Maury Z. Levy

Archive for the ‘Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989)’ Category

Pete Rose: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

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Twenty-some years ago, Peter Edward Rose was just another tough kid growing up in the river wards of Cincinnati. He was a tough kid who liked girls and fast and fancy cars and baseball. Today, at the age of 38, not much has changed about Pete Rose. The girls have turned to women and fast cars are getting more expensive. But Rose, who makes his living–and a very good one, at that–playing baseball, is still tough. And he is still very much a kid.

Rose may play with different toys now–a $4000 fur coat, an $8000 gold-and-diamond watch and a $44,000 car that goes 130 miles an hour–but he hasn’t really changed. Baseball has. The game has become big business and he has grabbed more than his share of the big bucks that go along with it. At an age when the major decision facing most players is whether to become a car salesman or to open a taproom, Rose was faced with the enviable task of choosing from among a slew of major-league teams offering him millions of dollars for starters. And Rose, who had never played a home baseball game outside Cincinnati, picked the Philadelphia Phillies, who would pay him at least $3,200,000 over four years.

But how, many asked, could Rose be worth the money? Well, he packs ball parks. And while, as a technician, he really can’t be ranked up there with the Dave Parkers, the Rod Carews and the Jim Rices, Rose has one very important thing going for him. He has become perhaps the most famous white sports star in the world.

Just last year, a world far beyond baseball watched as Rose look on the seemingly unbreakable record of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio–who hit safely in 56 straight games. In a streak that started in mid-June, Rose scratched, clawed, hustled and bunted his way to one plateau after another. On July 31, 1978, he set a National League mark of 44 straight games. The streak would stop there, but Pete Rose would go on to a White House visit with Jimmy Carter, a highly heralded tour of Japan and commercial deals that would make him millions. And while Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was only a line drive away from his boyhood home, Rose had come a long way.

Rose is the son of a bank employee. His father’s passion for sports rubbed off easily on him. Too small to make it as a football player, he concentrated on baseball. He played hard and tough, but he never had a great deal of natural talent. Luckily, he knew somebody in the business. His uncle was a minor-league scout for his hometown team, the Reds. He talked them into giving the kid a tryout. Rose was impressive enough to be signed to a minor-league contract. He spent three years riding the battered buses of thefarm teams. The Reds finally called him up in 1963.

That’s when baseball people really started to take notice of this hard-nosed kid who ran to first on a base on balls, the hustling hot-shot who, instead of sliding, dove headfirst into bases. They noticed him enough to vote him Rookie of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

The William F. Buckley Interview: Style Meets Substance

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on February 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

When he was six years old, William E Buckley, Jr., wrote the King of England that it was high time for that country to get serious about paying its World War One debt. It would not be the last time a Buckley barb stuck in a high-placed craw.

The sixth of ten children of a Texas-born lawyer-turned­millionaire-oilman, Buckley grew up on the family’s rural Connecticut estate learning that no person, no thought was above challenge.

He first made national news in 1951, when, after his graduation from Yale, his pointed pen took on that institution in the legendary book God and Man at Yale.

In 1955, at age 30, his energies—and much of his money—went into National Review, the right-of-center political journal he still edits. From this platform, Buckley became one of the country’s most eloquent conservatives. He became a prolific writer and tough interviewer (PBS’s. Firing Line). He even ran for mayor of New York—and lost.

Just as his latest novel, Marco Polo, If You Can, was corning out, we spoke with Buckley in the small, Spartan and well-worn Manhattan offices of National Review. Our conversation went like this:

How does it feel to be in fashion again? Politically, that is.

Well, I think it’s reassuring. But I confront the phenomenon with some skepticism. All I know for sure is that Reagan is enunciating a series of positions that I was enunciating before he became a Republican. It’s interesting to me that positions that were generally held to be intolerable in 1964 won a pretty emphatic majority in 1981.

But I view the phenomenon with some skepticism because root changes in public attitudes have not, in my judgment, yet occurred. For instance, you could safely say in 1945 that America was no longer an isolationist country. In fact, you could say that on December 8, 1941. You can’t safely say today that America has become a 
conservative country.

Is it too early to see a real change in the mood of the country?

What you see in the mood of the country is a very profound skepticism about the notion that you can improve substantially the quality of life at no 
apparent expense to yourself. I 
think there has been a real intuitive rejection of the kind of nostrums I associate primarily with Lyndon Johnson. Now, this doesn’t mean that most people turn to contrary positions, but it does mean that they’re skeptical about the claims of what we know as “liberalism.”

With the Reagans in the White House, there seems to be a lot more interest in dressing well. In the better things in life. Is this something that’s good?

Yes, I think it is. I think history has clearly demonstrated that people in almost any circumstance desire to see their leaders live in other circumstances. This is most vividly—in 
fact, flamboyantly—expressed 
in the great cathedrals that 
were built in the Middle Ages. One can only imagine the kind of levy that must have been raised to build the cathedral at 
Chartres; yet that money was willingly given, and there was a devotional respect paid there to 
the greater glory of God, which 
has its patriotic counterpart in wanting the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to be more magnificent than anything you 
could find in France. Now, it’s true there’s a certain Republican limit inherently felt, and stylistically idealized, beyond which you go only with great danger. As when Nixon committed that terrible Transylvanian atrocity of dressing up his guards. I think that the native good taste of the Reagans would prevent 
them from ever going so far. If 
they did go that far, they would experience rejection. But such rejection would be very different from the kind of criticism we hear from those who got mad because Mrs. Reagan bought more pottery, or whatever.

Considering the economic climate of the country, aren’t the Reagans in fact flouting it? Aren’t they saying, “Screw the poor”?

No, I don’t think so. I think that people do not resent the existence of wealth if they feel that it is not acquired as a result of extortion. There are an awful lot of Americans who found themselves suddenly wealthy when they looked up and found that the house they were living in was worth five times what they paid for it. They found that they had a taste of wealth they didn’t resent. So it is with the universalizing of opportunity, which, I think, tends to 
debunk the obnoxious theory of conspicuous consumption. I think conspicuous 
consumption is offensive not in terms of the value of that which is consumed, but as an exercise in bad taste. The trouble with bad taste, as Stendhal wrote, is that it can lead to murder.

In a sense, then, perhaps Reagan’s personal style makes him a more commanding figure. It seems as though the Jimmy Carter, Hey­I’m-one-of-you-guys, roll-up-the-sleeves, style of being President doesn’t quite work.

Poor Jimmy Carter had a kind of a paradoxical mission. To make the White House God’s Little Acre it had to be plebeian, a little chicken-coopish. He attempted something which was by and large rejected. People thought it kind of 
charming at first, Carter walking back to the White House after the Inauguration. But when it was discovered that he went so 
far as to script the motions he would make 
in order to lift his own suitcase, then people were put off by it.

How would you define personal style?

I think it depends a lot on the individual’s interests. For instance, you have the very flamboyant dresser. In my experience, you don’t mind him at all. On the other 
hand, you have someone else who dresses 
flamboyantly—and you mind him terribly. 
Now, that really has to do with your understanding of people. If you are dealing with someone who is naturally poetic, a 
little bizarre, and he goes around with crazy clothes, you tend to find it charming. If you find, on the other hand, someone seeking to be exhibitionistic, then you are inclined to say, I don’t want to play.

Is Tom Wolfe in there somewhere?

Oh, absolutely. Tom Wolfe is totally charming. Now, he recognizes that there is an outrageous aspect about his dress; that he is perforce viewed as an exhibitionist. But it isn’t exhibitionism, in my judgment, that causes him to dress the way he does, but, rather, bizarre sartorial impulses.

How would you describe your personal style?

Well, I’m an unimaginative dresser. I never change. In fact, I finally had to have 
my ties custom-made. I never thought I’d 
have a tie made in my life; but I did—about 
seven or eight years ago—when I couldn’t get ties that were as narrow as I would consent to wear. And at that point I found myself wondering why it was that I cared so much about clothes that I’d actually go and have them made. I felt I was being dragooned by public fashion into either a kind of Haight-Ashbury style or a sort of flashy Carnaby Street style. I don’t like to be conscripted by fashion. I think that’s for women. Women are conscripted by fashion. All of us, at one time, were married to a woman who wore a hoop skirt, if she only did it once; and that’s a temptation I think one associates with femininity, not really with masculinity.

There are people who have referred to you as the original preppy. Do you identify with that at all?

Well, I think probably I inherited an Ivy League traditional dress and I sort of obstinately stuck by it. I’m not aware that my own fashions have changed since college. On the other hand, there are certain 
things that are associated with preppy styles that I don’t like at all. Specifically, not wearing socks with moccasins. I just 
don’t understand it. It’s one of the stigmata of preppiness that I simply don’t happen to go in for.

How important are one’s clothes?

Well, as a matter of fact, I found out—
I’m surprised that you’re getting this out of 
me—I found out as recently as three years ago that a well-made suit makes you feel better. I was really astonished. I always thought that my suits were well enough made. They’re mostly from the rack, and modified by tailors. But a charming fellow who ran the syndicate I write for once said to me, “I want you to try this tailor.” So I did. And I really felt better. I was disappointed that the tailor in question is 
nowadays too expensive for me to patronize. He—ridiculously—wants $1000 a suit. Now, that’s high, isn’t it?

And that’s your fanciest suit?

I have one suit that I call my Frank Costello suit, which is reserved for very formal occasions—funerals, mostly, or weddings. I call it my Frank Costello suit 
because Frank Costello years ago was being tried in Baltimore for conspiracy, or whatever, and he walked into his lawyer’s hotel suite at ten in the morning, a couple of hours before the trial was due to start. His lawyer was Edward Bennett Williams. Costello was wearing one of those million-
dollar Italian silk things, and Ed said, 
”Frank, get your ass out of here and go down and buy a $40 suit and come back.” So, meekly, Costello went out. About 15 
minutes later there was a light knock on the door. Williams said, “Come in,” and it was Costello, dressed in his same billion-dollar suit, and he said,” Ed, I’d rather fry.”

Do Democrats dress any differently from the way Republicans do?

I think, at least in the circles I move in, they tend to be a little tweedier.

Republicans or Democrats?

Democrats. For instance, if you’re looking at a parking lot and you find lots of 
Volvos and lots of Volkswagens, it’s more likely to be a Democratic function. I think that generality is probably true. And since 
most academics are Democrats, then one tends to think of them in terms of the tweedy set.

A little bit more about presidential style. Where did Nixon fall in terms of personal style? He was very rarely seen in anything but a suit.

I think Nixon was never comfortable in slouchy dress. I was with him once, in very 
private circumstances, with him and his 
Cuban friend.

Do you mean Rebozo?

Yes, Bebe Rebozo—a very nice man—and we were in that little hideaway place he 
had in Walker Cay. We had dinner, and Nixon cooked the steaks himself, and 
served drinks, and he was wearing the kind of informal clothes that you might come up with if you said to yourself, “My project tomorrow will be to decide what informal 
clothes should look like.” There was no sense in him of having grown up with those clothes. There is with Reagan. With Nixon I always felt that it was one more challenge. One more assignment.

When you travel, do you notice any difference between European and American men? Are Europeans more stylish?

No. I would say on the whole the average European is less well dressed, less imaginatively dressed than the average American.

Now maybe I say that because I spend so 
much time in Switzerland. But I think it’s true. That may be because America is the country that, by universal acknowledgment, has developed a certain kind of sartorial finesse in off-the-rack clothing. Probably most Italians, most Frenchmen would not be able to go into a store and find 500 different styles and sizes.

Do you buy your own clothes?

No, my wife buys my clothes. I haven’t
had a session with that tailor since I received the shock of what he is now charging, so I haven’t actually ordered a suit for three years.

Does she buy them because you don’t want to be bothered with it, or because you like her taste better?

No, she knows what I like.

Is there one item of clothing that you will not give up for anything?

I discovered 20 years ago the joys of, what do you call it, cutting a shirt so it doesn’t flop way out?

Tapering?

Tapering. Yes. So, I absolutely have to 
have tapered shirts, and Saks used to make them for me for an extra dollar. I feel very strongly about that.

What else?

I feel strongly about buttondown shirts for some reason. I feel strongly about socks that run all the way up the calf.

Who do you consider well dressed?

Somebody once said to me—a woman, a very glamorous, beautiful woman—that Jack Kennedy “must have the most marvelous tailor in the whole world.” I found 
myself noticing his dress for the first time in my life, saying, “My God, he is well dressed.” I had been told that Cary Grant is marvelously dressed; so when I last saw 
him, I took notice that he was.

Some people have pointed out that, in the current administration, Alexander Haig stands out sartorially.

That’s, in part, bearing—you could have a very well-dressed person who is very slouchy in his posture, as I am, for instance, and that kind of ruins the general appearance, but there is something about Al 
Haig’s bearing that sort of stresses the neatness of his costume.

Is there anyone you’ve ever thought you’d like to look like for just one night?

No, no, no. I don’t notice that except in 
women—for instance, in my wife. As a 
matter of fact, she’s one of those fashion Hall of Fame people. So, she dresses very imaginatively, very strikingly, and I enjoy looking at her dresses. But I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention to the way men dress.

Are there certain trends around now that bother you? Do you get upset when you see men walking down Madison Avenue wearing cowboy boots?

Mildly, but—I say mildly, not because it distresses me that people are wearing 
them, but because the only time I tried them I was very uncomfortable. I’m told that they are very comfortable. I happen to have discovered the world’s most comfortable shoe, by the way.

Are you going to share it with us?

I got some Timberland moccasins from Lands’End. And I sent out a dozen pairs to 
people because I just couldn’t bear to keep the news of the existence of this shoe to 
myself. They’re just so comfortable, they’re almost not there. They’re absolutely marvelous. You must get some. They’re up to $65, I noticed recently.

Well, you do pay a price for fashion. But don’t you think there’s a difference between being a fashion plate and being fashionable?

Most definitely. I remember an occasion when I gave a speech at a University of California campus during the Vietnam war. I was advocating a not terribly popular position at the time. Yet I wasn’t booed. In fact, they listened to me very, very 
dutifully, with great concentration.

You mean they didn’t agree with what you were saying, yet they were mesmerized by your personal style.

Yes. I suppose, in that sense, I have always been fashionable.

Raquel Welch: The Playboy Fashion Guide Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm

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There are those who say Raquel Welch is really fantastic-looking for someone who is 42. That’s not true. Raquel Welch is fantastic-looking, period. Though she brushes the compliment aside, she has been called the most beautiful woman in the world. Her vital statistics? She is 5’6″ and has an I.Q. over 140.

She was born in Chicago as Jo-Raquel Tejada, the daughter of a Bolivian-born immigrant who became an engineer. When she was two, the family moved to San Diego and later to La Jolla, where she went to high school. Early on, she was singing and dancing and acting in neigh­borhood theaters. She won a drama schol­arship to San Diego State, where she married her high school sweetheart, Jim Welch. It was a short marriage, which begat two children.

Raquel became a tireless single work­ing mother who fed her kids off bit movie parts. Her first film role of note was in One Million Years B.C., a 1966 epic that wasn’t nominated for much of anything. She went on to do some 30 other films, with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jim Brown. She put together a nightclub act, did a few TV specials, yet many critics still didn’t take her seriously.

Then, late last year, her husband and business partner, French journalist Andri Weinfeld, helped land her a job on Broadway. She replaced Lauren Bacall for a short stint in the Tony Award-winning Woman of the Year. The critics raved and Bacall ranted. Raquel Welch was to be taken very seriously indeed.

We spoke with her in New York as she was nailing down the deal that would return her to Broadway. She wore leather and suede. We wore a dazed look. She was breathtaking and bright. After we finished a long talk about America’s role in El Salvador, we went on to other important topics. The conversation went like this:

PLAYBOY: What’s attractive in a man? What do you notice first?

WELCH: His face. It says so many things, even before the man himself says anything. Then I’ll watch the way a man moves, the way he carries himself. That’s more important than any individual part.

PLAYBOY: And the face is really the only individual part you notice?

WELCH: Well, maybe not just the face. My husband Andre has a great French ass.

PLAYBOY: What’s a French ass?

WELCH: Oh, generally high and round.

PLAYBOY: And what’s an American ass?

WELCH: Low and a bit droopy.

PLAYBOY: Okay, I won’t get up. What role, then, do clothes play? Do you notice what a man is wearing?

WELCH: Yes, I do, but their role depends on the man, Woody Allen, for instance, always looks like clothes are unimportant to him. He gives the impression that he’s making a token effort, but he’s not going to relinquish comfort. He puts incongruous things together—like tennis shoes with a tux—and there’s great humor in that, which says something very definite about personal style. In Woody’s case, it brings out maternal nurturing instincts in most women.

PLAYBOY: And it’s a look, right?   Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Wallace: The Playboy Electronics Guide Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

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[Author’s note: I had the chickenpox the day I did this interview. I was running 103 degree fever and looked like a spotted owl. But, the show goes on.]

During the day, he lives in a glass house. It is a surprisingly small space in a row of cookie-cutter offices. Harry Reasoner is a couple of doors down, Andy Rooney just up the hall from him. He closes the curtain when a visitor comes in, so people walking by can’t see what he’s up to. It’s not that he’s so secretive. Just private.

The office is deep on the West Side of Manhattan. From his window, you can clearly see the swamps of Jersey. And Myron Wallace, who has been known these many years as Mike Wallace, seems comfortable in the small surroundings. He is a modest man. Five of his golden Emmys sit on the lowest row of shelves, almost tucked away in a corner. To make room for the two more he won earlier this year, he’ll have to move some of the many books that crowd the shelves. It is an eclectic collection. “The Joys of Yiddish” sits next to a volume called “My Sex Life.” On the desk, right next to the Royal manual typewriter, is a copy of “Arabs in the Jewish State.” For Mike Wallace, his tweed jacket looking so natural, his sweater vest looking so comfortable, that should be a fast read. The man is a quick study.

He’s done so many things in his profes­sional life, he’s had to be. Before television, he was the announcer of radio’s “Sky King.” In the early Fifties, he did a nightclub broadcast from Chicago’s Chez Paree. He’s even ap­peared in a Broadway play. And that’s not counting the cigarette commercials and the game shows.

His high school yearbook from Brookline, Massachusetts, cited him for debating, prize-speaking, being sports editor of the school paper and captain of the tennis team. He said back then he wanted to be an English teacher, maybe a lawyer.

The son of Russian immigrants, he worked in a grocery store to earn money for college. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939 and quickly landed a $20-a-week job at a radio station in Grand Rapids, where he did some news, some entertainment, and swept up the studios when he was done.

It was in Grand Rapids that he decided he wanted to make his living in electronic journalism. A couple of stations later, he signed on with CBS to do some radio and, finally, some TV.

His nightly interview show, “Night Beat,” soon became all the rage in those pioneering days of television. Wallace quickly gained a reputation as a relentless interviewer, a man who wouldn’t let his subjects off the hook, no matter how important they were. His style, sometimes bordering on pushy penetration, was often criticized by colleagues. But Wallace always asked the right questions—and questioned the right answers.

So it made perfect sense that 13 years ago, when CBS started “60 Minutes,” Wallace became one of the principal reporters. Over the years, he would develop into perhaps the most feared and respected interviewer around. But he remained a very private man, one who would never sit still long enough to be an interviewee.

PLAYBOY GUIDES editor Maury Z. Levy talked Wallace into sitting on the other side of the microphone for once. Levy, a veteran of some probing PLAYBOY interviews with the likes of Pete Rose and Terry Bradshaw, found Wallace to be a somewhat nervous subject—careful of what he said and how he said it. Here’s how their conversation went:

PLAYBOY: Before we talk about your visible role on 60 Minutes, let’s talk about some­thing most people don’t know. In 1968, right around the time 60 Minutes was starting, you thought seriously about the possibility of leaving CBS, of leaving broadcasting. You were offered a job…

WALLACE: In Washington as the press secre­tary to Mr. Nixon. I thought very seriously about it, because I have never lived in Washington and I figured that it would be a fascinating way to learn the Washington scene. I talked to a good many friends and finally decided against it. As I look back on it now, I don’t suppose I would have changed the history of anything. But it could have changed my history some.

PLAYBOY: Did you believe in Nixon at the time? !Flier(‘ had to be something more than just living, in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Bradshaw: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 14, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Satellite.pngThe boots are made of elephant skin. They are almost pure white and in the middle, where they shelter his shins, there is a big black number 12 made from the bellies of a lot of little lizards. Terry Bradshaw lifts the boots up on the coffee table and leans back on the crimson soft velvet couch. “Sometimes,” he says, tilting his suede Stetson back on his balding blond head, “I worry about comin’ off like a dime-store cowboy.”

And with that, Terry Bradshaw, who, at the age of 31, makes about a quarter of a million dollars a year for throwing a football very straight and very hard, starts plunking his $75 guitar. “Y’all join in if you know the words,” he tells his two city-slicker guests. He sings alone:

“‘The heart is a funny thing with a mind all its own. It withers like a garden left unattended and alone. And the thorns of loneliness invade and destroy what they can’t steal. So easy to hurt. But oh so hard to heal.'”
He looks out of place here, his back to a full-length picture window of this sooty steel town of Pittsburgh, a sullen city where the air is grayish brown, the rivers polluted by tiny tugs and the hills alive with the sound of belching smokestacks.

Here, in this unlikely city of champions, the most valuable player in the single most important game in sports sits still in his 17th-floor apartment overlooking the Monongahela River and rests from a long day of hard practice. The stadium where 50,000 fans cheer him is just over his right shoulder, not more than a fly pattern away.

He is sharing the apartment with a dog named Sugar. His wife, known to most people as JoJo Starbuck, the ice skater, is on a nationwide tour for a noodle-soup company. His folks are down home on his ranch in Louisiana, right near where, as a child, he hopped up the hills and slid down the slop.

Bradshaw grew like a Louisiana weed, to over 6’3″ and 200 pounds. When he finished at Louisiana Tech, a neighborhood college he went to because he didn’t think he was good enough to make it at the bigger schools, the people who scout and tout for pro football were calling him the next Joe Namath, a country kid with an arm like a howitzer. They thought so much of him that he was the number-one pick from the college crop that year. But that was a decade ago.

It didn’t come easy for Bradshaw. He came to a team that had played 14 games the year before and won one of them. Many people thought that, as a new quarterback playing in a new stadium, Bradshaw would immediately turn things around for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that wasn’t the case.
“Bradshaw may have a lot in common with this stadium,” owner Art Rooney said that first year. “He’ll be beautiful—when he’s finished.”

Bradshaw played erratically those early years. He was an occasional hero and a frequent goat. Some of his frustrated teammates complained very loudly that he called dumb plays. Dumb was a label that would be picked up by the press and branded on Bradshaw. The country bumpkin. Li’l Abner in football shoes. Read the rest of this entry »

Playboy’s Rolls-Royce Test Drive

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

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For those of you who are economy-minded, the new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, at $109,000, costs slightly less than the average major league baseball player. After our thorough testing of this zippy new sedan, we can heartily recommend that those of you with cash to spare should buy one of these babies. Either that, or 15 Plymouth Horizons.

Our first test of the Silver Spirit was one of acceleration. We took the car from zero to 60. It took 16.95 seconds. A New Zealand boy of 11 has mastered Rubik’s Cube faster. We should note, however, that we did not test the Rolls alone. We made a three-way race of it. And while the Rolls finished a distant second to a ’68 Chevy Nova, it did edge out a one-legged organ grinder drag­ging a dead monkey. So much for the technical stuff.

You obviously don’t buy a Rolls for speed. When you spend that much on a car, you want to go slow enough so people can gawk. Here, then, are some points about the Silver Spirit that we consider really important:

Eight full cattle hides are used to fashion the interior of every Rolls, with the leather coming from animals that graze inside electrified fences, rather than barbed wire, to prevent abrasions and scratches. You wouldn’t want those poor little suckers to get nicked, would you?

The veneer for an entire year’s production of Rolls instrument panels comes from the wood of a single Lombardian walnut tree, keeping the rest of the forest preserved for the animals who will later become bucket seats.

The look of silver on the Rolls grill (it’s really stainless steel) is obtained by five hours of hand polishing. (Now wouldn’t it be easier if they used a rag?) Only 13 men in the world can make the ’81 Rolls grill, which is crafted entirely by hand. (For you technical buffs, that would be 26 hands.)

The Rolls is perhaps the least stealable of all cars. It boasts pickproof electric door locks and an ignition system that locks electrically as soon as the key is removed. Which means the only way to steal the car is to raise it off its front wheels and tow it away. To test the Silver Spirit for stealability, we parked unattended in Central Park for two hours. In that time, 114 attempts were made to steal the car. All were unsuccessful. We were going to docu­ment this with photographs, but four minutes into our picture session, all our cameras were stolen.   Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Cosby: The Playboy Fashion Guide Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 2, 2009 at 4:06 pm

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Bill Cosby is quickly becoming a household face to a whole new generation of television watchers. They’re the kids who were weaned on Fat Albert cartoons; the kids who see Cosby constantly pitching Coca-Cola and Jell-0 and Texas Instruments home computers. To these new kids, he has become America’s most amiable and credit­able commercial spokesman. The ad world is convinced that the Cosby style can sell almost anything.

Actually, Cosby has been a top seller for a long time. He is, without a doubt, the best-selling comedian of all time. Over the years, he’s had 20 albums on the national pop charts. (A new one, “Bill Cosby Himself” was released last fall.) And he continues to pack ’em in and knock ’em dead in Vegas and other live showplaces. The guest host of choice for “The Tonight Show” has combined appearances and en­dorsements bringing in millions each year.

Not a bad track record for a kid who started out setting track records. Cosby (oddly enough, his friends call him Bill, not Cos) grew up in the low-rent housing projects of Philadelphia, where a sense of humor was one of the few things he could. afford. He quickly made a name for himself as a track and field star, and that won him an athletic scholarship to Temple Univer­sity, where he also played some football.

To earn pocket money, he worked in a local cocktail lounge. Between serving drinks, he would crack jokes for customers. He soon took his talent to Greenwich Village coffeehouses, where, in 1963, he was “discovered” and given his first shot on the Carson show. A fast-paced TV career quickly followed highlighted by “I Spy,” “The Bill Cosby Show,” and numerous specials. And Cosby’s fortune rose rapidly with his fame.

Where does he spend all that dough? On cars and cigars—but mostly on clothes. He’s had a personal tailor for almost 20 years now. He just might be the biggest clothes horse in show biz. Clothes, he knows, help make the man and his image. And Cosby’s image, from pudding commer­cials to the Vegas stage, is very carefully orchestrated with his tailor and clothing advisors. We spoke to the man of 1000 suits before a show at the Riviera hotel-casino in Las Vegas. He wore a warmup suit, a long cigar and a big grin as he recounted his early days of sartorial splendor.

PLAYBOY: Do you remember the first suit you ever owned?

COSBY: Ohhhhhh, yeah. Robert Hall. $19.95. I remember because it was a lot of money. It was dark blue and it came with two pair of pants.

PLAYBOY: What was the occasion?

COSBY: It was an Easter suit. It was pur­chased when I was nine years old, but it really fit an 11-year-old. And it wasn’t because I was that big a kid. It was that I was supposed to grow into it. And so there were about three feet of material folded under on the slacks. The seat was taken in so much I felt like I always had a load in my pants.

I always left the jacket unbuttoned and tried to stand cool. And I remember looking into the mirror and seeing what looked like a topcoat with a pair of pants, because the lapels were so wide they took up three quarters of my chest.

PLAYBOY: How old were you when you finally grew into that suit?   Read the rest of this entry »

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