Archives for posts with tag: Playmates

The Patch Of Recognition

Haresh Shah

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As I hurriedly cross the Maximilianstrasse at the intersection of Residenzstrasse, to go back to the office, I walk past a couple of young and pretty fräuleins. I can’t help but stop in the middle of the street and take a double take to look back. I think I recognize the brunette with the tanned skin, but can’t quite place her. Could be attractive, but she looks a bit disheveled and distracted. The other, your all German blonde with milky skin and rosy cheeks, and I presume blue eyes looks quite attractive, despite a couple of popped up pimples on her face. A possible Playmate even. Quite a turn on. From the other side of the street, I stop briefly to look back again. I see them cross Max Josephplatz and entering the restaurant Zur Kanne. One of my most favorites  in Munich. At the time I am in the phase of hunting Playmates for the German edition. But I am late for a meeting and  control the urge of turning around and following them.

Soon, I promptly forget all about them, until the last week, when I am having a lunch at Zur Kanne, with Heinz (Nellissen). He has come in from Essen with the first proofs of the next issue for us to work on. We are sitting at the corner table at the farthest end of the room when I see the door open and the same two girls entering the restaurant – this time accompanied by a young man. They are seated diagonally opposite from us. I have a clear view of the two women. This time, my impression of them is quite the contrary. Though the blonde is attractive, not attractive enough to be a Playmate. Up front, she looks puffy and a bit plump even. Other than the zits, her  skin looks sort of sandpapery. While her brunette companion is slender and her face looks more streamlined. She possesses silky smooth skin with the well rounded figure distributed proportionately over her skinny frame. She certainly is a possible Playmate material. The more I look at her, the more I am convinced of her prospectus.

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Haresh Shah

Taking A Stab At Respectability

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When Celia – the young woman who so beautifully interprets and illustrates Playboy Stories week after week, returned the copy of my July 1988 issue of Playboy featuring Cindy Crawford on the cover, she had secured the pages with a little yellow and pink binder-clips. Apparently the pages of the issue had come apart at the perfect bound stiff spine, just like that of the cheap paperbacks from the Fifties. The issue was never before opened and was in mint condition. Quite unsettling for an avid fan and the collector of the magazine.

When the first issue of the perfect bound Playboy dated October 1985 landed on my desk, sometime around the first week of September, with the cover blurb proclaiming: COLLECTOR’S EDITION / THERE IS A BOLD NEW LOOK UNDER OUR COVER, I felt disoriented like never before. Devoid of the staples and lying there flat as the thick Dutch pancake, it felt akin to me returning to the little town of Schutterwald in Germany to visit my old landlady Frau Lipps – fully expecting, as in the past for her to have prepared my favorite Wiener Schnitzel with pommes frites and a small side of butter lettuce salad – instead to find a plate of a salmon filet with boiled potatoes and green beans. It threw me completely off balance.

Even though there were talks in the air for a while to switch to the perfect binding, deep down in my heart I still held out hopes that Hefner would never agree to such a move. But he did and now I was holding in my hands something I had thought would never come to pass.

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Haresh Shah

The Rituals Of Wine And Women And All That Jazz

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Imagine this: If you have ever been to Tokyo and cruised Ginza after hours – the people, the traffic, the shuffle crossing at multiple cross roads where the traffic comes stand-still at every street corner and hoards of shoppers and revelers crossing streets this way and that in each every direction, and the crowds of salarymen making ruckus, drunk out of their minds, some carried by the group up above their heads like a soccer player having just scored the winning goal, and the roaring loud cacophony of it all. It’s a different world, nothing you have experienced anywhere else on the planet. Otherwise straight-laced and well behaved like poor little lambs, after-hours the Japanese let themselves loose. No one you would recognize the next morning when you walk into the office for your long drawn out meetings.

Imagine then, that twelve of them having won Playboy Japan’s reader contest are transposed to the Lincoln Park Playboy Club in  Chicago, sitting around the tables pulled together side-by-side with the bustling Bunnies making fuss over them, serving drinks with their smooth seductive Bunny Dips, big sparkling smiles on their faces, being as sweet as they can be. They   know that these young men have won Playboy Japan Reader’s contest and that their role is also to play gracious hostesses to our guests from the faraway land. The young men are all around twenty five – self-conscious and shy and in awe of the VIP treatment they are afforded. Far from being their drunken and rambunctious selves in Ginza, they are extremely well behaved, amazed and feeling like kids in the candy store.

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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

Glamour And Glitter,Trials,Turbulence,Tears And Joy

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If anyone, it had to be Albert Cheng – our dynamic publisher in Hong Kong – to pull it off as swiftly and smoothly, the Herculean task of the first and the only Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant within a little over a year of launching Playboy’s first Chinese language edition  on this city state of the fragrant harbor.

It all began over an elaborate lunch with Hong Kong’s TVB executives, Bernard Cheung and Sophia Chan. The thing I remember the most about that lunch now twenty six years later is the table-side preparation of the tiger shrimps tossed live in the hot frying pan and them shooting up above our heads, some even higher,  before landing back into the sizzling hot pan to meet with their instant demise and immediately turning into the most delicious dish sautéed in the restaurant’s exquisite sauce. I must confess that as tasty as they turned out, I found it hard to swallow them. It certainly gave a new meaning to the culinary tradition of from farm to the table. Thanks to the excellent Chablis pairing that helped washing them down while hiding my apparent discomfort from showing on my face in front of my most gracious hosts.  Albert and I had met them to discuss the possibility and the logistics of staging the beauty contest in which the contestants would come from then existing fourteen international editions of Playboy.

Albert has done his part of conceiving and selling the idea. TVB executives had done their numbers, and now it was upon me to agree and get excited about and have all the editions enthusiastic and then have my superiors back in Chicago buy into it. TVB would bankroll the project and will do their part in producing and broadcasting it live as one of their prime time  pre-Christmas offerings.  Albert and his staff would take care of the logistics and the organizations in Hong Kong. And I would have to be the one to  deliver the fourteen most beautiful women hand picked by the editorial teams of each one of our editions.

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Haresh Shah

Let A Pencil Be The Judge

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‘How can you tell if someone has firm breasts?’ Asks Marie.

Just a couple of hours earlier we sat at the riverside Marina City Restaurant in the Marina Towers. During the course of the evening, I happen to mention to Marie how bummed I was that at the last minute my friend Jena  had backed out on me. At the time I was still working for Time & Life and getting into some serious photography, to an extent that I had not only bought myself the Pentax Spotmatic, and several lenses, flesh unit, filters, tripod and all, but had also set up the dark room of my own in the storage closet of my South Shore Drive apartment. I was better at doing close ups and headshots. I had natural aptitude for it. But now I had gotten into my head like most every artist and photographers that one of the things I would also like to do was to do some female nudes. Jena and I had been good friends  and she offered to pose for me, but had gotten cold feet at the last minute.  Even I didn’t realize how sad I must have looked as I was relating this to Marie – whom I had just started dating.

‘That wasn’t nice of her!’ says Marie in a tone of a little mother comforting her child. And we resume our dinner.

‘I’ll pose for you!’ I hear her say while we are waiting for our coffee and the deserts. I feel her gentle gaze fixed on me as she offers to be my model.

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Haresh Shah

Yes, It Happens

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Don’t lie. I know you’ve been dying to ask me – no matter in what form and the words – but have been afraid to or are just being too smug or polite to ask. And I have been knowingly ignoring or just stringing you along, instead of just come out and get it over with. But the time has come for me to face up and come clear. The answer is: YES, in bold CAPITAL letters.

It is the New Year’s day in the year 2000. The first day of the new millennium. Jan (Heemskerk) and I are taking a walk in the woods of the Dutch countryside. Not too far from his home in Alkmaar. It’s wet and it’s muddy and it’s bone chilling cold. But we are bundled up and the crisp cold fresh air does us good. I don’t remember what lead him to ask, but out of a clear blue sky, I hear his words amble in the air.

‘Shah, have you ever regretted having slept with someone?’Almost in the exact words that I remember an author asking another in an article in The New Yorker – I think the question was directed at John Updike, but I am not sure.

‘Nope! But I certainly have regretted not having done so when I could have.’ I repeat pretty much what Updike or whoever it was had answered. My response puts us in reflective mode. We continue walking in silence. I don’t remember much being said about it. We probably drifted away talking about something else – or more likely picked up the thread of whatever conversation we were having.

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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

The Bad Boy Of Holland And The “Future Husband” Of Jayne Mansfield

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For those of you who have no clue who is  the bad boy of Holland, here is essential Jan Cremer in his own words. I am the best painter, I am the best writer.  I am for sure the best journalist of the Dutch language, and  certainly one of the best writers in the world’. He said to the writer and ex Playboy Holland editor, Guus Luijters for his book, Jan Cremer in Beeld.

He once famously said: ‘Rembrandt? I never heard of him. I’m not interested in sport.’

You have to be brilliant to utter such arrogant and provocative words. Sounds more like something coming out of the big mouth of  Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, who said in his October 1964 Playboy interview: ‘I’m the greatest, I’m so pretty. People can’t stand a blowhard, but they’ll always listen to them,’, than from the mouth of a gentle Dutch writer and artist.  Jan Cremer too must have realized the shock value of his utterances spewed out in sound bites the way before there was a sound bites. Or could it be that he was just reading off  the script laid out by Cassius Clay?

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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

 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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