Archive for February 25th, 2010

Valentine Vixen – Kim Farber, Miss February 1967

February 25, 2010

Besides being possessed of arrestingly modern looks (it is truly startling how easily this photoshoot could have been done in the cheap-and-chic, Ikea-styled apartment of some sweet young hipster last weekend), Kim Farber is also unique in the pantheon of vintage playmates because she worked nights as a “Theater Bunny” at the Chicago Playboy Theater before being selected as Playboy‘s Miss February 1967. To my mind, that gives her a very special position in the empire’s history.


Photographed by Stan Molinowski.

Playboy opened the sadly short-lived Playboy Theaters — notable for screening not exclusively the racier content you might expect, but also rare classics, indie flicks, and films that had been met with censorship in their attempts at playing nice with other distribution channels — in only a scant, lucky few cities.

So far I have only chased down for sure the origins and present doings of the sites in Chicago (more on that in a sec) and New York, where the theater was in Manhattan on W. 57th street.

I had a false lead in Corpus Christi, TX, but I went ahead and called and, believe it or not, one of the town’s own officially sanctioned websites has mislabeled the Harbor Playhouse Theater as the Harbor Playboy Theater: the venue is not now and has never been a Playboy Enterprises property. Simple typo which the city of Corpus Christi has yet to notice or rectify, but it gave the guy I asked about it earlier this afternoon a good laugh.

I ironed out the discrepancy (a google search turned up the town’s link to the theater under the name “Playboy” but yellow pages and all other sources called it “Playhouse;” I couldn’t let mysterious sleeping dogs lie!) by straight-up calling the theater and asking them myself. As I said, the guy I spoke to laughed heartily and said no way. I didn’t bother explaining that there were, at one time, Playboy Theaters, as the difference between cinema and stage work sometimes makes people whose life passion is working for actual factual live theaters a little uppity and superior about plays vs. movies, plus, why interrupt the flow of happy karma? I laughed too and thanked him for his time.

That’s not the only telephone digging I’ve done this week, actually. Several days ago, I also called San Diego Rattan to ask if there was any chance they were ever known as “House of Rattan,” the shop run by the mother of Miss February 1969, Lorrie Menconi (answer: again, no). The very confused woman on the other end of the telephone assured me the store had only been called “San Diego Rattan” throughout its history.

I then asked in as friendly and “sane” a way as possible if she had any idea what had ever happened to the House of Rattan (she did not, as she moved to San Diego from Redondo Beach in 1999 and had never heard of House of Rattan).

I said my Girl Scout leader grew up in Redondo Beach, and her daughter (my dear Sarah-fina) was born in Torrance; plus, a sorority sister from college was from nearby Rancho P.V., so we talked briefly about Redondo, the merits of Rancho Palos Verdes vs. Palos Verdes Heights — or “PVH,” as the cognoscenti call it — and how Girl Scouts used to have so many more badges for water sports. (Not the sex-and-urine, super-kinky kind, but rather the kayak-and-diving, woman-against-the-sea kind). She was mainly very confused and almost concerned, it seemed at the start of the conversation, about my rattan line of questioning, so I felt like I needed to regain emotional lost ground with friendly, “aren’t-I-so-normal,” bantery small talk.

She was not annoyed — she was very friendly and even apologetic for having no answers to my left-field queries — but I am pretty sure she thought I had some extra-special Things Going On upstairs. I did not drop the magazine’s name at any point in the discussion, keeping the conversation on a strictly wicker-outdoor-furniture, geographical-social-casting, and oh-these-Girl-Scout-times-they-are-a-changin’ basis, so maybe rabid rattan fans are a Thing and she was initially afraid she had one of them on the phone. I’ll never know!


It is part of human nature, observed an 18th Century British writer, that great discoveries are made accidentally. (“Ticket to Success.” Playboy, February 1967.)

Though many people have made remarks along similar lines, my guess is that the uncredited author of Ms. Farber’s write-up is probably referring to the Reverend Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832).

Rev. Colton more specifically said, “It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance, rather than of contemplation, and of accident, rather than of design.” (Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to Those Who Think. Colton, Rev. C.C. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. (p. 39). via that there ol’ google books. take it for a public domain spin!)


Proof of this maxim is our valentine Playmate, Kim Farber, who was steadfastly taking tickets at Chicago’s Playboy Theater when she was pointed toward a gatefold appearance by a Playboy staffer who had gone to the theater and discovered that its prime attraction was not on the screen. Kim gratefully consented to pose for Playmate test shot. “Of course, I’d always wanted to be a Playmate, but once I got settled in my Theater Bunny routine, I never thought I’d get closer.” (Ibid.)


When she finally returns Stateside, Miss February hopes to pick up the thread of an apprenticeship in fashion coordination and design (“If I had my way, I’d drape the whole world in bright orange”), which she interrupted to become a Playboy Theater Bunny. “Before I commit myself to a career,” the dark-haired beauty explains, “I want to get some traveling out of my system.” (Ibid.)

I’ve got sadly no idea where the sweet and doe-eyed young gamine’s travels took her, in the end — Ms. Farber has either changed her name or vanished off the face of the earth, because if you have learned nothing else from my ramblings I hope you at least agree that I’m pretty all right with that there ol’ research — but I can happily tell you both the backstory of its inception and the denouement of what eventually happened to the Chicago Playboy Theatre. It’s an involved but very interesting story. Go potty now and smoke if you got ’em, cause here we go!

The Playboy Theater in Chicago was located at 1204 N. Dearborn Street. It began its life as the Dearborn Theatre in 1913. It was remodeled two decades later in 1934 by William and Percival Pereira. William, who ascribed the sterile and stark look of his architecture to his interest in science fiction, would go on to design the distinctive pyramid-shaped Transamerica Building in San Francisco, one of the most recognizable — and, next to the Lucy Coit tower, my personal favorite — features of The City’s skyscape.

The theater was sold, expanded, and given a much-needed facelift, when it re-opened as the Surf Theater in the 1940s. The new cinema boasted a seating capacity of 650. It remained the Surf Theater until September of 1964.


This is my favorite shot of the spread.

The Chicago Playboy Theater opened its doors at the end of September, 1964. Chicago was the home of Hef’s fledgling empire, and, in its heyday, was bustling with bunnies. There were Playboy clubs, hotels, restaurants, and the Theater, all along the famous Loop.

Besides being known for the unusual films it screened, the Playboy Theater was one of the hosting venues in the early years of the Chicago International Film Festival.

The theater changed hands in 1976, a year after Hugh himself blew irretrievably once and for all out of the Windy City in the wake of the dissolution of his long relationship with Barbi Benton. It was renamed the Chelex, and famed Chicago Sun critic Gene Siskel once wrote a scathing review of a film he saw screened there, concluding that the venue itself was so distracting that it made the film even worse; he said he sat near the back and had to keep his coat, hat, and even his gloves on during the movie because it was so goddamned cold.


This is another really, really good shot in my book.

The theater then changed hands again in 1979, and was renamed the Sandburg Theater, after Chicago native son and poet Carl Sandburg (“came in like the tide on little cat feet,” you know, that guy?). A well-regarded arthouse cinema-spot, as you might guess from the lofty name, the Sandburg mainly screened repertory and indie films.


My partner Albert Berger and I re-opened the Sandburg Theatre as a repertory house showing double features of classic films on May 22, 1979. Our opening week was a festival of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Although home video was starting to appear back then, most of these films could not be seen at that time except on television. We leased the theatre from famous Chicago real estate mogul Arthur Rubloff, who had developed much of the Magnificent Mile among other properties. (Bill Horberg. March 8, 2008. Internet post retrieved February 25, 2010.)


The theatre was shuttered when we took it over and in very poor shape. It still had the bunny logo design carpeting from the days when it operated as The Playboy, and a marquee with disco style lighting. (Ibid.)

When the tenure of the ambitious and admirable Misters Horberg and Berger came to a close in 1982, the theater was sold, condemned, and demolished. A Walgreens (another longtime and homegrown Chicago tradition) now stands on the spot.


I do believe that is Ms. Farber to Hef’s right, viewer’s left. Yes?

It was the 1,000th Walgreens to be opened and there was quite the to-do of it at a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony held at 9:00 a.m. on September 6, 1984, presided over by James Thompson, the governor of Illinois at the time. Interestingly, the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony was Cary Grant, whose own movies had often been screened in the Old Dearborn and Surf Theatre days of the 1930’s-40’s.

Grant graciously agreed to be present and speak because he was a family friend of the Walgreens (the article where I read this factoid lists his connection as being to “Betty,” but I think they meant Mary Ann, as no Betty as ever been an heiress or married to an heir of the Walgreens chain). Like Mr. Grant, Mary Ann Walgreen (née Leslie) has since passed away. She was very active in Chicago-area charities well before the time of highly visible CEOs and public relations folderol, which means she had no obligation to be so involved, and did it out of the goodness of her own heart. R.I.P. to them both.

Final fun fact: Before it closed its doors in 1976, the Chicago Playboy theater’s final booking was a double feature of Mel Brooks’ The Producers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?”) Sounds to me like an excellent way to close the place down — if they were licensed for beer, to boot, then I need to get on time traveling, stat. That’s all for tonight, and I sure hope you’ve enjoyed this lengthy foray into the Playboy past.

Movie Moment: Death Becomes Her

February 25, 2010

Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, 1992).


Anna: How about a nice collagen buff?
Madeline: “A collagen buff”? You might as well ask me to wash with soap and water!
Anna: I could do your make-up myself…
Madeline: Make-up is pointless. It does nothing anymore! Are you even listening to me? Do you even care? You stand there with your 22-year-old skin and your tits like … like ROCKS and laugh at me…


Madeline: Wrinkled, wrinkled little star. Hope they never see the scars.


Helen: You? You couldn’t lift an eyebrow without major surgery.


Madeline: What’d she call this one. Forever Young?
Rose: I like that title.
Madeline: Pfft! “Forever young” — and eternally fat.


Madeline: Bottoms up! (drinks potion)
Lisle: Now, a warning —
Madeline: Now a warning?!

This is a noteworthy film for me because, besides being hilarious and featuring fun performances by some of my favorite actors, it’s the first movie in which I ever saw Isabella Rossellini.

When I found out that on top of being crazy-beautiful, she is Ingrid Bergman’s daughter (she and her twin resulted from a marriage whose scandalous origins nearly got the great Bergman blackballed), I was totally blown away.

However, today’s brief research turned up a surprising fact about what was, for me, one of the more memorable scenes in the movie, when Isabella in the role of Lisle von Rhuman, the sorceress who provides eternal youth to the materialistic L.A. clientele shown in the film, emerges naked from a pool in a rear view.

Come to find out all these years later, it was not Isabella. A body double was used in the scene. It was a chick named Catherine Bell. Even today, at 57, the lovely and talented Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini still makes annual lists of “Most beautiful women,” so I can only guess that either (a) Ms. Rossellini’s modesty forbade her to bare all and she requested the body double because she had enough clout between her talent and her lineage to demand that kind of thing, or, (b) her actual ass was so mind-meltingly terrific that the studio felt it would be irresponsible to expose it to the viewing public, fearing it might spark riots, mind control, and catatonia. Almost definitely (b), wouldn’t you say?


Helen: That was totally uncalled for.


Ernest: She’s dead!
Madeline: She is? Oh, these are the moments that make life worth living.


Madeline: I hurt you. And I’m sorry.
Helen: I hurt you, and I‘m sorry.


Helen: Do you remember where you parked the car?

edit: So, despite having had a huge lady-crush on Isabella Rossellini since I was 13, I somehow missed the fact that she had scoliosis as a kid and underwent painful bone grafts, braces, stretching, and spinal surgery to correct it which left her with a network of scars. Thus, no back-side-nudity for Isa, now or ever. Still predict her ass was mind-meltingly terrific, tho.

Valentine Vixen — Kona Carmack, Miss February 1996

February 25, 2010


Photographed by Richard Fegley.

Kona was born and raised in Honolulu but has been living in North Carolina for the past year while she attends college. … By the time she turned 16, she had followed her younger brother, La’au, into the surf and soon was challenging ten-foot waves (well, one anyway – and that was enough). “I was always the only girl out there surfing, besides my friend Kili,” she says.

(“Aloha, Kona.” Rowe, Chip. Playboy, February 1996.)

Ms. Carmack used the same trick in college that I did: sitting up front so you can’t fool around. If I wasn’t in the very front row, I started feeling like I could tune out or even skip class, so when I got serious about school, I was front and center in every course. If I hadn’t done that, lord knows how long it would’ve taken me to finish college!

Regardless of the subject, Kona sits in the front row so she doesn’t miss anything. “It’s kind of nerdy, but it works,” says Miss February, a marketing major with a 3.4 GPA. “I also raise my hand a lot. If I don’t understand something, I’m not just going to sit there.”(Ibid.)


One of the most liberating moments of her first year came during English 101, when she wrote a term paper blasting antiporn crusader Catharine MacKinnon. “She argues that Playboy is pornography,” says Kona. “I don’t happen to agree.” She got an A.

Kona excels in the classroom, but she’s no egghead. (Ibid.)

Heaven forbid.


FAVORITE BOY NAMES: Fletcher, Nicholas, Victor, Tristan. (Playmate datasheet)

Nick and Victor are great names, but Fletcher and Tristan, erm, not to step on any toes but … not so much.

My daughter’s father’s sister named one of her two sons Tristan. He is an adorable and bright little boy but, out of all the boy names in the world, I’m not sure it’s the first one with which I would’ve gone. I think my husband once told me his mom wanted to name him Tristan but my father-in-law put his foot down. Isn’t that how the story went, husbandoh? Pretty sure it was “Tristan” or “Dorian” or some shit, you know, something real get-your-ass-kicked-in-school faggoty.

I like how I make guilty amends for possibly insulting dudes named Fletch and Tristan, but cheerily slander homosexuals. I guess it’s because I know that I’m not a bigot. But all apologies just the same to anyone with no sense of humor and anyone who has somehow missed the fact that I rather obviously trend toward batting both left and right and therefore ought be excused from call-outs for gay slurs with the same impunity that permits black people to call each other you-know-what. (Boy, that didn’t even come out very sincere, did it? Jonohs once told me I apologize too much, but it seems when the chips are down and I have to mean it, I’m not much good at mea culpas. Sorry again.)

In a business in which it’s easy to put on an act, Carmack doesn’t have one, leaving her vulnerable and exposed, especially to the question that has to be asked: “So, what about the Playboy thing?”

“Oh you!” she squeals, “The very first question!”

Carmack has no regrets about posing for the magazine’s February 1996 centerfold.

“It got me into the entertainment world and taught me so many lessons. I learned how to survive, how to be tough, how to be professional. I would not be the person I am today without having had that opportunity.”


This picture came from a different Playboy photoshoot and was shot by Chris Peter Paul. Kona was Miss March 1998 in Playboy Germany and 1997’s Playmate of the Year in Japan, so I’m guessing it’s from one of those, or possibly the Year In Review. I included it here because it is cute.

Yet she wishes people would get over it.

“When people meet me, they always say, ‘You’re so nice. You’re not at all like what I imagined.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, thank you!,’ ” she says, with a huge, grateful grin and her arm extended in a pretend handshake.

(“Kona Gold.” Kam, Nadine. December 19, 2000. Honolulu Star-Bulletin.)


In 2001 Carmack moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California for cinematography. She graduated in December 2003 with cum laude honors, completing the five-year program in half the time. (“Old Friends — Kona Carmack.” Moniz, Melissa. August 2, 2006. MidWeek Oahu.)


“I really got into it and started producing my own little films.” (Ibid.)

One of those “little films” was a popular and successful documentary about the life of Duke Kahanamoku, aka “The Big Kahuna.”

Born in Waikiki in 1890, Kahanamoku pretty much singlehandedly turned surfing into an international sport, bringing his “papa nui” longboard, built in the style of old school Hawaiian olo boards, to the mainland and to Australia for swimming and surfing exhibitions. He was also a several-times-over Olympic gold medalist in swimming and in water polo.

In Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city’s harbor. Twenty-nine fishermen went into the water and seventeen perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued. Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport’s police chief at the time called Duke’s efforts “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.” (the wiki.)

Pretty awesome, eh? Super-interesting man and great life story.


Upon graduating from film school, Carmack started work as a production assistant on the HBO series Deadwood. The next year, Carmack was promoted to executive assistant producer to Greg Fienberg. (“Old Friends.”)

After Deadwood, Kona went on to work as assistant to producer Randy Zisk on one of my favorite television shows of all time, Monk. Super-cool!

Although her home and career for the moment are in Los Angeles, her heart still belongs to Hawaii.

“I miss my family so much, that’s No. 1,” says Carmack. “I also miss surfing – I surf every day when I’m home. And of course I miss the food. I love it at home, I miss everything about it.” (Ibid.)


Carmack definitely plans to move back to Hawaii eventually, mostly to be closer to her mom and family.

“My mom is my best friend, and I’m really proud of her with what she’s been doing all these years for Easter Seals,” says Carmack. “It’s really her passion to help children with disabilities. She’s just wonderful, and she’s my inspiration.” (Ibid.)

The Easter Seals are a nonprofit that provide aid and services to children and adults with autism, special needs, and other disabilities.

The organization that would become Easter Seals was founded by Edgar Allen, an Ohio-businessman who lost his son in a streetcar crash. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. That hospital continues to operate today as Elyria Memorial Hospital. After the hospital was built, Allen learned that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired by this discovery, in 1919 he founded what would become the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind. (the wiki.)

Click here to visit their website. My goddaughter’s brother is autistic and though Panda and the Mister are some of the most loving and supportive people you will ever meet, not everyone is as lucky as Nathaniel. So please consider making a donation? — Hey, this could be your big shot at impressing Ms. Carmack!

Dig Leslie Nielsen on the cover. Goddamn, he’s one suave fucker. (Left-field Blue Velvet reference to wind things down. You’re welcome.)

Daily Batman: Mad New World and the Marquis de Sade edition

February 25, 2010

Adam West is such a glorious ham.

Batman, Superman, and … the Marquis de Sade?! Oh, Life. You saucy minxes!

In the 1960s, both high theory and popular culture used the Marquis de Sade to link concerns about violence and social repression with an investment in sexual repression in the psychoanalytic sense. While Sade’s writings suggest the incompatibility of complete sexual freedom with political emancipation, this apparent contradiction was meant to vanish within a framework of general liberation. …

[However,] the elision of the distinction between intimacy and sexual pleasure allowed — and continues to enable — the notion that sexual acts translate into liberationist politics rather than creating potentially insoluble social conflicts.

(Steintrager, James. “Liberating Sade.” The Yale Journal of Criticism 18.2 (2005): 351-379.)