Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Reading Playboy for the articles: October 1962

Playboy October 1962 cover
My wife, Lisa, has acquired a large collection of vintage Playboy magazines. I'm flipping through those issues that catch my attention and offering my thoughts on the non-photographic content that filled its pages. You know, the articles.

Highlights: For me, the standout of this issue is the interview of troubled, troublesome, brilliant and insecure Peter Sellers. Dr. Strangelove and The Pink Panther were still two years in the future. He'd completed 16 films in the previous five years and had garnered considerable attention for his role of Clare Quilty in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. Enjoying hindsight afforded by the intervening six decades, I found this exchange particularly striking:

Sellers: I'm not a star, because I have no personality of my own.

Playboy: Hasn't success enabled you to find your personality?

Sellers: Success hasn'e enabled me to find out anything about myself. I just know I can do certian things. If you go too deep into yourself, if you analyze yourself too closely, it's no good for the job. You can either act or you can't. If you analyze your own emotions all the time, and every doorknob you handle, you know, you're up the spout.

Playboy: But supposing you were asked to play a character called Peter Sellers, how would you play him?

Sellers: What I would do, I'd go to see all my friends. I go to see my acquaintances, and ask them how they see me, ask for their impressions of Peter Sellers. And then I would sift these characterization. That's all I can do, because I am quite unaware of what I am.

Oddly, the interviewer is not credited. Was this standard practice for Playboy back in the day? Curious.

Three head shots of Peter Sellers from October 1962 Playboy interview.

Other thoughts: The cover on this one had torn off but I initially thought it was an incorrect match. What I considered the biggest selling points of the issue--Peter Sellers, Arthur C. Clark, Shel Silverstein--weren't mentioned on the cover, but folks like Nat Hentoff, Ken W. Purdy and Gerald Kersh (who I've never heard of) were. Shows how much times, and perspectives, change.

There's a an excerpt from Percival by Chertien de Troyes, "Gawain and the Lady of the Pavilion," presented as a ribald classic, so we know our 1962 readers were well-read when it came to their Arthurian lore. And there's the 1963 Playboy Jazz Poll, which indicates the importance jazz still played in entertainment despite the ascendance of rock and roll. Sadly, the poll itself is torn out, which I suppose means the original owner was passionate enough about music to make his (or her) opinions known to the editors.

Finally, the tikiphile in me squeed! when I saw this panel of the long-running Playboy comic, "Little Annie Fanny." She. Has. A. Moai. Life goals.

Little Annie Fanny comic from October 1962 with moai in the background.

Now Playing: The Rolling Stones Rewind
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Friday, April 12, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

When I first heard "Conga" by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, my instantaeous first thought was "One hit wonder." That it would be a hit I had no doubt. It was infectious. But the whole song was an audio gimmick. Mind you, I had no idea of Miami Sound Machine's history and success on Spanish-language charts. But even if I'd known, how could I view this song as anything other than an outlier? Well, Ms. Estefan certainly had the last laugh on me, racking up a bunch of hits with her backing group before fully going solo to even greater English-language success.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66.

Now Playing: Bobby Christian & His Orchestra Strings for a Space Age
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Friday, April 05, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

So it's almost two weeks ago now that I saw Herb Alpert and Lani Hall in concert. Last week I shared Halpert's cover of "Puttin' on the Ritz" but this week I'm going for the more low-hangning fruit with "Mas Que Nada" from Sergio Mendez and Brasil '66, which Lani Hall was lead singer with. It's a pretty cool video, and progressive for the time.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Herb Alpert.

Now Playing: Lisa Ono Bossa Hula Nova
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Monday, April 01, 2024

A Moment of Tiki: Next-Level Float Lights

No fooling! I am back after a long break to play catch-up on all the Moment of Tiki episodes I've published in the interim. Episode 66 marks the four-year anniversary of A Moment of Tiki! This month I'm coming at you with "next-level fish float lights." What's next-level you may ask? Hint: I swiped the idea from an old Oceanic Arts catalog...

Slipping back in time a little bit brings us to the previous month's installment: Episode 65, Grow Your Own Sugarcane. Believe it or not, this is insanely easy to do. If you live in the sunbelt, you can grow sugarcane in-ground. If you live in colder climes, you can grow it in a pot. What plant is more tiki than sugarcane? Not many, that's for sure!

Finally, Episode 64 was a big one for me. In "How to Make a Shell Light," I take on one of the most iconic items of tiki decor to be found in all the classic tiki bars of yesteryear. The shell light is certainly time-consuming to create, but technically it's not that difficult and I think you'll agree the results are spectacular!

Now Playing: Webley Edwards Hawaii Calls: Exotic Instrumentals
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Friday, March 29, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I saw Herb Alpert perform in concert earlier this week. I wasn't sure what to expect since he's nearly 90, but I was utterly blown away. He engaged with the audience so easily that the crowd of 1,700 felt more like 17. It was crazy intimate and if Alpert has lost a step with age, I couldn't tell. His performance was top-notch. Seriously, this was one of the best live shows I've ever attended. He performed a cover of "Puttin' on the Ritz," which was cool in and of itself, but this trippy video played on the screens surrounding the stage. Naturally, I had to share.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Cardigans and Tom Jones .

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo II
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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Aunt Jessie (1885-1952)

La Grange Yellow Pages phone book, 1958
On this date in 1952, Fay Stewart, otherwise known as Jessie Williams or simply "Aunt Jessie," passed away at the age of 67 in San Antonio, just a couple of months after selling the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange to Edna Milton. Her sister-in-law, Eddie Ledda Moody, traveled from McLennan County to oversee Aunt Jessie’s burial in Sunset Memorial Park.

Fay Stewart’s parents came from Georgia (or possibly Nashville), moving to Waco well before she was born. The family lived for years on Franklin Street. In my book, I reported that the family struggled after Stewart’s father died unexpectedly in 1886. A local history buff in Waco has done some excellent research on that, and it seems the death of Stewart's father is the result of a census error in 1890. In fact, he outlived his wife who passed away in the 1890s before remarrying around the turn of the century. Information is sketchy after that, but circumstantial evidence would indicate Fay and her new stepmother did not get along well. By 1910, Fay’d moved to Austin and assumed the alias of Jessie Williams, as was customary for women in the sex trade intent on protecting their families’ reputations. All of this biographical information is updated in the 50th anniversary edition of my book, available now.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream and Other Delights Re-Whipped
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Friday, March 22, 2024

Committing fiction

My fiction output has been close to zero in recent years, for a variety of reasons writers will likely be familiar with, but I won't bore you with here. Suffice to say this week has been different. I've been writing. Fiction. Last night I completed the story. Yay, me.

That's not exactly the first draft, though. And it's not the final draft, either. The premise first came to me maybe 15 years ago, give or take. I wrote the first draft then, but I had no ending. I forced an ending, which was wholly unsatisfactory. I knew it, the select few who'd read the story knew it, but no obvious solution existed. So I moved on and the story sat. And sat. And sat.

Unexpectedly, unlooked-for, an ending popped into my head. Why do these things happen? I have no idea. I realized that certain constraints I'd placed on myself with one of the main characters served no purporse and hindered the story. So I dropped those constraints. The story suddenly worked. The ending fulfilled the promise of everything leading up to it. That's not to say the writing process went smoothly--it took a full week to force out a couple thousand words. My writing speed continues to slow as I age. This is a story that mixes genres (that I rarely write in, no less) and has no obvious market, so I've got that going for me. But as a story, it is close to being the best version of itself it can possibly be. Another pass to clean up some messy spots and add some retrofitting and it'll be done. Will this lead to regular writing output from me again? No telling. I thought the same last year when I mamaged a couple of novel chapeters around this time but the radio silence since then proves nothing is guaranteed.

Here's a taste of the new prose a few pages before the finale:

The doorknob rattled. Eyes wide, J.T. grabbed it with both hands, bracing his shoulder against the door frame.

The door shook. Boyd screamed. The knob twisted in J.T.'s grip but he would not let it go. Porcelain shattered, followed by what disturbingly sounded like a flock of geese being sucked into a jet engine. The angry knob twisted harder, peeling skin from J.T.'s palms, but he refused to relent. The entire house shuddered, struck by a menace so cold J.T.'s tongue froze to the roof of his mouth.

And then... silence.

J.T. blinked bits of hoarfrost from his eyelids. Frost covered his arms, the door, the walls. Warily, he released his grip on the doorknob. Nothing happened.
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