The Lady Loves Cigars
India Allen, the 1988 Playboy Playmate of the Year, is looking for a breakthrough movie on her terms.
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Posing in the nude has never troubled her. "I thought everything I ever did for Playboy was really beautiful. And they have always treated me like a queen. I get invited back to the mansion every year. My Playmate of the Year video, in fact, sold more than 150,000 copies when it was first released. It was the company's best-selling video ever, and it still is. And every time it's re-released, it goes gold."
In no way, though, does working without clothing turn her on; there are all those lights, she says, and "there are too many people around."
Her parents have never expressed objections about what she does. "They are fairly open-minded," she says. "They have never judged me. They don't believe in judging. Besides, according to the Bible, anything can be forgiven. They believe that the day of judgment comes the day you die, and you are judged on how you've lived your life. So they offer me lots of love, and they always say to me that there's nothing you can't be forgiven for, that they hope that whatever I do, if I don't like the outcome of it, if I don't believe it's right, then I'll change it."
Indie also dismisses summarily the critics of Playboy and of visual depictions of sex and female nudity as degrading to women. "I know they don't like me, and I really don't care," she says. "I don't think there's anything degrading about nudity or sex, as long as it's presented in the right way. Feminists have made men very angry about women, and I don't think that helps things in any way. A lot of men are really bitter about women being in their faces all the time. I'm not saying inequality is the way to go either. We should get equal pay, and we should have the right to be what we want to be. But I don't think getting right in somebody's face and landing it down their throat is the way to do it."
Feminism, she says, has also emasculated too many men. "I think feminists just screwed it all up," she says. "Men are trying to be overly sensitive and overly caring. There's nothing wrong with sensitivity and caring. It's necessary in a relationship. But it bothers me if I don't feel that it's natural. And women like me say, 'Wait a minute, where's your balls?' I don't want to date somebody who doesn't have balls."
Men, she says, feel they can't win. "A lot of them got very angry," she says, "and a lot of women are paying the price. There are so many single women out there, it's ridiculous. Because men are saying, 'Fine. Stay by yourself. We don't care.' "
Indie, in fact, considers herself conservative, politically and socially. "I am incredibly conservative," she says. "I dress conservatively. I live conservatively. I have a very strong belief in God. I watch Rush Limbaugh on television. I'm a die-hard Republican. It never occurred to me that I couldn't pose nude and still be a Republican. Just because you're a Republican doesn't mean you have a closed mind. I believe in conservative values, traditional family values. I believe in doing my best to do the right thing, to live the right way and do the best for my daughter."
She is an active member of her father's church: she attends Sunday services regularly, works with the parishioners and, at the same time as she is trying to gather money for her film company, raises funds for the church. "I'm at the church all the time," she says. "My parents want to open a preschool center mostly for underprivileged kids, and they need money to do that, of course."
It should be clear by now that Indie is very much her own person--an assessment with which she fully agrees. "I have a difficult time dancing to other people's tunes," she says. "I discovered a long time ago that I can't live by anybody else's rules."
Her individuality applies as well to the manner in which she smokes her cigars. "I never use a clipper," she says. "I bite. I have the perfect bite. I learned how to do it from an Italian friend. First, I moisten the end very well. When I roll the cigar in my mouth, it freaks everybody out, wherever I am. You've got to make sure you get the end nice and moist, and then I just use the edges of my teeth and pull it off. I get a perfect little round circle, and the cigar draws better than if you use a clipper."
Indie cautions, however, that the trick is not easy. "It takes some practice, so you should get yourself some cheap cigars to practice with," she says. "You've got to make sure you've got it pretty moist first or you're going to split your leaves. And you don't want to split your leaves. If you do, you'll get leaves sticking to your face while you're trying to smoke. It makes you look like an amateur."
She has also learned a technique for keeping cigars moist in the temporary absence of a humidor or for remoistening them after a plane ride. "You get a flat Tupperware container," she says, "cut a square piece of sponge, dampen it and put it in the bottom. Take a white piece of construction paper, fold it in half and put it on top of the sponge. Lay the cigar in there, seal the container, and your cigar will stay moist."
It won't work forever, she says. "They'll end up getting too soggy, but it'll work for a couple of days. After one day, roll the cigar over. Make sure it's on a different side. The method works better than a humidor for getting a dry cigar that's been on a plane back to normal."
The waiter has brought the cappuccino she requested, and Indie pauses for a sip. It is time for a summing up. "I love everything about being a woman," she says. "I love the perks. I love being taken out to dinner. I never have to buy dinner. I love being taken on nice trips. I love being taken to the Marine Corps ball and smoking cigars with all the captains and majors. To me, that's living. Because I'm a woman, and because I'm considered attractive, I get benefits that men don't get."
She would, she says, like to expand for a moment on the kind of man who turns her on. "I guess because I'm conservative he has to be conservative too. He has to believe in conservative family values. I guess I also love men in uniform. Maybe it's because my father is in uniform, and my godfather too."
Her ideal partner must, of course, also smoke cigars, she says. But the truth, Indie, is that he really doesn't have to. Because just being around her is enough for any man to light up.
Mervyn Rothstein, an editor at The New York Times, is a frequent contributor to Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado.
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