What's more worthy of male admiration than a Bentley? Two Bentleys, of course. That's right. Mandy and Sandy Bentley, one half of Hef's favorite foursome, two fifths of the Mansion's latest love knot, are having a coming-out party. Their pictorial, shot by Stephen Wayda, is a long-overdue gift. We forgot the wrapping--hope you don't mind.
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Premiere DJ Dimitri from Paris understands the tao of turntablism. "Sexy music lets your body do the talking, not your head," he says. Because Dimitri is a veteran of Paris' famous Respect nights, his CD A Night at the Playboy Mansion was inspired by the well-know party palace. "The Nansion is like a cake--tangy on the inside, sweet on the outside. I tried to capture its cheerful, hedonistic vibe." This month he tests his recipe at release parties in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
We say diversify, she says spread it around. Asia Carrera is the star of Corporate Affairs (the only skin flick to discuss the merits of warren Buffett and Peter Lynch), which she wrote under the pseudonym Dow Jones. She is also a great investor who earns more money from her website than from her movies. We joked with Asia ("Is your fund no-load?") but she was all business.
Great chefs are able to create an entrée that anticipates exactly what you'd like to eat at a certain time. Mark Baker, executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, is such an artist. Pictured at right we see his pan-seared Ahi tuna with baby spinach, sweet and sour eggplant and--if that weren't enough--lobster pot stickers. He presents it all in a carrot sauce with chive and cilantro oil. That green leafy stuff on top is baby pea tendrils, which add a touch of herbal tartness. You can order this at the hotel's Seasons restaurant. When you go, be sure to say hi from us.
The best seats have just gotten better. This season, Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden have the opportunity to watch every scowl and grimace of Latrell Sprewell and Patrick Ewing not once but twice. CSI Inc., a technology company that is backed by Intel, has installed touch-screen monitors on 557 seats at the world's most famous arena. Fans can choose to replay the action from eight different camera angles, or call up statistics on players. You can also order a beer--or three--without moving from your seat.
Security cameras are part of the modern landscape, so much so that we tend to forget they're around. In Lovers Caught on Tape and its sequel, More Lovers Caught on Tape, we see ordinary people going about their carnal business under the watchful eye of the surveillance camera. Most of the action is of the furtive variety, and some of it, given the time constraints, is downright inspired. Our only problem is the goofy tunes in the background. Real life doesn't need Muzak.
In the annals of country-music crossovers, few have maintained the irresistible appeal of Faith Hill. The 32-year-old honey-blonde sensation has sold more than 10 million albums since 1993, breaking sales records and garnering countless awards. Hill hails from Star, Mississippi, and kicked off this year's Super Bowl by singing the national anthem. Her fondest wish is that everyone be able to read, so the beauty established the Faith Hill Family Literacy Project to raise awareness, if not the quality of country-and-western lyrics. Faith is a family girl; her dad inspired her literacy project and her husband is her former touring partner, Tim McGraw. We're big fans, and we hope we'll have more Faith in the future.
You know Boris Valliejo's work: He's the fantasy artist who created Conan the Barbarian and other extravagantly muscled creatures from the retrofuturistic world. It happens he also is a photographer whose book Hindsight (Thunder's Mouth) explores the rich backside of female sensuality. We like what we see--whether it's in tatters, in tights or sitting pretty. For Boris, it's no ifs or ands-- just butts.
So far, early 21st century black pop sounds a lot like the last century's--hip-hop-influenced beats, salty lyrics, a lack of subtlety and stacked keyboards augmented by the occasional electric guitar. That is the basic formula, as Kelis illustrates on her debut, Kaleidoscope (Virgin). Kelis has an intriguing voice: girlish and husky. She's not afraid to take vocal risks, as her performance on the hit Caught Out There proves. She can be as slick as most contemporary R&B (Mafia, Roller Rink), but there's an appealingly unfinished, rough quality to her singing. Next time, Kelis and her production team should try rocking out a bit, which would serve her voice well.
You can take an old song and make it better. Or you can take an old song and sing it pretty much the way it's always been sung. Van Morrison, Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber take the latter approach on The Skiffle Sessions: Live in Belfast 1998 (Virgin), and it's hard to think of another CD in recent years with more energy. You want to sing along. You want to pound the table. You want to pick up a guitar and strum the three chords these ancient songs are built on. If this is called nostalgia, then give me more. Skiffle was the English term for a hybrid of American folk, Dixieland and rockabilly in the mid-Fifties, and most of the great British Invasion bands came out of it. Donegan, skiffle's foremost practitioner, had many hit records whose main appeal was enthusiasm and affection for songs that were ancient even then. The guy hasn't lost a step, and Van Morrison sounds reborn in these rough-hewn versions of It Takes a Worried Man, Railroad Bill, Muleskinner's Blues and a dozen more gems that needed only a light dusting to shine again.
Loose in the World (Fair Star Music) is the first record Judy Henske has made in more than 30 years. The good news is that not a thing has changed. She's still the witty, dramatic, blues-belting folk-singer she always was. You can often summarize a legend in simpler terms, but not this one. After all, this album opens with Mad Dog Killer, with an updated New Orleans funeral arrangement and a lyric that sends up the badman ballad. It closes with a showy version of the standard Until the Real Thing Comes Along that passes through traditional jazz. The bulk of the album is originals, and the best of them are Dark Angel (a rewrite of Motherless Child) and Dropped Like a Dime, whose cowboy surrealism combines blues convention with hints of personal confession. This is an exploration of a kind of American art song. Henske's vision, which is both caustic and compassionate, is summed up in a line from one of her whiskey-blues tunes, Blue Fortune: "Love is just like smoke/You know you can't see it clearly till it disappears." That's the kind of thing that once made people call her queen of the beatniks. May she make a record a year for the next 30. (judy henske.com or P.O. Box 326 Plaza Station, Pasadena, CA 91102.)
For record execs, alternative rock is barely a memory. Indie labels still serve as farm teams occasionally--Blink 182 cut its teeth on one--but nobody thinks they're the first step to stardom any more. Yet the flow of releases continues unstanched. The Drive-By Truckers' Pizza Deliverance (Soul Dump) designs country music for lowlifes. Its raucous rock feel is uncompromised by the odd mandolin or banjo. The album is replete with tales of drunken indiscretion and murderous rage, of smarmy swingers and a guy who hooks up with a woman whose television he steals. Modest Mouse's Building Nothing Out of Something (Up, Box 21328, Seattle, WA 98111) mines that other woe-begotten genre: the indie 45 compilation. This Northwest trio has such a consistent sonic signature that disparate songs hang together as if fitted with dovetail joints. Anyone who is an admirer of Pavement's fetching tunes, dissonant guitar and stop-and-go structures should give this collection a try. And guess what? Modest Mouse has a "real" album on Epic that is due out any day now.
Guns n' Roses went from hard-rock superstars to bloated arena rockers in record time. Egos and drug excesses sealed their fate, and they fell apart in the mid-Nineties. But their spectacular double--concert CD, Live Era '87-'93 (Geffen), proves they were easily the most intense hard-rock act of their time. These searing, high-energy versions of their hits, from Welcome to the Jungle to November Rain, are far superior to the studio originals, combining the kick of AC/DC, the swagger of the Stones and the over-the-top roar of early punk. Singer Axl Rose still operates under the band's moniker. After six years, he has surfaced with a new track, Oh My God, on the soundtrack to End of Days (Geffen). Unfortunately, unlike Live Era, it's a subpar Nine Inch Nails--style yowlfest.
Super Chikan, a.k.a James Louis Johnson, plays a startlingly original style of R&B. Like his Fat Possum labelmates from Mississippi, Super Chikan is still hot-wired to the spark that ignited the blues half a century ago. He uses that power to scramble the DNA of what we think of as R&B on What You See (Fat Possum). Nerdy white genre-blenders like Beck and Fatboy Slim would give their left nuts to be able to pull off Mr. Chikan's brilliantly wacky but heartfelt synthesis of musical styles.
Minnesota blues legends Dave Ray and Tony Glover have formed an alliance with Reggie Scanlan and Camile Baudoin of the Radiators. Now they're calling themselves the Back Porch Rockers. The foursome's album, By the Water (Back Porch Rockers), approaches acoustic blues with low-down, sensual and melodic tunes. Although they play without any drums, the natural percussive aspect of the guitars and the bass makes the music undulate, while Ray's warm warble of experience offers solace for whatever crisis you happen to be facing. Especially recommended: Everybody's Going for the Money.
No matter where you look, you won't be able to find a busier sideman than trumpeter Steve Bernstein: His hundreds of credits range from mix master Tricky to Mel Tormé. So it makes sensethat Bernstein's own band, Sex Mob, would keep more balls in the air than the Flying Karamazov Brothers. On Solid Sender (Knitting Factory), he uses his slide trumpet--which looks like a Mini-Me trombone and hasn't been seen much since the early Twenties--to turn the Stones' Ruby Tuesday into a flippy funeral procession. Then he sends the Duke Ellington classic The Mooche into the sleaziest part of town and milks the blues from Buffalo Springfield's folkie icon For What It's Worth. There's lots of irony and anarchy (credit the gut-piercing wails of altoist Briggan Krauss), but even more than enough pure funk to keep everything extremely well oiled. More wails, less irony and some of the most inventive writing in modern jazz have made the Chicago--based band Eight Bold Souls into not-just-local heroes. Led by saxophonist and composer Edward Wilkerson, they revel in a mix of horns, strings (cello and bass) and tuba. Last Option (Thrill Jockey) is their first disc since 1994. It features seven of their exuberant panoramas, each of which demands--and rewards--more than one listening.
Neck Bones Department: Rick James had the first documented case of rock-and-roll neck, and now the British Medical Journal has found that playing sax can be a health hazard. A technique called circular breathing that enables sax players to do extended solos could be the culprit. Not enough air gets to the brain. We knew that.
Robert Bradley is an Alabama-born street singer from Detroit who hooked up with a rock trio and, as Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, produced a fine album in 1996. The group's second album, Time to Discover (RCA), is one of the best modern blues records in years. It's the blues as defined at its outer limits, reminiscent of pop-funk in its Seventies heyday. Its melange of accents and attitudes offers slices of Howlin' Wolf and hip-hop--the latter abetted by the appearance of Kid Rock on Higher and Tramp II. There's nothing artificial about it, either.
Imagine picking up your cell phone and having it automatically dial your voice mail. Or gripping your car's steering wheel and sitting back while the seats, windows and radio adjust to your personal preferences. Well, thanks to developments in fingerprint identification technology (known as biometric identification), your thumb can do a lot more for you than hitch a ride. Through an exclusive partnership with Philips Flat Panel Display Systems, California-based Who Vision is adding touch identification to a range of home electronics. Slated for release later this year are television sets and telephones that let you surf, shop and bank online with finger print approval. In addition, several manufacturers have teamed up with Who Vision and its competitor Digital Persona to develop devices that will enable you to use your pointers instead of plastic to get into gyms, register at hotels, buy groceries and withdraw cash from an ATM. And by early next year, industry insiders predict that a wide range of consumer products, from garage door openers to computer keyboards, will incorporate the technology. Obviously, security is the draw here. You're the only one with your particular prints, so transactions will be hacker-proof. On the other hand, it's less painful to replace a stolen ATM card.
You don't have enough room for a billiard table in your bachelor pad? Just connect Interact's Pool Shark to your computer. This $30 USB peripheral has a groove that guides your pool cue (or a supplied plastic one) across a roller, which registers the force of your stroke. It makes the best pool sims--including Ultimate 8 Ball (packaged with the controller), Virtual Pool II and Expert Pool--seem hyperreal.
We were blown away by IBM's Personal Area Network, a gadget that lets two people trade contact information with a handshake. But that's nothing compared with Big Blue's latest project--a computer that you can roll up like a newspaper. The "bendable computer" is one of several items that could result from what IBM refers to as "hybrid organic/inorganic transistors." According to Cherie Kagan, a scientist at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in New York, this new class of semiconducting materials can be manufactured at low temperatures, making it possible to build displays on materials such as plastic or glass, which would otherwise melt. No news on when these flexible transistors will be ready for your commute, but other applications include screens that could be built into common household appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines) and electronic newspapers. "One day soon, you'll be able to download information--complete with text, animation and video--to a portable and reusable electronic paper, and then roll it up, stash it in your back pocket and go," says Kagan. Just don't use it to swat flies.
First it was television that beamed down from outer space to your home. Now 100 radio channels will be delivered via satellite to your car, truck or boat. Yes, it will cost you-- about $10 per month. But the two main players, XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, both let you tailor the service to suit your tastes. Love the Foo Fighters but hate Jay-Z? Sirius, the more tunes-oriented of the two, is offering eight genre-based rock channels, a slew of jazz, classical and R&B formats as well as rock channels by decade--all commercial free and accessible nationwide. If you're a news junkie, XM has inked deals to beam radio versions of USA To day, The Sporting News, Nascar, C-SPAN and CNN. Look for satellite-equipped mobile audio gear from Pioneer, Alpine, Sony and Panasonic, priced slightly higher than old-fashioned broadcast tuners.
By the end of the year, you'll be able to record TV signals digitally. How that's done is still up for grabs. Several digital video formats including tape and recordable forms of DVD are vying for the VCR's spot in your entertainment system. Here's the lowdown. Absorb and choose carefully.
Does the world need another cute Irish comedy? Why not? The Closer You Get (Fox Searchlight) is a likable, flyweight comedy about a tiny, remote island village where there's so little to do that the entire population turns out for the priest's weekly film club (recent selections have included The Song of Bernadette, Saint Joan and Keys of the Kingdom). The young men who gather daily at the town's only pub finally decide to do something about the lack of eligible, attractive females in their community: They take out a ridiculous want ad in The Miami Herald, hoping to attract sexy, athletic American women "with marriage in mind." Ian Hart plays the randiest member of the group, who denies his attraction to the feisty young woman he works with every day at his butcher shop. A likable cast makes the most of William Ivory's script, which might have played even better as a one-hour television movie. [rating]2-1/2 bunnies[/rating]
American Psycho (See review) Christian Bale stars as an Eighties Wall Streeter who loathes himself and practically everyone around him, so he does what anyone would in that situation: He becomes a serial killer. [rating]1 bunny[/rating]
"The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the most phenomenal movies ever made, says Fred Savage, the former star of The Wonder Years. "And so are Hail the Conquering Hero and Palm Beach Story--I'm a big fan of anything by Preston Sturges and Willie Wyler. Recently, I rented Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I went through many phases with that movie. When you see it as a kid, it's amazing. In college I got into these drug-induced psychedelic interpretations. But now--I don't know what phase of my life I'm in and why this reflects it--I'm really in tune with the homoeroticism of the movie. The Oompa-Loompas, all the tunnels, Charlie and his grandpa rising with the bubbles, and Augustus Gloopgoing through that tube after landing in fudge. And the chicks are hot."
Decades before The Blair Witch Project spooked horror fans and Hollywood suits (who struggled to understand its success), an industrial filmmaker named Herk Harvey and a cast of unknowns created a low-budget creeper that shocked the film community. Although its makers didn't benefit from modern media's ability to generate Blair Witch--style commercial phenomena, Carnival of Souls became a cult classic. Which is why this 1962 B-grade zombie fest is getting the full Criterion Collection treatment on DVD (Voyager, $40) with both the original 84-minute cut (in a new digital transfer) and an extended director's cut on two separate discs. In addition, the extraordinary package features a documentary, "The Movie That Wouldn't Die! The Story of Carnival of Souls," a trailer, 45 minutes of excised footage, a tour of the movie's locations, interviews and essays. There is even an hour of excerpts from some of the industrial films made by Centron Corporation, the company that employed Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford. And they did it all without websites.
It might not be WCW or the WWF, but Wrasslin' She-Babes (Something Weird Video; 206-361-3759) is oddly fascinating. Shot in rec rooms and backyards in the Fifties and Sixties and starring cat-fighting housewives in mod bikinis, these delightfully retrograde black-and-white 8mm films-on-VHS reflect how hard it was to get a thrill in early suburbia. The women aren't Sables--hell, they aren't even Mankinds--but they almost always end up topless. Unbelievably, there are 17 two-hour volumes.
When it came to Marilyn Monroe, the public was always on the outside looking in. But in her riveting new novel Blonde (Ecco), Joyce Carol Oates reverses that dynamic by stepping inside the actress' tortured psyche to produce a shockingly intimate portrait. Oates warns that while Blonde scrutinizes an actual life, it is not a historic document. If you are wont to split platinum hairs (for example, Monroe grew up in several foster homes, not just one, as Oates claims), this book will be more irritating than enlightening. But if you grant the author some biographical latitude, you'll discover a fascinating imagining of the hellish battles that Monroe fought with herself. Most of those internal skirmishes centered on Monroe's lack of self-worth. Her mother was mentally unstable, she never knew her father and she grew up neglected and abused. Even though she became Hollywood's most beloved sex symbol, Marilyn couldn't escape her bitter past and never truly accepted the adulation of her public. She felt like a fraud and a freak, and when "looking into any mirror, she saw not the Fair Princess whom the world saw and marveled over, but her old Beggar Maid self." Blonde is highly abstract and not always an easy read. But then nothing this good ever is.
Sometimes a person lives long enough to see the whole world change. Norma Wallace ran a house of assignation in the French Quarter from the Twenties to the Sixties, embracing the demimonde from the days of Storyville to the summer of love. In The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld (Faber and Faber), Christine Wiltz chronicles the story of this remarkably smart woman, who understood the importance of payoffs and discretion. Wallace counted among her customers some of New Orleans' most prestigious judges, bankers and politicians--which explains why she spent only six weeks in Parish Prison during her 40 years of business. Even John Wayne visited her parlor house one evening (but supposedly didn't go upstairs). Last Madam is a seductive look at a lost time.
If Rudy Giuliani were running for the Senate in Massachusetts rather than in New York, he'd try to get mileage--or at least headlines--out of what he would describe as a decline in standards at Harvard and MIT. Harvard Press has published Teaching Sex, and MIT has released a volume titled History of Shit. These titles certainly challenge our traditional ideas about university press topics. There is nothing stuffy here. Politics and morality have always been central to sex education in the U.S., which is why it seems so ineffective. In Teaching Sex; The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century, Jeffrey Moran provide san engrossing chronicle and thoughtful analysis of government-sanctioned programs designed for a captive audience of high school students. The challenge has been to present enough information to link sex to venereal disease and unintended pregnancy, but not so much as to arouse sexual interest. Moran's painstaking research reveals how sex education has always been reactive, from the feeble attempts to remedy the VD epidemic in the early part of the century--American soldiers were indoctrinated with scary movies--to the desperate and politically charged response to the AIDS crisis at the end of it. Since the Sixties, sex educators have been repeatedly thwarted by holier than-reactionaries with political agendas, especially on themes such as contraceptives and abortion. But Moran also takes educators to task for not taking into account the interest of those they purport to be teaching. His book is a must-read. History of Shit (MIT) is an English translation of an eccentric piece of theoretical investigation penned by French psychoanalyst and writer Dominique Laporte in 1978. It would be hard to imagine anyone passing up at least a quick look in the bookstore. "We dare not speak about shit," he said. "But, since the beginning of time, no other subject--not even sex--has caused us to speak so much." Laporte, relying mostly on examples from Western culture, connects the unspeakable to divinity, government, art and language to show what role the management of human waste has played in the rise of civilization.
Games of chance have been a source of fascination since man first rolled the bones. Gambling has become a $40 billion-a-year industry in this country alone, generating more revenue than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships and recorded music combined. The Art of Gambling Through the Ages (Huntington) by Arthur Flowers and Anthony Curtis (with a foreword by our own LeRoy Neiman) chronicles winning and losing as seen through the eyes of celebrated painters and sculptors, including Cezanne, Picasso, van Gogh, Degas and Remington. Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel's multimillion-dollar art collection just continues this relationship. Trust us, The Art of Gambling is a sure bet.
Many of my male readers are asking important questions as they confront 21st century situations unlike any they have encountered before. They cover a range of topics and reveal some startling insecurities about the future. After reading my mail, it's clear to me that men are now the anxious and overburdened sex:
You don't dock an Armada just anywhere, you keep it in the Bat Cave. If there ever were a powerboat sure to turn heads, drop jaws and jump-start libidos, this is it. Sweden's Ocke Mannerfelt Design was the genius behind the innovative styling and structure of both the canopied V-24(above) and the topless B-28 (above, at right). The wings on both crafts create lift and stability, we've been told, something you'll need when you fire up the Volvo Penta V8 (with either 385, 415, 500 or 600 horsepower) that's under the sloping hood. Armada says the wings keep the altitude completely level, "allowing for a smoother reentry to water while maintaining speed." In other words, you'll be flying--literally. The company also says it employs a fiberglass overlay for additional strength both inside and out rather than a "shoe-box joint" where the hull and deck meet. It's a good thing, because the boat's top speed is 95 or so--if you have the cojones to hang on. The V-24 (which is often used for racing) costs about $65,000, plus options. The B-28 takes off at about $90,000, plus options, of which there are many. Call Armada at 606-726-9574 to hear more details.
A meat sauce is a versatile accompaniment to spaghetti, linguine or penne. Making it from scratch is easy. This recipe is adapted from A Pinch of This and a Pinch of That: Mama Lena's Italian Kitchen, a book based on the cooking at one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago. First, heat some olive oil in a pan, then add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté a chopped onion and about a pound of lean ground meat--beef, turkey or pork. Brown the meat for about five minutes on high. Strain it, letting any grease pour off. Wipe the pan, but don't wash it. Add a pound of seeded and crushed ripe tomatoes (or a 15 oz. can of drained plum tomatoes), two tablespoons of tomato paste and a 15 oz. can of water. Add a few pinches of basil, sugar and oregano. Mix well and cover the pan. Cook on medium high for 30 minutes. Add the sautéed meat, onions and garlic. Cook the sauce on medium low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat; let the sauce settle for ten minutes. Serve over pasta.
Is the price of premium stogies still a bit much? Lighten up--it takes less than a buck's worth of tobacco to fill a pipe, and the smoke lasts as long as a double corona. First, make sure your tobacco is properly humidified--70 percent is ideal. (It should feel slightly moist.) Fill the bowl with tobacco. Tap the side of the bowl to settle the tobacco, then gently tamp the tobacco down so it feels springy. Repeat this process two more times, until the bowl is filled to the top. It takes two matches to light a pipe. First is the "false light." While puffing slowly, walk the flame over the entire surface of the tobacco, charring it evenly. Then tamp gently. This creates a cap that ensures an even light with the second match.
Paul Wyatt is to wine cellars what Bacchus is to grapes. For 20 years Wyatt has designed custom storage (primarily for private collectors), and his racks hold many of the world's finest vintages. Wyatt's philosophy of wine storage calls for open racks, as pictured here, which allow more air to circulate, minimizing the growth of mildew on labels and capsules. His work isn't cheap: A three-foot closet with hardwood racks (either jarrah from Australia or mahogany from Guatemala) costs about $2500, not including a cooling system. But you can spend $250,000 or more. (Wyatt's Fine Wine Rack and Cellar Co. creates only storage facilities.)
If there's a reason to forsake the pleasures of San Francisco and go camping, it would have to be Costanoa. Situated 55 miles south of the city on the coast, the 4000-acre campground combines the pleasures of an extensive network of biking and hiking trails with such urban amenities as furnished tent bungalows (inset below) and bathrooms with heated floors and a sauna. There's even a gourmet general store. Adjacent to the 40-room main lodge are a dozen cabins, if camping out isn't your thing. Rates start at $95 per night (double occupancy) for tent bungalows, $160 for cabins and $205 for lodge rooms. More-expensive tent accommodations are also available, including some "romantic" tent bungalows situated in remote areas.
"My personal style?" Martin Sheen (left), the star of West Wing and dozens of movies, asks our interviewer. "When I look my best, my wife dressed me. When I don't, I've dressed me. I just put on what's there. What am I wearing today?" (Sheen looks inside his jacket.) "Yes! Giorgio Armani." Sheen also confesses a personal preference for Hawaiian shirts, loafers and white socks. "Right now I have on two pairs of socks because my shoes are too big." Director John Landis (right) says he tends to wear jeans, sports coat and a tie. "I always look nice in Armani. I once went to a charity preview of Beverly Hills Cop III, which I directed, and arrived at the hotel 30 minutes early. I gave my suit to the valet to have it pressed and ten minutes later a young girl knocked on my hotel-room door saying, 'We have your suit, Mr. Armani.'"
Integrated car phones. Mercedes-Benz USA is offering the first integrated portable cellular phone system (pictured here) as an option in all its model-year-2000 cars. Inside the vehicle, you dock a Motorola Startac in a special housing for hands-free operation. Then take the phone with you when you exit the car. Price: $1500 to $2500, depending on options. • Historic single malts. Macallan distillery has just introduced a single malt scotch that's been aged 50 years in sherry barrels. Price: $3500, including a decanter. • Villas on the web. If you're looking for a European hideaway, check out Rentvillas.com. A tool called Villa Wizard helps simplify the booking process. Plus, candid property reviews from previous renters are available. • Love in the sky. Virgin Atlantic has embraced the idea that twosomes in its Upper Class section may want to enjoy the flight in ways other than eating, sleeping or watching a movie. So twin seats that fully recline to a length of 6'8" are being fitted to the fleet. • Romantic escapes. Johansens is now listing romantic getaways as part of its Recommended Travel Guide series. Choices range from a B&B in La Jolla to a private game reserve in South Africa. Guides cost from $15 to $40.
About six months ago, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. Now I've changed my mind. The ring cost me a small fortune, and I would like to get it back. Where do I stand?--G.F., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When Congress imposed the 55-mile-per-hour national speed limit in 1974, it was trying to conserve fuel because of an international oil crisis. Americans were to sacrifice time for the national good (adding, by one estimate, 200 million man-hours to our yearly commute). For more than a decade, we were late for work and late for Monday Night Football to save a meager 27 million barrels of oil, or about one half of one percent of the annual consumption. Congress, unable to persuade by fact or common sense, resorted to extortion. States that ignored the "double nickel" would lose federal highway funding. But a funny thing happened when oil prices fell in 1981: The government's rationale for speed limits suddenly shifted to safety. "Stay Alive at 55" became the mantra.
Last year, newspapers reported that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was going through a divorce from his second wife. Gingrich was forced to answer questions about his personal conduct, particularly his sexual relationships. It seems that Newt was having an affair with a congressional aide while his comrades on the hill were trying to impeach the president for improprieties with an intern. "It's not our intention to ruin Newt," said his ex-wife's lawyer. "We're all better off if he's out there making money."
U.S. women's soccer team fullback Brandi Chastain kicked off an international trend when she posed for Gear magazine wearing only a soccer ball and cleats. To raise funding for their teams, several top U.S. female track-and-field stars posed nude for a "Millennium Calendar of Champions." The New Zealand women's rowing team posed with strategically placed oars for its own pin-up calendar. Now the Australian women's soccer team has scored with a sexy calendar. The Matildas, as they're known at home, planned to print 5000 copies but ultimately had to print more than 45,000 to meet demand. For more information on the new fashion in football, point your web browser to www.worldfootball.com.au/matildas. The Matildas win our World Cup of calendars.
Pete Rose was a line drive--hitting, headfirst-sliding Cincinnati Reds rookie in 1963, when the team's veterans hung the derisive nickname Charlie Hustle on his cocky crewcut head. He has been pissing off people ever since. Every fan knows Rose's claim to fame: 4256 base hits, 67 more than Ty Cobb had. But even nonfans know his claim to shame: the charge that he bet on baseball games while managing the Reds. That's what keeps Rose out of the Hall of Fame and keeps him hustling to defend his name even as he sells it to anybody willing to ante up and get in line: Get your red-hot autographed bats, balls, cards, caps, jerseys and posters!
Just like superstars, my husband, J., and I have delved into the magical, mystical world of tantric sex. What the hell is tantric sex, you may ask? Where have you been? Well, if you're like us--common folk--you've been muddling along in your basic missionary position, your gal-on-top, your occasional 69 for a Saturday night thrill, your S&M, your adult-baby-diaper romps (doesn't everybody?). In other words, missing out on ancient sexual secrets and a fast-growing trend.
When sexy 26-year-old Ivonne Armant submitted her photos to Playboy, we were more than willing to feature the curvy Latina beauty. Imagine our surprise when Armant later revealed that her grandfather is world-famous operatic tenor Placido Domingo. "I didn't tell anyone until after my pictures were accepted," she says. "I got it on my own, and I like that." Armant's father, José Domingo, was married to her mother for two years, and Armant herself didn't discover the truth about her heritage until she was 15 (her mother had remarried a man who became the only father Armant ever knew). True to her creative genes, Armant starred in three Mexican soap operas and started a clothing boutique (she designed her own fashions) before deciding to move to Los Angeles. When she had exhausted her savings and was contemplating a move back to Mexico City, Armant appealed to her grandfather to help her pay for acting lessons, and he obliged. Despite his monthly checks, however, their relationship remains largely one between strangers. "Before I knew he was my grandfather I always admired him," says Armant. "I think he's fantastic and I would like to have a closer relationship with him someday."
Bringing up the subject of a favorite bar is like asking who should be president. Everyone has his own candidate, as we discovered when we polled a blue-ribbon panel of food, drink and restaurant critics, publishers, editors, authors, restaurateurs, chefs and bon vivants. The bars picked by our panelists run the gamut from swank hotels and restaurants to atmospheric joints that have served generations of regulars. Skybar in West Hollywood is a hotel bar that packs in the supercool with a shoehorn. Other chic stop-offs include Bix in San Francisco, Red Square in Las Vegas (main attraction: an entire wall of cold vodkas and a bar top that's frozen) and the Greatest Bar on Earth. And business has never been better at (continued on page 154)Best Bars(continued from page 94) down-home, funky, ethnic and shit-kicker bars, such as the Green Parrot in Key West and Chilkoot Charlie's in Anchorage. That these varied types of bars made the cut is a testament to the American drinker's quest for a great cocktail. Let's go barhopping.
You are looking at millennium missiles, motorcycles that represent the state of the art and beyond. Buzz travels fast on the information highway. Today, a motorcycle goes from concept to sculpted metal at the speed of imagination. Fanatics share rumors and sighs on the Internet, devote entire websites to artists' impressions of forthcoming models. Will Honda produce a V8 touring bike? Will Kawasaki reclaim the title of fastest production bike? Can Yamaha top the YZF-R1? What's Willie G. got up his sleeve? Will BMW export the C1, an enclosed motorscooter? Motorheads scan the pages of cycle magazines, seeking confirmation and permission to let craving accelerate. Every season at shows in Milan, Bologna, Paris and Tokyo, manufacturers unveil new models as well as one-of-a-kind concept bikes. The gorgeous creations whet the appetite and test the what-if factor. They stop time and your heart. Two of the bikes shown here are available now. Catch them if you can. Let the rest become die stuff of dreams.
When performing a boring chore like splitting wood, you tend to dwell on trivia to pass the time, such as the two distinct sounds you encounter during the job. The first is a thump, when the maul you're using makes a slight indentation into the wood. The other is a sharp crack, when you've started a major split that means you're almost finished with that chunk of soon-to-be firewood. Thoughts like these were going through my mind as I was about an hour into my morning woodcutting routine one spring Saturday.
Let's face it: Deep inside every man there is a mobster yearning to breathe free. He may be a small mobster, a weenie among mobsters, a mobster who doesn't do anything but put on a pinkie ring occasionally. Why? It's simple. We all want to seem cool, we all want to seem tough, we all want to look like we know our way around a broad and a pool cue and the business end of a calamari. Like the Old West, mob life is one of America's great myths, and we can't get enough of it. The mob has provided an alter ego for each American era. It doesn't matter that real mobsters, men like Sam Giancana and Albert Anastasia and Carmine "the Snake" Persico, were and are brutes and thugs and sociopaths who would without effort turn us into sausage meat. Inside all of us is a little mobster yearning to breathe free.
Welcome to arena ball. It's a wild-swinging flurry of grand slams, indoor fireworks, four-hour slow-pitch blowouts and line drives ricocheting off gun-shy pitchers. Every team calls to the bullpen five or six times a game, leaving plenty of opportunities for commercials or nachos. Middle infielders launch moon shots to the opposite field. Excuse-me swings manage to reach what used to be the cheap seats. It's a circus, a comedy, a pinball game.
We first appreciated Michael Palin as a founder of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the satirical troupe that became one of Britain's most notable exports of the early Seventies. Films followed, in which the Pythons took aim at the Age of Chivalry (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and Jesus (Life of Brian). Palin has appeared without the Pythons, in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. But he has also given himself wide latitude--and longitude. He's made extensive use of his passport, devising, in British parlance, such television series as Around the World in 80 Days (Palin follows Phileas Fogg), Pole to Pole (Palin follows a meridian) and Full Circle With Michael Palin (he follows the shores of the Pacific Ocean). His reporting from places both familiar and exotic can best be described as English. In his 1999 project, Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure, he stalks the writer across three continents to re-create the man's nonliterary pursuits.
When Sandy and Mandy Bentley got a phone call from Hugh M. Hefner in the summer of 1998, they both thought it was a joke. The twins, from a conservative Catholic family in Joliet, Illinois, had met Playboy's Editor-in-Chief a few weeks earlier in Los Angeles, when they were dancing late one night at the Garden of Eden nightclub. Introduced to Hef by Playmate of the Year Heather Kozar, they had sat on the arms of his chair and chatted with him briefly--but they'd also gotten nervous, excused themselves to go to the ladies' room and made a quick exit.So when Sandy went back to school in Las Vegas and then heard that Hef was trying to track her down, she figured friends were playing a practical joke on her. And when she subsequently phoned Mandy in Joliet and told her that they had a gentleman caller, Mandy didn't buy it either. "Sandy said, 'You'll never believe who's on the phone,' " says Mandy. "When she said Hugh Hefner, I said, 'Sure, and I'm the queen of England.'"
Below is a list of retailers and manufacturers you can contact for information on where to find this month's merchandise. To buy the apparel and equipment shown on pages 37, 51--52, 92--93, 96--97, 128--129 and 179, check the listings below to find the stores nearest you.
Getting a reaction from an early voice-recognition gadget was like dealing with a drunk buddy. You could tell it what to do over and over again, but it would just sit there. Fortunately, the technology has sobered up over the past decade, and there are a zillion new--and functional--applications. Some, such as MGA Entertainment's CommandoBot robot (below, far right), learn the nuances of your voice and then perform tricks on demand. ("CommandoBot, launch tomahawks," you say. "Yes, master," it responds, firing plastic toy missiles at your boss' ankles.) Others comprehend orders, regardless of who's giving them. The latter type of voice recognition is referred to as "speaker independent," says Todd Mozer, president of Sensory, Inc., manufacturer of the voice chip in CommandoBot as well as chips used by NASA to record sounds in space. More sophisticated (and more costly) speaker independent chips are typically incorporated into car navigation systems and car stereos, such as JVC's new El Kameleon KD-LX50 CD receiver ($430). "You could have a rotten cold, or pick up a Texas twang, and these products will still function because they've been programmed to learn all varieties of American English," says Mozer. Undoubtedly, telling your car stereo to change radio stations is far safer than taking your eyes off the road to push buttons. Likewise, a car navigation system such as Blaupunkt's TravelPilot (above), which uses speech synthesis to provide turn-by-turn directions, is less hazardous than a system that requires you to study a map while driving. "Enhanced safety is the most obvious benefit of speech technology," says Mozer. That's why we're also seeing it in cellular phones. (The Ericsson T18z pictured here is one of several models that automatically dials a person's number after you speak her name into the handset.) Pure convenience is another bonus. There are products that let you turn on the lights and change TV channels via voice command, and software that can transcribe voice recordings into text. Note taking could become obsolete, as could typing. With a headset such as the one by Plantronics (pictured), you can dictate documents to your computer. "Eventually, everything that currently has buttons will accept voice commands," Mozer says. "I call it the Buttonless Society." We call it pretty cool.