The Gumshoe and the Playboy

Woody Allen was born on this day in 1935. “The Whore of Mensa,” collected in Without Feathers, has the hardboiled gumshoe, Kaiser Lupowitz, on the trail of Flossie, who runs a stable of intellectual prostitutes. On the pretence of looking for a special kind of night – “Suppose I wanted Noam Chomsky explained to me by two girls?” – Lupowitz arrives at book bordello:

Pale, nervous girls with black-rimmed glasses and blunt-cut hair lolled around on sofas, riffling Penguin Classics provocatively. A blonde with a big smile winked at me, nodded toward a room upstairs, and said, “Wallace Stevens, eh?…” For fifty bucks, I learned, you could “relate without getting close.” For a hundred, a girl would lend you her Bartók records, have dinner, and then let you watch while she had an anxiety attack…. For three bills, you got the works: A thin Jewish brunette would pretend to pick you up at the Museum of Modern Art, let you read her master’s, get you involved in a screaming quarrel at Elaine’s over Freud’s conception of women, and then fake a suicide of your choosing – the perfect evening, for some guys. Nice racket. Great town, New York.


Playboy appeared on this day in 1953, the magazine introduced by Hugh Hefner as a must read for men and Mensas:

Most of today’s “magazines for men” spend all their time out-of-doors – thrashing through thorny thickets or splashing about in fast-flowing streams. We’ll be out there too, occasionally, but we don’t mind telling you in advance – we plan on spending most of our time inside. We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex….

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at