'Have you ever heard of someone tap-dancing naked in context?'

DICKIE FANTASTIC ON THE SCHMOOZE
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In the VIP room at the launch of "The Playboy Channel" - in an old church off Haverstock Hill - Katie Puckrick is peering though the darkness at the Evening Standard's Marina Baker.

"Your blue hair," says Katie. "What does it do for your complexion? Does it make you look very pale?"

"My complexion," replies Marina, "is fantastic. Nothing ever makes it look bad." She pauses, and adds: "God was in a very good mood when He invented me."

There is very little one can say to this, especially because it is entirely true. Marina was a Playboy Playmate of the Month once (March 1987), but has given it all up for the somewhat less righteous profession of News Journalism.

"You see that," she says, pointing at the huge video screens portraying a young lady-schoolteacher, wholly naked aside from her cape and hat. "I did that," reminisces Marina. "Playboy TV America, back in 1987. In my contract it said that there was to be no gratuitous nudity. The nudity had to be in context. But they wanted me to tap-dance naked. Now, I ask you ..."

"Terrible," I agree.

"Have you ever heard of someone tap-dancing naked in context?" says Marina. "I've certainly never done it," I say.

Our conversation is interrupted then by the thrilling arrival of Cristie Hefner - Hugh's daughter and new leader of the Playboy empire. The camera crews flock - Live TV, London Tonight, etc.

"So," begins one journalist, brashly. "Are we Brit guys ready for all your sexy girls, huh? Ha ha ha!" "Yes," replies Cristie, "and you Brit girls too!"

"Ha ha ha!" says the man. So. Um. Yes! Ha ha! ... um ..." There is a very long silence - he has stalled. Cristie Hefner walks away. The presenter visibly crumbles, his head in his hands. "It's okay," soothes the cameraman. "We'll cut around it. It'll all be okay."

"I was put off," wails the presenter, "by her."

We all glance over at a tall, very large-breasted and very scantily clad blonde lady with big rabbit ears who is handing out cigarettes.

"It's difficult," mutters the journalist, "under these circumstances."

It is. An old church is - actually - the ideal location for a launch party involving much nakedness, because the inevitable awkward, silent solemnity is almost religious. Some women seem to think that when clothed men and nude ladies get together, the men shout and laugh and cheer. This is not the case. Men go silent, sober, pensive. And, becausealmost all the women here are employed solely to purr and wear big ears, the party is rather dull and guilt-ridden.

"I did tell my girlfriend I was coming," says a Radio One DJ to me, with a look of utmost seriousness on his face. "She wasn't very happy. But I did tell her. I wouldn't come to a place like this if I wasn't working."

"Oh," I say. "Are you broadcasting?"

"Oh no," he replies. "Just ... um ... networking. You know. Contacts." And then we look up at the big screen - at the naked schoolteacher. "Well," I say, attempting a rather ineffectual male-bonding moment. "Just look at that. Didn't have many teachers like that at Cardiff high school!" "No," he replies. "And just look at the semiotics of that shot. See how she's in a classic submissive position - a typical male fantasy. Being dominated by and dominating the teacher figure at the same time. Very sexist of course, but also quite a confusing message. Just look."

And we both look.

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