Accidental Playboy: Caught in the Ultimate Male Fantasy
by Leif Ueland
Publisher: Warner Books
Pub. Date: November 2002
"Accidental Playboy" by Leif Ueland is the story of a writer hired by Playboy to write daily dispatches for Playboy.com while on a cross-country bus tour to find the "Playmate of the Millenium." When first approaching the theme, many a liberal-leaning self-respecting reviewer may shy away from such a topic. Off-hand, the concept conjures notions of some romance novel cassanova chronicling his fantasies and debauches as he tours the country seducing and reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of naked college girls, bartenders and strippers.
If that is what a reader is looking for, they won't be entirely disappointed. Fortunately, "Accidental Playboy" also reveals some subtle, pleasing, and touching surprises. At its heart, the book is a story about human vulnerability. Leif is a sensitive and neurotic man. His primary credentials for the job as Playboy's writer being an article he wrote for the online intellectual's erotic magazine nerve - "Gay-Seeming Straight Male." The title of the nerve article is a truly revealing glimpse into the psyche of "Accidental Playboy"'s writer.
From the outset, we learn that Leif Ueland is a nervous man who's had nothing but failed attempts at relationships. He considers himself sexually dysfunctional, not to mention physically inadequate. He can't even remember the last time he's had sex. This self-perception filters every experience he writes about as he chronicles his journey on the multi-million dollar mobile photo studio that is the Playboy bus - a phenomenal magnet that draws women of every persuasion to bare their bodies to its cameras.
There is no doubt that the story is wrought with sexuality. The book's pages are filled with detailed depictions of disrobed photo-shoots, after hours strip-club-hopping, and edgy escapades across America's seamy side. But the story is also rich with the stories of women who've struggled to survive, whose chaotic lives have pushed them to the margins, and who understand their relationship with their sexuality. The anecdotes of their lives reveal their innocence, their experience, their secrets and their dreams.
Leif Ueland, with his sexually dysfunctional sensitivity and perpetually intellectual analysis of every experience, is the right person to tell this story. Any other personality could have spoiled this tale with sexual bravado and shallow observations of the women and the world that he was expressing. Instead, Ueland maintains a philosopher's view of a dyonisian world. He is an outsider who must constantly overcome his over-analytical view of every moment just to be a part of it. As a result, his insights are strong and compelling. He makes it easy to sympathize with the women we meet. We learn about their lives and imagine them as whole people, not disembodied playmate breasts, bodies, and oh yeah, faces.
As the story progresses, it inevitably becomes Ueland's mission to have sex at least once. One would think that in such a bawdy environment, it wouldn't be such a tough goal to accomplish. You would think that if nothing else, an aspiring playmate might fall into his lap as the bus lurches and he'd succeed with at least accidental penetration. But for Ueland, with his perpetual, self-doubt, it is never so easy. He is sensitive and perceptive. He is saddened by the lost innocence he sees in so many of the ladies he falls for, and becomes more a friend and confidant for them than a lover.
The reader feels for Ueland, we trust him, we root for him. He is a man on a mission to become a complete person. In order to overcome his complexes, Ueland must push himself to the sexual edge of his suburban sensibilities. He must descend into the underworld and risk his soul in order to emerge healed. His is a classic tale of the reluctant hero. Does he get laid, and through sex, become whole again? "Accidental Playboy" is a book worth reading through to the end in order to find out.