Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen hoopla once again fills the papers; more rumors of prostitutes, drugs, trashed hotel suites, the former friend of former madam Heidi Fleisch. One misinformed reporter referred to Sheen as a "playboy", which got me thinking. Sheen is most definitely a bad boy, but he is certainly not a playboy? I mean, where have all the playboys gone?
Playboys have been dubbed variously, and in no particular order; lotharios, stud, rake, wolf, philanderer, skirt-chaser, womanizer, ladies' man. The key word here, being "lady". Playboys are not aficionados of hookers, whores and porn stars. Playboys of yesteryear were openly and unapologetically faithless rakes, but they adored, loved, and consumed women. Almost as if that was their occupation. They lived for getting the next one into bed. And they did not callously toss her aside once an affair was over. That's why their ex-lovers adored them and they continued on with great success. Playboys weren't discreet, they didn't hide their paramours, they proudly paraded them on their arms at all the fashionable nightclubs of the day.
Playboys oftentimes escorted wealthy women, even marrying them. All the while continuing to charm and bed others. They just couldn't help themselves. All this done with humor and charm and lightness. They had a sincerity of seduction.
Nowadays there is an absolute dearth of playboys. Sorry George Clooney, as much as we might be fascinated by your latest model/waitress/actress/girl, you don't qualify.
A playboy was first and foremost a good lover, and he knew it, and he let every woman know it. He was frustratingly unfaithful, never pretending to be monogamous. His entire life was designed around assignations with women.
Modern day playboys were jet setters, race car drivers, polo riders. They engaged in dangerous sports. They were exceedingly, vainly handsome. They poured time and energy into their dress, and hair and bodies. They spoke many languages -- though really only one language was necessary -- the language of love. They were great lovers.
Playboys were romantic, usually had a marriage or two to wealthy heiresses in his back pocket, and conducted numerous public affairs, nattily dressers. And admired and copied for generations to come.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, was a playboy and poet, born in England in 1647. He married an heiress (playboys need to be set up to acquire the accessories of a man-about-town). As it was the style of the day for men to wear wigs, and Wilmot did, he spent an inordinate amount of time on his appearance. His poetry was as passionate as was his life. Voltaire was a fan. Goethe oft quoted him. The Earl was witty and handsome and vain. As I am the mistress of an elderly man, his poem "A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover" I find to be spot on.
Ancient person, for whom I
All the fluttering youths defy,
Long be it ere thou grow old,
Aching, shaking, crazy, cold,
But still continue as thou art,
Ancient person of my heart
All playboys are indebted to Giacomo Casanova of whom we barely need mention. Born in 1725, Giacomo was the original James Bond, who was the epitome of "playboy." Gambler extraordinaire, not only with money but his life. What stud today is lounging around a poker table tossing $1,000 chips with a devil-may-care grim?
Casanova knew the secret of success with ladies lay in the art of the seduction. Casanova spoke to, looked at, and treated every one of the thousands he snared as if she were the only woman in the world worth sleeping with. We women of course wouldn't be so naïve to actually believe a playboy, but it doesn't mean we don't want to be treated as if we're the only one your interested in. Another notch on your bedpost? Sure, why not? Believe me, your name is going in our little black book.
Lord Byron was another poet. Born in 1788, this playboy was exceedingly handsome and a dead ringer for John Mayor. Though of course Byron wouldn't tweet the dirt about his bed mates. Instead he immortalized them in poems. Byron was a gentleman. Playboys always are. Byron wrote:
"Polygamy may well be held in dread,
Not only as a sin, but as a bore."
And a playboy must have the stamina of a Lord Byron who claimed to have had 200 different women on as many consecutive nights. Oh, I wish I'd known him! He was such a consumer of women, no one was safe from his cleft chin and dark curly hair. He couldn't help himself and fell in love with his half-sister. Okay so he maybe slept with a man or two... c'est la vie.
Italians make superb playboys. Armando Orsini of Orsini's restaurant fame -- who himself said -- not bragging mind you but simply stating a fact -- had hundreds of lovers. From Ava Gardner, to his former wife burlesque bathtub queen Lili St Cyr. Armando adores women -- yes present tense, he's 87 and still going strong. If I currently didn't have an Earl *, I'd attach myself to the suave Italian. Armando had the habit of asking a married woman if her husband still slept with her, assuming mostly correctly the married woman was neglected at home. Armando was an elegant dresser. He helped class up Lili, taking her shopping for Balenciaga and Dior gowns.
Orsini's friend and fellow lady-killer was the frightfully well-endowed Porfirio Rubirosa, of the 11-inch notoriety. Now, purely for scientific reasons only, would I even venture close. "Rubi" married two heiresses, tobacco and dime stores dames, Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton, respectively. His extra curricular activities were rumored to have been Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Eva Peron, Patricia Kennedy, Earhta kitt and Joan Crawford, amongst about 100 or so more.
Rubirosa met an appropriate and glamorous death after he crashed his Ferrari after partying all night in honor of winning a Polo race.
Prince Aly Kahn (it doesn't hurt to have a title and be a playboy) conquered Gene Tierney and Rita Hayworth to name the most famous. Curiously he died of head injuries after a party, like his pal Rubirosa.
There are so many more role models I wish the men of today would learn from, certain Greek shipping magnets to Errol Flynn -- a rake if there ever was -- unapologetically well groomed, and well hung. He loved to show off his many women. And language changed with him "in like Flynn". Playboys should have quotes/sayings attributed to their behavior.
It's so boring on the dating scene these days. Sleeping with porn stars and paying for hookers does not qualify you for anything other than having bad taste. I still can't get over the women who slept with Tiger... for free! But that is another story.
Perhaps the last great Hollywood playboy was Warren Beatty. I morn for his single days. As I've sat across from Mr. Beatty at a dinner I can attest to his famous charm. He looks you right in the eye as if he's looking you right in the breast. Suave personified.
Being a playboy used to mean something. They certainly didn't throttle their women by the neck, nor did they have police throw sheets over their naked intoxicated bodies and wrestle them to the ground for punching hotel walls. I mean, what would Eloise think?
* "Earl" is a synonym for "protector" or "rich friend who pays."
Staar continues her hands-on study of legendary lovers for her forthcoming book.