Millions of words, thousands of pictures, tons of paper, more than a few ads. Four decades' worth of a substantial, entertaining product—hardly the flimsy stuff of dreams. Yet that's where it started, in the mind of a lanky guy who bet that other men thought the same way he did. Almost immediately, Playboy went from Hef's dream to a monthly event for men who were as serious about leisure as they were about work.
Playboy, (ISSN 0032-1478), December 1994, Volume 41, Number 12. Published Monthly by Playboy, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611. Subscriptions: $29.97 for 12 issues, U.S. Canada, $43.97 for 12 issues, all other Foreign, $45 U.S. Currency only. For new and renewal orders and change of address, send to Playboy subscriptions, P.O. Box 2007, Harlan, Iowa 51537-4007. Please allow 6-8 weeks for processing. For change of address, send new and old addresses and allow 45 days for change. Postmaster: Send form 3579 to Playboy, P.O. Box 2007, Harlan, Iowa 51537-4007. Advertising: New York: 730 Fifth Avenue, New York 10019; Chicago: 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago 60611; West Coast: 9242 Beverly Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210; Metropolitan Publishers Representatives, Inc.; Atlanta: 3017 Piedmont Road Ne, Suite 100, Atlanta, Ga 30305; Miami: 2500 South Dixie Highway, Miami, Fl 33133; Tampa: 3016 Mason Place, Tampa, Fl 33629.
Our Taste in drinking tends to switch with the seasons. Whereas an ice-cold beer and a brat are perfect companions on a hot summer day, winter brings the lure of the fireplace and a cut crystal snifter filled with one of these fullbodied libations:
Irreverence, indolence and a Generation X scorn for the status quo are the qualities that charmed young audiences who caught Clerks (Miramax) at film festivals in 1994. Shooting in black and white on a meager budget, writer-director Kevin Smith introduces Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson as Dante and Randal, two guys tending to business when they feel like it at a Quick Stop convenience store in New Jersey. Bizarre customers come and go, notably Dante's current girlfriend (Marilyn Ghigliotti), who shocks him by admitting she has given blow jobs to 37 men, and his former girlfriend (Lisa Spoonauer), whose sex life takes an unexpected turn into necrophilia. The others include a gum salesman, drug dealers and a creepy passerby who just wants to use the toilet. Smith's characters speak the arch, stylized dialogue with varying degrees of success. As inspired amateurism executed with aplomb, Clerks is at its least believable when a stream of customers keeps asking for cigarettes, never specifying which brand. [rating]2-1/2 bunnies[/rating]
Teri Hatcher is flying high as Superman's feisty partner in the TV hit Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. But now she has a shot at movie stardom as well, with a major role opposite Alec Baldwin in the upcoming Heaven's Prisoners. Insiders were reportedly blown away by Hatcher's performance as a wily, manipulative Cajun woman married to crime boss Eric Roberts. "It was pretty intense," says Hatcher. "When I told Baldwin on the set that I'm better known for doing comedy, he said, 'You won't be after this.'"
Among the top films appearing in gilded holiday wrapping this month are Breakfast at Tiffany's (Pioneer), Midnight Cowboy (MGM/UA) and Dr. Strangelove (Columbia Tristar). While all three films are digitally remastered, letterboxed and include the original trailers, Breakfast goes the extra yard by including a reproduction of Audrey Hepburn's annotated script.... Roman Polanski's kinky dark comedy Bitter Moon (1994) has made it to laser, courtesy of Image Entertainment. The shipboard sex story (one critic called it "Love Boat Meets Last Tango in Paris") stars Peter Coyote, Hugh Grant and Polanski's real-life wife, Emmanuelle Seigner.
Although he's back on TV with his own NBC show, Martin Short maintains his love affair with the big screen via video. "I'm happiest when lost in a black-and-white movie," he says, "such as To Kill a Mockingbird, On the Waterfront or Brief Encounter." On the color side, Short admits to a weakness for any installment of the Godfather trilogy, adding: "I know what you're thinking, but I still go for Part III." His main criterion is quality. "I subscribe to the Oscar Levant line in Humoresque when he says, 'When they're good, I'm jealous. When they're bad, I'm bored.' And there are comedies I adore: Some Like It Hot, anything with Peter Sellers—the Pink Panthers, Dr. Strangelove, The World of Henry Orient—or Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor and The Delicate Delinquent. Then there are The Wizard of Oz and Terms of Endearment. They all fit a pattern," he concludes. "I'm just not sure what it is."
Has resurrecting the careers of legendary crooners become a bona fide trend? Just in time for the holidays comes The Andy Williams Christmas Show (White Star), recorded live last year at the Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri. The program features 25 Yule songs and appearances by Lorrie Morgan and the ripening Osmonds.... You know those op-art drawings you're supposed to stare at until something, like a picture of an elephant, appears? Now you can do it on your TV. Magic Eye: The Video (Cascom) features loads of mindnumbing, eye-straining 3-D art puzzles for just $14.95. Two volumes for adults, one for kids.... In the Groove: Music From a Drummer's Perspective (DCI Music Video) is a 75-minute lesson from Anton Fig, stickman extraordinaire and nineyear Letterman show veteran. The program features the Paul Shaffer Band, former Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin and a top ten list from Dave. Can't beat it.
Disney be damned, America hasn't cornered the market on animation. Courtesy of Expanded Entertainment's impressive cartoon collections—notably the International Tournée of Animation series—here's a sampling of animated shorts from around the globe.
Art imitating life department: Snoop Doggy Dogg stars in Murder Was the Case, an 18-minute movie directed by Dr. Dre. It's based on a song from Dog-gystyle in which Snoop is ambushed, makes a deal with the devil and ends up going to prison. Could this have anything to do with real life? No word yet on when it will be released.
A Sprawling portrait of three generations in an Irish family, All Our Yesterdays (Delacorte) is Robert Parker's first non-Spenser novel in 11 years, and it is a resounding success. It resonates with historical insight, complex personalities, dramatic events and a powerful story that carries the reader from Dublin in 1920 to present-day Boston.
I got a frantic call in the middle of the night from Dido. She was falling to pieces. Please, please, please could I come over? I fell out of bed and drove over in my nightgown. Dido, flooded with tears, let me in. She was a cloud of gin fumes. Oh, fucking Jesus. After six months locked up in an alcohol treatment center in Oklahoma, and then a year of going faithfully to AA meetings, Dido had catapulted off the wagon.
After watching an expert skier carve turns in virgin powder, it would be easy to conclude that skiing doesn't require much strength. Ripping graceful arcs down the mountainside, spraying up a rooster tail of frozen smoke, the skier seems to be engaged in a languid dance. It looks effortless.
Why is it that affectionate or sexual behavior toward women's feet is portrayed as abnormal or kinky? I love massaging my wife's feet or lifting her legs in the air and kissing them while we have intercourse. The feet can bring an erotic aspect to lovemaking, considering how sensitive and ticklish they are. What do you say?—N. A., Centreville, Virginia.
On March 25 of this year, 13 heavily armed Boston police wearing fatigue outfits smashed into the apartment of a 75-year-old retired minister, the Reverend Accelynne Williams. Williams ran into his bedroom when the raid began, but police smashed down the bedroom door, shoved Williams to the floor and handcuffed him. Williams may have had up to a dozen guns pointed at his head during the scuffle. Minutes later, Williams died of a heart attack. No drugs or guns were found in Williams' apartment. The police had carried out the raid based on a tip from an unidentified informant who said that there were guns and drugs in the building but did not give a specific apartment number. A policewoman simply took the informant's word, did a quick drive-by of the building, got a search warrant and then gave the go-ahead to her fellow officers to charge. An editorial in The Boston Globe later observed, "The Williams tragedy resulted, in part, from the 'big score' mentality of the centralized Boston Police Drug Control Unit. Officers were pumped up to seize machine guns in addition to large quantities of cocaine and a 'crazy amount of weed,' in the words of the informant."
"Know where your tapes are at all times. Treat your personal erotic videos like you would a loaded gun. Keep them in a locked cabinet or drawer, particularly if you have inquisitive children. If you're the least bit worried that your tapes may fall into the wrong hands, erase or destroy them.
Marcia Pally, author of Sex & Sensibility: Reflections on Forbidden Mirrors and the Will to Censor, on the roots of the culture war: "Censorship in the United States is offered to the public as an elixir of safety. Like the traveling salesmen whose tonics would cure what ails you, proponents of book banning (and movie, magazine and music banning) suggest their cure will bring an improvement in life: Rid yourselves of pornography, Catcher in the Rye or the Maja Desnuda, and life will be safer, happier, more secure. Get rid of bad pictures and one is rid of bad acts. This promise of a better life, if only some magazine or movie is banished, is one reason so many people of good intentions are lured to the bonfires. The social-benefit rationale for censorship has smoothed a progressive patina over older, religious sanctions against sex. It makes the banning of books and movies seem reasonable to many Americans who would laugh at threats of brimstone and hellfire."
The morning I saw Paul Hill's mug-shot smile on the front page of a newspaper a chill crawled over me. Then a rage. You slimy bastard, I thought. You miserable coward. You were going to have your copycat martyrdom and the limelight that goes with it no matter what it took. Two dead, almost three. And you, in that police photo, grinning with the knowledge that those ambush murders would be celebrated, openly and in secret, throughout the movement that calls itself pro-life.
"Would Hillary Clinton wear a Wonderbra?" That weighty question was posed by no less than a writer for The Washington Post, who, like others in the media, was carried away by the recent falsie craze. The Seattle Times, for example, sent out three reporters "to testdrive" uplift bras. The reporters did not use their real names, writing coyly, "just call us 32B, 34B and 36B."
God must be a fan of "The Larry Sanders Show." Ever since the second season of HBO's brilliantly droll sitcom, talk of talk shows has consumed the media. As Leno and Letterman jockeyed for Johnny Carson's throne, the public got an unprecedented dose of backbiting and brinkmanship. There followed Conan O'Brien's rise, Arsenio Hall's farewell and, this fall, the resurrection of Tom Snyder. It all gave Garry Shandling's show a spooky backstage veracity that made the inside humor all the more telling.
More Than a year ago, on the night of October 25, a flat-voiced female police dispatcher in Los Angeles tried, and failed, to grasp the special nature of O.J. Simpson's relationship with his exwife Nicole. After listening to Nicole's frantic warnings that O.J. was "fucking going nuts," that he was "going to beat the shit out of me," that he had already broken down the back door to get into Nicole's house, stormed off, come back, almost broken down the bedroom door and was screaming at her and her roommate, the 911 dispatcher asked, with practiced calm and perfect obtuseness: "OK, so basically you guys have just been arguing?"
As she approaches, you can't help but remember the image that introduced her to America: She was the young Venus in the movie 10, walking out of the sea toward the camera. Now, 15 years later, Bo Derek is every bit as hypnotic as she was then. In fact, she is an 11.
For a moment it seemed Kristina Elliott would provide an upbeat ending to a twisted tale. Everyone knows how the story began: In 1993 John Wayne Bobbitt, a 27-year-old ex-Marine, became notorious when his wife, Lorena, cut off his penis and tossed it into a field. America's unkindest cut inspired words such as Bobbittry and Bobbittized, as well as Bobbitt jokes (It's a good thing they found John's Johnson, since it would look weird on a milk carton) and even a novelty gift, a "penis protector," which John endorsed. Afterward he began a much publicized romance with Kristina, 21, a buxom blonde who was a topless dancer when she met John. They planned a July 4 wedding. Happy ending? It looked that way at the time, but then every Bobbitt story seems to be a two-parter. Last summer, the lovebirds made news by squabbling often, sometimes so heatedly that police intervened. John told radio host Howard Stern that he suspected Kristina of faking love so she could share in his notoriety. She accused her fiancé of shoving her into a wall in a fit of drunken anger. But for the time being, the wedding was still on. Kristina swore she loved him, surgically fixed penis and all. (John told us, with a sly smile, "All systems are go.") Then came August, when all systems stopped. The latest battle ended their cohabitation in the luxury apartment they shared in Las Vegas; John served a 15-day jail term for physically abusing Kristina. After many stops and starts, their relationship may finally be over. And now, for the first time, Kristina tells the story of her love-hate affair with John. (In another exclusive interview with Playboy before his incarceration, John confirmed much of her story.) "The night we met," she says, "John was doing radio interviews from the Olympic Garden, where I was a dancer. It's the best topless place on the Strip. I saw him and thought he was cute—I still think he's cute. That night he gave me his autograph with a note that read, You're very beautiful. I hope we can share orgasms someday." Soon they did exactly that. Make no mistake, says Kristina—John isn't joking when he says his sexual systems are go. "He's fully functional, and even aggressive, sexually. I wouldn't say violent, but definitely aggressive, like he wants to keep proving his manhood," she says. It wasn't sex that ruined their romance. The trouble, she says, was his drinking. "John is fine when he's sober, he's nice. But he is bad when he gets drunk." Her description lends credence to Lorena Bobbitt's claim that she was physically abused by John. "He really scared me," Kristina says. But unlike Lorena she didn't reach for a knife. "I don't hate John. I just think there is something in him that makes him act the wrong way." And John has a new demon, she says: He believes that he must prove to the world that he is more than half a man. "That's why he was so forceful in bed. I think it's why he's making a porno movie now, which breaks my heart. He thinks he can prove he's a man with this film, but it seems like a sad way to do it." Instead, she suggests, John should have been content to prove himself to her, and let the world find another tabloid story to exploit. (His agent confirms his role in John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut, slated for a fall release.) "Too bad," says Kristina. "If only he'd call and apologize." For now, she plans to study acting. "Maybe someday I'll get Pamela Anderson's Baywatch job!" And why not? As Kristina can attest, stranger things have happened.
We were on the freeway at the time. I was driving fast, very fast, because my passenger, a world-renowned historian, was late for a seminar. Absorbed as I was in listening to my favorite goldenoldies FM station and its retrospective on the works of Black Sabbath, I was startled when, abruptly, he turned to me and said, apropos of nothing in particular:
What would the holidays be without the crème de menthe blow job? Is it better to give than to receive? We'll let you decide. Find someone you love and curl up in front of the fire with these time-tested techniques.
Jim Carrey is prowling around a hotel suite in Beverly Hills, talking unhappily about success. Sure, success means having a sleek black Lexus, and firstclass air travel and waiting limos at the airport and a new home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. But success—or at least his driving ambition—also means personal turmoil. Carrey is divorcing his wife, actress Melissa Womer, after an eight-year marriage. "It's so clichéd," he says of his marital breakup. "But there have to be reasons for clichés." He pauses and sinks into a chair. "The life check has arrived. It's a payment for good times." He shakes his head. "It's not rewarding to live with me. I'm a hard guy to live with. I'm like a caged animal. I'm up all night walking around the living room. It's hard for me to come down from what I do. It's like being an astronaut. You're on the moon all day and then at night you go home and have to take out the garbage."
It was November 19, 1969, just 25 years ago, and four months after Neil Armstrong had bobbed down his lunar ladder. Apollo 12 was racing around the moon with its crew, mission commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, command module pilot Dick Gordon and lunar module pilot Alan Bean. All on board were naval aviators, top pilots who had endured the gut-wrenching snap of an aircraft carrier catapult, and landed a hurtling machine on a heaving ship's deck. All, that is, except a couple of sneak companions. "I had no idea they were with us," states Conrad today. "It wasn't until we actually got out on the lunar surface and were well into our first moon walk that I found them."
On a Saturday afternoon in August, six weeks into the run of Forrest Gump, every seat in the movie theater was filled—filled with the ordinary people of Michigan City, Indiana, who were like the movie audiences of my youth: not loud, not restless, not talking to the screen, not filled with bloodlust, but quite happily absorbed in the picture. At times some of them were crying. Looking around, I saw that many of those crying were men. I did not know what to make of this.
Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry—and to dress to impress in styles that might be considered over the top any other time of year. The same black velvet suit that would bomb in the boardroom, for example, is this year's party scene-stealer. Wear one with an elegant dress shirt and tie as the guy on the opposite page does, or break it up, pairing the jacket with tuxedo pants, flannel trousers or even jeans for a casual effect. Prefer a more subtle approach? Several designers are showing black and jewel-tone velvet vests and jeans that can be mixed and matched with equal aplomb. In fact, mixing is what hip holiday dressing is all about. Instead of spending a lot on an ensemble that will go out with the Yuletide, splurge on one or two festive classics that accent clothing you already own.
It's only fitting that Kelsey Grammer should be known for his deadpan comic gifts. As therapist Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers," the classically trained actor proved that few could match his flair for playing a bewildered-looking, uptight gentleman. His dramatic turf was so much his own that when "Cheers" finally wrapped, it was Grammer who won "Frasier," the witty spin-off about a radio call-in shrink. Last season it was NBC's highest-rated new series; Grammer and "Frasier" both won the top Emmy awards. As most people know by now, the Grammer legend is fueled both by his reputation as an oddball ladies' man and by some well-documented problems involving drugs and alcohol.
Juan Flew Johnny Pushe coach class up to Washington State to fight Seattle's light heavyweight, a white kid got him a record of 20–0 called Irish Tommy Wilde. The word was out: This guy is so bad he eats glass for breakfast, pisses razor blades and shits hot gravel. Truth is, his handlers had fed him some easy targets to develop his confidence and get everybody all whipped up for payday, but Tommy Wilde still had to undergo the test by fire. Sooner or later you got to show or got to go. People want to know if you got juice. Some of that boom boom. They want to know if you've got that essential thing.
The returns are in and the hands-down winner for 1994 in the field of public sexual hypocrisy (international division) is Britain's ruling Conservative Party. The Tories have long fancied their party to be the repository of uprightness and morality. Indeed, for the past 15 years the loyal citizens of the U.K. have been subjected to particularly intense harangues by moralizing conservative politicians. Margaret Thatcher always told them to sit up, look lively and work harder for less pay. John Major, her successor as prime minister, has kept up the scolding and preaching. Thus, when a half-dozen Tories were exposed to media humiliation for an array of sexual escapades, much of the public reveled in the comic justice of it all.
It was bound to happen: Since ads are now sexier than most movies, the screen idols who once occupied our dreams are gradually being replaced by a new breed of sex star—the supermodel. We saw it coming in 1990, when Sex Stars dedicated a page to Cindy, Claudia and Elle. This year, the rest of the media caught up, with such headlines as Invasion of the Supermodels (Entertainment Weekly) and Supermodels Rule the world (San Francisco Chronicle). A search of the Nexis database reveals more than 1000 newspaper, magazine and wire-service stories containing the words supermodels and sex. As Trish Donnally, the Chronicle's fashion editor, noted: "They've become such glamour queens they've left Hollywood starlets stranded in cutoffs." Designer Karl Lagerfeld concurs: "Claudia Schiffer has what movie stars used to have, and when she goes somewhere, a light goes on like it used to with movie (text continued on page 174) stars." When Claudia, who has graced more than 400 magazine covers and receives a reported 3000 fan letters a week, goes somewhere these days, she's usually on the arm of her fiancé, magician David Copperfield—a guy at the pinnacle of his own profession. Also spoken for is one-woman corporation Cindy Crawford, of Pepsi, Revlon and MTV's House of Style fame, who earns $7 million a year and is unquestionably better known than her moviestar husband, Richard Gere. Several of her supersisters—notably Elle (Sirens) Macpherson, star of a knockout May Playboy pictorial, Kathy (National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon) Ireland and Cameron (The Mask) Diaz— are holding on to their day jobs as cover girls while following the path to movie stardom blazed by Candice Bergen and Lauren Hutton. Hollywood, apparently, realizes it needs a dose of hormones from the world of fashion. Male hormones, too: A hunk named Lucky Vanous—lust object for female office workers in a celebrated Diet Coke commercial—is now sifting through offers of TV and movie roles to supplement his modeling gigs. No wonder: In a recent poll sponsored by Yardley, 60 percent of women who were asked which man they would most like to share a bath with preferred Lucky. ("Hubby or beau" came in second at 55 percent.) Inevitably, there'll be a 1995 calendar starring Lucky.
With all the buzz surrounding computers and the information superhighway, you might think the rest of the consumer electronics industry had short-circuited. But the truth is, techies here and in Japan know that most of us are not totally absorbed in buying airline tickets by wire or trading gossip via on-line chat rooms. In fact, our interest in electronic diversions is at an all-time high. Despite the sagging economy in 1993, home electronics sales were up eight percent over 1992, a figure that experts predict will rise by the end of this year as prices of even the most sophisticated gear continue to drop. Here's our take on what's new and noteworthy. Television sets: Direct-view and projection TVs with the same 16:9 aspect ratio as movie-theater screens are the big news in home theaters. Pioneer, RCA, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp, Philips, JVC and Proton are introducing wide-screen models, which are ideal for viewing letterboxed videos and laser discs and are priced between $2500 and $6500. In the standard 4:3 direct-view-TV category, you'll find a growing selection of 27- to 32-inch "flatscreen" sets from Panasonic, RCA and Toshiba. Priced around $1100 to start, these models have exceptional picture quality thanks to the screen's ability to minimize distortion and glare. The number of 35-inch direct-view television sets is growing as well, with Hitachi's premiere Ultra Vision entry, the 35UX60B ($1799), boasting a video-enhancing Ultra Black tube. Mitsubishi's CS-40503 ($3000) features the world's largest direct-view screen at 40 inches—with a 278-pound cabinet to match. Finally, for those who dread surfing through several hundred channels to find the perfect old movie or sports event, Zenith has introduced direct-view and projection TV sets equipped to display Star-sight Telecast's new onscreen program guide. Besides letting you navigate through a week's worth of program offerings by day, genre or channel, this $3.50-to-$5-per-month service triggers one-button automatic recording on your VCR. You also will be able to purchase a stand-alone Starsight decoder in 1995 (about $200) or wait for Starsight-equipped video products now in the works at Magnavox, RCA, Samsung and Mitsubishi. Laser disc players: Looking for the highest resolution video and digital sound source to show off your system? Then you will appreciate new LD/CD combination players from Pioneer, Sony and RCA, with double-sided laser disc play, at prices below $600. Karaoke features are showing up in a surprising number of players, too, including Sony's microphone-equipped MDP-600 ($799) and Panasonic's LX-K750 ($1000), a veritable Gong Show in a box that can be set to sound off when singers hit a sour note. Audio/video receivers: There was a time when you had to spend at least $800 for a decent Dolby Pro Logic Surround decoder, but now you can bring alive movie or television soundtracks for as little as $350. New entry-level A/V receivers from Sherwood, Yamaha, Pioneer, Technics, Onkyo and Fisher, for example, deliver even amounts of power to the front and center channels, compared with earlier receivers that short-changed the center channel, thus muffling dialogue. If you're willing to spend more, consider one of the two new integrated A/V receivers that conform to Luscasfilm's top-of-the-line THX theater-sound quality control program: the $1199 SA-TX1000 Home THX receiver from Technics, which can produce up to 120 watts per channel;and Onkyo's TX-SV919THX A/V receiver ($2000) with digital signal decoding for superior channel separation. Speakers: Now that electronics manufacturers have figured out that home theaters need a minimum of five speakers (three in front and two in the rear), many are doing the bundling for you. Klipsch and B.I.C. America deliver packages for less than $1000, complete with a powered subwoofer. Another smart way to go is Sony's SA-VAI ($700), a complete home theater speaker system with a Dolby Surround processor and amps built into the front channel speakers. Or, if you need a place to rest your TV, check out the Cerwin Vega Sensurround System 5, a $1410 speaker package featuring a center channel pedestal that doubles as a stand for TVs up to 40 inches. Special delivery TV: High-resolution, 150-channel television is arriving from space via the Digital Satellite System. A $699 (basic) or $899 (deluxe) RCA DSS hardware package lets you nab the fun by way of a receiver and an 18-inch-diameter dish that you can hang outside an apartment window. Both equipment packages are high-definition-TV-ready, but only the deluxe DS2430RW has the ability to feed two TV sets with independent selections. Speaking of selections, video entertainment distributor DirecTV will supply subscribers with a variety of current cable programming, á la carte offerings such as Playboy TV, digital cable radio and as many as 50 pay-per-view channels—with movies starting every half hour. Multiplexed movie channels such as HBO and Showtime, as well as some of the hipper cable channels (Cartoon Network, MTV, Comedy Central, etc.) are available from Hubbard's United States Satellite Broadcasting. Prices for both DirecTV and USSB are competitive with cable. Home video: Camcorderskeep getting smaller, smarter and more practical, which explains why insiders are predicting that more than 3 million will be sold in the U.S. this year alone. The hottest features? Image stabilization circuitry for eliminating the shakes, color viewfinders and LCD color displays—a technology that was originally featured on Sharp's Viewcams and is now turning up on camcorders by Sony, RCA and JVC. For those who grouse that LCD displays wash out in sunlight, Sony offers the CCD-FX730V 8mm Handycam pictured on page 177, featuring a fold-out three-inch color monitor and a conventional black-and-white electronic viewfinder on top ($1099). JVC's Systemax GR-SV3 ($1099) and RCA's virtually identical Visioneer ($1200) are the first VHS-C format camcorders to feature a color LCD viewscreen. (VHS-C tapes can be played back in a standard VCR). If you're going for compactness, nothing beats the 1.8-pound Sony Handycam Snap ($899), a vertically oriented, 8mm model with an LCD screen for framing shots. Another small wonder is Hitachi's 8mm VME58A, the first compact camcorder to offer both electronic image stabilization and a color viewfinder for less than $1000. And nobody is coming close to matching the quality of the 180,000-pixel color viewfinder in Panasonic's PV54 VHS-C ($1500) and its Super-VHS cousin, PV-S64 ($1700). Home audio: The compact disc changed high fidelity in the early Eighties, and it still inspires some remarkable new products. Among our favorites are the CD changers from Sony, Pioneer and JVC that are capable of storing up to 100 compact discs for playback. The unique JVC XL-MC100 ($1000) is a two-piece system consisting of a rack-size controller that can be stacked with other components, and a CD transport/storage unit that can be stashed in a cabinet, closet or even the next room. Audio to go: In portable sound gear, the logic of "smaller is better" is indisputable, which is why we have high hopes for the minidisc. A disc format that's half the size of an audio cassette, MD offers the same instant-access capabilities of a compact disc in an extremely durable, computer disk-type casing. Two portable units to check out are the MZ-R2 from Sony and the MD-M11 from Sharp (both about $800). Their pocket-size dimensions and crisp, near-CD-quality digital recording capability (74 minutes per disc) could quickly get you into the concert bootleg business. (Just don't say we told you.) On-the-go playback is MD's special suit, with advanced editing capabilities and and antishock music storage buffer that keeps the tunes flowing, even on impact. Of course, if you're not ready to pay big bucks for a brand-new format, you can get the same shockproof performance in a number of CD portables. A three-second buffer, sufficient to mask the occasional jolt, can be found in models by Aiwa, Kenwood, Magnavox, Sanyo and Sony priced as low as $149. Even more "walkable" and suited for car use is Fisher's PCD-60 ($220), which has a ten-second music storage circuit. Car tunes: There are plenty of powerful car stereos on the market, but Pioneer's new FH-P95 ($1400) deserves special mention. Aside from being twice the size of a standard stereo (or double-DIN in industry terms), it includes a function called Soundscape, which lets you simultaneously play two audio sources.
It may be called the VR Bike, but there is certainly nothing virtual about the sweat you'll work up riding Tectrix Fitness Equipment's recumbent stationary bicycle (pictured below). The first fully interactive aerobic fitness machine, the VR Bike uses specially designed CD-ROM software to turn exercise into a game: As you pedal, you cruise through computer-generated landscapes on the machine's color monitor. The seat, pedals and handles on the bike are integrated, so you can use your weight to lean and steer through twists and turns on the road. Thumb-operated controls allow you to shift gears, brake and view on-screen statistics such as calories burned. You can also switch perspectives from ground level to an aerial view—an excellent option if you're in race mode.