| Accidental Playboy |
By Leif Ueland
Genre: Non Fiction
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The call, when it comes, is nothing more than an amusing bright blip in the dark tempest of my depression. The phone rings and, as is only natural under the circumstances, I'm terrified. What if it's someone I owe money to? Or worse, someone with whom I have an emotional tie? I'm a writer, in the midst of writing what I darkly tell everyone is a bestseller, and understandably I'm averse to distraction.
Ah, the gay, romantic pleasures of the writing lifea succession of perfectly turned epigrams dashed off on Odeon cocktail napkins while some working girl whom Hemingway has sent over purrs dirty French limericks into my ear. So good, it's almost cliché!
The reality is, it's seven at night. I'm washing a sinkful of dishes, dressed only in my musty old bathrobe. The bestseller is, after nearly a full calendar year. . . well, it's not done. As far as quantity of writing, I've long since written the length of a novel. Who knew I'd keep writing the first several chapters over and over and over? I didn't.
In the last twelve months I've earned a grand total of two hundred and fifty dollars. To pay the bills, I've liquidated the stock portfolio I prudently built up in my youth, money I imagined going to a down payment on a house. I have, in essence, robbed a child's piggy bank to pay for the dream that seems to be slipping away. Worse than that, these were funds accumulated while suffering the ultimate humiliation: modeling kiddie underwear. Where was I?
Right, phone ringing, me screening. Out of the squawking answering machine comes the voice of a good friend, Max, who is in a much worse place than I and thus fair game for a conversation. To make a medium-length story short, he was hit by a bus. He was hit. Not his car, his person. To him, with his one hundred thousand dollars of hospital debt and looming bankruptcy, my two hundred and fifty dollars in income looks huge. How can I not take his call?
A year ago, Max and I came up with an idea for a television show, which we pitched around town, though we had neither agent nor lawyer, and we now get a kick out of watching our ideas crop up on the shows that happen to be produced by the very same executives we pitched to. So these calls usually pick up my spirits, albeit in an embittered way.
But this call is different. Max has heard of a job. The details are sketchy, but from what he's picked up. . . something about Playboy . . .traveling around the country. . . a search. . . Miss Millennium . . .Playboy's website. . . writing. . . photography. Max thinks I'm a natural.
Here's the cruelest aspect of the writing life: Even in a joking spirit, it's difficult to listen to Max talking up this opportunity. The mere act of considering a side job feels like a betrayal, and with it comes a queasy stomachit's sort of like a priest picturing life without the collar.
And yet, Max and I are laughing. As I heroically continue on with the dishes, we're cracking each other up at the thought of me on this trip, whatever it is. The right person for the job, it would seem to us, would be a writer/actor who was about to take a part on a soap opera when he received the call. Instead of playing Phallus, the roguishly handsome investigative reporter on As the Universe Expands, he takes the Playboy gig, churning out prose like, "Next up was Tina, who like Daphne before, and Alexis before her, also had above-average breasts. Very above average."
The fact is, I've never been the Playboy guy. To wit, that twohundred- and-fifty-dollar windfall was payment for a piece I wrote, "Trials of a Gay-Seeming Straight Male." And with lines like, "Though I'm incredibly heterosexual, I can't resist sucking the occasional cock," I have a hard time envisioning Hugh Hefner appreciating my worldview, even if that line was facetious.
While I have no intention of getting into it with Max, "gayseeming straight male" is not even accurate. The fact is, I'm not especially sure about the male thing. That's not to suggest these are the words of a woman trapped in a man's body. But I'm not ready to state they're the work of a man trapped in a man's body, either, at least as currently defined. I don't really know how to explain it, other than the hesitancy I experience when faced with the male/female option on a form. I feel other.
As for sexual activity, I've been a nonparticipant for longer than I'm willing/able to acknowledge. Long enough that of late I feel comfortable in suggesting I've reclaimed my virginity, become a virtual virgin. Actually, if I'm really going to spill it, virtual virgin's not accurate. The truth is, I've started to think it's something worse, having to do with that word that begins with an I and is the least frequently uttered word in the male vocabulary.
Me cavorting with Playmatesit's the proverbial fish-out-of-water story. Sort of like Arnold Schwarzenegger teaching kindergarten. . . or experiencing childbirth! That's what I'm hearing-sexually desperate confused me. . . cavorting with Playmates! As Max and I continue goofing on the idea of my chronicling a Playmate Search, I'm struck by the irony that this is a job I might actually have a good shot at getting.
That "Gay-Seeming Straight Male" piece was written for nerve, a website that is highly regarded in the Internet community, particularly the erotic Internet community. I know from an inside source that Playboy.com has been actively poaching nerve's writers. And then there was my previous writing job, coauthoring a book about MTV's Road Rules. My background sounds dangerously similar to this Playboy gig: writing, photography, travel.
I've finished the dishes and am wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes, trying to bring the conversation to a close so that I can get back to struggling to write my bestseller, when Max asks, "So what should I tell my friend? Are you interested?"
My journal from this day only makes passing reference to the conversation, a sentence amid paragraphs of writerly woe. Understandable, really. First, friends-whose-friends-know-a-guy leads are as likely to pay off as discarded lottery tickets, especially when the job in question is one I imagine every normal male writer would go to extreme lengths to land. Second, I have no intention of giving up on the novel. Third, there's no way I'm descending to the world of shehad- very-above-average-breasts writing. Not with current life expectancy rates and lack of convincing evidence for reincarnation. And yet. . . Miss Millennium. The title alone is so rich, so historic, it would be difficult to dismiss it outright. I mean, if Lewis and Clark called up looking for a writer-photographer to chronicle their expedition, would I say without a moment's hesitation, No way. I've got a bestseller to write?
"I don't know, Max. Fine, I guess, maybe, I don't know, whatever."
Excerpted from Accidental Playboy , by Leif Ueland . Copyright (c) 2002 by Leif Ueland . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top