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SHEILA E. makes her Playboy Jazz Festival debut!

Sheila E. - Belle Of St Mark

Sheila E. – Belle Of St Mark

 

SHEILA E. made her Playboy Jazz Festival debut in 2012 and electrified the crowd with a performance that won her a standing ovation. Sheila debuted as the leader of her own band, and tore it up with an galvanizing performance that featured many of her hits along with a retinue of sequined bikini-clad Brazilian dancers that strutted on to the stage in vibrantly colored full-feathered headdresses. Her fiery performance stopped the show and brought the crowd to its feet for one of the longest standing ovations ever seen at the Festival, leaving no doubt Sheila E. is a star in her own right. It’s still “A Glamorous Life”.

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

 

In his debut performance at the 1996 Playboy Jazz Festival, internationally acclaimed singing legend Tony Bennett proved he has not only bridged the generation gap, but as the New York Times put it, “He has demolished it.” Bennett’s vocal counterpoint—in a surprise duet with world-renowned jazz singer Joe Williams—clearly demonstrated why Bennett is a legendary star with multi-generational appeal.

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Around the World in 50 Years: Al Podell’s Adventure to Every County on Earth

Albert Podell - Around the World in 50 Years, My Adventure to Every Country on Earth

Albert Podell – Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth

This is the inspiring story of an ordinary guy who achieved two great goals that others had told him were impossible — first by setting a record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world — in the course of which he blasted his way out of minefields, survived a breakdown atop the Peak of Death, came within seconds of being lynched in Pakistan, and lost three of the five men who started with him, two to disease, one to the Vietcong.
After that — although it took him 47 more years — the author set another record by going to every country on earth. He achieved this by surviving riots, revolutions, civil wars, trigger-happy child soldiers, voodoo priests, robbers, pickpockets, corrupt cops, and Cape buffalo. He went around, under, or through every kind of earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, volcanic eruption, snowstorm, and sandstorm that Nature threw at him. He ate everything from old camel meat and rats to dung beetle and the brain of a live monkey. And he overcame attacks by crocodiles, hippos, anacondas, giant leeches, flying crabs — and several beautiful girlfriends who insisted that he stop this nonsense and marry them.

It’s a remarkable and meaningful tale of quiet courage, dogged persistence, undying determination, and the author’s uncanny ability to extricate himself from one perilous situation after another — and return with some of the most memorable, frightening, and hilarious adventures you have ever read.    ###

You can order a copy of Around the World in 50 Years by clicking here

You can read more about Albert Podell on his website by clicking here

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Back by popular demand, Patty Farmer and Lainie Kazan.

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan may be the only woman who launched a business career by posing in the all-together for Playboy magazine!  By 1970, she was a headliner who had already had a vast experience in a wide range of entertainment media – from three shows on Broadway (The Happiest Girl in the World, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl), starred in nightclubs (like the Persian Room), had recorded five long-playing albums of her own, and starred on top-rated TV variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dean Martin Show;  in fact, in her December 1968 Sunday night appearance (in which she sang her famous Judy Garland medley of “The Trolley Song” and “Gotta Have Me Go with You”), Ed Sullivan took a particular delight in telling his vast audience that her father was Russian and her mother was Turkish (both parents were Jewish).  Lainie herself was not only exotic, but as many observers have pointed out, whether on TV, in a club, an album, or even in a photo, she always seemed a little bit dangerous.

Lainie Smiles

Lainie Smiles

Lainie launched a long relationship with Playboy enterprises when she posed nude in the October 1970 issue of the magazine; the result of a photo session that transpired in the illustrious Plaza Hotel—Lainie performed at the hotel’s legendary Persian Room as well as living at the hotel.  (In the tradition of the time, there was no full-frontal nudity yet, but she wasn’t hiding much.) That one particular modeling job would launch a vast cause-and-effect. It cemented her ongoing, very productive collaboration with the Playboy brand – as she told us, within five years, she would be the only artist – impresario  to open her own room-within-a-room in the Playboy Club circuit – that happened when “Lainie’s Room” opened in the Los Angeles Playboy in 1975 and then again in the New York club a few seasons later.

lainie kazan body & soul

Another collateral benefit was for comic book readers and fans of the superhero auteur Jack Kirby; not long before, the widely-praised artist and writer had switched allegiances from his long-standing job at Marvel comics (where he had played a key role in the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, and dozens of other iconic creations) to the company’s arch-competitor, DC comics. His most dramatic creation was a whole universe of new characters, which he called “The Fourth World,” at the centerpiece of which was a “super group” he called the New Gods. The first of these New Gods to star in his own title was “Mister Miracle” (aka “Scott Free”) and in issue four of that series, Mister Miracle’s love interest was introduced; rather than a demure gal Friday like Superman’s Lois Lane, the new girl god on the block was “Big Barda,” a highly imposing six feet of both pure muscle and sheer sex appeal.  She went around pummeling bad guys in Asgard-ian like body armor, but Kirby went out of his way, in her first two appearances (Mister Miracle #4 October 1971 and #5 November-December 1971) to show her in a bikini-like get up as well.  It was no surprise to anyone when Kirby eventually admitted that he was a Playboy reader and the physical image of Big Barda was directly based on Lainie’s image from the October 1970 issue.

Liza Minnelli with Husband and Lainie Kazan

Liza Minnelli with her husband and Lainie Kazan

Thus the image of herself in the buff would have vast consequences and many rewards for Lainie. But, ironically, those rewards were not monetary – at least not immediately so.  Lainie told us that it simply never occurred to her to ask for any kind of payment for her services in posing.  To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the Lainie we know, but then of course, we didn’t know her back then.  From the looks of those images – both in Playboy and Mister Miracle – we wish that we had!

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You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Julie Wilson at the Copa Part 2

Julie Wilson at the Copa Part 2:

Julie & Frank

 

Phil Silvers Julie Wilson Bilko 1958 at the Copa

Phil Silvers Julie Wilson Bilko 1958

 

Julie continued to work at the Copa for roughly two years.  It was during that time that she made connections with several show business icons who would become longtime friends and supporters, including both Frank Sinatra and Phil Silvers.  The big song that Julie was doing, as part of the ensemble, in the Spring and Summer of 1946, was a South American-styled novelty titled “The Coffee Song.”

“And there was a boy singer, with me too,.  We introduced ‘They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil.’ That was our big song. And Sinatra came in and he loved that song, and he recorded it and made a million.” (Sinatra famously recorded it twice, in 1946 as a 78 RPM single for Columbia Records,  and again in 1961 for his album Ring-a-Ding-Ding.)

“The Coffee Song” would be the most famous number to emerge from Julie’s tenure at the Copa, but the single most memorable incident is, in fact, one of the most famous nights in the history of American nightclubs.  In September, 1946, the big opening of the Fall was set to be the team of Phil Silvers and “Rags” Ragland (real name: John Lee Morgan Beauregard Ragland).  As is well known, Silvers, who went on to a long career on Broadway and television, was a fast talking, highly-verbal comic; Ragland’s style was contrastingly slower and more physical.  They fell into the familiar vaudeville pattern of a sharpie and a stooge.

A lot was riding on the team’s September 1946 opening at the Copa, but to everyone’s horror, Ragland died unexpectedly of uremia only about two weeks prior.  Silvers had decided to go on as a solo act, but was nervous and frightened without his partner.  He asked his longtime friend Frank Sinatra to help, but Sinatra was contractually obligated to stay in Hollywood, where he was filming his latest MGM movie, titled It Happened in Brooklyn (despite the title, it was actually being shot in Culver City, California). At the last minute, Sinatra, who was already perpetually in trouble with MGM for acting like he had a mind of his ow—in those days, the movie studios essentially owned all the actors they had under contract, who never questioned the orders they were given— decided to play hooky from Hollywood.  He unexpectedly hopped a plane to New York, and presented himself to Phil Silvers the afternoon of the opening  as the funnyman’s new stooge.

MGM was horrified at first, but Sinatra’s surprise pitching in to help two pals, one living and one departed, was a bonanza of positive publicity – the whole country was buzzing about Silvers and Sinatra at the Copa.  Most of these details are recounted in several biographies of Sinatra, including James Kaplan’s wonderful The Voice.  But, surprisingly, all the written works that we’ve consulted somehow neglected to mention that Julie Wilson was right in the middle of the entire incident.

She remembers it well: “And then, it came the opening night for Phil Silvers, and Rags Ragland died, and Sinatra flew in and didn’t tell anybody–showed up to be his sidekick. Isn’t that nice?   I was there. And Frank said, “C’mon Julie, we’re going to do a song together, the three of us.” So there we were –Phil Silvers, Frank and me as the girl singer.  I still remember the song,…” At this point in our interview, Julie started singing to us: “‘I’ve flown around the world…I can’t get started, with you.’ I was so thrilled I could hardly talk.”

This was hardly the end of Julie’s association with either Silvers or Sinatra: in 1958, she had a highly memorable guest appearance on the Phil Silvers Show, aka You’ll Never Get Rich, aka Sergeant Bilko.  (This will be the subject of a subsequent blog, yes.) Her other, most memorable encounter with Sinatra happened around 1950.  “It was in London I had been in a little eating place, and they had a kid who played piano and wrote songs, Carroll Coates.”  That’s where she heard the songwriter doing what would be his most famous number, “London By Night,” and she started singing it at her own shows.  “I was working in a fancy saloon and Sinatra brought Ava Gardner in to see my show, and they were very nice, and he said, ‘I’d like to get a copy of “London By Night.'”  Of course, Carroll was glad to give it to him!  Sinatra wound up recording that song on three different occasions in 1950, 1957, and 1962 – one of the few songs to earn that honor, and to this day it’s Carroll’s best-known work.

Julie stresses that the whole Copa incident was typical of Sinatra.  “He was kind. Sinatra was a very kind guy. You know, he’d show up when people were in need. He was a very nice guy. So I felt very lucky—yeah, I got to do that one song with him.”

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Fashion: Now & Then

PATTY FARMER’S special guest blogger for April addresses a subject most of us can relate to—FASHION!!

Nicole LaMoreaux, from LIM College, is the organizer of LIM’s annual Fashion: Now and Then Conference.

 

Fashion: Now & Then
by Nicole LaMoreaux, Reference & Instruction Librarian – LIM College

 

Fashion

Fashion

 

Since 2011, LIM College’s Adrian G. Marcuse Library has been proud to host the pioneering Fashion: Now & Then conference, in which participants discuss the past, present, and future uses of global fashion information.

 

More than 200 students, academicians, and professionals gathered for the 2014 edition of Fashion: Now & Then, which was held in October at LIM College’s East 53rd Street Townhouse and our Maxwell Hall building on East 45th Street in Manhattan. Titled “From Antiquity to Visionary,” the conference included a preview of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute records, which will be open for study this spring.

 

Presenters were drawn from the fashion industry, libraries, archives, academic institutions, publishers, collectors, and museums throughout the world to represent a full range of expertise. An amazing array of colleges and universities, cultural institutions, and fashion businesses and organizations were represented, including Cornell University, Yale University, New York University, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and Conde Nast.

 

After a Thursday night welcome reception and book signing with Holly Price Alford, author of Who’s Who in Fashion, 6th edition, the presentations began on Friday morning. The conference’s opening keynote speaker was Zach Davis, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Stylitics, the largest digital closet platform on the web. Mr. Davis is also a member of LIM College’s Fashion Industry Advisory Board. His talk focused on technology’s impact on the fashion industry. The following day, the Ron Knoth Scholarship Lecturer, Steve Shapiro, who is President of Schwartz & Benjamin Footwear and also a member of LIM College’s Fashion Industry Advisory Board, spoke about how technology has influenced the accessories market.

 

Several LIM College faculty members also presented their work at the conference, including Gayathri Banavara, Janice Everett, Dr. Kenneth Kambara, and Dr. Nicole Kirpalani. Other highlights included “How About a Kiss?” a presentation that examined advice literature for women and girls from the early 20th century to the 1970s, from the Schlesinger Library Collections of the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, and “Sheer Audacity – The Innovation of Pantyhose 1959-1969,” which explored how fashion, technology, and culture can merge to move society forward.

 

Chanel

Chanel

 

Fashion: Now & Then has become the authoritative source and go-to annual event for fashion librarians and archivists. Given that LIM College boasts a unique, specialized collection focusing on the history of the fashion business, we are in a perfect position to bring together professionals from throughout the globe and lead the charge to move the collection of fashion information into the future.
The fifth annual Fashion: Now & Then conference will be heldThursday, October 22 through Saturday, October 24, 2015. This year’s theme is “Passé, Presente, Mirai.” We look forward to presentations that will demonstrate how fashion information and the global reach of the fashion industry have evolved over time and will continue to do so in the future.
Presentation topics will include one or more of the following in relation to fashion or style: archives, blogs, books, business, collection development, collectors, designer archives, digital archives, digital collections, digitization projects, ephemera, fashion analytics, fashion forecasting, fashion history, fashion studies, film, librarians, libraries, magazines, mapping & data visualization, marketing, material culture, merchandising, museums, new media, oral history, patrons, photography, preservation, print & non-print media, product development, rare books, retail, social media, special collections, street style, textiles, and trend reporting.

More information regarding proposal submissions will be available in April. In the meantime, for more information on Fashion: Now & Then, please visit our blog at http://fashionnowandthen.blogspot.com/,or if you have questions about the conference please email proposals@limcollege.edu

 

Photos courtesy of the Adrian G. Marcuse Library and LIM College Archives.

 

About LIM College

LIM College, founded in 1939, is focused exclusively on the study of business and fashion, offering an MBA program with concentrations in Fashion Management and Entrepreneurship, MPS programs in Fashion Merchandising & Retail Management, Fashion Marketing, Visual Merchandising, and Global Fashion Supply Chain Management, a BS degree in International Business, bachelor’s degrees in Fashion Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, Marketing, and Management, and associate degrees in Fashion Merchandising.LIM College provides a well-rounded education through the combination of in-class instruction and required internships. Located in four buildings in Manhattan — the nation’s fashion and business capital – LIM College gives students vast opportunities for hands-on experience and professional development. Alumni have gone on to excel at top companies, including The Jones Group, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Chanel, and Macy’s.

 

About The Adrian G. Marcuse Library and LIM College Archives
The Adrian G. Marcuse Library houses a unique, specialized collection, focusing on the fashion industry and LIM College’s major areas of study in a variety of formats (books, magazines, DVDs, e-books, electronic databases). The LIM College Archives consists of three major collections: LIM College Records, Special Collections, and Rare Books. The mission of the LIM College Archives is to identify, collect, organized, describe, preserve and make accessible the enduring records of LIM College and materials related to the fashion industry.

 

Fashion Show

Fashion Show

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Julie Wilson at the Copa Part 1:

Julie Wilson starting her song by pretending to read the Kinsey Report

Julie Wilson starting her song by pretending to read the Kinsey Report

There were supper clubs and there were supper clubs.  And they don’t exist anymore.  What they call a club today has almost no connection with the legendary supper clubs of the great years.  There were the big, fancy rooms for high rollers, like the Copacabana and the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel  just across the street, and the jazz clubs like Birdland, Basin Street East, and the Village Vanguard (although originally it also had folk singers and comedians in addition to jazz), and the more intimate nights spent at small cabaret rooms, like Upstairs at the Downstairs, where the audience was poorer but somehow more exclusive – that was where you went if you wanted to impress your date with your taste rather than your money.  But all of these venues were more akin to a Broadway revue than anything you’ll find in Supper clubs today; today you just get one singer or specific show for 70-80 minutes; from the 1940s to the 1960s, you got a whole show, multiple singers, comics, dancers, and a star headliner.  (Even the jazz clubs offered multiple acts in a single show.)  Like the old Cotton Club in the pre-war days, the Copa particularly aimed to give customers a show to compete with what you could see on Broadway, and not only that, the top-flight supper clubs offered the four D’s as well: dinner, drinks, dancing, and dress-up.

Two clubs that emerged around the early war years were the Copacabana on 60th Street, right off Fifth Avenue, and the Latin Quarter, which opened in the site that  had been the Times Square Cotton Club in 1942.  Our great friend Julie Wilson was a part of both of those establishments, which was around the time she first arrived in town from her native Nebraska – years away from being the legend that she is today.  Around 1945, Julie got a job at the Latin Quarter, singing in the chorus.  Normally when you think of a chorus in a nightclub, you think of a line of dancing girls; but this was a singing chorus.  It seems like a distant memory that some nightclubs were so well-appointed that they actually could hire a mixed choir to sing behind the star vocalist.  And that was Julie’s first major job, not long after she landed in New York, New York.

After working for a few months, she was hired away from the Latin Quarter, to do essentially the same job at a higher salary by the Copacabana. “Well, who wouldn’t?  Wouldn’t you? I mean, for fifty dollars more?  She told us, “You worked seven days a week. You did two shows a night. It kept you off the streets. Ha!”

Julie’s first memory of The Copa is the way that the shows were directed and choreographed by Doug Coudy: “The guy that was our leader and our coach. He’d say, ‘Alright. Put your shoulders back and down. And keep your posture.  I’ll never forget.” She later added, “The chorus girls had a little routine. They were real good dancers.  Doug was very nice to us.  But he was a nut about posture—the correct movements and all that.  He’d say ‘shoulders back and down!’ So we all developed good posture. I passed that on to so many girls. They’d say, ‘How did you get that good posture?’ I said, ‘Somebody told me what to do!  Take a deep breath. Put your shoulders back and down.’ That’s it. For life.”

Julie Wilson 1956

Julie Wilson 1956

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

 

The southern comedian, Lonnie Shorr—whose delivery has often been compared in the tradition of Will Rodgers—worked the Playboy circuit for two straight years. He told us, “I’m glad I did! It was a great learning experience and an opportunity to perfect your act —although you never really reach perfection.

 

“I found my niche working for Playboy because you did so many shows for them. It was a ‘floating‘ schedule because usually you did two shows a night. But if the last show had an attendance of fifteen percent of the room capacity, you had to do another show! In other words, if the room sat a hundred people and you had fifteen people in the audience—you did another show. So theoretically, you could be doing a lot of shows!

 

Lonnie Short and Juliet Prowse

Lonnie Short and Juliet Prowse

 

“One thing about Playboy that was different from the way things are today is that you couldn’t use four letter words. Nobody did that. If you did, you had an unfavorable report written about you. This report was sent to the company headquarters in Chicago, and if you received too many bad write-ups you were dropped from the circuit, and no one wanted that. There were guys that were a little suggestive, but no cursing.

 

“The Playboy Clubs were one of the few places we worked that had standards, very high standards for everyone—the staff, the Bunnies, and the entertainers. The other day, I had a guy from one of our local newspapers ask me about the entertainment scene today, and I told him I thought that the  Playboy principle of entertainment was what they needed today in some of these other clubs.

 

The Playboy Clubs always had two acts—once in awhile they’d have three acts in the bigger clubs. It was a place where you could go and see a show and, at that time the prices were really nominal –then you could go downstairs and listen to some music while actually talking to the person you were with. That’s the kind of place we could use nowadays.”

 

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Lainie Kazan

lainie kazan body & soul

Lainie Kazan – Body & Soul

Lainie Kazan may be the only woman who launched a business career by posing in the all-together for Playboy magazine!  By 1970, she was a headliner who had already had a vast experience in a wide range of entertainment media – from three shows on Broadway (The Happiest Girl in the World, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl), starred in nightclubs (like the Persian Room), had recorded five long-playing albums of her own, and starred on top-rated TV variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dean Martin Show;  in fact, in her December 1968 Sunday night appearance (in which she sang her famous Judy Garland medley of “The Trolley Song” and “Gotta Have Me Go with You”), Ed Sullivan took a particular delight in telling his vast audience that her father was Russian and her mother was Turkish (both parents were Jewish).  Lainie herself was not only exotic, but as many observers have pointed out, whether on TV, in a club, an album, or even in a photo, she always seemed a little bit dangerous.

Lainie Smiles

Lainie Smiles

Lainie launched a long relationship with Playboy enterprises when she posed nude in the October 1970 issue of the magazine; the result of a photo session that transpired in the illustrious Plaza Hotel—Lainie performed at the hotel’s legendary Persian Room as well as living at the hotel.  (In the tradition of the time, there was no full-frontal nudity yet, but she wasn’t hiding much.) That one particular modeling job would launch a vast cause-and-effect. It cemented her ongoing, very productive collaboration with the Playboy brand – as she told us, within five years, she would be the only artist – impresario  to open her own room-within-a-room in the Playboy Club circuit – that happened when “Lainie’s Room” opened in the Los Angeles Playboy in 1975 and then again in the New York club a few seasons later.

hqdefault

Lainie Kazan – Lainie Kazan

Another collateral benefit was for comic book readers and fans of the superhero auteur Jack Kirby; not long before, the widely-praised artist and writer had switched allegiances from his long-standing job at Marvel comics (where he had played a key role in the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, and dozens of other iconic creations) to the company’s arch-competitor, DC comics. His most dramatic creation was a whole universe of new characters, which he called “The Fourth World,” at the centerpiece of which was a “super group” he called the New Gods. The first of these New Gods to star in his own title was “Mister Miracle” (aka “Scott Free”) and in issue four of that series, Mister Miracle’s love interest was introduced; rather than a demure gal Friday like Superman’s Lois Lane, the new girl god on the block was “Big Barda,” a highly imposing six feet of both pure muscle and sheer sex appeal.  She went around pummeling bad guys in Asgard-ian like body armor, but Kirby went out of his way, in her first two appearances (Mister Miracle #4 October 1971 and #5 November-December 1971) to show her in a bikini-like get up as well.  It was no surprise to anyone when Kirby eventually admitted that he was a Playboy reader and the physical image of Big Barda was directly based on Lainie’s image from the October 1970 issue.

Liza Minnelli with Husband and Lainie Kazan

Liza Minnelli with her husband and Lainie Kazan

Thus the image of herself in the buff would have vast consequences and many rewards for Lainie. But, ironically, those rewards were not monetary – at least not immediately so.  Lainie told us that it simply never occurred to her to ask for any kind of payment for her services in posing.  To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the Lainie we know, but then of course, we didn’t know her back then.  From the looks of those images – both in Playboy and Mister Miracle – we wish that we had!

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Playboy and Jazz

1959

 

Playboy and music – most frequently jazz – have been “going steady” together almost since the magazine and the company were founded in 1953.

Playboy’s involvement with music goes well beyond the famous clubs. In 1959, Hugh Hefner and his colleague Victor Lownes produced what critic Leonard Feather deemed the greatest weekend of jazz in the history of the music, the first ever Playboy Jazz Festival, a massive three-night event involved virtually every major player then involved in the music, from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to Sonny Rollins and Dave Brubeck, as well as not less than the three greatest big bands of the era, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Stan Kenton. Twenty years later, as the clubs were entering their final phase, Hefner returned to the jazz festival idea, this time partnering with George Wein, the man who perfected the concept to begin with. Since 1979, the Playboy Jazz Festival has been an annual event at the Hollywood Bowl that never fails to pack the 18,000-seat venue to its utmost capacity, and involves every headliner of the jazz world, touching on much other music as well.

jazzfest1959

 

One of the greatest benefits that Hugh Hefner gave the world of music was his rather astonishing TV series of 1959-1961, Playboy’s Penthouse. Easily one of the most important presentations of music – any kind of music – on television, this show featured the greats of many genres, from pop stars to jazz and cabaret singers to major pianists and other instrumentalists. It presented them straightforwardly, playing as they did in clubs, in a relaxed and intimate party setting. The shows, which still survive (several have been issued commercially on DVD) feature priceless footage of such musical icons as Mabel Mercer, Bobby Short, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Earl Hines, the young Tony Bennett, and the greatest jazz vocal group ever, Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross. Ironically, it was Hugh Hefner’s own forward thinking that put the kibosh on the program: he insisted on treating African-American stars like Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr as equals, having them interact with white party guests as well as the host himself. This was more than Southern TV stations were willing to put on the air, and as a result, Playboy’s Penthouse did not get the full national support that it needed to stay on the air. The show returned under a slightly different title, Playboy After Dark, from 1968 to 1970, this time with the addition of full color as well as superstar rock & roll bands.

This is only the beginning of the story of Playboy’s involvement with jazz and other kinds of music, which goes back well before the creation of the magazine – “Hep Hef” as he called himself as a teenager, was always a rabid jazz buff. He covered jazz in Playboy magazine from the beginning, and for 16 years, Playboy ran the most high-profile jazz poll in the world. In addition, the Playboy Interview series, which began in 1962, has included no shortage of prominent musical figures over the years, starting with Miles Davis and also famously including Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, The Beatles, as well as John Lennon and Paul McCartney individually.

So stay tuned…

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents