Archives for category: Uncategorized

Haresh Shah

What’s There Not To Like?

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When I was just a kid, I remember the family barber stopping by on the fifth floor of Jagjivan Mansion – built by my grandpa and his three brothers – park himself in the corner by the stairs at the end of the long corridor, at the foot of the custom built telephone booth. He carried a black shoulder bag made of rugged leather, containing multiple pockets to accommodate his long and shiny sharp bladed knives, several pairs of scissors, manual trimmers with handles, a mixing bowl for soap and the water, a soft lather brush and a long leather strap about three inches wide on which he sharpened his long blades while waiting for one of the older males sitting down on the floor in front of him and submit himself to the barber’s ministrations with his head bent down while the barber squatted over, trims the hair, shaves the day old growth on their chins and then oils their scalps with his palms pummeling their heads with quick jerking and frequent slapping motions. As rough as it looked and sounded and at times even hurt, once he was done, your head felt light as a feather – all the worries slipped away and be ready to face the world all over again. Professional barber’s pride and joy was the boast that he would be the only person in front of whom even the king had to bow his head.

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Haresh Shah

Glamour And Glitter,Trials,Turbulence,Tears And Joy

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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.

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Haresh Shah

Not Following In The Boss’ Footsteps

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‘No one aspires to Hef’s (Hugh M.Hefner) lifestyle anymore.’

Talking to us at our 1982 International Publishing’s Annual Conference is the US Playboy’s Editorial Director, Arthur Kretchmer. After having them  held  all over the world including at Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, we have brought the group of about sixty to the home turf in Chicago. Seamlessly connected to Playboy’s 919 North Michigan Avenue offices by a passageway is Playboy Towers, right next door at what used to be the landmark Chicago hotel,  The Knickerbocker, now renamed Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel. We are breathing nothing but Playboy, practically day in and day out for four days and four nights.

Arthur is not the man of many words. But when you get him to say something, nobody can say it better than he could. Even though Hugh M. Hefner crowns the magazine’s masthead, being his eyes and ears, it’s Arthur who builds the magazine with his editorial team, nut and bolts, brick by brick. What he just said must have been obvious to most everyone present in the room, but coming from Arthur’s mouth makes it official – confirmed beyond doubt.

I for one had frequently felt that I was actually living the Playboy lifestyle in the real world, traveling first class around the globe, picked up and brought back home by stretched limos, staying at the best hotels in Paris, Munich, Milan and wherever else my assignments took me, eating in the best restaurants and having animated conversations with the crème de la crème of the publishing world, having a time of my life, while by then  Hefner himself had slid into the surreal fantasy world of his own.

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Haresh Shah

How Do An Indian Grandma And Her American Grand Daughter View Playboy?

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‘And I can no longer see Playboy calendar hanging in my home.’ I could see Gina was riled up about my last ditch attempt at saving our relationship by offering to sell my house and us together buying a condo. But it was too late to make any difference. We both knew it was over. And even though her  outburst was no longer meaningful, any more than a rubber bullet, nothing that would kill me, but boy did it sting!! And the irony is: there were never any Playboy calendars hanging in my house.  What she probably meant was all those monthly issues lying all around. Especially after I left the magazine. Because for months after my departure, my assistant Mary (Nastos) still kept sending me all the international editions, eighteen in all, every month. They were piling up and at some point could be found strewn all over my house.

Or most likely, the three nude studies by my artist friend Deven (Mehta) hanging in the guest washroom by the kitchen that had triggered her ire.  In any case, not until after she said it did I ever give any thought to the placement of Playboy in my house.  I had never seen any need to tuck them away some place out of sight. Gina’s disdainful words took me back to my Time & Life years, when we had a sort of an exchange program set up with messengers from various printing companies around Chicago area that printed a part or all of one of our publications and some also printed Playboy and Penthouse. We got them in exchange for our magazines.

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Haresh Shah

Playboy – The Declaration Of Independence?

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I have no hard luck story to tell about acquiring my Green Card. It was practically offered to me on a silver platter by the INS officer in Pittsburgh.  I had only one more day to go before my H3 visa expires. So I dump my stuff at the YMCA and rush to the immigration office. I am sitting across from a young immigration officer, a black gentleman who is scanning my application for the extension.

‘Everything looks fine.’ He says and picks up my passport to stamp the extension. Instead he puts the passport back down on his desk top and asks;

‘Why don’t you apply for Green Card?’

‘What’s Green Card?’ I answer. If he is astonished at my naiveté, he doesn’t show. After all he could see in my application that I have landed in this country for the first time just a week earlier. Practically gotten off the boat – so to say.

‘Its kind of permanent visa that allows you to live and work in this country indefinitely.’

‘But I don’t intend to live and work here.’

‘Maybe so, but you’ve got nothing to lose! You’ve got two college degrees, you will have further training here. You more than qualify for the third preference. Nothing in it says you have to stay here any longer than you want to. This way, should you change your mind or an opportunity knocks on you door… I mean, as long as  you are here.’

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Haresh Shah

A Fond Farewell From A Friend      
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On the afternoon of May 17, 2012 my friend Donna (Drapeau) and I were having our periodic lunch at our favorite via Carducci, and along with the catching up we normally did, for some reason, we found ourselves talking about how we often hesitate calling our older friends for the fear that he or she may no longer be around.  Ominous? Because soon as I returned home and turned on my computer, the front page news item in that day’s New York Times was the death of Donna Summer.

If not for her untimely passing,  I probably would not have thought of writing about her. It would have seemed superfluous name dropping. I had known her but for a very short period of time, when both of us lived in Munich and during the time she was briefly dating an acquaintance of mine – the Swiss psychiatrist Dieter Weeren.   Just like most everyone else at the time, I met Donna in my own apartment in Munich. She became one of the group for a short while, going out for dinners and dancing and just hanging out with us at my apartment.

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Haresh Shah

Leaving On A Jet Plane

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The captain has already announced for the crew to prepare for the departure. The aircraft door is already pulled in and slammed shut, when  I notice one of the flight attendants picking up the receiver from the wall phone and in turn calling the cockpit. The plane comes to a halt and then very slowly inches back to meet the jetway. The door opens and in comes trotting  a young woman, weighed down on her right by a fairly large and what seems like a heavy blue duffle bag. The flight attendant helps her with the bag. Looking frazzled and out of breath, she gives a feeling of being distraught and disoriented . She is tall and pretty, but looks a bit haggard with no visible makeup on her face and her unkempt, unwashed shoulder length blond locks. She has a chiseled angular face, a small but proportional nose and the dull grey eyes. She is dressed in a beat up pair of blue jeans and a long sleeved well fitting deep purple T-shirt, under black leather jacket. Her frame carries a shapely figure. She is being escorted to the empty seat next to mine. She throws her bulky purse under the seat in the front and plumps herself down next to me, hurriedly snapping together her seat belt.

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