All the Real Girlsby Brandon Edmonds / 10.05.2011
When I reached for the pillar it wasn’t there. My brain relayed ‘pillar’ and ‘lean on it’ – but these were false assurances. So I fell. Fell outside the ladies toilets at the Fez early into the local reboot of Playboy magazine. And, weirdly, I wasn’t embarrassed. Yes I’d had beer. I didn’t feel embarrassed at all. It felt right to fall. My temperament enjoys a good collapse occasionally. Some sort of balance-restoring masochistic due. I was glad my brain lied to me. It would have been a stupid place to stand in any case – outside the ladies toilets at a Playboy party. It’s where Arnold Schwarzenegger probably stood with his minuscule cock out (I read Maria Shriver’s tell-all blog, “Little Orphan Arnie”, religiously) at those wild Hef Mansion parties in the 70s. Suck it! Suck my liddle white schwantzen!
A girl in an orange cocktail dress was so sweet. “It’s happened to me before,” she said, helping me to my feet. Falling at the Fez? Conjuring a phantom pillar? Or was she speaking, metaphysically, for all humanity? I wanted her to smoosh my head against her breasts and sing in my ear. I wanted to punch a hole in the ceiling and Superman us both into the hemisphere. Instead I brushed a permissable zone above her elbow, and deadpanned, “The first thing Buster Keaton ever did was learn how to take a fall.” But the music made her head shake – what? Then a dude, lean as famine, in white slip ons and Cool Hand Luke aviator shades led her away. She didn’t look back.
Lucky for the article, her kind solicitation encapsulates the (admittedly waning) appeal of the Playboy bunny. She was always the ‘girl next door’ – which, I guess, means approachable, available, agreeable. Quick to go fishing with you. Happy to disrobe and get stuck into the Kama Sutra after doing the dishes. A beaming and banal male wish for supportive, up-for-it, uncomplicated good times – Hugh’s mother basically, and really is this not one of the most tamely Oedipal and self-revealing of Business Empires (along with Branson’s Virgin)? All that breast mania.
Playboy Clubs, which flourished 50 years ago, were always less seedy than personable – full of smiles and ‘class’ – a faintly pathetic mid-Western version of European sophistication. Harmless, false and strained. Today the whole brand seems a bit sad. You only have to see Hefner (swaddled in a burgundy velvet gown like Dracula) propped between yet another helping of pneumatic blondes to think of the Death Drive – that psychic motor in us that refuses (heroically, terrifyingly) to yield to time, fatigue or finitude. Isn’t he over it by now?
A Playmate recently described sex with the horndog scion in a tell-all book about Bunny life. Hef lies vaguely tumescent in bed with his pajamas around his ankles while young blondes line up. Each straddles him in turn and works his exhausted member into her, then feigns yelping before he indicates with an eyebrow she ought to dismount and make way for the next aspirant star-fucker a long way from home. This is where a life in thrall to male fantasy has stranded him. It may be heaven, it may be hell. Still, the magazine always championed great writing (Mailer, Updike, Roth) and before the glut of online smut was the go-to masturbatory aid for generations. Whether South Africa needs it or wants it has obviously been market-tested and found affirmative to the extent that I’m here at the bar at the launch. Which is dreadful. Poorly conceived, underprepared, badly staffed. A rip off trading on a brand name that ought to have been turned into rabbit stew by the new media.
Ordinarily an abrasive break-down of the people present would follow. A Mahala bear swipe at mindless partiers and hedonistic conformists. To that end, I offer key terms to fashion your own descriptive passage (a kind of lexical tool-kit for haters): over-compensation, high heels, eyebrows, teeth, tits, emptiness, denial, whiteness, dress shoes, teased hair, eye shadow, gym contracts, cheapness, machine-made beats, soullessness, Model C, bourgeoisie, dumb DJ glee, lasers, holograms, sexual difference, sports cars, VIP, black bouncer, coat rack, tall women, shoulders, good looking, bad looking, more blondes, smoke, and, all mine, jagged chasms of loathing.
Later in the lobby of that hotel opposite the Convention centre, where I escaped the launch to unwind and think about treating myself to a room, a girl I’ve just met tells me she has claustrophobia. “I get it bad in lifts,” she says. “I’ll have to walk up the stairs.” She tells me her boyfriend is “in demolition” and that she’s in love with him but her parents don’t approve. She is forlorn in the lobby light. Outside, we bounce her last smoke on a stone bench in the forecourt, and hug goodbye. In her wake, I’m left marveling at women’s personalities. How singular women are. Her claustrophobia, her defiant love. She is another person in the world. Not a fucking fantasy. A bunny. Fuck Hugh. So much more than a caricature. A girl ascending the stairs in a hotel after midnight.
*All images sourced Wikimedia Commons.