No one, according to Charles Lamb, "ever regarded the First of January with indifference." Indifference being an attitude Playboy shuns at any time, we heartily endorse the notion of especially regarding each bright new year with a good deal of shiny-eyed expectation. The First of January is the time when, among other things, we award our annual $1000 Best Fiction Bonus (in past years, this has gone to Herbert Gold, for The Right Kind of Pride, and to George Langelaan, for The Fly). This year, something new has been added -- a parallel Best Article Bonus, also of $1000, to the author of Playboy's most outstanding non-fiction of the year.
Pardon us if we scuff our feet a little, verbally that is. Our head is hung in shame, and we cough softly in apology as we tell you that we're eight months late in reporting a world's championship sporting event. Last May, the Oxonian Tiddlers of Oxford University defeated the Cantab Winkers of Cambridge at tiddly-winks, and immediately claimed the world's championship. The score was a nip-and-tuck 113-111. The teams represented the cream of the world's winkers -- or tiddlers -- and the match was witnessed by several hundred fans. Tea was served at half time.
Some months ago, with Bing Crosby virtually declaring himself her esthetic godfather and launching her LP career, Pat Suzuki orbited rapidly into the best-seller lists with her disc debut, The Many Sides of Pat Suzuki (Vix LX 1127). Since then the 24-year-old California born lass has made considerable showbiz headway, and by the time these lines are read will have opened on Broadway in The Flower Drum Song. Meanwhile a new disc by Miss Pony Tail, as her sponsors coyly dub her, is on the market. Its title (the title department must have been pooped that day) is Pat Suzuki (Vik LX 1147). While we are impressed with Pat's dramatic quality, it seems that something of her is lost in the transfer from nightclub or stage to LP grooves. She describes her voice as "a cross between Shirley Temple and Lawrence Tibbett," of all things, though to us there is something of Lena Horne in the histrionic style, of Eartha Kitt in the occasionally forceful diction, and of Judy Garland in the voluminous projection. Frankly, Anything Goes, with that old-hat, Ethel Waters growl and vibrato, bothers us, and Black Coffee is not our cup of java, but on some of the ballads Pat really makes it. Star Dust includes a pretty treatment of the verse; I've Grown Accustomed to His Face is simple and warm; How High the Moon unusual in its slow, exotic-rhythm treatment. This is the side of Miss S. that comes off best for hi-fi; for the other tunes, hearing her in person is necessary for full appreciation.
Like a real-life Eliza Doolittle, Sheilah Graham started as a Cockney orphan and at 20-odd was affianced to a belted earl -- but her chief claim to fame is her love affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1937 she was a beautiful, budding Hollywood columnist while he, at 41, was an alcoholic, largely forgotten writer, still enmeshed in the ethos of a dead era -- a kind of Roaring-Twenties Quixote fighting ginmills. Once they'd met, Sheilo (his name for her) jilted the earl, jolted her friends, and all but junked her own future by plunging into a roller-coaster romance with this shattered genius. You can read all about it in Beloved Infidel (Holt, $3.95) by Miss Graham and Gerold Frank, who performed similar ghostly chores on I'll Cry Tomorrow and Too Much Too Soon. The book is sometimes touching, sometimes shocking, too often merely embarrassing. Though there was true love on both sides (Fitzgerald himself immortalized it in The Last Tycoon), what might have been a deeply moving autobiographical novel is marred by Mr. Frank's sob-sister style.
A take-your-time spot for a snack and a chat, away from the Benzedrine throb of Chicago's Villagey Near North Side, is the low-ceilinged, unpretentious A Bit of Sweden (1015 N. Rush). Here, with quietude enow to permit a make-out discussion of Bartók and Buxtehude with that stacked little culture hound, you can sip an aquavit at the cubbyhole bar in the corner; wander around the smorgasbord table, sampling and yakking as you go; dawdle over strong coffee; top things off with a platter of plättar (those little Swedish pancakes) and lingonberries; then, thus fortified, brave once more the artfilm/bistro/bookshop/leotard hazards of Rush Street. It's not a late-hours place: open five to 9:30 every day except Sunday when they open at noon, shut up shop at eight.
The Horse's Mouth is a wildly funny, irreverent and sometimes touching picture based on the late Joyce Cary's novel. Alec Guinness plays frog-voiced, grizzled Gulley Jimson, a boor, kleptomaniac, vandal, and extortionist who is chockful of lubricity. He is also a dream-haunted and masterful painter, particularly of feet -- pudgy, misshapen, elderly, worn feet; feet with a past. Awestruck by his own genius, he has evolved a special and delightful set of morals for himself: what the hell, so long as he can find an empty canvas to fill with his pulsating colors and fierce, distorted concepts. At the outset he's down, badgering his ex-wife (Renee Houston) for paintings she's filched from him; borrowing pence from a tough barmaid (Kay Walsh); trying to squeeze more from a rich dodderer (Ernest Thesiger). Then he finds the ideal setup: a baronet's apartment (the gentleman and his wife are away on vacation) with wide and wonderful walls just asking for his oils. He moves in, joined shortly by a sculptor (Michael Gough) and a nude model (Gillian Vaughan), plus other assorted oddballs who devastate the place in their dedication to art. The hilarious adventure is a classic of grotesque humor, and Guinness has a ball making asses out of the respectably pompous Britishers who try to frustrate him. Guinness did the screenplay, too, and a fine, literate job it is. Ronald Neame's direction is bright and saucy, and the cadged Prokofiev music lumping along with the action adds to the general jocularity. In sum, like, wow.
Even Now he could not believe it, so quickly had it happened, so unexpectedly, and after so many years. How many? Juanito tried to remember. Three. No; four. Four years of sleeping in filthy boxcars, on park benches, on the ground with only his dirt-stiffened cape for protection against the angry winds; of stealing and, when he could not steal,begging; of running in the path of impresarios ("Next year!") -- and all the long nights, dreaming. And now. Now. Now!
Every successful host knows that a good party provides much more than shelter and sustenance for the gathered revelers. The hors d'oeuvres and canapés, to be sure, must delight both eye and palate, the drinks should be concocted with skill and imagination, but once spirits are buoyed by these stimulants, the time arrives for games.
The English Novelist Thackeray, a testy but thoughtful gourmet, found his palate appalled when he visited the United States -- until he rode into New Orleans. There, to his delighted amazement, he found a city where "the claret is as good as it is at Bordeaux, and where a bouillabaisse can be had than which a better was not eaten at Marseille." Thus did William Makepeace afford Creole cooking its first, well-deserved break into print. Lest his words and the return of Mardi Gras next month make you fall into the fairly common error of believing that Creole cooking and New Orleans are synonymous, however, you should know that areas generally included in the cartography of Creole cuisinery are Louisiana, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Barbados and Trinidad.
Hollywood executives say that "vertical" or "sitting-up" writing is a bugaboo invented by screenwriters, who pretend that their work suffers unless they are allowed to do their thinking lying down. The following dossier was removed by Mr. Hargrove from the confidential files of William T. Orr, executive producer, Warner Brothers TV. "All of the letters and memoranda," Mr. Hargrove informs us, "are believed to have come from the same typewriter, an ancient model such as is usually palmed off on scriptwriters. The few longhand missives show marked similarities in their calligraphy."
Time Was, way back in pre-synthetic days, a snappily garbed, world-traveling Yank wouldn't think of stepping down a cruise-ship's gangplank in a tropical port without his trusty gray-beige silk pongee suit on his back. (Or, for that matter, out into the heat of the city in summer.) This fabric was the key to his warm-weather wardrobe for some nifty reasons: it was a strong, lightweight, crease-resistant, cool cloth that made up handily into an easy-fitting, good-looking suit -- unlike its alternative, seersucker, which quickly got as crinkly as PJs. After too many years of neglect, pongee is once again filling an important spot among the traveling elite who demand the elegance and distinction this natural fiber affords. We predict that pongee (originally called pen chi by the Chinese, meaning home loom) will enjoy a return engagement in some of the best-looking resort and cruise clothes to hoist a gin and bitters anywhere the sun shines in January. The new generation of pongee shown here is a heftier-weight silk than it once was. Further, it is now (as never before) available in prints that turn up in a variety of tasteful sports coats. Note the way the natural neutral color of the pongee tames down the tie-type prints to give a coat the quiet elegance that is the hallmark of really right attire.
About once every two months, wind and weather permitting, it was the practice of Mrs. Elphinstone-Golightly, who was as confirmed a hypochondriac as ever bit a charcoal biscuit, to leave her residence in the London suburb of Wimbledon and go off to try some new spa. Every time she did so her daughter Evangeline had to go with her to keep her company. And came a day when the latter felt that if she ever saw another invalid, she would scream thinly and shoot six feet in the air with her hair standing stiffly up from the roots.
Playboy has garnered Playmates from many walks of life, but a whiskered old prejudice about the plainness of librarians, as well as a Dorothy Parker couplet about girls who wear glasses, have hitherto prevented us from scouting the libraries of our land in search of gatefold glamor. A little unbiased cogitation, of course, should have led us to the conclusion that there's no reason why a librarian can't be as lovely as any other lass, as dewy as a decimal system, as stacked as the stacks she supervises; but that cogitation never got cogitated. Stepping briskly into an L.A. library in search of research, therefore, we were pleasantly surprised to find our eyes dazzled by something more than the afterimage of the California sun. The part-time librarian who offered informed assistance struck us immediately as Playmate potential, so we approached her about the possibilities of posing. She was, as these pages attest, agreeable, so we herewith present, as an incentive toward reading and education, Miss Virginia Gordon.
Naturally I Laughed. My tailor said Mr. D have you had the suit cleaned. I said no. He said don't, the material is a distinct liability, so watch it. So I said I was watching. He said don't sit down in it, and walk with a clean stride, you don't want it to crease.
January is Playmate Parade time, a recapitulation of last year's lasses. It has always been an annual high spot for us, but this year it's even better than usual, since we presented a tradition-breaking baker's dozen in our last 12 issues. We went as far as Sweden to find one, then turned around to see another sitting across from us on our own fourth floor. Which of the lucky 13 gets your vote as Playmate of the Year?
A very Noble Gentleman, having been absent from home for some time, found an opportunity to come to visit with his wife, who was young, beautiful and nicely turned. To get there quickly he rode for nearly two full days and nights in a public stagecoach, arriving home quite late at night. His wife had already gone to bed, but at his approach she straightway awakened. For she was quite joyous to have the company of her loving husband, and expected that at the very least she would quickly have that little ration of wild oats she had done without for so long.
Fine for the backwoods and on campus are those yards-long mufflers and bear-paw gloves you see around. But for town wear, the gear shown here is preferred: lightweight, handsome mufflers that do yeoman duty warding off the worst of winter, and neat, elegant gloves with not a fur-lined job in sight. They complement your getup, and they're tastefully correct for business or other daytime activities. They go, like the man says, hand in glove with the rest of your duds.
If there is anything very original left to add to the case study of that wizened theatrical stand-by, the whore with a golden heart, Paul Osborn doesn't get around to saying it in his dramatization of Richard Mason's best-seller, The World of Suzie Wong. This is the occasionally touching story of a Chinese girl who was had at the age of 13 and who compounds her woe as a part-time resident of a Hong Kong brothel known as the Nam Kok Hotel. Because Suzie's soul is Pure, her heart is never in her work. She falls in love with a high-minded and innocent young painter, but she continues to lie down on the job nevertheless. The idea of espousing a prostitute gives the young man pause throughout the play, until the very end when he says the hell with it and takes his beloved in his arms. France Nuyen as Suzie is a succulent egg roll indeed, and is heart and shoulders above her stereotyped role. William Shatner as her Canadian lover, and Ron Randell and Sarah Marshall as a couple of Occidental bystanders, perform earnestly against odds which mount as the play progresses. More than any other factor, it is the lush, exotic production that has made Suzie a success. Jo Mielziner has designed the show's flamboyant sets, and director-producer Joshua Logan charges his stage with a riot of giggling girls, sly Orientals and foot-loose sailors on shore leave. Maybe the play isn't the thing, after all. At the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street, NYC.
If you like to be first in things, pack your skindiving gear -- there's none for hire there -- and try the submarine canyons of the exotically beautiful Yugoslavian coast around Split, Dubrovnik, Rab and Opatitlja. There's no more beautiful stretch of coast anywhere. What's more, the food's tops and just a little inland you can have a schuss or two on the slopes of Mount Jahorina.