Archives for posts with tag: Profile

The Quirky Brilliance Of The Head Guru

Haresh Shah

mrspeak_02

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?’

Or

‘Hi Arthur. How are you?’

‘Why do you want to know?’

Or

‘Hi Arthur. This is Haresh.’

‘I know who you are!’

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Flying Free Like A Hawk

Haresh Shah

ballance
“You’re doing a good job if you manage to piss us off fifty percent of the time, and piss our partners off another fifty.” Our boss Bill Stokkan would often tell his managers, usually during one of his pontification sessions. More true of his international divisional heads who had not only to deal with the products but also with the cultural nuances of the people from several countries. In my case, it also worked to my advantage that I was not an American born American. Especially the people I worked with from the non-European and Asian countries felt that I understood them better just because I was born and grew up in India. That I brought a different sensitivity to our working together. Equally so with my American management, because by then I had spent as many years in the West. As difficult as it could be sometimes, I had developed a close rapport with the people on both ends and had earned their confidence and the respect.

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I Went Home And Cried

Haresh Shah

bea
Sitting across from me in a small windowless meeting room of the Holiday Inn in Warsaw is stunningly beautiful Beata Milewska. She is dressed in a conservative grey dress with the sharp U shaped neckline, trimmed with black satin ribbon. Underneath the geometric U are black brass buttons that run down to and below her breasts. Blonde, she wears fashionably shorter hair, reaching down just a little above her neck. Her eyes are sparking blue and smiles are amused but slight and measured. I guess her to be in her late twenties or the very early thirties.

Sitting next to her is Tomasz Raczek – supposedly to translate from English, but Beata herself is quite proficient in the language, so other than some whispered consulting, Tomasz is there more as an observer who would eventually be the editor-in-chief of the Polish edition. On my left is our Hungarian Publisher Deszo Futasz and on my right is Rolf Dolina, the man who has gotten us together in hopes that I would be positively impressed by Beata and her ability to gather a qualified team of professionals to create the Polish edition of Playboy.

After landing in still the old and the dilapidated Warsaw-Okecie Airport, as we drive into the city, I witness the remnants still of the city heavily bombed first by the German Luftwaffe in 1939, and then by the Russians in 1944 to quell the Warsaw Uprising. Both sides of the road are lined with the communist era’s drab and dark harsh apartment blocks. Making them further sinister is the shroud of the cold and the cloudy month of January. I cringe at the thought of the lives lived and of deaths and destruction and the dismay that still must permeate the day-to-day lives of its citizens. After all, it’s just little over a year since the fall of the Berlin wall.

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The Beginning Of The Longest Cocktail Party

Haresh Shah

bottlecity3

Dieter (Stark) is tickled pink. He s standing behind the kitchen island, swinging the stainless steel cocktail shaker back and forth in his hands. Equally as handsome, he looks like Tom Cruise would behind the bar years later in his movie Cocktail. Surveying the scene and the mood of the night. He is feeling absolutely no pain. His face wears a glow of amazement at the mission accomplished as he looks down at all those bottles of booze lined up in front of him like miniature Chicago skyline. Most of them are half gallon bottles of just arrived Kentucky Bourbon, Scotch Whiskeys, Bombay Gin, Bacardi Rum, Absolut Vodka. There are smaller ones of the mixers containing of red and white Martinis, Crème de Menthe, Grenadine, Tonic water. Open cartons of orange juice, some Coke and 7-up bottles stand ready to be poured in whatever cocktail he would end up concocting. He must feel like a kid let loose in the liquid candy store. Innumerable possibilities, the night not long enough!

●●●

Dieter and I worked together as repro photographers for Burda Verlag in Offenburg, Germany. My early days living and working in the town of Offenburg in southern Germany were some of the loneliest. It didn’t help that I spoke no German yet and the little bit that I did, I misunderstood more than did I understand. I must give credit to the people I worked with in doing their best to communicate with me. But by and large, I was lost like a babe in the woods in that provincial south western German town that boasts of being the gateway to the picturesque Black Forest.

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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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Body And Soul Union

Haresh Shah

cuernavaca

Actually our destination this Sunday is Las Mañanitas, more in line with an all day weekend outing for Playboy executives to spend a leisurely afternoon in the lush gardens of one of the most beautiful hotels and restaurants in the world. Enjoy sumptuous Mexican delicacies washed down with Tequila Sunrises and Daiquiris. Only a short half an hour drive from Mexico City, the town of Cuernavaca is heralded the City of Eternal Spring by the geographer, naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, is a perfect escape from the dense clouds of pollution, swarms of crowds and the constant dint of noise of Mexico City. It is the pride and joy not only of the town of Cuernavaca, but of the entire country. We sit under the open sky and under the cooling shades of the trees and sip on our psychedelic tropical drinks. We are surrounded by  the tall royal birds among them the proud peacocks gracefully prancing up and down with their iridescent tails spread out into magnificent round throne like fans. Prancing along are other long necked beautiful birds swaying and strolling while jumping monkeys frolic up and down the tree branches. It feels like being in paradise, the garden of Eden as one would picture it. The only other time I would come upon such an exotic place would be several years later on my first visit to Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

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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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