|My life as a Playboy mole|
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist
Now I know how John Elway must've felt the first time he gripped an inflated pigskin, the elation that overcame Richard Petty when he first pressed pedal to metal, the sense of self-importance that engulfed Keyshawn Johnson after his first interview, and the rush of adrenaline (and blood) that energized Ron Jeremy the first time he heard a director shout "Take 2!"
You can waste your entire life searching for your calling, jumping from job to job, bad relationship to bad relationship, religion to religion.
Luckily, I discovered my life's calling Saturday night. Last week, I shared with you my angst about whether I should attend Hugh Hefner's Super Bowl soiree at San Diego's House of Hospitality in Balboa Park. The party was scheduled the night before The Big Game, which meant I wouldn't get to do my normal game preparation with some of the most respected names in football journalism. Also, I shared with you that over the years I had grown arousingly more uncomfortable with the NFL's association with beer advertisements that rely on the sexual objectification of intelligent women. And I admitted that I was enraged by a Budweiser commercial that insinuated that men with "cute little hands" had shortcomings.
As a man with "cute little hands," I feel the beer ads are now hitting below the belt, and it's time for commissioner Tagliabue and the league to stand against such negative, dehumanizing, dangerous stereotypes. The chains that bind sports to sex, athletes to supermodels, competition to decadence, beer to babes, and, dare I say, hand to ... well, you know ... must been broken.
So, as a man of principle, I considered declining my invitation to Hef's Playboy bash.
But hundreds of you reached out to me via e-mail and insisted that I attend the party. You said it was important as a journalist that I visit the front lines of the sports-sexploitation industry and report back to you the untold atrocities. You referenced the great men and women of history who made countless sacrifices for the betterment of mankind, and said that attending Hef's party was my opportunity to give back, to honor the old men of my profession, the Edwin Popes, the Furman Bishers, the Ralph Wileys.
Plus, my father called from his favorite barstool at the Masterpiece Lounge: "Negro, is you crazy? You go and represent. And you better take plenty pictures. Just be careful 'round all those sweet-smellin' Missy Annes. BellBivDevoe said it right. 'Never trust a big butt and a smile.' I don't know 'bout your generation. Every time you get a little money and fame ...''
Not wanting to let all of you down, I decided to attend the party. I'm glad I did. Researching the relationship between sports and scantily-clad, gorgeous women, I believe, is my calling. It's what I was put on this earth to do.
In order to rid professional sports leagues of their reliance on sexual exploitation, someone has to work from the inside, someone has to document the horrors, someone has to hang out with the biggest stars in sports and listen to their gossip, and someone has to befriend the half-naked models and try to convince them that being the girlfriend of a sportswriter has more perks than being a one-night stand of an NFL star.
This is my calling. It has to be. It came so natural to me.
My first good decision was ignoring the overwhelming sentiment expressed by readers of this column who told me to attend the party stag. A Hef party is the one shindig in which it is perfectly acceptable and beneficial to bring sand to the beach. Plus, I needed someone to take pictures.
Finding a date to a Hef party, even a thousand miles away from home, is about as easy as finding a roll on Warren Sapp's neck. Dangling an invite to the Playboy party all week had women calling me Denzel Whitlockton by Friday night. I'm not so sure it made me all that popular with my sportswriting peers. Randy Covitz, my colleague from Kansas City, threw me under a bus when he overheard me sweet-talking the NFL's most beautiful public-relations staffer, Morgan.
"Hey, Jason, I thought you had some girl from Kansas City coming out here to stay with you," Covitz blurted out in the middle of my conversation with Morgan.
Hate the game, Randy, not the playa.
So I ended up taking Amy, a friend who works as a hotel front-desk clerk in San Diego and snagged a temporary media credential by pretending to be a producer for a radio show. She's smart, adventurous and cute, the perfect combination for a Hef party.
I decided to go with a dressy, casual look. I wore a dark blue, sleeveless suit, you know, the kind Cedric the Entertainer wore on the Kings of Comedy Tour. To make it casual, I went without a tie and wore a navy silk shirt, untucked.
"You look important, but like you came to have a good time," Amy said.
The party started at 9:30 p.m. We arrived at 8:30. Hey, the invite said we needed to check in by 8:45. As we stood around waiting to be let in, we got the chance to observe several party-crashers try to talk their way in. Victoria, the lady with the VIP, ticketless guests list, was tough. She wasn't falling for any B.S.
The House of Hospitality is really just a gigantic, luxurious visitors' center for Balboa Park. As you walked into Hef's party, there was a huge open courtyard. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the first celeb that I spotted. He was holding court in the courtyard with a couple of female fans.
Straight ahead a giant ballroom had been turned into a hip-hop dance club. Marcus Allen, fresh from his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was back in the ballroom, celebrating with Ronnie Lott and Vencie Glenn. Warren Moon hung out by the exit.
To the right of the courtyard was the Prado restaurant, which has nice outdoor patio dining. I ran into Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez inside the restaurant. Gonzalez tried to introduce me to Carmen Electra, but she insisted that we talk in the VIP area. I didn't have a VIP pass. Gonzalez and Sharpe followed Carmen into the VIP area, and I never saw them again. Outside, I talked to Tony Siragusa, John Rocker, John Salley and Barry Sanders.
I know what you're thinking. Forget about the athletes. What about the girls?
Trust me, I was thinking the same thing. Hef had the place stuffed with beautiful women. But besides a few women dressed in only well-placed body paint and G-strings, the party wasn't all that decadent. It wasn't even rated R.
Yeah, I met the Miller Lite catfight girls, got a kiss from one of Hef's bunnies, a drunken woman sat on my lap and whispered what she would be willing to do to me if I'd introduce her to Hef. (Hugh, you can reach me at 816-234-4869.)
But beyond that, I was disappointed. What I learned is that these parties are really for the big, big stars. Sharpe and Gonzalez had women all over them. Kordell Stewart rapped with the finest, thickest woman at the party. Women threw themselves at Barry Sanders.
A woman spotted me talking to Warren Moon and came up and introduce herself. Amaya was her name. Nice girl. I was right in the middle of asking for her cellphone number when Warren walked away.
"You're not with Warren?" she asked.
"No," I said.
She walked away.
Becoming a real insider in the sports-sexual-exploitation world might take years and years of dedication. For you, I will take on this challenge, this burden. It is my calling.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.