invested in a set of artificial lighting equipment.

One of the projects we had most fun doing was A Day in Life based on the Beatles’ song I read the news today oh boy!  We cleared out my dining area and papered the entire walls, the floors and even the pillow with the pages of Sunday edition of The Los Angeles Times, and created a   tableau  of her waking up, reading the paper and tearing the pages up in tatters, feeling furious and frustrated at how much in turmoil the world found itself in one single day!!

Nothing came out of  those efforts, but they gave us something fun to do together which evolved in a lifelong friendship. I guess we both must have felt lost in our new environment and having found each other from the “home town” was quite comforting.

Also during the period both Mark and Ann were super supportive of my efforts and I ended up photographing their friend and also found a pretty young lady at the local laundromat to pose for me.

At the time I was collecting and living on my unemployment benefits, which required me to report personally once every week to the unemployment office in downtown. As everywhere else, the mention of Playboy as my employers triggered their curiosity. Normally it would be the beautiful reddish blonde Monica at the window and we would talk about the job I had just left and what it was then that I was now doing. Once in a while I would find Monica’s boss Mrs. Buckwalter at the window. Also pretty, but a woman in her mid to late forties. She was even more inquisitive. After weeks of our talking, she wondered out loud:

‘I wonder if one of my daughters would make it as a Playmate?’

Apparently she had twins. She pulled out their photo from her purse to show me. They were in their early twenties and it wasn’t just their mother talking,  the girls were indeed very pretty.

‘Would they want to give it a try?’

‘I don’t know.  But if you think they even have long shot at making it, I will talk to them.’

From what I understood, the girls didn’t seem too excited about the prospect but were intrigued enough to want to meet and speak with me.  Over the phone, the sister who was talking to me happened to mention how much they loved Indian food. So that was easy!

Not only were they pretty, they were also smart and spunky and happy young women. Perfect Playmate candidates. Fun to have them around as dinner companions.

I hadn’t yet broached the subject and they didn’t seem to be in hurry either to bring it up. We were just eating, drinking and enjoying being together. And then out of a clear blue sky, the older by five minutes sister Shannon, looking at her five minutes younger one  Emma says:

‘Poor Mom!’

‘Why is she poor?’ I quip.

‘Just that she is really convinced that we could be Playmates.’

‘Well, she is right.’

‘No, we don’t think so.’

‘Let me decide. I wasn’t sure before, but now that I have seen you in flesh and blood, walking and talking, I am sure that it would be worth trying. Also what you have going for you is the concept of double trouble and double delight.  Perfect sister act.’ I pause, and then continue, ‘That’s, if  you two are up to it!’

‘That’s the thing. We actually aren’t. We agreed to see you, because she spoke so highly of you and mainly just to please her. Thinking what must it have taken for her to make you see us!’

‘Not much, once she showed me your snapshot.’

‘Thanks. You’re being kind! But as I mentioned, us sisters just aren’t into it. And we want you to know that has nothing to do with the nudity.  It’s just not something either of us aspires to’

‘In that case, you certainly shouldn’t.’

‘We’re glad you understand.  We are also glad that at least we agreed to come out and see you, because this evening has been so delightful.  And the food!!

Sorry dear Mother.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

SISTER SITE

http://www.downdivision.com

Related Stories:

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

HUNTING FOR THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

MY SWEET LORD

THE TALES OF TWO PLAYMATES

Next Friday, May 3, 2013

FEEL GOOD SISTER

There are images that remain with you forever. One of them is me meeting Ann for the first time at Ristorante Positano in Munich, almost exactly forty years ago. The beautiful mélange of the east and the west and her mysterious eyes shining through that dark corner of the restaurant had such a mysterious look that my second name for her is mystery lady.