"Don't bogart that book!" The cry reverberated through the Playboy offices a few months ago as editors read and passed along, chapter by chapter, the manuscript of Flashman in the Great Game, the new adventure of George MacDonald Fraser's inimitable rogue, Harry Flashman. Fraser knows how to buckle his swash (recent exploits include writing the screenplay for Richard Lester's Four Musketeers). This time out, Flashy matches wits with his archfoe, the Russian agent Count Nicholas Ignatieff, and goes over the good parts of the Kama Sutra with Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi--all while saving India for Her Majesty and his hide for himself. Flashman in the Great Game will be published in November by Alfred Knopf--we couldn't wait and decided to give our readers the first part, illustrated by Chas. B. Slackman, now. If we can find out who took the second and third sections, you'll see them in October and November.
Playboy, September, 1975, Volume 22, Number 9. 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.
Smelling a politician: Students at the University of Texas at El Paso have elected a hamster to a student-senate seat. It was the winner's campaign platform that earned him the vote: "The only candidate honest enough to admit he's a rat."
Kinkyphone. Well, that's not the name of the company--it's Prism Productions, actually--but that's the name of its game. Two young chaps, Steve Summers and Jim Simpson, San Francisco boy businessmen, offer a little aural service for those who might otherwise complain that they receive no obscene telephone calls. Their staff, including lovely Patricia ("Hi, I'm Patricia and I would just love to talk with you about your wildest fantasies. I'm bisexual and will do anything."), who is a college student and message masseuse, and John ("Hi, I'm John. I'm a young man who could really dig getting it off with you on the phone. I just turned 21. I'm bisexual."), who is also a student, has been augmented by a dozen more hi-I'm-Jacks, hi-I'm-Jills since a bit of discreet publicity brought a flood of supplicants hungry for conversation in the privacy of the home, mediated by Ma Bell, the hustler's helper.
For all of you out there who are not going to get a chance to see the Broadway production of The Wiz, Atlantic has put it all (well, almost all) on vinyl, and it's really a ball. It ain't Harold Arlen, to be sure, but the black musical version of the Baum classic is filled with a funky joy that is infectious and, in its own way, it works in the context of the classic fantasy. The man responsible for that is Charlie Smalls, who did almost all the words and music. Getting his points across in the grooviest of manners are Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Hinton Battle as Scarecrow, Tiger Haynes as Tinman and Ted Ross as Lion. All's right in the Wiz biz.
One of Manhattan's newest French restaurants is--praise be to poisson--a seafood restaurant. Les Mareyeurs (998 Madison Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets), which, en passant, means The Fishmongers, is a neat, unpretentious place where the cuisine is haute but not haughty: The waiters will not stab your wrist if you pick up the wrong fork and no terrifying toque blancheur of a chef waits behind the kitchen doors, meat cleaver at the ready, to chastise diners who don't know the difference between Béarnaise and hollandaise. The waiters are strictly Breton, friendly Celts from Brittany who are miles away geographically and psychologically from the ferocious Franks of Paris. A word about the decor--don't let the exterior of Les Mareyeurs deter you: It looks a bit like a failed Chinese restaurant. And big aquariums inside the restaurant are for decoration only: Poisson d'or and le guppy are not on the menu, but almost every other edible fish and crustacean imaginable is. In general, the ambience is standard nautical, but with fresh flowers on each table and substantial silver and napery--a pleasant change from the Swedish stainless and designer washcloths of most new trendy restaurants. Dinner starts with a lagniappe: free wedges of quiche lorraine and then a little tuna served up with sliced hard-boiled egg, avocado and a bit of tomato. We had hoped that the tuna would be fresh, given the French aspirations of the place. Our hopes were crushed but were restored by the waiters' solicitude. Les Mareyeurs' Patrons appreciate the extra attention. We noticed a surprising number of older French Patrons with frumpy wives and faded Légion d'honneur buttons. The French are as tight as Glasgow loan sharks, and they know a good food buy when they see it. The other patrons are East Side Manhattan overreachers; and they know an "in" place. Les Mareyeurs seems to satisfy both groups. The hors d'oeuvres run the gamut from mussels to salmon mousse. Try the smoked trout, whose pungent secret is the sour cream in the sauce. Lobster bisque and Soupe de Mareyeurs, a fish soup, are the menu's potent potages. Among the entrees, lobster is represented with four variations on a theme. Quenelles de Brochet Sauce Nantua-- fish dumplings, if you want to know the truth--are soft and feathery, quite an achievement for a difficult dish. All the fish we tasted seemed marvelously fresh. Dessert: Try Coupe Clo-Clo, a coffee-icecream concoction made with strawberry syrup, sliced chestnuts and whipped cream. Les Mareyeurs is open for lunch from noon to 3 P.M. and for dinner from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. Monday through Saturday. American Express cards are accepted. Reservations recommended (212--628--3333).
A Chorus Line is an exciting and seemingly effortless musical. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett, the show is dedicated to "anyone who has ever danced in a chorus or marched in step...anywhere. "The landscape is Broadway, an almost bare rehearsal stage where chorus boys and girls--show-business gypsies--are auditioning. The dreams are small (one chorus leads to... another chorus), but the desire is monumental. In the course of the evening, some two dozen hopefuls will be slashed to eight. We see how the choreography is created (step by painful step) and we feel the heartbeat of these aspirers--their defenses, vulnerabilities and fantasies. Everything is set to music and to dance; there is scarcely a moment when the show stops moving. Characters include a brassy broad, a boy who began his career dancing in drag, a pair of young marrieds, a plain girl made beautiful through cosmetic surgery (in one of the show's best numbers, she extolls her own "tits and ass"). Despite the patina of cliché, these people are sensitively observed. There is a refreshing aura of spontaneity. The show embraces its audience, admitting it to a backstage world where careers (and lives) are on the line. What makes the musical extraordinary is not the component parts (which include a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban) but Bennett's innovative concept and the ease of execution. In the case of A Chorus Line, the show itself is a showstopper. At the Shubert, 225 West 45th Street.
Early last year, Tom Wolfe was wading through his Sunday New York Times when he stumbled upon an art critic's obiter dictum: "To lack a persuasive theory is to lack something crucial." That, cried Wolfe, is too freaking much! In one swift phrase, the great game of modern art was revealed! He tells us how, and why, in The Painted Word (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a short essay on the Byzantine world of Boho artists, Uptown critics, the culturati and other sleek denizens of Cultureburg. The main impulse of modern art, Wolfe reminds us, was to reject the literary nature of academic art, which had been around in various forms for about 300 years. But where there are artists there are art theorists, lurking about like a pack of hyenas to gorge themselves on painted canvas ... and soon, by God, the hyenas begin to take control. One critic finds "fuliginous flatness" in the chaotic spirals of Jackson Pollock; another declares that "all profoundly original art looks ugly at first," and the artists themselves, slaves to success in spite of their antibourgeois values, strive valiantly to please the critic-gurus in charge. Without exerting himself unduly, Wolfe manages to wipe out Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Op, Minimal and Conceptual Art--all the while entertaining us with wonderful asides and anecdotes and writing in his own ... peculiar ... style, which is, as we say, nothing if not ornate, filled with the immense array of punctuation marks that his streamy consciousness technique requires. Better still, it matters not one pointillistic dot whether you can tell a Seurat from a Stella: The dynamics of the cultural insanity he exposes are familiar to anyone who, for instance, has ever fell bewildered by a glowing review of a terrible movie. "Art," he tells us in summary, "disappeared up its own fundamental aperture ... and came out the other side as Art Theory." Which now demands such a literary approach that the canvas, the paint and the painter have become extraneous. Only too true, Tom! And thanks for the most exciting demolition job this season.
A hit comedy revisited is seldom up to snuff, yet Peter Sellers--with a slew of sight gags--works that old yok magic to fine effect in The Return of the Pink Panther. Producer-director Blake Edwards hasn't got quite so glamorous a supporting cast nor quite so clever a scenario the third time around, but the differences are scarcely noticeable when Sellers, as Inspector Clouseau, starts supersleuthing--with Christopher Plummer, Catherine Schell and Herbert Lom to feed him clues.
On a business trip to New York, a friend and I spent an amusing half hour reading ads in the underground papers for so-called relaxation spas. The copy appealed directly, if ambiguously, to the libido. "What hasn't your woman done for you lately?" (Well, she hasn't brought me any 12-year-old virgins for several months, but that's understandable. The neighborhood supply has been depleted.) Another ad offered magnificent handmaidens in assorted color combinations--gorgeous blondes, ravishing redheads and exquisite brunettes. (I suppose that if you asked for an exquisite blonde, you'd get turned down. "Sorry. No substitutions. Please order from the menu.") Apparently the basic form of pleasure at these places is something called the local. I am familiar with most sexual slang, but that one escapes me. Is it what I think it is?--N. B., Scarsdale, New York.
Less than two years ago, she was known principally as a poet--one with a fondness for ampersands and startling metaphor ("& the hole in the penis/sings to the cunt") and sassy swipes at male chauvinism ("Beware of the man who praises liberated women; he is planning to quit his job"). Her poetry sold well--for poetry. Then, late in 1973, came publication of her first novel, "Fear of Flying," a bawdily adulterous romp across Europe by a young woman frantically searching for sexual and emotional fulfillment, which was greeted by a chorus of rave reviews (and a gaggle of horrified ones, from critics who were turned off by the book's no-holes-barred imagery or threatened by its feminist implications). Novelist John Updike was perhaps most accurate in his prediction: "Fear of Flying,' " he wrote in The New Yorker, "feels like a winner." It was. Last November, "Fear of Flying" was issued in paperback--and immediately took off like one of the jumbo jets that so terrorized its antiheroine, Isadora Wing. At last count, the Signet softcover was in its 28th printing with more than 3,500,000 copies off the presses, had been oscillating between the number-one and number-two spots on best-seller lists for months and was the topic of heated debates at cocktail parties, consciousness-raising groups, college classrooms--and in locker rooms--throughout the country.
There's Something very Tom Jonesish about a succulent platter of ribs. Civilized appurtenances such as knives and forks are tacitly dispensed with in favor of lusty, hand-to-mouth consumption. Fingers are licked; well-picked bones are casualty tossed into the waiting communal bowl; and the (continued on page 179) Digging Ribs (continued from page 87) boardinghouse reach for more is de rigueur. A rib bash definitely isn't for the faint of heart.
Charley Barton was the staff of an East New York establishment that supplied used gas stoves on a wholesale basis, He received deliveries at the back door, dollied them inside, took them apart cleaned them (and cleaned them and cleaned them and cleaned them) till they sparkled as much as their generally run-down nature would allow, fitted on missing parts and set them up in front of the place, where they might be chaffered over by prospective buyers.
Before you Pack your bags and buy your beanie, stop and look around you: Didn't that cabdriver just say he had a Ph.D. in micropaleontology? isn't that a Phi Beta Kappa key there on the bus boy's apron? Aren't those two winos in the alley arguing about the epistemological implications of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason? Are you sure you know what you're doing?
Mesina Miller is one of those Southern Californians who so love the great outdoors that they refuse to leave it in its proper place, turning apartments into house-plant jungles and glass menageries. Mesina has the usual assortment of cats and dogs--her newest acquisition is a scraggly parakeet, a real-life Woodstock, that she bought for a dollar at a swap meet. Wandering around a converted drive-in theater on a Sunday, bargaining with the gypsy craftsmen who sell their goods from the backs of old Dodge vans, she spied a tiny ball of feathers in a shoe box. "I just had to rescue the poor thing," she says. "Fortunately, it was young and has responded to care. It has learned to talk, and if you're nice, it will let you kiss its little beak." Before you tar and feather yourself and climb into a box, chances are you won't find Mesina at that swap meet again. For a self-described homebody, our lady moves around a lot. Maybe this weekend she'll disappear across the Mexican border to a little town on the Baja for a few days of horseback riding. Picture her: hair flying, one hand curled in the mane of a stallion, racing the waves, shedding clothes for a dash into the surf. Catch her if you can. Perhaps she and a friend will throw a tent into a dune buggy and go camping in the desert. Come winter, she'll trade the tent poles for ski poles and the desert for the slopes of Lake Tahoe's Heavenly Valley. "I'm a few-people person," says Mesina. "A good friend and a good day are all I need to be happy. There is something profound and beautiful about the exhaustion you feel after riding, camping or skiing together. Curled up with some hot spiced wine, by a warm fire, you can't help but feel tender and loving." On weekdays, Mesina tends her several careers--modeling and real-estate sales among them. Most of the time, she balances the books at her stepfather's flying school, learning about the business and taking advantage of the free lessons. She already has enough flight time under her scarf to qualify for a pilot's license; now she's focusing on aerobatics. "It's the most challenging way to fly," she claims. "The best thing about it, though, is that you get to fly the old planes. The new models can't take the strain of loops and rolls. I wish they still allowed barnstorming." We hope you're listening, Waldo Pepper, wherever you are.
At a cocktail party, a young bachelor was introduced to a strikingly attractive girl and he immediately piloted her over to a corner for conversation. She proved to be a skillful questioner as well as an artful listener and drew the fellow out at length about himself--his background, his job, his hobbies, his philosophy of life, his hopes and dreams for the future--
Out in the "Real" world, empires crumble and ancient philosophies are reduced to Ozymandian rubble. But in the cool, secluded world of the campus, it doesn't really matter how the globe spins. It doesn't matter, either, if you don't know how you got there or where you're headed, because it's a nice place to play around for a few years without facing up to any important decisions--except maybe about what to wear. This fall, things are predictably casual--khakis and denims have been getting heavy play from the designers. Lots of sweaters and jackets. Lots of parties. Lots of time.
Four Naked Men stood on a cliff and howled. One hundred yards to sea, a woman wearing a bathing suit tried to control a drifting pulling boat. She was laughing. She seemed very strong and she was working hard. The boat was 30 feet long, however, and so beamy that it was impossible for her to row effectively. She stood splay-legged and lunged at the oars. The boat continued to drift in the tidal rip. The naked men jumped into the sea and began to swim.
In Ancient Japan, there was an unmarried empress named Kōken who had inherited the throne from her father and ruled the land well. Because of her great beauty, she had many suitors, but none pleased her. One day she fell ill and a handsome young Buddhist monk named Dōkyō went to her bedside to pray for her health. She recovered quickly and soon afterward, much to the surprise of the court, declared her wish to pursue a religious life. So, while still young. Empress Kōken retired and became a Buddhist nun.
The golden age of the underdog has arrived in college football. No longer are most conferences perennially dominated by one or two teams; no longer will the post-season "top 20" comprise a reshuffling of last year's edition. Yesteryear's cow colleges are muscling into the big time. Many of this year's strongest teams were supposed to be pushovers when big-name schools scheduled them as breathers ten years ago. There will be more upsets than in any season in memory.
I stood up and it was 3:05 A.M. as the alarm clock flies. I listened to my heart beat in quadraphonic and thought about the good times, as time permitted, most memorably the waitress in Barney Oldfield's who, not eight hours earlier, asked, did I have an opinion as to silicone?
"Hello, All You deco dandies and jive turkeys," says dapper smoothie Tim Hauser, introducing The Manhattan Transfer, which Andy Warhol's Interview recently dubbed "the hottest new group to emerge from the underground." From there it's a nirvana of nostalgia as Hauser in top hat and tails, Janis Siegel in a silver gown, Laurel Masse, a willowy redhead in black gown and long black gloves, and Alan Paul with hair slicked down and parted in the middle, re-create the music, costumes and flair of Tin-Pan Alley's heyday. And Transfer does it all in quarter-tone harmony. The origin of the group reads like the script for a Ginger Rogers musical: Fade in. Hauser, an unemployed singer driving a taxi in Manhattan, picks up Laurel Masse, a redhead in cape and hotpants, and tells her about his past as a singer with a group called The Manhattan Transfer. "Don't take me home," she says. "Take me out." He does. Weeks later, through another fare, Hauser meets Janis Siegel, an aspiring chanteuse. The three decide to combine but need a fourth. The redhead knows a guy named Alan Paul who's playing the role of Teen Angel in the Broadway musical Grease. They put together an act, dress up in Forties formalwear, resurrect the most forgotten tunes of the Thirties, Forties and Fifties and perform at New York's trendy Reno Sweeney's. They christen the act with an old Jimmy Dorsey hit, Blue Champagne, and climax with Paul's feverish imitation of a cretinous pelvis-thrusting rock 'n' roller singing Guided Missiles. The audience is on its feet, and later Bette Midler's manager. Aaron Russo, takes the group under his wing, bringing them quickly to the fore with a chart-climbing LP, gigs at top clubs and a summer TV series. The rest is--well, you know how Ginger Rogers movies turn out. As the members of The Manhattan Transfer see it, though, their popularity transcends the nostalgia craze. "The music we perform lent a signature to an era," says Hauser. "We're just trying to maintain that tradition." We're hep.
In One Scene, a British government minister is seen debating a small brown patch of liquid, "possibly creosote." He is wearing a floor-length evening gown. In the next, a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, in order to soothe the suspicions of a housewife, poses as a robber. And that's some of the saner material that's dished out weekly on public television by Monty Python's Flying Circus, a six-member troupe of British-based comedians. Having conquered the homeland on a regular basis since 1969, the Pythons invaded the U.S. not only with re-broadcasts of the TV show but also with their third LP, The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief (see our review on page 24), and their second film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("Makes Ben Hur look like an epic"). At first it was feared that their heavily British humor (Terry Jones, for example, specializes in playing public officials in drag) wouldn't go over in the States; but after a quiet beginning, the TV series is well on its way to becoming the most popular in the history of public television. Indeed, fans in Iowa got up a long petition when it was off the air for two weeks and lines outside the New York theater where Grail was playing began forming at five A.M. The troupe--Jones. Terry Gilliam (the American who's responsible for the surreal animation that ties the madness together), Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and John Cleese--began by being funny individually for the BBC as writers and artists, then came together in the late Sixties to form their distinctly anarchic brand of dry, occasionally black humor (they recently did a sketch in which an undertaker gives a man three choices of what he can do with his mother's dead body--bury it, burn it ... or eat it). "The idea," says Palin. "was to get away entirely from punch lines and tags....If a sketch had a good first half, we'd use just that and then call in a man dressed as a knight to hit someone with a chicken." Of course! Why didn't we think of that?
As a Creator of animated cartoons, Richard Williams may still have some distance to go before he becomes a household name à la Disney, but we wouldn't give too-long odds that he won't make it. Williams, who won an Oscar in 1973 for A Christmas Carol, currently has the Pink Panther padding through the credits of the film that celebrates his return and has plunged into a monster project, a $2,000,000 animated musical of Raggedy Ann 'n' Andy, which should be finished by the end of next year. That should keep him and his 40 staffers chained to their drawing boards, since his cartoon features use up to 24 hand-inked drawings a second (for one current project--The Cobbler and the Thief, an Arabian Nights type of epic on which he has labored for more than a decade--he will finish 800,000 drawings and use only 250,000). That painstaking devotion to detail has made Williams, 42, the acknowledged master of his craft. Fanatics like that are born, of course. His mother, an "all-purpose illustrator," used Disney characters in her work, and when Dick was 15, he made a pilgrimage from Toronto to the Disney studios in Burbank. After that, though, he soured on cartooning--also on high school--and went into "serious" art. It was while sketching in Spain that he realized his drawings were tending toward animation anyway. So he went to London, did commercials for money and--all by himself--made his first cartoon, Little Island. Since then, he has done features such as Christmas Carol, animated sequences for movies and a staggering number of ads (which have won him no fewer than 80 prizes). But so far, Williams--who currently divides his time between New York and London, where he plays cornet one night a week with a traditional-jazz band--has avoided one type of cartoon. Six years ago, a major company asked him to do an erotic feature. Name your price, it said. But Williams said no. He hasn't regretted that--but, to be honest about it, we have.