“Sometime’s you just have to piss in the sink.”
Before I was employed by Playboy magazine I was hired as a designer (in 1970) by Playboy’s Book Division where I laid out books, mainly paper-back collections of cartoons from the magazine.
During that time Robert Crumb made one of his regular trips to Chicago to help Jay Lynch and me put together an issue of Bijou Funnies.
Jay and Jane Lynch, Robert Crumb and I were invited to a reception for the psychedelic poster entrepreneur, Peter Max and his guru, Swami Satchidanada. This transcendental soiree was held in the lakeshore high-rise apartment of Paul Magit, a prosperous clothing retailer/meditator. The attendees were a variegated flock of well-heeled liberal functionaries, wealthy polo hippies, a retinue of hardboiled, whiskey-drinking Chicago newspaper reporters and a gaggle of scraggly young cartoonists.
In the bedroom the beatific Swami levitated in a lotus position inches off the bed and randomly deciphered the Meaning of Life for the assembled gentry.
In the living room macrobiotic snacks and a bar stocked with organic fruit juices fed our secular needs. The reporters became dark and surly due to lack of liquor. Meanwhile, the affluent white people continued to ferret out Godliness while Peter Max’s faint handshake and dazzling garage-door grin serviced the entourage.
Around this time Playboy was about to publish an article about the underground comix phenomenon and the magazine was attempting to woo Robert Crumb into becoming a Playboy cartoonist and Robert was finding delight in rejecting their advances. The corporate pressure was being applied through Harvey Kurtzman, mentor, friend and symbol to Robert. Consequently, we were all invited to meet Hugh Hefner at the Chicago Playboy Mansion.
So, one afternoon, after working as a wage slave/junior designer at Playboy’s
book division I get picked up by a sleek limousine, where I join, Jay, Jane, Robert, Harvey.
As we were chauffeured up Michigan Avenue, Harvey spied a breast-pendulous and braless love child strutting down the avenue at a bouncy gait.
“I’ll never get used to the braless look”, commented Harvey. It struck me as peculiar, this coming from the guy who created the breast-pendulous and often naked nymphet, Little Annie Fanny.
The limo rolled through the radio activated gates of the Playboy Mansion. We were ushered out of the car and through the commanding iron-relief doors, past a burnished suit of armor and a hologram of an enormous killer white shark, razor-toothed and hostile. We were escorted around a colonnade and into the 66′x33′ Living Room of the Great House.
The Living Room was palatial, a masculine expanse awash in dark virile leather and intrepid mahogany. On the west wall a Franz Kline hung in resolute misogyny next to a mean-spirited portrait of a woman by De Kooning. The acrid stench of testosterone stained the air.
We were told it would be awhile before Hef would be awake. There would be a few hours to kill and we could order any food or drink we desired from the Mansion’s company of snappy servants. I had a steak and began an aggressive assault on the host’s intoxicants. We were free to investigate all the facilities, except the Great Man’s personal quarters and rotating love nest.
I began to wander and ended up in the Red Room, where playmate Donna Michelle capriciously romped in the Playboy of my youth. The room, sadly, seemed much smaller and had less audacity than in the photos of my adolescence. More like a motel room really. A bed, a TV and on the beside table was a lamp, a remote control, but instead of a Gideon Bible the current issue of Playboy held sway. Reality versus fantasy is always a losing battle. Before long we were invited to slide down a phallic brass firepole through a vulvic hole cut through lush carpeting and dark hardwood that accessed us into the gameroom below. There, the manly arts of pinball, bowling and billiards could be practiced and honed by those with balls enough.
We were solicited to sip the driest of martinis in the undulating and hypnotic confines of the Grotto Bar where a glass wall looked into the famous kidney-shaped Playboy pool.
“How often”, I brooded “had nude exhibitionist sprites romped in rude water-ballet, while in the shadows of the Woo Grotto voyeuristic hep cats sipped Rob Roys and reposed enrapt?”
I sucked my cocktail onion dry and ordered another drink, my focus in disarray.
I was poolside where, only months earlier, the entire cast of “Hair” frolicked in naked hippie abandon much to the delight of sophisticated couples, ice cubes atinkle and libidos aflutter.
But this night there were no bare-bottomed free spirits or hard nippled water sprites playfully splashing. There was only an empty pool and a bar full of mudlark cartoonists. The booze had washed me clean of propriety. I told Jane Lynch that it had been my fantasy to skinny dip in Hef’s pool, so with her encouragement I stripped down to my love beads and belly flopped into the perfumed swimming hole.
Before my aquatic antic I whispered to Jay – I thought facetiously – “I’m going to take a shit in the Playboy pool.”
Jay knew I was a mischievous sort and correctly observed that Demon Rum had me in its diabolic grip. The line between truth and caprice was sufficiently blurred that he took me at my word and warned Harvey Kurtzman that I intended to loose a floater in Hefner’s swim tank.
Kurtzman, who was seeking a raise in pay for his “Little Annie Fanny” strip, figured that his chances for more money would be diminished if a companion of his pooped in the pool. So he informed security of my scatological intent.
Scowling security personnel hustled me out of the area and padlocked the Grotto Bar and pool.
I was outraged, as I saw it, at being kicked out of the pool for swimming naked – by this time having totally forgotten my offhand fecal threat. I stormed out of the Mansion before Hef arrived on scene, kicking the suit of armor in the shins as I left.
Later that week Jay, Robert and I produced a collaborative strip for Bijou titled “Hef’s Pad” in which Snappy Sammy Smoot, having been invited to Hef’s home, aggravates his companions by pissing in the sink.
Skip Williamson is a former Chicago cartoonist. “Hef’s Pad” is an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography “My Bitter Agenda.” All images are copyright (c) Bijou Publishing Empire, Inc.