By Lauren Wise
By New Times
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By Jason P. Woodbury
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There is also a bunch of people, many of whom are press, but many more of whom are some of the scariest-looking Hollywood stereotypes imaginable. Older men sporting expensive suits and bizarre hair weaves cruise past, trailing robust women who look young enough to be junior-varsity cheerleaders. People tanned to the point of cancer grope at hors d'oeuvres trays, line up at the bar for free drinks and mingle about in the smooth, oft-repeated ritual of embrace, peck cheek, smile and move on.
Nancy is nowhere to be seen. I head through a stone archway into a faux-subterranean passage looking for a bathroom, keen on any secrets it may reveal. Of course, all the cans at Hef's are unisex; I enter one, and gently shut the heavy, wooden door behind me. The lighting is soft and intimate, the air flowing from a small, tasteful duct is warm and lightly caresses my face as I stand before the bowl. The mood is sensuous, enveloping and classy; perfect for a night of tender lovemaking. Or going to the bathroom, which I proceed to do. And on the shelf, Hef--ever the thoughtful host--has provided Glade air freshener and Tampax. I flush, step out, calm, fulfilled. I have consummated an act at Playboy Mansion West.
I linger for a moment in the darkened stone hallway, and hear voices around the corner. Just visible on a nearby door is a sign that says, "Reserved for Ms. Sinatra." It opens, and three handlers emerge. They seem to be in some kind of heated, show-biz debate: "She looks fabulous!" "Nancy wants her hair flat--I like it big!" "No, it's perfect the way it is--sensational!"
Outside, there is a refreshing beverage with my name on it, compliments of Hugh Hefner. I feel that now is the time to go and get it.
Apparently, the hair debate is settled, and Nancy joins the party. She is instantly surrounded by the crowd, cameras strobing nonstop, hands thrust out to touch her. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and say she looks good for a 54-year-old, but she looks good for a 54-year-old. Glamorous. Foxy, dammit. The trademark black eyeliner is there, the dirty-blond hair, diabolically full red lips and--you better believe it--the boots. Big, black leather boots that reach up to her thighs. These boots were made for more than just walking; they were created for strutting, for humbling the mighty, for world-comeback domination.
And look--there's Mel Torm‚! The aging crooner with the sagging face embraces Nancy as the photographers go to work, and here comes somebody else, Ray Anthony. Ray, in case you didn't know, played trumpet for Glenn Miller (Miller used to be famous, too, kids), was married to bombshell Mamie Van Doren, became a bandleader, had a Top 10 hit with "Peter Gunn" in 1955 and took "Melody of Love" to No. 19 later that year, dueting with the man who sired Nancy. But all of that was a long time ago. Now he's a guy at a party in a burgundy toupee eating a piece of chicken on a stick.
I look across the lawn and see the Man Who Put Sex As We Know It on the Map. It's Hefner himself striding out to join the fun, wry grin and tousled hair perfectly in place. But wait--he's not wearing silk pajamas, he's not drinking a Coke, there's no pipe jutting from his mouth. In fact, he's got his wife, ex-Playmate Kimberly Conrad, and young daughter in tow. (Later, I was peeping through a Mansion window at the grand, wooden stairway railing in the paneled entry hall. The same one that a nude, apparently friction-resistant Barbi Benton was sliding down so many years ago in my dad's desk drawer. Next to it was a wall of Lego.) What gives?
My boyhood images are falling away like needles from a parched Christmas tree, but still, it's Hef. He descends into the melee for a little spotlight quality time with Nance. After things calm down a bit, I sidle over to the corner of the garden where Hef is hanging with Mel and Ray for a little eavesdropping. What could these legends be saying to each other? Torm‚ moves his head forward until it's perhaps an inch away from Hef's, locks eyes with the Playboy kingpin. "I just wanna ask you one thing," says Mel, his wattle bobbling slightly.
"What's that?" says Hef.
The Velvet Fog, the man who penned the beloved lines "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Jack Frost nipping at your nose," leans in even closer and says, "Who the fuck are these people?!"
And now. Nancy Sinatra takes a dainty step into the midstage spotlight--the first time she's done so in 20 years--and begins to sing "How Does That Grab You, Darlin'?" If you like "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," you'll like "Darlin'"--they're pretty much the same song. She's gyrating a bit, and the voice is a little ragged, but powerful. Thirty years ago, she had that feisty-kitten thing going, but this is a more mature, experienced song vixen. Nancy's really trying; she's not overdoing it with smarmy Vegas shtick, nor is she playing to the obvious camp/joke potential. She goes into the Beatles tune "Run for Your Life," taking out the word "boy" in one verse and snarling, "You know that I'm a wicked chick and I was born with a jealous mind," then launches into some material from her new CD. The band of L.A. studio pros is slick, and the music is pretty generic.