I think it must be a sign of the times that no one else—in all of the yards of commentary I've seen on the subject—thought to ask what ought to be the obvious question about The Interview: what is Mayor Koch, or anybody else, doing in the pages of Playboy magazine anyway?
There was a day, I imagine, when it would have been embarrassing to have your priceless thoughts recorded for posterity only if you were willing to have them interrupted by pictures of girls young enough to be your daughters without any clothes on. That day is past, and I can't see that we're any better off for it.
I don't expect to be asked myself, and if it ever happened, I'd have to turn it down. My mother would be embarrassed, and my kids would be — to use a word of another day — mortified. (My only brush with journalistic immortality came when Phil Roura and Tom Poster, the guys who do the People Page at the Daily News, were kind enough to include my name when they announced last year that Cardinal Cooke had decided to start a new newspaper for the New York Archdiocese. My kids thought it was hilarious that my name was sandwiched between items about Luciano Pavarotti and Olivia Newton-John. So much for celebrity.)
But if you accept the premise—and I don't—that a Playboy interview is the way to reach the people, what is it about that prospect that causes reasonable men to come unglued? Why would Jimmy Carter blurt out a confession of lust? Why would our mayor put the rap on two-thirds of the people in the state, even if he wasn't planning to run for governor at the time? Why would he go public with language he never learned in shul?
Maybe because that same kind of language is at home today in the drawing room as much as it was in the locker room a generation ago.
Maybe because we sit through movies that we would have walked out on, in sheer disgust, a few years ago.
Maybe because clamming up is the easiest thing to do when it comes to sordid themes on stage, and because it's too much trouble to change the channel—or turn the set off—when television turns on its nightly parade of smarmy sitcoms.
And maybe — by our silence, and even more by our purchases—because politicians and other people in the public eye think that dirty magazines are where it's at.
Maybe because they think there's nobody left who'll ask the question: What are they doing in the pages of a magazine like that, anyway? How out of tune with the times we are, how hopelessly out of tune.
I thought it was interesting that in the first galley proof of one of our stories that mentions Ed Koch's interview, the magazine came out as "Playbody."
I think it was a typo. Maybe.
—Gerald M. Costello
This column originally appeared in Catholic New York on March 7, 1982.