Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Inside the Desert Oasis Room

Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast
When I first got into tiki, a great source of information for me was the "Inside the Desert Oasis Room" podcast, produced and hosted by Adrian Eustaquio. Now, this podcast wasn't the only place I went to in order to learn about tiki culture, but it was an integral part of my journey, a more intimate doorway into the personalities, artists and locations that contributed to the rich history of this vibrant subculture. It's been a part of my daily commute for almost seven years now.

Back in the summer of 2021, Lisa and I took a road trip through the Southwest to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary (the original goal was Hawaii, but the COVID pandemic derailed those plans). As we scheduled several days in Anaheim to visit DisneyLand, I reached out to Adrian for suggestions of must-see tiki venues in the area. In the course of our conversation he invited Lisa and myself to visit his home bar, the Desert Oasis Room, where we could record episodes of our respective shows amidst general carousing and tomfoolery. Alas, that didn't happen, but it planted the seeds for this interview, episode 233 of "Inside the Desert Oasis Room." The audio may be listened to via the embedded YouTube video below, or it may be downloaded from wherever one accesses podcasts. It was a fun conversation but I hope before too long we'll be able to have another in person. Here's is what Adrian has to say about the episode:

Today we chat with Jayme Lynn Blaschke! Jayme is a tiki enthusiast and YouTuber out of New Braunfels, Texas who makes instructional videos on lamp building, cocktails, tiki carving and more. We talk about how he got started in tiki and YouTube, his building and production process, and what's in store for his channel!

Now Playing: Rafael Kubelik Dvorak: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8
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Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I tend to forget how many songs about the Vietnam War were popular during the 1980s. That makes sense, as it took the passage of a decade before the U.S. had enough distance to begin to come to grips with the collective trauma. I have not seen similar with Iraq/Afghanistan, but that may be due to the fact that those conflicts were drawn out over a generation and/or not enough time has passed since their conclusion. Either way, it's pretty grim. On a less bleak note, I am always delightfully surprised at how many absolutely great songs were on Sports, the third album from Huey Lewis & the News and their absolute monster breakthrough. It's so chok-ful of hits that I'd completely forgotten about "Walking on a Thin Line" until just a few mintues ago. Crazy, right?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Geoff Castelucci.

Now Playing: Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Billy the Kid
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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Reading Playboy for the articles: April 1962

Playboy magazine, April 1962
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: I just learned something of significant import--the very first Playboy interview appeared in the September 1962 issue. It was conducted by the legendary author Alex Haley with the equally legendary musician Miles Davis. Before that, Playboy did not run interviews. This issue is from April of that year, and let me tell you folks, the absence of the famed interview is sorely noted. Up to this point, I did not realize how essential that feature had become in my exploration of back issue articles. That's not to say there's no thoughtful prose here, but rather, nothing quite so immediate and arresting.

The cream of the crop this outing may be Arthur C. Clarke's science column, "You Can't Get There From Here" in which the famed author considers the challenges of "probing the proximate regions of Earth and sun." The science is, of course, dated--at once point Clarke references Mercury as being tidally locked with one side of the planet always facing the sun with the other side perpetually facing away--but it is all intelligent and even heady subject matter, which makes me wistful for a time when popular science articles were, well, popular reading. Here are some selections that stood out for me:

At the Earth's center, the pressure is estimated to be over 3,000,000 tons per square foot, or 3000 times that at which Trieste [the first bathyscape to descend into Challenger Deep] encountered.

Under such pressures, rocks and metals flow like liquids. In addition, the temperature rises steadily toward the interior, reaching perhaps 6000 degrees Fahrenheit at the center. It is obvious, therefore, that we cannot hope to find a ready-made road into the heart of our planet, and the old idea of a "Hollow Earth" (once put forward as a serious scientific theory) must be reluctantly dismissed--together with a whole host of subterranean fantasies such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' At the Earth's Core.
It makes me happy to know Clarke enjoyed reading Burroughs. Clarke goes on to discuss the impossiblity of physically exploring the mantle and core of the Earth but then posits indirect observations. Gravimetric and seismic obvservations have given up amazingly detailed (yet incomplete) understanding of the interior of not only Earth, but also the moon, Mars, Venus and outer planets and their satellites as well, something that would've surely stunned 1962 Clarke.

Something equally penetrating is that most peculiar and elusive of atomic particles, the neutrino. All other particles are stopped by a few inches, or at most a few feet, of materials such as lead. But the incredible neutrino, having no mass and no charge (to put you out of your misery, it does have spin), can shoot through lead 50 light-years thick without being noticeably inconvenienced. Torrents of them are sweeping at the velocity of light through our so-called solid Earth at this very moment, and only one in a million million notices the trifling obstruction.
And finally...

Ray Bradbury, in his short story The Golden Apples of the Sun, described the descent of a spaceship into the solar atmosphere to obtain a sample of the Sun (which we now know, incidentally, to be 90 percent hydrogen, 10 percent helium, plus a mere trace of all the other elements). When I first read this story, I dismissed it as charming fantasy; now I am not so sure. In one sense we have already reched out and touched the Sun, for we made radar contact with it in 1959--and how unbelievable that would have seemed a generation ago! Even a close physical approach no longer seems completely out of the question, thanks to the development of the new science of plasma physics, born within the last 10 years.
Now, 62 years later, I can only wonder what Clarke might's thought about the Parker Solar Probe

Lenny Bruce American print ad, Playboy April 1962
Other thoughts: In the absensce of an interview, Playboy fills the void with fiction: four pieces to be exact, which surprised the heck out of me. The selections include part 1 of "The Wonderful Clouds" by Fran├žoise Sagan, "The Stancias' House" by Paul Darcy Boles, "A Way to Make It" by Henry Slesar and "Adam Frost" by Vance Aandahl. Fiction must've been held in higher regard back in the day.

The Lenny Bruce ad to the right caught my eye, and a quick check confirmed my suspicion that his comedy album, Lenny Bruce - American is reviewed here. Bruce was a trailblazing topica shock comic who's take-no-prisoners attitude led to multiple arrests for indecency and court appearances. Americans proved to be the final of his four original comedy albums for Fantasy Records. By 1966 he was dead from a morphine overdose:

Lenny Bruce - American (Fantasy) is the unlikely title of a very likely LP. A stiletto-sharp Bruce discourses (in almost antiseptically expurgated fashion, we might add) on a traumatic gig in Lima, Ohio ("The first day you go through the five-and-10; the next day, you walk through the park and look at the cannon. I stayed at the show business hotel; they got a guy there who's the movie projectionist; another guy sells Capezios. I was held over for spite."), runs through a helpful how-to on the right way to relax colored people at parties (High points of Bruce's party conversation: "Joe Louis was certainly a helluva fighter... That Bojangles sure was some dancer... You all have a natural sense of rhythm... Have you had anything to eat? Can I get you some watermelon and fried chicken?... I'd like to have you over to the house, but I have a sister... But comeon over, anyway--after dark."), offers a ploy to throw a motel desk clerk off the track ("How much is it by the month?"), and delivers a Mexican-American youngster's brotherhood plea to his ethnically-comingled gang ("We all have to stick together--and beat up the Polacks"). Bruce's tag-off is a beautifully enacted travesty of the Hollywood prison movie that is a comedic classic.
All of that may come across as offensive out of context--and even in context, that's the point--but the end result is an Archie Bunkeresque sendup of racists that is pretty funny.

Merito Rum print ad, Playboy April 1962
In addition to fiction, you know what else this Playboy has a lot of? Liquor and cigarette ads. As I despise smoking I have no interest in the Chesterfield or Kent or whatever cancer sticks the ads are selling, but the liquor ads are intriguing. There's a bunch of Scotch ads--blended Scotch, mind you. There's also a bunch of bourbon ads as well. Many of these brands are fairly obscure, or today known as "economy" buys. Whisky was losing lots of market share to vodka in this era, so all of the whisky ads use ad copy that stress "mild," "light" and even "extra light." Flavor's a dirty word, apparently. One ad that caught my eye (see left) is for Ron Merito. Now, I'm all about rum, but this is one that I've not previously encountered. "It's the finest tasting rum from Puerto Rico" the ad copy claims. So, that puts it alongside Bacardi and Don Q, both represented elsewhere in this issue, with all three positioning themselves as a lightly flavored alternative to vodka. We know that Bacardi succeeded and is now the single biggest rum brand in the world, even if the spirit they produce barely tastes like anything. Ron Merito, however, wasn't so lucky. Vintage bottles from the 1940s seem to be a fairly popular find among vintage spirits enthusiasts, but beyond that I've found little about the history of Ron Merito, its distillery or demise. One assumes they gave up the ghost in the 1970s or 1980s, decades that were not kind to any rum distillers, but that's only a guess. The only thing I know is that it's been gone for decades and I'm curious to learn more about them.

Finally, although this series is about the articles in these early issues of Playboy, I'd be remiss if I didn't share at least one airbrushed pinup by Alberto Vargas. Although I feel Gil Elvgren was the absolute master of the painted cheesecake pinup, it's hard to argue that Vargas wasn't the most famous--even moreso than George Petty. The inclusion of Vargas here speaks to Playboy's very concept and view of itself--its main, perhaps only, competition in these early years was the venerable Esquire magazine, a lifestyle publication for men that rose to popularity because of, and became known for, the artistic pinups of Vargas. The fact that Playboy incorporated pinup photography (most of which, in these early years, are incredibly tame by modern standards) but still felt compelled to feature the more vintage-styled work by Vargas speaks to that direct connection and competition between the two magazines. It wasn't until Penthouse arrived on the scene the following decade that Playboy radically changed that initial premise and became more explicitly sexualized. I'm sure others have written about this in-depth, so that's all I have to say about that.

Now Playing: John McFarland Provocatif
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Friday, May 17, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I recently was part of a conversation online about how The Hobbit films were a great disappointment in comparison to The Lord of the Rings. This is a contention I strongly agree with--I feel that in the 9-plus hours of Hobbit runtime there's probably a pretty good 3-hour film in there somewhere. That said, I found the music and song in the first film to be superior to the film itself. Case in point: Geoff Castelucci's cover of "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold." I mean, this is a song I really liked way back when I first heard it in the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit and Peter Jackson's film did it even better (for all Jackson's films' faults, when they get something right, they get it very, very right). Castelucci's cover is just spectacular. Singing bass is one thing, but singing all the parts? That's just nuts.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Pseudo Echo.

Now Playing: Don Tiare and His Enchanting Violins Strings Over Tahiti
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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Reading Playboy for the articles: November 1976

Playboy cover November 1976
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: Just so we're clear, in no reality was I ever going to follow up last week's disappointing Billy Carter issue with anything other than the Playboy that appeared exactly one year prior. That's right, this week I take a deep dive into the November 1976 issue, which featured what quite possibly is the most famous of all Playboy interviews, with the future president, Jimmy Carter. Fun fact: Playboy, like most magazines, mails out subscriber copies several weeks before the issue is available on newsstands. On rare occasions, when said issue made headlines in other media, Playboy would capitalize on this by slapping a sticker on the newsstand edition highlighting the content that was generating buzz as a way to juice sales. This issue features a big white sticker with blue and red type drawing attention to the Carter interview. Subscriber copies are more sedate.

As for the interview itself, well, it's a mixed bag. Carter discusses his Baptist faith at length. Again and again. But thisisn't necessarily his fault. The prevailing attitude at the time seems to be a deep fear that Carter woud implement some sort of fundamentaist Baptist-flavored Taliban on the U.S. were he elected, which Carter, exhibiting remarkable patience, calmly denies and offers his time as governor of Georgia as evidence that he is not prone to go mad with power and impose his own religious beliefs on others. In a companion article, a complaint is made that all Carter seems to talk about is his religion, to which it is correctly pointed out that religion is the only thing most national media actually asks Carter about. So there's that. The "interview" is also annoying to me in that it is a compilation of multiple interviews conducted over a period of months. Although I understand this can be standard practice, I don't feel it's entirely honest and context and mood can affect an interviewee's answers and by stretching things out so long gives the interview a skewed ability to cherry-pick answers to suit a particular agenda. So here, at the tail end of an extended months-long interview, Carter takes a throw-away question and goes off on a soul-baring monologue that is absolutely stunning in its raw honesty. This would never, ever happen today, and there are mixed opinions on whether it helped or hurt Carter in the election, but damned if it isn't a landmark conversation:

Playboy: Do you feel you've reassured people with this interview, people who are uneasy about your religious beliefs, who wonder if you're going to make a rigid, unbending President?

Carter: I don't know if you've been to Sunday school here yet; some of the press has attended. I teach there about every three or four weeks. It's getting to be a real problem because we con't have room to put everybody now when I teach. I don't know if we're going to have to issue passes or what. It almost destroys the worship aspect of it. But we had a good class last Sunday. It's a good way to learn what I believe and what the Baptists believe.

One thing Baptists believe is in complete autonomy. I don't accept any domination of my life by the Baptist Church, none. Every Baptist church is individual and autonomous. We don't accept donations of our church from the Southern Baptist Convention. The reason the Baptist Church was formed in this country was because of our belief in absolute and total separation of church and state. These basic tenets make us almost unique. We don't believe in any heirarchy in church. We don't have bishops. Any officers chosen by the church are defined as servants, not bosses. They're supposed to do the dirty work, make sure the church is clean and painted and that sort of thing. So it's a very good, democratic structure.

...

The thing that's drummed into us all the time is not to be proud, not to be better than anyone else, not to look down on people but to make ourselves acceptable in God's eyes through our own actions and recognize the simple truth that we're saved by grace. It's just a free gift through faith in Christ. This gives us a mechanism by which we can relate permanently to God. I'm not speaking for other people, but it gives me a sense of peace and equanimity and assurance.

I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I'm going to do it anyhow, because I'm human and I'm tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, "I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultry."

I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do--and I have done it--and God forgives me for it. But that doesn't mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock.

Christ says, Don't consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who's loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness. One thing that Paul Tillich said was that religion is a search for the truth about man's existence and his relationship with God and his fellow man; and that once you stop searching and think you've got it made--at that pointyou lose your religion. Constant reassessment, searching in one's heart--it gives me a feeling of confidence.

I don't inject these beliefs in my answers to your secular questions.
It is a shame that for this thoughtful, philosophical answer Carter only received mockery for "Lust in his heart."

Forty years removed, the contrast between Carter's statements and religious right couldn't be starker. I'm not going out on a limb by saying the Carter presidency was troubled. He didn't get along well with the Democratic congress and foreign relations bedeviled him, although he achieved a major victory by brokering peace between Egypt and Israel. In many ways he was too honest to be president, and his eschewing of typical political compromise and horsetrading seriously undercut his chances at a second term. That said, there's a convincing argument to be made that Jimmy Carter has been the greatest ex-president the U.S.A. has ever had. The mad has lived a life of service and even now, more than a year into hospice, he continues to inspire as a Good Person.

Other thoughts: Oh geeze, here's Larry L. King again. Look, I've read lots of Larry L. King--more than most living humans, I'll wager. You may have heard of his Playboy article from a few years prior: "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Yeah, that one. I wrote a book on it, you know. The actual brothel, not King's article. In this issue King's piece is called "The Great Willie Nelson Commando Hoo-Ha and Texas Brain Fry." King's got a thing for titles, amirite? This one's ostensibly about the third Fourth of July picnic Nelson ever put on, but the thing with King is that he seldom actually writes much about what he purports to be writing about. Instead, he normally dicks around and misses most of said event, so resorts to writing about dicking around and exaggerating the hell out of the details he doesn't make up from scratch. Is it entertaining? Sure, but after reading two or three of his pieces you start to see the pattern. Sadly, Nelson doesn't make an appearance here, although fellow Outlaw Country star Jerry Jeff Walker does, sort of:

The Great Willie Nelson commando hoo-ha and Texas brain fry article by Larry L. King
Dub said, "Then there's Jerry Jeff Walker. One time--"

I groaned. It was not necessary for Dub to inform me of Jeffy Jeff Walker, a.k.a. Dr. Snowflake, a.k.a. Jacky Jack Doubletree, a.k.a. Scamp Walker. He is the man who got reasonably rick off writing Mr. Bojangles, which Richard Nixon claims as his favorite song; this gives Nixon and Walker something in common besides their having been born natural outlaws. Once I was hosting this sedate cocktail party at Princeton, see, for delicate literary types and their proper wives, when Jerry JeffWalker--who'd beenplaying a club in New York--appeared very much unnanounced, dressed like a buffalo hunter and looking like three months on field bivouac complicated by the blind staggers. Jacky Jack Doubletree proved that he was a natural showman by immediately imitating the walks and lisps of sherry-sipping academicians; he crashed about, stepping on long gowns and howling for Lone Star beer. He asked a highly placed faculty wife her relative expertise in the cocksucking discipline and generally cleared staid old Maclean House as efficiently as a drunk spade with a switchblade. He left in a snowstorm, at supersonic speeds and in a rental car charged to my American Express card. The car was found abandoned in midtown Manhattan, long on traffic tickets and short on operable parts. Jerry Jeff's explanation was that he couldn't remember being in a car that night. No, Dub need tell me but very little of old Scamp Walker.

But he was saying, "And after these rodeo cowboys beat Jacky Jack up--I mean, stomped a mudhole in his ass--he lay there in a buncha broken furniture and looked up through the blood and said, 'Y'all ain't so fuckin' tough. I been beat up worse than this by motorcycle gangs.'"
Elsewhere in the issue, Playboy is somewhat less entertaining. I believe the term popular with younger generations these days is "cringe." Yes, Playboy is inarguably cringe for its helpful "Guide to Black Slang." I'm not making this up, folks--predating Barbara Billingsley's "Excuse me, I speak jive" moment in Airplane by four years, this piece manages to be neither funny nor insightful:

Why do black people talk the way they do? Some linguists (white) answer "Because they have thick lips." Black linguists demur: "Say that again, turkey, and I'll go up 'side yo' head."

...

American Express: A man who suffers premature ejaculation. Used exclusively as a put-down for white males. Conversely, a Master Charge is one who has great staying power--that is, all black men. We leave it to your imagination what Diner's Club means.

...

Negro: Formerly a black person. Now any fair-skinned middle-class white man or woman who has every record the Shirelles ever made.

...

tough maracas: Depending on voice pitch, either the highest compliment or the grossest insult that can be directed to those of Hispanic descent. A low-register delivery means praise, a high-pitched "reading" can mean a gang fight. Some of the most accomplished insulters are male singers who are adept at falsetto.
One can only presume Playboy had a negligible African American readership. Yikes.

Somewhat less controversial is an article about various video recorders and video discs newly available on the market. In this era of DVR and streaming-on-demand this doesn't seem like that big a deal, but VCRs were game changers in an era of three channels and no repeats until summer rerun season. These things were crazy expensive until the early 80s and video rentals didn't take off until the mid-80s. Looking over the offerings, I can't help but smile to see a Sony Betamax for $1,260. We had a Betamax in the Blaschke household, until VHS undercut it with a lower price point. I think my mom has a bunch of taped-from-TV Betamax movies stashed away in cabinets somewhere. There's also JVC and Panasonic offerings, which I have no memory of. Both had proprietary tape formats. There's also an early laserdisc player from Phillips and MCA, which is kind of amazing when you realize it predates digital by decades, and an RCA SelectaVision disc player limited to 30 minutes per side. Both disc players retailed for around $500. My, how technology flies!

Several different types of VCR from Playboy November 1976 comparison article

I'm including this cartoon from the issue because it made me laugh. Most of the Playboy cartoons thus far have fallen flat with me. The goofy pun humor on display is my kind of tomfoolery.

Cartoon of Renaissance woman holding fish and man saying What did you expect to find in a codpiece

Now Playing: The Kinks The Road
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Friday, May 10, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Warning: The following contains concentrated 1980s. Proceed with caution.

In 1979, the disco group Lipps Inc. released the album Mouth to Mouth. Some months later, after the calendar had flipped over to 1980, "Funkytown" came out as the second single from the album and became a monster hit around the world, spending four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. alone. In any sane decade, that should've been the end of it. But this is the 1980s we're talking about, where common sense and good taste sledom entered the picture. Enter the Australian New Wave band, Pseudo Echo, the members of which collectively decided that it'd be a good idea to cover a disco song from just five years prior. And history proves they were right: Pseudo Echo's cover of "Funkytown" was also a worldwide hit (although it only made it to No. 6 on Billboard). I was there. I witnessed cover bands at dances cover the hit cover of the original. As someone on YouTube so eloquently put it, "Only in the 80's could an 80's band do a cover of another 80's song and make it more 80's."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bruce Willis.

Now Playing: The Kinks Low Budget
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Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Reading Playboy for the articles: November 1977

Playboy November 1977
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: sigh. Okay, I will confess that this specific issue is the one that put the idea of revisting these old back issues for the editorial content into my mind. I mean, Billy Carter? The ultimate 1970s D-list celebrity scored a coveted Playboy interview? That. Is. Astonishing. My first decade of life was lived through the 1970s, and I remember Billy Carter as the president's idiot brother who went broke with a beer company. Neither of which, in hindsight, are true. A little digging revealed that Billy never ran a beer company, he only endorsed a novelty brand at one point. And he wasn't in the craft brew vanguard, either--he drank Pabst because it was cheap, and would happily trade that for anything cheaper. He also graduated from Emory, which isn't exactly a diploma mill. Back in the day, Billy earned a reputation as a type of redneck sage, bluntly telling it like it is with back country wisdom that left those on the receiving end steaming over his lack of diplomacy. In reality, I think Billy was just a mean drunk. He eventually went into rehab but only a few years sober cancer claimed him.

Billy Carter, Playboy November 1977
None of which is in the Playboy interview. Because there is no Playboy interview. In a duplicitous bait-and-switch, Playboy offers an article on Billy Carter, a cobbled-together hodgepodge written by Roy Blount Jr., vignettes and sound bites taken from a dozen different appearances by Billy and snatches of conversations with his family. The cover certainly doesn't promise a formal interview, but that is absolutely implied--especially given the fact this issue hit the newsstands exactly one year after the issue featuring brother Jimmy Carter's famed interview. It's a cheap stunt, is what it is, one that only reenforces the perception of Billy as cross between backwoods truth-teller and bumpkin beer-swiller. By the end, there's barely any new insight into his character than what we began with, although the following section began to approach something of substance:

"When did you get over being prejudiced?" I asked him the first time we talked. I assumed that he had gotten over it, since Miss Lillian and Jimmy said they had and since Billy had sued the members of the public school board to try to require them to send their children to public schools instead of to priveate segregated schools. "I'm still prejudiced, I guess," he said. "It would still bother me for my daughter to marry a black man."

...

Billy undoubtedly makes a point of avoiding anything resembling a lofty liberal pronouncement. After I got to know him better, though, he confided, "You're the first one I've ever told this. Why I left the city council. I ran in the first place to change the vote against me getting a beer license. I won and got the license and then I told everybody I was going to run again. So nobody else qualified against this black man. He was running for my post and everyone figured I'd beat him. The, when it was too late for anybody else to qualify, I withdrew and he got on. It was a flim-flam deal. I figured it was time the blacks got some representation."
Wow. I wouldn't consider that ethical behavior, but it is... interesting. My take is that Billy was more self-aware than he liked to admit. He wasn't able to overcome his ingrained racism on a personal level, give or take, but made efforts to overcome it on a societal level. If nothing else, he marched to the beat of his own drummer.

Which brings us to the actual interview in the issue, with Henry Kyemba. He's not exactly a household name these days, but at the time had freshly defected as a cabinet member from the brutal, murderous regime of dictator Idi Amin in Uganda. The interview is harrowing, to say the least:

Playboy: When did it become apparent that Amin's killings were not individual cases but mass murder?

Kyemba: That was not until late 1972

Playboy: And you started to see bodies at that stage?

Kyemba: Everybody started to see bodies. There were so many that they couldn't be buried, so they were dumped into the Nile. The main road that connects Kampala and Jinja passes over the River Nile. Thousands of people passed that place every day. Time and again, you would find bodies floating down from the source of the Nile, through the dam, and piling up in the still waters on one side. There was a boat on full-time duty removing the bodies. You would find people physically lifting those rotten, ballooned-out bodies from the river.

Playboy: Why do you think they were thrown into the river rather than into the lake?

Kyemba: That was one of the stupid things that Amin's boys did. Obviously, they thought that by dumping them into the river they would be eaten quickly by the crocodiles. They did not realize that once they dumped the bodies in such numbers, the crocodiles could not eat them all. Nor did they think that the bodies would be floating, all puffed up, to the surface. I saw bodies that were left on the riverside for days, because people became hardened to the sight. Then Amin announced on the Ugandan radio that all those bodies must be removed by teh police as soon as they appeared. He accused the police of being lazy because they were not removing them fast enough!
Henry Kyemba Playboy November 1977 interview

Other thoughts: This issue contains Playboy's inaugural college basketball preview, accompanied by a ridiculously distorted two-page spread of the 1977-78 pre-season All-American team. I mean, what were they thinking to elongate the photo to make the already-tall players look taller? I mean, that's something a high school newspaper would do. It is interesting to note a very young Larry Bird second from the right, long before his glory years with the Boston Celtics. The pre-season top 10 is mostly a mix of the usual suspects with a couple of outliers sprinkled in for interest: 1) North Carolina, 2) Kentucky, 3) San Francisco, 4) Marquette, 5) Purdue, 6) Arkansas, 7) Kansas State, 8) Alabama, 9) Minnesota, 10) Notre Dame.

Playboy November 1977 college basketball preview
Finally, this ad. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, what the hell is going on with this ad? This is the stuff of nightmares, people. Is there any doubt why Dingo boots pretty much came and went with the 70s? The only good thing I thing I can say about a magazine that contains an interview focused on Idi Amin and an ad featuring a three-legged O.J. Simpson is that both of the men in question are now dead. I suppose that is unkind to Simpson, as the evidence would suggest that he killed fewer people that Amin.

three-legged O.J. Simpson Dingo boots ad from Playboy November 1977

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Friday, May 03, 2024

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I'm not going to pretend Bruce Willis had the strongest voice or that his 1980s album The Return of Bruno was anything other than a vanity project. But the man had good taste in music and recorded (mostly) songs that suited his limited range. And there's no denying he looks like he's having a blast in the video for "Young Blood." I still own this album today and I'm not about to get rid of it.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Marcia Ball.

Now Playing: Les Baxter Ports of Pleasure
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