Archives for posts with tag: Rainer Wörtmann

Haresh Shah

My Not So Intimate Encounters With Italy And France

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The first time I landed in the land of Ciao Bella and O sole mio, they dumped our baggage on the tarmac next to the aircraft, barely said sorry and told us we would have to carry it to the terminal ourselves – that the ground personnel had just decided to go on a strike. A bit different story when I first arrived at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I am met at the airport by Gerrit Huig and the editorial assistant Ann Scharffenberger. They talk me into and I unwittingly agree to drive us through the city in our rented little Citroën. Though I had taken lessons in driving a car with manual transmission, this is my first time trying it out without an instructor sitting next to me. I haven’t yet gotten the knack of synchronizing the gears with the accelerator and the breaks. The car would shudder, stall and come to an abrupt stop in the middle of swirling rush hour traffic. Happens several times on the Arc de Triumph round-about. I get furious faces, obscene yelling  that I don’t understand, French version of the finger and then silly mocking giggles from my two passengers. But I somehow manage to survive both welcomes. Not exactly j’taime.  

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 Haresh Shah

The Spookiness Of The Creative Mind

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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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Haresh Shah

From Sleazy Sex Show To The Celebration Of Suave Saxophonist’s 50th

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When I was based in Munich, it wasn’t unusual for me to start my day with breakfast in Munich, have lunch in Essen and land in Paris just in time for dinner and the next evening have dinner in Milan. Georg Kührer of the printing house Girardet once observed: you hop on and off the plane more often than I do a bus. Amazing. But true. Even so, the eleven days I remember the most about my relentlessly on the go happened years later when I was living in Chicago. What to me is mind-boggling still, is the intensity of those days, being in constant motion and deprived of sleep. And I don’t even drink coffee, let alone take any other stimulants. I thrived on the natural adrenaline and the high I got from interacting with people.

I began my journey in Chicago on the afternoon of Thursday, October 15,1992, arriving in Budapest the next morning.  I loved the way the airlines wine and dine you in the front of the plane on their intercontinental flights. No phones ringing, nowhere you can escape. I am not for watching movies or doing any real work on planes. Reading yes. But mostly what I love the most is to really let my hair down, enjoy the treats, perhaps snooze a little bit and arrive at my destination, if not well slept, quite relaxed.

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Haresh Shah

That’s Just What I Needed To Be

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Between my hasty arrival in Munich and the hastier departure next day to Düsseldorf, there wasn‘t much time to think of or look for a permanent place for me to live in Munich, which is where I would be based. The most practical thing for me to do would have been to move into Gerrit Huig’s apartment  from which he had already moved out and established himself in Milan. I was his replacement in Germany with editorial based in Munich and production in Essen near Düsseldorf. Eventually I would have preferred  a pièd à terre in both cities, but having taken over Gerrit’s apartment gave me a temporary reprise and perhaps a permanent one if  I so wished.  But soon it became apparent to me that it wasn’t a right place for me for more reasons than one. Just within the first few weeks I was awoken by the loud and harsh ringing of the phone early in the morning. On the line was Frau Westerholz – my landlady – hysterically screaming at me. She had just received the telephone bill in the amount of a couple of hundred deautsch marks, listing frequent calls to Chicago and also to Milan and Paris.

At the time, if you rented a place anywhere in Europe, you made sure that it came with a telephone already installed.  It wasn’t easy to transfer it to your name and/or easily ordered and installed in a day or two like in the US.  When renting a place, you just agreed to reimburse your landlord the phone charges. Took me first to shake myself awake and then assuming a milder tone, I calmed down Frau Westerholz.  Telling her that soon as she handed me the bill, I would immediately transfer the funds to her account. But even otherwise, the apartment wasn’t something I aspired to. The neighbors were unfriendly, if not outright nasty. Parking was a big problem.

Hearing of my frustrations, Rainer’s wife Renate kindly offered to help find a new apartment. In Chicago I had lived in a brand new lake front apartment on the south side. A spacious one bedroom place with the glass walls and wonderful panoramic view of the South Shore Country Club and the Lake Shore Drive. It came with a swimming pool, the penthouse party room and  underground garage.

‘There are many new buildings, I am sure we can find something as good for  you.’ Renate assured. She made up a classified ad for me, something to the effect that  a young American professional  just having moved to Munich was looking for a specious two bedroom apartment.  She placed the ad in Süddeautsche Zeitung, and the phone on my desk began to ring incessantly and insistently.

I must have spoken to at least half a dozen potential landlords. The rent most of them quoted was not a problem, in fact they were lower than DM 1000.- I was paying for Gerrit’s apartment.  But in the end, none of them wanted to rent me their places. The composite conversation went something like this.

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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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Haresh Shah

 How I Managed To Put My Foot In My Mouth

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About a year in my job, my bosses Bob Gutwilig and Lee Hall come down to Munich. Other than the three of us, sitting around the dining table are Franz Spelman, our local editorial consultant, Heinz van Nouhuys, editorial director of Playboy’s German edition and Fred Baumgärtel – the man really in charge of it all. And not to forget Rainer Wörtmann, the art director wunderkind. Of the group, Rainer is the  youngest and I am the second youngest.

Playboy Germany in it’s over a year of publication had taken off like a rocket. The time had come to look back and look forward instead of resting on the laurels of success. Among other editorial matters,  the subject of the Playmates came up again. The basic concept of the young woman who would adorn the centerfold as defined by Hefner was that she couldn’t be a professional model, an actress or a celebrity. She had to be the girl next door. Playmate is not just another pretty face with near perfect vital statistics. She has certain personality traits. She is smart, she is articulate, she is confident and she is gracious.  At the same time, she is down home wholesome and unpretentious.  The kind of girl the readers can relate to and not be intimidated by  in the way most attractive women could be.

Now with three European editions of Playboy dotting the western Europe, that included Italy and France, it was becoming imperative to expand the scope of their local editorial contents.  Even though a lot of editorial material such as Playboy After Dark, Playboy Interviews, Playboy Advisor as well as most of the non-fiction and fiction pieces covering the local scene were already produced by the respective editions,  missing glaringly from their pages were the local Playmates.  By now I too had become a true Münchener and as many pretty things as I saw walking Stachus, Schwabing and the pedestrian zone of Marienplatz, I  could well imagine one or more of those home-grown beauties becoming the girl next door to grace the German centerfold.

Technically, I was “just” their production manager with the primary function of overseeing the printing quality and shouldn’t even be included in that night’s dinner at the trendy Neuer Simpl,  breaking bread with the top brass. I was invited perhaps because I was a part of the very small American team of three in Munich, perhaps because after the initial coolness and apprehension,  I had succeeded in endearing the Germans to my presence among them. So after they were done talking text and illustrations, Bob once again brought up, something we had already touched upon during their visit a couple of months earlier.

‘When are you going to start producing your own Playmates?’

‘I don’t think we are ready to take that step yet. I am quite content with the American Playmates. Besides, to produce our own Playmates would be prohibitively expensive. I would rather use my budget in trying to get good authors at this time than put the money into Playmates,’ responded Freddy.

‘Yes, but that’s not the same,’ said Bob.

‘And they aren’t exactly girls next door for the German readers,’ I quipped.

‘How do  you mean it?’

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