The Quirky Brilliance Of The Head Guru
I have just swiped my card and entered the sixteenth floor through the glass door. I see Arthur sitting by himself through the glass wall of his office across the atrium – the bank of offices we have come to call the fish tank, overlooking the square. I hurry to my office, remove my outer garments and pick up the phone and dial Arthur’s three digit inter-office number. Might as well get it out of the way before I chicken out. Having to call Arthur is something of an ordeal, because you never know what kind of mood you might catch him in. But there is nothing I can do about it. I am the one who needs him. Most of our telephone conversations would go something like this:
‘Good morning Arthur!’
‘What’s so good about the morning?’
‘Hi Arthur. How are you?’
‘Why do you want to know?’
‘Hi Arthur. This is Haresh.’
‘I know who you are!’
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Falling Like Dominos
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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The Impossibility Of Being Christie Hefner
‘What do these conferences mean to us?’
It’s a legitimate question. I have gotten to the meeting room earlier as usual to make sure things are set before everyone else begins to stumble-in in another half an hour. Only other person fussing around is Mary (Nastos), and then there is Christie Hefner. The two of us standing in the middle of the conference room on the lower floor of The Pontchartrain Hotel, New Orleans’ old European charm. I have been organizing Playboy International Publishing’s conferences now for years and no one has ever asked me the question. It was something that was handed down to me when I was re-hired by Lee Hall ten years earlier in 1978. I hadn’t given any serious thought to the question Christie posed – now the president of Playboy Enterprises.
‘Well, it’s mainly for all our editions to come together with their counterparts from around the world and discuss the year since they met last and establish some understanding of what lay in the future. From these meetings some international projects of common interest have been born and accomplished. The Soccer World Cup pictorial in 1986, which we produced in the host country Mexico and the Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant, broadcast live in Hong Kong.
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How Does One Get A Job At Playboy?
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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The Spookiness Of The Creative Mind
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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An Emotional Journey Of South Africa
As long as apartheid ruled, Christie Hefner wouldn’t allow us even to think of doing business with South Africa. The management team totally respected her for her stand. But soon as Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and when the South African President F.W. de Klerk repealed the remaining apartheid laws in 1991, I felt free to follow-up on a couple of leads that had landed on my desktop. I took my first exploratory trip to the country. Even so, something closer to home was nagging at me. Because if you are born of my generation in India, taking a trip to South Africa has to have some emotional undertones, for that’s where Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement first took roots.
The reason I was full of apprehensions on the night I boarded the Johannesburg bound Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt. I wasn’t quite sure of the kind of welcome that awaited me. As usual, I had read up on the country and was a fan of J.M. Coetzee fiction, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003. And had just finished reading one of the most disturbing books about the country, My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan – a former crime reporter who fled his country after witnessing unimaginable atrocities, returns in search of the truth behind apartheid. He finds the answers – not in the way black and white South Africans live, but in the way they die at one another’s hands.
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As The Time Goes By
Exactly thirty six years ago today on April 5th. 1977, in Santa Barbara, California, it was another fucking beautiful day, as my neighbor Greg Ketchum and I had began to refer to our forever such gorgeous weather, whenever we both found ourselves out on our respective balconies, overlooking the awesome Santa Ynez Mountain Range. I was done with my writing for the day and was sitting around in my living room with Mike and Guusje, drinking beer, when the phone rings.
Without any pleasantries, the female voice on the other line dives right into it.
‘I understand you are auditioning young ladies for Playboy.’
‘Not quite.’ I respond with trepidation, trying hard to think who it might be. Sensing confused silence on my end of the line, the voice breaks out in a hearty laugh.
‘This is Carolyn,’ it says.’ It still doesn’t ring the bell.
‘I was just passing through. I am on my way down south to see Gwen in LA.’ And then I knew.
‘Where are you?’
‘I am here. In Santa Barbara.’
‘You are? Why don’t you come on over?’
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