Archives for posts with tag: Barbara Corser

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

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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Haresh Shah

Without Makeup And With Their Clothes On

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Even though I would go on to produce and organize a whole bunch of Playmates and other pictorials for Playboy’s International Editions, of the women I’ve had privilege to work with, the two that have remained in my memory and my thoughts are the first ones from Germany, Barbara Corser and Dagmar Puttkammer.  I got to know both of them up front and close and we were able to strike up a certain personal rapport that went beyond the usual superfluous bonding that results at being thrown together while working on a project.    

Dagmar appeared on Playboy Germany’s March 1975 cover with her upside down naked image as seen through the ground glass at back of the camera. Shot by Tassilo Trost, another one of Germany’s illustrious photographers.  The cover blurb said: Klar steh ich kopf, ich bin der erste Playmate. (Of course I am standing on my head, I am the first Playmate.)  Like the editors of the German edition, I too was in awe of what it took to produce a Playboy’s  Playmate. They wrote in Unter Uns – the  German version of Playbill – that to fill those ten pages, it took three photographers, 80 color and  20 black and white films, 36 exposures each, and 100 large format single plates – in all 3700 photos. This is not counting about a dozen rolls I used for the test shoot. A minor production by the standards of the mother edition in the U.S.

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Haresh Shah

Playmates, Playmates, Playmates. Überall

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Barbara was a good sport. If she was disappointed, she didn’t let on. We laughed at her ghost images and I even stack loaded the slides and projected them on the wall. However faint the images, we learned from them what poses worked and what didn’t.  As relaxed as she was, there were still traces of a certain stiffness in those poses that reflected the initial discomfort and nervousness that both of us must have felt in front of the camera and behind.

We stuck to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass LP and played over and over again My Sweet Lord and Wah-Wah – the track that followed. Those tunes carried her moods and the movements.  We repeated the session of the week before. Now more relaxed and really getting into the swing of it, we continued the routine over the next couple of weekends. Those sessions resulted into some naturally beautiful shots of Barbara’s youthful energy, exuberance and her flirtatious and teasing smiles.  We went outdoors and did a series of headshots to capture her achingly natural good  looks.

Barbara was a natural model.  Not only was she comfortable in her nudity, she was almost unaware of it as she danced to the music and flirted with the lens,  as if it were the man she most desired and was determined to lure into her orbit. Just like those songs and dances in Bollywood movies. Those weekends, not only yielded us some wonderful photos, but they also began to morph into what would turn out to be a lifelong friendship. A year and a half  later, coincidentally we both found ourselves living in southern California. Me in Santa Barbara, and her a hundred and fifty miles south in San Clemente. In the interim, she had married Scott and had moved to the US and I found myself “cost cut” from Playboy.  Feeling absolutely free after nineteen long years of schooling and working, I accepted on impulse my friends Mark and Ann’s invitation and returned to the US and settled close to them in California.  Barbara and I having found ourselves within driving distance and so far away from home, we saw each other frequently, worked on some serious photographic projects, of which though nothing came out, but we did have lots of fun and  laughs in the roles of  the photographer and his muse.   Now 38 years later, we’re still in touch and try to see each other whenever we can.  If not as frequently as we would like, but  when we do, its back to being transposed back to those weekends and those days in California.

Getting back to the beginning; what I loved the most about Barbara was that she was in no hurry to become a Playmate and was willing and ready to shoot as many sessions as it took to be able to present the best the two of us had to offer as a team.

When I finally showed a small selection of what we had shot, and handed them her four page-long Playmate Data Sheet, both Rainer and Freddy loved how naturally beautiful and how German she looked.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that we had stumbled upon the best possible Playmate candidate to be called the First.  Twenty-one years old, she weighed 54 kg. (120 lbs.) and was 173 centimeter (5’.7”) tall. Her vital statistics measured 93x63x93 (36.5” x25”36.5” ). She came from an old Bavarian family in which “everyone loved to drink.”  While her father’s ancestors transported salt across the country, the ancestors on her mother’s side were brewers; “hence the enormous thirst in the family.”  And having born and grown up in the city of the legendary Oktoberfest made for a perfect storyline. Ironically, she is only a moderate drinker.

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Haresh Shah

 Why Even Go As Far As The Next Door?

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‘So how’s your search for Playmates coming along?’ Asks Freddy as we run into each other in the hallway of the executive floor. Freddy is wearing his characteristic  grin which gives his natural dimples a couple of extra wrinkles.

‘Its coming along. I may soon have a couple of candidates to show you.’

Still grinning, he goes; ‘come on, don’t kill yourself. Just because you had to open your big fucking  mouth in front of your big American bosses!’

I grin back.

‘I tell you what! If you do find some, just have fun, fuck them and forget this Playmate business. You know, Chicago would never approve a German chick.’

At that, we both flash our cryptic smirks and go on to wherever we were headed. Me thinking that perhaps Freddy is still hoping that I was just trying to show off, trying to earn a few brownie points,  and nothing of substance would come out of it.  Soon that conversation at Neuer Simpl will be forgotten and he won’t have to worry about what must have seemed to him an enormous burden on his budget, let alone having to  undertake such an iconic photo shoot and then fail.

But little did he know, not only was I fired up but so was Rainer. This wunderkind had extra wheels turning into his already hyper creative head.  He had immediately briefed his photo editor Susi Pletz that we were looking for Playmate candidates.  All it took for them and for me, was to put out the word.

In Munich I had cultivated a sizeable circle of friends in a short span of months.  Among them, Britt Walker. The only one who frequented the night spots more than I did. This was also because he lived in the very heart of the  trendy Schwabing in the newly built and the most “in” dwelling complex, Fuchsbau.

Britt was an incredible magnet to women. I don’t know what his secret was, but he always showed up with a pretty young thing at least half his age, hanging on his arms, clinging and seemed to have madly fallen in love with him. Someone he would have introduced to us as Cersti, Gabriella, Karen, Amy, Marion and others — ones he had met the night before at Domicile, Tangente, Why Not or Yellow Submarine. Most of the girls he brought to my apartment were either already photo models,

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