Our Third Anniversary has arrived rather unexpectedly. The three years since we began publishing Playboy must all be counted as phenomenal, but this past 12 months has left us rather numbed and the twelfth issue of the third volume was being readied for the printer almost before we realized it. We are printing over 1,100,000 copies of this Anniversary Issue and that is just one of the high points of the year, for it makes Playboy the largest selling urban men's magazine in America. On newsstands, where the real popularity of a publication can be gauged, Playboy outsells its closest competitor by over a quarter of a million copies a month. In the last dozen months, Playboy has also become America's most imitated magazine: at last count, there were 14 not too reasonable facsimiles on the stands with another two or three being added each month.
Though conscientious commissars, in their zeal to impregnate the arts with "collective realism," have succeeded in sterilizing Soviet painting and writing, one grand old girl has survived repeated brainwashings. Her name: Calliope, Muse of Music. Some of the most sonorous sounds in modern music have rolled out of the U.S.S.R. -- adventurous, clean-limbed works by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, Khachaturian ... the tongue-torturing list just won't stop. Gone, happily, are the days right after the revolution when composers like Mossolov and Meytuss were writing such symphonic noise as The Steel Foundry and The Dnieper Water Power Station -- writhing, deafening odes to industry and construction. After the first fevered flush of "descriptive" composing, Soviet music-makers have settled down to make music that sounds like music. Here in the U.S. of A., a Soviet outlet called Colosseum Records is pressing a number of compositions hitherto unheard in our country, with artists like David Oistrakh and Emil Gilels. A recent, typical offering is Ivan-come-lately Arno Babadjanian's Trio in F Sharp Minor (Colosseum 247), a brooding, aromatic thing starring Oistrakh and friends sawing away with authority and love. But this blessing is mixed: Colosseum's platters are of capricious fidelity, usually ranging from middling to muddy with occasional excursions into excellence; surface noise frequently fries away unchecked, a nostalgic reminder of the shellacked days of yore; and the liner notes abound with misinformation and propaganda. The propaganda (i.e., eight irrelevant paragraphs extolling Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre) can be ignored, but when a trio by "Mendelsshon" (sic) is labelled "American premiere" although at least two other recordings pre-date it, the poor, trusting record-buyer becomes a confused and screwed-up lad. That lad might conceivably be solaced, however, by such entertaining prose as this, by Bruno G. Ronty, president of the firm and perhaps the outstanding dialect humorist of our day: "David Oistrakh by now and Colosseum Records are connected inseparably, for besides that Colosseum Records introduced him in a big way to our public, it is still and always will be the only company which has in its catalog the complete recorded repertory of this great genius of our time. (Up till date, 28 LP's.) Colosseum is proud of this and believes that it deserves the right consideration and credit for it, for it went through all kinds of difficulties at the beginning when others didn't see it or slept, to bring something which will enrich our cultural heritage." Bruno, you break our heart. You want credit? Here: take it. But take also a bit of friendly advice: you'll enrich our cultural heritage a damn sight more without the low-fi and groove-sizzle.
Less than 30 years from now, neurologists will have almost succeeded in eliminating the orgasm from human experience; the likes of us will live our lives under the unblinking gaze of police-operated TV cameras in our homes; friendship will be frowned upon, language stripped of meaning, the past abolished, creativity distrusted, love forbidden, thought systematically destroyed: this was the picture of totalitarian terror George Orwell etched deeply in 1984, an imperfect novel but a pip of a social document and a horripilating horror story. The films can create a full-scale, frightening vista of the future, as witness Things to Come, a couple of decades ago, but in the screen version of 1984, they've failed. By over-simplifying and overcompressing Orwell, they've created a society hardly more hair-raising than Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia, give or take an atrocity. There is regimentation, cruelty, injustice, hopelessness -- but little more than we've seen in those dozens of anti-Nazi films they used to crank out. As the warm-hearted Julia, Jan Sterling is a bad choice (she looks and acts as if she really does root for the Anti-Sex League); as Winston Smith, the man in the gray flannel fatigues, Edmond O'Brien tries hard; but it's Michael Redgrave's icy, gracious, appallingly serene Inner Party inquisitor that cops the acting crumpet. It's not a film to miss: it's a film to see with a long sigh because it should -- and could -- have been much better. Or, in this case, worse.
Everyone, by this time, must know that Mabel Mercer sings nightly at the Byline Room (28 West 56th) in New York City and that Mabel is as inimitable as, say, Pearl Bailey or Piaf -- maybe even a little inimitabler. She has a great voice, or no voice, and we've heard both opinions offered, but either way she grows on you and certainly has a knack for choosing the best of all possible tunes for her repertory. (Ask for her calm, unruffled version of Just One of Those Things.) Host Eddie Ramshaw's generously varied cuisine is an a la carte symphony and not excessively priced: we found the coq au vin eminently edible at $2.95. The Byline's decor is modified Cecil Beaton in black-and-white, with a ceiling shaped not unlike two kidneys in tandem. Thoroughly Mercerized, we permitted barkeep Ralph Martell to indulge a certain liquid libation he calls The Headshrinker ("Two of them and you're ready for the couch"): 2 parts Pernod, 1 part Strega, 1/2 part Fior d'Alpi; use no ice and spray the top with a twist of lemon. The gliss-and-glide pianoforte of bearded Bob Prince responds to requests till Mercertime (10:30) and there's a minimum of $3.50 per sophisticate. Open from 5:00 P.M. till 4:00 A.M.; closed Sunday.
Frederic Wakeman told us one day, shortly after he'd sold The Hucksters to the flicks for a king's ransom and might have retired there and then, that he'd never stop writing. He hasn't, but nothing he's written since then has won the acclaim accorded that book and his first, Shore Leave. Just possibly, Deluxe Tour (Rinehart, $3.95) will: Wakeman employs the familiar literary device of throwing together in unfamiliar surroundings an ill-assorted and variously motivated group of people and then letting us watch the fun and the flying fur as they interact. Nine Americans (including a rich publisher and his seductive wife, a richbitch grandmother and her lover, an ex-actress and her sadistic husband) plus an Italian adventurer and a jeune fille fatale French guide, make a tour of Europe's gaudier capitals in the course of which intrigue, crookedness and sex flourish among them. This certainly isn't Literature, but it's brittle, can't-miss novelizing you'll want to savor.
Wild Goings-On most everywhere are on tap during carnival time in February. For the most bawdy brawl of all, hop a plane at newly-reduced fares for Rio de Janeiro's version of Mardi Gras (Brazilian Tourist Bureau, 551 Fifth Ave., NYC). Or spend just four gloriously sleepless nights there as part of a circle romp that also hits the pre-Lenten highlights of other South American cities -- 21 days for $898 (Braniff International Airways, Love Field, Dallas, Texas). For stateside sport, don't miss the rowdy rahrah of Mardi Gras in New Orleans for a scant $188 round trip from Chicago in a six-day package that includes parade seats, a gala carnival ball, a jaunt out to the bayou country and a heap more (Cartan Travel Bureau, 8 S. Michigan, Chicago). The French Riviera is jumping, too, what with flower battles and such fine foolishness going on at Juan-les-pins, Nice and Cannes, among other spots (French Government Tourist Office, 610 Fifth Ave., NYC).
The Ballots in the first annual Playboy Jazz Poll are arriving at the rate of nearly a thousand a day. The earliest jazz poll mail included ballots from many closely associated with jazz music, like Dave Garroway, Al "Jazzbo" Collins, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Shorty Rogers, Chico Hamilton, Carmen McRae, Miles Davis, Buddy De Franco and Sarah Vaughan. All the votes are being punched onto IBM cards and the cards will be run through special electronic tabulating equipment to choose the final winners, in much the same way that questions are selected on The $64,000 Question television show. The results are being audited by Arthur Pos & Co., certified public accountants.
It was Not a Path at all but a dry white river of shells, washed clean by the hot summer rain and swept by the winds that came across the gulf: a million crushed white shells, spread quietly over the cold Alabama earth, for the feet of Miss Lydia Maple.
Dried up? ... Is that what they're saying in there? That I've lost my ideas? ... Me? ... Charley Barkus -- the greatest idea man the button industry has ever known -- all dried up? Ha! Just like the Atlantic Ocean is dried up ... Just like the Hudson River is dried up.
As A Man who has been paid to write about the theatre for something like a quarter of a century, I should be reasonably equipped to deal with the offerings of a single season with authority, if not necessarily with any particular charm and wit. A critic, that is, full of the memories of a thousand plays (one of which, as it happens, he wrote himself) should have no real difficulty in evaluating the 55 that turned up on Broadway between the fall of 1955 and the spring of 1956. Life, however, is seldom as simple as it seems, and the human mind is rarely permitted any gain without an equivalent loss. There is nothing wrong with my powers of recall, and somewhat to my own horror, I can remember each of these productions almost as if I had visited it yesterday, but with the passing years, my judgment, I'm afraid, has grown increasingly detached, and my feeling for the stage, once so miraculously like that of a young man afflicted for the first time with love, is now rather more like that of a middle-aged husband. There is a settled affection for the loved one and a proper appreciation of her qualities, but I am aware also that she (continued on page 30) Broadway ... just past(continued from page 25) is occasionally a terrible bore and I am never really astonished by anything she does, either in the way of miracles or calamities. I go so tediously into my present attitude as a critic only because what I am about to write is in the nature of a minority report.
Broadway, The Far-Famed thoroughfare that bisects lower Manhattan, moves on to Union Square, sputters joyfully as it reaches the Forties and Fifties, and then goes along uneventfully toward Yonkers, is now engaged with a new theatrical season, that of 1956-57. It well might be the most exciting season New York has known since the 1920s. Its theatres are booming. Much that is interesting has already been unfolded at this writing, and there is a great deal more to come.
Sometimes a Show with all the ingredients for a smash hit never gets to Broadway. Last season's most extravagant example of this cold, hard fact was a plush Ziegfeld Follies starring Tallulah Bankhead and featuring Carol (Pajama Game) Haney, Joan (Kismet) Diener, dances by Jack Cole, sets and costumes by Raoul Pene Dubois and scads of stunning showgirls. Suffering "financial problems" during out-of-town tryouts, the Follies closed in Philadelphia on May 12 without even making a bow on the Great White Way, causing Miss Bankhead much embarrassment and paving the way for a satire in this year's New Faces: descending a long staircase in true Ziegfeld fashion, a mock-Tallulah in the person of deft mimic T. C. Jones kept walking down, down, right into the black oblivion of a trapdoor.
The Noisy Restaurant was the duplicate of all the other coffee shops on campus: groups of bespectacled, untidy male students blew crumbs at each other in an excited exchange of moist ideas; young lovers in sweaters bent heads together, their cups and plates pushed away untouched; lone graduate students chewed food and read solemnly from big books.
The First Time photographer Bunny Yeager saw Lisa Winters, she was hurrying to catch a bus in downtown Miami, Florida. Lisa is the kind of fresh, young beauty that photographers all across the country are constantly looking for as prospective Playmates and Bunny tried to catch her, but the bus was gone before she could. Fortunately for all concerned, Bunny is a persistent gal, and she returned to that same corner, the same time of day, three afternoons in a row before she spotted Lisa again. This time she spoke to her and since Bunny herself is an attractive model, as well as one of the nation's outstanding female photographers, she was able to gain Lisa's confidence without some of the difficulty a male lensman might have encountered in the same situation.
"The Christmas Eve Supper! Oh, no, I shall never go in for that again!" Stout Henri Templier, the writer, said that in a furious voice, as if someone had proposed some crime to him, while the others laughed and said:
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These fine old etchings have long been appreciated for their craftsmanship but, observes cartoonist Shel Silverstein, they have never been fully understood: viewers have never really known what was going on in the pictures, what these characters of another time and place had on their minds and were saying to one another. Now for the first time, however, the true meaning of each of the scenes becomes clear with the assistance of suitable captions placed under them by Mr. Silverstein after a long, near-monastic period of careful study and arduous analysis. As a result, these works of art can be enjoyed in a way never before possible.
Playboy's Handsome Holiday Issue ... Including The Playmate Review, with a full year of Playmates together in one feature ... new fiction by Ray Bradbury and John Collier ... drawings by Picasso never before published in the U. S.... plus a host of cartoons, articles, jokes and other entertaining features.