My Brief Life Writing Smut by Bob Kalish

My Brief Life Writing Smut by Bob Kalish

The year was 1969. I was newly married and living in Chicago near Lincoln Park. My day job was with a small public relations firm in the Loop that paid well, but fiction was my true love. I was an addict for experience. My motto was “Never Say No” no matter what the circumstances. One day, I noticed a small classified ad in the Chicago Tribune seeking an Experienced Writer. That was all.

A day later, I found myself standing in front of a heavy oak door that sported a modest sign, “Fling Magazine.” I pushed the door open and entered a room cluttered with discarded newspapers, books, stacks of 8 by 10 photos, ashtrays overflowing with heaps of ash, telephone directories and a thick illustrated volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The air was heavy from pipe smoke, issuing forth from a corner desk where a fine meerschaum was clamped firmly in the lips of one Arv Miller, editor and publisher.

Now at the time, I imagined editors of such magazines to be outliers, sad old men drooling over erotic words. But just to look at Arv Miller you’d think he was a college professor, not the mouth-breathing editor of a girlie magazine. He wore a tweed sport coat, the kind with leather patches on the elbows, and a conservative necktie pulled low away from the unbuttoned collar. His tassled loafers bared their soles on the desk before me.

“Here’s the rag you’ll be working on,” he reached behind him and flung a Fling to my waiting lap. The cover featured a woman with breasts so large they spilled across state lines. I flipped through the pages. More of the same.

“Writing what, exactly?” I asked.

“The whole thing,” Miller said. “All the text, captions, letters to the editor. The deal is, you give me the copy I need, I’ll pay you a hundred and a quarter an issue. Every other month. Sound alright?”

Ka-ching went the dollar signs in my eyes.

I went home and locked myself in the extra bedroom. I had ten 8 by 10 photos featuring a young woman whom I knew nothing about. The raciest photo was one of her reclining in a pair of mesh pantyhose. The rest showed her at work as a model or at home reading the newspaper. My job was to write a letter in her voice. even though we had never met.

Other photos were only mildly erotic. This was 1969, after all.

By the time I was done with my “Make a Date With Marie” letter, I felt I had done pretty well. I mean, it wasn’t literature but it did have some kind of verbal flair, I thought. So, I stuffed the photos and the copy into my briefcase and showed up at the Fling office, where I flung Fling back to Arv Miller. I took out my pocket notebook and pen and watched as Miller read and puffed on his pipe. When he was through, he slammed the manuscript down on his desk.

“Not bad,” he said. “But there’s something missing.” He paused. I wrote in my notebook, “Something missing.”

Arv asked: “You remember Holly Golightly in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”

“Sure. Audrey Hepburn.”

“Remember how she kept her shoes in the refrigerator? That’s what you need here, that kind of kookiness.”

“Shoes in refrigerator,” I wrote in my notebook. “Kookiness.”

“Think you can do it?” Never say no.

Three days later, I turned in my final effort for “Make a Date With Marie.” In it she (I) writes that on hot days she loves to come home, open the refrigerator, and pull out a nice, cold pair of pantyhose. Arv loved it.

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Bob is an award winning journalist who was recently inducted into the Maine Press Hall of Fame. He authored the Skipper Gould men’s adventure trilogy (Avon) 1980s. He Co-authored two books on weather and global smog in the 1990s with NASA climatologist Jack Fishman. He currently lives on the Maine coast where he raises hackles.

 

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