Archives for posts with tag: Patrick Magaud

And Forget Paris – Think Lyon

Haresh Shah


It’s five minutes before six, the closing time for Lyon’s Place Bellecour tourist office. I am standing across the counter from the friendly blonde – petite and pretty. And sweet. This is the third time since three that afternoon that I have returned to her in the remote hope that maybe, just maybe something would have opened up in the meanwhile and I still would be able to find one of the charming French B & B’s in or near the center of the old town. Based on my one and only overnight stay in Lyon years earlier, I stayed at one of its most charming boutique hotels, Hotel Cour des Loges.  I have a reason to believe that the city had to have similar but smaller and reasonably priced jewels tucked away in one of their obscure alleys.

I have arrived in Lyon by train from Avignon, with a back pack and a small carry on bag on wheels. I am doing south of France by train without any fixed timetable or an itinerary. Other than bit of a difficulty in Toulouse, I am lucky to have found nice places to crash at. Not cheap, neither expensive. My budget is between fifty and a hundred Euros a night. Seems like tonight I may have to settle for a four hundred Euro room at Sheraton. I am not looking forward to it. But what were my options? The closest the tourist office could offer me a room is 20 kilometers (about 13 miles) from the center. Certainly not what I want.

‘I am so sorry!’ The blonde says, so sweetly. Instead of being irritated, she is sympathetic. She really wants to help me. I give her my sad little boy look and get a friendly little giggle out of her.

‘I wish I could help you. But there is absolutely nothing available!’

‘Well, thanks so much for trying! I just will have to sleep on a Lyon’s sidewalk tonight!’ I make a poor me face to get another sweet smile out of her. Most reluctantly, I am about to turn around and slap down my credit card at Sheraton. The blonde is about to exit her computer screen. And then both of us hear a soft ping.

‘Wait a minute.’ She stops me in my track and busies herself tapping her keyboard.

‘An apartment has just become available, right across from Ponte Bonaparte. It’s on the sixth floor. No lift, but it has a panoramic view of old Lyon. € 95.- a night. No breakfast.’ She rattles off the screen. With my back pain, I am not too keen on having to climb six stories of stone stairs – but snap!

‘I’ll take it.’

It’s an easy walking distance. I walk across the bridge over Saône, turn right on rue Saint Jean and find # 70. Mrs. Breuihl – a woman in her early to mid-thirties escorts me to the apartment, she even helps me carry my bag. It’s a tri-level penthouse containing of a kitchen, a living room, a loft and a bedroom/bathroom suite. Soon as I enter it, I am in awe of it. I am in the heart of  vieux Lyon. I have managed to return to the city I had fallen in love with fifteen some years earlier, and had promised myself to someday come back to explore it at a leisurely pace.

Patrick Magaud and I had boarded France’s pride and joy, the high speed TGV in Paris that morning and I just had enough time to spare before I flew out to Munich that night. We meet with Bruno Bonnell of Europe Telematique for what I remember to be a simple but an exquisite meal at one of the city’s cozy bistros, Bonâme, now (La Bonâme de Bruno). What I remember the most of that lunch is their most delicious aperitif, a flute of champagne blended with a dash of peach liquor.

Patrick has brought me there to introduce me to Bruno and Christophe Sapet, his partner to talk the possibilities of creating Playboy service on the uniquely French phenomena called Minitel. This is 1989, and much as they try to explain to me the concept of creating a chat line under Playboy banner, goes over my head. From what I understood, Minitel was a crudely made boxy little computer like plastic device provided free of charge to its subscribers by the French Telecom. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to think that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak copied or were inspired by the Minitel for the earlier look of their Apple computers. It contained a small blue screen with blinking text and incorporated in it was a telephone. It is connected to what we now call the contents providers via a telephone line, sort of like earlier dial up connections. Minitel, when it was introduced years earlier, featured electronic yellow pages and the country wide telephone directories.

Over a period of time it mushroomed into a full fledge web like platform. Dialing the number 3615 connected you to today’s equivalent of the browser – an exclusive of the French Telecom. Through which you could access merchants, institutions, French Railroad and the post office and their respective products and services. Soon the porno peddlers jumped on the bandwagon with  a slew of erotic chat lines on which you can flirt with buxom and horny ladies – made up mainly of men and paid by the minutes for the amount of time spent on carousing. Those sites were collectively called Minitel Rose and the most popular of the Roses was Ulla.

Europe Telematique supposedly streamed more respectable sites. The proposal was to create a forum such as Playboy Advisor, which they felt would do well. It would also support the fledgling French edition. Of the time billed, French Telecom got to keep 50% of the revenue. Telematique would staff and create the content and manage the traffic. Of the 50% they got, they would share half of it with us, for allowing them to use the name Playboy. The danger obviously was that it could easily turn into a porn service. NO. Bruno guarantees me. There were already enough of them around. Playboy would be as classy as the magazine.

Though officially launched in 1982, the Minitel screens had beginning to pop up back in the late Seventies, almost twenty years before the World Wide Web made its debut. Unfortunately, the service never made it out of France and Belgium, and a trial run in Ireland before the Internet as we know today came thumping down the road. While I am in Lyon, not even understanding exactly how it all worked, I couldn’t help but feel that something incredible was happening within those little boxes with blinking screens.

After discussing the project back in Chicago, I return to Lyon several months later and visit the physical facilities of Europe Telematique. What I saw was little computers lined up on long rows of desks, occupied by very young men and women staring at the blue screens, the text in progress popping up on the terminal and like in call centers of today, one of the young Turks would get busy responding to them.  Soon there was Playboy chat line.

Now that I sit here and think of it, I feel like sort of a pioneer. Not that I can take credit for the idea or even the intimate knowledge of the process, but for trusting my instinct and the people and taking a chance on what would in not too far of a future become more common than  household phones. It didn’t generate vast amount of revenue for any of us, but there was enough coming in to justify its existence. The site must have been phased out on its own with the advent of Internet in the mid-Nineties. I wonder if anyone else other than me even remembers that there was such a thing as Playboy chatline on the French Minitel.

Minitel lived for more than thirty years until it no longer could compete with or justify its existence against now omnipresent World Wide Web. Yet, just the nostalgia of it had all of France feeling mixed emotions, simultaneously celebrating and mourning of its demise on June 30th 2012 – the day French Telecom pulled the plug and the remaining 800,000 terminals still in service went dark.

For me personally, agreeing to take that Paris-Lyon TGV ride of 400 kilometers (292 miles) to south east of Paris means – if not for Minitel, I would never have thought of going to Lyon. To call Lyon mini-Paris is to take something precious away from this most charming and exuberant of the French cities.

On that evening of the fall of 2008, when I had long forgotten Minitel and Europe Telematique, what has brought me back to Lyon is that certain indescribably magnetic pull and the deep impression left on me by the place. The sun has set and as I step out of rue Saint Jean 70, I find myself in the middle of an incredible bubbling of energy. The old town bustling with the cluster of restaurants, charming Bouchons famous for their down home cuisine Lyonnais. Narrow alleys and the passages featuring small shops and boutiques in animated and lively pedestrian zones.

But before letting myself disappear in the crowd, I take a long walk and marvel at the two parallel rivers flowing through the middle of the city and the strings of the lit up bridges connecting the different districts, all lined up symmetrically, gleaming in the confluence of the calm waters of  Saône and Rhône.

Hungry and tired, I return to the crowded little alleys and small squares of vieux Lyon swarming with the people, the sights and the sounds and all those little bistros and bouchons wafting delicious aromas of their house specialties. The sidewalk tables unfolded and the people squeezed together shoulder to shoulder. There is no chance of me being able to get into one of those exquisite but small and cramped eating establishments. But I do. Thanks to Mrs. Breulih’s recommendation, the kindly maître d’ Dominique at, curiously named Happy Friends Family (now Jérémy Galvan), and yet as provincial French as can be, welcomes and escorts me to a cozy table by the open kitchen, overlooking rest of the crowd. He even speaks English and describes every item on the menu and recommends what I may like. Satiated, I walk around and watch the crowds thinning out – the hubbub silently simmering.

Feeling a bit weary, I slowly climb back six stairs and up to the third level of my apartment. I am about to turn on the light – but wait! What I see through the large window by my bed is breathtaking. I see a huge globe of the dome of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière all lit up like suspended fireworks. I peer out of the window – take in the whole church exquisitely and artfully illuminated. Glowing with the warm hues of yellow and orange, I feel showered in the luminous gold. I know it’s some distance away up on the hill, and it still feels like I could touch it. I undress without moving my eyes from the dome and fling myself on the bed with my gaze fixed on the dome and fall asleep perhaps around the same time as the lights begin to flicker off.

© Haresh Shah 2015

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford


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On Friday July 31, 2015



The Quirky Brilliance Of The Head Guru

A light hearted profile of the man who put together Playboy, month after month. Nuts and bolts. Brick by brick. The one and only, Arthur Kretchmer.

There Is An Endless Story

Haresh Shah

One of the first times I met with Patrick Magaud is him walking into the offices of the French editor-in-chief Patrick Eynaud at Euredif headquarters located in a highrise in the thick of Paris’ Quartier Chinois. Accompanying him is not only a stunningly beautiful photo model but also a baby tiger on a leash being lead in by Patrick as if this adorable little cub were his pet dog. Not an unusual sight in the French editorial offices to find a dog snoozing under one of the editor’s desks or cats curled up at their feet. But a tiger? Well, because it’s Patrick.

Patrick is an idea man. The man who is perpetually excited about life. A daring one at that. He is known for pulling off stunts – the kind no one else would even dream of. Like the one he would tell me about over a dinner once we got to know each other better. He tells me about how once he rented a mini van, packed it with his photographic gear, an assistant by his side and a couple of gorgeous females, already unrobed, styled and made up and ready to jump in and out of action and proudly and provocatively pose in the front of the Paris streets and the landmark monuments.  Such as walking in the middle of  ChampsÉlysées with Arc de Triumphe in the background, biking topless around Café de Flores with a couple of baguettes sticking out of the career, prancing at the foot of the mighty Eiffel Tower, two of hem flaunting their wares from a Ferris wheel rotating in the Tuileries, jet skiing in the river Seine, frolicking at the curve of the iconic restaurant Fouquet’s.

Patrick and his assistant already poised with their cameras at ready and voila, he would start shooting as the model tries to blend in with the scenery. The traffic coming to standstill, pedestrians breaking their strides doing a double take and the café crowd shaking their heads in amazement. Suddenly, they would hear the shrill screaming of sirens and the twirling blue flashes of the flag lights closing in on them. Everyone would be sucked back inside the gateway van standing in the middle of the street  with its motor running. The doors slammed, tires screeching and they would be on their way before the gendarme catch up with them. Ensconced back in the van, everyone is laughing and feeling mighty smug at the feat they together have pulled off. As the sirens fade, Patrick and his assistant are already unloading the films from their cameras and tucking them away in their gear bags, loading new films.

Their next destination? Père Lachaise Cemetery. The model Nathalie’s naked body is painted black – the color of tarnished bronze. Soon as the van stops, she climbs out and runs to the the grave of the 19th century poet Victor Noir and promptly mounts his life size horizontal  statue with her legs wide apart and her crotch rubbing against his sculpted bulge of shiny copper.  No, she is not just acting ecstatic, but as Patrick would recount later, during the shoot Nathalie really got turned on, leaving behind the residue of her feminine scent on the poor Noir. Over the period of time, the statue has become a symbol of fertility of sorts like that of Shiva’s erect lingam, (Living Dangerously, Playboy, May 1990, also collected in the book Exhibition in Paris)

And then he takes one of his models – of course au naturell up on a helicopter ride, hovering at low altitude, the whole Paris looking upwards with their necks craned while he is floating aboard a balloon at the parallel height and shooting her sight-seeing.

If not as daring, following the success of Playboy pictorial about The Women of Russia – shot by Alexander Borodulin (Mission: Implausible, Playboy February 1990), while talking about other such pictorials, the photo editor Jeff Cohen  and Patrick utter almost simultaneously – Cuba. The island verboten to us poor Americans. A bit of a problem. But Patrick is not the kind to shy away from them. Through the Cuban counsel in Paris, he works towards acquiring permission to do just that, The Girls of Cuba (Cuba Libre, Playboy March 1991). Equally as adventurous, Jeff finds a way to make it to the island via Mexico – his passport bearing no proof of him swilling Cuba libres under the nose and the protection of the people of Fidel Castro. Considering the political situation and restrictions, they come back home with the images of some tantalizing island beauties – among them, Idolka de Erbiti. Patrick promptly falls in love with her, and does something he has avoided doing so far. Marry Idolka and bring her back to the city of lights.

But when he can, Patrick is not satisfied just shooting glamorous nudes. What turns him on and gets his creative juices flowing are the extreme fantasies and making them come to life in his photography. On that day he has shown up with the beauty and the beast to propose a pictorial with the girl and the tiger cub frolicking. What was there not to agree?

Patrick and I hit of off almost right away and soon he would take me along to show real Paris. It is Patrick who takes me to the Paris off the beaten tracks. For the first time I get a taste of Moroccan and North African food and savor how delicious the humble couscous could be. He takes me to small and inexpensive bistros in the neighborhoods that are far away from the center. Often we would be accompanied by some of his friends and his beautiful models. What he shows me is the different Paris than what I have been exposed to so far, and I am loving it. Those soirées bring us closer and the more I get to know him, more I am amazed at how impish and child like he is. His face wears a continuous mischievousness in that he is amazed at everything that is life. Sometimes I feel that he is living as if every day were the last day of his life.

What I know of Patrick is that strictly speaking he is not your run of the mill French man. He is of Arabic descent. You can see that on his square but angular face. Even his accent is slightly lilting compared to the way others speak French. Could have even come from Algeria, as did the existential philosopher Albert Camus. Living in the moment. Existing to the fullest in the world capital of the existentialism. So we find a lot in common to talk about.

But what we talk about the most are girls. Our experiences with them and the misadventures. Like two adolescents still in awe of the mystery that every woman is. And how we absolutely love and adore them. And we talk about sex. Not your day-to-day variety, but the fantasy of it.

‘You know what turns me on more than even having sex itself?’


‘The thought of it. The imagination. The fantasy.’

And then he tells me of one of his most yearned for fantasies coming true.

We have had a long day. I was shooting multiple models all day long and we’re all tired and also hungry. The group of us is sitting around a large round table at a restaurant. When you’re shooting and busy doing your work, no matter how beautiful they are, how you may have developed a crush on one of them, you can’t just conjure up a fantasy of undressing her, because you have seen her totally naked all day long. But it’s when she is fully dressed and is sitting next to you is when your imagination gets wild. Chantal was her name. She is sitting next to me. My assistant and the crew are busy talking, eating, drinking, laughing and just unwinding from the hard day’s work. There are about eight girls, but the only one on my mind is Chantal. I don’t have to imagine what she looks like underneath her clothes. But I had had a long time fantasy, something I hadn’t tried out so far, but as we have a few glasses of wine and I am liking Chantal more and more, and she seems to like me too. But that’s not unusual for a model to fall for her photographer, at least in the moment. But I am thinking to myself, maybe I can try out with Chantal what I have hesitated doing so far. She notices that there is a momentary lull in our conversation and I have gone quiet, as if lost in deep thoughts.’

‘What are you thinking?’

‘Oh, nothing special. Just thoughts!’

‘Come on, you look quite serious.’

‘Well, I am thinking… never mind, it’s silly.’

‘I want to hear it.’

‘Promise you won’t laugh if I told you!’

‘I promise.’

‘Okay, what I am thinking of is – actually It’s an old fantasy.’ And I stop. I feel her gaze irretrievably fixed on me

‘All right. I hope you don’t freak out with what I am about to ask you.’

‘Come on. Don’t torture me. I am a big girl.’

‘Okay. What I am thinking of is, what I would love you to do is to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom, take your panties off and bring them back to me. I will slip them into my pants pocket and I am the only one around this table who would know that you’re naked underneath your skirt!’

Chantal looks at me, a bit amazed but not exactly shocked.

‘Is that it?’

‘Yeah. Would you do it for me?’

She doesn’t answer, just smirks and after a minute or so, excuses herself and kicks her chair back and I watch her walk over to the bathroom. When she comes back, she discreetly hands her crumpled panties over to me under the table and I tuck them in to my pocket.

‘Haresh, let me tell you, I have never felt as excited and as aroused up until then and since as when I was in the possession of those panties, her sitting next to me and only me and her knowing that she is bare underneath her skirt, and there are all these other girls and my assistant sitting around, and hoards of other diners of the restaurant, nobody else but only I know! You have no idea how incredible turn on it was!!’

And he smiles. And the distant dreamy look he has on his face communicates the rest.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks


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Next Friday, December 5, 2014


Even before the Berlin Wall came down and even before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the pot of capitalism had began to simmer in many of the former Soviet block countries. Hungary was the first to come out with its own Playboy edition in that November of 1989. Followed by Czechoslovakia a year and a half later. No small thanks to the the vision and the daring of  the independent minded entrepreneurs. Here is the story of one of them.