WBEZ | Playboy Club http://www.wbez.org/tags/playboy-club Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fall TV: Nostalgia for the glamorous 1960s needs a tune-up http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-19/fall-tv-nostalgia-glamorous-1960s-needs-tune-92208 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-20/The-Playboy-Club-007.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two of this week's most talked-about TV premieres have very similar settings: <em>Pan Am</em>, first airing on Sunday, is about attractive young women working as Pan Am flight attendants in the 1960s. <em>The Playboy Club</em>, which premiered Monday night, is about — well, attractive young women working as Playboy bunnies in the 1960s. Both shows are trying to imitate the success of another show set in the '60s: <em>Mad Men.</em></p><p>(NPR pop-culture blogger Linda Holmes wrote about <em>The Playboy Club</em> when the network <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/08/02/138924658/the-bizarre-pitch-for-the-playboy-club-its-all-about-female-empowerment">introduced the show</a> to critics over the summer, and she weighed in on <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/09/19/140598200/the-playboy-club-dont-skip-it-for-women-skip-it-for-humankind">the revamped pilot episode</a> this week.)</p><p>In <em>The Playboy Club</em>, new bunny Maureen has a pretty good setup. She's fresh in from Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a job at the coolest nightspot in town, Chicago's Playboy Club. She gets caught up in some mob action, but when she's told to leave Chicago — for her own good, of course — she wants to stay because being a Playboy Bunny is her dream job.</p><p>The opening even features narration (and an implied blessing) from an actor portraying <em>Playboy</em> founder Hugh Hefner himself: "I built a place in the toddlin' town where everything was perfect," he intones. "Fantasies became realities for everyone who walked through the doors."</p><p>Male-dominated fantasies, mostly — and for all its nostalgic glamour, NBC's <em>Playboy Club</em> gets stuck between its roots in a pre-liberation era and the reality of women's prominence in modern television. Because we're watching it in 2011, <em>The Playboy Club</em> has female characters argue for bunny work as empowerment; they say it's the best option for an ambitious woman in a troubled world.</p><p>"Honey, all I'm saying is that life is always going to be rough out there," explains the one African-American bunny. (She calls herself "chocolate.") "We're in here. We're at the party, and the party just started."</p><p>But because this is also about the Playboy life, the women's jobs and successes depend on serving and pleasing men. It's a hard line to walk. The show doesn't even give last names to the bunny characters, including star Amber Heard's troubled Maureen.</p><p>Worst of all, because this is network TV, the show commits what's a cardinal sin in Hugh Hefner's hedonistic universe: It isn't sexy. It's hard to believe, but NBC made a show about the Playboy Club that has almost no actual sex in it. It's not much more than a transparent homage to the <em>Mad Men</em> era of Rat Pack songs and sleek suits.</p><p>Sex appeal is not a problem for ABC's <em>Pan Am.</em> The airline's stewardesses — again, it's the '60s, so we're not calling them flight attendants yet — emerge as the ultimate symbol of buttoned-down beauty, the cameras lingering on their wide eyes, occasional cleavage and tight skirts. It's a decidedly male vision that at times seems sexier than anything <em>The Playboy Club</em> has to offer.</p><p>Here, the nostalgia on tap is for the Jet Age, the first time you could fly a plane anywhere in the world on an hour's notice, with more leg room than you find in today's airport lounges. So what if the only way for a woman to get ahead in this world is by serving drinks in the sky, enduring girdle checks and mandatory weigh-ins before she puts on her sleek stewardess hat?</p><p>Both <em>Pan Am</em> and <em>Playboy Club</em> attempt the same balancing act that <em>Mad Men</em> actually pulls off. They want to bask in the sexy glamour of the 1960s while also exploring its oppressive reality. This way, the networks hope to draw male viewers — whom advertisers love — without losing the female viewers who watch TV far more often.</p><p>But for these series to work, they need to dig deeper, moving beyond the superficial glitz of a time when too many lives were unfairly limited. Otherwise, <em>The Playboy Club</em> and <em>Pan Am</em> will just be celebrating a time when women had less freedom and less power. That's a history lesson no one needs to learn.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/media/">Eric Deggans</a> is the TV critic for the St. Petersburg Times. </em></p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-19/fall-tv-nostalgia-glamorous-1960s-needs-tune-92208 The curious crossroads of Next Thai and Trader Vic's http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-07-07/curious-crossroads-next-thai-and-trader-vics-88841 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-07/TRADERVICSCHI.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-07/TRADERVICSCHI.JPG" style="width: 500px; height: 332px;" title=""></p><p><span id="internal-source-marker_0.745460654985042" style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">The first time I met Grant Achatz was back in 2004 when I walked into his kitchen, then Trio in Evanston. I’d emailed him from Paris where I’d just finished a stage, asking if I could do the same there. He’d said yes. Months later I opened a whitewashed creaky screen door to find him working silently, alone in a space most kindly described as airy but vintage. Backlit by early spring’s morning sun, dressed in chef’s whites, he turned slightly. I rushed forward to introduce myself, shake his hand, and thank him. He put his knife down, shook my hand deliberately, quietly told me where I could find an apron, then turned back to his work. </span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">I’ve seen Grant a few times since. His handshake's warmer, speak volumes.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">I never met Victor Bergeron, the Vic of <a href="http://www.tradervics.com/" target="_blank">Trader Vic’s</a>, but I imagine he was a very different man, if the Palmer House restaurant was any indication - which often it's not. I remember it as deep, dark, dimly lit by faux tiki torches, but just enough to find your Mai Tai and pupu platter. <a href="http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-10-11/entertainment/17183469_1_bay-area-leg-drinks" target="_blank">His 1984 San Francisco Chronicle obituary</a> quoted him as once saying that in the early days he “sang and even let customers stick an ice pick in my wooden leg.”</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">I’ve been to a few Trader Vic’s around the world. Two in Chicago if you count the one in the Palmer House and the last one on State near Oak separately. I do.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">Today, literally this afternoon, the hottest news in the foodie world is that tickets go on sale for the next iteration of <a href="http://nextrestaurant.com/" target="_blank">Next Restaurant</a>, Achatz’s newest restaurant that changes its menu completely every few months. Currently it’s Paris 1906. Soon, as detailed in <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/food/2011/06/tour_of_thailand_what_to_expec.html" target="_blank">Janet Fuller’s post in the Sun-Times yesterday</a>, it will be a tour of Thailand.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-06/features/chi-trader-vics-closes-its-chicago-location-20110706_1_trader-vic-tiki-ta" target="_blank">Yesterday Phil Vittel at the Tribune reported</a> that Trader Vic’s Chicago has closed, but he’s not yet been able to confirm. <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2011/07/01/the_sad_story_of_trader_vics_in_chi.php" target="_blank">Rob Christopher reported the story last week on Chicagoist</a>.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">You’ll see in the comments on both stories complaints that Trader Vic’s was ripped out of the Palmer House. That the new location was hard to find. That the food, drink, and service were just no good. But really there’s not a lot of hue and cry over the loss.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">The last Trader Vic’s space was in fact the home of the legendary Arnie’s. As in Arnie Morton. As in the father of Morton’s. As in the godfather of the Playboy Club.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">The Playboy Clubs, where women dressed as surreal bunnies. I've heard a few stories from former regulars. They never mentioned the food or drink.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">Next Thai. Trader Vic’s. Two restaurants opened by two men who couldn’t seem more different. One a tour that transports you to his Thailand. The other that transported you to his Polynesia. Both fully immersive escapist experiences to the extreme. One heralded as the future. The other forgotten to the past - but not by all.</span></p></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2011 18:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-07-07/curious-crossroads-next-thai-and-trader-vics-88841