Cultural Literacy is a phrase that's been making the rounds of our least favorite cocktail parties recently. It was bad enough when hosts used to pull out a game of Trivial Pursuit. Now along comes a professor--E. D. Hirsch, Jr.--who insists that unless you can identify the 4500 academic buzz words, facts and phrases central to Western civilization as we know it, you may as well work the rest of your life in a gas station.
The way we figure: You could go back to college and pick up a few more key terms, or you could read this issue of Playboy. Since you may find yourself at a party in the near future, here are three concepts that are the pillars of enlightened thinking: Catch-22, Fahrenheit 451, The 87th Precinct. We are not talking cultural literacy; we are talking vital signs. These are not mere artifacts or clutter: They are adventures. Thus, we are pleased to present works by Joseph Heller, Ray Bradbury and Ed McBain--three men who qualify as national living treasures.
Yossarian Survives (illustrated by Charles Walker) is a recently discovered fragment of Heller's Catch-22. Twenty-five years ago, Heller and his editor trimmed an 800-page novel down to 600 pages; one of the chapters they cut is a brilliant send-up of physical fitness, military style. It may not have belonged in the novel, but it does belong under your Christmas tree. (Heller is finishing a novel, Poetics, to be published by Putnam next fall.)
Bradbury is best known for his science-fiction classics; Fahrenheit 451 ran in the March, April and May 1954 issues of Playboy. Since that initial appearance, Bradbury has contributed 28 pieces of fiction and nonfiction to our pages. The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair is a tender three-handkerchief romance, a quality change of pace.
McBain was voted a grand master of mystery by the Mystery Writers of America in 1986. Tricks (illustrated by Stephen Turk) follows the boys from the 87th Precinct as they try to locate a missing magician. The story is part of a book published by Arbor House.
No holiday issue this year would be complete without a whiff of scandal, so we offer the second part of The Jessica Hahn Story, which chronicles the cover-up of the PTL debacle. With sex and politics occupying center stage, we thought it natural for the Playboy Interview to check in with Gore Vidal. David Sheff recorded Vidal's thoughts on the fiasco known as recent American history. For those of you who like your cultural commentary from beyond the fringe, we asked Jerry Stahl to visit the happy mediums who relay messages from ancient spirits. Channel Hopping (illustrated by John O'Leary) reports on the latest trend among psychics.
Culture--be it pop or profound--must also keep track of each important batch of Hollywood personalities. David Seeley profiles Dennis Quaid, the hot star of Suspect and The Big Easy.Robert Crane interrogates Justine Bateman, the other star of Family Ties, for a revealing 20 Questions.Jim Harwood has done his usual brilliant survey to report on Sex Stars of 1987, with an imaginative layout--including a look at Playmates on film--created by Senior Art Director Chet Suski. Photographer Herb Ritts gives us a smashing pictorial of Brigitte Nielsen: Cultural literacy surely involves a nonverbal appreciation of beauty.
It's not that we're against cultural literacy; we just think that the proponents of such snobbery don't include the real essentials of survival. Denis Boyles, Alan Rose and Alan Wellikoff spent the past several years putting together a curriculum for the complete man. And it features the important stuff--such as how to take a piss without those bothersome little drips. This is an excerpt from The Modern Man's Guide to Life, to be published by Harper & Row. And since any cultural sophisticate must know how to relax, we've included Great Lounge Acts, with photography by John Goodman. No amount of education prepares you for life in an L-shaped studio, so we asked Joanna L. Krotz to decorate the ultimate bachelor pad. As long as you have a coffee table, or a place to put your December issue of Playboy, you're doing all right.
Playboy, (ISSN 0032-1478), December 1987, Volume 34, Number 12. Published Monthly by Playboy in National and Regional Editions, Playboy Bldg., 919 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611. 2nd-class postage paid at Chgo., Ill. & at addl. mailing offices. Subs: In the U.S., $24 for 12 issues. Postmaster: Send form 3579 to Playboy, P.O. Box 2007, Harlan, Iowa 51593-0222.