Archives for category: Women

Haresh Shah

My Not So Intimate Encounters With Italy And France

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The first time I landed in the land of Ciao Bella and O sole mio, they dumped our baggage on the tarmac next to the aircraft, barely said sorry and told us we would have to carry it to the terminal ourselves – that the ground personnel had just decided to go on a strike. A bit different story when I first arrived at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I am met at the airport by Gerrit Huig and the editorial assistant Ann Scharffenberger. They talk me into and I unwittingly agree to drive us through the city in our rented little Citroën. Though I had taken lessons in driving a car with manual transmission, this is my first time trying it out without an instructor sitting next to me. I haven’t yet gotten the knack of synchronizing the gears with the accelerator and the breaks. The car would shudder, stall and come to an abrupt stop in the middle of swirling rush hour traffic. Happens several times on the Arc de Triumph round-about. I get furious faces, obscene yelling  that I don’t understand, French version of the finger and then silly mocking giggles from my two passengers. But I somehow manage to survive both welcomes. Not exactly j’taime.  

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Falling Like Dominos

Haresh Shah

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The plan is for just the two of us to go out for dinner. Leave the business behind and talk men talk without women tugging at our arms. For me, whenever I am in Munich, it would be Susi as my forever companion. Normally Günter would have brought along his wife Hilda. Our usual double date every visit. For tonight, I am thinking of maybe us two having dinner at my early favorite neighborhood kneipe, Georgen Stuben on Prinz Regentenstrasse and afterwards maybe hit a couple of Schwabing locals like Tangente, Giesela’s and Domicil. Go down the memory lane, re-live the nostalgic days of my not so distant life in Munich.

But first, we’ve got to talk some business. Günter is one of the senior editors at the German Playboy. He has spent time in America as well, so we have got that too in common. We have spent lot of time together and have shared hundreds of silly laughs.

The first McDonald’s in Germany opened in Munich scant ten months before my arrival there in October of 1972. Just in time for Munich’s 1972 Summer Olympics. It must have taken a while for the national Life like illustrated Stern magazine to notice this American invasion, prompting them to run a cover story with the blurb screamingly calling Big Mac der Schmackloss Hackfleish – the tasteless minced meat. Günter and I couldn’t agree more, especially considering the humble German fricadel, a tasty meat ball the shape of a hamburger patty, made of the minced meat, eaten lukewarm with a hard shell brötchen – a bread roll and blob of yellow mustard on side. Lekker.

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Lost In The Labyrinth

Haresh Shah

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I am at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, temporarily delayed because of the cancellation of Alitalia to Frankfurt, which is where I was to connect with Lufthansa’s overnight Frankfurt-Johannesburg flight. They have re-routed me on British Airways to London and then connecting there to onward journey to South Africa. Suddenly I have a couple of hours to kill. I avail myself of the first class lounge, leave my belongings there and venture outside to check out the renovated expanse of the airport. As I am walking down the glass walled passage bridging two wings of the terminal, I hear a timid female voice trailing me.

‘Uncle, uncle. Please! Please!’

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Haresh Shah

In The Journey Of Life One Meets Only To Part

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When I first  notice her, she is standing next to me in the check-in line, fidgeting and shifting her weight from one foot to another. Her face looks pretty in profile. With Milan’s Linate International Airport fogged-in, we are bussed to their standby Malpensa, which is in a big mess as ever. Despite the throngs of crowds and the chaos that normally prevails, and amidst the multiple delays, things somehow work out at this remote airport.

I check in, go through the immigration and the security check and on to the other side of the security wing. Pick up some duty free booze, look around for a while and with the first call make it to the gate # 7. And there she is again. All wrapped up in her leopard skin coat and her knee-high black boots. Her pretty face floats in the air propelled by her swan like long and delicate neck. On the second call, we move closer towards the gate to get on the bus.

I notice her staring at me. I stare back. They have called the flight for the third time and the bus still isn’t anywhere in sight. Us just standing there, waiting, our eyes discreetly catching a fleeting gaze of the other.  I want to strike up a conversation, probably so does she. But we maintain our demeanor. The fourth call and the bus still hasn’t arrived. She looks at me and lets a slight smile cross her lips. I smile back.  Neither of us says anything. We continue to steal glances at each other every few moments.

A few more minutes have elapsed and the bus still hasn’t arrived. Everyone is getting antsy,  with the possible exception of us two. We are enjoying our little charade. I watch her fiddle with her pink boarding card. The lady is traveling in first class. She sort of looks rich all over, from her head to her toe. It is sweetly awkward just waiting and stealing glances at a stranger. She has moved sideways, bringing her a couple of steps closer to me. I want to move even closer and talk to her. But don’t know how to break the ice. The way we are taking each other in is discomforting.  And yet, there seems to be an unspoken insinuation between us that its alright.

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Haresh Shah

Painting Devils On The Wall

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‘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:

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Haresh Shah

Let A Pencil Be The Judge

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‘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.

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Haresh Shah

The Beauty That Only Mothers Can See

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‘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.’

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