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?