Archives for posts with tag: Germany

Falling Like Dominos

Haresh Shah

threehearts

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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Paparazzi In His Own Backyard

Haresh Shah

peepers

It’s only once in a life time that you meet someone like FHG. The initials stand for Franz Hermann Gomfers from the little BIG town of Wachtendonk, tucked away near the Dutch border of Venlo in Germany’s lower Rhine region. He spoke only German in the Niederrhein with frequently punctuating with nicht wahr? And yet his house on Feldstrasse 29 would be bursting with smatterings of languages and the people from all around the globe. His curiosity knew no bounds, which was always topped with his patience with a common friend going back and forth between him and his new acquaintances, translating and interpreting. Something about him was fraulich,  in which he would dig out all the gory and juicy details from the person and would bring him or her to a confessional mode, with the seriousness on his face that would betray earnestness even that of Herr Doktor Freud. Because he is genuinely interested in their lives and what they have to say. And yet, he was a little boy like mischievous prankster to the core. The plotter, the match maker, the eternal flirt, frequently crossing his boundary to the utter dismay of his dear Lizbeth. And then getting away with a coy and guilty but a hearty laugh, just like not so innocent Tom Sawyer.

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Haresh Shah

You Are What You Drive

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“That damn Buick of yours. As much as we have paid to transport it all over the world, the company should own the damn thing.” Exclaims my boss Lee Hall. So it should. The company could have even bought two of those damn things. But what was I supposed to do?

I had applied for a job at Playboy at the same time as I did Time. I have had a perfunctory interview with the production boss John Mastro. Nothing came out of it while Time offered me the job in Chicago. Now four years later when John does offer me the job, its over the phone – the one that would take me to Germany. And wouldn’t you know? He wants me yesterday.

Its Thursday October 26th 1972. This is how the conversation goes.

‘When can you start?’

‘As soon as I could.’

‘Can you leave in a couple of weeks?’

‘That might be a bit tight. I still have a job, I need to give them notice first,’

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 Haresh Shah

The Spookiness Of The Creative Mind

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It’s It the Easter Monday in Italy. I am on an over crowded train going back to Milan from Pontremoli. Everybody is returning from the long holiday weekend and as squeezed together as we are, I have managed to find a “comfortable” corner of my own where I get to stand for all three hours of the train ride without being crushed.

This is the first time I am alone face to face with myself since the fateful late Monday night of the week before. I am reading Andy Warhol’s autobiographical excerpts, while the conflicting thoughts rush through my mind, they collide with each other to the rhythm of the oscillating motion of the train piercing  through  the still night of the Italian country side.

I have just spent a very pleasant and a relaxing weekend with Rainer (Wörtmann) and his wife Renate in their newly acquired  old mill in Italian country side. It’s a beauty, standing proudly in a little village called Mulazzo near Pontremoli. It stands forlorn in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a stream and rocks and a cluster of trees. The place is to serve as a retreat from their hectic lives in Munich. It also turns out to be a great and timely escape for me in the aftermath of the week before.

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Haresh Shah

Bonding Over Beer And The Blue Eyed Bitch

 

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Life is what happens to you when you’re too busy planning it.

John Lennon

Things happened at the lightening speed. Instead of a three week vacation in California, I am checking in at the Lufthansa counter at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for their Frankfurt bound flight on my way to Munich. Everything seems to have fallen in place smoothly. My lifelong dream of working for Playboy has come true. Better yet. I will be working for them in Europe. I am elated.

I won’t bother you with details such as cancelled flights, delays, lost baggage and such. Their significance has long been lost. So is that of the icy reception upon my arrival in what would be my stomping grounds in Munich and Essen, West Germany.  But what is still significant in telling of this tale is that how swiftly my joy of having landed my dream job had vanished at the realization of being dropped off smack dab in the middle of the debris of the hostile war zone. That I was neither wanted nor welcomed in the job they had hired me to do.

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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

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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