The Barbi Twins, Shane and Sia, called me again this week. They said I was responsible for what had happened to them.
Being on the cover of Playboy this month.
They wanted to thank me--and get my reaction. You know, how did I think they looked and which picture did I like best.
Shane, I believe it was Shane, told me they had gained weight to make their breasts bigger. She said it made them feel fat, but what did I think?
She said the twins refused to take off their "bottoms" for the photo display, and did I think that was the right decision? . . . "\o7 Well???\f7 "
I guess I was a little slow to answer. After all, these are not questions I am accustomed to getting. I cover politics and government and spend a lot of time around City Hall. There, if you have something to say about someone's body, it's best to keep it to yourself unless you have a cavalier attitude about fistfights and lawsuits.
I got to know Shane and Sia after writing a brief article two years ago about a billboard on Sunset Boulevard that some people said was causing car accidents. The billboard displayed Shane and Sia, life-size, in the nearly altogether. My article apparently led to more publicity, and pretty soon the twins were appearing on calendars and posters. Since then, they have kept me up to date on their progress, as well as occasionally asking my advice on certain matters of taste.
But when they called this time, they caught me off guard. I sheepishly explained to Shane that I hadn't seen Playboy this month.
"\o7 You haven't\f7 !" Shane replied.
In the pause that followed, I imagined what was going through her mind. \o7 He is even older than we thought\f7 . Or,\o7 reporters really aren't like normal people\f7 .
I told her my newsstand was out of Playboy.
We'll take care of that, she said.
The magazine arrived Federal Express at my desk the following morning. There the twins were, on the cover and spread out across several pages of golden sand. The best picture, I like to think, is the one they autographed to me.
While I have never met them, over the years I have built up a small Barbi Twins file thanks to the mementos Shane and Sia have sent me. Where other people have pictures of their children and their dogs, I have the Twins. No one around me paid much attention until this month's Playboy came out. Now, women make it clear they regard my collection as something to be carted off in a pooper scooper.
Some men have gotten belligerent. "Why would the Barbi Twins want to have anything to do with you?" they ask. Or, "why don't you give their phone number to someone who could make good use of it?" One fellow suggested I was being conned: "How do you know they exist, if you have only talked to them on the phone?" He was insinuating, of course, that the Barbi Twins are an artist's conception, a fantasy sold to the public with the help of a gullible reporter.
"Go ahead and think that if it makes you feel better," I told the fellow. "But you're not getting their number."
Playboy has always put people in a dither.
I started reading it in the back of a school bus, where a group of us would hold the magazine down, behind a seat so that the driver couldn't see it through one of the dozen or so rear-view mirrors he used to spy on us. These sessions were accompanied by a lot of \o7 oohing\f7 and \o7 aahing \f7 and talk about what-I-would-do-if-I-ever-had-a-date-with-her. Then a page would get ripped, a fight would start, and the bus driver would stop the bus and confiscate the magazine before we'd even got to the centerfold.
Years later, a college classmate became an editor at Playboy. Whenever we asked him about what it was like to work there, he would talk about the interviews with famous people, about how well regarded the magazine was in intellectual circles.
He was very serious, and he made it clear that to ask him what it was like to work around all those naked women would be like asking a gynecologist to talk about his patients.
I have learned a thing or two from my old classmate. When Shane and Sia call me, I don't come on like a drooling schoolboy. I take them seriously and I give them my honest opinion when they ask me a question. For example, I told Shane I didn't think she made a mistake gaining that extra weight.
I also told them that there are certain things you can't judge about people over the telephone--you have to be there, in person.