You may have heard of Norman Mailer: novelist, Pulitzer, Polk and National Book Award winner, master of personal reportage (he's been described as a "hip Boswell, a Dickens...of the New Journalism"), erstwhile candidate for mayòr of New York (he lost out to John Lindsay--remember John Lindsay?). If you know very much about Mailer, you know he's a devoted fan of--nay, obsessed with--the manly art of pugilism. Writing and prize fighting, Mailer once told movie critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, are alike. A boxer, he said, "has to convince himself that his cause is just enough to give him the right to do physical injury to another man.... With writing, it's the same: You have to reach the point of confidence that what you're writing is, finally, worth reading. It requires a form of autointoxication." On another occasion, Mailer staged a play, based on his sex-in-Hollywood novel, The Deer Park, in 88 scenes--each set off from the other by the clanging of a ringside gong. The guy just digs boxing. So you can imagine that when Mailer called and asked us if we'd like him to cover the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaïre for Playboy, we said sure, why not? We'd been planning to skip the whole affair, figuring it would be belabored to death in the daily press, but how often do we get a chance to see how violence in darkest Africa looks through the psyche of Norman Mailer? Oh, yeah--one other thing you gotta understand about Norman: When he sits down at the typewriter, he's a hard man to count out. Armies of the Night began as a piece for Harper's on the Washington antiwar protests and wound up swallowing virtually its entire March 1968 issue. And the preface for a picture book on Marilyn Monroe ended up running 95,000 words (and selling millions of copies). Well, he sent us so much copy on that happening in Kinshasa that we've divided it into two installments. Start The Fight here and return for the knockout in June.
Playboy, May, 1975, volume 22, number 5, published monthly by Playboy, Playboy Building, 919 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611. Subscriptions: In the United States, its possessions and Canada, $24 for three years, $18 for two years, $10 for one year. Elsewhere $15 per year. Allow 30 days for new subscriptions and renewals, change of address; send both old and new addresses to Playboy, Playboy Building, 919 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611, and allow 30 days for change, Marketing: Richard S. Rosenzweig, Director of Marketing; emery smyth, Marketing Services Director; Herbert D. Maneloveg, Director of Marketing Information; Nelson Futch, Marketing Manager; Lee Gottlieb, Director of public relations, Advertising: Howard W. Lederer, Advertising Director; Don Hanrahan, Associate Advertising Director; Jules Kase, Advertising Manager, 747 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10017; Chicago, Sherman Keats, Associate Advertising Manager, 919 North Michigan Avenue; Detroit, William F. Moore, Manager, 818 Fisher Building; Los Angeles, Stanley L. Perkins, Manager, 8721 Beverly Boulevard; San Francisco, Robert E. Stephens, Manager, 417 Montgomery Street.
Monkey business: Psychologists conducted an experiment in which chimps were trained to perform various tasks in return for "money"--inedible coins that could be redeemed for raisins at a "chimp-o-mat" at the end of the workday. The female chimps, it was noted, didn't work as hard as the males to earn chimp money, and several theories were put forth to account for the females' laziness on the job. Some definite conclusions were reached when a lab assistant returned to work late one night to find the male chimps handing over their hard-earned coins to the females for "sexual favors." After monkeying around a bit, the girls headed for the chimp-o-mat and cashed in their loot for the raisins.
Not many people know this--and still fewer believe it--but the first powered flight by a manned heavier-than-air craft may have taken place not at Kitty Hawk in 1903 but four decades earlier somewhere around Luckenbach, Texas. According to local legend, in the middle 1860s, an imaginative German immigrant named Jacob Brodbeck built a winged contraption powered by agiant coil spring and managed to fly it to treetop level before he crashed, breaking a leg and embarrassing the townfolk, who hushed up the incident. Back then, the community wanted no reputation for harboring eccentrics.
The Third Annual Band Wagon Film Festival will be held again this year in Echo Valley, California, and the number of entries has been overwhelming. Disasters, of course, continue to hold an edge, although other topics have made strong showings--so we offer here a critical sampling of the best:
Claude Lelouch's And Now My Love (Toute une Vie in the original unsubtitled French) was hissed and jeered by wise-ass insiders at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. They were rejecting the film's banality and pretentiousness while putting down Lelouch as a shallow, self-indulgent romantic who's been just too goddamned successful since A Man and a Woman made a bundle. Well, his critics were right to find some fault with And Now My Love (considerably shorter and recut since its Cannes showing) but wrong to come down so hard on a pensive, tender, beautifully played love story--with Jean Collomb's limpid photography and Francis Lai's music-for-handholding score to dress it up. More ambitious and personal than any previous Lelouch movie, this is a glossy, tantalizing 20th Century valentine to l'amour--in which the hero and heroine (André Dussollier and lovely Marthe Keller, who is Lelouch's lady offscreen) don't meet until the last three minutes of the film, when their two suitcases nudge each other along the luggage track onto a New York-bound Air France 747. Rest assured there are musical cues to tell you that the take-off will be the start of something big, and Lelouch prepares for that climactic final moment by going back two generations to explain how Fate arranges for one particular Woman to experience love at first sight. The Woman is a rich, spoiled Jewish girl who has dabbled with suicide, many men, at least one woman (Carla Gravina), a couple of marriages, big business and an unfinished autobiography. The Man is a onetime juvenile delinquent who goes to jail twice before finding himself as a maker of prize-winning TV commercials, porno movies and--at last--movies very much like Lelouch's own, including And Now My Love. There are films within the film, newsreels, flashbacks, pop tunes and carloads of nostalgia in an effort to link romantic destiny with the whole history of modern times--everything from Hitler's rise and fall to the death of Marilyn Monroe. Becoming cosmic puts quite a strain, though, on a director whose real talent is for effortless ballroom glides across the surface of things. He may yearn to be a Dostoievsky, but Lelouch cannot resist studying Beautiful People in their natural habitat, and finally succeeds almost in spite of himself.
Bob Dylan was a kind of oracle for the Sixties. He seemed to be singing about us. Those flashing chains of surrealistic images were all about our lives, our own confusions and our own muddled notions, exploding at us with clarity and poetic force. He gave us the images with which we perceived ourselves. In the beginning, he was a folk singer, and his fans were the sincere, often politically committed--or at least concerned--folkies of the Kennedy years. The first time he sang backed by a band playing electric instruments, fights broke out in the audience. After that, Dylan was constantly accused of selling out, as we projected on him our own anxieties about making compromises with the system. But beginning with Bringing. It All Back Home, he made three albums that redefined pop music. We remember the first time we heard Subterranean Homesick Blues. It was on a car radio. We cranked up the volume, trying to make out the words. Here was Dylan hollering out this slam-bang, raggedy-assed rock-'n'-roll song, but what was he saying? "Johnny's in the basement mixin' up the medicine;/I'm on the pavement thinkin' about the government." What the hell was that?
Leaping lizards! What has Edward Albee done now? His new play, Seascape, has roused the slumbering critics into a chittering horde of ravers and carpers. Actually, the play is neither a masterpiece nor a fraud but a comic minorpiece, a mellow Virginia Woolf in a sandbox. This is Albee's first play in which the cast is only half human. There are two people--a middle-aged, sedentary married couple (Deborah Kerr and Barry Nelson)--and two lizard creatures emerging into evolution (Frank Langella and Maureen Anderman). The four meet accidentally on a beach and exchange notes on civilization. Speaking perfect English (after all, who wants subtitles in a play?), the creatures tell the people a bit about life at sea, discovering in the process that they share some of the same marital concerns and social hang-ups. For example, Langella is prejudiced; fish, to him, are dirty and stupid. The people, in turn, warn the lizards about life on earth.
At the outset of Tennessee Williams' new novel, Moise and the World of Reason (Simon & Schuster), the narrator, a 30ish Southern homosexual living in New York City's West Village, informs us that he is a "distinguished failed writer," with a taste for incomplete sentences, dangling participles and general incoherence. Not exactly a grabber of an opening, but we force ourselves to continue. Several incomplete, dangling and generally incoherent pages later, the narrator introduces us to the title character, Moise, a female painter who announces to her friends that she is departing from the world of reason and quickly proves this by making no sense. By now, we're scratching our head. Undaunted, the narrator, who is beginning to sound like a freshman creative-writing major, rambles on. We are introduced to his ex-lover Lance, a black professional ice skater who is very cool, very homosexual and very incoherently drawn. Now we are yawning. Nothing is happening, nobody is saying anything that makes much sense and we are reading sentences such as this one: "Inflamed libido, liking the contours of ... Hawaii 50 is located in the Sandwich Islands somewhere in the suspiciously quivering space between, sorry, but never catch names." What is this bullshit? At last we get to a part where the narrator tells us about his rejection notices. Seems nobody appreciates his writing. One cynical editor responds by saying his work "reeks of self-pity and should be transferred only by garbage disposal." This makes more sense than anything we've read so far. We close the book.
A longtime female friend and I are planning a vacation in France. We want to share hotel accommodations for obvious reasons. Unless I miss my guess, those reasons should be obvious to hotel clerks, too, since from what I've heard, it is their policy to collect passports when guests register for the night. Can we expect to be hassled or embarrassed because we're unmarried?--M. L. G., Washington, D.C.
The number-one topic of conversation in Washington and elsewhere these days is the sad state of the American economy, and an increasingly angry citizenry is blaming its political leaders for both high prices and lost jobs--and turning to them for help. Except for President Ford, the man who's been under the heaviest pressure is Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon. In prosperous times, Treasury had been a sinecure for rich bankers and industrialists desirous of some high Governmental title to chisel on their tombstones. Not in 1975. Treasury--not State or Defense--is where the action is in Government today, and no one knows that better than the man who is now in its hot seat.
There is a photograph of a boy named Robert MacBean, an officer in the rebel army in the Mexican Revolution. For years, I was half-ashamed of that photo's flamboyance, but half-proud also. The photograph could be an illustration from a Richard Harding Davis novel of Latin-American adventure, the hero a half-gringo captain of a troop of irregular cavalry. The likeness was taken in Tepic in the summer of 1914, by a hunchbacked photographer whose name, J. Medina, appears in flowing script in the lower-right-hand corner.
You probably didn't know it, but the glory that was Greece nestles inside a pita bun. Baked long before "bread" was conceived as a loaf, the flat, hollow pita, now found throughout the Middle East, has opened up a new world of easy, delicious eating. You can provide your pita mates with a luscious variety of hot and cold Greek-inspired comestibles from which to choose what they want--in any combination--following the whims of their appetites. Then they stuff it inside the pita horn of plenty, which can be purchased fresh in almost all specialty food shops.
In a pictorial essay in our November 1972 issue, Contributing Editor Bruce Williamson hailed Gwen Welles as a coming love goddess of the screen. These days, his prediction is looking pretty good. Since breaking up with French star maker Roger Vadim--a rupture anticipated in Williamson's story--she has come back to the States and solidified her claim to stardom in a pair of Robert Altman films: California Split, which cast her as a kindhearted prostitute, and the upcoming Nashville. There's no one better qualified than Altman to appraise the talent of the 26-year-old actress, and he thinks it's all there: "Off the set, she may seem vulnerable and dependent, but when the camera goes on, she's a complete professional." The niece of Gustave Tassell and the daughter of Rebecca Welles, both top Hollywood fashion designers, Gwen sold dresses at 17, then started tagging along with some friends who went to acting school at night. Her very first attempt at onstage emoting caught the eye of an agent, who signed her to a contract. But Gwen went through the traumatic changes you'd expect of an overprivileged Hollywood brat--plus, of course, her thing with Vadim--before getting herself together. Now Gwen--whose offstage companion is usually record producer Richard Perry--keeps a vegetarian diet and practices yoga, meditating twice a day to slow down her pulse rate. She's been refining her already formidable dramatic skills by studying with Lee Strasberg, and she's been delighting the Hollywood columnists, one of whom has said she provides the best copy since Marilyn Monroe. Evidently, our charismatic heroine is on her way.
Now, Mean Joe Greene may not wish to spend his off hours relaxing in an Oleg Cassini warm-up suit, but no matter. For the rest of us, the jock look is a refreshing alternative to more predictable styles of leisure-wear. Sure, you can wear warm-up suits, football jerseys, track pants, sweat shirts, etc., for macho sports--but they're also great when putting a few away in your favorite pub or shoving off for an afternoon's bike ride. And if the right person sees you making like Joe Namath (minus the panty hose, of course), it might even lead to something physical.
I rode into Houston on the firm haunch of a 727, landing in weather that prompted the first in a series of loyalty pacts with God. The weather was a combination of fog and clouds and mist, ideal for ferns.
"I don't regret anything I've done, and I've learned from everything." That may sound like a grandiose statement for an 18-year-old to make. Many a girl her age hasn't done anything much, let alone anything to regret--or to learn from. But Bridgett Rollins has been growing up fast. A Tennessee native who's lived in various places--her dad was a career man in the Air Force--she dropped out of high school, in a Chicago suburb, when she was 15: "The kids did nothing but fight all the time, and the teachers did nothing but try to keep them in their seats." She went to modeling school instead, with the encouragement of her mother, and worked in fashion shows. A year later, after a three-month courtship, Bridgett married her 21-year-old beau and they moved to Houston, where he kept the books for his folks' apartment complex while she got modeling jobs. It wasn't long before she realized how badly she wanted a career and he realized that he needed a stay-at-home wife. Bridgett broke the stalemate herself by going to Mexico and getting unmarried. She and her ex-husband are now good friends, and Bridgett winces if you call her a divorcee: "I want to be a light, happy person, and labels like that just drag you down." Indeed, anyone who knows her can tell you that she's a most positive individual--intense, articulate and incurably optimistic, even under trying circumstances; when she was a kid, and her mother and father would argue all the time, she chose to believe it was all an act. She did run away from home several times, because she felt she wasn't getting enough attention from her mom--whose own troubles, she now realizes, were beyond her comprehension at the time. Bridgett's father is now dead and she considers her mother--who has remarried and is living in Ocala, Florida--a very good friend. She's also friends with her three siblings, especially her sister Yvonne, who drove back to Chicago with Bridgett after a recent family get-together in Ocala. The two girls currently share a Windy City apartment. Bridgett was working for a finance company; she's quit that job, though, and is training to be a Bunny. Her original intention was to head for Los Angeles after her Playmate appearance and learn about acting; now, despite her basic confidence, she feels that she ought to get experience first with some of the smaller theater groups in the Chicago area. That makes sense to us--and, of course, we're delighted that the precocious Miss Rollins has decided to stick around the Midwest awhile.
A couple slept in separate bedrooms, and the man was awakened one night by his wife's screams. He rushed into her room and snapped on the light just in time to see a male figure disappearing through the window. "That man attacked me twice!" wailed the woman.
Clean straight streets. Cities whose cores are not blighted but innocently bustling. Anglo-Saxon faces, British once removed, striding long-legged and unterrorized out of a dim thin past into a future as likely as any. Empty territories rich in minerals. Stately imperial government buildings. Parks where one need not fear being mugged. Bech in his decline went anywhere but had come to prefer safe places.
A lot of Americans got their first taste of off-road motor-cycling when they saw The Great Escape. Steve McQueen stole a massive kraut beast and took off across the grassy hills of Middle Europe, eventually to rendezvous with a barbed-wire fence. We will now have a moment of silence for those who tried to duplicate the (concluded on page 176)Light Bridge(continued from page 121) feat on their Harley-Davidson 74s, or Norton Atlases. Those reckless pioneers soon discovered the meaning of ground clearance (a well-placed rock could tear a low-slung exhaust pipe right out from under them) and traction (the rubber-band-sized treads on a highway tire couldn't pull a quarter-ton bike out of a ditch or a sandy beach). Obviously, a different kind of motorcycle was needed. (Fans of Then Came Bronson--the TV series of a few years past--may have noticed that whenever their hero took his chopper off the road, it miraculously changed into a dirt bike outfitted to look like a Harley.) The few riders who got bitten by the desert bug stripped their Triumphs and BSAs down to the frame and added knobby tires, but those make-shift changes weren't enough. A road bike is built for main-line comfort--the weight, steering geometry and gearing are designed to handle highways that were intended for cars--where a driver isn't expected to make more than one decision every hour. A few companies responded to the demand for off-road vehicles with "scrambler" versions of their road bikes--upswept pipes, knobby tires, a larger sprocket on the rear wheel, a steel plate to protect the underbelly of the engine. A slight improvement, but you can't break a thoroughbred for range riding. Eventually, engineers realized that a different breed was needed and set out to build the mechanical equivalent of the quarter horse.
I left my office the way one leaves a museum. It would all be there intact if I chose to return--the rosewood box I had bought in Marblehead, the plaster statue of General Grant bought on Third Avenue, my desk chair made in 1775 that Miriam had found in the attic of a cousin living on Block Island, the photos of Tony, Alex and Sheila that stood in the elegant silver frame Miriam had bought at Tiffany's. I would not miss a single possession. The chair could go back to Block Island. We seem to possess everything but ourselves.
Alfred De Musset, when he served in the National Guard, was no worse a soldier than anyone else and the fact that he was a talented author seemed no great handicap. He smoked the same tobacco and told the same sort of lies as the rest. His romantic adventures, on the other hand, were a bit different from those of the ordinary private.
There's Been Stories and funny books and legends and myths about him for 20 years, of course, but I guess I'm the only person alive knows the true story about the guy, though I never was mentioned in the various yarns, which was fine by me. I just want to set the record straight, is all, on account that he really did exist and for all I know still does, and he'd appreciate it.
"I'm a born extrovert--I'm not going to lie about it. At the age of eight, I knew I wanted to be a soloist. And if I had ever thought I would be buried in an orchestra, I probably would have quit." That's the confession of Eugene Fodor, a 25-year-old violinist from Turkey Creek, Colorado, who is currently the hottest thing on the classical-music circuit. He enjoys that status partly because, last summer, he won top honors at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition--the first American since Van Cliburn to score there; as a result, Fodor is assured of 100 concerts a year for the next few seasons (and a long-term recording contract with RCA). But, as he points out, he was doing fine before that, since he'd already toured most of the world and played with its greatest orchestras. It figured that Eugene would be able to handle a violin: His father, a contractor, handles one pretty well as an amateur, and his older brother handles one professionally for the Denver Symphony. But our hero--who started at seven, after pestering his parents for a year--has always been something special. By his middle teens, he had pretty well mastered the technical stuff: "That's just teaching your fingers their surroundings--the strings of the instrument--the same way blind people become acquainted with the furniture in a room." Since then, it's been more a matter of living and loving, learning about emotions and how they can be expressed in music. "I've had several love affairs--in fact, I almost got married--so I feel a hell of a lot more than I did at eighteen," says Eugene, who has been called the Mick Jagger of the concert hall. Of course, there are other things in his life--such as motorcycling and horseback riding. And Eugene feels that all his interests contribute to his artistry: "I can't think of anything worse than to be practicing twelve hours a day or to be thinking music, music, music all the time." Which is an OK attitude for Fodor, because he's been given something even he can't explain. The rest of us had better practice.
A fellow journalist has called him the Lone Ranger, but William Raspberry, 39-year-old, widely syndicated urban-affairs columnist of The Washington Post, gets the bad guys with words, not silver bullets. His column zeroes in on his personal interests and on those issues that affect the black community-- notably, drug abuse, public education ("Massive busing solely for the purposes of racial integration is a waste") and criminal justice ("People who believe it pays to get tough do not admit they were wrong when it doesn't work; they simply get tougher"). When digging for information, he skips press briefings in favor of conducting personal interviews. What's important to Raspberry is asking the right questions: "We keep asking and answering the wrong questions and, as a result, we don't solve any problems." Although Raspberry is deeply concerned with the plight of the black, his skepticism about simplistic solutions to complex problems has irritated both militants and Uncle Toms. That, to him, is a plus; he sees himself as a member of the radical middle and his column as a living organism, within which his views can change and grow instead of being firmly set for all time. Born and raised in Mississippi, Raspberry moved North, was graduated from Indiana Central College and worked as a reporter-photographer-editor for the Indianapolis Recorder. In 1962, he landed a job at the Post-- as a library assistant. Quickly working his way up through a succession of jobs--teletype operator, general-assignment reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor-- he earned his own column in 1965. That first year, he received the Capital Press Club's Journalist of the Year award for his coverage of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, and he's been piling up the prizes ever since. This year, Raspberry was selected to serve on the juries for both the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the Pulitzer Prize. We suspect his fellow journalists are more than a little relieved that he's a judge, not a competitor.
Anyone for basics? Bad Company, a metallic blues-based British rock group, has resuscitated and revitalized a style and sound all too rare on the current music scene--rock 'n' roll without the gimmicks. "It wasn't any kind of master plan," says Mick Ralphs, 27, who left the lead-guitar slot and stagy antics of Mott the Hoople to form Bad Company. "It was just a shared feeling that we wanted to put more reality into the scene." In 1973, he got together with Paul Rodgers, 25, former lead singer with Free, a band wracked by personality clashes, and began scratching out the music that, with Rodgers' gutsy voice, distinguishes Bad Company's hard-ass approach. Simon Kirke, 26, the rocking-soul drummer (also out of Free), compares Bad Company's music to British rock of the late Sixties--"ballsy, down to earth, without pretensions." The epitome of cultivated scruffiness, Bad Company tours without glitter or even platform shoes and there are none of the murky mind trips that bassist Boz Burrell left behind when he split from King Crimson. "All those bands, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, the whole thing has gotten out of hand," says Rodgers. With the firm conviction that rock is simple, Bad Company retreated to the English countryside, plugged into a mobile studio in an Air-stream trailer and put together a carefully underproduced album, Bad Co., which sold over 1,000,000 copies within months of its U. S. release and was nominated for a Grammy. These days, due to a second hot album called Straight Shooter and a world tour that's tearing 'em up, Bad Company is increasingly tagged as a supergroup; but in a time when you can't tell the supergroups without a score card (or at least a subscription to Rolling Stone), it's in no hurry to claim that distinction. Says Ralphs: "Supergroups are people who don't know each other but are brilliant musicians. We do know each other, and that makes us what we are--a band."