Bunny for a day

Thursday was a break from the ordinary, what with the field trip to Playboy and all. Chicago is home to Playboy world headquarters (but not the Mansion), and the magazine enjoys a splendid reputation among the local publishing community. It used to enjoy a splendid reputation among the local business community as well, but now they have empty cubicles where the dot-commers used to sit and the accompanying financial insecurity.

But all of this is beside the point. The field trip to their offices came as part of my Graduate Magazine Editing class, which is co-taught by Barbara Nellis, an associate editor at the magazine. (She edits the articles that every bashful male reads the magazine for, of course.) The field trip began well. “We’re here for a field trip; we’re going to the 15th floor,” we told the lobby clerk. “You mean Playboy?” he asked. Yup. “Walk down to the next lobby,” he said.

In the next lobby, we hopped in the elevator and headed up. “Do you think they’ll have a cool waiting area?” I asked a friend. The doors opened on the 15th floor … wood panelling along the walls, obtusely shaped black and blue furniture, glass tables, granite legs on the receptionist’s desk, and their giant bunny logo hanging above it all, sculpted in bronze. On the tables in the waiting area, like in every dentist’s office in America, were reading materials. It is a bit odd, however, to be sitting in a lobby, browsing through Playboys like they were year-old People issues.

Barbara led us on a tour of their offices, which were filled with art created over the years for Playboy (quality stuff too — a wall of original LeRoy Neiman’s). We walked through editorial, through dot com, and then went to the Photo Library. There, the Photo Librarian took out her keys and unlocked the door to the Photo Vault. Temperature-controlled, air-quality controlled, and under constant electronic surveillance for fire, the Vault contains just about every photo a Playboy photographer has ever taken. On the left were the unused photos, on the right were the used, with shelves of boxes reaching to the ceiling.

Fun fact learned in the Vault: Did you know someone is required to take Hugh Hefner’s photo every day?

Tomorrow: the Photo Studio.

The Toolman

Tim “The Toolman” Taylor (Tim Allen), Jill (Patricia Richardson), Al (Richard Karn), Heidi (Debbe Dunning), Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (NU applicant JTT), Mark (Taran Noah Smith) and, of course, Wilson (Earl Hindman). Sure, the “Home Improvement” actors typecast themselves into oblivion (video here), but we remember and appreciate the laughter they gave us somewhere in the mid-’90s. What we probably have never realized, however, is the show’s effect on the toolmen of America and the world. “What?” you say. “I never realized that!” Indeed. Toolman Antonio Guerra of Monterrey, Mexico, writes:

Though I’ve seen mostly dubbed in Spanish episodes, it’s the best show on home and work safety. While funny, you can get a message of safety just by watching Tim as an accident-prone individual. I still watch re-runs of this, and have used this as an introduction to safety lectures at my work site. The whole cast is balanced and really look the way they are in the show.

In the show’s passing, men in this line of work have lost their hero, their foothold in pop culture. Now they are toolmen, not Toolmen. Everyday moments in the sun have become fraught with pain and frustration, no more evidenced then when a team of electricians worked at my office yesterday.

One electrician stood in the hallway, drawing up plans. Walking by, an office worker remarked upon the many tools in this man’s toolbox. He replied with a hearty laugh:

Toolman: Yeah, just like Tim the Toolman on TV!”

Office worker: [polite smile]

Toolman: [polite follow-up chuckling, as his puffed-up chest receded]

Glory days, they’ll pass you by. Come on, Wilson, what advice do you have now??

Marah gone MTV?

Congratulations, Marah, you got what you wanted. You said you’d get out of the Philly/Jersey shore circuit and get to play across the pond. You said you’d ditch the banjoes and all the instruments that made you interesting, that made you the “Last Rock and Roll Band.” (The title was self-proclaimed, but listeners agreed with you.)

Now, the latest news about you is that you have done exactly what you said you’d do. I’ve listened to a couple snippets of the new album, which made their way onto the Web today. You’ve smoothed out your voices, you’ve turned up those guitars and you sure did use that mixing board. You’ve made a record that’s going to sell and sell and sell. I’ll buy one the day it comes out, for the little bit of you that’s left in it.

Update two months later: A more fair take.

“Who it is!”

Has anyone else been watching the Cosby Show marathon on Nick-at-Nite this week? Good, good television. I’m managing to catch some episodes between work on papers and projects, and it’s all been worth it. In addition to seeing good TV, it’s nice to realize that we weren’t always so ironic. Irony only gets you so far in the pursuit of comedy. At some point, you just have to be funny. (“Friends” fans, I love you despite your idiocy.)


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