Archives for posts with tag: Haresh Shah

Haresh Shah

My Close Encounter With An Angry Nobel Laureate

The Original Unabridged Version Of FACE TO FACE WITH GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ MARQUEZ

It’s October 29, 1982.  The master of magical realism – Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez has just won the Nobel Prize.  Playboy magazine has in its inventory a recently concluded interview with him, conducted by the veteran journalist Claudia Dreifus.  The interview has been transcribed from hours and hours of time Ms. Dreifus spent talking with García Márquez in his Paris apartment.  It has been edited and ready to go – almostPlayboy has promised García Márquez that it would show him the edited version, mainly to check facts and to point out inaccuracies.. As a matter of policy and editorial integrity, the magazine does not give the interview subjects right of approval.  Normally, Playboy closes most of its issues three to four months in advance.  García Márquez would make the trip to Stockholm in December to accept the Prize.  The interview must appear as close to the Nobel ceremony as possible.  This means, the scheduled February interview had to be pulled and be replaced by García Márquez interview.  The problem is; the elusive Nobel laureate is nowhere to be found.   On the day following  the announcement and during the following day, he is met by the press at his home in Mexico City.  Several frenetic phone calls from Playboy editors to his house are answered again and again by his Mexican maid.  He has gone away on a month long vacation, leaving behind strict instructions that he didn’t wish to be reached.

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Haresh Shah

How Does One Get A Job At Playboy?

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The question I’ve been asked time and again is: How does one get a job at Playboy?  Or more precisely: How did you get to work for them?

My answer always is: Like any other job. You apply for it. You have an interview and then you get hired. If that sounds too simplistic, how about this? You happen to be at the right place at the right time with right set of skills and qualifications. And the pure dumb luck doesn’t hurt either!

Not good enough still? Okay. Here’s how it happened. But me telling this story requires me to take you back in time. Back to the London College of Printing. Shashi (Patravali), my roommate and also the fellow alumni of LCP, are sitting in the college canteen. We’re at the end of our two year long diploma curriculum and would soon have to face the reality called life. Shashi is clear about his future. Soon as we’re done, he wants to spend a couple of months traveling the European Continent. Return back to India and manage a printing plant somewhere in the South.

‘How about you?’ He asks.

‘I want to go to America. Spend a year getting practical training at the GATF (Graphic Arts Technical Foundation) in Pittsburgh. And then work for Time & Life and for Playboy.

Shashi doesn’t say anything to that, but in his characteristic manner smirks at me, probably  thinking, “yeah right!”

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Haresh Shah

Of Pinot Noir And The Burlaping in Boonville

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The year is 1995 and talking of California wines to the Europeans is somewhat of a joke like the early transistor radios made in Japan were to everyone. Never mind that almost twenty years earlier on the day of America’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, the world’s wine experts were asked in a blind tasting to compare six California Cabernets and Chardonnays along with as many of Bordeaux and Burgundies and to everyone’s horror and American wine makers’  delight, California’s best stood shoulder to shoulder with the French on everyone’s scorecards, putting them instantly on the world map.

While the wine professionals of  Europe took a note of it, the wine consumers of the Continent remained oblivious to even their existence. Frustrated, California’s vintners decided, the time had come to make the world aware of the lush Napa Valley and its wines that were growing by leaps and bounds off the northern California Coast.

As a part of the broader push, California Wine Institute has invited the Dutch edition of Playboy to experience California’s wine country in all its glory, including its rapidly emerging cuisine and enjoy their steadily growing warm hospitality industry, in hopes that Playboy would take the message to its upscale demographics in Holland.

The editor-in-chief Jan Heemskerk himself takes upon the project and picks me to accompany him and assigns me to write a major piece for his edition. Not because by any dint of imagination I am a connoisseur or even an expert of wines, but because he thinks of me as someone who knows his wines, especially the ones from California.

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Haresh Shah

Lonely And Lost On The Road

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I have just flown in from Mexico City. I’m sitting at the bar having a beer at United terminal of Los Angeles International Airport. I have almost an hour before the departure of my connecting flight to Santa Barbara. I’m probably scribbling some notes in my agenda while slowly savoring  my beer. Mine is one of the last flights to leave the terminal and there are only a few of us lingering at the bar, waiting. Among the people, I notice a middle aged woman at the other end of the bar. I feel her gaze pointed at me. Must be in her mid-fifties, longer than shoulder length frizzled hair and dull grey eyes, she looks haggard and somewhat drunk, twirling a glass filled with a yellowish liquor, probably some Scotch or a Bourbon based cocktail.  I get back to my scribbling and am absorbed in it when I feel a human shadow shuffling next to me.

‘Mind I sit next to you?’ Seeing me a bit confused, she doesn’t wait for my answer, instead she eases herself on the next bar stool, as unsteady as she is on her feet, and asks the bar tender for ‘one more of the same.’ I try to ignore her, but she is intent on making small talk.

‘So, where are you off too?’ she slurs her words.

‘Oh, not far. Just a quick hop to Santa Barbara.’

‘I’m going there too.’ I don’t respond to that.

‘My daughter goes to school there, you know, at UCSB.’

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Haresh Shah

The Strike Italian Style

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I land in Milan for the very first time in November of 1972. This is my first week on the job. Having survived Munich and Essen, I spend a couple of days in Milan to meet up with Gerrit (Huig), Don Stewart and the people at Rizzoli – the Italian Playboy publishers – before returning to Chicago to wrap up my personal affairs. I have all of ten days to do what needs to be done, including several meetings in Chicago office and be ready for the moving van to pick up my possessions.

We have already landed at Linate. As we are about to deplane, we are told that we are to pick up our own checked-in baggage from the tarmac and carry it to the terminal. The ground crew is on strike, including the bus transfer from the plane to the terminal. I have with me my largest and the heaviest suitcase. They have not yet invented wheeled baggage. I somehow manage to drag it to the terminal, find a cab and check into the Grand Hotel. Dump my suitcase in my room and take another cab to the restaurant where Gerrit is waiting with his wife Barbara and Donald Stewart. Two days later, on Friday, I am at the airport waiting to board Amsterdam bound KLM flight which would connect me with its flight 611 to Chicago.

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Haresh Shah

Eat Your Heart Out!

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Imagine this! Puerto Vallarta. Chicago is in deep of the winter of 1986. It’s bone chilling cold as the city has a reputation of being every February. And here we are, the sun is shining bright, the sky is blue as can be and the waves of Bahia de Banderas off the Pacific Ocean are rushing towards the shore breaking and splashing. Wandering around in our shorts and t-shirts and the girls frolicking au naturell most of the day, Pompeo (Posar), Jan (Heemskerk) and I  are conferring by the poolside, deciding on the next dramatic but a fun shot, with eight of the world’s most beautiful women lined up in the water by the edge of the pool, holding on to the railing and ready to lift their bare butts in action, their faces turned sideways to their left, bursting with laughters and their legs and feet elevated, kicking the surface of the water in a choreographed harmony of synchronized swimming.

Right now we are on the lunch break. We have just availed ourselves of the sumptuous buffet and are sipping on our chilled to perfection Pacifico beers while the girls have retracted under the shade of the arch separating the private pool and the villa made available to us by Hotel Krystal for our exclusive use. A little earlier, the girls have emerged out of the pool and while waiting for the next shot, have not bothered to dry themselves nor cover up. Instead they are sitting and standing around a low table swarming with exotic drinks. They are an animated bunch, gossiping and in general making a ruckus despite language barriers.

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Haresh Shah

A Touch Of Communism In The Capitalist Culture

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In the fall of 1989 over the weekend of October, 6/8, Carolyn and I went to the Duneland Beach Inn in Michigan City, Indiana and returned with an agreement that the best course of action for us as individuals – to use the corporate cliché, going forward, was for us to go our own way. Not even a tiny blip on the world stage. That very weekend on October 7, Hungary becomes independent and on October 23rd, the acting President, Mátyás Szűrös declares the country a Republic in the public ceremony held in the same Kossuth Square where the first mass rally of the 1956 revolution was held.  The historic moment for which I happened to be in Budapest and along with the Hungarian  editors, would go to the square to hear the declaration proclaimed. We come back to the office and begin to put together the first issue of Playboy to come out a month later – the first of the three I would launch behind the iron curtain. On November 4, I turn 50 with a big fanfare and the nine liter Salamanzar  bottle of Lanson champagne, compliment of my boss and the friend Bill (Stokkan). The Berlin Wall falls on November 9th, the Velvet Revolution unfolds on Národní třída in Prague on November 17th, and in-between on the weekend of October 14/15, Playboy headquarters in Chicago move some three plus blocks south east  to 680 N. Lake Shore Drive from it’s imposing skyline presence at 919 N. Michigan Avenue. The Bunny Beacon that illuminated the Chicago skies for 23 years, is no longer and neither are the floor high letters PLAYBOY, lit bright.

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