"Spoof Collins blew his brains out, all right – right on out through the top of his head. But I don't mean with a gun. I mean with a horn." Early in Playboy's first year, these opening words of a manuscript by an unknown writer riveted our attention. We dropped what we were doing, picked up the story, read the first page, read the second page... then we loosened our necktie, put our feet up on the desk, and read the 10,000-word yarn all the way through to the end. We loved it – and our readers loved it, too. After we published it, the letters of praise for Black Country – this white-hot story of jazz and jazzmen – poured in from everywhere from Mexico to Japan; and the "trade" opinion was equally enthusiastic: Ray Bradbury said, "All the way down the line, it's a better story than Young man with a Horn ever could hope to be. I'm sure it will be remembered for many years." Robert Bloch wrote in to call it "a superb job!" The Managing Editor of Writer's Digest "felt the story's power." And when it was selected for Editor Condon's Treasury of Jazz, the editors of the book said that it seemed "to have been written while a phonograph played some old Louis Armstrong records." Since September 1954 when Playboy gave Black Country its first publication, the story's author, Charles Beaumont, has come a long way. As a Playboy-regular, he has written controversial stories like The Crooked Man, stories of psychological insight like The Hunger, fantasies like The Dark Music, lighter stories like A Classic Affair... all kinds of stories, many of which will soon appear in his first hardbound collection. But – except for a nonfiction takeout on Satchmo (Red Beans & Ricely Yours, Playboy, February 1955) – he has not returned to the jazz theme... until now. Leading off this March issue, Playboy is proud to publish Night Ride – Charles Beaumont's first Jazz story since Black Country.
We had brunch a couple of weeks ago with Arthur C. Clarke, author (seven novels, one coming up), astronomer, physicist, skindiver and generally a good sort. Reason we mention this is because Clarke unfolded to us a tale concerning the Ultimate Machine invented by a friend of his at M.I.T. The gadget is about the size and shape of a cigar box and almost as plain: on its side is a simple toggle switch, nothing more. One pulls the switch to the on position and the box emits an annoying buzz. Slowly, the lid rises, a miniature hand issues forth, reaches around to the side, turns the switch to OFF, and retires inside as the lid falls. And that is all.
[movieTitle]The Rainmaker[movieTitle], N. Richard Nash's adaptation of his own play, is a prairie story about a husband-hunting spinster (Katherine Hepburn) whose thirst for love is matched only by the surrounding real estate's thirst for rain. The end of both droughts is brought about by the sudden appearance of a flamboyant charlatan (Burt Lancaster) with a rainmaking device, a gift of grandiloquent gab and a rain-barrel full of charm. The two stars give appealing performance, as do the adept members of the supporting cast–Cameron Prud'homme, Lloyd Bridges, Earl Holliman – who, as members of Kate's family, are overeager to see her wedded and bedded (though not necessarily in that order).
Beneath the sidewalks of New York, the offest-beat things happen, especially at Julius Monk's Downstairs (51st. and 6th Ave). Joyous the spelunkers who lower themselves into this off-Broadway bin to catch merry songs and witty sayings rendered by the likes of Ceil Cabot, June Ericson, Bud McCreery, Gerry Matthews, et al. It's place to go after the theatre, especially if you've seen bad theatre and need 22 – count 'em – 22 hilarious acts to feel good all over gain. Guess Who Was There? is a perfect spoof of the jaded international set, notably "Elsa and Noel, Tallulah and Cole"; another skit is a reminiscence of Rome's golden era when maidens were "Appian Way-laid"; still another turns out to be a remotely Tibetan contribution to the forward march of juvenile forward march of juvenile delinquency: You Did Me Wrong at the Puberty Rite, and on and on and on. Guzzlers are encouraged to drink up the reasonable $3.50 minimum ($4 weekends), and to accommodate your glasses, ex-Ruban Bleu producer Monk has dispersed half-dollar sized tables through-out what might grinningly be called the "length and breadth" of this subterranean strong-box. The fun is halted only on Sundays, and the acts and performers change from time to time.
A pile of powerful writing and pleasureful reading is collected between the covers of Prize Stories 1957 (Doubleday, $3.95). Culled from the pages of American magazines, the stories are authored by William Faulkner, Jean Stafford, Irwin Shaw, Playboy-regulars Herbert Gold and Willard Marsh, and many more. Of the 20 writers represented, Gold (he copped Playboy's '56 Fiction Bonus, you'll recall) is among a group of three honored by the special O. Henry Awards. Editor Paul Engle, in the introduction, commends him for his "shrewd but sympathetic insight into the troubled human race."
A bit back. Diz toured the Middle East with a full orchestra under State Dept. auspices, and things haven't been the same there since. We're not referring to trouble, either; fact is, the cats of the area flipped over the crazy music and audiences broke attendance and applause records previously held by such mild entcnainment as belly dancing, sword swallowing and the rope trick. You can hear what caused the rumpus, now, on Dizzy Gillespie: World Statesman (Norgran 1084) and good it is – for the student. For old Diz diggers, though, the big band is firmly acceptable (no more) and it's Diz that carries the whole.
Everything is not unadulterated Kicka-poo Joy Juice in the musical version of Al Capp's comic strip. Li'l Abner (at the St. James, 138 W. 48th). There are times when the Norman Panama-McLvin Frank book needs a nip of body-building Yokumberry tonic. The Johnny Mercer-Gene de Paul score is fair enough, but it fails to ring out with a socko love ballad. The important thing, however, is that this yokel-type valentine from Dog-patch is deservedly the song-and-dance champ of this season.
He was a Scrawny kid with junkie eyes and no place for his hands, but he had the look. The way he ankled past the tables, all alone by himself; the way he yanked the stool out, then, and sat there doing nothing: you could tell. He wasn't going to the music. The music had to come to him. And he could wait.
Boxing's child of destiny required only a fraction of the scheduled 15 rounds to prove his right to the heavyweight championship of the world. In the fifth, Floyd Patterson cut down the old master, Archie Moore, and became (at 21) the youngest fighter ever to win the Big Title.
Did You Ever Wonder how Tanya, the housemother at the Alumni Club – poor old Tanya, with her one eye blue and the other brown, and all the dents in her head where the Bolsheviks walked on her – got the new Jaguar Mark VII? Don't tell me you never wondered about that, son, it's the most obvious insoluble mystery since the Gordian Knot.
Fade-in:the family homestead of Paddy Pastafazul and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts, a typical average lower-middle-class American family of Irish-Italian origins who live in an old stage-set of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing which they got cheap from the Group Theatre when it disbanded. Extension cords crisscross the living room, resembling the work of a mammoth spider. Paddy's mama, known as Mama, wrapped in a ratty old chenille bathrobe, is looking out the window at film clips of the New York blizzard of 1947 and one of the better Florida hurricanes.
Robert Caldwell, 27, college graduate, Navy veteran (nickname: Bullseye), well-paid junior account executive at a large Madison Avenue advertising agency, had an hallucination while returning to New York on a train. He was pooped. He had seen five accounts in four days on a tight schedule. Two nights he had drunk too much. His throat was sore, both from smoking and from the beginnings, he thought, of his second cold of the winter. He was looking dully out of the train window at the industrial slums of New Jersey when he suddenly spotted a sea of tropic green, a dazzling white beach, palm trees and a man in white duck pants, bronzed and barefoot. The man was himself.
The Roman Orator, Cicero, once declared that nobody in his senses would think twice of dancing, and his fellow Roman, Terence, said dancers "seem to have more brains in their feet than in their heads." As a result of this lumpy logic, look what happened to Rome. We thumb our unRoman nose at those two and side with Havelock Ellis. Quoth he: "Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts ... it is life itself." And we think Sandra Edwards, our Miss March, would go along with that, too. Though a scant 18 years of age, she has studied art and modern dancing and is currently a soaring ballet pupil. Sandra dotes on nonfiction and has a deep-down, locked-in appreciation for just about all sorts of music. Sandra's ambition is to be tapped for membership in – and eventually to become prima ballerina of – a crack ballet group like Sadler's Wells. Margot Fonteyn is her model and her idol. A well-rounded miss, say we with absolutely no double meaning in our mind; a young lady who, disproving testy old Terence and sour old Cicero, is indeed in her senses and eminently endowed at both ends of her charming anatomy.
An attractive young lady was having difficulty keeping her skirt down about her shapely legs while awaiting a bus on a windy street corner. She was aware of a man watching her discomfort with considerable interest and she addressed him in an irritated voice: "It is obvious, sir, that you are no gentleman."
A Lot of Popular blather to the contrary, clothes do not make the man. A legion of clods and insufferable melon-brains have for centuries misquoted and misinterpreted the Bard, who had the good wisdom to pen for one of those Olivier flicks: "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man." And most guys today could use a bit of proclamation.
Roger Wilco, as if you didn't know, is a pen name. Because the young corporation pilot who wrote this factual article is still very actively flying, etc., he prefers his real identity to be kept a secret. As he told us, "The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed, to protect – me." Over and out.
More Commercial Artists than you can shake a No. 6 brush at have set themselves the task of lauding the American female at the drawing board – to the everlasting delight of the American male. Men's tastes change, however – in architecture, theatre, the gin-to-vermouth ratio of a Martini, and especially in women. The be-bustled serenity of Charles Dana Gibson's Gibson Girl, everybody's sweetheart during pre-World War I days, bowed to John Held, Jr.'s baby-faced, dynamite-hipped, rouge-kneed flapper, so popular during the Jazz Age that live young ladies patterned themselves after Held's drawings in both looks and demeanor. In the Thirties, George Petty bequeathed to U.S. art lovers his pert-busted, longstemmed Petty Girl and (we understand) invented the telephone. The Forties belong to Alberto Vargas and his Vargas Girl – and we'll concede him the Fifties, too, if pressed. Actually, however, artist Alberto Vargas has been dedicated to the delineation of American beauty for two generations.
Got the blues? Good. The best-laid plans of the more erudite men this Spring call for prodigious proportions of blue in general – and to be absolutely precise: navy blue. That haze seen around the drawing board (or the men's bar) where the tastemakers gather is not strictly atmospheric; rather, it's a minor Spring miracle wrought by those forward-thinking lads who one fine day simultaneously decide that now is the time for navy. Even the Madison Avenues have turned a deep blue, and gray flannel is relegated strictly to Gregory Peck.
A Couple Of Years Ago, glittering grandma Marlene Dietrich did a night club act in Las Vegas, clad in a gown PlayBoy's Nevada correspondent thought resembled "Scotch Tape and sequins." Not long after, curvy copykitten Terry Moore appeared there in a strikingly similar get-up dubbed "nude soufflé." Not to be outdone, Marlene then returned to Vegas in a windmachine-whipped creation our reporter likened to "shredded Kleenex." So much for past history. This year's entry in the Vegas strip contest is Zsa Zsa Gabor.
We are privileged to publish Nelson Algren's first work of fiction since A Walk on the Wild Side ... a definitive essay on jazz by Leonard Feather ... smart suggestions for your sports car stable by Ken Purdy ... and the pictorial story of the most pulchritude packed building in all of New York.
Probably the most picturesque fishing village in all of Italy is tiered, be-villaed Positano on the magnificent Amalfi coastal drive a scant one-and-a-half hours from Naples. A summer art school for international arty types reopens there in May – offering simple pleasures and serious studies in fabulously beautiful surroundings for $180. That covers three weeks of instruction, room and plenty of pasta.