Unless we are greatly mistaken, that sound we hear is the rejoicing of the far-flung fans of funny fellow P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse. The occasion is the appearance of the first Jeeves novel in something like five years, on tap in a single issue of Playboy, this February issue, to be more precise. In How Right You Are, Jeeves! Bertie Wooster has lost none of his talent for getting into the most comically complicated messes, and his famous butler ex machina, Jeeves, has lost none of his genius for extricating his melon-headed master from same. We warn you in advance that, being a novel, How Right You Are, Jeeves! is a longie which cannot be read on the run: break out your best brandy and devote, please, the better part of an evening to enjoying this frothy foolery by the unchallenged champion of high society jinks, Mr. Wodehouse. His Playboy novel will be hardcovered later this year.
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Is jazz dying? John Mehegan, practitioner, student and teacher of jazz, tends toward that conclusion. "Here is an art form," he says in an article in Saturday Review ". . . barely perceived in all its myriad manifestations when suddenly the whole thing seems to have blown up. . . . The voice of jazz ... is slowly becoming the voice of the turtle." In spite of the unprecedented activity in jazz today, there is the stuff of truth in this dour view, for the forces of conformity and mediocrity, which threaten our rugged individualism generally, have penetrated the realm of jazz. As Mehegan so mordantly puts it: "The quasi-jazz hero of today ... is becoming a Trendex hero playing IBM choruses on his shining Dun & Bradstreet." Mehegan levels his attack at even such hard-shell individualists as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, which strikes us as something approaching fratricide. The more we pondered Mehegan's words, the more they troubled us, for jazz is important to us and we are as aware as anyone that the voice of the turtle is very small indeed. But then, by chance, we came across a critique by Dudley Fitts of some recent volumes of poetry, in the course of which he remarked, "I half believe that it is possible to be so much in love with an art that one can't bear that art in action." Suddenly this beautiful and wise observation seemed to shed light on Mr. Mehegan's uncompromising position toward jazz. Whether it be of man for woman, of man for art, or whatever, passion in extremis has a way of turning into tyranny: the music teacher is traditionally harshest with his favorite pupil. We like to think that John Mehegan loves jazz not wisely, but too well -- too well to delight in the fact that there are such things as jazz festivals where a musician can make an honest buck, that Coltrane and Hawkins are both finding their audiences, and that it is easier today than ever before to hear jazz -- good as well as bad. Perhaps Mr. Mehegan is a jealous lover too; perhaps he doesn't like the idea of sharing his paramour with so many others, and perhaps he would rather see her dead than prostituted. Still, we should be thankful for people like John Mehegan: as long as their passions keep them afire, jazz cannot easily fall prey to that most crippling of all diseases to which an art is subject: complacency.
There are two uninhibited Englishmen named Michael Flanders and Donald Swann who write their own songs and sing them At the Drop of a Hat, which is what they call their two-man review. A lot of Americans discovered their "after dinner farrago" during its two-year London run, and now Broadway is ripe for this informal mixture of low puns, high wit, offhand satire and offbeat songs. Lyricist Flanders (confined to a wheelchair by polio) is a black-bearded bulk of a man who looks like Henry VIII the morning after a strenuous night; composer Swann is a slight, bespectacled milquetoast who bounces up and down on his bench. Between comments cockeyed and cogent, these one-time Oxford operators duet and solo some 20 songs on a wide variety of phenomena, from the British weather, the London omnibus, and the hi-fi fanatic whose neglected wife is driven to "no fidelity with high frequency," to such assorted wildlife as a vegetarian cannibal, an indignant gnu, and a wall-flower wart hog. In the nick of time Broadway has rediscovered that humor can be literate and subtle and even very British -- and still rocket the laughs to the rafters. At the Golden, 252 West 45th Street, NYC.
Everything's up to date in Kansas City, where two of the cocktails-only centers have joined the movement to buxom, blithe and barely-bedecked waitresses. At The Inferno (4038 Troost), a devilish rendezvous indeed, the martini messengers are attired in hellcat garb, complete with long tails sporting a cigarette lighter at the very tip. The walls are decorated in the Dali-out-of-Dante tradition, with a heated Satan ruling a realm of nudes, masks and death heads. Dancing to stereo sound is encouraged. The drinks are warming, too, and are served from 8 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. Try staring at the waitress with the 44-inch bust. Everyone else does. At the Chez Joie (3740 Broadway), there's more of the half-dressed waitress set. A two-level enterprise, the first floor is modern in decor and the upstairs (Joie's Alley) is a Gay Nineties hostel. Visitors enter the upper level by pleading "Joie sent me" into a hand-cranked phone. (The Joie is Joie Dee, one of the owners.) The drinks are as stimulating as the waitresses, who patrol the aisles from 10 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. downstairs and from 6 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. in the Alley. There's no minimum or cover charge at either haven. If you're a sightseer, in any sense of that term, you'll dig these hideaways.
If you have been skeptical of spectacles in the past, you're likely to shift gears considerably when you take a look at Ben-Hur. For its entire epic length of nearly four hours, there is a minimum of false notes and Hollywood clichés. The fact that producer Sam Zimbalist brought in such distinguished word-smiths as Maxwell Anderson, Gore Vidal, S. N. Behrman and Christopher Fry to contribute to Karl Tunberg's sound and mature basic script might have something to do with it. But also: the costuming, sets, acting and directing are blended with inspired discernment and taste -- and prodigal effulgence. The familiar story, written originally by Civil War General Lew Wallace, concerns a prince of Judea's hate for his Roman overlords, and his eventual conversion to Christianity at the foot of the cross. Among the eye-walloping scenes is one of the damndest sea battles you've ever had a chance to ogle from a ringside seat, and a terrifying chariot race that will leave you gasping. But this is essentially a story about people, and the principal departure that Ben-Hur represents over previous spectacle-films is that the director, William Wyler, and writers have wisely concentrated on the human values involved. A truly competent cast includes Charlton Heston in the title role, plus Stephen Boyd, Martha Scott, Cathy O'Donnell and Jack Hawkins. Female love interest is a wining Israeli beauty, Haya Harareet.
If you've been bugged by both traditional and modern jazz, Hairy Jazz (Elektra 176) may be your salve. The hairy shouter belting the hoary tunes is Playboy's own cartoonist-philosopher Shel Silverstein. Supporting him with the apparent joy of liberated jazzmen are the seven members of the Red Onion Jazz Band. Silverstein comes to grips with a dozen vintage items, including Broken Down Mama, Kitchen Man, Sister Kate and Ragged but Right, and the quality of his voice lies somewhere between Caruso's and Andy Devine's, bears at times a disquieting resemblance to Louis Prima's. One thing for sure: no one -- but no one -- snoozes when hairy Shel is on.
Because of his turbulent, specious and headline-grabbing adventures, you wouldn't expect Errol Flynn to be taken seriously as a writer. But writer he was, make no mistake about it. He deals with himself with profundity and insight in the unghosted My Wicked, Wicked Ways (Putnam, $4.95), a title dreamed up by his publisher (Flynn's own choice: In Like Me). He uses rich, explosive language woven in simple but memorable imagery. He is literate, well-read, and flagrantly uninhibited. He has penned a powerful, piquant confessional of stature. It will surprise you, envelop you; it will never bore you. No scenario ever pasted up for the late Flynn can match his early days in Tasmania, where his nervous, restless life began under a mother he hated and a professor-scientist father he could never reach. Almost before he began shaving, he encountered lust, avarice, death and atrocity in the New Guinea jungles as a slave trader, then plantation manager. He moved on to Australia, then to England, the legitimate stage, Hollywood -- and all the familiar escapades from statutory rape to dope to a brush with sadism. You feel a sense of epic, wasteful tragedy in the chronicle as Flynn develops his huge talent for being his own worst enemy. Later, you find his agonized summary: "I know that there are two men inside of me. One wants to ramble . . . the other is a settled fellow. Each is true.
Jeeves placed the sizzling eggs and b. on the breakfast table, and Reginald ("Kipper") Herring and I, licking the lips, squared our elbows and got down to it. A lifelong buddy of mine, this Herring, linked to me by what are called imperishable memories. Years ago, when striplings, he and I had done a stretch together at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, the preparatory school conducted by that prince of stinkers, Aubrey Upjohn, M.A., and had frequently stood side by side in the Upjohn study awaiting the receipt of six of the juiciest from a cane of the type that biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder, as the fellow said. So we were, you might say, rather like a couple of old sweats who had fought shoulder to shoulder on Crispin's day, if I've got the name right.
After Grove Press decided it was about time to ignore the U.S. Postal bluenoses and bring out an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover, they were hounded by several other publishers (they called them "me-too" publishers) who, overtly or covertly, called Grove and each other purveyors of "fraudulent" and "full of errors" editions of the D. H. Lawrence novel. The dispute has been settled out of court, but the parties concerned are still distinctly cool toward each other. On top of all this, the French went and made a film version of the story, which has been criticized on many levels, censored in many American cities, and generally given as hard a time as the book on which it was based. We thought the time was ripe for some clearing-of-the-air, which we'd like to do by publishing right here in these pages a representative chapter from Our Own Fraudulent Edition, with exclusive errors not obtainable in any other fraudulent edition.
What everybody seems to forget is that Glenn was home from college when he met Thelma and all this happened. To hear the talk, you would think he had been going with her since grade school and had never looked at another girl. It wasn't like that at all. And I'm the one guy who should know.
Where the sport of kings and pageantry share honors -- is the elegant hub of the same-name Florida city. During the racing season, from mid-January to early March, the track is a world of taut-muscled, fleet-striding champions and those who surround them: owners, trainers, jockeys, stablehands, outriders, touts and bettors. It is the illustrious world, past and present, of Whirlaway, Seabiscuit, Citation, Nashua, Assault, Stymie, Armed and Round Table -- pounding relentlessly toward the finish line under the knowing hands of Arcaro, Atkinson, Longden, Hartack, Brooks and other famous jockeys, to the accompaniment of constantly clicking pari-mutuel machines. When horses and horsemen move on to other racing ovals, Hialeah remains open as a stopover for tourists attracted by the track's inimitable beauty. The clubhouse and grandstand are of striking French-Mediterranean chateau design. Behind them are the tree-ringed paddocks, the English saddling stalls and the French Walking Ring (a replica of the one at Paris' Longchamp track). More than 300 proud flamingos and groups of stately black-necked swans strut and swim around the 32-acre infield lake and islands. Fountains, flowers and trees dot the many drives and walks. The world's great horses and their silk-draped riders bring the flawlessly groomed main oval and grass courses to life early in the year, but Hialeah race track is visually appealing (concluded overleaf) man at his leisure (continued from page 52) around the calendar.
If you're like us, February is a month that calls for a blues-bouncer. Slush, snuffles, and the other bitter bites of winter have been with us so long they seem like permanent institutions, and the green sheen of spring seems like a pleasant dream from the past. Gloom pervades. What's needed to dispel the pallor of these days is a happy harbinger. The harbinger should be neatly wrapped (37-23-36) and young (21), plus personable enough to turn our heads toward the shape of things to come. Gentlemen, you need look no further -- meet Susie Scott. If you knew Susie like we know Susie, you'd know that she's a Chicago girl whose hobbies are books, records and men, though not necessarily in that order. She's a girl guaranteed to warm the frozen cockles of the coldest heart, and our Miss February.
Writers of mystery and detective novels have, for years, relied upon certain classic, recurrent plots and story devices. Three favorites have been The Desperate Chase, The Disguised Agent and The Locked Room. Here, Robert Sheckley offers his own versions of all three. They are drastically condensed, but in another sense they are extended to the nth degree.
Brandy is Dandy -- as our chap above pouring his date a snifter of that aromatic potation is demonstrating -- and liquor is slicker when you serve it from your own home bar. It's downright embarrassing, time-wasting and clumsy to oiler your favorite femme a double martini and have to ransack the entire apartment rounding up glasses, utensils and hooch. And when all the accoutrements are assembled, you've still got to search for counter space -- space that won't stain or scratch -- on which your cocktails to concoct. It all proves, we feel, that a bar just can't be bested as the spot for storing, swizzling and sipping your libations.
There's probably nothing more exciting to a young man just out of college, or any young man in his early twenties, than a year in Paris absolutely on his own. He's old enough to have developed some appreciation of the joys of life, and yet is not held down by intimidating experience or cynical disillusionment.
Five years ago this month, Playboy published a Playmate photograph of an unknown blonde named Jayne Mansfield. Shortly afterward, Jayne bombshelled her way to fame on Broadway, and her present renown as a movie queen followed almost immediately. What makes Jayne delightfully different from many another of her sister cinematic sirens is her unspoiled consistency as regards the revelation of the Mansfield memorabilia. The number of filmic hopefuls who've been willing to strip to the buff in order to gain attention and give their careers a beginning boost has been, as they say, legion. Our Jayne, however, now that she's reached the top, continues to disrobe at the snap of a camera shutter, wherever she may be. On the following pages you'll find a collection of these occasions on which Jayne has displayed, among other things, an engaging lack of inhibition.
A merchant was once so jealous of his wife that he decided to spy upon her. He therefore bought a parrot, put it in a cage and set the cage in his house, commanding the bird to tell him everything that it saw his wife do, concealing nothing. Then the merchant went away on a business trip, confident that if his suspicions were just he would be informed.
April In Paris, according to Vernon Duke's ageless propaganda, means chestnuts in blossom and holiday tables under the trees. It also means the Champs, the cafes, Notre Dame and all the rest, but there's no need to remain smack-dab-in-the-middle of the city, spending all your hours on standard tourist fare. Hire a car for crisp spring drives. Take the demoiselle to the elite dining spots -- Grand Veneur at Fontainebleau, Au-berge du Fruit Défendu at Malmaison, Relays du Chasteau at Rambouillet or La Reserve at St. Cloud. The food is incredibly magnificent and sets a perfect tone for the evening ahead.