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AN INTERVIEW WITH MRS. E. JOHNSON
Excerpts from an unpublished Playboy Magazine interview
An "insider's insider," Mrs. E. Johnson, premature widow at nineteen of that consummate Hong Kong Cavalier, Flyboy, runs the Banzai Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Strategic Information with an iron hand in a kid glove. When we reminded her that she'd been described by Doctor Banzai's biographer, Reno Nevada, as "one of those persons who languishes by day and does not seem to come fully alive until the middle of the night," Mrs. J. replied with a twinkle, "That's because Mr. Nevada sleeps all day long himself and has no idea what the hell I'm up to from dawn to dusk."
Few people do, but every Hong Kong Cavalier, every Blue Blaze Irregular, every member of Team Banzai, and every Apostle in the Banzai Group suspects that Buckaroo couldn't run the place without her. So we invited Mrs. Johnson to wing her way to Chicago on the Playboy Jet and discuss the fascinating kingdom she calls "home."
PLAYBOY: Welcome to the Mansion, Mrs. Johnson.
MRS. JOHNSON: Thanks for having me here, Barbi.
PLAYBOY: "Home." That's a pretty powerful word.
MRS. JOHNSON: You can say that again.
PLAYBOY: "Home." That's a pretty powerful word.
MRS. JOHNSON: Can I quote Emily Dickinson? Can I say something like that here?
PLAYBOY: Anything goes at the Mansion, probably just the same way it does at the Banzai Institute, no? Didn't I read somewhere where it said Buckaroo's motto is "Progress Over Protocol"?
MRS. JOHNSON: It's actually the Institute's most current action statement. Buckaroo personally hates mottos and slogans. Don't ever get him going on the subject.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of subjects, we intend for this interview to be as far-reaching and as frank as you'll let it be, Mrs. Johnson, because you and all our readers know Hef just can't get enough inside dope on Buckaroo and his fabulous lifestyle.
MRS. JOHNSON: You'll never publish the damn thing if everything's on the table.
PLAYBOY: Sure, we will. Hef's fearless, just like Dr. Banzai.
MRS. JOHNSON: There's a common misconception! Buckaroo Banzai knows fear, trust me. Just the other day he remarked that "The man who has ceased to fear has ceased to care."
MRS. JOHNSON: "Wow" is right. But I digress. Any idea who said "Home is a holy thing. Nothing of doubt or distrust can enter its blessed portals."
PLAYBOY: Martha Stewart?
MRS. JOHNSON: Emily Dickinson.
PLAYBOY: The etiquette lady?
MRS. JOHNSON: Let's take this moment of mild confusion to shift the focus off personalities and onto the Institute itself, okay?
PLAYBOY: Buckaroo's pad! All right! What's it really like in there, behind closed doors, after midnight?
MRS. JOHNSON: Pretty quiet. Pretty intense. Unless, of course, the band is jamming. Mostly it's just a round-the-clock quest to reject convention, confront chaos, and map it...and populate it with concepts, intense singularities, and names for things that happen to us.
PLAYBOY: Ha, ha, that is so cute!
MRS. JOHNSON: At the risk of sounding high-flautin', I signed on for life at the Institute after my husband was killed because we both believed that its greatest mission is to serve as an antidote to the vanishing American frontier.
PLAYBOY: Please elaborate.
MRS. JOHNSON: Well, in the early days of this Republic, a feller could pick up and move, reinvent himself, head west, find more chances to make good.
PLAYBOY: As the frontier expanded, so did a cowpoke's possibilities.
MRS. JOHNSON: Or a cowgirl's.
PLAYBOY: But much more slowly, of course, for women.
MRS. JOHNSON: We've come a long way, Barbi. In no small part thanks to your boss.
PLAYBOY: Hef will be so tickled to hear you say that!
MRS. JOHNSON: But nowadays...
PLAYBOY: (getting excited): ...a feller can't very well move from New York to Phoenix to escape his sorry history.
MRS. JOHNSON: Too many data bases. Enter the Banzai Institute, a second-chance giver. We don't ask for a Social Security number. A mere handshake'll do. Men, women, and kids come knocking on our door, and no one is turned away. They stay for a day, a week, a year, a lifetime... working for no pay except three squares...
PLAYBOY: ...from "Mrs. Johnson's Kitchen"! You know those amazing sticky buns you guys sell on your web site....
MRS. JOHNSON: Cinnamon buns.
PLAYBOY: Yeah, those! Hef orders them by the truckload.
MRS. JOHNSON: So did Elvis.
PLAYBOY: No shit, really?
MRS. JOHNSON: Really.
PLAYBOY: My God. I can't...that is..the coolest thing to know. I mean, what is it you're always saying about them in that TV ad...?
MRS. JOHNSON: "If these aren't the best cinnamon buns you've ever tasted, then my name isn't 'Mrs. Johnson.'"
PLAYBOY: That is like my favorite, all-time commercial!
MRS. JOHNSON: Thank you, but we were talking about how folks in need, at crossroads in their lives, come to the Institute to learn how to rope, shoot and ride...and in return how they promise to act honorably and always take the side of the oppressed. Pretty much like what I imagine happened when you came to the Mansion here.
PLAYBOY: Pretty much. But there was a lot of sex too. How about...
MRS. JOHNSON: No comment.
PLAYBOY: Fair enough. I know that subject can be a killer.
MRS. JOHNSON: Death never takes the wise woman by surprise. She is always ready to go.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of which, I know that Buckaroo said one time, "Live like you're gonna die tomorrow and study like you're gonna live forever." So is it true that he reads everything he can get his hands on...
MRS. JOHNSON: And then some.
PLAYBOY: ...and I heard one thing he read somewhere that he really liked was this neat quote, I've got it right here somewhere...here..."My center is giving way...my right is in retreat. Situation excellent: I shall attack." That is so totally bold! Can we talk about war and combat and fighting?!
MRS. JOHNSON: "A battle won is a battle which we will not acknowledge to be lost."
PLAYBOY: Don't talk so fast! I want to write that down!
MRS. JOHNSON: Won't you have it all on tape?
PLAYBOY: Lookit me! You are absolutely right.
MRS. JOHNSON: And so are you, Barbi. Because at the Banzai Institute another of our primary missions is to sustain and protect the individual Cavalier, Irregular, or Apostle on the new highly-toxic, mobile, and tribal battlefields of the future. To that end we've developed a cutting-edge, microclimate cooling suit for the Jet Car that we expect will significantly reduce individual water requirements when operating our combat vehicles in the desert.
MRS. JOHNSON: And Perfect Tommy's worked with Tumblin' Tumbleweed on a remarkably simple flame-protective finish for the chemical/biological overgarment we created to provide our Apostolic Armor & Helicopter Units with both CB and flame protection in one package.
PLAYBOY: You guys are really into clothes!
MRS. JOHNSON: Clothes make the man. But the way to a man's heart is through his stomach so I've been spearheading research on an evolutionary new Combat Food Service System...or CFSS. We'll be staging a wargame sometime next year during which I'm going to try, with only Kaintuck's help, to feed 1,100 Blue Blaze Irregulars two hot meals a day for fifteen days, all of it carried in a single rehabbed C-141B during a BRD mission...
PLAYBOY: "BRD." That's Blaze Rapid Deployment.
MRS. JOHNSON: Correct. We're looking to dish up frequent, high-quality hot meals on the integrated battlefield and significantly reduce the number of food-service personnel put in harm's way.
PLAYBOY: How wonderful! Just as long as there's some of your famous cinnamon buns on the menu, I'm sure nobody's gonna be griping!
MRS. JOHNSON: Or my name isn't...
PLAYBOY: ...MRS. JOHNSON!!
EDITOR'S NOTE: AT THIS POINT PLAYBOY'S TAPE RAN OUT DUE TO OPERATOR ERROR. MR. HEFNER FELT THAT THE INTERVIEW, AS WELL AS IT WAS GOING, THUS PRODUCED A TRANSCRIPT OF INSUFFICIENT LENGTH TO PUBLISH AS IS. OUR REPEATED TRIES TO REACH MRS. JOHNSON DREW NO RESPONSE FROM THE BANZAI INSTITUTE OTHER THAN THE RECORDED MESSAGE ON THEIR PUBLIC-RELATIONS VOICE MAIL THAT "ALL PRESS INQUIRIES CONCERNING STAFF INTERVIEWS SHOULD BE DIRECTED TOWARD MRS. E. JOHNSON"...WHOSE PHONE HAD BEEN DISCONNECTED WITHOUT EXPLANATION.
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