Fifty-four years ago, Cole Porter gave us his list: the Colosseum ... the Louvre Museum ... a Bendel bonnet ... a Shakespeare sonnet ... a melody from a symphony by Strauss ... Mickey Mouse ... the Nile ... the Tower of Pisa ... the smile on the Mona Lisa ... Mahatma Gandhi ... Napoleon brandy ... the purple light of a summer night in Spain ... the National Gallery ... Garbo's salary ... cellophane ... a turkey dinner ... the time of the derby winner ... a Waldorf salad ... a Berlin ballad ... the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire ... an O'Neill drama ... Whistler's momma ... camembert ... a rose ... Inferno's Dante ... the nose on the great Durante. ... According to him, they were all the top. The very best. It's still a pretty good list—and a great song, the top all on its own. Nevertheless, it's time for an update. There's a sea of junk out there, whether it be counterfeit Hong Kong watches, TV evangelists or mud wrestling. But there is still gold to be discovered in them thar hills. And luckily, you have us—the Playboy mining team, whose job it is to bring back The Best, whether it be a revolutionary new pair of binoculars or a customized Mercedes-Benz. For the third straight year, we've unearthed a selection of prizes for you, things done right for a change. Read on. Enjoy. And, most important, accept no substitutes!
The Correct way to Shave
For a shave that's a cut above, begin by washing your face with warm water and soap, but don't dry it. Apply shaving cream, foam or gel. Shave the upper cheeks and work south. Short, gentle strokes in the direction in which the beard grows are more effective than longer ones. Rinse your razor frequently to prevent a build-up of shaving debris, and move to the upper lip and chin. The toughest whiskers grow in these areas, and they require more time to absorb water and soften properly. Proceed to the neck for the final strokes. After you're through shaving, rinse the blade and shake off excess water. Don't wipe the blade, as that will dull the cutting edge.
Dream of a Smoke
The ultimate pipe honors go to a rare Alfred Dunhill of London six-star straight-grain. The briar is chosen by Richard Dunhill, Alfred's grandson. For $1700, it should be.
Best Road Shoe
Put your foot in it with J. P. Tod's soft driving shoe, a moccasin that boasts true grip on the pedals and adds class to road trips. The price is $139, from Diego Della Valle, New York.
Best New Binoculars
The 7 × 30 wide-angle Beecher Mirage is one sixth the weight and bulk of standard binoculars yet offers incredible optics. When you're not bird watching, a rubber strap holds it on your forehead. Beecher Research of Chicago makes the Mirage for only $295.
Best Shoe Polish
John Lobb Ltd. of London arguably makes the world's best boots—having counted Queen Victoria and Edward VII as customers. It figures that its shoe polish is the best, too. Just five pounds a jar.
The royal whip-and-glove purveyor to Her Majesty the queen also makes the best bumbershoots. London's Swaine Adeney Brigg and Sons Ltd. has been shielding aristocratic noggins from the rain since 1750. A gold king's umbrella costs £950.
Best Overnight Bag
While we wouldn't exactly call her a bag, top honors would have to go to Donna Rice. Second place in carry-on luggage, giving a twist to the term few achieve, goes to the one Gary Hart carries. But from this picture, we couldn't identify the brand. Was it the Runaways, by Boyt? The Dynamite model, by Amelia Earhart? Or Earhart's Nonstop model? Possibly a Lark? It has a CO-X model, after all. Oh, yeah!
Best Private Dining Club
Unless you know Jovan Trboyevic, the urbane owner of Les Nomades on Chicago's Near North Side, its discreet portals remain closed. But for members, a wonderful bistro atmosphere awaits. The food, often deceptively simple but daring, seldom disappoints. And the wine/spirits list offers good value and quality.
Best Norman Rockwell Food
The Avenue Grill in Mill Valley, California, a splendid Fifties-deco setting for a rendering of traditional open-all-night ideas. The food, haute diner. Here can be found a good meat loaf, roast turkey and dressing, even fish sticks 'n' tartar sauce on White Trash Food night—or an oyster poor boy, grilled black-tip shark or tasty holishkes, depending on the night's food's theme. Inventive, incredibly edible Americana.
Best Ice Cream
The official ice cream of Iowa, Sweet Iowa, is a flavor combining chocolate laced with blackberries. Bloomingdale's sells it and 40 or so other flavors of their ice cream exclusively. The company has even won a Trucks of the Month award for its arty semis. So our triple-dip choice for best ice cream goes to The Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company of Fairfield, Iowa.
Best Onion Rings
If Boone's Prime Time Pub in Suttons Bay, Michigan, had a carrousel, these are the rings we'd be reaching for. Sweet, fresh, saucer-sized onions thickly coated in homemade batter, then deep fried crisp and golden—$2.25 a serving.
Best Domestic Wine List
You'll find the most extensive domestic-wine list at the Nob Hill Restaurant in San Francisco's Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental. Here are wines from 34 states. Texas chardonnay, y'all?
The Hohner Marine Band harmonica goes back to 1896. It's been played by everyone from John Philip Sousa to John Lennon and good ol' what's-his-name here. The Sixties folk boom would have been a bust without it. Right, Bob?
On the Boardwalk
We can't think of a game that better exemplifies good old-fashioned American cutthroatedness and greed than Monopoly. The infinite pleasure of watching friends and loved ones hand over their last mortgaged properties to you. The slumlord joy of piling houses on Baltic Avenue. No wonder it's available in 24 languages and is banned in Russia.
Summer 1953. David Mullany, Sr., feared for Junior's arm as he threw snapping-wrist curves. Eureka! The Wiffle ball was born. A dipsy-doodle-sinker-ball pitcher's dream.
Long in the Neck
Beer tastes better out of one. First introduced in the 1890s, long-neck bottles have a stubborn, streamlined elegance unmatched by can or keg. So we salute the breweries still using them—you know who you are.
Made in the Shades
Not much remains hip for half a century. But Ray-Ban's aviator sunglasses, introduced in 1937, have stayed cool, from Mac-Arthur to Tom Cruise.
Flip Your Zippo
Snapped right, it pops open. Zippo has divided the wimps from the guys for generations.
The Look of Love
"A private facility dedicated to romantic marriage" is how the management describes the Sybaris club, an establishment that offers Midwestern couples what surely must be the ultimate in sexy seclusion—luxurious cottages, with no windows and no phones, that are available for an afternoon or night only to a coo-some twosome. (No group gropes, please.) There are two Sybaris locations in the Chicago area, one in Downers Grove and the other in Northbrook; they offer a variety of rooms, from your basic Sybaris Suite, with a water bed, mirrored ceiling, etc., to a Deluxe Swimming Pool Suite that includes a private 22-foot pool, waterfall, two tubs, a steam room and more. Prices range from $45 to $350, depending on time, day and the suite chosen. There are also a variety of memberships available. Go, you sexy devil.
The Ears have it
For an expert's opinion on which compact discs give you the best sonic bang for your CD bucks, we turned to Mr. Golden Ears himself—David A. Wilson, the president of Wilson Audio Specialities, a high-end-speaker and recording company, and possessor of two of the most finely tuned ears in the industry. Wilson's choices, by category, run the gamut of musical good taste as follows. Country: Heartland, by the Judds (RCA 5916-2-R). Jazz: Chick Corea and Gary Burton in Concert, Zurich, October 28, 1979 (ECM 821 415-2). New Age: Caverna Magica (... Under the Tree—In the Cave ...), by Andreas Vollenweider (CBS MK 37827). Rock: James Newton Howard & Friends (Sheffield Lab CD-23). Classical: The Moscow Sessions, by The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra (Sheffield Lab CD-25, -26 & -27). According to Wilson, the sessions are "the most significant orchestral recording in years and sonically the best orchestral sound ever recorded." High praise from high authority.
Black is beautiful—even when it comes to popcorn. The best is Black Jewell, from St. Francisville, Illinois. It pops white, but the kernels are black—sort of like rock 'n' roll, and so distinctive, it's a patented variety. Small and crunchy, not large and chewy—and available at hot buttered prices. Pop for it quick!
Beam Us up, Joanie
Joan Collins as a Thirties pacifist whose life—or death—will vastly alter human history? They don't call it s-f for nothing. Still, the best Star Trek episode ever is "City on the Edge of Forever," in which Kirk, traveling through a time portal, loses his heart to Collins. Love and death where no man has dared to go before. (Space, not Joan.)
Ultimate Coffee-Table Book
It's Christopher Newbert's Within a Rainbowed Sea, shown here, a collection of his lush, vivid underwater photographs stunningly produced in eight colors on fine heavy paper by Beyond Words Publishing of Hillsboro, Oregon. The volume is bound in goatskin; a wooden box of rare Hawaiian koa padded with Brazilian suede is included as a slipcase on the $2250 collector's edition.
Best way to see Scotland
Haggis and helicopters—it's the only way to fly. See Scotland Tailor-Made Tours Ltd. of Glasgow is offering The Helicopter Grand Tour: five days of Highland flinging aboard PLM choppers—and limousines—that includes stays at Cromlix House Hotel and Geddes, a private country house, a visit to the Isle of Skye, a champagne picnic in the western islands and ample samplings of heather dew (that's whisky to you, fella). The price is $3840 per person, not including your air fare to Glasgow. But you do get complimentary cocktails and wine each day. Oh, go ahead; after all, you're not driving.
How to Avoid Jet Lag
Morris Simoncelli, an executive with Japan Air Lines who's been flying to the Orient for 30 years and has more than 70 round trips under his belt, offers this prosaic and time-tested advice: 1. Avoid alcohol. "It's too bad, but liquor makes jet lag much worse—and life is trade-offs. But do have lots of liquids, such as juice." 2. Relax. "Try to keep anticipation and anxiety to a minimum. Don't get hyped up." 3. Keep your feet up. "In first class, you get footrests. If you're flying business class and the flight's not packed, find a couple of empty seats and get your feet up. Otherwise, the blood pools in your legs, and the bad circulation adds to the feeling of jet lag." 4. Sleep as much as possible or read escapist novels—which is almost the same thing. "The idea is to put your bodily processes on hold. Don't stay awake for the bad movie or eat every morsel offered—a definite test of will."
Yes, there are still a few beautiful virgins left. One is Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands—especially as experienced at Biras Creek, a resort with cottages hidden away on more than 130 acres, plus nature trails, an impeccable beach and gourmet food. As we said, heaven. The week Just the Two of Us honeymoon special is available from mid-April to mid-December for only $1765 double occupancy.
Networking 41 casinos in 15 cities across Nevada, the Megabucks slot machines promise the best payoffs ever. Last February, one paid out $4,900,000 to a lucky one-armed-bandit fan. Incidental payoffs have gone to $27,915 while you're waiting for those four sevens to hit again.
Manhattan Italian Serenade
The best place for northern Italian cucina in the Big Apple is Felidia Ristorante on East 58th Street, where risotto with truffles and a very dry martini are both served with Tuscan flair. For help, put yourself in the hands of proprietor Lidia Bastianich. A must: pasta with quail. The wine list features entries from Piedmont and Tuscany. Drink up.
Best Frequent-Flier Program
So what's the smart choice among all those bonus-mileage plans available? John Holland, the publisher of The Business Flyer, a newsletter devoted to frequent-flier air travel, says that American Airlines has something special in the air. "By virtue of American's size, schedules, competitive award levels and monthly specials, free travel can be earned more quickly. And the fact that American is teamed up with the Inter-Continental and Sheraton hotel chains also is a definite plus." Second place goes to United's Mileage Plus plan—a program popular at Playboy because many United flights originate in Chicago.
The 35-foot Toucan Twins nylon dragon kite sports hand-stitched tropical-bird appliqué. High-altitude art, from Go Fly a Kite, Inc., $140.
Best poker chip
Toss a Heritage poker chip into the Saturday-night poker pot and hear the thunkita-chunk sound of real money. Heath & Sons, Inc., in Springfield, Oregon, sells the die-cast coins for $39 a box of 100.
Best Airplane kit
So you never got over making plastic Piper Cubs and F-104s from kits? But you're a big boy now? Well, Aero Flight of Boerne, Texas, offers a do-it-yourself aircraft that actually flies—with you in it—when you're done. It's only $19,985 in carbon fiber or $15,900 in fiberglass; the price doesn't include engine, instruments or upholstery. Or a pilot's license. Just the thing to while away winter days.
Snow Far, Snow Good
Ever had one of those mystical moments while racing down a ski slope but no one to share it with? Hammacher Schlemmer offers the best way to communicate on snow—two-way-radio skier's helmets at $449.50 a pair. Voice-activated, they send/receive over distances of 110 yards.
Best Executive Tool
The Hammer is the kind of car Burt Reynolds would drive to the opera. This is man's country. And if you've got $120,000, AMG of North America in Westmont, Illinois, will turn your basic 300E Mercedes-Benz into a thunder-road mobile that will nail any wimp Testarossa or Countach that dares challenge it. Under the hood is a 32-valve 6-liter V8. The speedo goes from zero to 60 in five seconds, with a top end of 186. Suspension modifications. Exterior changes. The Hammer swings with a mighty blow.
It's downhill all the way
The hottest thing going on snow—Burton Safari, the top gun of snowboards—is the best of the best for a vertical run at high speed, an easy cruise in wide-open spaces or a heat in the world-class-competition circuit. When two skis just won't cut it, Safari carves it up. Board, $399, including the bindings, boots (not shown) from $119. Insurance? See your local agent. Pronto.
Best new golf course
The new 7080-yard Lagoon Legend golf course at Marriott's Bay Point Resort is situated around an exotic lagoon and the marshlands of Florida's Gulf Coast. Our favorite hole is the Legend's 13th. Accessible only by walkway, the green is located in the middle of a swamp. We're talking serious golf here. Sixteen holes on the par-72 course have water. Number two has 120 yards of sand dunes on the first leg of the fairway, and 18 is a lagoon shot onto an island and back over the lagoon to the green. It's a par-four hole with a penalty if an alligator eats your golf ball.
Ace of a racket
The Sovereign, from Prince, is a custom tennis racket built to specific design preferences. At $1000 ($1500 per pair pictured below), buyers, working with their personal advisor from Prince, select head size, weight, balance point, grip, strings and string tension. The final result is a love match, with a fine leather bag and a racket cover thrown in.
Best body mover
Is there a choice? Jane Fonda is a great actress but a wee bit long in the haunch these days. Richard Simmons? Ye gods! Give us a break! So, of course, we nominate ourself as provider of the best workout tape. The Playboy Playmate Workout will give tone to sometimes-neglected muscles enjoyably and painlessly. For $39.95, trust your body to the lovely Miss March, Miss April, Miss May and Miss June. We should all look so good.
Best gut buster
More power to you, couch potato. Our pick for stomach toughener of this year is the Nautilus Waist Machine designed for home use. And when you turn the seat around, the Waist Machine instantly becomes a lower-back developer—as if you needed that. It's $585 without weights.
Not so Dumbbells
Yesterday's grubby gym has become today's space-age health club. So why pump mere crummy old iron when now you can do it with chrome? Calgym New York Fitness International has solid-chrome dumbbell sets it calls Beauty Bells, at $270 for the five-to-20-pound set and $695 for the 25-to-50. Your muscles won't know, but your workout mates will.