How we got Mara into Playboy

by Sam Sloan

One day I was sitting around the dining room table with Mara Suviks and Robin Assali. We were talking about the Playboy article and the money I had received. Robin popped up and said, "Hey. I've got an idea. Let's make Mara a Playmate. You've got connections with Playboy. We can have you send in some pictures of her."
Mara Suviks on the Berkeley campus in 1966

Mara smiled and I smiled and nodded in response. We did not say anything more about it. Mara was a good-looking girl but I could not quite imagine her in Playboy.

A few days later, I went over to Mara's house on 2535 Dwight Way again. When I came in the door, I could see nobody around but I heard the shower going. I sat down at the dining room table. Robin came in a few minutes later and shouted into the bathroom as he walked by, "Sam's here." A few minutes later, I heard Mara call out, "Robin. Have you seen my cigarettes?"

"They are in the dining room," Robin called back.

Mara, still dripping from the shower, came walking out naked, picked up the pack of cigarettes, and went back in. I had never seen her nude before. I was impressed.

A few days later, I was over at Tom's apartment at 2525 Durant Street. I said to him:

"Tom, you once said you had been a portrait photographer?"


"Do you know anything about Playmates?"

"Why, yes, Sam. I do know something about Playmates. In fact, you could say I know everything about Playmates. You see, I have made a serious study of them from a photographic point of view and I believe that I have a pretty good idea of what kinds of girls they like and what photographic techniques they use. The December, 1964 Playmate is an interesting example. Just a second. Let me show you."

Tom pulled open a drawer which contained every Playmate gatefold from the last four years and assorted other photographs, all taken from Playboy. I knew about the maps and the population and weather charts, but I did not know about this. Tom had spent so much time studying these photographs, that he could remember the name and the pose of every one of the girls in photographs he had collected. He pulled out a select group of them, laid them on the floor, and delivered an hours lecture on Playmates. When he had finished, I said:

"Tom, let me ask you one thing."

"What's that?"

"Have you ever taken a picture of a girl nude?"

"No. But I'm sure I can do a bang up job of it."

The next evening I was sitting at Mara's dining room table and said:

"Mara! How would you like to be in Playboy?"

"Sure," she replied.

"Now, I can't guarantee anything. All I can do is have a friend of mine take your pictures. I can send them and we will see what happens."

"O.K.," she said.

I got on the telephone and called up Tom.

"Tom," I began, "How would you like to take some Playmate type photographs of a girl I know?"

"I would be delighted," replied Tom, "The only thing is: I'm broke so you will have to pay for the film and everything like that."

"Sure. I expected to do that."

"Another thing. I want to rent a telephoto lens. That's gives me distance so I don't have to stick the camera up the girl's crotch to take her picture."

"I thought you had everything."

"I do have everything that's absolutely necessary but one of these would make things much easier and more comfortable for the girl. I can rent one for $4 a day."

"O.K.," I said. "Here. I'll let you arrange a time and place with the girl directly. Her name is Mara. Here she is."

I handed the phone over. They made an appointment for a few days later at Mara's house.

I decided not to be there at the appointed time since I assumed that Tom and Mara would work together more easily if they worked in private. I did come by an hour later assuming that photographic session would be over. I walked into the back door, through the kitchen, and into dining room. Robin and John were playing gin. I could see Tom sitting behind his camera which was on his tripod in the front room. Looking up, he said, "Sam Sloan! Just the man I wanted to see. Come on in."

I walked in and he said, excitedly:

"Sam, I can't believe it. Look at her! Isn't she beautiful? I've never seen anything like it before in my life. This couldn't be happening to me. Look at her, Sam. Look at her. I just can't believe it."

I looked over and saw that Mara was beaming. I could see that Tom's enthusiasm was bringing out the best in her. He continued:

"Let me show you. Get down here. Look through the lens. I want you to see."

I got down and looked through the lens. I saw mainly Mara, who did look good.

"You see, Sam. Isn't it wonderful. Tell me if it isn't wonderful."

"It's wonderful," I said, getting up from the camera, "Now don't get excited. Just take pictures."

"Oh, I wanted to ask you. I'm out of room on this roll. I have been trying to stretch as many poses as I can on this one."

"Go ahead and shoot another one. I'll go get the film."

I went down on Telegraph Avenue, bought some film, brought it back, and handed it to Tom who thanked me graciously. Then I went out to watch Robin and John play gin. A while later Tom called me over and said:

"Could I shoot another roll? I still haven't done all I wanted to do with her. Besides, Mara and I want some special photographs for our private collections."

I looked over at Mara and looked back at Tom. I said:

"O.K. That sounds like a worthy project. I'll go get some more film."

I went out and came back a while later with a third roll. Tom reloaded his camera and began shooting again. I went back out to watch John and Robin. Later, when they had finished, they came out. Mara came walking through the dining room and kissed Robin on the way by. Then she went into her bedroom. A few minutes later she reappeared wearing a bathrobe. By the time she got back, Tom had already rushed down to the Berkeley Photo Company in order to reach there before it closed. Later, I asked Tom if they would process the "special photographs." He replied:

"Don't worry. I used Kodachrome film which nobody looks at the negatives while they are being processed. It is all done mechanically."

When Tom got the transparencies back, the three of us and Robin got together and sorted them out. It was easy to see which ones were intended for Playboy and which were to be consigned to the private collection. Tom constantly raving, "This is the best thing I've ever done. I can't believe they came out as well." After several hours of discussion we settled upon 24 of the best transparencies. I wrapped them up and sent them off to Jim Goode of Playboy.

Goode, who was, by then, the articles editor, turned them over to Marilyn Grabowski, the assistant picture editor. About a week later I received a Playmate model release in the mail. It contained a model's release, a photographer's release, and a series of items which the prospective Playmate was supposed to fill out. It contained such things as: My idea of a terrific date is ____. Three lines were provided to complete the sentence. Mara said, "eccch!" and went to work on it. She decided to play their game and try to figure out what kind of answers they were looking for. About a week later, she sent it back but would not show it to anyone.

Three days after I got the model release, I received a letter from Marilyn Grabowski. It said, in part, "We showed the transparencies of Mara to our editor publisher and he expressed enthusiasm about her Playmate possibilities." I knew that the editor publisher, Hugh Hefner, was known for being inaccessible to all but his top editors. Something seemed in the works, but it was hard to tell how good Mara's chances really were. It seemed worth the wait, however, because we had heard that Playmates received $5000 for their efforts.

On Wednesday, November 3, the Campus Sexual Freedom Rights Forum held a "Noon rally on the steps of Sproul Hall." The Berkeley campus is famous for it's "noon rallies" but they usually did not happen the way most people imagined. Most believed that the officers and leading members of an organization got together, caucused, decided to hold a rally, called up all the members, and told them to rally at the Steps the next day. Sometimes this was roughly true but in general it was not. I, for example, held a noon rally on the steps of Sproul Hall in an entirely different way. One afternoon, I decided that such an event would be a good idea. Without consulting anybody, I walked into Sproul Hall, up to the second floor and into the Dean of Students office. I called over one of the secretaries behind the desk and said, "My name is Sam Sloan. I am the President of the Campus Sexual Rights Forum and my organization would like to hold a noon rally on the steps of Sproul Hall."

"Certainly. When would you like to hold it?" She replied, reaching for a loose leaf book.

"As soon as you can fit it in."

She flipped through the pages and said:

"The noon rallies are all filled up trough the next two weeks. The earliest date I can give you is Wednesday, November 2. Would that be all right?"

"O.K. Put it down."

She came to the spot in the book and wrote down "Sexual Freedom League."

"No," I said, "You've got it wrong. We are the Campus Sexual Rights Forum. That is the name of the officially registered campus group."

"Oh. I'm sorry," She said, making the appropriate change. "Now, do you plan any off campus speakers"

"Yes. I think Melvin Belli will come over."

"I'm sure they will approve him but you have to apply for special permission for that. Here, I'll get you one of the forms you will have to fill out."

A few minutes later she produced the appropriate form.

"One other thing," I said, "What do I do about amplifying equipment. Do you have microphone and stuff like that I can borrow?"

"Oh. Don't worry about that. We have a man who goes out and sets all the equipment you could ever want for the noon rally each day."

"Sounds great to me."

I could see that things had changed considerably from the days of the Free Speech Movement. Back then, students had to risk their academic lives just to talk in a big group.

A few days later, Richard Hodges, my fellow scientific matcher, drove me over to Belli's office in San Francisco. I had spoken to him on several occasions about the "Great Nude Movie Crisis." He was willing to defend our rights to show the movies if we could ever push it through the numerous appeals necessary to exhaust due process within the University bureaucracy. The purpose of the visit was to ask him to speak from the steps against Proposition 16, the C.L.E.A.N. amendment. Many sources had claimed that the proposition was unconstitutional and speculation had been published that it would make possession of the Bible and the California Penal Code illegal if the bill passed. These groups hoped to have it declared unconstitutional because of their efforts. Before going to see Belli, it never even occurred to me if he was for or against the amendment. I assumed he was on our side. I also wanted to speak to him about a number of other ideas I had. I had a total of eleven items written down on a piece of paper. When we arrived, I was greeted by his receptionist. She asked us to be seated. A while later she came over to us and said:

"Mr. Belli will see you now. He is very busy so you can only have five minutes with him."

She led us into his office. It was spacious and was lined with book cases containing massive reference works. It was decorated with a number of interesting items including an ornate water pipe next to which were piled books and other items. Belli, who I had seen in photographs but never in person, was sitting at the far end. Near him was a young woman, perhaps his secretary, and a man, presumably a legal advisor. Belli was working on something which appeared to be the manuscript for a book.

As I walked in, Belli looked up and said, "Don't worry about the introductions." Talking rapidly, I rattled off questions and he returned answers for five minutes. I completed my eleven items and we turned and walked out. I was amazed by the quantity of information which had been communicated in a short period of time. Concerning the talk on the steps he had said that he would have to consult his secretary.

During the ride back Richard commented to me:

"Did you see that water pipe in his office?"


"You know. I bet Belli turns on to grass."

A few days later I called Bill Choulos, a member of Belli's law firm. During our conversation, I estimated that 1000 students would attend the proposed rally. Anyone familiar with the Berkeley campus would realize that this was a safe prediction. He was able to obtain a confirmation on the plan and on the date and hour.

A week before the scheduled rally, I went up to the Daily California office. I spoke with the city editor. I told him the plan and he immediately called up Belli's office in San Francisco. He arranged an appointment for a group of Daily California reporters and photographers to go over and see him. After he hung up the phone, he said, "Don't worry. We will have his picture and an article about the rally on the front page of the newspaper the day it is supposed to happen." With this assurance, I left.

On the evening before the scheduled event was supposed to take place, it occurred to me that there was something farcical about the entire "Noon rally". I could think of three places that had any knowledge of the event. The Belli office, the Daily Californian office, and the Dean of Student's office. I had only told three other people: Richard Hodges, Mike Goodall, and Gordon. I did not want to ruin it by letting anyone else in on the news. I decided that anybody who might want to know could read it in the paper the next day. This was far more efficient than calling up everybody to tell them.

The next morning, as I walked through Sproul Hall Plaza on my way to campus, I was set upon by Paul Glusman, a bearded student who represented the Students for a Democratic Society, a Maoist group. He tried to button hole me and said:

"Up in Sproul they told me that you have got the steps today."

"That's right."

"You've got to give them up. We have to have them."

"Are you kidding? I can't do that at this late date. Besides, you guys have a rally every week. We have never had one before. Why don't you go back up there and schedule your own rally, three weeks from now."

"We've already got one for then. But that will be too late. This is urgent. It has to do with the general election which is coming up in a few days."

"So does our rally. We are working to defeat Proposition 16. Look. If your rally is so important you can have one in the Lower Student Union Plaza. It's free almost every day."

"Don't be silly. Nobody will ever show up down there."

"That's not my fault. It's your organization."

"Listen to me. If you care anything about the State of California and the future of your University, you will do as I say. Anyway, I have got to be going. You have already made me late for class."

After my class I picked up a copy of the Daily California. I looked at the front page but did not see any mention of Belli. After looking through the paper, I discovered that they had blown the article. I decide that they must have gotten lines of communication mixed. Probably the had assigned it to everybody and, as a result, had given the responsibility to nobody in particular. This made me feel insecure about my prediction of 1000 listeners, but, at least I knew that the rally would not be a total bust. Every day a few hundred students, lunch bags in hand, showed up to the rally. They would sit down on the concrete, pull out their lunches, and listen to the speaker, whoever he might be. It occurred to me that someday I would tell my children about my single handed rally and how hundreds of students had rallied to my call.

I had an 11:00 A.M. class so I arrived at the steps at 12:01. The microphone and all the equipment had been set up. It was beautiful. A guy kneeling over to the amplifying equipment called to me, "Are you the guy who is doing the rally today?"

"Yep. I'm the one."

"O.K. I'll turn it on."

I said a few words into the microphone, trying hard not to follow the example of the Filthy Speech Movement. Then I turned back and said, "Can you turn it on louder."

"Sure," he replied.

Then I spoke into the microphone, "The Campus Sexual Rights Forum is holding a noon rally here today. Melvin Belli will speak." I felt like an idiot but added, "I wonder if he will be able to find a parking place within five blocks of here." As foolish as it seemed, the announcement did have an effect. Many students stopped to wait for the speaker. Paul Glusman came up.

"Fifteen minutes. That's all I ask is fifteen minutes. You have got a whole hour for the rally. the least you can do is turn that little bit over to me."

"I told you, I can't do it. Melvin Belli is due to arrive any moment."

"O.K. Ten minutes then. Nothing more."

"Look. He is a busy man and he is coming all the way over from San Francisco to do this. Do you really think that I'm going to stop him in the middle of what he is saying to let you speak? Besides, everybody on campus has heard you rap. I'm sure that anybody would much rather hear him."

At that moment Belli came walking up, carrying his attachEcase and appearing business like. We shook hands while students were standing around and waiting. The crowd was growing larger and I suspected that many recognized Belli from his photographers. I spoke into the microphone, "Melvin Belli will be the speaker today. This rally is sponsored by the Campus Sexual Rights Forum." I turned to him and said, "There's the microphone. She's all yours." I stepped back and Belli began to speak. Glusman was kneeling on the concrete about fifteen feet in front with a piece of white paper in his hand. The audience was growing, I went back and asked that the amplifier be turned up again. "I'll turn it up to the top," he replied. I listened to the talk for a few minutes and then went back again. "Can't you turn it any higher? The crowd is as big as it can get because nobody can hear any further out."

"Sorry, but I have orders not to let it go any higher than this. Otherwise, the noise carries all the way over to the dining commons."

"All the way over there?"

"Yes. They can't make out the words but they hear the noise sometimes."

I gave up on that and listened to his talk. He ran through the main points of Proposition 16 and said a little about the sex laws. After that he asked for questions from the audience. About a dozen people tried to speak at once. He recognized one of them. The first question was about the topless clubs and his defense of Carol Doda. The second question was about the Kennedy assassination and about his defense of Jack Ruby. The third question was about the gubernatorial election and asked if he, Belli, would run for governor in four years if Reagan was elected this time. There seemed to be no end to the kinds of questions people might ask Belli. Somebody asked him about the validity of the marijuana laws. He replied, in part:

"I feel, as a lawyer, that if I am going to try these marijuana cases in court I should have some first hand knowledge about it. So, the other day I smoked some marijuana and I would like to report that I cannot see any reason for it to be illegal."

I asked the man at the controls, "Is there any way we can extend this rally? A lot of people want to ask questions."

"No. Unless you get personal permission from Dean Hopkins. He is in the Dean of Student's office." As I started off in that direction he called after me, "He will have to come down and do it himself though. No written messages. They already pulled a trick on us once."

I went inside and upstairs. I arrived at the office just as someone was coming out the door. This was fortunate since the door is locked from the inside during the noon hour. I went through the corridors and arrived at the office of Dean Hopkins and told him what my story was. He was always highly accessible, especially to potential trouble makers such as leaders of student organizations. In response to my proposition, he said: "I didn't know Belli was down there. Let's go listen to him. I've always wanted to hear him speak." Hopkins himself was a law student.

When we got back I saw that Paul Glusman had seized the opportunity which my absence had presented. His move had been innocuous enough, however. He had Belli to read a petition which was being circulated which signed it, drawing a round of applause. Of course, the petition was also published in the Daily California and other rallies had been held concerning this threat by the administration.

During the rest of the rally, Hopkins stood and listened while I looked around. I could see Police Officer Schneider, known on campus as "Dean Fuzz", and his associate Dean Casey. They appeared to be eyeing everything suspiciously. This seemed natural because they had been hired to do exactly that: eye everything suspiciously. At 12:58 I asked Hopkins for more time. He gave the orders to extend the time for another ten minutes. I asked him:

"This is a fairly big rally, isn't it?"

"Sure. The rally hasn't been this big for a long time. Belli is a good man. I'm glad you brought him over. The students get tired of listening to the same old thing."

At 1:08, Hopkins tacked another five minutes on to the allotted time. At 1:13 I broke in after Belli had finished answering a question and said, "There's a man back here who is going to turn off the mike in two minutes, so you will have to make it fast." At 1:14.45, more or less, I stepped up again, thanked Mr. Belli for coming over and made appropriately concluding remarks. The instant I stopped speaking the amplifier was turned off. A small mob came up to ask Belli questions. I stepped away. I heard someone nearby say: "Do you see what happens when someone like that comes to speak. They would never give one of us extra fifteen minutes if we wanted to hold a rally,"

Joe and Katy came up. Joe said, "It was a great rally, Sam."

Katy added, "I'm sure Art will be happy about it." We said a few more things and I spotted Choulos standing about 50 feet away. I went over and spoke with him. I was worried that Belli might be late to his next appointment. He said that Belli "is a big boy now. He can take care of himself." I looked over at the crowd of perhaps 30 people standing around him trying to ask many questions at once. It did seem that it might be hard for him to break away. While we were waiting, I took Choulos over to the campus table and introduced him to Joyce Kaskey, who was sitting there. I gave him some of our literature. While we were standing there, I saw Belli break away from the group. Also following Belli was a young woman who was Belli's new wife. About a dozen students followed him, trying to ask questions as he walked. Choulos and I followed behind. On the way, I asked him to thank Belli personally for me since I had not had a chance to do so myself. We walked a few blocks down Telegraph Avenue. I shook hands with him again, and went back to campus. When I got back, Joyce, who was sitting at the table in the Ludwig's fountain area during the rally, told me that she had not been able to hear anything because of the size of the crowd. Art came up, congratulated me, and told me it would be a big boost for his organization. He had been the organizer for the "Committee for 'No' on proposition 16." It was actually a circle of the Sexual Freedom League but he had suppressed that bit of information. They had received several hundred dollars in donations and had spent most of it on a bumper sticker saying "No on 16". They had not done anything as direct as this, however.

The next day several local newspapers published stories on the rally. I was glad to see that because I wanted to read them to find out what Belli had said. Doing all those other things had not left me much time to listen to him. Concerning Proposition 16, the Daily Californian quoted him as saying, "If my standing here and yelling 'Mother-F' deserves arrest for obscenity, you'd better take whoever is listening to a psychiatrist, because there's something wrong with them."

On the sex laws, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted him as saying: "They're like prohibition; it's done in 90 per cent of the better homes."

"You get this bizarre picture of Mr. Clean knocking on your door in the middle of the night."

I was glad to see that both articles got the purpose of the rally, that is, to oppose Proposition 16, correct. They did not do so well with the name of the organization. The Chronicle called us the "Campus Sexual Freedom Forum." The Daily California said we were the Campus Sexual Freedom Rights Forum. I could understand the error made by the Chronicle and felt relieved that they had not called us the Sexual Freedom League. The error by the Daily California was less excusable. Every member of their staff must have seen the name Campus Sexual Rights Forum on the sign at the table at least 50 times. It was also listed in the student telephone book, although no phone number was listed, and other official places.

On Friday, November 4, after Maxine Sanini's sensuality discussion group, I decided to go down to the Oaks Club, a legalized poker club in Emeryville. I had not picked up a hand of cards, any kind of cards, in over two months. I arrived at 12:20 A.M. and since I did, after all, have $500 backing, I decided to sit down at the $6 a bet, $60 buy in lowball game. Moments later, I heard a voice from across the table. "Hey, didn't you come to a Sexual Freedom League party once."

I looked up at a crew cut man in his early twenties across the table from me. He had about a stack and a half of green chips in front of him which valued at approximately $150.

"Sure, I go to nude parties. Do you want to come to one?", I said

"Why not.", he replied.

"What party did you see me at. I don't seem to recognize you."

"Oh. My name is Brad. You came to a party at my apartment last May. The chick you were with made a speech and walked out in the middle of the thing."

"I'm Sam. I thought we left at the end."

"No. You left at the middle. I'll tell you later what happened after you left."

We stopped talking and spent the rest of the time concentrating on the game. I won a few dollars and Brad lost a little. At 1:45 A.M., the game was broken up so that the building could close by 2:00 A.M. We cashed in. Then Brad told me he was still ahead $70 for the few hours he had spent in the game. He offered to give me a ride home. We went out in the parking lot and got into his Jaguar. On the way home I asked him:

"You aren't still a student, are you?"

"No. I graduated. Now I'm a loan consultant for a bank in San Francisco."

"Sounds good to me. What happened later at that party you were talking about?"

"Oh. Nothing except that some girl fucked six guys. Some Cal student girl."


This story is about real events and real people. We have photographs of two of them, Mara Suviks and Deana Pino .

To learn more about this student club, see: My Halcyon Student Days , The Party of November 19, 1966 , The Party of November 26, 1966 , Lisa Lindvall, Sexual Freedom Organizer , Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement and Orgy Host Ordered to Quit House .

We were not merely throwing parties. We were also student campus revolutionaries in our spare time. Here is a picture of me in the San Francisco Chronicle for December 6, 1966 News Clipping of Sam Sloan, Student Striker, in December, 1966

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