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Requiem for a Dream

The international man of mystery ain’t what he used to be.

Aug 8, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 44 • By JOE QUEENAN
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This drives home the point that all men who are not dorks or twerps or bloggers or Michael Moore at some point in their lives harbor a secret desire to both live and die like playboys. There is a part of the male psyche that wants to believe that were there world enough and time and money, each of us would be a gourmand, a globetrotter, a babe magnet, and perhaps even a falconer. It is important that young women know this: A man who does not secretly want to wrap his sports car around a tree in the Bois de Boulogne is a dork, a liar, or the kind of guy who trades vintage Pete Seeger LPs on eBay. (On a personal note: I really would have liked to shoot a rhino at some point in my life. Maybe even a white one. Wouldn’t have to be at point-blank range, either. In a pinch, a decrepit hyena would do.)

Feminists despise playboys, as do men who purport to be in league with feminists; yet it is a curious fact that the greatest American novel, The Great Gatsby, lionizes a mysterious playboy. Jay Gatsby, of course, makes today’s faux playboys seem like hopeless amateurs. The Middle East is filled with spoiled scions of wealthy sheikhdoms who hang out on the Riviera. No one thinks of them as playboys. To be a playboy you have to wear clothes well and cut a fine figure. Sons of sheikhs rarely cut a fine figure. And then there is the case of Newt Gingrich, wannabe playboy, who honestly believed that opening a charge account at Tiffany’s would put him in the same weight class as Marcello Mastroianni and Charles II and Serge Gainsbourg and Gatsby. Ugh.

My own experience with jet-setting international playboys is relatively limited. Basically just a few daydreams about having lunch with Dominique Sanda or Anita Ekberg. But a few years ago I was having coffee with Mort Sahl in a Beverly Hills Starbucks when he pointed out that George Hamilton was sitting directly across from us. George Hamilton made a lot of movies, none of them memorable, but he was revered in American society during the Tonight Show era as a genial, carefree layabout playboy with fantastic hair and an amazing tan and a million girlfriends.

When Sahl pointed him out, I turned and looked, but refused to believe that it was George Hamilton. George Hamilton, in my mind, would forever be sunning himself on his yacht, working on his tan, a stiff breeze blowing through his fabulous hair. Either that or he would be getting the Lamborghini ready for a fast spin around the Bois de Boulogne.

If we had reached the point where George Hamilton was having coffee in Starbucks, the age of the classic playboy was over, and my own dreams were dead.

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Closing Time: A Memoir.

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